If you suspect or know that your spouse is struggling with drug addiction or alcoholism, you may be at a loss as to how to help him or her. What can you do? How do you confront the issue? The answers don’t come easily; after all, it’s not as though you were taught in school how to cope with an alcoholic or drug-addicted spouse. The truth is that in your attempts to keep the peace, maintain the status quo, and do things you think are helpful, you may be doing more harm than good. Like so many in your shoes, you may be inadvertently supporting–or “enabling”–your spouse’s addiction without realizing it. It’s pretty easy to enable someone, especially when you love the person. While some acts of enabling are obvious–such as buying liquor for him or her–others are easy to rationalize away or fail to recognize altogether. Here is a list of indicators that you are, in fact, enabling your spouse and decreasing his or her likeliness of getting help:
- You take on his or her responsibilities. Living with addiction leaves little time for your spouse to fulfill his or her normal obligations. If you start changing your schedule to pick up the kids because your inebriated spouse can’t, or if you find yourself completing work assignments or schoolwork because your spouse is high, you are enabling the addiction.
- You make excuses. A person struggling with alcoholism or drug addiction often exhibits unacceptable or inappropriate behavior. As a spouse, you might find yourself making excuses for it: “She’s been very tired lately….you know…work, kids, etc.,” or “I’m sorry he had to leave the anniversary party right away; he’s been feeling sick this weekend.” Making excuses for your loved one prevents him or her from taking personal responsibility for bad behavior. Your spouse–whose thinking is clouded by the addiction–will often be more than happy to be let “off the hook” by your endless excuses on his or her behalf. It makes being an addict much easier.
- You avoid talking about the addiction. Do you avoid bringing up your spouse’s prescription pill abuse because you want to “keep the peace”? Do you avoid mentioning concerns about your spouse’s heavy alcohol use because you worry what the reaction might be? Your spouse has a serious problem that is not going to go away on its own. Alcoholism impacts brain functioning in fundamental ways. As a result, your spouse’s behavior will inevitably get worse, affecting every aspect of your marriage, as well as your family life. Addiction is best addressed by the addict’s loved one, painful as that may be.
- You provide financial help. Substance abuse takes a financial toll. Your loved one needs money to support an addiction, whether he or she is hooked on heroin or prescription pills. In many cases, addicts also need money to pay for necessities, like gas. If you’re estranged from your spouse, you may even be fronting money for basics like rent or groceries.
- You clean up your spouse’s messes. You may have bailed your alcoholic spouse out of jail after a DWI charge or lied to his or her boss, claiming a bout of the flu was the reason behind several days of missed work. Addicts cannot reclaim their lives until they begin to take responsibility for their choices and behaviors. Cleaning up after your addicted loved one only delays his or her opportunity to become sober.
- You use or drink with your spouse. Indulging with your addicted spouse only reinforces the message that the behavior is acceptable to (and even endorsed by) you. Don’t give in to your spouse’s urging or manipulations to get you to use or drink with him or her.
- You directly support the addiction. If you’ve ever taken your addicted spouse doctor-shopping or picked up a bottle of wine at the store, you’ve directly encouraged the destructive behavior.
[ctabox]To get help and support for your loved one, to speak with a Promises P.A.T.H Recovery Specialist. [/ctabox]