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This is a guest post by Caleb Anderson of Recovery Hope Ministry.
When you get married, you don’t expect perfection. You expect good times and bad, and you vow to go through it all together. In sickness and in health, till death do us part. But what do you do when the sickness is drug addiction?
Drug and alcohol addiction are destructive to marriage. Moreover, substance abuse and dependency are often associated with other factors that can contribute to the deterioration of a marriage, like mental health issues and domestic abuse. Even when these factors aren’t present, partners dealing with addiction are likely to experience other difficulties like loss of trust, financial struggles, infidelity, and intimacy issues. Not surprisingly, people with alcohol or drug dependencies divorce at a rate that is 4 times higher than couples who do not have issues with dependency.
But that’s not always the case. Many couples do decide to stay together and combat addiction as a team. So, how do you support your spouse through a disease that can take a toll on every aspect of your relationship?
First, acknowledge the problem. It’s easier than you might think to ignore addiction, especially if your significant other is a functional alcoholic or drug abuser. As long as the bills are getting paid and things at home are manageable, couples can avoid discussing the addictive behavior. This enables the addiction to continue and, oftentimes, worsen. So, whether the problem is a few too many drinks after work or partying every weekend, it’s important to have an open, honest discussion about what the behavior is and how it’s impacting your relationship.
Next, set realistic goals and expectations. The only real solution to addiction is rehabilitation. Depending on the individual and the scope of his or her addiction, the road to recovery can look very different. Your timeline for researching, selecting, and enrolling in a rehab program should be based on you and your spouse’s individual needs and available resources. Short and long-term resident programs, outpatient treatment, and individual and group counseling are all available at varying costs.
No matter how strong your relationship is, you’ll probably need help from others to make a recovery plan and stay on track. A good support system can be a sounding board and a lifeline during difficult times for both you and your spouse. While family and friends are an obvious place to start, those relationships can be strained in the presence of an addiction. Free support groups for addicts and their spouses are available in most areas. Professional counseling is another option, and it can be done together, separately, or both.
Finally, assess your own safety and well-being. If you choose to stay with your spouse and support his or her recovery effort, your own physical and mental health must be your top priority, as well as any children or other family members who live in the home. If you are experiencing any form of abuse, you should extricate yourself from the situation immediately. It’s also important to remember that abuse can be physical, verbal, or emotional.
You should also consider your financial security and mental well-being. Addiction can be all-consuming, leaving very little time, energy, and money. It is important not to allow the addict’s needs to overshadow those of the rest of the family.
Addiction recovery is a long and difficult process for everyone involved. There is no way to predict or plan for all of the challenges you will face as you attempt to walk alongside a loved on as he or she attempts to gain control of his or her disease, as well as the underlying issues that made them susceptible to it. Supporting a partner through a recovery takes dedication and, above all, love. Even so, you must remember it is ultimately up to the addict to choose sobriety and rehabilitation and to fight the lifelong battle with their illness.
Thank you Caleb Anderson for sharing your thoughts based on your own experiences. Caleb and his wife Molly founded Recovery Hope a ministry to support those dealing with addiction. Visit them here.
Comment below to encourage Caleb and Molly along their journey and any other marriages you know walking along the path of addiction or as Caleb said" when love hurts."
Until next time,
Lisa Ellis Williams
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Lisa Ellis Williams Author, Speaker, and Founder of Wives On Purpose. That is what business card says. Actually I love myself, God, and my husband enough to honor my commitment to marriage through "hell and high water" til death do us part. I have learned to live fully and love deeply. This blog gives glimpses of the journey through the trenches of a marriage through the eyes of a Christian wife. I am THE WIFE ON PURPOSE. You are here with other Wives On Purpose. Join us as we "Minister to marriages one wife at a time. "
I do need to state, that before we go further, that I’m not a therapist or an expert. (I often recommend both.) Please don’t take my advice as a replacement for your own. I don’t know your situation and can’t make any guarantees, but I hope that my ministry is helpful to you.