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How to Help a Spouse Struggling With Substance Use

The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, or SAMHSA, reported that in 2019, more than 19 million people in the U.S. had a substance abuse disorder. Think your spouse may have an addiction problem? Common signs include:
  • Your spouse spends an increasing amount of time away from home without you.
  • They prioritize alcohol and/or drugs above other responsibilities.
  • You notice money disappearing without an explanation.
  • They put their life or the lives of others at risk when intoxicated by driving.
  • They are struggling at work or have lost their job.
  • They seem disconnected from their surroundings.
Unfortunately, substance abuse among spouses or long-term partners is a challenge that many Americans are unable to overcome. A 2003 study looked at data from an 18-year national longitudinal study and found the third most commonly reported cause of divorce was drinking or drug use.

5 Strategies For Dealing With A Spouse’s Substance Abuse

If you have a spouse that is struggling with substance use, how can you help them and yourselves? Here are five ways: 1. Focus on the problem
  • Your spouse’s addiction is not a personal reflection on you, nor is it the only attribute that defines your spouse. Addiction is a disease, a problem that you and your spouse have to deal with in the same way you would a cancer diagnosis, for example. It is important to try and separate your spouse from their addiction if you want to be able to work on a solution together.
2. Help, don’t enable
  • Supporting your spouse in recovery does not mean allowing them to continue to abuse drugs or alcohol. Signs you’re enabling your spouse include making excuses or lying to cover for your addicted loved one’s absence at an event or protecting them from any negative consequences of their addiction.
3. Make sure you are practicing self-care
  • You shouldn’t ignore your own well-being. It is important to not only continue to eat right, exercise, and get enough sleep, but also you must try not to let your addicted spouse’s negative moods impact you.
4. Seek outside support
  • Helping yourself can be an important way to help your spouse. If you haven’t connected with a therapist, a support group (such as Al-Anon), or another professional, it is important that you do so to help you manage your stress.
5. Attend couple’s therapy
  • To help your spouse maintain their sobriety, addiction professionals often recommend couple’s therapy with someone who specializes in addiction and family dynamics. This provides both of you with the support and the tools you need to navigate recovery and acknowledge each person’s needs.
Sometimes, you can do all of these things right and it may still be too hard to support your spouse and maintain your marriage. Even if the relationship cannot be saved, it is still important to focus on the five things above to help you both in the long term. Do you think your spouse is struggling with substance abuse? Forward Recovery can help. Contact one of our licensed mental health and substance abuse professionals today at (844) 387-6889. Located in Los Angeles, Forward Recovery is owned and operated by local clinicians who take a structured approach to treatment, providing integrated and trauma-informed therapy.