Any family who has lived the perils of addiction knows that substance abuse disrupts relationships. Substance abuse in marriage can destroy trust and hurt families financially. At its worst, substance abuse may also lead to abusive patterns of emotional manipulations and even physical violence.
Knowing the damage drug and alcohol use cause families, it’s natural to wonder if a marriage can survive drug addiction.
Substance Use Disorder is a Family Disease
The person actively abusing drugs is hurting himself/herself emotionally and physically; because the strife surrounds the person using substances, it can sometimes be difficult to assess the damages they cause around them. While one partner may be suffering the physical and emotional consequences of addiction, the non-using partner may experience similar effects due to the stress and isolation addiction often brings.
The addicted person will typically become more secretive and unreliable as they attempt to conceal the depths of their abuse. The non-using partner often begins to feel increasingly suspicious, hurt, and even angry. As the situation escalates and illusions of control are shattered, hope for the future of a relationship seems to move further away. During this time partners may separate or even seek counsel for a divorce.
In fact, many couples will separate at some point during the cycle of addictive behavior. And while the prospect of leaving a partner in active addiction can seem counter-intuitive, we have found that these separations are oftentimes catalysts for the using partner to seek treatment and recovery. It is an unfortunate fact of addiction that many will need to experience the pain of losing everything before they will concede to surrender or asking for help.
Co-dependency in Marriages Affected by Addiction
The tumultuous circumstances created by addiction often breed the ideal circumstances for codependency. During the course of substance abuse, the non-using partner will typically feel an unhealthy level of responsibility to the person in active addiction. According to Dr. Kristie Slinskey, codependency in an addicted relationship can take many forms. She shared that some signs of codependency may be “lying to cover for a partners behaviors, supporting the substance use by providing financial aid either directly or indirectly (i.e. one partner pays the mortgage allowing the other partner to spend a paycheck on using) or even excusing dangerous or criminal behaviors to avoid upsetting the using party.” The consequences of codependency extend beyond worsening the progression of addiction. Codependency is also responsible for mental, physical, and emotional depletion in the non-using partner. Partners experiencing codependency in a relationship or marriage often neglect their own needs in an effort to “save” or placate their partner. Dr. Slinskey explains that the long-term effects of codependent relationships can result in “anxiety and/or depression, lowered self-worth, diminished physical health as well as social and economic difficulties.”
Signs that your partner is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction
- Social isolation or suddenly associating with a new peer group
- Secretive behavior, including lying about missing money or items of value, dishonesty regarding the amount of drugs or alcohol being consumed, or inconsistent reports of whereabouts
- Neglecting responsibilities at home or work
- Using money for essentials like food, rent, or electricity to buy drugs or alcohol
- Withdrawing money from savings or retirement funds
- Sudden mood swings or uncharacteristic behavior
- Changes in sleeping or eating patterns
- Neglecting hygiene
- Sudden or drastic changes in appearance
- The onset of psychological or emotional problems, such as anxiety or depression
- Leaving jobs or disengaging in hobbies which formally brought happiness
There are other tell-tale signs that your spouse may be addicted. Some of the more subtle signs include a sudden increase in formally shared household responsibilities such as cleaning or child rearing. These tasks are affected by addiction when one partner is intoxicated, absent or recovering from intoxication. Another sign of addiction is unexplained absences from home including increased time with friend or frequent trips to the “store” or a sudden need to run errands.
Sometimes the signs of a substance abuse problem may manifest in less physical symptoms. Partners of substance using persons often report experiencing emotional distance or disengagement from relational or family activities. These symptoms are often overlooked as the addicted party may attribute these behaviors to stress or illness.
If you begin to recognize these symptoms or behaviors in your partner, there may be a chance he or she is abusing drugs or alcohol.
So, what should you do about it? Confronting an addicted person is usually difficult at first. Many people who suffer from a substance use disorder are in denial. Addicted partners often rationalize or minimize their drug or alcohol use. Even in the event of self-awareness, the confronted party may still become angry, resentful, verbally abusive, or accusatory to avoid admitting to a problem.
