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Helping a spouse with an addiction

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If your partner has an addiction issue it inevitably has a huge impact on you and your life and can cause lasting damage.

Helping them is likely paramount in your mind, but ensuring you and any children you or they have has the right support is vital too.

Signs of Drug Use in a Spouse

There are a lot of things you may need to think about, which may include:

  • how to recognise if your girlfriend/boyfriend, husband or wife has an addiction issue
  • how to tell your partner they need help with their drinking or drug taking
  • ensure the help you are giving is not enabling their addiction
  • dealing with domestic abuse
  • what to do if your finances or credit score have been affected by a partner’s addiction
  • impact on children when a spouse has an alcohol or addiction issue
  • when your partner is addicted to porn or has a sex addiction
  • where to find help for you and them.

How to recognise if your girlfriend/boyfriend, husband or wife has an addiction issue

There may come a stage where there is no doubt in your mind that your loved one has an issue with addiction.

Before that there may be months, years or even decades where you or they or both of you are in denial about it or unconvinced that their problem drinking, drug use, gambling or other behaviours ‘qualifies’ as an addiction.

It can be helpful to be aware of the signs and symptoms of alcoholism and addiction to understand when your partner needs help and prevent you from wavering or being wavered from the belief that they do.

Signs and symptoms of addiction may include:

  1. you, others or them being worried about their behaviour
  2. the presence of withdrawal symptoms
  3. failing to meet responsibilities or letting people down due to drinking/gambling/taking drugs
  4. prioritising the addictive behaviour over other things

Not all of these things need to be present for an addiction to be present.

Many people manage to continue careers and maintain the appearance of being in control of their lives when they are functioning alcoholics or addicts.

How to tell your partner they need help with their drinking or drug taking

Broaching the subject of addiction with a partner and telling them you believe they need help, takes a lot of courage.

This sentiment may be one you’ve thrown at them in the heat of emotion or arguments, but it is unlikely to be well received in those circumstances.

Even if you follow all the advice on how to make an effective intervention it may not go down well and could lead to your partner lashing out – verbally or even physically. If you have any concern that your partner may become violent you should seek support immediately and certainly before raising this topic.

Raising the topic of a partner’s addiction will be more likely to have a positive impact if you can stay very calm and to focus entirely on how you feel, the worries you have and the impact the behaviour is having on you. The following kind of phraseology may work well: “I’m worried you have a drinking problem,” “I love you and think you may need help,” “I feel concerned and upset when you take drugs.”

This may be a conversation that you have to instigate many times before your spouse is ready and willing to listen and engage.

Call today for free & confidential advice on 08000029010 (International: +44 161 674 9049)

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Ensure the help you are giving is not enabling their addiction

You inevitably want to protect your loved one and yourself from harm due to their addiction, but there is a risk that actions you take with this aim could help to enable them to keep taking drugs, drinking, gambling or whatever their addictive behaviour is.

If, for example, you make excuses for them to their employer to ensure they don’t get in trouble at work or their job is not put in jeopardy, that is more than understandable. Your family finances may rely on your partner remaining in work. But, if they never face the consequences of their addiction, they may not take action to get well and if you continue to make these excuses it could be seen as a form of collusion in the addiction.

It’s a very difficult situation for you to be in and coming up with a plan and finding the right support for you and them is vital to allow you both to move forward.

Cocaine Rehab

Dealing with domestic abuse

Sadly, domestic abuse is often a problem that runs hand-in-hand with alcohol or addiction issues.

If you are or fear you may be suffering physical, emotional or coercive control issues at the hands of your girlfriend, boyfriend, husband or wife, you must seek help.

You do not have to be living in the same home to be suffering from domestic abuse. The domestic abuse charity Women’s Aid defines it as a pattern of controlling, coercive threatening, degrading or violent behaviour.

If you are concerned about any of these issues do reach out for support.

You can speak in confidence and asking for help does not mean you will be pushed to take any action now or in the future.

Find advice and help here: How to get help with domestic abuse.

What to do if your finances have been affected by a partner’s addiction

Addictions tend to be expensive to maintain and that can have a painful and worrying impact on joint finances.

If you are worried your credit score has been affected due to your spouse’s borrowing, gambling or spending, the sooner you seek help, the sooner you can begin to get things back on track.

Financial worries can seem extremely overwhelming and it may feel there is no way out, but with the right support you can find a way through. It’s common for people to ignore the problem, but, as with the addiction itself, the longer you leave it the worse it gets.

The Money Advice Service offers free and impartial advice whatever your money worries.

Impact on children when a spouse has an alcohol or addiction issue

Sadly, there is no getting away from the fact that children are adversely affected by growing up with a parent who has a drink, drugs or addiction issue.

Even when great efforts are made to protect children from being aware or impacted by a parent’s addiction issues, they usually do pick up on it and it can lead to worry, fear, confusion, a sense of guilt and may impact a child’s mental health and wellbeing.

Being the child of an addict may even expose children to more risk of suffering addiction themselves. They may also be at greater risk of neglect or abuse during childhood.

Being affected by a parent’s addiction issues may happen during childhood or later in life.

It’s vital to seek help if a child is growing up with a parent suffering from addiction issues.

You can reach out via confidential routes if you are worried about the consequences of speaking out.

Child of addicted parents

When your partner is addicted to porn or has a sex addiction

If you know or believe your husband, boyfriend, wife or girlfriend has a sex or porn addiction you’ll likely feel very hurt and let down and may feel ashamed. It is common to feel shame due to all types of addiction but you must remember you have done nothing wrong.

There are numerous issues to deal with when a spouse has a sex or porn addiction, including, your relationship, your health and your spouse’s health and the addiction.

If you suspect your partner of sleeping with other people, you need to take immediate action to protect your sexual health.

If you think they are watching porn or engaging in cyber-sex and you’re not happy with it, it’s a relationship issue that you need to address. Staying in a relationship, where your personal boundaries of what is acceptable are being breached, is not healthy for you.

Using porn or having a high sex drive are not addictions in themselves. They can only be potentially classified as addictions if:

  • the behaviour is out of control
  • there is persistent pursuance of high-risk sexual activities
  • the person engaging in the activities wants to stop but cannot
  • sex or porn start to take over a person’s life to the exclusion of other things
  • there is a neglect of other people or responsibilities due to the sexual activity or use of porn.

If you fear your partner has a sex or porn addiction, which is causing harm for you or them, do not be afraid to ask for help.

They may need help with their addiction, in the same way that someone who cannot stop themselves from drinking, taking drugs or gambling, needs help.

You may also need help to overcome the hurt of their addiction yourself and potentially as a partnership, especially if you wish to save the relationship.

Where to find help for you and your addicted partner

We are here to support you when you are worried about the drink, drug use or other addictive behaviours of a partner. We treat all contacts made with us in strictest confidence.

We’re available 24 hours a day to listen and – where desired – suggest addiction treatment options according to your individual circumstances: Contact us.

Other organisations that may be able to provide support, include:

  • Relate – a charity offering relationship support and guidance.
  • DrugFAM – works with people affected by someone else’s addiction.
  • NSPCC – provides confidential help for adults concerned for a child as well as direct help to children and young people.
  • Women’s Aid – provides support for people affected by domestic abuse.
Call today for free & confidential advice on 08000029010 (International: +44 161 674 9049)

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