How to Help Your Spouse or Partner with Addiction

Addiction is a disease that can take a heavy toll on an individual’s physical, emotional, and psychological well-being. The severe impact of addiction can extend to the families and partners of people struggling with this disease as well. Partners of people struggling with addiction will often want to help but may feel at a loss for how to do so. By learning more about helping your spouse or partner with addiction, you will be in a better position to provide the support and encouragement for them to seek treatment and begin their recovery.

Signs Your Spouse May Be Struggling with Addiction

Living and loving a spouse with addiction can be uniquely challenging, but educating yourself about substance use disorders — the clinical term for addiction — can help you better understand what your loved one is going through.

Only a treatment professional can diagnose someone with a substance use disorder (SUD) – the clinical term for addiction. However, it can be helpful to understand the criteria for SUDs. These include1:

  • Cravings for drugs or alcohol.
  • Using substances more frequently or in higher amounts than intended.
  • Needing to use more of a substance to achieve the same effect (tolerance).
  • Experiencing unpleasant symptoms when they cut down or stop using drugs or alcohol (withdrawal).
  • Expressing a desire to cut back or stop using but being unable to do so.
  • Inability to stop drinking or using drugs even after experiencing negative consequences.
  • Neglecting important work, family, and social obligations because of substance use.
  • Giving up previously enjoyed hobbies or other activities to use substances.
  • Using drugs or alcohol in hazardous or dangerous situations, like while driving.
  • Spending a great deal of time getting, using, or recovering from using drugs or alcohol.
  • Continuing to use drugs or alcohol even though it likely caused or worsened a physical or mental health condition.

How to Cope with a Spouse or Partner with Addiction

Partners of people struggling with substance use disorders may feel overwhelmed, frustrated, and angry because they mistakenly believe that if their partner truly loved them, they would stop using drugs or alcohol. But addiction is a chronic disorder that can cause changes to the brain that can make it extraordinarily difficult for someone to stop drinking or using drugs, even when they have a strong desire to do so2.

Living with a partner with an addiction can be challenging, but there are things that you can do that can help.

Learn as Much as You Can About Your Partner’s Addiction

It is essential to learn as much as you can about addiction and recovery. A substance use disorder is not a voluntary choice for the person struggling with it. It is not something that can be stopped through willpower alone3. Understanding the disease and the fact that, in most cases, specialized treatment is needed for your spouse to recover, can help you to better support your loved one through their journey to recovery.

Set Healthy Boundaries with Your Partner

In a relationship where one person struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, there may not be healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries with your partner can help you break negative patterns that may have become part of the fabric of your relationship, and will help you to manage your own stress and emotions4.

To be effective, boundaries should be realistic and you should be able to enforce them. Some examples of healthy boundaries include:

  • Not allowing drugs or alcohol in the house.
  • Not spending time with your spouse or partner when they have been using.
  • Don’t drink or use drugs with your partner.
  • Leaving if they are abusive or threatening*.

*Violence and emotional abuse can also occur when one or both partners have an addiction to drugs or alcohol4. If the health and safety of you or others in the home is in danger, there are resources available to keep you safe.

Avoid Enabling Your Partner

It is natural to want to help your partner if they have an addiction. Unfortunately, sometimes, help can cross the line into enabling. When you enable your partner with addiction, you may be helping them to avoid the consequences of the substance use.

Enabling your partner can only make their substance use disorder worse,4 so it is important to be mindful of these behaviors. Tips for avoiding enabling your partner include:4(p3)

  • Making excuses for your spouse or partner, such as calling in sick for them at work.
  • Lying about or minimizing their substance use to others.
  • Bailing them out of legal trouble.
  • Helping them obtain drugs or alcohol (e.g., to avoid them getting sick/going through withdrawal).

Prioritize Self-Care

It can be emotional, stressful, and overwhelming to live with a spouse or partner who is struggling with addiction. While your focus may be on helping your loved one, it’s important that you prioritize your own mental and physical and health, too.6 Taking care of your needs isn’t selfish. In fact, it can help you be a better partner.

Some of tips for practicing self-care include: 5,6

  • Setting aside time for you each day to do something you enjoy.
  • Getting regular exercise and plenty of sleep.
  • Practice mindfulness techniques, such as meditation, breathing exercises, or journaling.
  • Eating a balanced diet.
  • Talking to a trust friend or family member.

Reach Out for Help

Living with a loved one with a substance use disorder can be incredibly lonely feeling. You may have even isolated yourself from friends or family. However, a strong support network is an invaluable resource to help you cope when you’re living with a spouse with addiction. You can build a social support network from family or friends you trust, as well as:

  • Attend meetings designed for people living with people with addiction, such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon.
  • Going to individual counseling sessions.
  • Starting family counseling sessions.

How to Get Your Spouse or Partner into Rehab

Husband talking to wife

It’s natural to want to how to get your spouse into rehab. Often the first step is to talk to your loved one. This may be a difficult and emotional conversation to have – especially because denial is strongly associated with addiction — but it is often necessary to get them the help that they need. You may need to have this conversation more than once until you break through your spouse’s denial.

There are some helpful tips that can make it easier to start this conversation. They include:

  • Educating yourself about addiction and recovery options, so that you can discuss their options with them.
  • Writing down what you want to say to organize your thoughts.
  • Choosing a calm and quiet time to talk to your partner when they are sober.
  • Discussing your concerns in a non-confrontational manner and avoiding stigmatizing language such as “addict,” “junkie,” or “alcoholic.”
  • Letting them know how their addiction has impacted not only them, but you and any other family members.
  • Actively listening and encouraging them to share their thoughts and feelings.
  • Offering your support and encouragement. This may include offering to research treatment options, go with them to tour facilities, and explore payment options.
  • Communicating your boundaries.

Understanding the Admissions Process

At our Las Vegas addiction treatment center, we understand that knowing what to expect when your loved one enters treatment — including the rehab admissions process — can make it easier to discuss their options with them. When your partner comes to our rehab facility in Nevada, they will first be evaluated by the treatment team to determine their needs and appropriate level of care.7 This evaluation consists of an assessment of: 7

  • Current and past substance abuse.
  • Prior treatment history.
  • Physical and mental health.
  • Living situation.
  • Other areas that have been affected by addiction, including legal issues, employment status, and family situation.

Once the evaluation has been complete, our treatment team will work with your partner to determine which level of addiction treatment will be most effective for treating them. Levels of care include:

  • Medical detox for drugs or alcohol. Detox is often the first step on the road to recovery. During detox at our Nevada addiction treatment center, we keep your partner as safe and comfortable as possible as they withdraw from the substance(s) they are addicted to. 8(p25
  • Inpatient drug & alcohol rehab in Las Vegas. This level of treatment provides comprehensive and structured care to build foundation for longer-term recovery.8(p26)
  • Outpatient rehab in Las Vegas. This is a program that offers variable levels of intensity through group and individual counseling, while allowing your partner to live at home and continue to work with minimal interruption.8(27)
  • Sober living in Las Vegas. This is a type of structured living environment that allows residents to gradually transition to independence, practice sober skills, and receive peer support.

How to Help Your Spouse or Partner Pay for Treatment

Many insurance plans will cover at least some part of addiction treatment. At our Las Vegas rehab facility, many people can use health insurance to pay for rehab. If you are uninsured, or need additional assistance covering the costs of addiction treatment, we also offer many different ways to pay for rehab.

To learn more about treatment, recovery, and to help you find a program for your partner, contact one of our admissions at . Recovery is possible, and we’re ready to help.

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