What to do if your spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol in England and Wales
If you are supporting an addicted husband, things can get tense. You might not know that they have an addiction, you could be fuelling it and not see the damage. Enabling is one of the worst parts of spousal addiction and comes with its own set of problems.
If you think your husband has an addiction to drugs or alcohol, then the information found in this page might help you deal with it.
The Problem with Living with an Addict
when you are married to someone struggling with addiction, you are often left to pick up the physical and emotional fallout. Given that addiction is a progressive disease that does get worse with time, trying to handle an addicted husband is not simple. Some of the difficulties that have led you to search online for “how to help my addicted husband” include:
- Financial Strain – addiction puts a heavy toll on the household budget.
- Legal Problems – addiction can lead to theft, erratic behaviour, and even abuse.
- Lying – your husband may start lying about where they are going and what they are doing.
- Cheating – when you are out of control, you are more likely to cheat.
- Social Withdrawal – secrecy is a common trait of addiction. Social withdrawal is the most obvious side effect of this.
- Communication issues – if the addicted partner can only think about themselves, communication breaks down.
- Aggression and mood swings – addicts suffer mood swings that make them hard to live with.
As you can see, dealing with an addicted husband is about more than just supporting them through their recovery. Supporting them through their addiction is much worse.
Substance Abuse Statistics
Substance abuse doesn’t end well for marriages. Your partner’s behaviour will change over time, likely ending up with them being more aggressive towards you. Every year, 4.5% of adults in the UK experience some kind of abuse at the hands of a partner, and a significant percentage of those are addicts[i]. Studies have linked alcohol and drug abuse with domestic violence[ii], again and again, although it isn’t the only reason why a partner turns on their loved one. One report[iii] suggests that men with alcohol and substance abuse problems are six times more likely to abuse their partners[iv].
How Addiction Threatens Relationships
Almost anyone who has been in a committed relationship or a marriage with a person who has an addiction knows the depth of destruction that addiction takes that marriage. The thing is addiction isn’t always noticeable until it’s too late. Addiction in a marriage may not even be evident at the start; it also:
- May not even be a factor at the beginning of the relationship
- May develop quickly in the relationship
- May seem reasonable while you’re still in the “get to know you” stage
- May develop later in the marriage
- May have been hidden from you for decades
All of these realisations are devastating to a spouse, and it can also make you feel like you are stuck. You are not stuck. Marriage is not a dead weight, and you don’t have to wait until your spouse has nowhere to go but up. It’s your responsibility to handle your own emotions, here, and you need to remember that while you are married, you don’t have to enable the behaviour. Your part in this marriage is through sickness and health, but it is also to refuse to allow self-destruction on your watch. Of course, you are not your spouse’s keeper, but where possible, you should try to talk to your husband.
Spotting Denial in Yourself
When we are in denial about how bad things really are in our lives, we have a tendency to turn a blind eye. This will make a drug addicts condition worse. Addiction is a disease. There is no getting better over time without dedicated effort and, on occasion, a rehab clinic that can help.
If you find yourself making excuses for a drug or alcohol addicted partner, allowing them to get behind the wheel, or excusing their behaviour to loved ones, you are in denial. Stop it. Stop apologising. Better yet, have a long talk with your husband about how you won’t be apologising any more. Holding an addict accountable to their actions could be all it takes to make them get help[v].
Enabling is when you facilitate your husband’s drug addiction, and it can happen whether you notice it or not. Imagine your husband is no longer able to work and you are financing his drug addiction. This is enabling. If you took away that money and he couldn’t use it for his drugs anymore, that would be you setting a healthy boundary.
In a less extreme example, you might be enabling him by allowing him to use you as somewhere he can come to eat, sleep, and recover between sessions. If you set clear boundaries that prevent him from treating your home like a hotel, this can turn enabling into clear, definitive boundaries[vi].
Supporting Vs Enabling
It can be hard to stop enabling so you should first try to notice these behaviours in yourself. Once you have them identified, you can start to correct them, one at a time. However, telling the difference between being supportive and enabling can still be hard.
Think of it like this: supportive things don’t further his drug habit, they further his recovery and his abstinence[vii]. If the support you offer is being somehow used by him to bring him more drink or drugs, then it is enabling. You can be as supportive as you like as long as you are not encouraging his addiction by doing so.
How to Help an Addicted Husband: Staging an Intervention
Planning a meeting between your husband and a circle of friends who care may not always be easy, but it’s the best thing to do to stage an intervention. You need to speak to a residential rehab or treatment centre so that you have a backup ready in case your husband agrees to have addiction treatment. Interventions are usually organised without the knowledge of your husband, and a rehab programme may not be what they initially have in mind afterwards. Intervention meetings need to take place somewhere that your husband can relax.
Where possible, every member of the group should be able to provide instances where his behaviour has been unreasonable, destructive, or just plain misplaced. This confrontation shouldn’t be loud or aggressive but calm. You should expect your husband to deny the behaviour, to try to run away from reality. Stay strong and remember to provide consequences. Some of the consequences that you could include may be:
“You could lose your job if you continue down this path.”
“Your lying is breaking our marriage apart.”
“I will support you every step of the way if you choose to enter a rehab programme.”
Remember: never issue an ultimatum unless you are willing to back it up[viii]. Consequences shouldn’t be threats, but rather supportive statements.
How to Help an Addicted Husband: Setting Boundaries
Instead of allowing any more of the destructive behaviour to impact you, you need to educate yourself. Read everything that you can to do with your husband’s addiction, the consequences, the side effects of rehab, the various rehabilitation options – everything you can get your hands on.
To set clear boundaries for an addicted husband, express what you want in clear and certain terms[ix]. To do this, you must identify what your own needs are and ask your husband to respect these. If he pushes those boundaries while he is high or drunk, then you can fall back to the conversation you had where you set said boundaries and remind him of how he agreed. Be honest about why you set your boundary, too. Above all else, remember that it is OK to say no if you want to[x].
Free Consultation on Drug Addicted Husbands
If you want to chat with someone about how hard things are with your husband or wife right now, Help4Addiction are here for you. We have expertly trained advisers who are ready to listen to you. If you do stage an intervention and you manage to seek help for your addicted husband, contacting us can help find a rehab clinic for him, to progress onto the next stage: recovering from drug addiction.
How to Help an Addicted Husband: Help4Addiction
If you find that you need help with your husband’s addiction, then you need to call our helpline on 0203 955 7700. One of our experts can talk you through the problem that you are experiencing and advise on the right help for you. This is our goal – to give you the support that you need at this time. Addiction is an erratic disease, and no spouse should have to cope alone. Without help, it can be a very lonely and isolated existence. An addict cannot connect the dots
Frequently Asked Questions
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