Loving someone who is afflicted with substance use disorder can turn into a life of pleading, bargaining, and sorrow. It’s difficult to see someone you love dearly get taken over by a disease that turns them into someone you no longer recognize. Addiction is greedy, and it wants to take everything you love away from you until it’s the only thing you have left. As a spouse of someone who has an addiction, you probably ask yourself why they don’t understand how much their addiction is negatively impacting everyone around them, and why they don’t seem to want to get better. Deep down you know they aren’t being themselves, and that addiction has turned them into a shell of who they once were. Perhaps you have brought up the idea of treatment to your spouse, but they’ve been resistant. The addiction’s voice in their head is telling them that they’re fine and that life without their drug of choice wouldn’t be worth living. You try to scream louder than that voice in their head but to no avail. There are several things that are going on in your spouse’s head while they are in the grips of addiction, and handling these issues can be similar to walking through a minefield , but there is hope.
Addiction can convince a person that they cannot live without their drug and it lowers their confidence and self-worth to a level where they don’t feel strong enough to fight. Your spouse may be dealing with heavy self-doubt and many other different feelings that are making them resistant to treatment.
They’re in denial: Addiction can take away someone’s self-awareness and ability to think rationally by altering their brain’s chemistry. Someone who is deep into their addiction doesn’t realize that they are using drugs to cope with deeper issues. When things go wrong, they are not likely to blame the drugs for their issues, and often lash out at others, deflecting blame.
Hitting rock bottom: Some people believe that those dealing with addiction need to hit the absolute lowest they can go until they accept that they need help. While it is one method, it doesn’t mean that they have to lose absolutely everything in their lives to come to this realization. Think of this process as the back staircase of a tall building. They don’t have to keep running down the stairs until they hit the basement, they can exit through one of the doors when they’re ready to make a change.
Losing control: People who are under the spell of addiction may have convinced themselves that they have things under control, even though it’s obvious to everyone else that they do not. For many people with substance use disorder, going to treatment means giving up their independence and not being in control of their lives, which can be frightening.
Fear: Change is scary, especially for those with substance use disorder. Treatment can be a terrifying word because of old-fashioned misconceptions of what it’s like to “go to rehab.” Luckily, there are outpatient programs that provide medical recovery as well as therapeutic support. This can help your spouse understand that treatment will be a place of healing, not punishment.
How to help
If your spouse is battling addiction and you don’t know what to do, there are some important steps to take to prepare yourself and your family for a plan of action.
Education: Read up as much as you can about the science behind addiction. This can help assure you that addiction is at the very core of your spouse’s actions. The things that they are doing to feed their addiction may seem vicious, devious, and downright destructive, but it’s because they have lost control of their ability to make decisions based on what’s “right.”
Mental Health: Addiction is most often tied to co-occurring mental health and behavioral issues. There are underlying concerns that need to be dealt with and are best suited for a professional. Going back and listing possible things you can share with a counselor can be important for future treatment. It’s also vital to make sure you are taking care of your mental health during this time. Allow for self-care while assessing the situation.
Support System: Even though life may seem tumultuous , you should still try to be as supportive as possible of your spouse until they are prepared to seek treatment. Tensions and resentment may build over time while dealing with the various dark aspects of addiction, but having compassion will help everyone involved.
Intervention: Holding a professional intervention is one of the most popular ways to approach a loved one who is in desperate need of treatment. With the help of professionals, you can hold a personal or family intervention in a safe space with those you trust. If you find that your spouse has been suicidal, has a history of violence, or has behavioral issues, it’s a good idea to use this approach rather than do it alone.
Loving someone who is battling addiction is a difficult situation to be in, but you don’t have to deal with it alone. There are many support groups for people in your position that can help you cope and come to a resolution. The worst thing to do is isolate yourself from others. Anger, fear, and hopelessness are all normal feelings to have. You desperately want to help someone you love overcome their addiction and achieve long-term recovery, and that is your main motivator. It can be difficult, especially if you’ve been fighting their resistance for a long time, but there is a light at the end of the tunnel. Once you have decided to approach your spouse with an intervention or plan of your own, you will be taking the first step towards something better. Recovery is a long and winding road, but with your support, your spouse will not have to travel it alone.