It’s a sad reality, but drug use is much more common within marriages than you might think. According to one recent survey by the Substances & Mental Health Services Administration, nearly 20% of all married men and 13% of married women reported drug use within the last year. If you’re in a marriage where drugs are a factor, it probably wouldn’t surprise you to know that drug use also has been found to correlate with a significant decline in marital satisfaction. In simple terms: Drug abuse and addiction can turn your spouse into someone you don’t know — and can turn your life into a nightmare. If you’re married to a drug addict, what can you do to cope?
1. Admit you need help.
Right now, your attention and your energy is probably focused on getting help for your loved one. Indeed, if they are abusing drugs consistently, their life is probably at risk and they can use all the help they can get. However, you might not realize that your life and your sanity are in danger, too. Addiction is a “family disease” that hurts everyone it touches — even if you can’t see the scars. As you consider getting help for your loved one, know that you deserve help and healing, too. In fact, pursuing your own program of recovery can lead to better outcomes for your addicted husband or wife, as well. You owe it to yourself and to your family to take care of yourself.
2. Pursue your own healing.
If your loved one is able to go to residential addiction treatment, you’ll have a built-in period of time in which you can focus on yourself. Residential treatment is available for people suffering from codependency and trauma, but you may want to start by checking out support groups full of people just like you.
It can be intimidating to try something new, especially when you have been protecting your family’s dark secret for years. However, you’ll quickly find that support groups can give you a feeling of community, a renewed sense of hope, and tips for dealing with the chaos of your life. These are just a few of the options available to you.
First is the “sister” program of AA and NA, Al-Anon. Al-Anon is a support program for people whose lives have been affected by someone else’s drinking or drug use. In a typical Al-Anon meeting, you’ll listen to the stories of people who’ve been where you are — or who currently are in the same position. You’ll listen to useful readings and also have the opportunity to share your story — but only if you want to. And rest assured: Like AA and NA, Al-Anon is completely anonymous, meaning that no one is supposed to ever reveal that you’ve attended.
Alateen is like Al-Anon for young people. In these meetings, teens and young adults get together to talk about their experiences, struggles, and tips for coping with a loved one who abuses substances. The format of these meetings is similar to Al-Anon, but geared towards younger people.
CODA, or The Codependent's Recovery Program, states that it is for “people who seek healthy relationships.” That’s it. Even if you’re not sure what codependency is, or whether you’re a codependent, if you believe that a partner’s drinking or drug use has affected your relationship, you’ll find strategies for coping.
3. Set appropriate boundaries — and hold them.
If you decide to attend any of those 12 Step fellowships, you’ll hear a lot about boundaries. Boundaries are the guidelines for behavior that you give to others and enforce to keep your life safe. For example, a boundary might be, “I will not allow you to use drugs in our home.” A boundary is only as good as your desire to enforce it, however. That means that you must be prepared for a course of action if the boundary is violated. For example, “If you use drugs in our home, I will take the kids to my mother’s.” Or, “If you use drugs in our home again, I will file for divorce.” Don’t make empty threats that you aren’t prepared to keep, however. It will only make you feel twice as bad if you set a boundary and let someone roll right over it. People living in relationships where addiction is present often lose all sense of personal boundaries, but the best way to get back into the habit of taking care of yourself and your needs is to start small. A boundary might be as simple as saying, “I won’t be spoken to that way,” and ending a conversation.
No matter how dark your family’s experience of addiction may become, there’s hope for everyone involved. Your entire family can recover and heal, if you want it. There is a light at the end of the dark tunnel that so many family’s have been living in for so many years. If you reach out, you will find that there are so many people going through what you have been experiencing. And your isolation could end today.
If you want to make changes in your life and the life of your entire family, please reach out to us today.