Helping Your Spouse with Addiction

Helping a spouse with addiction can be a very emotional and challenging time. The good news is that addiction is treatable and there are many options to get your partner the right care. This article will help you identify signs of drug and alcohol addiction in your spouse and how to help them find a treatment program.

How to Tell if My Spouse is Abusing Drugs and Alcohol

The first step in knowing that your spouse is using drugs and alcohol is to be aware of the signs of substance use. Recognizing possible signs that your spouse may have a problem can be helpful in getting them the treatment they need as quickly as possible. In the meantime, you can utilize these signs to help decipher if your spouse might be struggling with a substance use disorder.

Some potential signs of compulsive substance use include, but are not limited to, the following:1

  • Experiencing cravings or strong urges for drugs or alcohol
  • Continuing to use substances despite the negative social and/or interpersonal consequences they are causing
  • Loss of interest or lack of participation in previously enjoyed hobbies and activities
  • Continuing to drink or use drugs in situations that are physically hazardous
  • Developing a tolerance for a substance, meaning that more of it needs to be used for the individual to experience the desired effects

Being aware of these signs can help you gain a better understanding of what your spouse may be experiencing. However, it is important to remember that an official diagnosis of a substance use disorder should come from a professional.

What is Substance Use Disorder?

Addiction—which may be characterized by the continued, compulsive use of drugs or alcohol despite adverse consequences—is a treatable medical condition.2 Substance use behavior that eventually becomes compulsive is sometimes mistakenly seen by others as a choice for the addicted individual. However, addiction—or what is professionally diagnosed as a substance use disorder—is more complex than this. Many researchers in the field assert that, over time, drug and alcohol may change the brain in ways that reinforce compulsive use, making it exceedingly difficult to quit—even when someone wants to.3

Substance use disorders are diagnosed based on the presence of several cognitive, behavioral, and physiological symptoms that indicate that a person is unable to discontinue use of the substance in question despite the problems that it causes throughout several areas in their life.1

In addition to the points mentioned above, some additional signs, or “criteria”, that professionals look for when diagnosing a substance use disorder include:1

  • Being unable to control the use of the substance
  • Making attempts to stop using but being unsuccessful in those attempts
  • Inability to complete daily responsibilities
  • Spending a great deal of time using and recovering from substances
  • Continuing to use substances despite being aware that doing so causes or exacerbates physical and/or psychological problems
  • Developing withdrawal symptoms when drugs or alcohol aren’t available or haven’t been used in a while

Depending on how many criteria an individual exhibits within a year, their substance use disorder can be diagnosed as mild, moderate, or severe.1 Again, a professional diagnosis can help determine the severity of your spouse’s substance use disorder so that they can receive the appropriate level of care.

How Do I Find the Best Rehab for My Husband or Wife?

Professional rehabilitation can successfully treat your spouse and help them manage addiction for lasting recovery. You can help with finding a treatment center for your spouse. When comparing different types of facilities, it is important to consider what types of treatment and therapies each facility offers. Most facilities offer a range of care including detoxification, inpatient treatment, and outpatient programming.

Here is a helpful list of questions to ask yourself when determining which facility is best for your spouse:4

  • What types of treatment does the facility offer?
  • Are treatment plans modified to meet the individual’s needs?
  • What are the expectations for the patient?
  • How does the facility handle relapse?

To find out this information, you can call and speak with a member of the facility’s admissions team. Gathering answers to these questions can help your spouse get closer to obtaining the care they need. Additionally, here are some other questions you can ask when looking into addiction treatment facilities for your spouse, such as:

  • Does the facility offer a variety of therapy options?
  • How does the facility address co-occurring disorders?
  • Is the facility licensed and accredited?
  • What can be expected upon entering a program at the facility?

The good news is, when you are looking for addiction treatment, there are often several helpful and knowledgeable professionals who can help guide you through this process. Be sure to ask all the questions you have so that you feel comfortable taking the next step of enrolling your spouse into a treatment facility.

How to Help My Spouse Get into Addiction Treatment

Most treatment facilities have a dedicated team to help everyone through the admissions process. At River Oaks, many of the compassionate admissions navigators have been in your spouse’s shoes and are successfully recovering from addiction themselves. They will help guide you through the admissions process and assist with finding treatment, creating a payment plan, establishing travel arrangements if necessary, and answering any other questions you and your spouse may have. For more information on River Oaks admissions, check out our admissions page.

