By Carly Benson

Mother-son quarrelSubstance abuse is a rapidly growing epidemic, and it impacts relationships between friends and family. It can be particularly disheartening when your spouse or partner develops a chemical dependency.

Realizing that your partner is struggling with an addiction of any kind can be very confusing and painful. It’s important in these situations to understand how to help your partner but also protect yourself. Knowing how to support them while not sacrificing yourself is key.

In the best-case scenario, your partner seeks treatment and enters into recovery immediately. However, it’s not always that easy. Often relationships suffer through many ups and downs on the long path toward recovery. Some make it through the hard times and others experience fall out.

Here are some key ways you can protect yourself through the process:

Practice Self-Care

It can seem counterintuitive to take time out for yourself when someone you love is in crisis, but if you’re not healthy, you can’t help. Remember that you cannot pour from an empty cup. So take care of yourself. Get your rest. Prayer, mediation, yoga, working out, going for walks or taking baths can help you stay centered as you navigate these rough waters. The more balanced you are, the more you can take action from a powerful place. And create a support system. Enlist friends and family to remind you to practice self-care even when life gets chaotic.

Set Healthy Boundaries

When someone close to you is dealing with an addiction of any kind, it is important that they understand what you will and will not tolerate. Firmly present your partner with the boundaries you need in your relationship so that you can honor yourself. Ensuring your needs are met and resentment doesn’t creep into your already fragile relationship will help as you move through the substance abuse issue together. Don’t be afraid to consult a professional counselor if you need help defining boundaries.

Offer and Encourage Activities That Foster Recovery

Staying compassionate and respectful is of the utmost importance. We don’t ever want to shame, guilt or lash out at our partner as they are struggling. Therefore, it’s important to stay encouraging and focus on solutions.

True recovery means going beyond stopping the use of substances and looking at all the underlying issues of an addiction. Once this is understood by someone dealing with a substance use disorder, it can be a pivotal moment. Recovery will help them to face off with their thinking and behavioral patterns to identify issues and create solutions.

Encouraging your partner to stay engaged with therapy, support groups, aftercare and sober activities can make a world of difference in helping them to sustain their recovery.

Love and Support Your Partner Without Enabling Them

This is perhaps the hardest and trickiest part of the equation when it comes to helping your partner without enabling them. What this means is that we must create balance inside of our love and support mechanisms. Things to watch for and practice to avoid enabling would be:

  • Don’t make excuses for your partner or blame situations for their behavior.
  • Leave their messes for them to clean up, which goes for messes around the house and messes at work, for example.
  • Don’t ignore or avoid their behaviors, especially those that could be dangerous.
  • Prioritize your own needs and boundaries before those of your partners and ensure you are not neglecting your needs in any way.
  • Move forward with your plans even if your partner cannot because of their substance issue. For example, if you planned to go to dinner with friends and your partner is too drunk to go, you should still go.
  • Avoid doing simple tasks for your partner that they can easily do for themselves, such as paying bills or doing their dishes.

At the end of the day, understand that you can support your partner through their substance abuse and help get them into recovery, but you ultimately can’t do the work for them. It’s not your responsibility, no matter how much you love them, to try to control their lifestyle choices.

Seek Help

Helping a loved one who is struggling with substances is not an easy task. It takes a lot of patience, compassion and boundary setting. The good news is that recovery is possible and attainable for those who are willing and ready to make changes in their lives.

If your partner, boyfriend or husband is battling with substance abuse, help is available and support is a phone call away. The most important thing to remember is that you are not alone and seeking help is highly encouraged.