5 Tips For Coping When You’re The Spouse Of An Addict

spouse of an addict

Lifeguard training 101.

There are two small steps critical to passing every emergency test scenario.

Many have had to re-take entire courses because they forget these two, vital components.

Dramatic rescue situations can make it difficult to remember important details. Tests with multiple-person saves or anything involving head, neck and back injuries require special procedures.

Nervous trainees tend to jump in the water at a swimmer’s first sign of distress. The moment they do, they fail the test.

What crucial steps are they missing? And what does this have to do with being the spouse of an addict?

So glad you asked.

Living as the Spouse of an Addict: The Missing Details that Cost Survival

Every team of aquatic directors has what’s known as an emergency action plan (EAP). A group of knowledgeable people put this plan together so that in the event of an emergency, a simple signal from a lifeguard activates an entire chain of events.

One person clears patrons out of harm’s way, while another helps with the rescue, while another stands by the phone ready to call an ambulance, while another comforts the families of the loved one in crisis, while another grabs the first aid kit… you get the picture.

If a lifeguard fails to give the EAP signal before a rescue commences, he/she is putting themselves and the lives of their patrons at great risk.

The second important detail starts as a sad truth. Drowning people are notorious killers.

It doesn’t matter how well a lifeguard can swim. If a panicked swimmer grabs hold of someone without a flotation device, they’re both going down!

This analogy is full of significance and translates almost effortlessly to situations involving loved-ones who struggle with addiction.

Let’s unpack some of this rich application together.

1. Community: Your EAP

When a spouse or loved one is struggling with addiction, it is vital to have a close, trustworthy community of at least 2 or more people.

One common theme of addiction is that it is closely linked to cycles of untruths. Often, lies told by the one struggling become so thick that the person telling them cannot even keep track of what is true.

The spouses of such persons will need consistent reminders of truth as the one struggling will try to cover up or make excuses for their decisions to engage in addictive behaviors.

The one struggling will often view your confiding in a friend or community as a betrayal. It will be difficult to convince them otherwise.

Be prepared for this, and be both gentle and unrelenting that it is your right to pull your support systems close during difficult times.

If you have trustworthy friends with whom you are comfortable sharing intimate truths, wonderful! You already know who to call.

However, married couples tend to isolate when times get rough. Perhaps you have pushed everyone away in your attempt to protect your loved one and hide from the unhappy truths that daily knock at your door.

Fortunately, there are many resources to choose from. Support groups, confidential online chatrooms, and meetings within spiritual organizations serve as places to process communally.

2. A Clear Commitment to Personal Health

Drowning people were given a pretty strong bad-rap in the first section. Of course, no one would consciously ask the person they love to die with them.

But when someone is panicked and drowning, they only have one thought.

“Keep your head above water at all cost.”

Through a commitment to personal health and wellness, you extend the “life tube” of hope to someone drowning in addiction.

To approach the situation any other way is to elongate the amount of time that the addiction persists. You enable the addiction when it is possible for your spouse to have both you and the addictive substance/process simultaneously.

As your loved-one goes through the process of rehab, they will need your affirmation and support. If you have neglected your own personal health, you will be incapable of constructive support when it is most useful.

Throughout the process, welcome your loved-one into your commitment to health.

“Hey babe, I am going on a jog. Would you like to join me?” or “I’m choosing not to stay inside this evening. Would you like to go on a double date with your friends?”

If he/she makes a decision not to join you, that is entirely their choice, but you have already behaved in a way that welcomes them into your healthy space.

Write up a regimen. Call an accountability partner. Does the day transform from gloomy to sunny after you’ve spent a good hour at the gym? Go daily.

Is your soul titillated when you read a well-written book? Excellent! Hide away four times a week and read.

This section on good health would be incomplete without addressing tears.

Contrary to popular belief, crying is healthy. Cry as much as you can; it is the farthest thing from weakness.

Your tears are a sign of deep grief, empathy, and often anger that things are not as they should be.

Friend, if your loved one is suffering under the weight of addiction, things are not as they should be. It is not the way of love to accept them as such. So, wear your tears proudly.

Fun fact: tears are our bodies natural way of processing and expelling the emotions discussed above. Stuff your tears and you will carry them until you cry them.

3. Know the Possible Outcomes Ahead of Time

Addiction effects marriage in cruel and decisive ways. It takes two people who have made commitments of honesty and vulnerability and makes a mockery of their commitment.

One of the first things a person will do when they believe their spouse is lying is check their husband/wife’s phone.

If they find nothing, they experience a mix of guilt and relief.

If they find their suspicions are true, they feel guilt and justified anger.

Save yourself the guilt! Become an expert in your spouse’s struggle, no snooping involved.

Whether it’s alcohol, drugs, gambling, shopping, or pornography, addiction tends to follow predictable patterns.

Know the substances, the processes, and the different stages involved.

It is a mercy to your spouse if you are aware of where their struggle with addiction might lead. It may also help take the sting out of your being shocked by their behavior.

Part of the rehab process at most treatment centers is confessing one’s addiction behavior to spouses and lloved ones

It can serve as another form of self-care and protection to already have a good guess of where your spouse’s struggle has taken them before their moment of confession arrives.

4. Avoid Shaming Comments and Behavior

Think about addiction for a moment.

How many children do you know who are considering a life of addiction when they grow up?

It’s an absurd thought. No one desires a life of addiction.

If you were to ask anyone who is struggling with an addiction if this is the life they truly want for themselves? No one in a position of genuine vulnerability would say “yes.”

The truth is, addiction most naturally springs from places of deep shame. Layering shame on top of it will only bury the source deeper and increase a spouse’s appetite for the comforting addictive substance/process.

Decide as soon as possible, is health your aim? Or is it more important to save face?

It will be difficult when friends and acquaintances learn the truth of what is going on. Long sessions of rehab are particularly precarious to avoid in conversation.

There are endless sources of shame vying for the attention of your spouse, refuse to join the throng.

5. Understand that it Takes Time

Have you ever been awed by the power of a large waterfall?

They all begin as tiny streams that could be easily dammed or diverted.

When looking at a small stream, it seems absurd to think that one day it could become a Niagara Falls changing the shape of the earth the river below and eating a cliff into the rock and sediment beneath it!

This is the power of repetition.

Cycles of addiction function in the same manner.

Think of the brain activity as the water in the stream. What begins as a few small choices can end in a situation completely outside the addict’s actual ability to stop… without major reconstruction.

No one who pops a few small white pills ever imagines one day they’ll shoot poison into their veins for relief.

No one who throws up that second piece of cake imagines that one day they won’t be able to hold down a spinach salad.

Know what to expect with addiction, rehab, and possible relapse.

Addiction changes brains. It takes large amounts of time and radical re-positioning to find a different path that the “water” will be more apt to take.

Ready to find a Rehab Center?

The spouse of addict can have peace of mind when their loved one is at Pathways Treatment and Recovery Center in Florida. They have a variety of treatment program options, and their experts are committed to helping clients find wholeness and stability.

Check out what we treat and send us a message for more information.