If a spouse is abusing drugs or alcohol – whether anyone else knows about it or not – it can have disastrous results in the marriage and the family. Countless homes have been broken by drug addiction and alcoholism. “Recreational” drug use, observed by children in the household, will have a profound and lasting effect upon those children. To make a future drug addict, make drug use acceptable in the home.
If you suspect a spouse (or anyone for that matter) is using drugs, the first thing to do is come right out and ask them. You should also know some of the warning signs of drug use. There are lists of symptoms associated with specific drugs, but some general things to watch for are:
- Red or glassy eyes
- Frequent sinus congestion or illness
- Moods swings; happy and cheerful then suddenly gloomy or irritable
- Erratic or unexplainable attitudes or behavior
- Change in sleeping habits; up at night or sleeps during day
- Withdrawal from family or friends
- Neglect of personal grooming
- Loss of interest in work or hobbies
- A “nothing really matters” attitude
Getting the person to be truthful about the situation may take some coaxing. The spouse may have taken money from family funds to fuel a habit. If this person has had trouble with drug use in the past, it could be a relapse situation. The truth may be painful for all involved, but allowing secrets and lies to build up only invites disaster. Once you have established the fact of drug or alcohol abuse, what then do you do? Some steps to take are as follows:
- Intervention. This may be necessary depending on the situation. In an intervention, the individual’s family or friends step in. It is an attempt to reason with the person. You understand that he or she may feel compelled to continue the addiction, but you want them to get help and overcome it. Intervention can take on several forms, such as an ultimatum or each person involved voicing their concern. What you are going for is an impingement and a realization from the person that they need to do something about addiction.
- Communication. No matter the scenario, communication is the most vital component. In the vast majority of cases, the answer is not to cut communication. The solution is more communication. If sparks fly or tempers soar, then it means we are getting somewhere; just continue to communicate. Sooner or later things should smooth out. One key point is that each person must LISTEN and ACKNOWLEDGE. Keep it TWO-WAY communication and try to show respect for each other.
- Education. Some people do not understand the consequences of long-term drug abuse – the broken homes, the physical and psychological toll and the lives destroyed. Plenty of information exists online to educate yourself and the other person about drug abuse – including detailed descriptions of the effects of specific drugs.
- Rehabilitation. Some people need medical supervision to withdraw from physical addiction. They could be connected to dealers and other drug users and need to change environment altogether. Contact rehab professionals who can give you guidance. There are different methods of rehabilitation: Some facilities employ other drugs in the process. Whereas, other centers are more holistic and use no drugs. Many would agree that a person is much better off when they are not dependent on any drug whatsoever.
- Root causes. A person started doing drugs for a reason: Pressures from friends or associates, familial strife, career failures, physical pain, loss of a loved one; these painful memories eventually have to be dealt with. Doing so could start in the intervention or communication steps and carry on through rehabilitation. To achieve lasting success, such factors must be addressed.
Drug and alcohol abuse is one of the most damaging elements in society. A large percentage of the crimes committed and accidents suffered are drug or alcohol related. Making a drug-free society will depend on individuals taking action. Our children and the family is a good place to start!