Drug addiction has become a crisis in the United States.
Past research has shown that as many as 21 million Americans suffer from substance use disorders in one year. Not only does drug abuse have implications on health, but also relationships. Drug addiction destroys relationships through financial strain, emotional instability, reduced social skills, and more. Married couples suffering from the repercussions of substance abuse often feel as if things will never get better. But is that true? Can a marriage survive drug addiction?
What It’s Like Being Married to an Addict
No one ever wants to see their spouse suffer. Unfortunately, drug addiction is a severe disease that doesn’t go away overnight. It can be heartbreaking, overwhelming, and entirely life-changing. This habit can also prevent you and your partner from working as a team and caring for each other properly. The presence of substance abuse in a marriage strains the relationship in various ways. Millions of couples across the nation have separated or divorced due to the effects of substance abuse on their relationship.
But what’s it like being married to a drug addict? For one, these couples struggle with several obstacles every day. In addition to typical marital concerns like bills, cleaning, cooking, and taking out the trash, there’s also a matter of connection, communication, intimacy, and respect. When one person in the relationship battles with drug addiction, their focus shifts from being there for their partner to their habit. Drug addiction refers to the uncontrollable urge to use drugs. It’s a disease that physically and mentally impacts you. Many people with substance use disorders eventually struggle to be there for their spouses and families because they’re thinking of the next time they can use and how they’ll acquire their drugs. When a person becomes entirely addicted or dependent on a substance, they develop an incessant need to experience that high over and over again. Eventually, this need takes precedence over everything else in their life, including their marriage.
Additionally, the person’s character may change, as well as their behavior towards their spouse. Some of the key aspects of a healthy marriage include trust, communication, and respect. But when you’re the spouse of an addict, these important aspects may be neglected. For instance, people with drug addictions often become secretive in an attempt to hide their habits. Whenever they do spend time with their spouses or families, they may seem disconnected or as if they’re mentally checked out of the conversation. You know something is wrong, but when you try to confront them, they become defensive and angry, which is heartbreaking.
Finding out your spouse has a drug addiction may also affect your ability to trust them. You may have a million questions, like how long it’s been going on or how they started doing drugs in the first place. Lack of communication and trust can quickly erode a marriage. If your spouse is determined to continue their drug habits despite your pleas to go to rehab, the frustration and heart of it all can build up. This form of chaos in a marriage can make staying with a person extremely difficult.
Moreover, the chaotic relationship between marriage and drugs becomes even more complicated when children are caught in the middle. When a spouse suffers from a drug problem, they unintentionally contribute to a shift in family roles. These roles include:
- The enabler: the person who protects the addicted person
- The mascot: someone who tries to ease the tension of the situation with humor
- The scapegoat: the person who suffers the brunt of the family’s problems
- The hero: an overachiever who tries to control what happens at home
- The lost child: the person who gets lost in the mess of the situation
- The addict: The person whom the turmoil revolves around
Coping with spouse addiction can influence the way you manage the relationship and other shared areas of your life, like your children. In an attempt to balance your partner’s drug addiction and your other responsibilities, you may develop some unhealthy coping mechanisms along the way. Many people are personally affected by their partner’s substance abuse, so much so that they develop mental health issues like depression or anxiety. While the person may not mean to do so, their drug use has shifted the dynamic of the family, which can leave some permanent scars on the relationship, and it can affect their mental health as well as the mental health of their spouse and their children. Without the help of professional drug or alcohol addiction treatment, this person will continue to not only be at risk of only losing their life to drugs but also their loved ones.
Signs of Drug Use in a Spouse
Usually, people who suspect their spouses have developed a substance use disorder have already noticed some changes in their behavior, as drug addiction can cause various behavioral, emotional, and physical changes. While the person may at first attempt to hide these changes and possibly even succeed in doing so, this is only temporary. As their habit persists, the signs of drug abuse become more apparent.
If you suspect that your wife or husband has an addiction, then you may have noticed these signs of drug use:
- Secretive behavior, such as being dishonest about their drug use, how much they’re using, how frequently they use, and when
- Isolation from loved ones or withdrawing from activities they once enjoyed
- Abnormal reduction or increase in sexual libido or drive
- Lack of intimacy or desire to be intimate
- Neglecting personal hygiene such as bathing, brushing their teeth, and wearing clean clothes
- Taking money from savings accounts, 401k’s, or other retirement funds without telling you
- Begin deceitful, such as asking for money for gas or food and then spending it on drugs
- Displaying changes in temperament, such as mood swings, shifts in sleeping patterns, and odd eating behaviors
- Failing to complete tasks at work, being written up or reprimanded at work, or being fired due to drug use
- Development or worsening symptoms of mental illnesses like depression or anxiety
Although these are basic symptoms of drug use, additional symptoms may develop depending on the individual and the substance in question. For instance, if your spouse is addicted to a stimulant like Adderall, cocaine, or methamphetamine, they may experience symptoms like increased energy, excessive talkativeness, and reduced appetite. On the other hand, people who abuse depressants or sedatives may seem detached from their surroundings or often fatigued or sedated. Banyan Treatment Centers Pompano offers different treatments for different kinds of drug addiction, from prescription drugs to meth addiction treatment.
How to Help a Spouse With Drug Addiction
While the presence of drugs in a marriage can be difficult to manage, you may also love this person so much that you want to help them, and you want to stick around. As long as you or anyone else in your family has not experienced abuse or is in danger of experiencing abuse at the hands of this individual, staying married to an addict can make all the difference. Below are some tips on how to live with a drug addict spouse that can keep your marriage intact.
- Understand how addiction works
- Set boundaries to avoid enabling, which includes holding the person accountable for their actions and not “covering up” or lying for them
- Encourage them to receive drug or alcohol treatment
- Don’t try to be their therapist
- Avoid enabling to avoid codependency
- Get help for yourself to avoid getting burnt out
Help for Spouses of Drug Addicts
So, can a marriage survive drug addiction? Yes, but it requires a team effort, professional addiction treatment, and therapy for the sober spouse. At Banyan Pompano, we understand how important family support is in addiction recovery. However, when it’s your spouse who’s suffering from addiction, it can be difficult to cope with the situation without burning yourself out. Aside from getting your loved one the help they need, you should also seek out recovery resources for yourself. Our Pompano Beach, Florida drug rehab offers a family program that provides support and therapy for families of addicts. Individual therapy and therapy sessions with the addicted person are included in this program to help everyone heal together.