Many husbands and wives have lost their lifelong partners to a substance use disorder. In 2018, more than 67,300 people overdosed on drugs. This data from the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) shows that tens of thousands of deaths were avoidable.
When someone married to a drug addict thinks of their significant other, it hurts. They can’t recognize the person they once knew. However, addiction treatment can save a marriage. As the spouse of an addict, you must know how to guide your partner toward recovery.
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Signs You’re Married to a Drug Addict
Marriage is so much more than love. It’s about trust, respect, and finding comfort in one another. Yet, what happens when your other half is a drug addict? You, the spouse of an addict, love your significant other. You might not know your partner has a drug addiction. Love acts as a shield to imperfections, even large ones.
Though, in the back of your mind, you know something is wrong. You just can’t put your finger on what it is exactly. People who suffer from a substance abuse disorder are known to lie about their habits. To continue, it’s out of love for their partner. They’re ashamed of their habits.
When your partner seems off, these signs may indicate a substance abuse disorder:
- Secretive about their bank account or financial situation
- Make excuses to spend time alone or away from home
- Can’t explain where large sums of money are going
- Their personality changes drastically at random
- They are more irritable for no reason
- Hanging out with sketchy individuals
- They possess syringes and/or pipes to consume drugs
- Withdrawal symptoms (jitters, seizures, scratching, bloody nose, bloodshot eyes)
- Cutting ties with friends over nothing
In summary, any of these signs together can mean a loved one has a drug addiction. A married addict loves their significant other without a doubt. Nonetheless, their brain and body crave drugs over anything. The urge to sleep, eat, and maintain healthy relationships gets pushed off to the side. They need support to recover.
The partner of a drug addict needs to keep in mind that it’s a medical disorder. There are valid reasons why someone develops a drug dependency. At the end of the day, a reason doesn’t justify the drug dependency in itself.
How Addiction Affects the Spouse of an Addict
Firstly, the number one way addiction affects the spouse of an addict is mistrust. One of the pillars of marriage is trust. If your partner is constantly lying to you about a drug dependency, it can mean divorce. What else are they lying about? How can you ever trust your significant other? It hurts to realize the person you should trust the most is the one to betray it.
There are other ways you suffer when your spouse is an addict:
- It causes financial strain
- You might feel like they are in danger
- It puts pressure on you to take drugs
- It might cause you to lose friends
- Law enforcement might blame you for your partner’s actions
Also, the partner of an addict may deal with internal turmoil from lying. Their spouse lied to them about their drug addiction. How can they tell their children, mutual friends, and family?
Full-blown drug dependency is impossible to cover up. Loved ones may be concerned about both partners. The spouse of an addict will feel they need to cover up such a sensitive topic. It could cause irreparable damage to their children to know.
Then, there’s the issue of putting their children at danger. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), millions of kids live with substance abusers. Their research over a decade reveals an average of 8.7 million American children live with a parent who had a substance use disorder. Someone married to an addict doesn’t want their children to get taken away. On the other hand, they don’t want to lose their partner.
The list is endless. Mental health issues on both sides are likely to surface. It’s bound to hurt each party equally just in different ways.
What to Do As the Spouse of An Addict
First off, only medical professionals can truly help someone with a substance use disorder. That said, the spouse of an addict can still help them recover. As a matter of fact, certain actions may enable an addiction further. For instance, certain behaviors might make them hide their addiction.
Secondly, mindfulness is important to help a partner want to recover. Also, it helps a couple preserve their sanity. There are “dos” and “don’ts” for the best chance at a healthy marriage after addiction. Someone can still have a healthy marriage even if their partner is battling a substance use disorder in the following ways.
How to Help a Spouse With an Addiction
- Don’t enable their behavior. Hold them accountable for their actions. This means shutting down excuses. Take charge of finances in the house. Don’t allow them to dip into it for whatever reason they may come up with. Enabling starts off with good intentions, but it’s harmful. It benefits an addict to have some tough love.
- Treat them with kindness and empathy. Tough love is different from hostility. This will undoubtedly be hard to do. While a substance use disorder affects everyone around an addict, it’s a medical disorder. Keep this in mind. This will stop defensiveness.
- Reach out to friends and family for help. A drug addiction can be embarrassing. An entire group of support is worth the initial embarrassment. Ask close friends and family to keep an eye out. They could enable a loved one with a substance use disorder unintentionally.
- Read about addiction. Books, studies, and blog posts can help. These are a good way to understand what an addict is going through. Also, they offer good advice on how to get through addiction with an intact marriage. Dry and Drunk Mom are two good memoirs about addiction. They prove that addicts deserve love like everyone else.
- Include them in adventurous, physical activities. Exercise depletes the stress hormone, cortisol. With this, it boosts chemicals in the body that make people happy and relaxed. Physical activity can give an addict a similar sensation to taking drugs. This will distract them from cravings.
- Encourage them to seek treatment. Finally, this is the most important tip on how to help a spouse with an addiction. An addiction treatment center specializes in lasting sobriety. They have remedies specifically for married couples. For instance, family therapy is a common form of treatment.
How to Keep a Positive Mindset If Married to a Drug Addict
There is a phrase that goes along the lines of “you are the company you keep.” It’s easy to adopt the same attitude as a spouse with an addiction. The spouse of an addict may become irritable, depressed, and angry. Self-preservation is of utmost importance.
It’s necessary to put self-care into overdrive in these ways:
- Start journaling
- Get at least eight hours of sleep
- Honest expression with a partner without blame
- Eat a balanced diet
- Exercise at least three times a week
- Consider seeing a therapist
- Cut down on content that is upsetting (political news, sad movies, angry editorials)
- Spend lots of time outside
- Spouses should check in on their feelings daily
When a person is married to a drug addict, they look out for their partner. But at the same time, they’re looking out for themselves. Healthy habits can stop any temptation to enter an addict’s deadly lifestyle.
Moreover, it also preserves their mental health. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 51.5 million Americans suffered from mental illness in 2019. That is one out of five Americans. Self-care is one of the ways to beat the statistics. A better mindset will help addicts with their mentality on their end, too.
Is It Worth Being Married to a Drug Addict?
To begin, this question has no right answer. It’s up to a wife or husband to decide if the cons outweigh the pros. Even so, they should think of their vows. Marriage means love in sickness or in health. A substance use disorder is a medical condition. While they may have had a choice initially, they’re not in control anymore. They may not have had a choice in the first place.
Despite this, the significant other of someone with a drug addiction needs to know their partner wants to recover. So, the question becomes a matter of if they are open to treatment. Are they willing to get better even though it’s difficult? The spouse of an addict can try to be there for them, but it’s not their job to fix them. If an addict is unwilling to get help, a marriage can’t be salvaged.
Harmony Ridge Can Help Those Married To A Drug Addict
Harmony Ridge Recovery Center is an award-winning addiction treatment center in West Virginia. We’ve won awards because we understand that every patient here has a different story.
A key portion of an addict’s story is how they want to get better to be the spouse they once were. Marriage can be tough on its own. Adding addiction to the mix makes divorce seem inevitable.
We’re here to tell you that addiction recovery can save a marriage. More than that, we offer personalized plans to ensure forever sobriety. Contact us now if you or a loved one needs help with addiction recovery.