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How Can I Talk to My Spouse About Their Use?

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There is no easy, comfortable way to approach a conversation about drugs, alcohol, or addiction. While those suffering from the disease may feel they are doing so in isolation, addiction affects entire families. Talking to spouses about drug or alcohol use is essential for facilitating the necessary change. 

While this discussion can be wrought with vulnerability and high emotions, preparing for the conversation can empower each individual to approach their spouse in a calm and educated manner, transforming this conversation from a confrontation to a declaration of support. By helping a spouse understand the effects of addiction and the importance of pursuing a dedicated detox program, individuals can begin the journey to recovery as a unified front.

Silence Isn’t an Option

Addiction is a truly devastating disease and talking about its effects is very difficult. Emotions are often intense, and mood swings, anger, and anxiety that often stem from the use of alcohol or drugs can make these conversations even more fragile. While it can be tempting to avoid these conversations due to their intense nature, or to avoid angering or stressing a spouse suffering from addiction, avoiding this conversation does more harm than good. 

Addiction is a disease that will continue to develop until addressed. As a person continues to engage with drugs and alcohol, their tolerance, intensity, and frequency of use will increase, bringing more emotional and physical damage. Talking about addiction is a necessary step toward change. Approaching the conversation with the right mindset and strategies is paramount for being the catalyst for a spouse’s sober future. 

Take Time to Calm Down

While talking with a spouse about their use of drugs or alcohol is necessary, it is important to approach the topic calmly. Addiction presents a myriad of stresses for those suffering from the disease as well as their family, friends, and coworkers. It is common for even innocuous questions about their use to be interpreted as personal criticisms or attacks. A calm voice and atmosphere are necessary to challenge these ideas. Some may want to jump into a conversation as a result of a spouse’s mistake made while under the influence of these substances, typically while emotions are already running high. Yet, this more confrontational approach also comes with its risks. 

Taking time to calm down and approach the topic with intention is crucial. Practicing breathing techniques and scheduling a time to address the situation provide an individual with ample time to calmly prepare themselves. Maintaining a soft voice and carefully choosing and rehearsing carefully chosen words are all essential for effective conversation. 

Pay Attention to the Environment

Environment plays a large role in the atmosphere of these conversations. Hosting a discussion in a communal, open space can eliminate unnecessary stresses or prevent a spouse from feeling unfairly attacked. Eliminating unnecessary noise, silencing phones, and ensuring a private space all add a necessary feeling of security while addressing this vulnerable topic. 

Use Evidence, Not Emotions

Discussions about addiction are complicated, and those suffering from the disease may lie or divert attention away from their use to defend themselves. Approaching a conversation about a spouse’s use using evidence is instrumental in creating a more effective, open conversation. Rather than confronting an individual on a personal level, the use of evidence changes the conversation by having a spouse confront their own use of drugs or alcohol, rather than feeling like an interpersonal conflict. 

Finding bottles or drugs that were hidden or in the trash, marking days when they were unable to go to work or tend to responsibilities, and any other identifiable effects of addiction can all be used to address the issue based on evidence rather than emotional stress. 

Set Expectations

Opening a dialogue about addiction and recovery is only part of the process. Having a goal for the conversation is just as important. For some, this can mean having an individual commit to a detox program. Others may want to introduce certain recovery centers and encourage a spouse to analyze their relationship with drugs or alcohol and research local detox facilities on their own. 

Having information already prepared on specific detox facilities can encourage a spouse to make the decision to pursue sobriety themselves rather than feeling like they are being forced into it. Web pages, pamphlets, or a notebook of information on programs, amenities, and therapeutic approaches can all open this important conversation. Having a set goal for the conversation also allows the ability to ensure that the discussion stays on topic, even if a spouse is trying to divert attention away from such a difficult conversation. 

Provide Support

Being a resource for a spouse’s recovery is instrumental. Being supportive of change makes a huge difference. Offering to provide transportation, help with insurance forms, and explore facilities are all supportive actions to be an ally on the recovery journey.

Talking to a spouse about their use of drugs or alcohol is a very difficult thing to do, but it is also necessary to begin the healing process and facilitate change. At Pacific Sands Recovery Center, we understand addiction is a family disease, affecting each family member in a unique way. We are committed to helping you and your loved ones heal together while maintaining a supportive family unit. From developing personalized recovery techniques to challenge addiction, to providing additional education and support at home, we champion the ability to heal as a family. We can help you approach a conversation with your spouse about addiction and continue to support the healing of the entire family. For more information on how we can help you, call to speak to a caring, trained staff member about your needs today at (949) 426-7962.


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    Andrew N.
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