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Be considerate when you approach a spouse on an addiction problem

Karen Stewart Licensed Dependency Drug Counselor Karen's Mobile Counseling Services
Be considerate when you approach a spouse on an addiction problem

Having a spouse that is an addict is a hard thing to deal with, especially if the addiction is left untreated. Knowing how to approach your spouse and go about suggesting treatment for them can be stressful and could even tear apart your relationship with them if you don’t know how to go about doing it the right way. Here is some expert advice in approaching your spouse who you think is an addict.


Do understand what sickness means

When doctors say someone is sick, the person with the addiction is the sick one. It entails certain behaviors that gives them permission to be sick. It actually gives them permission to play the role of the sick one. Once you as the healthy spouse disengages, meaning you change the way you speak and are no longer saying “You are sick” to your spouse, they will have to change. But it doesn’t mean the change is going to be easy. You are expecting his/her behavior to change because you are no longer giving them permission to use drugs or alcohol.

Do list his strengths and encourage

Always encourage your spouse that he can do it. List your spouses strengths with them. You can always find the negative in any circumstance, but listing their strengths will help highlight the positive things and not give so much power to the negative.

“You made me fall in love with you. You have always made me feel safe. You need no one to validate who you are.” These are the types of things that will help explain to your spouse that everyone has problems and issues. And that’s ok. Remind them of the struggle it took to make it this far. Can they afford to start all over again?

Also, have your spouse list the the things that they like about you, and then list the things that they don’t like. The likes will always outweigh the dislikes. This is your foundation and how you will rebuild the relationship. It is also important to list what types of things attracts you to them, and for your spouse to say their attractions to you as well. This will remind your spouse that you can both capture the way you were before the addiction took hold.

Do change the way you think

You can do all things through a power greater than me. Once the way you think changes, the attitude changes from a negative to a positive. As you know, deviance contributes to a negative attitude. When your spouse is addicted they can become deviant, only wanting some addictive feeling met. They will lie, steal, and in some cases kill while under the influences of their drug of choice. Once the brain has become addicted, the thinking will change due to a distorted view of the world. It will take the spouse to help them change their thinking. Helping them to become open and ready to change. It is a process and should be reinforced on a daily basis by helping your spouse to change their thinking process to become more positive.

Do be gentle and supportive

Once they recognize that they have a problem, they will most likely look at the person that they once were. Power is strength, and as the spouse you can help him gain his power back by enforcing his strengths through having a positive attitude. It is the difference between enabling and allowing them to become co-dependent on you.

Do suggest counseling

Be gentle. Don’t make idle threats like, “I’m leaving and taking the children.” Offer to go with them to the counseling sessions for moral support. Through counseling and a good support system like AA or NA, he will learn that he can’t go through recovery alone.

He should also seek a sponsor who can help him stay sober when he wants to give up. Suggesting counseling to your spouse may scare him, but remind him that it is only to strengthen the family and it’s okay to ask for help. Counseling will also allow him to meet other people who are going through the same thing he’s going through. People in recovery share and discuss their experiences with each other and it will give him hope that staying sober and healthy can also happen for him.


Do not criticize

Criticism is the last thing your spouse wants to hear. You should help him rather than harm him. To criticize your spouse will only make them stay in their addiction. Your spouse is already feeling guilty and ashamed for becoming addicted. If you suspect he’s becoming more dependent on the substance, don’t get on the phone telling family and friends what you suspect. This will only make matters worse.

Do not tell everyone about what the addict does

Don’t discuss the issue in front of family and friends. It’s no one’s business except you and your spouses. Have a nice quiet evening with just the two of you. People generally only want to know your business for gossip. Telling everyone about what your spouse is doing will only make them stop trusting you.

Do not threaten to leave him

As the significant other, you may be the enabler helping your addicted spouse to fail. At this time you may be the only support system your spouse may have. Don’t use idle threats to make your point. Threat will cast fear and the situation will only become worse.

Do not compare them to someone else

Saying things like “I wish I would’ve married my old boyfriend,” or “You are no good and I have wasted my life with a no good loser”, is not going to help out the situation. Listen to the words you are speaking. The power is in the tongue speaking negative will result in a negative outcome.

Do not speak negatively about your spouse in front of the children

This will make the children to think less of themselves. It will result in them having low self-esteem and losing trust in their additive parent. If you say something enough times, you are planting negative seeds in your children and it will surely produce negative crops.

Jumping cartoon

Most addicts have unfinished business. Once some of the issues are resolved through counseling, one can live a productive life. A lot of addicts are dual-diagnosed and need to be on medication. It is extremely important to treat chemical abuse and mental illness at the same time. Most time clients will get off the medication and that’s why many find themselves back in the system. The addiction should be treated the same way an illness would be treated. Taking the medication, building a healthy person both spiritually and physically, obtaining a sponsor, attending AA/NA, and changing people, places and things will help the addicted person. The thinking pattern of the addict must change from a negative to a positive so that they are able to see hope in their lives.

More expert advice about Drug Addiction

Photo Credits: Wonderful West Wittering - June 2011 - Happy Couple 1 by Flickr: gareth1953 Friends Please Read My Profile; Check Man, Cross Man and Jump Man © ioannis kounadeas -

Karen StewartLicensed Dependency Drug Counselor

I have worked in the field of addiction for many years. My experience have taken me to prison, treatment centers, and to working with Family Protection Services. I have written four books as relieve stressors, I have a private counseling practic...

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