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My Wife is a Drug Addict. Now What?

Can you help? Is it too late? Are you enabling her? Find out the truth here.

Addiction recovery and boredom You may find yourself taking your wife’s drug use personally. If you’re already considering divorce, that’s a very common feeling, too. Marriages can’t survive without teamwork, after all, and even small issues become big ones when half the team is high or unavailable. Of course, it’s also hard to trust someone who hides their drug abuse or chooses drug abuse over you.

We know you're desperate for a solution, so we want you to have the best possible advice. Below, we've shared our answers to some common, important questions about spousal drug addiction.

Can She Help It?

Drug use doesn't define anyone, but people should be accountable for their choice to use drugs and anything they do while they are high. Your wife isn't a different person just because she developed a drug habit, and she doesn't have a permanent disease that requires daily or weekly drug treatment for the rest of her life. She may need some help now to make change permanent in her life.

No matter how much you want to blame the drugs, it's important for both of you to realize that she made deliberate choices. In fact, this should be the good news. If she wants to make different choices, she has the power to do that and make that change in her substance use habits permanent.

Did I Enable Her?

"Enabling" is a word we hear too often. 12-Step drug addiction programs teach people that tough love is the only way to help family members who use drugs. If you're familiar with their approach and you've been making your wife's life easier in any way, you've probably been told you should feel guilty and complicit. Please don't.

When you took your marriage vows, you promised to support and trust her. Unless you actually supplied the drugs and forced her to take them until she was physically dependent, you are not the reason she continues to use drugs. That's true even if you actively give her money or a safe place to use; she is the one who chooses to do it, and your actions don't create new reasons for her to continue to use. She made a choice to take drugs and it's not because of or in spite of you.

How Do I Convince Her to Stop?

If you want your wife to stop using drugs, you'll need to forget about convincing, persuading, encouraging, or otherwise controlling her behaviors. She must play an active, willing role in her progress toward sobriety, and if she doesn't want to begin that progress, you can't force her into it. The results won't be long-term if the solution is short-term.

What If She Won't Stop?

Have you given her the space and information she needs, but she still hasn't made an effort to stop using? No matter what, resist the temptation to stage a group intervention. She has made her own pros and cons analysis, consciously or not, of whether to continue using drugs including the consequences. Some people decide to change for self-preservation, losing a valued career, or losing custody of the kids, but ultimately, it has to be her choice to change.

Your wife has probably faced plenty of negative consequences already, and what she needs is the desire to stop. Instead of limiting her options and forcing her hand, remind her about the countless options she's ignoring when she chooses drugs over and over again. It's ok to set limits on the behavior you can tolerate and consequences if she continues to use. You don't have to be a hostage to her choices.

If you'd like to talk to someone about a program that could help your wife change her drug habit permanently, please call one of the Family Consultants at Saint Jude Retreats. They can provide you with information on our Cognitive Behavioral Learning (CBL) program and how this transformational self-directed experience can empower your wife to move past drug use and into her happiest, most purpose filled life.

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