If your Spouse is struggling with addiction, their life—and yours—will never again be what it was before. The good news is that it can be better!
In Part 1 of this article, we showed how helping your spouse and family in such times begins by taking care of yourself. You can’t fix your spouse; it’s up to them to accept ownership for getting better. But there are steps you can take that will help.
Amazingly, God often uses our tough times to do his best work. And if you and your spouse embrace the principles taught in recovery, your life will get better.
But, as long as your spouse continues drinking or using, life will be harder than it was before. So, before deciding what actions to take, you should make a prayerful commitment to do 3 things:
- Surrender to God your desire to control your spouse and your ownership of the outcome.
- Commit to hang in there and persevere, no matter what or how long it takes.
- Be intentional about taking positive steps for yourself and your spouse.
Then, read the suggestions in the 5 areas below and choose which ones fit your particular situation. But, whatever you decide, do something.
Lifestyle – Encourage spiritually, emotionally, and personally
Begin by living out an example of what a balanced and integrated life looks like. The short-term goal is to encourage your spouse to be active in positive areas of their life. The long-term goal is for the two of you to work together living a lifestyle that supports wellness and recovery. If you do, it will improve each of you individually and strengthen your marriage. Amazingly, the changes you make can help you build lives that are even better than they were before!
- Set a positive example for them – If you haven’t yet, read Part 1 of this article, and then do those things. Your spouse will notice, and hopefully they will begin to see positive benefits in your life. One of the biggest ways you can help your spouse is to help yourself. The best way to reach them is by setting a positive example spiritually, emotionally, and personally.
- Have good conversations – Continue to talk to them rather that isolating, relationally or literally. Bring up spiritual, emotional, and personal topics without challenging them. Simply encourage positive conversations around the healthy and positive areas of life.
- Ask them to join you – Suggest that they join you in some of your activities, e.g. walks, exercise, hobbies, church, or just seeing a movie. Occasionally, encourage them toward activities you know they like to do. If they don’t join you, let it go and enjoy yourself.
Awareness – Help your spouse discover their self-awareness
In this area, you are still not trying to fix or control your spouse. You are simply encouraging them to develop more awareness of what they are doing, why they are doing it, and where it is heading. Seek to gently draw your spouse out and serve them as a helpful and caring participant and coach for that process of self-discovery. But, at some point, they need to acknowledge that they understand the negative consequences of what they are doing.
- Help them increase their awareness – Sometimes, when they are sober, gently ask them questions about how their life is going. Be vulnerable and focus on love and grace rather than judgement and shame. Seek to understand what problems or issues they are trying to address by drinking or using. Don’t suggest solutions, just listen with sincere empathy.
- Encourage them to open up more – Every once in a while, when your spouse is in a positive mood, ask if you can have a conversation about what is going on with them. Acknowledge that we all have issues, and set an example by sincerely asking their forgiveness for things you have done. Try to have a productive discussion about why they are drinking or using, and ask if there is anything you can do to help.
- Discuss their trajectory – At least once, perhaps multiple times, calmly talk to them about the direction they are heading and how it is affecting them, you, and the rest of the family. Do not be angry or demanding, but let them know you expect them to accept personal responsibility for their actions. Ask them to read the articles on “Counting the Cost” and “Deciding We Have Hit Bottom” and talk to you about what they think about that material.
Connection – Strongly encourage them to get help soon
Depending on how things go in this area, the situation may begin to improve if your spouse becomes willing to talk to people and get some help. Over a period of time, calmly encourage them to find a supporting environment where they can be open and vulnerable with people who can help them. Express your love and support of them along the way. If they refuse, you should prepare for what could become a long and difficult journey.
- Meet them where they are – Be available to connect with them whenever they are willing. Seek to be authentic, helpful, and trustworthy. To aid you in this process, read the two-part article “Meeting People Where They Are.” But when they are under the influence, don’t discuss sensitive topics or argue. Maintain your self-control and stay calm and strong.
