How many more sleepless nights and anxiety filled days will you endure? Are you in love with an addict but don’t know whether to leave or to stay? If your life is unmanageable because your spouse is a substance abuser, you probably want to help them make a change. But how can you start?
We will answer common questions around spouse and drug addiction here. Plus, we explore how helping yourself is a positive step and can actually help the person you love. Then, we invite your questions or comments about having zero tolerance for drug use in the home at the end.
Is Your “Help” the Right Kind Help He Needs?
Sometimes the more “help” you try to give to an addict, the worse the addict behaves. You have picked up the slack at home, made excuses for your spouse at work, made appointments for counseling, read books on addiction, shown unconditional love, begged, and tried to reason with the addict. Every word that comes out of the addict’s mouth is a lie. Despite all your efforts, the person you love is spiraling more and more out of control or alternating between sobriety and relapse.
You do not realize how much time it takes to deal with the addict until, at some point; you realize that you are taking care of everything else but you. And while we know that addict’s families need help, it’s often difficult to start. What now?
Is it time for a new approach?
If you are starting to feel like there is nowhere else to turn, it may be time to take a different approach. You have tried to work on your husband but the person you should be working on is yourself. Addiction must run its course and we can either fight it or allow it to play out. You cannot act the same way again and again and expect different results. An addict will do the same thing over and over again, regardless of the harm they are inflicting upon themselves. If this behavior seems insane, you must look at your part in it.
For example, you do not want your spouse to leave the house and get high, but think about what happens when you try to stop them. Attacking them turns into a big argument and they leave anyway feeling justified or they lie to your face and sneak out later. All you have accomplished is prolonging the inevitable and upsetting yourself in the meantime. An addict will get high with or without your permission.
This is not to condone living with an addict that is using, but if you intend not to leave the situation, there is little reason to continue getting upset over predictable addict behaviors. If your husband always goes out and gets high regardless of what you do to try and stop it, then why do you continue to try and stop it? You have to ask yourself what type of satisfaction you are getting out of this exchange?
A big lesson: Worry about yourself
My husband and I were having the same fight as he was getting ready to leave the house. I was telling him I knew he was high and he was telling me he was not. I was trying to convince him to admit that he should not go out and get high again. I was doing my usual–getting upset, yelling, crying, and begging him to see the error of his ways. Then he said something to me that made a real impact.
He said, “You are acting like a crazy person. What is wrong with you? Why are you so worried about my life? Worry about yourself!”
He was right. If he had no intention to get sober then why was I still so invested in his life and not my own?
Start caring more about yourself
It did not happen overnight, but I noticed that the less I cared to help him, the more I was helping myself. I started to see a therapist again and go to support meetings. Over time, it no longer mattered to me what happened to him because I was concerned with the happiness and safety of my daughter and myself.
What can happen? Change!
A few things can happen if you help your husband by helping yourself, you can:
- gain a better perspective on the situation
- move on with your life
- help him get better by allowing him to hit bottom with his addiction
- inspire him to change when he sees you are no longer going to be concerned with his problems
- obtain independence
- and/or find a renewed peace and happiness in your life
These outcomes are likely better options than the current situation. It is easy to get caught up in the cycle of addiction. Self-help may be just the catalyst you need to end the progression of co-addiction.
There is very little anyone can do to change the course of addiction an addict is on. It is important to remember that you cannot change anyone but yourself. If your spouse is going to make a change it will be a decision they will come to on their own time.