With caffeine and nicotine as the two most commonly used psychoactive substances in the United States, alcohol ranks among the most commonly used. In 2018, 16 percent of the adult population reported binge drinking within the last 30 days after a survey.
Nevertheless, when compulsive drinking turns into excessive drinking, you may begin to experience the effects of alcohol addiction. Addiction can be very challenging to deal with, especially when affecting someone close to you as your spouse.
Getting the word out about addiction to a loved one can often lead to change, but it’s also important to consider your well-being, too. Find out more about how to deal with an alcohol use disorder in your spouse.
Does Alcoholism Affect Couples?
While addiction has long been referred to as a family disease, treatment for couples and families has historically been less available than treatment for individuals. But that is changing. Treatment centers recognize that couples-based rehabilitation programs are crucial for those with a drug or alcohol addiction.
When someone decides to quit their substance addiction, it can be extremely challenging. Having as much support as possible during a challenging time may lead to them seeking treatment and becoming open to receiving it.
For people in relationships with substance addictions and who wish to save their relationship, couples rehab is an option. It is only possible for this arrangement to work if both partners are committed to a life of sobriety and are in it for the long haul. Treatment for an addiction is a time and financial commitment, so it is beneficial to be on the same page.
Signs of Alcoholism and Addiction
In the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5), addiction is considered a behavioral health disorder. Mild and moderate substance use disorders may manifest as bouts of binge drinking and tolerance as well as withdrawal symptoms. But the disorder can also be severe.
The major difference between mild and moderate substance use issues and addictions is strong compulsions to use. Mild and moderate substance use issues still need change or intervention, but an addiction requires effective treatment.
If your spouse drives drunk and then continues to drink excessively despite the consequences, it may indicate addiction. For example, if they are in an accident due to drunk driving and then continue to drink excessively, it may indicate addiction.
Alcohol addiction can also manifest as the following signs and symptoms:
- Binge drinking multiple times per week
- Drinking despite health issues
- Needing to drink to just feel normal
- Lying about drinking
- Drinking more than you intended
- Frequent blackouts
- Frequently drinking alone
- Drinking first thing in the morning
- Needing to drink in the middle of a workday
- Struggling at work or school
How to Tell If Drinking Is Harming Your Relationship
In time, addiction does not destroy business and personal relationships overnight. There are signs that confirm when drugs and alcohol have become excessive and damaging.
If you’re married or dating a partner, do you experience the following:
- Is there a conflict over drinking or drug use, or do you argue about matters related to substance abuse, such as financial difficulties, staying out too late, or not taking care of your household?
- What are the effects of drinking or using drugs regularly to de-stress and deal with tension at home?
- When a supervisor calls to ask why someone missed work, do you lie for your spouse? Do you cover for one another’s excessive drinking and drug use with excuses and rationalizations?
- When both or either partner uses alcohol or drugs, do you experience episodes of domestic violence or intimate partner violence?
- When one or both partners are drunk or high, do they show more affection? Do they feel empowered to approach problems in the relationship when intoxicated?
- Are you hiding your drinking or drug use from loved ones or friends?
Addiction Requires Treatment
If you suspect your spouse has a severe substance abuse problem, it is important to encourage them to seek help. Alcoholism affects physical, mental, and social health negatively, and the first stage of alcohol addiction treatment may require medical detox.
After developing a chemical dependence, alcohol can cause life-threatening withdrawal symptoms if you quit cold turkey. Instead, most with severe alcohol dependence people taper off alcohol slowly, with medical guidance.
Although medical detox is an important step, it typically isn’t enough to effectively treat a substance use disorder. Addiction can be caused by many factors and have consequences that must be addressed. It is vital to encourage your spouse to seek all the help they require. Research suggests that treatment should last at least three months, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Is Couples Rehab Different From Standard Rehab?
People who seek treatment in couples rehab can get help for the same substance addictions they receive in standard rehab facilities, including alcohol, cocaine, heroin, methamphetamines, and prescription drugs.
Behavioral therapy and 12-step programs are some of the treatments that are typically part of traditional rehab. In addition to those, relationship counseling is offered to help both parties reach their mutual recovery goals and establish a foundation to build on once treatment is completed.
There is a wide range of treatment options available, from outpatient, which is the most flexible, to inpatient and residential, which require a 24-hour stay at a facility for at least 28 days. Two of these things can be combined in couples rehab. One person can be admitted to an inpatient or residential facility, and their partner can attend an outpatient program.
Are Couples Better Off Going to Rehab Together?
The goal of recovering from substance abuse and addiction can motivate couples to work toward living sober and avoiding relapses. However, there are times when attending rehab together isn’t the best choice.
Occasionally, people need to deal with their issues on their own. The time and space apart can give each individual the strength to see the issues and challenges clearly and gain the strength to resolve them, so they may want to consider going to rehab separately in those cases.
It may also be a good idea for couples who have a history of violent or aggressive behavior to consider going to rehab separately. It is also possible for people with mental health disorders who require a higher level of care to receive treatment apart from their significant other. In addition to facing some challenges, codependent clients may have difficulty getting addiction treatment together.
Individual or couples therapy can help them to develop these skills. Couples therapy and individual therapy can help them separate from their partner’s thoughts so that they can concentrate on themselves.
In cases where two addicted people get treatment in different places, they can schedule therapy sessions together so they can work on their challenges together. Separate does not always mean “not together.” As a result, treatment may actually be more effective and the results more lasting.
Rehab for couples won’t work if only one partner is interested in treatment but the other isn’t. Nevertheless, the individual might consider other types of therapy that allow them to address their own challenges.
Often, loved ones overlook their own needs while trying to manage an addicted spouse’s addiction. Your own needs must be addressed if you want to avoid making the problem worse. Ignoring your own needs could indicate that you are enabling the individual.
What are some factors to consider when determining whether you are helping or enabling?
- Is it common for you to ignore unacceptable behavior?
- Are you resentful of your responsibilities?
- How often do you put someone else’s needs and desires before your own?
- What does it feel like to be unable to express your own emotions?
- Are you ever afraid that if you don’t do something, you’ll blow up, the person will leave you, or even violence will result?
- When someone else makes a mistake because of drinking, do you ever lie to cover it up?
- Is it consistent with you to blame others for problems instead of taking responsibility for your own mistakes?
- When you are not appreciated or acknowledged, do you continue to offer help?
Often, enabling behaviors aim to help someone who is addicted, but they end up making the addiction worse or facilitating it. You can make your spouse’s substance use disorder worse by ignoring their substance use disorder, making excuses for it, or shielding them from the consequences of it.