When your spouse has a problem with drinking or using drugs, it can seem as if your whole word is falling apart. It isn’t the relationship you wanted or planned. And what used to bring your joy and happiness is now filled with loneliness and despair. So what do you do? How do you start addressing the issue? Follow these 5 tips as your first steps:
1. Accept the reality of the situation
This one can be the hardest. You don’t want to believe that your partner has a problem. And you definitely don’t want to believe that it’s becoming a huge part of your relationship, but it is. It’s understandable; the consequences of alcohol or drug addiction are frightening. Once you accept they have a problem, you’ll have to accept that it could ruin your relationship or their life. But the longer you deny this, the worse things will get. You can’t begin to move forward until you have fully accepted that this is happening to you and your family.
2. Get educated
You and your partner can’t deal with this problem until you both understand it. Substance use disorders are complex and affect the both partners’ physical, social, mental and emotional well being. If your spouse had been diagnosed with diabetes or cancer, this would be an obvious part of the process, but addiction is a shame based disease. Don’t be ashamed to seek out educational resources. With 47,000 Canadian deaths linked to substance abuse annually, this disease affects a lot people and there are a lot of resources out there to help you understand it.
3. Get some support
Just like your spouse can’t get sober alone, you cannot recover alone either. You need some good coping skills and people you can call on when things get heavy. Head to a counsellor, therapist or a support group for family and friends of addicts. The people there will understand what you’re going through and will be able to help you through this journey.
4. Let yourself grieve
Going through addiction in the family is akin to suffering a big loss. The relationship you once had and the future you imagined is probably gone. This doesn’t mean that your relationship is necessarily over. It’s just means that your partner will be deeply changed, whether they get sober or stay in active addiction. Make sure you let yourself grieve this loss – you have a right to be sad and sorry that it’s gone, and you won’t be able to embrace the new until you’ve given yourself the time to move on.
5. Put yourself first
If your partner is deep in their addiction, it’s likely that they’ve become the center of your world. Your mission to get them sober and well may have morphed into your purpose in life. It’s become a bit of an unhealthy dynamic and it’s likely the rest of your relationships and endeavors have suffered because of it. It’s time to start putting yourself first. As hard as it may seem, ensuring your own physical, mental and emotional well being has to be your most important priority. There are some difficult times ahead, and you need all the strength you can get. And you’ll be surprised how much better you feel when your life revolves around you again.
There’s no easy solution when you love an addict, and no one-size-fits-all solution. But if you practice acceptance, allow yourself to grieve, get the education and support you need, you’ll be ready to move in the direction that’s right for you and your family. For more information, learn about our family education and support programs here.