How to Talk to Your Spouse about Drugs

Husband talking with wife addict.

Few challenges are more difficult than when we face the prospect of talking to a family member or loved one who is struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. These issues are some of the hardest. Someone you care about very much is using a substance that will eventually kill them if they don’t stop. Addiction is one of the most striking cases of self-destruction that we will likely ever see. And it is exacerbated by the fact that they often do not want to talk to you about it or accept your help.

The National Institute on Drug Abuse estimates about 24 million in the U.S. are addicted to drugs or alcohol or a combination of the two. Just statistically speaking, many of them are going to have spouses who are worried sick about them.

What can these spouses do? How can they help? How can the spouses have the conversations they need to have to convince their loved one that it is time to get help for their drug habit?

Ten Tips for Talking to Your Spouse about Addiction

A cursory Google search will reveal endless, valuable content on how to talk to a son or daughter about a drug habit, or on how to speak to a parent about a drug habit. But there is not that much content on helping a spouse or life partner.

However, there is some valuable data that one should have before rushing in to help a husband or wife. Listed below are ten useful tips to learn in preparation for a conversation with your spouse about their drug habit or drinking problem.

  • Talk to them when they are sober. That is the golden rule of conversation with someone who struggles with a drug habit or alcoholism. And it does not only apply to spouses. This is true for discussions with anyone who struggles with a substance habit. Never try to talk to a drug user or an alcoholic about their habit when they are under the influence.
Couple talking about treatment with a mother on background.
  • Don’t be the only one striving to help your spouse. This needs to be a team effort. Get other family members involved to help convince your spouse to seek help from a treatment center. Include parents, grandparents, and even adult children if they are old enough and up to the task.
  • Make sure they understand what their drug habit is doing to them. It is crucial to get your spouse to see how their addiction is harming them. It could be physical harm, financial harm, personal harm, spiritual harm, psychological damage, behavioral difficulties, and so on. No one uses drugs and alcohol and comes out better for it. Show them how things changed for the worse.
  • Make sure they understand what their drug habit is doing to the rest of the family. Without being accusative or authoritative, make sure your spouse sees how their drug habit is harming you and the rest of the family, kids, parents, and so on.
  • Don’t ever let them convince you to use drugs or alcohol with them. Sometimes, addicted spouses will try to convince their husband or wife to use substances with them. That is highly dangerous. They’re doing it out of an effort at camaraderie, most likely, but you must never submit to this pressure. Always hold onto your sobriety and abstinence, first and foremost.
  • Don’t expect results right away. Sometimes addicts come around in the first conversation, but not always. Be prepared to have this conversation with them a few times.
  • Start working on finding your spouse an addiction treatment center to go to before you confront them on their drug habit. It would be a good idea to already have a program set up for them for when they do agree to get help.
  • Protect yourself. Do not become a martyr. Do not put yourself in a situation where you might get hurt or threatened in any way. Consider your safety first, then start working on helping your spouse.

  • Whenever the conversation comes to a close, insist that going to a residential treatment center is the right answer. Always finish out any discussion with your loved one with an insistence that they get help at a residential treatment center.
Helping spouse.
  • Be sure to help them realize that you act only out of a desire to help them, not out of a want to control them as a spouse. Sometimes, when a husband or wife suffers from a drug habit, they will reject the help their spouse tries to bring to them because they believe, erroneously, that their spouse is just trying to control them. Make sure that they see this is not the case. Make your pitch “I am trying to help you get better” from the get-go and never stray from that approach.

Helping a loved one—someone you have pledged your entire life to—to admit they have a problem and that they need to get help is a hard path to walk. We know that the addict has quite a challenge ahead, but we rarely think about the trials and challenges of the addict’s spouse.

There are going to be some challenges, but helping your closest loved one to break free from drugs and alcohol and to return to the amazing person who you fell in love with is worth it all. Keep talking to them, keep having the conversation, keep applying the above, ten principles, and they will come around soon enough. Communication is everything here. Make it very safe for them to communicate, and repeat that process until they are willing to get help.


Sources:

https://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/nationwide-trends


Reviewed and Edited by Claire Pinelli ICAADC, CCS, LADC, RAS, MCAP

AUTHOR

Ren

After working in addiction treatment for several years, Ren now travels the country, studying drug trends and writing about addiction in our society. Ren is focused on using his skill as an author and counselor to promote recovery and effective solutions to the drug crisis. Connect with Ren on LinkedIn.

NARCONON ARROWHEAD

DRUG EDUCATION AND REHABILITATION