Drug Addiction And Marriage
One of the first questions many patients have in recovery is “how can marriage survive drug addiction?” Every year, millions of Americans live with drug addiction of some kind. In fact, some data suggest numbers as high as 1 in 10 adults. Addiction affects not only the primary user, but the whole family. Obviously, every family dynamic is unique. However, many marriages do survive and even thrive post-addiction. Could yours be one of them? Let’s examine the following topics:
- How do I know if I or my spouse is addicted?
- How does treatment work?
- What does healthy family support in recovery look like?
How Addiction Works
If you’re wondering can a marriage survive drug addiction, you should begin by understanding the disease. When someone uses a substance for the first time, the substance hijacks the brain to send out pleasure/reward signals. This is the “high” or “rush” users feel. Over time, the substance rewires the brain to depend on further use to function properly. Instead of sending pleasure signals for use, the brain sends distress signals for lack of use. This is known as withdrawal. Symptoms of withdrawal can vary based on the substance, but usually include:
- Severe headaches
- Body aches
In recent decades, the medical community has recognized addiction as a disease called Substance Use Disorder (SUD). Most patients with SUD cannot simply quit using on their own. In fact, withdrawal from some substances can be deadly if not medically supervised. SUD can cause patients to make their drug of choice their top priority. Using begins to feel less like a choice, but more a matter of life or death.
How To Spot Warning Signs Of SUD
If you live with someone with SUD, the first warning signs may be behavioral. You may notice your loved one withdraw from activities they normally enjoy. They may begin to avoid social situations where substance use is not present. Your loved one may begin to experience sudden problems at work or unexplained financial issues. This could even include misusing money meant for bills or suddenly maxed out lines of credit.
Because of social stigma, SUD patients may feel the need to hide their use. You may notice paraphernalia hidden in odd places. Sadly, many patients develop patterns of lying or emotional manipulation to maintain use. In extreme cases, some will resort to risky or criminal activity.
How Does Treatment Work?
If your loved one decides to enter treatment, the first step will usually be a detox. A care provider will provide medication to ease withdrawal symptoms and provide comfort. Some patients may be treated outpatient, while others may need to be treated at a detox facility.
After Detox, treatment will continue in either a partial hospitalization program (PHP) or an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP). There, patients will continue on medication if needed, while spending their day in therapy. Most programs have patients live in a sober living house during the first stages of treatment. Here, patients live in comfortable settings with the feel of home, without the temptation to use.
Holistic recovery programs like ours offer services to the families of our patients as well. Just as SUD affects the entire family, recovery should extend to the entire family as well. In family therapy, you will talk through negative behaviors and develop coping strategies.
What Does Healthy Family Support Look Like?
Recovery is a lifelong journey. Detox, treatment, and family therapy are vital, but they are only the first steps to a use-free life. It is important to understand that relapses can, and often do occur after treatment. Ultimately, each patient is responsible for his or her own recovery. At the same time, each spouse must decide if they are willing to stay in the marriage long-term. Open and honest communication should happen early and often during the journey.
If both parties are committed to the marriage, healthy support can start with words of encouragement and affirmation. Let your loved one know that you are on their side, and that you are in for the long haul. At the same time, be sure to talk about appropriate boundaries. This can be around issues involving children, finances, or other important matters to you. For any marriage to work, both parties must feel valued and respected. Finally, make sure to discuss potential use triggers. Be prepared to discuss sensitive issues that could cause disagreement. Examples of these could include old friends that still use, or whether to keep alcohol in the home. Your family therapist can help guide these conversations.