Spouses with Substance Addiction

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How To Deal With A Spouse’s Addiction

People with addictions sometimes ignores anything not involved in feeding those addictions. Their thinking becomes so distorted that they make poor decisions, behave irrationally, and don’t consider consequences to, for instance, their marriage.

Addiction affects family life. A 2014 study found that one of the final straws leading to divorce — along with infidelity and any form of domestic violence –is substance use disorder. This damage to family and civic life is unnecessary since it is avoidable with drug and alcohol rehab.

A Family Disease

Drug and alcohol addiction has become a big concern not only to individuals but to families. The global risk factors of alcohol, tobacco, and illicit drug use are causing disability and premature deaths totaling 63,632 deaths from drug overdoses in 2016 in the United States alone. This translates to each family losing one of its parents or parents losing a child to drug and alcohol abuse.

The kinds of substances that cause addiction have become more varied. Consequently, the effect of addiction varies. According to the Global Burden of Diseases study, the most prevalent of all substance use disorders is alcohol use with more than 100 million estimated cases in 2016. Among drugs, opioid dependence ranks highest with 26.8 million cases, followed by cannabis dependence with 22.1 million cases.

The number of families so affected is roughly the same. Addiction is a family disease.

How Drug Abuse Affects Relationships?

It is difficult for a couple to maintain a trusting and loving relationship when one partner has an addiction to drugs or alcohol. When addicted, people try to hide their circumstance, tell lies, behave differently, and even isolate themselves and avoid their spouse or lover. The partner, unaware of the other’s addiction, may mistake such behavior for infidelity.

Partners with an addiction become undependable, have difficulty coping with stresses of daily life, and may even lose their jobs and become a financial burden. The individual still needs money for the addiction and so will lie about how the money is being spent. Some people with addictions end up stealing from other people.

Even if the partner enters drug or alcohol rehab, the financial burden will continue, especially if their case first ends up in court, jail, jail or a rehab center. Financial difficulty, poverty, and even bankruptcy are possible in a marriage, with or without addiction, and may strain it beyond repair.

Shame and embarrassment also can end the relationship once the addiction is apparent. Intoxicated behavior can be shameful for the partner. The embarrassment can cause social isolation.

Symptoms of Substance Use Disorder

Physical Appearance and Health

  • Lack of proper grooming and untidy clothes
  • Pale skin
  • Unexplained weight gain or loss
  • Bloating or puffiness
  • Facial flushing
  • Wearing dark glasses all the time
  • Tremors
  • Unexplained drowsiness

Mood and Other Emotional Behaviors

  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Unexplained sadness and tears
  • Unjustified outbursts of anger
  • Social isolation
  • Giddiness and irrational laughter

Psychological Changes

  • Paranoia
  • Unexplained loss of memory
  • Confusion
  • Hallucinations
  • Delusional thinking

Occupational Changes

  • Poor work and school performances
  • Termination from current job
  • Absenteeism from work and school
  • Favorite activities neglected

All of these changes can affect the emotional, social, psychological, and financial situation of the family.

Divorce May Not Be Rock Bottom

At some point, divorce might seem like the only solution, particularly for the sober partner, but divorce can negatively impact both parties, particularly the one with addictions.

Divorce can make the substance use disorder worse, especially if the sober partner was the last remaining member of the individual’s support network. Without the sober partner’s emotional strength or nurturing environment, the partner with an addiction may not try to recover, let alone succeed.  Losing loved ones does not benefit the addict.

study shows that divorced men tend to drink alcohol more heavily compared to married men. The rate decreases as men age but remains higher for divorced men. If the men remarry, they experience a reprieve. Another study in Sweden found that that divorce can lead to alcohol use disorder (AUD), though again remarriage offered some relief.

Not that women or men should remain with substance-abusing spouses if the marriage is hurting them, but it is something to consider.

Tips to Maintain a Healthy Marriage

The importance of having a healthy marriage cannot be undermined, especially when the union is already suffering from the negative effects of substance use disorder. Maintaining a healthy relationship can help the person with an addiction to get and stay in recovery.

The following are some tips that can be used in maintaining a healthy relationship with your partner:

Talk openly

Substance use disorder can erode trust because of the lies and denials that have been made. Be honest, keep the lines of communication open, and enlist your partner’s aid in recovery. Making your partner aware of your struggles may reduce resentment and alert your partner to the warning signs and risks. Discuss deep and personal concerns to keep each other abreast of your status in life.

Keep the marriage interesting

Boredom can strike a relationship and cause disengagement. Maintaining date nights and ensuring spontaneity will help prevent you from boring or self-destructive addictive activities.

Ensure that date nights are maintained by including them in your calendar. Also, include a schedule of sex to maintain intimacy. Scheduling your intimate encounters can ensure that both your emotional and physical needs will be regularly met without resorting to substance use disorder.

Seek help together

Substance use disorder is not the only possible reason for couples to argue. There are many sources of conflict. Fighting over the same things without permanent resolution is not healthy for your marriage or sobriety. Seek help from psychologists or counselors to help you deal with the matter.

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Substance abuse is rarely cured. A relapse remains possible even after years of sobriety. The sober partner can help the partner who has an addiction by going to counseling with them. Knowing when to reach out offers long-term protection from substance addiction.

Drug Rehab for Couples

Rehabilitation centers offer several treatment options, sometimes involving the partner and family to help the addiction better. Some rehabilitation centers offer rehab for couples wherein even the non-addicted person can stay with the addicted loved one. This option can be beneficial in keeping both partners aware of the process and ensuring that they know what to do once they leave the rehabilitation center.

Undergoing rehab is necessary to free yourself or your loved one from addiction. Those you love and who love you can be of tremendous help with their emotional support and by encouraging you to seek treatment. If you help your loved ones free themselves from substance abuse, you free yourself as well.

Medical disclaimer:

Sunshine Behavioral Health strives to help people who are facing substance use disorder, addiction, mental health disorders, or a combination of these conditions. It does this by providing compassionate care and evidence-based content that addresses health, treatment, and recovery.

Licensed medical professionals review material we publish on our site. The material is not a substitute for qualified medical diagnoses, treatment, or advice. It should not be used to replace the suggestions of your personal physician or other health care professionals.

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