A Guide for the Spouse of an Addict

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Spouse of An AddictIf you are married to someone who is suffering from an alcohol or drug use disorder, no doubt you are facing many challenges. Many times, spouses of addicts struggle to know exactly how to help their suffering loved ones. Perhaps you’re currently trying to figure out how to encourage your spouse to get help. If you’re the spouse of an addict, the first thing you need to know is that you are not alone. There is hope for your spouse and there are resources you can use for support in your own life.

Help Yourself First: Gaining an Understanding of Substance Use Disorder

To help your spouse, you will need to know more about addiction. Find out all you can about how this illness is affecting your spouse. Seek advice and counseling to help you deal with your struggles surrounding this issue.

While you can’t force a person into treatment, you can try to encourage the person to see how serious the situation is. One thing you should not do is to let the addicted person take over your life. No matter how much you care and want to help, you will only be enabling your loved one if you allow him or her to use your concern or love against you.

Co-dependency is a big problem in families where substance dependency is an issue. Those with co-dependency tend to interact with the struggling individual in ways that are detrimental to their own life.

Here Are 9 Ways to Help Your Spouse

  1. Stop hiding the problem. Stop keeping it a secret if you have been doing so. Tell other close family members, doctors, priests, or ministers. Tell anyone in a position to provide support. If everyone close to the situation knows about it, you can all face the problem together.
  2. Assemble support. Make a plan to talk to the addicted person with whichever family members or friends they respect most, and who can remain the calmest.
  3. Choose the right time to talk. Don’t try to talk to the person while he or she is under the influence or highly stressed. Find a time when the person is as sober and untroubled as possible.
  4. Keep your cool. Remaining as a calm, non-accusative team, confront the person with the damage they are causing. Damage to themselves, the family, and other areas such as job, community, and career. Be specific but be patient and as uncritical as you can be. However, do not back down and do not sympathize.
  5. Is this your first confrontation? If this is the FIRST TIME, you have confronted the person, you may decide to give them another chance to quit on their own. If the person has been using alcohol or drugs for some years, then it is highly likely that this isn’t the first confrontation. It is also practically certain that the person’s body is so dependent on alcohol and drugs that he or she will be unable to stop on his own.
  6. Discuss solutions. When the person has already been given a chance and failed, no doubt he or she has provided plenty of excuses for his failure. This is the time to talk about a rehab facility.
  7. Talk about consequences. If the individual refuses to talk about going to rehab, the family will have to reach an agreement on the next steps to take. This might include refusing to bail the person out of legal, financial, professional and personal problems. If the person is being housed for free, then the family may need to refuse this support if there is no agreement to go to rehab.
  8. Seek help from others. If these steps fail, then there may be another person that the struggling individual considers an authority, or holds in high regard. See if that person can help convince him or her to seek help.
  9. Contact a professional interventionist. You might get to a stage where you have no other choice but to stage an intervention. If all these steps fail, the next thing the family should do is contact an interventionist with experience working with an addicted person. Bring the interventionist in and give them all the help and assistance they request to get your significant other to agree to get help. Fortunately, correctly managed interventions are very effective at encouraging addicts to get help.

The goal of these 9 steps leads to one thing: the individual’s enrollment in an addiction treatment program. Substance dependence cannot be treated at home. The best treatment is at a facility where people can’t get ahold of drugs or alcohol and where they have 24-hour supervision.

Is My Spouse Really an Addict?

You need to reassure yourself that your husband or wife is suffering from substance use disorder. You may have previously overlooked signs and symptoms of a problem until the damage became obvious. 

If you are still wondering if the individual is abusing drugs or alcohol, these are the signs of to look for:

  • Alcohol or drug use interferes with school or work activities because of being hungover or sick.
  • The person drinks or uses drugs knowing that they will be driving, boating, or doing something else that would be risky if impaired.
  • The individual experiences memory loss or blackouts.
  • Accidents or injuries occur after drug or alcohol use.
  • The person uses drugs or alcohol even though there are physical conditions that can worsen because of substance use.

Substance abuse becomes an addiction when these symptoms show up:

  • The person has no control over how much or when he drinks or uses drugs.
  • He/She needs to ingest more alcohol or drugs to get the same buzz as before.
  • Withdrawal symptoms set in when the person stops using alcohol or drugs. He may feel sick, sweaty, shaky, and anxious.
  • Considerable time is spent drinking/using or recovering from substance use.
  • The person continues to use alcohol or drugs even though there is harm to relationships, career, education, and family.
  • The person drinks early in the day, stays drunk for a long time, or drinks alone.
  • The individual uses drugs throughout the day, in isolation, or seems to remain under the influence.
  • He or she often makes excuses for substance use.
  • The individual drinks or uses drugs in secrecy.
  • The person consistently relies on drugs or alcohol to relieve stress or solve problems.
  • Despite repeated attempts at quitting, he still drinks.
  • Drugs or alcohol become a focal point in the individual’s life.

