Advice for You if Your Loved One is an Addict

January 23, 2012

Does your spouse, partner, or loved one suffer from an addiction? If so it is imperative that they receive proper professional help from an experienced health care provider with expertise in treating addictions. However, this article is not about your loved one; it is about you. If your family member is an alcoholic, a drug addict, a gambling addict, a porn addict, or any other type of addict, then it is very likely that you are going to need support.

Addiction treatment is often a long and difficult process, not only for the addict, but also for their loved ones. In recovery the addict is attempting to make many serious and significant changes in his/her life, and these changes will seriously affect those around him/her. While these changes are often healthy and potentially life-saving, they are not always easy for everyone to accept. You will also need help to heal from all the damage that has been done by the addiction itself. It is for these reasons that you need help through this experience as well.

When their spouses begin addiction treatment and therapy, partners do different things. Some simply decide to leave the relationship because the damage has been so great. Some do not leave, but they decide to stay and wait for their partner to “get fixed”. When they are “fixed”, the spouse feels that the relationship can resume. However, the best results occur and the relationships have the best chance for survival when the partner decides to seek out support for him/herself. This support can take many forms.

Some spouses go into therapy themselves to work on their own issues, and to try to gain insight into why they were in such a destructive relationship in the first place. Some join a therapy group. The members of these groups are other partners of addicts who are struggling through similar situations and experiences. These groups are led by therapists who are experienced with these issues. In addition there are 12-step groups and fellowships that work specifically with the partners of addicts. For the families and loved ones of alcoholics there is Al-Anon. For drug addicts there is Nar-Anon. For sex and porn addicts there is S-Anon and Co-SLAA. These 12-step groups are free. You simply need to do some research to discover where they meet in your particular area (see information below). Sometimes it is difficult to find Nar-Anon and S-Anon meetings in some areas. If this is the case, I will often send people to Al-Anon meetings no matter what kind of addiction their loved one suffers. Al-Anon has been around a long time and the support there tends to be very strong and powerful. Below you will find links to the national websites for these organizations. If you wish to find more local resources, then do an online search using the name of the organization and your area.

There may be specific websites dedicated to the meetings and fellowships in your area.

Addiction treatment and recovery can be a long and difficult process.

When an addict finally gets sober, their life and the lives of those around them gets better, but it also can get harder. Change, even positive change, is never easy. That’s why you need support as well. Do not forget that there is always hope. Things can get better. Sometimes we just need the help of those around us for that hope to be realized. In recovery your addict will learn that that s/he cannot heal without assistance. The same lesson is true for spouses, partners, and loved ones.

Jordan Lief, PsyD is a Former Staff Therapist at Council for Relationships.