How to Help a Spouse Who is Abusing Drugs

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When one half of a couple is abusing drugs to the point of being an addict, there is very little the clean spouse can do to directly help the addict. They are not (presumably) addiction specialists and they shouldn’t be expected to act like one. At most, a spouse should do what he or she can to maintain the life the couple has built while the addict perhaps goes into treatment, but they cannot act as surrogate detox managers or counselors. They must act with the interests of their relationship and family in mind, because most likely the addict—whether they are addicted to alcohol, drugs, pornography, you name it—is thinking with his or her own best interests in mind.

Research Treatment Opportunities

Addicts generally do not want to do research on finding a treatment facility when they are not high because they are more concerned about finding their drug of choice. They likely tell themselves they will do that research once they score; but once they score they typically have habits they carry out and have no desire to break those habits in order to research treatment options.

Thus a spouse can do that work for them, and they can do it whether asked to do it or not. Having the information at the ready is excellent for that moment when the spouse agrees to go into treatment. Any delay, any questions about options, will likely give the addict an opening to suggest they put this off until a later time.

Reject Any Active Role in Treatment

It is not uncommon for addicts to ask their spouses to help them—either while they are still abusing drugs or while going through treatment. This might take the form of asking a spouse to be the 'gatekeeper' for their pills, for example. Spouses should reject these requests because all they can do is hurt the relationship and embitter the addict, because inevitably the addict will ask their spouse to bend the 'rules' they've established. And at any rate, a spouse is not, by virtue of marriage, also an addiction specialist. If your spouse had cancer, would you be expected to provide anti-cancer treatments for them? Of course not.

The same holds true in addiction.

Put All Other Relationship Problems to the Side

All couples have problems and issues in their relationships. Couples with an addicted spouse have an added component that complicates their relationship. While the addict is going through treatment, it is important for the spouse to put on hold any other unrelated relationship issues. Treatment is hard enough; complicating it with questions about previous arguments, or vacation plans, or differences of opinion only threatens to send the addict into despondence or depression and risk relapse.

Remember Your Limitations

The unfortunate truth—borne out every day—is that a spouse can only do so much to help an addicted spouse. Ultimately, the addict must make the decision to get clean on their own. A spouse can plan interventions, research treatment options and more, but at bottom, the addict must decide for him or herself that they want treatment.

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