How To Help An Individual Who is Suffering From Substance Use Disorder

When a family realizes that one of the members’ drinking problem is probably alcoholism, it is a big step forward in handling the situation. The same is true when a family realizes that a person’s drug use is likely an addiction. You may have suggested that they cut back, improve their behavior, not go out to bars as often, and stop spending time with other drug users.  

Then you wait to see what happens. When there is no improvement, family members and close friends may begin to realize the seriousness of the problem. The individual is out of control of their drinking or drug use. He or she is likely to be physically and psychologically dependent on the substance and is compelled to drink or use. 

There is a fine line between helping an individual and enabling him or her. It is important to avoid “helping” in a way that makes it easier for him to continue the addictive behavior.     

When the person has been given chances to improve on their own and can not do it, it may be time for the family to step in. An addiction rehabilitation program is necessary. 

5 Rules of Being Supportive

If you want to show your support for a loved one who is in treatment for substance use disorder, here are five rules you should follow:

  1. Keep things running smoothly at home. One of the best ways to show support is to ensure the person that things are going smoothly. The patient needs to focus his or her energy on getting well, not stressing about things at home.
  2. Create a substance-free zone. If your spouse is working hard on learning how to live substance-free, it would be extremely helpful if you remove the temptations for his return. This includes prescription medications and substances that you might not have considered contain alcohol such as cleaning products and certain foods like vanilla extract. Be sure to inspect around the home because your spouse might have a secret stash of alcohol or drugs that was hidden before he left for treatment.
  3. Support the program. The person will want to know that you are there for him so staying in touch is important. However, you will want to check with the rehab center beforehand. The staff might feel that a visit could trigger addictive behavior. Especially in the early days, it might be better to write a letter rather than phoning or visiting.
  4. Take care of yourself. While your loved one is in treatment, you have the time to look after yourself again, which is part of being supportive. You have probably been deeply affected by the person’s substance use. Now that he is being looked after by doctors and therapists, this is time for you to get yourself stronger, physically and mentally.
  5. Get involved with the family program. Part of your spouse’s rehab may include family therapy. If it does, it is advisable for you to get involved. Family therapy is a way for the whole family to deal with issues that may have contributed to the addiction in the first place.

Detox vs. Rehab

Some people wonder whether detox or rehab is best for treating substance dependence. The truth is that both are usually required. A comprehensive recovery program will include detox, rehabilitation, and aftercare. Statistics show that those who complete detox without a rehab treatment program are more likely to suffer a relapse.


For most people with substance use disorder, detox is a key first step. The goal is to stop using drugs or alcohol and give your body time to get the substance out of your system. When someone suddenly stops using alcohol or drugs, they might develop withdrawal symptoms. This can start while they still have drugs or alcohol in their blood. Most people go to a hospital or treatment center because of withdrawal symptoms like:

  • Shaking (tremors), especially in the hands
  • Hallucinations, when you hear and see things that aren’t there
  • Anxiety
  • Delirium tremens (DTs), a life-threatening issue that can make you restless, confused, and cause fever, seizures, and hallucinations
  • Problems sleeping
  • Unstable changes in blood pressure and heart rate

Patients receive 24-hour supervision with doctors and other experts available to keep an eye on them and administer medicines that help with the symptoms. Symptoms may last a week or more, becoming their worst within 24-72 hours.  

A patient is more likely to stick with a detox program if given lots of help. The goal of detox support is to help the patient get mentally and physically stable. Temperature, blood pressure, heart rate, and breathing are checked regularly during this process. The final goal of detox is to help the individual get into a treatment program so he can learn to break the addiction.

Rehab/Treatment Options

Professional Therapy/Counseling — A qualified counselor can help an addict devise a plan to handle the problem. Cognitive-behavioral therapy (CBT) is often used to treat substance dependency. 

Treat underlying/co-occurring problems — There may be underlying mental health problems such as self-esteem, depression, stress, and anxiety that also need to be treated along with substance dependence. Common physical issues such as hypertension, liver diseases, and possibly heart diseases will need to be treated too.

Inpatient rehab — These programs offer expert professional help, individual and/or group therapy, support groups, family involvement, training, activity therapy and many other strategies for treating substance abuse. In these programs, the individual lives at the treatment center for 1-3 months. This is helpful in that the patient is removed from all temptations that may trigger addictive behavior.

There Is Help for You and Your Spouse

There is hope for you and your friend or family member. It will take a team of professionals and, fortunately, we are ready to be part of your team. We have addiction experts and proven treatment methods waiting for you to give us the call. 

Reach out to us today and end the worry, stress, heartbreak, and yes, anger you have been feeling. It is time to help your spouse. It is time to give yourself a break.

Contact us here at Crest View Recovery Center today to get the help, support, and guidance you need. You can also speak to our team of addiction treatment specialists by dialing (866) 327-2505.

Start the journey toward recovery now.

Stop trying to fight this battle alone. Let today be the day you take control back from addiction. Contact Crest View today.

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