- Change your codependent habits – After reading Part 1 of this article, hopefully you became aware of your codependent tendencies. Now, it’s time to change. If you were overly-controlling before, let your spouse see that you will not be trying to fix them anymore. If you rescued or covered up for them in the past, tell them you won’t be doing that any longer.
- Insist they get some help – Hopefully, you are setting a positive example for your spouse by getting help for yourself. Suggest that they also see someone or attend a recovery group. If they do, walk with them through that process and encourage them every step of the way. If they don’t, your decisions become tougher. Consider insisting they get help, and decide what you will do if they don’t, e.g. “If you won’t get help, I will move into a hotel until you do.”
Education – Learn about managing life with addiction
Keep doing everything you began in the first three sections above. If your spouse was willing to get help, the road forward should be one you travel together as you both get educated on how to manage life better. If he/she refuses to get help or try to get better, you will have to begin making some decisions in spite of what they are doing. Stay connected to people you trust and can talk to about what is going on. This will help you stay grounded and make better decisions.
- Get educated on life management techniques – If your spouse is participating in getting better, you can help. Have them talk about why they drink or use drugs. Talk about warning signs, triggers, and how they can alter their risky behaviors and build positive habits to better deal with the temptations they face. Learn about life management techniques they can use to deal with life more effectively. To help identify where they are in the addiction cycle, read “How to Prevent Addiction.” To learn how the 5 STEPS can help your spouse, and you, live life better, read “A Vaccine for Addiction: Re-Learning How to Live.”
- Build and enforce good boundaries – If your spouse is struggling and destructive, ensure you have boundaries to protect you and the rest of the family emotionally, financially, and physically. Take your time to choose the boundaries, then calmly tell your spouse about them. Be prepared to stick to them 100% of the time. Be especially focused on any actions that put someone in danger, e.g. if they attempt to drive under the influence, take the keys. Tell them that if they try it again, you will call the police and, if they do, make the call.
- If you have to, hold an intervention – Don’t wait for your spouse to hit rock bottom before getting help. If they continue to get worse and are doing nothing to get better, research options and discuss them with people who have experience in intervention. An effective intervention will take planning and preparation. If you go through with it, make sure your spouse knows you love him/her but that you can no longer tolerate their behavior.
Purpose – Depend on your faith and search for purpose
Life may be much different now, but you should still be planning and working for a positive future. As you and your spouse begin to realize the benefits of recovery, consider how you can help other people who may be struggling in similar ways. You will find that you can help because you are able to say something incredibly meaningful to them: “I’ve been where you are, and I got better.”
- Remember your purpose – Your faith and willingness to surrender the situation to God may be your lifeline during what could become a tough situation. Those things will help you get through hard times and remind you there is a greater purpose in life that goes beyond the struggles you are facing. Encourage your spouse to do the same, and pray that they do.
- Create a written plan – Having a plan will help you assess the priority of which actions to take and better allow you to thoughtfully review and amend your approach over time. It will also make it easier to discuss the situation with other people to get their input. You have some serious decisions to make, and this plan will help you make them wisely.
- Engage in service – Both you and your spouse have hopefully learned a lot about dealing with addiction, and you can refresh yourself on some key points by reading “Learning New Life Improvement Steps.” Now, it’s time for both of you to put that knowledge into action by helping other people who may be struggling with similar issues.
Understand that both your spouse’s addiction and your own issues can return and that relapse is very common. Integrate everything you have learned into your new lifestyle, and ensure you have positive habits and accountability in place to keep making progress one day at a time.
Your lives will never again be what they were before. Hopefully, they can be better!
Question: Who could you share this article with that would benefit?
Action: Re-read Part 1 and Part 2 of this article and see who comes to mind.
Photo by Yaisog Bonegnasher Photo by mariadelajuana Photo by bluesbby Photo by Didriks
The post If Your Spouse is Struggling (Part 2) appeared first on Steps Ministries: Hope, Healing, and Help.
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