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If your spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol, your emotions probably run the gamut from fear and anger to sorrow and frustration—sometimes on a daily basis. Addiction doesn’t just affect the person who has one. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence stresses that addiction is a family disease that slowly erodes the foundation of the family system and causes chaos and dysfunction in the home.

What Can You Do?

If your spouse acknowledges the addiction and is ready to get help, your role will be a supportive one. If he or she denies there’s a problem, it may be up to you to help facilitate the realization that there is one. Either way, the most important thing in the beginning is to take care of yourself first.

In order to effectively support your spouse, it’s imperative that you seek counseling and support. Close loved ones of a person with an addiction often engage in enabling and codependent behaviors in an attempt to maintain equilibrium in the household and stave off disaster.

You may cover for your spouse, make excuses for certain behaviors, distance yourself from other loved ones and engage in your own unhealthy behaviors like overeating or compulsively shopping to compensate for the chaos in the home.

Getting these behaviors under control and learning the best way to support your spouse while restoring order and function to the household is absolutely essential for setting the stage for successful long-term recovery. Therapy and joining a support group can be monumentally helpful in either getting your spouse to seek treatment or best supporting his or her recovery.

The Intervention

An intervention is a formal meeting between the person with an addiction and that person’s closest friends and family members. Family members explain to the loved one how the addiction has personally affected them, and the meeting ends with an offer of treatment.

According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, interventions that are planned and executed with the help of a trained professional have a 90 percent success rate in getting a loved one to agree to treatment.

Interventions aren’t right for every person or every situation. A mental health professional, addiction counselor or treatment center can help you decide whether an intervention is right for your family.

Support in Recovery

Supporting your loved one in recovery won’t be easy, but it is extremely important during the early months. One of the best things you can do is develop a strong support system. You’ll need to vent frustration at times, and you’ll want to shout it to the world when your spouse reaches a milestone of success.

A support group lends a sympathetic ear, understands firsthand what you’re going through and offers sage advice and resources when you hit a snag. A support group celebrates with you when things are going well.

Obstacles as Opportunities

It’s important to be prepared for obstacles and approach them in the right way. The relapse rate for people in recovery is about the same as for other chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease—around 40 to 60 percent. A slip-up doesn’t mean the addiction has relapsed, but if it’s not immediately addressed, it could lead to a relapse, which is characterized by the inability to stop using drugs or alcohol despite negative consequences.

The way you approach a lapse is an important indicator of whether your spouse will throw in the towel or learn from the slip-up and return to sobriety stronger than ever. Approach lapses as a learning tool, and encourage your spouse as he or she develops the missing skills that led up to the lapse.

Most importantly, never give up hope, which is the foundation of recovery. Hope for a better future makes that future possible. With the right treatment program and a high level of support at home and in the community, you and your spouse can recover from the addiction and enjoy a productive, healthy life in the years to come.

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My Spouse is Addicted. What Do I Do?
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