When You Are Married to an Addict, Divorce May Be the Best Choice
by Mark Danson
Being the spouse of an addict is draining. You have to cope with the changes in your husband or wife and pick up the slack. Plus, you spend a lot of time covering for them because you don’t want the people around you to know what is happening, which means you are dealing with all of this in isolation. Because you are legally bound to them, you are faced with their growing irrationality, lying, cheating, and a host of other unacceptable behaviors, even violence in some cases.
Plus, you are responsible for any costly problems they cause. If they get a DUI, you are the one driving to pick them up or going to the hospital. You must pay the fines and cover any property damage. If your spouse loses their job because of their addiction, you are the one who will have to pay for everything until he or she can get back on their feet. It’s your sweat equity and hard-earned money that is compensating for their behavior.
The entire time you are wrangling your spouse to maintain your family’s stability, you are aware of what they are doing and it is the most frustrating thing anyone can deal with. You end up trying to make them look at what they are doing and explain it. You want them to show that they love you by getting sober. You want your life back and you hold them accountable for ruining everything.
Addiction is chronic, which means there is no cure, and it is progressive, which means that it will get worse. The best solution for this problem is to get your spouse into a rehab program that will teach them the skills they need to obtain sobriety and maintain it in the future. But, the addiction tells your husband or wife that they don’t have a problem. The addiction obscures that reality because seeing the truth would lead to the end of the addiction.
You will begin thinking the only options available to your family are continued addiction and rehab. In your heart, you will believe that these options will surely lead to your loved one choosing rehab. But, that may not be the case. Then, you must choose between divorce and living with an addict.
There should never be a situation where you threaten divorce to get someone into rehab if you have no plan of following through with it because failing to divorce after threatening it robs you of all credibility in the eyes of the addict and leaves you with no recourse. However, if you are legitimately considering it, you should bring it up. For some addicts, a pending divorce will signify their rock bottom and they will get help. You just need to know that they may refuse rehab and in that situation, you need to get a divorce.
This is a hard decision to make and not one that should be reactionary. Your entire life will change and you will have to let the people around you in on the secret you have been keeping and the pain you have been handling. That alone will cause considerable stress. In addition, you must accept that your spouse will continue using in your absence and without you to pick up the pieces, their life will quickly deteriorate. Those are just a few of the issues you face, but they are often much less destructive than remaining married to an addict.
If you are considering divorce, find a counselor or therapist that will help you work through your feeling. You want to make a thoughtful decision. Share what you are contemplating with a few people that you trust and get their input. In the end, the decision is yours, and it can be the one that saves your life. If it is right for you, don’t beat yourself up or feel like a failure. You are a survivor.
Mark Danson divorced his wife of 16 years when it became clear her alcoholism would continue indefinitely unless something changed. Though difficult at the time, he considers it the best decision he could have possibly made. He divides his time between his work as a marketing manager and as a writer for Rehab Centers, a community resource that provides information, guides, and a complete directory of rehab centers located throughout the United States.