In the US alone, it’s estimated that around 1.2 million people file for divorce every year. It’s believed that addiction is a contributory cause of a significant portion of these divorces.
Addiction affects marriage in a multitude of ways. The spouse affected by addiction is likely to struggle to function in a way that’s needed to sustain a marriage. Holding a marriage together isn’t always easy and challenges will naturally occur along the way. If one spouse is incapable of meeting these challenges due to addiction, then the non-addicted spouse is well within his or her right to walk away.
Addiction typically means a person is unable to hold down work or to correctly care for children. Both of these duties are essential ‘adult’ functions. When a spouse is dysfunctional due to his or her addiction, cracks in the marriage will soon begin to show their ugly face. Addiction is well known for inflicting chaos upon the lives it directly and indirectly affects and the marriage contract is no exception to this rule.
Often the spouse of an alcoholic or drug addict will endure this suffering for some time before he or she decides to file for divorce. It’s important to stress that each and every one of us can only endure so much hardship and so the option of divorce will become more and more inevitable if professional addiction treatment is not sought out.
If you are the spouse of an alcoholic, it’s likely you will issue an ultimatum to your partner at some point in the near future: either to choose you or the drugs/alcohol. Alas, it’s all too common for the addicted spouse to choose the latter. Whether your spouse’s decision to choose substances over you may or may not result in divorce, depending on what you decide to do.
It’s also not uncommon for an addicted spouse to go through a divorce, lose everything along the way and then continue to deny that he or she is an alcoholic/drug addict. This level of denial is beyond the realms of common sense, yet it is surprisingly common.
It’s also important to understand that addiction is a progressive disorder. It’s impossible to wake up one day and ‘catch’ and an addiction. Instead, an addiction to drugs or alcohol develops over many years. It’s likely your spouse did not suffer from an addiction when you first got together. Because addiction develops over many years, it’s sometimes difficult to notice its development until its too late.
Watching your spouses descent into the chaos that is drug and alcohol dependency will likely make you feel powerless and frustrated. These negative feelings will be compounded if your spouse denies he or she even has a problem that needs tackling.
Due to a condition that’s known as co-dependency, it’s also common for one spouse to unconsciously enable the other party’s addiction. When you seek out professional drug and alcohol treatment for your spouse, it’s likely the treatment providers you contact will raise the issue of co-dependency early on to ensure this is tackled during drug and alcohol rehab treatment.
The many faces of addiction
Addiction is caused by dopamine release in the brain. Because dopamine is released by many different stimuli, addiction manifests itself in many different ways too.
Most people in society associate addiction with drug and alcohol use. However, it’s also possible that your spouse could be addicted to sex, gambling, computer gaming or internet pornography. If your spouse suffers from a behavioural addiction, you may be frustrated by the lack of treatment options available to him or her. You may even begin to wish that your spouse did suffer from drug or alcohol addiction rather than a behaviour addiction because at least he or she would then have available a greater number of treatment options.
If your spouse does suffer from a behavioural addiction, do not despair. Today, there exists many treatment options for behavioural addictions and you will surely locate a suitable treatment provider if you look hard enough.
Is addiction guaranteed to end my marriage?
The good news is that addiction is not a death sentence for your marriage. Whilst many marriages do not survive addiction, it’s equally true that many more marriages could be saved if addiction treatment is sought at the first possible opportunity.
It’s likely that you still love your spouse, and so we feel saving your marriage has to be something that’s worth investing in. Addiction is considered to be an illness. Although we feel those affected by addiction did not choose this fate, these people do have the choice to fight back by undergoing addiction treatment.
It’s also important to realise that the threat of divorce is seldom enough to motivate your spouse to stop his or her addictive behaviour.
Seeking out addiction treatment for your spouse
Unquestionably your best option is to seek out professional addiction treatment for your spouse. Today, there exists a variety of inpatient and outpatient addiction treatment options for your spouse to select from. Inpatient rehab is by far the most effective means of overcoming an addiction. Here, your spouse will be removed from his or her home to undergo a residential rehab programme. Rehab programmes typically run over a four-week period.
If your spouse is unwilling to attend an inpatient rehab clinic, then you may have to settle for an outpatient programme. A common form of outpatient addiction treatment is addiction counselling. It’s also common to mix addiction counselling with other forms of counselling such as marriage/family and trauma counselling.
Another option is for your spouse to attend a 12-step mutual support group such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous or Gamblers Anonymous. These self-help groups exist to help your spouse through peer support and spiritual awakening. We typically recommend mutual support groups for people who are also benefiting from evidence-based treatment available through inpatient rehabs or outpatient counselling/therapy.
A number of groups also exist to offer support to family members of those experiencing addiction. The most well-known organisation in this category is Al-Anon. Al-Anon was founded by the wife of Bill Wilson, Lois W. Bill founded Alcoholics Anonymous in 1938. Bill’s wife, Lois W, founded Al-Anon in the early 1950s because she felt there was a need to support family members of those experiencing addiction due to her own experiences with Bill’s alcoholism. We link to a number of these organisations in the resource section below.
What is addiction intervention?
If your spouse is unwilling to accept the fact that help is needed, you may consider staging a professional intervention. An interventionist is typically an addiction therapist. The interventionist will arrive at your home and attempt to educate your spouse about the signs and symptoms of addiction. An attempt will be made to help your spouse overcome denial and thus begin a more formal programme of addiction treatment.
Before your spouse is ready to admit up to his or her addiction, it’s also important that you yourself acknowledge that help is needed. It’s likely that you could be unconsciously enabling your spouse’s addiction. This is known as co-dependency. The interventionist will also assess your behaviour and views as it relates to your spouse’s addiction and then the interventionist will recommend co-dependency therapy if needed.
- Al-Anon Family Groups UK & EIRE
- Online Al-Anon
- Alcoholics Anonymous
- Narcotics Anonymous
- Gamblers Anonymous UK