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How To Help Your Husband With Drug Addiction

16.08.2012 07:50:04

My husband, Dean, and I are getting ready to celebrate our 25th wedding anniversary in a couple of weeks. This is an incredible milestone for any couple, but for us it is especially momentous. You see -- for the first two decades of our marriage Dean struggled with an addiction to alcohol, crack cocaine, and prescription pain pills. Ten years ago I had my doubts that Dean would ever live to see our 25th anniversary, let alone that we would be enjoying a healthy marriage.

Here are two things that I’ve learned through my experience:

- Addiction recovery is possible, and

- A spouse can help their loved one to overcome addiction

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I now understand that I was playing a role in my husband’s addiction. I had become an enabler, and, as a result, I was making it easier for my husband to continue on his destructive path. It was only after I shifted my own focus that positive changes began to take place.

For many years I blamed every problem on Dean and his addiction. It was an easy out. I was ignoring my own challenges -- I was in denial. While Dean was consumed with drugs and alcohol, I was consumed with Dean. My every thought revolved around him:

Where is he at?

Who is he with?

Is he drinking or using drugs again?

Why can’t he just stop?

I was living a constant cycle of arguing and crying, driving around late at night looking for my husband, buying back our belongings from pawn shops, putting myself into dangerous situations, and feeling alone and confused. Every attempt that I made to help my husband seemed to fail.

When I started to take steps to overcome the patterns of codependency, positive changes began to happen -- not only for me, but for my husband as well. The results were life-changing. I discovered that a spouse really can make a difference. You don’t have to wait for the person struggling with addiction to be ready -- that day may never come. You can open the doorway to recovery and lead the way.

Here are the three steps I took:

Step #1: Gain knowledge about addiction. It’s difficult to help another person if you don’t understand the problem. This includes understanding what your role has been in enabling the addict in your life. If you were told that your child had diabetes you would learn everything you could about the disease. You would arm yourself with knowledge. You would stop buying sugary snacks, and you would probably make a lot of changes as a family in order to help your child with his or her battle. Like diabetes, addiction is a disease. By learning as much about addiction as possible, families can help their loved ones to recovery.

Step #2: Reach out for help. Because of the stigma attached to addiction, families often keep the problems a secret. But by keeping the addiction a secret, we are only further enabling the disease.  You deserve all of the help and support you can get. I urge you to turn to the people you trust, and let them help to lift your load. Look for the people in your life who have always been there for you and loved you unconditionally.

There are also countless support groups available to turn to. One of the best forms of support, for those of us involved with an addict, is Al-Anon. What better group of people to turn to for comfort and support than those who are living with the same struggles? The most important thing is to break out of your isolation. Spending time outside of the addictive environment is crucial to your well-being. A support group can be any group of people who encourage your positive growth. Look for opportunities to spend time with people who are positive and leave you feeling good about yourself.

Step #3: Harness your inner strength. What is inner strength? It is the power inside that pushes you to action even when you’re scared, that allows other peoples’ behaviors and comments to roll off your back no matter how hurtful they may be, that gives you the willpower to accomplish your goals regardless of how large they are. Inner strength comes from having a close connection to your spirit.

The more in tune you are to the voice inside of you, the stronger you will be. People call that inner voice many different things: Intuition, Higher Power, God, or you may call it something else altogether. It doesn’t matter what you name it, as long as you build a close relationship to it. There are countless ways to build your inner strength¾here are just some of the tools I used: meditation, affirmations, visualization, and prayer.

This last step proved to be the most important for me. While I had been learning about addiction for some time, and visiting recovery groups, it wasn’t until I tapped into my inner strength that I was able to set and keep healthy boundaries. Once my husband realized that I was no longer a partner in his disease, he was left with the options of accepting help, or progressing in his disease alone. I am grateful that he chose the path of recovery.

While addiction is a cunning disease, and could always rear its ugly head again, our family is now healing. While none of us chose this path consciously, a deeper love exists for the families that make is to the other side. In many ways we are lucky, because our eyes get opened to the simple joys in life that others may take for granted. The sound of laughter in our household becomes music. A Sunday afternoon together doing absolutely nothing is bliss. There is a bond that comes from surviving a battle together. It is stronger and more profound than can ever be imagined. There is life after addiction!