My Partner Has a Substance Abuse Issue – What Do I Do?

Substance abuse is a devastating problem. It often seems that there is nothing you can do to change the situation or get better.

Yet, what happens when the person with the substance abuse issue is your partner? Then that feeling of helplessness only intensifies.

There isn’t anything that you wouldn’t do to help your loved one get better. But right now, getting better feels more like a hopeful dream than reality. It seems like all you can do is just sit by and watch.

However, that doesn’t have to be the case.

Here are some ideas that you can use when your partner has a substance abuse issue.

Establish Ground Rules

It’s important that you establish firm ground rules with your partner. Even if you have been together for a while and they have had these issues, it’s never too late to start. Some examples of ground rules include:

  • Zero tolerance of substances in the home
  • Substance use is never acceptable in front of the kids-ever
  • Agreeing to consistent drug testing
  • Nobody is invited over to the home to drink or use drugs
  • Violence, whether it be physical or emotional, will not be tolerated

Be clear too what the consequences are for breaking the rules. This often involves your partner leaving the home. Let’s acknowledge that’s a hard thing to do, especially to someone you love. Yet, it’s important for them to know that you won’t accept unsafe behavior and that their actions have consequences.

Separate the Person from the Addiction

Next, when you have a loved one struggling with substance use, it helps to separate the person from the addiction. For instance, when your loved one gets intoxicated, they say really hurtful things to you. However, when they are sober, they are the exact opposite-loving, kind, and gentle.

Separating the person from the addiction allows you to focus more on the addiction as the problem. Considering your partner as the problem won’t help your relationship. Separating allows you to consider the addiction logically and rationally, rather than personally.

Communicate Appropriately

When your partner does things that are problematic, communicate appropriately. For example:

  • Avoid getting drawn into arguments that go nowhere and solve nothing
  • Refrain from using blame-and-shame language
  • Frame feedback in terms of how you feel
  • If you feel angry and not in a good space, take a break to cool down and regain composure

It’s important for your partner to know how their actions are affecting you. However, communicate in a way that allows them to better hear the feedback. Also, hold off on these intentional conversations until they have a clearer head.

Know What You Can and Can’t Control

There’s always the temptation to try to control your partner. If you can just figure out how to structure their life, then they will never be tempted to use. However, this isn’t a healthy approach for you or them. You will always be fighting a losing battle.

Your partner will, in the end, turn to substances. Plus, they will resent you for trying to control them. They will see you as part of the problem, even though you just want to help. So let go of what you can’t control. If things escalate to where you are not safe in your home, leave. Often, that is the last bit of control you have. Taking ownership of your situation and not let your partner’s actions impact your safety.

There is much that you can do to provide love and support to your partner. However, ultimately professional intervention is required to break the cycle of addiction. If you believe that your partner is struggling with addiction, find out today how addiction counseling can help, 256-686-9195.

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