On our wedding day, when we say, “for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part,” we rarely picture the “for worse” scenarios. We’re thinking of the amazing memories we’ll create together – the home we’ll build, the children we’ll raise, the lives we’ll cultivate together.
While this is a wonderful stance to take on your wedding day, it’s worth it to really sit down and think about how you’ll support each other if less-wonderful things pop up in your life. What if one of you loses their job? Or if one of you is diagnosed with an illness? Or one of you is in an accident and left permanently disabled?
These are very hard things to think about when it comes to our most loved person in this world. But life isn’t all rainbows and butterflies, and preparing yourself mentally for hurdles down the road is a good way to make any hardship a little easier to overcome.
Look for early signs of addiction
One thing that couples rarely think of when they’re imagining these scenarios is the possibility of one of them battling an addiction. Sometimes there are early signs that an addiction may be brewing. For example, if you get married at 23, and your spouse binge drinks throughout your wedding, not many people would bat an eye. “They’re just being a 23-year-old!” they’d say.
However, if fifteen years later you’re at your daughter’s soccer game and your spouse gets blind drunk, there are going to be many comments made. So try to keep an eye out for any signs that your partner may have addictive tendencies. Do they like to smoke in social settings? Over the years, have they begun to smoke outside of these environments?
At parties, do they partake in taking party drugs or snorting cocaine? Have you ever found any evidence of that usage at home? Remember to look beyond the physical signs of addiction too. Do they become obsessed with a new video game, playing it for hours on end? Are their shopping habits worrisome? If they have obsessive behaviors, they may be more prone to suffer from addiction later in life, whether that be alcohol, drugs, or a non-substance addiction like gambling.
Finding evidence of an addiction
If you do notice your significant other is falling victim to some of these habits, have a light, non-accusatory conversation about their behavior. Watch their response – are they open about their behavior? Do they seem secretive or guilty about it? Do they shrug you off? Do they become angry at you broaching the subject?
Their way of response will oftentimes be more telling than their actual words. So say you’ve noticed your partner’s addictive tendencies for a few years now. You’re cleaning the garage one day and find an empty bottle of whiskey hidden behind your spouse’s work bench.
The pieces start clicking together for you. Your spouse has seemed out of it for the past few weeks – maybe they’ve been especially forgetful or tired or have been mixing up words or stories. Without jumping to any certain conclusions, take a moment to mentally, and emotionally, prepare yourself for the possibility that your spouse has a drinking problem.
Close your eyes and think of a few times when they supported you through difficult times – whether it was the loss of a loved one, being laid off at work, or maybe supporting you through your own mental health issues, like anxiety or depression. Use those memories to help you stay focused on the love for your partner, rather than shifting into feelings of betrayal or anger or sadness.
Then, next time you and your spouse are doing something alone, like going on a walk, shopping, driving, bring up the subject. Try to stick to the facts of what you found, rather than bringing in your own opinions into the mix. You can say something like:
“Honey, I just want you to know that I’m here to support you through anything. You know that, right? Well, I noticed that the last few nights you’ve been slurring your words in the evening, and yesterday I found an empty bottle hidden in the garage. Is everything okay?” Now, listen. Don’t try to think of what you’ll say next or imagine what your lives will look like from this possible addiction. Listen attentively, and respond accordingly.
Helping them find treatment
So a few scenarios could happen. They could give you a reasonable explanation that nullifies the whole situation. Use your gut to determine if you can fully trust this story, or if you want to keep digging.
They could push back or argue with you – don’t try to push them too far in this situation. You’re not a therapist, and it’s not your job to know how to handle this. Let it go, and look into other options, like hiring an interventionist or staging an intervention with your family.
Let’s explore a third option: that they break down and admit that they’ve been hiding their drinking from you for months. They know they have a problem, but they were too embarrassed to say anything to you. They want to get help but don’t know how to go about it.
In this case, you’ve just become their biggest cheerleader and ally. Reassure them that you’re here for them throughout anything that comes their way. Tell them you love them, and they no longer have to be alone in their struggles.
After this conversation, you need to act quickly. Your spouse is open to treatment right now – but they may not be tomorrow. If possible, have a few treatment options available prior, so you can immediately begin showing them to your partner.
When finding these programs, Confidant Health suggests that you try to think about what they would like in a treatment program. Do they want to stay close to you and your home? Do they have a certain treatment modality they prefer.
Do they prefer more natural or holistic approaches? If you’re not sure, check out The Exclusive Hawaii’s holistic page to get an idea of what this type of treatment includes. Remember that this process may be difficult, and there may come a time where your spouse gets cold feet. Speak words of encouragement, and tell them how proud you are of their decision to seek help.
Remind them that this treatment is an investment in themselves, and also an investment in your relationship – something that you’re so grateful for.