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How Can I Talk to a Spouse About Their Substance Use?

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Addiction is a disease that affects entire families, and there is no easy way to approach a spouse about their use of drugs or alcohol. Families can also be some of the most influential voices for change, and one’s support and understanding are instrumental in creating the groundwork for transformation. 

Talking to one’s spouse about substance use is a complex but necessary part of recovery. Educating oneself before approaching the situation can create the most impactful path toward a loved one’s sobriety. 

The Need to Talk

It is normal to avoid difficult emotional conversations, and approaching a spouse about their use of drugs or alcohol is filled with feelings of uncertainty. Addiction is a disease that will continue to develop until addressed. One may engage with more problematic substances, such as moving from marijuana to more potent street-level drugs or moving from drinking beer to harder liquors. 

Individuals’ frequency of use may also increase if they continue to use unaddressed, moving from occasionally engaging with these substances to using weekly or daily. There will come a time for change, and it is crucial to talk to loved ones about their substance use before more self-destructive effects manifest, such as injury, illness, or legal issues. 

While talking to a loved one about addiction is necessary, it is not easy. Taking time to prepare and approach the situation correctly can make a huge difference in getting the best result from the conversation. 

Take a Breath

Noticing symptoms of addiction in a loved one is a harrowing experience, and it is common to want to jump in as soon as possible to help. Approaching a loved one about addiction is a very delicate topic, and going into it without a plan can cause more harm than good. 

Before talking to a spouse about addiction, it is important to breathe and calm oneself to avoid acting rashly on emotional impulses. Taking this moment is crucial for ensuring a clear mind and communicating effectively. It enables people to say what they mean to say and support a loved one rather than feeling overtaken by emotions, stress, or any pent-up resentments that a spouse’s addiction may have birthed. 

Rehearse Your Dialogue

Before talking to a loved one, it is essential to rehearse what needs to be said. There can be many swirling emotions whenever addiction is discussed. Planning can ensure that these topics are addressed honestly and adequately when a discussion takes place. 

This strategy also helps individuals maintain a softer, more supportive tone throughout the difficult conversation. A soft-voice approach rather than confrontational language can help one’s message of support ring clear. It also aids in avoiding unnecessary antagonistic tendencies that may hinder one’s role as a support for the recovery ahead. 

Preparation can also help avoid language that may infantilize an individual. There is a big difference between caring for someone and supporting them on their recovery journey. Avoiding belittling or accusative language is crucial for maintaining one’s role as a support. 

Use Evidence

Addiction carries a heavy emotional impact on those suffering from the disease and their loved ones. When discussing a spouse’s use of drugs or alcohol, it is crucial to keep the conversation focused on objective evidence rather than innate emotional responses. Discussing exact dates or events where the use of these substances hindered or negatively affected another is much more impactful than creating a more metaphysical, emotional confrontation. 

Evidence including the location of hiding spots for drugs or alcohol, receipts of one’s use, changes in finances, and other evidence can transform the conversation into a spouse facing the reality of their use rather than an argument between loved ones themselves. 

Know Your Goal

Confronting a spouse about their substance use can involve several different goals. For some, necessary rehab and professional detox may be the best route to healing. In contrast, others may want to open up a dialogue to understand how use affects their daily lives. 

The goal of these conversations is not just to help a spouse find the recovery program or care they need, but for them to realize and want recovery for themselves. Attending a rehabilitation program without desiring sobriety or understanding why they are there in the first place can lead to tremendous unnecessary resistance, whereas choosing to pursue recovery for themselves creates a more powerful resolve.

Have Opportunities Researched and Ready

A spouse deciding to acknowledge and pursue sobriety is a momentous occasion, and it is vital to be prepared to support a loved one during these first steps. Having pre-researched local and appropriate facilities, the programs and amenities offered, and even pamphlets or websites ready can help a spouse choose for themselves, all while supporting them each step of the way.    

Talking to a loved one about addiction is a complicated and fragile situation, and such a delicate scenario carries a lot of weight. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, located in Santa Ana, CA, we understand the need for a definite, educated approach to help your loved one get the help they need to address their use of drugs and alcohol, as well as the physical, mental, and emotional impacts of their use. We offer various programs, ranging from detox to residential and ongoing intensive outpatient care, all ready to help meet your loved one’s needs and goals for a sober future. Our programs can be personalized to fit each person’s unique needs, with various proven therapeutic approaches all available and backed by our small, intimate, and supportive atmosphere. For more information on how we can help you, call us today at (714) 492-1119.

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