Loving Your Substance Addicted Husband
Your husband drinks too much, smokes too much pot, or abuses another legal or illegal substance. Regardless of which one, you are dealing with a difficult situation that evokes a number of feelings.
It is normal to feel anger toward your husband for what he is doing while at the same time worrying about him. It is also normal to feel guilty about not being able to make him stop, and to question whether it’s somehow your fault that he’s doing it. In addition, it’s common to feel a sense of self-righteousness because you aren’t the one with the problem.
Al-Anon, the Twelve Step group for families of alcoholics, has a slogan that provides valuable guidance. It is The Three C’s: You didn’t cause it. You can’t control it. And you can’t cure it. Let’s look at what those mean for your situation.
You didn’t cause it. No matter what your husband or anyone else says, you don’t make your husband drink or use. He does it because he isn’t dealing with his own underlying painful feelings and as a result of using the substance has become dependent on it. He isn’t ready yet to deal with it, which is why he denies he has a problem and sometimes blames it on you and others. Bottom line–it’s not your fault.
You can’t control it. You’ve tried to control his substance use but trying to control it will only cause you to be obsessed with the problem which causes you to act in ways you later regret. Lecturing him, nagging him, berating him, yelling at him, threatening him, or punishing him won’t motivate him to drink or use less, and . It will only make him feel worse about himself. And, yes–even though he doesn’t show it, he does feel bad about his substance use and about his failings as a result of it. Bottom line–just like it’s not your fault, you also can’t create the perfect situation for your husband to change, and trying to do so will only run you ragged.
You can’t cure it. You can’t make your husband stop until he is ready. You can’t love him enough or nag him enough or threaten him enough. He must reach a place, sometimes called “hitting a bottom,” where he is sick and tired of the addiction and wants help.
While you can’t cure the addiction, you can consider healthy boundaries that no longer enable the use or abuse. Sometimes this happens naturally This sometimes happens through a job loss, an arrest, a financial crisis, or a health crisis.
It can also come as a result of an intervention where family members and friends confront the addict with their concerns about the addiction in a loving but firm way that lets him know what you will do if he gets help and not do if he doesn’t. The other thing that increases his chance of getting sober is for the family to get help through programs like Al-Anon, Nar-Anon or Celebrate Recovery.
Loving your substance addicted husband means you offer him compassion and love with truth. It isn’t fun to be someone who struggles with substance abuse. Be grateful you don’t have that problem. It also means that you get help for yourself so you can respond to him in ways that are healthy and helpful as well as loving.
Wife Step: If your husband drinks or uses a substance, think about how you respond to him. How are you trying to control or cure his addiction?
How can you respond to his problem differently after reading this article?
Karla Downing, the founder of ChangeMyRelationship.com, offers Christian marriage help and Christian relationship help as a speaker, author, counselor, and Bible study teacher. Karla grew up in a dysfunctional family and then found herself struggling with Christian codependency in her own difficult marriage. Through her personal struggles, she discovered biblical and practical principles, which she now teaches to others. She also trains counselors, pastors, women’s ministry leaders, church leaders, small-group leaders, non-profit ministry leaders, and individuals to minister to Christians in difficult relationships. Karla’s passion is to see individuals, marriages, and families set free from the chains of dysfunction, misunderstanding, and emotional pain through a correct understanding of what the Bible teaches about relationships.
Karla Downing is the author of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association 2004 Silver Medallion Award winner, 10 Lifesaving Principles for Women in Difficult Marriages. Her second book, When Love Hurts: 10 Principles to Transform Difficult Relationships, applies the same principles to all family members. Her third book, The Truth in the Mirror: A Guide to Healthy Self-Image, offers a unique and life-changing approach to looking at self-image.
She holds a Master of Arts in Marriage and Family Therapy from Hope International University. Karla also holds a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Arts in Communicative Disorders from California State University, Fullerton. She is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist and a licensed Speech Language Pathologist. Karla was also the director of Friends in Recovery, a Christ-based, Twelve-Step recovery program.
Karla lives in Southern California. She has been married for over thirty years and has three adult daughters.