An addiction is difficult enough for an individual who is struggling with substance abuse; when marriage enters the picture, addiction harms not only the person addicted but also the spouse and, in turn, the marriage as a whole. Living with a spouse who has become addicted to drugs or alcohol can be extremely difficult, and you might find yourself at a loss for how to support your spouse as he or she attempts to overcome addiction. Here are some healthy ways in which you can offer support to a spouse who is coping with an addiction.
First, it’s important to become more educated about the addiction at hand. Try learning everything you can, becoming more informed about the drug itself, what factors might have lead to addiction, and what treatment options are out there for the particular addiction. The more you know about the addiction, the more prepared you’ll be to help your spouse. Becoming more educated also happens to be an outward expression of your support.
Be willing to listen.
It’s also important to be there as a listening ear when your spouse needs it. This will prove crucial at those times when your spouse might need to alleviate the type of stress that triggers relapse. Your willingness to listen also shows your spouse how deeply you care, which will help at those times when your spouse might be feeling low in self-confidence.
Recognize the importance of self-reflection.
Early recovery from addiction is a time that is deeply self-reflective and requires a certain measure of “selfishness.” Your spouse might need to spend some time focusing inward in order to get a grip on sobriety, and it’s important to remember that this period of inward focusing will not last forever. Once your spouse has had an opportunity to regain a handle on life post-treatment, he or she will be better prepared to offer the same kind of support that you have already shown.
Take care of yourself.
Don’t forget that addiction has also affected you in negative ways. Be sure to take care of yourself as your spouse undergoes care, such as by watching your own health and by becoming involved in an addiction recovery family program.
Beware of codependency.
There are some risks involved with attempting to support a spouse who is working to overcome addiction. It can be easy to fall into the role of enabler or codependent spouse, where you might make excuses for your spouse’s addiction or take on some of the responsibilities that your spouse should be handling. Be sure that the support you offer your spouse will help your spouse to progress forward—and will not be detrimental to you.