Talking to your spouse about your drug addiction for the first time may not be easy, but it is essential. Thoughtfully preparing for this discussion can help as you take this important step forward in your recovery.
Coming to terms with your addiction is a difficult and intensely personal process. It is also something to be proud of, as moving past denial is the first step towards recovery. If you are in a relationship, once you have accepted that you have an addiction and you need treatment, the next step is to tell your partner what you are going through.
Externalising your struggle, even with someone you love and trust, can be stressful and scary as you articulate your addiction and try to anticipate your partner’s reaction. However, there are some things you can do to help prepare for this moment and ensure the conversation goes as smoothly as possible.
1. Think about how you’ll organise your thoughts
Trying to put into words everything that you have been going through with your addiction can feel almost inconceivable. However, it’s important when you are talking to someone who loves you to try and be as clear as possible about what you are dealing with and your plans for recovery. Some people may find it helpful to write down what they want to say first. You don’t necessarily have to read this out to your partner, but you can use this as a guide for your conversation.
2. Plan and practice what you’ll say about your addiction
It’s important to think about the level of detail that you want to go into when talking with your partner. Some key facts they may want to know include things like:
- How long you have had the addiction
- When and how you recognised that your use had become a problem,
- Your plan for treatment
It is helpful to also explain to your partner that addiction is a disease that will require professional care and treatment, but can be managed. Expressing optimism about your treatment and your desire for a healthier future will also help make your intentions regarding your recovery clear.
3. Pick the right time and place
Revealing to your spouse about drug addiction is a serious conversation –so you will want to make sure you are in a time and place where you’ll have no interruptions. Choosing a place where you both feel comfortable and relaxed will help set the stage for an open and productive conversation. Try to select a time when both of you are not rushed or tired, and have some space to go deep into the discussion if that’s what the moment requires.
4. Accept that the conversation may need to take place in stages
Your spouse’s ability to continue the conversation at length will depend somewhat on their emotional reaction to what you have explained to them. Some people will need time to digest what they have just heard and to think about how to respond to it. Don’t feel discouraged if your partner needs some time to think before they continue the conversation with you.
5. Prepare for your spouse’s emotions
Fact – addiction affects relationships. It can be difficult to anticipate exactly how your partner will react to learning about your addiction for the first time. It is also possible that your partner will already know about your addiction, unbeknownst to you, and may need to express thoughts or feelings about it that they hadn’t been able to before.
Regardless of the nature of their reaction, it is important to be able to listen to what they are feeling and accept responsibility for any hurt that you may have caused them. If, however, the conversation becomes abusive, this is an indicator that the discussion should be ended immediately.
6. Consider what kind of support you’ll need for recovery
When you are talking with your partner, you want to be able to explain to them what you need in order to overcome your addiction. It is good to have some ideas for treatment already in mind so that you can raise this with your partner and discuss them as possible options. For example, you may want to talk about the potential of outpatient treatment versus residential treatment, and what this may require in terms of time and cost. If it’s too much for your spouse to have this conversation immediately, then you can simply let them know that you have some information to share when they are ready to talk again.
7. Be proactive in seeking out support for your spouse
It may be helpful to come to the discussion with some supportive resources for your partner as well. This could include information about support groups, family addiction counsellors, or written materials or podcasts about how spouse drug addiction affects relationships and how to address these issues. The effects of addiction are often felt beyond the person experiencing it, which is why it is so important for partners of those with the dependency to also seek counselling and support.
8. Discuss what to say to your kids
If you have children, a critical point to discuss is how to talk to the children about your addiction. Though there is a natural instinct to try and shield children from problems occurring in the family, it is likely they already have a sense that something isn’t right. Talking about the addiction with them in age-appropriate terms can help by identifying the problem and assuring them that it is not their fault, not their responsibility to fix, and that you and other adults are working together towards a solution that will make things better.
9. Talk with an addiction specialist
It’s normal to feel apprehensive about discussing your addiction with a partner, no matter how supportive they are. If you are not sure how to begin, speaking with an addiction specialist first can help. With years of experience treating addiction, they are also well versed in addiction and relationships, these trained specialists can offer practical, compassionate guidance for your first conversations with your partner. Additionally, they can provide support to you following your initial discussions with your spouse, and give feedback based on your experience and your spouse’s reaction.
Beginning Your Recovery Journey at The Dawn
The Dawn Wellness Centre and Rehab is the only alcohol and drug rehab Thailand with international accreditation by AACI. At our peaceful riverfront sanctuary, our Western-trained team of experts foster an environment of personal growth and healing for people who want to change their lives and overcome addiction or mental health issues.
The fundamental objective of The Dawn’s programme is for clients to achieve and maintain long-term recovery by equipping each individual with a personalised set of coping tools to use when dealing with life’s challenges – extinguishing the desire to use again.
We also recognise the importance of providing addiction education and counselling to partners and family members while a client is in treatment. Our specialists will help to address impacts of the addiction on the relationship, and work with partners to cultivate ways to support and sustain a loved one’s healthy recovery. Call The Dawn today to learn more about our unique and effective addiction programming.