Addiction is a disease that tortures not only the addict but also those closest to him, so you should have some ways to cope with an addicted partner. Spouses are particularly vulnerable to the destructive choices addicts make. It doesn’t matter if the vice is alcohol, drugs, food, or pornography. Addiction is like an eel. It slithers in to wreak havoc in homes and families. As soon as the addict is about to hit bottom or be discovered, that evil eel slinks away to allow things to quiet down and seem okay again. Unfortunately, it soon returns and rears its vicious head again. Living with an addict is downright hard.
Here are some ways to cope with an addicted partner.
1 Not Setting Boundaries
Too many women either don’t voice their “non-negotiables” or they back down from them when their husbands act out again. Write down the behaviors that are unacceptable (along with the consequences for them), share the list with your husband, and if those boundaries are crossed, make good on the consequences. One of the best ways to cope with an addicted partner is to clearly lay out what you will accept and what is a deal breaker.
2 Staying when It’s Unsafe
If your safety is in jeopardy, the best and only thing you should do is get to a protected place. Your husband will thank you (when he’s clean and sober). It’s likely he’s not acting out his addictive behaviors because he doesn’t love you. Chances are he wants you to be safe, but just doesn’t yet know how to provide that environment for you.
3 Blaming Yourself
Addicts who are deep into their addictions will create what some call “The Crazy-Maker Effect.” Because of their disease, they blame anything and everyone around them, including their spouses. Don’t be deceived into believing the addiction or its by-products are your fault. Shouldering that kind of responsibility for someone else’s choices is not healthy. Ladies, it is not your fault.
4 Hiding the Evidence
We all want to portray the perfect lives. Can I tell you a secret? Perfection doesn’t exist – at least not among humankind. If your family needs help, seek it out. Avoid covering up for an addict spouse and hiding his behaviors in order to protect that stellar reputation or image. Protecting spouses from the natural consequences of their addictions only exacerbates the chaos. We’re all broken in some way, but don’t allow yourself to shatter.
5 Suffering Alone
Two of the most comforting words in the English language are, “me too.” Find a support group for spouses of addicts. There are thousands out there. Trust me. You are not alone, and the support you’ll find in a group facilitated by a qualified professional will be instrumental in your own recovery.
6 Choosing to Stay or Leave Based on Other People's Opinion
Your friends and family love you. They love you enough to give you a whole lot of advice. Some of it will be good, but all of it will be well intentioned. But, it will be incomplete. Come to your own decision about staying in a marriage with an addict. It’s very difficult for others to understand that the addiction does not make up the whole of a person. Only you know if you’re safe, if your husband is getting the help he needs, or if you want to invest in the healing process.
7 Forgiving Too Soon...or Not at All
Women are strong! We are wired to forgive and forget, but forgiveness shouldn’t happen too soon. There are many layers to forgiveness, and if you aren’t careful, you will excuse behaviors in an effort to forgive him. On the other side of the coin, don’t withhold forgiveness either. Within and beyond recovery, choose joy, not bitterness.
Addiction is nasty. With much support, it can be overcome. However, that support will not be effective if the addict is not ready to get help. If you are the spouse of an addict (active or in recovery), based on your own experiences, what recommendations would you add?