Whether you are completely in love, made vows and promises, or are bound by children, living with an addicted spouse is stressful and has an overwhelming impact on even the most mundane daily tasks.
Let me start by saying that love isn’t something that you can shut off and on, relationships are never easy – regardless of addiction, and one person’s truth doesn’t always hold true for other people. How many chances is too many? When should you stand by an addicted partner? When should you leave?
A Familiar Story
Your spouse didn’t come home last night. Again. You don’t know where he or she is – they’re not answering their phone, and you see they took the credit card and the few dollars you had left in your wallet. The pit in your stomach deepens as you call the credit card company, desperately trying to track their purchases. You haven’t slept or ate; you’re panicked, furious and heartbroken all at the same time.
It’s a mix of emotions only a person with an addicted loved one can explain.
It’s not until your spouse walks through the doors a few hours – or even days – later that you can return to some type of normality. And while you’re angry beyond belief, you’re grateful they’re alive. You’re able to forgive, but you promise yourself: the next time it happens, you’re leaving.
If you’re in a relationship with a person addicted to alcohol or drugs – you may wonder if or when you should leave your partner. You’ve seen the addiction destroy your relationship and your family. You’re exhausted by the worry, the fear, and the stress. It’s amazing what things you’ve learned to live with – and without. You wonder if things will ever get better.
Evaluate Your Own Personal Situation
For many families who seek treatment and help – things do get better. With the right kind of program and family care, there is hope for recovery. Before you make a decision on what’s best for you in your personal situation, here are some things you should observe and evaluate in your own life.
- Has your addicted spouse or partner abused you or your children? (Physically or verbally)
- Has your addicted spouse used in front of or around your children?
- Does your addicted spouse get drunk around your children?
- Has your addicted spouse stolen from you?
- Does your daily life revolve around keeping peace in the house or relationship?
- Have you or your children endured emotional harm from the addiction?
If you’ve faced some, all or even more of these types of difficulties, you certainly have the right to detach from your partner. Even as you read this, you may be challenging the list with, “But….”
The Number One Reason People Stay in a Relationship with Someone with an Addiction
Have you ever found yourself saying:
- “I’m afraid what will happen to him if I leave and I’m not there to take care of/save him”
- “I’m worried she’ll feel abandoned”
- “I’m scared he’ll become homeless”
- “I’m nervous to be alone as a single parent.”
The main reason people stay in a relationship with someone struggling with drugs or alcohol has to do with fear. Even when people know the relationship is extremely unhealthy, they fear the alternative. It’s not until they can firmly grasp the harm the addiction is causing them and/ or their children that they’re able to make a change. It’s not until they decide to detach that they’re able to heal – and treat themselves.
Detach With Love
The key to recovering from a relationship with an addicted person comes down to detaching. Understanding detachment isn’t difficult – but actually doing it, is. Detaching with love comes down to separating yourself emotionally and/or physically from the person struggling with addiction. Detaching means taking the focus off of the person with the addiction, and putting it on yourself.
Detaching with love will give you a chance to clear your mind and to see the situation for what it is worth. Understand that your partner doesn’t need you to take care of him or her; he doesn’t need you to “prove” to him his life is out of control; she doesn’t need you to piece her life together for her. The truth is, in time, he or she will learn all of this on their own. With or without you.
Detaching with love, as frightening as it can be, will allow you to see life without addiction. It’s important to know these 3 things:
- you didn’t cause it
- you can’t cure it
- you can’t control it
When you take a step back from the relationship, you will see that even though you are not the person with the substance addiction – you are the person that have taken on its effects. Addiction is a disease for which you cannot hold yourself accountable.
Detaching from a spouse or significant other doesn’t necessarily mean divorce or a split. It may mean detaching from your own enabling or co-dependent behaviors; bringing home a bottle of vodka to keep her from arguing with you, leaving a drug test out for him to “prove” he’s been using, calling him out of work when he’s too high to go in. Although you can’t control your loved one getting into a treatment program, detaching makes it less likely that their addiction will run smoothly.
Leaving or staying with an addicted spouse can ultimately only be your choice. But once you decide, it’s important to get support and the help you need to follow through. No longer can you say, “Next time this happens, I’m leaving.” The sooner you make a change, the sooner – and more likely it will be, that your spouse will make a change, too. If you are still having trouble deciding whether to stay or go, the Relationship Center of Colorado offers a safe and compassionate setting to seek the counsel you need.