Loving someone with an addiction can challenge the limits of support and respect within the relationship. Navigating an addiction with someone in your life requires you to provide love and support every step of the way.

Handsome depressed man drinking whiskey

As long as your spouse is looking for help or ready to accept help, there is a lot you can do to help them on their path to recovery. No matter the addiction, hope is never lost as long as your partner is willing to try.

Here is how to help your spouse with addiction.

Don’t Force Help

You can’t force your special someone to stop abusing a substance or quit an addiction if they’re not ready. This may be the hardest part, but if your spouse will not accept help, do not force it on them. Let them live with the consequences of their actions if this is the road they take.

If You Love Them, Don’t Leave Them

If your partner asks for help and you love them, there’s no need to walk away. Unless they’re being physically or emotionally harmful, cheating, using drugs or alcohol openly around the house, or bringing in people who encourage bad behaviour, the kindest thing you can offer is your backing. Give them your love and make sure they know you’re there for them whenever they need it.

Educate Yourself About Addiction

Read as much as you can about addiction. Learn how it works as a disorder, how to communicate with someone with an addiction and the permanent effects it can have on a person’s mental health, brain circuitry, and physical health.

Be Careful of Language

Do not use stigmatizing language, i.e. ‘addict’ or ‘junkie.’ Treat them as human beings. Do not shame them intentionally or unintentionally with your language. Be kind—no belittling or rejection. I love them. That’s what you, as their spouse, can do best.

Consider an Addiction Treatment Centre

If needed, recommend an addiction treatment centre. A center does not need to be a last resort. Let your spouse know that you’re ready to do whatever it takes to get them better and back on their feet in their recovery, even if it means sending them to a treatment center for an extended period.

Lose Your Anger

You may get angry or upset at certain points when trying to help your spouse or have a conversation with them about getting help. Unfortunately, your anger helps nothing. It’s best to lose it. If you’re angry or upset, pause, walk it off, and connect with them later.

Prioritize Your Mental Health

You may feel worried, overwhelmed, panicked, and unsure of what to do. Respect your own needs as you help your partner. Deal with your struggles to help your partner through theirs.

Talk to Them Non-Confrontationally

Be honest with your partner. Talk to them openly and honestly, and without confrontation. Show them concern and support. Don’t be accusatory or blameful. Be specific about what you’re worried about. Highlight to them your feelings and the consequences of their addiction on your relationship.

Listen More Than You Talk

It’s always a strong recommendation to listen more than talk. Listen without interruption or criticism.

Suggest They See Their Physician

Addictions cause physical harm. Advise your spouse to talk to a doctor about their addiction and ensure their physical health is being looked after. If they’re interested, offer to accompany your spouse to these appointments.

Be Patient and Compassionate

Your spouse may need help for a long time to come. Be patient with them and maintain a compassionate attitude. Recovering from addiction is hard. Your spouse may fall. Be there to pick them up and provide comfort. As their partner, that’s where your value is.

Be Consistent with Your Actions

Be consistent with your spouse with a message of love. Make sure you’re not encouraging their addiction directly or indirectly by anything you’re doing or saying.

Don’t Tell Them What To Do

It is tempting to want to take over your spouse’s life, manage them, and control what they do. This is to keep them on the right path. However, you don’t want to be too overbearing or controlling because that will come across as.

Let Them Find Their Path

Your spouse may want to find their path towards recovery from an addiction. They may be trying an unconventional method or alternative therapy or treatment. Let them know. Could you support them? It may hurt more to disagree or question their decisions. Let your spouse find their way, in their own time, to real help.