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Substance abuse affects millions of Americans every year, in many different ways. One of the most common issues for married individuals who battle addiction is divorce, or the threat of it, and unfortunately the problems don’t go away even if the sufferer manages to get successful treatment. It’s important for couples to realize that there are many steps to be taken where addiction is concerned, and that many of them must be taken together in order for them to work.
One of the major issues between married couples arises when the sober individual can’t sympathize with their partner. It’s hard for many people to understand addiction or the nature of it, so they might assume that a person can be told they need to quit and then follow through with it. But giving an ultimatum to a person living with addiction is essentially useless, because they already understand that they could lose everything if they continue to abuse drugs or alcohol; the problem lies within being able to change things physically and psychologically.
It’s understandable for a sober individual to want their loved one to make changes for their own health and for the continued health of the relationship–especially if there is a family involved–but threats will likely only make things worse. Arguments turn into resentment, the couple stops communicating, and hope dwindles by the day. For this reason, it’s imperative to understand how to approach a loved one who is living with addiction and to know how to start a conversation.
Begin by letting them know you are concerned for their health and wellbeing. Refrain from using accusatory, “you” statements and let them know how you’re feeling, instead. Tell them you’re worried that the path they’re taking is a dangerous one and that you want them to be healthy and happy. Ask if there is anything they want to talk about. Often, people abuse drugs and alcohol because they are unhappy about a particular event or choice they’ve made, and substances make it easier to cope. Just remember that it isn’t always easy to open up, especially if the individual is feeling ashamed of their choices.
Remember that it’s always best to sit down one-on-one with your loved one to have a talk. This will allow for better communication; often, interventions can be helpful, but they can also lead to resentment and raised voices as emotions become heated. Having a quiet time to vent and allow them to do the same may help when it’s time to get to the hard topics. Let them speak without interruption and offer to help them find a counselor, therapist, or support group, and remind them that if they aren’t comfortable seeing someone in person, they may be able to find a group that meets online. Sometimes, simply talking about our troubles is immensely helpful.
One of the most important parts of helping a person living with addiction is to help them stay on track by committing to the course of action along with them. Attending therapy together is one way to make sure treatment is consistent, and your support will be greatly appreciated.
Remember that some things need to be left to the professionals. Wanting to help your loved one is very different from trying to administer counseling on your own; in fact, you may only hurt the situation. It’s okay to listen to what they have to say, but don’t attempt to solve every problem on your own. Give your support and accept help.
Pat McGraw knows the struggles of addiction from witnessing its effects on a friend. Having had this experience, Pat, a teacher’s aide, wanted to make sure awareness and resources were spread in order to help young people dealing with alcohol and substance abuse. She became part of ThePreventionCoalition.org, in hopes of making a difference and impacting others’ lives.The Prevention Coalition was founded by a group of retired school counselors and therapists to provide an accessible drug use and abuse prevention resource for parents, teachers, counselors and other concerned adults. For more information, check their website.