How Do I Pay for My Spouse’s Rehab?

All healthcare Marketplace insurance plans cover substance use disorder treatment as an essential health benefit.5 However, the amount of coverage may depend on the individual health plan and whether the treatment facility is in-network with your spouse’s insurance. If you aren’t sure of what your spouse’s insurance coverage offers, check their insurance now.

If your spouse is uninsured, there may be other financing options for treatment. River Oaks admissions navigators can help you learn more about these options.

What Happens During Rehab? What Can I Expect While My Spouse is in Treatment?  

During your spouse’s stay at an inpatient program, they will have a daily itinerary that can include group and individual therapy, reflection time, recreational activities, and opportunities for socializing and forming a community with other patients. Due to the unique challenges faced by veterans/first responders, LGBTQIA+ individuals, and impaired professionals, River Oaks also offers specialty programs designed for their specific recovery needs.

You can expect a similar schedule and therapy framework for outpatient programs. One of the main differences between outpatient and residential rehab programs is where the patient lives. Residential programs require the patient to stay 24/7 at the rehab facility for the duration of treatment, while outpatient programs do not require patients to reside at the facility. Patients of an outpatient program do, however, attend treatment during the day and return home at night.6

River Oaks encourages family members to visit during the weekend and patients will have access to their cellphone during specific times throughout the day.

What Types of Care Does River Oaks Offer?

At River Oaks, we offer several different types of care to meet the needs of all our patients. These types of care include the following:

  • Medical detox – Our medical detox helps manage the physical symptoms of withdrawal that a patient can experience when they stop using the substance they are dependent on. However, despite the many benefits of medically-supervised detox, on its own it is rarely enough for addicted individuals to maintain abstinence in the long term.6 Detox can, however, serve as an ideal starting point for more comprehensive addiction treatment once the withdrawal period has been successfully managed.
  • Residential rehab – Our residential program has patients live at the facility 24/7 for the duration of their care. This level of treatment can be an excellent option for patients who have relatively intensive treatment needs or otherwise require around-the-clock care.
  • Partial hospitalization program (PHP) – Often referred to as “day treatment”, our partial hospitalization program requires patients to come to the facility for 6 hours a day, 5 days a week for treatment.
  • Intensive outpatient program (IOP) – Similar to our partial hospitalization program, our intensive outpatient program allows patients to reside at home while receiving treatment. River Oaks requires patients of the IOP to participate in 3 hours of treatment for 3 days a week.
  • Aftercare – Our aftercare program is designed to help patients continue on with their recovery after they leave treatment. To offer this support, we remain connected with patients and invite them to join our alumni community.

What Kind of Therapy Will My Husband or Wife Receive While in Rehab?

River Oaks uses a variety evidence-based behavioral therapies to treat addiction. Examples of the various forms of therapies available at River Oaks include:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) – Cognitive behavioral therapy is a widely practiced therapeutic technique used to address a range of mental/behavioral health issues including anxiety, depression, eating disorders, and addiction.CBT can be used to identify and change negative and incorrect thought patterns driving addictive behavior. Patients learn coping skills to manage triggering situations and can develop confidence in their own ability to stay sober.8
  • Motivational interviewing (MI) – This treatment focuses on increasing internal motivation for recovery and sobriety within each patient. It is a great tool for keeping the momentum for change rolling both during and after treatment.9
  • Family therapy – Family therapy invites families to work together on their interpersonal relationships with one another as well as recognize and revise their behavioral patterns as a unit.10

In addition to these behavioral therapies, River Oaks also offers medications for addiction treatment, wellness groups, skill building, art and music therapy, recovery-oriented challenge therapy, and onsite 12-Step programs.

Supporting My Spouse’s Long-Term Recovery: How Can I Help?

It is important to know that relapse can be a part of the healing process, even after treatment. Since addiction is a chronic condition, recovery is something your spouse may likely need to work on for their entire life. Relapse after treatment doesn’t mean that your spouse is a failure or that the treatment program was ineffective, however it can be an indication that something within the treatment plan isn’t working and needs to be adjusted.

While much of the focus may be on your spouse and their recovery, it is also important to make sure you are taking care of yourself during this time. Helping a spouse with addiction can be distressing and taxing on a partnership, and it is important that you practice self-care.11 Helpful resources for spouses of individuals with substance use disorders include Al-Anon, Nar-Anon, and Families Anonymous.

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