Your first priority in dealing with substance abuse within the family is ensuring the safety of yourself as well as any children or relatives within the home. The next step in moving forward is establishing an education on the subjects of addiction and recovery. The internet is a wealth of information and can offer tips and videos to help prepare you for what lay ahead. Another resource in combating addiction is joining a local support group. Mutual help groups such as Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and codependents Anonymous can offer information and steps to help in the family recovery process.
In cases where the above steps have not proved sufficient, it may be prudent to seek professional aid through a licensed therapist who can recenter the focus to your personal and familial well-being allowing your personal recovery to lead the way in establishing healthy boundaries and expectations.
Actions to avoid in dealing with an addicted spouse:
- Give ultimatums unless you intend to follow through. Do not make false threats, for example, if you threaten to file for divorce but fail to follow through you remove the threat of a boundary, as your spouse knows you will not complete the threat.
- Ignore or dismiss the problem
- Join in the substance abuse
- Blame, shame, or degrade your spouse, this includes pejorative insults such as junkie or drunk. Many instances of substance use are rooted in poor self-esteem; the use of these terms will only validate that shame and provide an excuse for continued use.
- Compromise the safety and wellbeing of yourself and/or others in the home such as children or secondary relatives.
- Do not attempt to force your partner into treatment. Setting boundaries such as “I will not support you” or “I will not allow you near the children if you are intoxicated” is a healthy boundary but outright threats or vengeful avenues of persuasion rarely result in a successful recovery. We have found that treatment is most effective in individuals who recognize the severity of the problem and are internally motivated to change.
Balancing Marriage and Addiction Recovery
Marriage should be a partnership, and that partnership extends to the journey of addiction treatment. It can feel difficult to support someone who has caused so much pain in your life but the rewards of partnered supportive recovery are innumerable.
Family support can be essential in the recovery process and spousal participation in recovery can begin to heal the cracked elements of a relationships. Some ways to help heal your relationship while supporting your spouse include:
- Support in the decision to seek substance abuse treatment.
- Agreement to suspend any decisions about the relationship until after treatment is completed.
- Willingness to participate in family therapy or counseling during treatment services.
- Help in researching treatment centers and resources.
If your partner has agreed to attend substance abuse treatment be prepared for a temporary separation while they enter into recovery. Depending on the length and severity of the addiction, the best course of action may be inpatient or residential treatment where your partner will be expected to reside on treatment property under supervision. It is very important during the early phases of recovery for the addicted person to be in a controlled, monitored environment removing triggers and temptations for relapse. This also allows the non-using partner and/or family to focus on their own healing with the peace of knowing the using party is being cared for.
Some facilities, such as Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, offer family counseling and group support. Regardless of your relationship status at the time of treatment, these sessions can provide invaluable opportunities for growth and healing for all parties involved.
Family programs also provide a thorough education on the science and behavior of addiction as well as the signs of relapse and the steps to remain substance-free. Family programs can aid in understanding the mental, emotional, and behavioral framework of what your substance-using partner is experiencing which can also help foster empathy and insight into how and why someone becomes addicted.
Couples or family counseling sessions help to repair fractures in communication and trust. These meetings are led by a licensed therapist trained in facilitating honest and emotional healing in confronting the using partner with the impact of addiction on his or her partner. The process of recovery includes repairing the wreckage of the past and family treatment is often the first repair needed to begin the journey to a happy substance-free life. Even without the hope of reconciliation, many families find that these sessions benefit their personal peace and help to improve co-parenting relationships.
Help is Just a Phone Call Away
Family support is one of the leading indicators of successful, long-term recovery. At the Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center, we strive to provide the best care possible to every patient who bravely enters our halls. From essential support services such as trauma counseling and family therapy to environmental benefits such as comfort and tranquility, Mississippi Drug and Alcohol Treatment Center leads the industry in our individualized care program.
Our intimate drug addiction rehab facility in Biloxi, Mississippi was designed to foster a recovery in the comfort of a homelike atmosphere where every guest would receive nurturing, personalized support, and a range of personalized treatment options.
Don’t allow substance abuse to tear your family apart another day, Call us 24-hours a day at 855-334-6120 to learn more about our facility, staff, and drug treatment programs. Let our family, help heal yours.