When a Spouse Abuses Substances
Substance abuse issues are extremely stressful to a relationship. Over time, trust is destroyed and often couples face financial hardship. Having a spouse with substance abuse issues increases the likelihood of divorce. Given the toll it can take on a marriage, here are some steps to take if you believe your spouse has an issue with alcohol and/or drugs: • Get educated. Learn about the substance your spouse abuses (e.g. alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription drugs) so that you can understand their struggle. Understanding the difference between use, abuse and dependency can help you understand the various treatment options. • Talk to your spouse. Ask questions and be empathic, not judgmental. This will help you know if your spouse sees it as a problem or if they are minimizing the amount they use or dismissing the consequences they’re experiencing. Be prepared for the person to give excuses or be in denial. • Find support. Whether it is individual therapy or a support group like Al-Anon, support will be critical to help you deal with your emotions and find constructive ways to cope with a very stressful situation. • Set boundaries. If you stay in a relationship with a substance abuser, you need to find ways to be supportive of them without enabling them. Some examples of boundaries include: not making excuses for them, not covering up for them, and not rescuing them from the negative consequences. • Be realistic. As you learn about substance abuse, you will learn how different substances affect the brain and that this is a disease, not just a matter of willpower. You will also learn that relapse is common and many people need multiple rounds of rehab and ongoing treatment. Substance abuse can feel scary to talk about and because of this reason, it is often swept under the rug until it has become intolerable. The sooner you get help, the better it is for everyone involved. Remember to take care of yourself physically and emotionally during this time so that you stay healthy.