When the one you love is disappearing in a storm of addiction, it is incredibly difficult to know how to help them – and protect yourself. Considering your own feelings and reaching out for professional help are critical in making the right decisions for you and your spouse.
Being married to an addict presents a myriad of complicated and painful decisions that often center around either staying in the relationship, or packing up and leaving. You have watched as the person you love has changed and struggled as a result of their addiction. You have also likely experienced firsthand the impacts of their addiction – the lying, the emotional distancing, professional or legal implications, and more. You likely have questioned their feelings in light of their dependency, wondering why an addict can’t love you, or what to do when an addict leaves you as a result of their addiction.
You may understand and accept that addiction is a disease that fundamentally alters the brain, that it takes more than simple willpower to overcome it. But what do you do when your spouse isn’t seeking help, or can’t seem to beat the addiction? Can a marriage survive drug addiction? Do the questions you have simply come down to how to live with an addict, or how to leave an addict?
There are no easy answers to what to do when you are married to an addict, but there are some factors to take into consideration that may clarify your thinking on how to proceed.
Understand What Addiction Is, and How it Works
As public awareness about mental health and addiction increases, there is a greater understanding that addictions are far more complicated than a lack of will or moral fibre. Addiction is a chronic health condition that requires healthy lifestyle changes as well as lifelong care and management. In this way, addiction is quite similar to diabetes, heart disease or asthma. While addiction cannot be cured, it can be successfully treated and managed so that people can live long, healthy lives.
Addiction is a complex disease, but clinicians and scientists now believe that most people become involved in potentially addictive behaviours because they relieve some type of discomfort – emotional, physical, or psychological. Using drugs or alcohol, or engaging in activities like gambling or sex for example, stimulates the reward centre of the brain and evokes a pleasurable response. Addiction occurs when this reward pathway is over-activated and becomes dependent on the substance/behaviour for a feeling of relaxation or release. While the types of addiction may vary – from drugs to alcohol to food to gambling to pornography and more – the way that addiction changes the brain remains very similar.
Because addiction alters the pathways of the brain, overcoming it requires professional clinical care. Just as it would be ineffective to tell someone with asthma to try harder to breathe, it isn’t enough to tell someone with an addiction to just stop. A combination of therapies, targeted lifestyle changes, and the introduction of new coping mechanisms are usually necessary for people to successfully recover. Relapses are common amongst those recovering from addiction, and it can take time to feel stable in recovery.
You may choose to seek out educational materials on your own in order to learn more about addiction, how it manifests, where it comes from, can a marriage survive drug addiction, and ways to overcome it. This knowledge can give you a sense of where your spouse is in the stages of addiction, and in a best case scenario, empower you to support your spouse in confronting and beating their addiction.
Clarify Where You Are at With Your Spouse’s Addiction
It is important to sit down with yourself and pull out the reasons why you are still married to an addict. What is driving your decision to be in this relationship at this moment? Are you more concerned with how to deal with an addict husband than leaving them? Some common reasons people stay being married to an addict can include:
- Love – though you are married to a drug addict, you still love your spouse, care about them, and desperately want them to get better.
- Financial stability – you are married to a drug addict, and you are also dependent on your spouse for regular costs of living, housing, a vehicle, etc.
- Societal pressure – family, friends, or religious beliefs may be pushing you to remain married to an addict.
- Fear of being alone – what you’re dealing with is really hard, but being on your own seems lonely and scary – and even more difficult than staying married to an addict.
- Your spouse is trying to get better – you’re married to a drug addict, but they’ve identified that they have a problem, and even though they haven’t overcome it yet, they are making an effort. You may be involved in drug testing your spouse, or joint counseling.
- You have children – if there are children involved, you are likely struggling between deciding whether the impacts of their parent’s addiction or divorce would be more damaging.
Sorting these into internal versus external factors can also be useful. For example, are you personally ready to leave the relationship, but your financial situation or pressure from your family is causing you to have second thoughts? Or are you self-sufficient and supported by other loved ones to leave, but you don’t think divorce is the best option? Getting a clear sense of what is motivating you to be in the situation you are can give you some ideas on what your next steps are.
For those wondering how to deal with husband addiction, it’s important to remember that if your spouse’s addiction is causing them to be abusive, either emotionally, verbally, or physically, this is when to leave an addict. Removing yourself and any children from the situation and seeking professional care should be immediately prioritised, regardless of whether you ultimately choose to remain married or to separate.
My Husband is a Drug Addict
Coming to the realization that your spouse is a drug addict is an incredibly difficult admission that has serious implications for the relationship. If you’re finally accepting that “my husband is a drug addict,” “I’m married to an alcoholic,” or “my husband is an alcohol addict,” you’re taking an important step forward in pursuing a solution.
Denial is a hallmark symptom of many people who struggle with addiction, and can sometimes be mirrored by those around them who are unable or unwilling to acknowledge the problem. Addiction thrives in isolation and secrecy, and so talking openly and constructively about how to address and treat an addiction disorder is critical to breaking the cycle.
