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What to do when your spouse needs addiction treatment

When someone needs treatment, their spouse usually knows it. They’ve done the research, observed the behavior, given the ultimatums. They’ve noticed the person they fell in love with no longer acts the way he or she used to, no longer does the things he or she once enjoyed. They’re missing work and family commitments, stealing money, and telling lies.

A substance addiction or eating disorder (ED) is one of the biggest hurdles a marriage can face. Wrapped up in it are serious challenges regarding communication, commitment, and self-respect. Estimates from Psychology Today hold that as many as 12.5 million spouses struggle with a partner with a substance abuse or eating disorder. (It is estimated there are 13 million active alcoholics in the U.S., two million cocaine addicts, and 8 million living with an ED; add them all up and, assuming that half are married, one winds up with that 12.5 million figure.)

The following is for those who have recognized that their spouse needs help and want to know what to do next—for the good of their spouse, their marriage, their own health and well-being.

Steps You Can Take

Examine your own role within the addiction. Ask yourself: Have you ever called in sick on your spouse’s behalf because he or she was in no shape to get out of bed? Have you ever thrown his or her empty beer bottles or used-up drug paraphernalia away? Honestly assess your role as it relates to your spouse’s addiction, then consider ways you might redefine that role so that you’re not perpetuating or enabling the addiction.

Educate yourself. In the same way you’d shore up your knowledge of Type 2 diabetes if your spouse had received a Type 2 diabetes diagnosis, you might want to educate yourself about the substance use disorder or ED your spouse or partner is struggling with. This will help you define what it is you’re experiencing and place your spouse or partner’s behavior in a less random, less scary context.

Contact your insurance company. It helps to know where you stand, financially, when it comes to getting your spouse or loved the help he or she needs. Most insurance companies cover some level of addiction treatment, and treatment services providers will work with you to get the treatment your family needs. JourneyPure is one such provider—one of our missions is to meet the needs of every individual that seeks treatment from addiction and other co-occurring disorders. That’s why we’re partnered with Prosper HealthCare Lending to help offset any costs related to treatment.

Draw a line in the sand. This one is related to seeking out an interventionist. The addict must know that things are about to change. And he or she must know that change involves getting help—not “cutting down,” not “doing better.” Getting help. The time for negotiation is over.

If things get tense, or awkward, or even downright ugly, a professional interventionist may need calling in. Fortunately, the next step can help with that.

Consider a support group or a counselor. Since 1951, Al-Anon meetings have been held for parents, spouses, siblings, adult children, and friends of anyone who has an alcohol or drug abuse problem. Nearly 15,000 groups meet throughout the U.S. and Canada every week, so finding one near you is unlikely to be a problem.

For ED, the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders(ANAD) also holds group meetings across the U.S. Some are specifically for those struggling with ED themselves and others are exclusively for loved ones, and some are welcome to anyone who wants to attend, so call ahead to make sure you’re welcome.

A professional counselor can easily connect you to a professional interventionist, if it turns out that intervention is necessary in getting your spouse or partner to rehab. If nothing else, reaching out helps you to realize you’re not alone in this struggle.

Confide in someone for advice and nonjudgmental input. Yes, substance use disorders and ED are heavily and unfairly stigmatized, meaning that the disease carries negative connotations in the public eye. That said, it’s important to find someone with whom you can freely share your hopes and fears as they relate to your spouse or partner’s addiction. Support groups are great resources to learn and share, but a single “shoulder to cry on” also works wonders.

Take care of yourself. In the same way that caretakers of a sick loved one have a tendency to fall down on the job when it comes to their own health, the spouses or partners of addicts often fail to take care of themselves during especially trying times. Do your best to avoid this pitfall by picking up a new hobby or health regimen as a means of separating yourself from the problem for a bit.

Treatment at JourneyPure at the River

If you or a loved one suffers from a chronic substance abuse problem, please contact us today at 615-907-5928. We offer medically-assisted detox services, individual and group counseling and experiential therapies. Our friendly and knowledgeable staff is ready for you to get healthy and stay healthy.