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  • If your spouse’s drug or alcohol use starts causing problems, it can be hard to know what to do. It can be even harder to watch as their behavior continues or worsens over time, especially when they offer to stop but never follow through.

    Substance use disorders (SUDs), also known as alcohol or drug addiction, are increasingly common in the United States, impacting tens millions of Americans with only a small fraction seeking professional treatment.

    Even when a person with SUD sees and understands that their substance abuse is causing problems for their physical life, relationships, finances, and overall well being, they may continue to misuse that substance, often relying on excuses or denial. 

    However, there are some do’s and don’ts that you can use to help persuade your spouse to get professional help and begin walking the road to recovery.

    Do: Develop Your Vocabulary & Knowledge

    Addiction is a difficult topic to discuss, and those who experience it are often stigmatized, labeled, and pre-judged by the culture at large. 

    As a result, many people who struggle with drug or alcohol addiction do everything they can to avoid admitting that the problem exists, or that they need help getting past it.

    By learning about the signs and symptoms of SUD, how it develops, its long-term effects, how it is treated, and how it can be discussed without the use of harmful or stigmatizing terms and generalizations, you can lay the groundwork for a more constructive, supportive, and loving conversation with your loved one.

    Do: Propose A Plan Of Action 

    Marriage is a partnership. In a healthy marriage love, respect, and obligation flows from one spouse to the other and back again. This gives husbands or wives an advantage when it comes to persuading their loved ones to listen and consider getting help.

    Don’t waste your chance. 

    Look up treatment centers and other addiction recovery options, talk to health professionals, work out the finances, and come up with a real plan of action, or several treatment options, to get them into substance abuse treatment. Then ask them, directly and respectfully, to attend.

    Don’t: Nag, Shame, Or Guilt Trip

    There is a right way to have a difficult conversation about a substance abuse problem, and there are many wrong ways.

    The right way involves a direct, heartfelt, empathetic, and respectful conversation. The wrong way involves negative communication styles like nagging, begging, guilting, shaming, shouting, insinuating, and blaming.

    You should also never use drugs or alcohol yourself, especially in front of your partner.

    Don’t: Shield Your Spouse From Reality

    You are your spouse’s primary support system. However, this does not mean that you should always protect them from the consequences of their alcohol or drug abuse. In fact, just the opposite.

    SUD’s can have a profound effect on a person’s perceptions, thinking, decision making, memory, and behavior, and it can be easy for someone with an SUD to blind themselves to the reality of their situation and their need for help and recovery.

    By standing aside and refusing to enable your partner’s substance abuse or cover for the serious issues that it may be causing in their life, you can help them take ownership and come to terms with their situation, hopefully leading to a newfound willingness to get help.

    Remember, your spouse is their own person, capable and obligated to make their own choices and to deal with the consequences.

    Do: Establish Boundaries

    When living with a spouse who is struggling with unmanaged addictive behavior, it is very important that you establish healthy boundaries and avoid toxic, codependent, or abusive patterns.

    Some common examples of setting boundaries for an addicted spouse include:

    • keeping drugs or alcohol out of the home
    • having no access to children while intoxicated
    • keeping a standard curfew
    • never allowing intoxicated visitors into the home
    • dividing finances/protecting your family’s financial security
    • never lying for one’s partner
    • never speaking to one another with hostility or disrespect

    Do: Take Care Of Yourself

    You can’t be there for your partner if you are also falling apart. So, be an example and tend to your own needs, support system, and self-care.

    Exercise, sleep, good nutrition, time spent with friends and family, and use of therapy or peer support groups like Al-Anon can all help reinforce your mental health and self-esteem. 

    Once your partner is ready to join a rehab program, they can join you and use you as a partner and an example while building a healthier lifestyle.

    Ark Behavioral Health

    If your family members need expert outpatient or residential treatment for SUD, Ark Behavioral Health can help. 

    Our comfortable, modern treatment facilities provide care for all forms of alcohol and drug use disorders as well as co-occurring mental health disorders like anxiety, depression, PTSD, OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and more.

    Contact us today to begin developing your custom-tailored treatment plan.

    Written by Ark Behavioral Health Editorial Team
    ©2024 Ark National Holdings, LLC. | All Rights Reserved.
    This page does not provide medical advice.
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