There may be times when you also have to figure out how to detach with love from an addict. This is particularly true if you’re feeling emotionally drained and physically exhausted from trying to support your spouse, or if you’re in a codependent relationship. Speaking to a mental health professional like a therapist is critical in learning how to care for yourself while also learning how to be married to an alcoholic.
What to do when an addict won’t get help
It’s normal for those mired in addiction to refuse to accept that they need help, or even acknowledge that they have an addiction. This may be leading you to question how to leave a drug addicted spouse. If your spouse has become abusive in any way, it’s important to exit the situation as soon as possible. Erratic behaviour is also cause for alarm, as it may be a precursor for abuse, and can indicate the severity of the addiction. In these cases, your only choice may be to detach from an alcoholic or a drug-addicted spouse until they are willing to seek help.
For some couples, addiction will lead to a divorce. This could be due to the presence of the addiction itself, or other factors such as behavioural changes, physical health concerns, financial issues, and conflict related to the addiction. Countries vary considerably in what constitutes legal grounds for divorce, so it’s important to consult with legal counsel in your area to understand how addiction may impact divorce proceedings.
Why do addicts blame others?
When you’re dealing with an addict, particularly in a close relationship like a marriage, you may find yourself confronted by them as the reason for their addiction, leaving you to ask yourself “why do drug addicts blame others?” Many addicts blame others for their addiction, and as their spouse, you may be the target of their ire. On the other hand, you may also find yourself blaming your spouse in a way that’s not productive.
It’s important to find support for yourself and get constructive perspectives on your relationship that aren’t just coming from the addict to you. Some possible options for professional help could include joining a support group for family members of people with addiction or finding support groups for spouses of addicts, or contacting an individual therapist or addiction specialist.
Talk to a Professional
Addiction is complicated, and therefore your feelings about it are likely to be the same. You may have gotten to the point where you’re so frustrated that you’ve told people “I hate addicts,” and are asking yourself, “can a marriage survive drug addiction?” Talking to a therapist, particularly one familiar with addiction and marriage issues, can help you sort through your thoughts and emotions and get some ideas on how to move forward.
Entering therapy will give you tools not only to learn more about the nature of addiction and how to prevent yourself from inadvertently enabling it, but also to heal yourself from the impacts of your spouse’s addiction. It is very important not to forget the importance of taking care of yourself, as addiction has the potential to seriously impact those close to it, with long-term effects. If you are to be successful in maintaining your marriage after realising “my husband is a drug addict”, you must also maintain your mental and physical health.
Starting Anew at the Dawn
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab Thailand is a unique, residential treatment centre specialising in treatment of addiction and mental health disorders. We offer a special six-week Signature Addiction Programme for individuals suffering from substance addiction; behavioural addictions and co-occurring disorders. The fundamental objective of our programme is for each client to achieve and maintain long-term recovery by equipping them with a personalised set of coping tools to use when dealing with life’s challenges, thereby eliminating the desire to use again.
Family Treatment for Addiction
Our team of specialists understands that addiction affects not just the addict, but also has a severe impact on the family – often without the family being fully aware of it. It is imperative to address the symptoms in the family in order to also increase the chances of long-term recovery for the addict. Towards the end of the client’s treatment, we engage the family in a series of educational and clinical consultation sessions – these are done either on-site or remotely.
If you need someone to talk to about options for your spouse, we can help. Call us today to learn more about our programmes.
Q: What does addiction do to a marriage?
A: Being married to an addict presents a myriad of complicated and painful decisions that often center around either staying in the relationship, or packing up and leaving. You have watched as the person you love has changed and struggled as a result of their addiction. You have also likely experienced firsthand the impacts of their addiction – the lying, the emotional distancing, professional or legal implications, and more.
Q: Is addiction grounds for divorce?
A: For some couples, addiction will lead to a divorce. This could be due to the presence of the addiction itself, or other factors such as behavioural changes, physical health concerns, financial issues, and conflict related to the addiction. Countries vary considerably in what constitutes legal grounds for divorce, so it’s important to consult with legal counsel in your area to understand how addiction may impact divorce proceedings.
Q: Is it possible to have a good relationship with an addict?
A: As public awareness about mental health and addiction increases, there is a greater understanding that addictions are far more complicated than a lack of will or moral fibre. Addiction is a chronic health condition that requires healthy lifestyle changes as well as lifelong care and management. While addiction cannot be cured, it can be successfully treated and managed so that people can live long, healthy lives.
Q: How do you deal with a partner who has an addiction?
A: You may choose to seek out educational materials on your own in order to learn more about addiction, how it manifests, where it comes from, can a marriage survive drug addiction, and ways to overcome it. This knowledge can give you a sense of where your spouse is in the stages of addiction, and in a best case scenario, empower you to support your spouse in confronting and beating their addiction.