If you’re married to someone who’s addicted to drugs or alcohol, you’re far from alone. Today, an estimated 14% of the U.S. population qualifies for a substance use disorder diagnosis, meaning that some 46.3 million people are struggling. Knowing that doesn’t make the fact that you’re dealing with someone who is likely extremely difficult to live with. People change when they become addicted. Many become manipulative, develop mood swings, deny reality even to themselves, and may be paranoid, angry, and even delusional. Living with that is difficult and even dangerous, for your mental and physical health.
At the same time, no one wants to give up on their spouse. Through sickness and through health are big words and it’s often important to us that we stick around and be there for our partners for as long as possible. This means that there is no right answer. You’ll have to decide when to divorce your addicted spouse on your own. However, the information in the following may be able to help you to better decide when the right time might be.
Most people struggling with drug or alcohol abuse won’t immediately go to rehab or get help when asked. If things were that easy, more people would do it. Instead, only about 10% of all people with a substance use disorder will ever get help, or about 4 million people a year. Still, it’s important that your loved one come around to the idea that they do need help. There’s no shame in getting help, no one chooses a substance use disorder, and if you offer support, going to treatment should be achievable.
However, if it’s not, then they are refusing to acknowledge that they are making life harder than it has to be. You will have to be the one who sets boundaries on when not getting help becomes too much. However, some signs that time has come and gone include:
You can’t make someone get treatment. However, there is a point where you shouldn’t have to try anymore. Of course, the right answer there might not be divorce. It may be separating and living apart until they do get treatment. But, you shouldn’t have to deal with their substance use disorder on your own forever.
It is impossible to live with someone who has a substance use disorder without enabling them to some extent. Simply being around someone, taking care of chores, and otherwise ensuring that the rent or mortgage are paid are enabling. But, if you feel like you’re the only reason they are still using or worse, that’s the only reason they are with you, it’s a good sign that it is time to cut ties and get out. People hitting rock bottom does not help them to recover so trying that won’t push them towards recovery. However, if your spouse is leaning on you to enable their drug use, it’s a bad sign.
If you find yourself relying on taking care of them (codependency), it’s also a sign that things are getting bad. Codependence means you base a large part of your self-esteem and ego on taking care of someone and providing for them. That can lead to deliberate enabling behavior. It can also lead to taking steps to lie about drug use, to buying drugs for someone, or even to preventing them from getting into care.
Taking care of your partner is normal and desirable. But, if it becomes irrational and you rely on having them to take care of, you also have a problem. Getting to feel needed and valued is extremely rewarding, that’s why codependence is a form of behavioral addiction, right up with social media addiction and fitness addiction. But, it’s equally harmful to you, and a sign that you should get help and maybe step back from your relationship.
If you’re in a relationship to take care of someone or because you think that leaving them would break them, it’s a good sign it’s time for divorce. Unfortunately, it’s difficult to maintain a relationship with someone who is focused on drugs or alcohol. If you find yourself staying because it’s the right thing to do or because you feel responsible, it’s time to get out. You cannot be responsible for them or their well-being. In fact, taking ownership of themselves and their future is one of the most important aspects of recovery – because it provides personal and intrinsic motivation to recover.
It’s easy to invest into someone you love. It’s much less easy to step back, realize that that relationship is harming you, and to cut ties. Unfortunately, that may be the best case. For example, if you’re constantly stressed, anxious, or depressed, your partner probably plays a role. They don’t have to be physically violent for addiction to cause trauma. And, living with a partner that can’t connect with you because they are addicted is hard on anyone. It’s important to assess what’s best for you and decide based on that. For example, if you feel much better after spending a few days at your parents or away from your partner, it’s a good sign that leaving is the right call.
You can try other steps first. Setting boundaries, detaching with love, and creating more space for yourself are all good steps. But, if you’ve tried those and still aren’t feeling good because of your partner, it may be time to leave.
Whether you’re living with your spouse or they with you, it’s important to get help before breaking things off. Kids, pets, shared living spaces, etc., are all difficult resources to manage and split up. And, if your loved one is addicted to drugs or alcohol, they may be moody and even violent when you tell them you’re leaving. That may mean involving friends and family or counselors. However, you should ensure that you have plans, a place to stay, and support for when you do try to move out. And, you should ensure that you follow up with mental health and support for yourself, simply because leaving your partner is traumatic at the best of times, let alone when you’re doing it because they are addicted to drugs or alcohol.
A divorce is an incredibly painful step, but it may be important for your mental health. However, you may also be able to take steps to get your partner into treatment, to improve your living situation at home, or to reduce the amount you see your partner. In each case, the only person who knows what’s right for your situation is you.
Asana Recovery is located in Orange County, California. and offers detox, residential, and outpatient addiction treatment services in our modern and comfortable addiction treatment facilities. Please contact us today to speak with one of our experienced addiction treatment team if you have any questions about our programs.