Helping Your Spouse with Addiction
When your partner is struggling with addiction, helping them can be an emotional process. They may deny having a problem or even refuse to talk about treatment. However, expressing support and sharing your genuine concern (even if you need to do it repeatedly) may be what they need to accept the help they need.1
Read more to learn how to identify the signs of a substance use disorder (SUD) and how to help a partner who is battling an addiction.
How to Tell if Your Spouse Is Using Drugs or Alcohol
Signs that may indicate your spouse/partner may be misusing drugs or alcohol include:2
- Bloodshot eyes.
- Changes in appetite or sleep patterns.
- Lack of personal hygiene.
- Sudden weight loss or weight gain.
- Slurred speech.
- Impaired coordination.
- Unusual odors on breath, body, or clothing.
- Engaging in secretive or suspicious behaviors.
- Frequently participating in risky behaviors (driving under the influence or engaging in fights, etc.)
- Appearing fearful, anxious, or paranoid, for no obvious reason.
- Sudden mood swings, increased irritability, or angry outbursts.
The signs of substance misuse don’t necessarily indicate your spouse or partner is addicted/has a substance use disorder (SUD). An SUD diagnosis may only be made by a qualified professional.
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-5) lists specific criteria for diagnosing an SUD. Some of these include:4
- Taking the substance for long periods of time or in larger amounts than intended.
- Being unable to cut down or stop substance use despite a desire to do so.
- Spending a lot of time obtaining, using, and recovering from the substance.
- Experiencing intense cravings for the substance.
- Failing to fulfill obligations at home, work, or school because of substance use.
- Relationship problems that are caused or worsened by substance use.
- Giving up social, recreational, or occupational activities due to substance use.
- Using the substance in risky or dangerous situations.
- Continuing substance use despite having one or more physical or mental health problems caused or worsened by use.
While it is not up to you to diagnose your husband or wife with a substance use disorder, understanding the criteria can help you feel more prepared as you approach the topic of addiction and treatment with your partner.
How to Talk to My Spouse about Addiction
You may be unsure about how to start a conversation with your spouse regarding their drug or alcohol use. The first step is to approach your loved one with compassion and patience.1 Find an appropriate time and place to talk about your concerns, preferably while your partner is not intoxicated.1 It can be difficult not to get angry, especially if their behavior, while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, has made you upset in the past and you are holding onto some resentment. However, in this moment, it’s important to try and listen without showing judgment, placing blame, or attempting to shame them.1,5
You can also explain to your partner that addiction is a chronic but treatable disease, and that research shows addiction treatment can help.3 You may also offer to research rehab facilities together online and get an idea of the options available and what to expect in treatment.1
If your partner is struggling with a substance use disorder, understand that they’re fighting an illness that is chronic and relapsing and that is very strongly associated with denial.5 Your first attempt to talk to them may not go as well as you’d like. Keep trying and offer loving support without enabling their substance use. Your message may get through eventually.1
How Do I Find the Best Rehab Center for My Husband or Wife
Choosing to enter a rehab facility is a great way to start the recovery process. It is important to remember, the right kind of treatment will depend on the specific needs of your partner, including their medical history and which substances they have been using.
Typically, treatment options include:6
- Medical detox. Often the first step in addiction treatment, supervised medical detox involves the support of medical staff and the use of medications to relieve symptoms and prevent complications during withdrawal.
- Inpatient rehab. Inpatient rehab is where the patient stays at the facility day and night. The length of stay will depend on your partner’s particular needs and can range from several days to months.
- Outpatient treatment. If your partner has work or family commitments, outpatient rehab offers more flexibility with services so they can keep a relatively normal schedule.
You may not have all the answers when it comes to choosing the right rehab, and that’s okay. At Sunrise House, we can develop an individualized treatment plan that meets your partner’s needs.
How to Help Your Spouse Pay for Treatment
Figuring out how to pay for treatment should not deter you or your loved one from moving forward. It’s important to remember, many private insurance plans may cover some or most of the cost of rehab. If you are unsure what your insurance covers, you can call the number on the back of your insurance card to get help with checking your benefits, or you can simply to verify your coverage with Sunrise House.
If your partner does not have insurance, you can explore payment options the facility may offer.
You can call one of our admissions navigators to learn about our admissions process, discuss potential treatment options, and walk through your payment options. We are available 24/7 at .