This week on Advice Bench, we have Caleb Anderson - a Guest Blogger from Dallas, US - here to share useful tips on drug/alcohol addiction and the impact on marriage.
Have you or your partner been struggling with substance abuse and addiction? If you’ve been concerned about the effects of addiction on your marriage (as well as on any children or other family members), you’re not alone.
In the book The Body Keeps the Score, Dr. Bessel van der Kolk says 1 in 4 Americans grew up with alcoholics, while a shocking 1 in 3 couples have engaged in physical violence.
Danielle LaPorte, author of White Hot Truth, bluntly adds: “Let’s be really clear: we are a society that is overmedicated [and] addicted.”
Although millions of spouses in America are living with an addicted loved one, addiction is not just a problem for American marriages and relationships. It is a global epidemic. Illicit drug use damages families around the world, and the impact of tobacco and alcohol abuse is even more harmful globally, according to the US National Library of Medicine.
Nobody wants to become another statistic. If you’re reading this, you’ve probably survived a lot of trauma and pain due to addiction. You love your spouse but you need to find ways to save your marriage.
How to Cope
How can you find addiction recovery help for yourself and/or your spouse?
1. Start by working with trained professionals who deal with these types of complex issues everyday. A trained marriage counselor or a therapist who specializes in addiction recovery can help married couples work through addiction and commonly-associated issues, such as fraud, infidelity or codependence.
2. Both partners in the relationship need to participate in a twelve-step program. Yes, this includes the partner who is not addicted.
Al-Anon and Nar-Anon are two free, confidential support groups for families, friends and loved ones of those who are addicted to drugs and/or alcohol. Even if you are unable to convince your spouse to attend a twelve step program, it is important that you attend these meetings for yourself. Although you love your partner, you do not want to be codependent or further enable his or her addiction. The twelve step program will help you break the cycle, find a supportive sponsor, and focus on healing with self care and healthy boundaries.
3. Another big piece of healing your marriage or relationship from addiction is helping your loved one get into addiction treatment. Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy - especially if the addicted loved one is in denial about his or her addiction, or simply isn’t ready for treatment. For that reason, you should focus on getting him or her into addiction recovery only after you have started a twelve step program for codependence as mentioned above. Just like when the flight attendants tell you to secure your own oxygen mask before helping others, you must take care of your own healing before you’ll be properly equipped to help your loved one seek treatment.
4. Once you’ve started a codependence recovery program (and hopefully have also started couples counseling) you can begin breaking your previous unhealthy patterns which helped enable the addiction. At that point, you can help your loved one get into recovery and you will be better equipped to support him or her through this difficult transition.
5. Over time, the wounds of the past may heal and you might find that you are able to move forward from the trauma of the addiction. Know that it is common for addicts to experience changes in temperament and personality during the addiction recovery process, and this can be a difficult time for their loved ones.
If, however, your spouse refuses treatment or becomes intolerable or abusive during recovery, it might be best to consider separation. The emotional ups and downs of addiction can damage relationships irreparably, and your relationship will probably change. Regardless of whether you choose to stay or to separate, you’ll know that you’ve tried your best and did everything you could have done to love and support your partner during this journey.
All photos are courtesy of Google.co.uk
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