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We all like to be the hero of our own stories. We want to get the guy or girl of our dreams, win the career of our choice, and excel in our personal and professional lives. When we can’t do that, it isn’t uncommon to start feeling like a failure. If we feel we have failed badly enough, we may begin to see ourselves as the villain of the story.
If your spouse is battling addiction and it doesn’t look like they are winning, you aren’t a failure and you aren’t the villain. It is all too common to take the blame for addiction, especially in a marriage. Perhaps, if you didn’t fight as much? Maybe, if you went on more dates? Possibly, if there was less pressure to succeed? But, it isn’t your fault, even if you feel like it and your spouse sometimes says it is.
Blame doesn’t help to heal addiction and it can often hide the real problems contributing to and resulting from the substance abuse and/or addictive behavior. The first thing to do if your spouse is an addict is to stop with the blame game. In time, you and your spouse will begin to take personal responsibility for different parts of your relationship and the addiction, but it will take work to get to that point. When you are ready to do that work, it is important that you find a treatment facility that functions for your spouse and for your marriage.
There are a multitude of treatment options and different addicts and different addictions require different types of treatment.You should be looking for a treatment program that is appropriate to your spouse’s gender, age, culture, ethnicity, and addiction. The better you are able to match your spouse’s needs with a rehabilitation program, the better chance there is of success.
An important component of the rehab process will be family therapy. You will need to re-develop bonds of trust and relearn your relationship.
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration reminds us: “Almost all young couples encounter communication and intimacy issues during the first decade of the relationship. In an alcoholic marriage or relationship, such issues are regularly pushed into the background as guilt, blame, and control issues are exacerbated by the nature of addictive disease and its effects on both the relationship and the family.”
Family therapy is extremely relevant to substance abuse and behavioral disorder treatment and will improve marital communication and both partner’s capacity for intimacy. This personal growth will enable you to continue in your marriage, even after the difficulties of addiction and treatment.
Your addict will need a strong support network, and by attending family therapy and supporting them through therapy, you are serving as a stable, loving foundation for their sobriety. But, what about the support that you need?
If you keep your struggle a secret, you won’t get help from family and friends. You know best whether or not you should tell them and whether or not they will support you, so informing them should be done at your discretion and in the way you know it will be best received.
If you can’t bring yourself to inform family and friends or you want an additional level of support, seek out an independent support group. For example, Al Anon meetings are specifically for friends and family of alcoholics and Nar Anon offers the same support for friends and family members of drug addicts. In addition, there are a number of small groups offered across the country. Should you live in a very small community with limited offerings or suffer from anxiety that makes these groups undesirable, you can also join support groups online.