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Spouse Intervention

Spouse Intervention

Being married to an addict can be an incredibly difficult situation to handle. Often times, the spouse of the addicted person will become codependent and enabling without meaning to, and this can make breaking the cycle so much harder. All of the energy and focus in the relationship goes to the addicted individual all of the time, and their spouse will forget to take care of themselves in their struggle to keep the consequences for their loved one at bay. But how do you know when is the right time for a spouse intervention?

Addiction Intervention

Addiction intervention is the process of getting together with family members to have a face to face discussion with someone who is abusing a substance such as alcohol or drugs. Often times, families will elect to have a professionally trained person in the room who is there to help those present stay on topic, and to remain positive rather than accusatory. Those who struggle with addiction are often in denial about their situation or too embarrassed to seek treatment.

Another reason that substance abuse can be so destructive is that the person who is engaged in addictive behavior doesn’t realize how strongly their addiction is affecting everyone else around them. An intervention is designed to enlighten the abuser by showing them how their use of drugs or alcohol affect others, and how widely spread the damage can be.

They are also usually set up to have one of two outcomes:

  1. Seeking treatment. The first goal of intervention would be that the addicted person would see the effect their addiction is having on their loved ones, as well as their own life, and would seek treatment for their addiction voluntarily.
  2. Taking a stand. The second part in an intervention is to make it very clear to the loved one involved that family members will no longer be accomplices to the addiction. If they do not want to take sobriety into their own hands, then the only other option available is for family members to remove themselves from the situation.

The best time to plan an intervention would be when the addicted person will be the most at ease, particularly because they are rarely aware that the intervention is happening, and the surprise will already make them feel defensive. If they are high or coming down from a high, it will be very difficult to achieve the results that the family is looking for. It is common for those involved in the addiction intervention to write letters to the addicted person, telling them about how their addiction is affecting them in their daily life.

Planning a Spouse Intervention

Staging and planning a spouse intervention is never easy or comfortable, but confronting your spouse or partner is arguably one of the most difficult situations. Your spouse or partner always knows all of the right buttons to push to make you feel hurt, angry or guilty and it is very possible that they will use that knowledge to try and alleviate their discomfort during the spouse intervention. This is one of the reasons that having a trained professional mediator present during your spouse intervention can be very helpful. They represent a neutral party for both you and your loved one, and can help keep the atmosphere from getting negative and unproductive.

It is extremely important to stand your ground and make sure that the addicted individual understands that you mean what you say. Set a goal for the conversation about what you would like the outcome to be, and make sure you stick with it until you get resolution. It is also important to make sure that the person you are intervening on behalf of understands that there will be consequences for future negative behavior and make sure you stick to those consequences and don’t get sucked back into their self-destructive behavior.

The spouse of an addict will often be an unknowing party that enables their partner to continue with their self-destructive behavior.

It could be any number of ways, such as:

  • Threatening to take action against the negative behavior, but never following through.
  • Buying drugs for your loved one so they won’t go out and buy their substances themselves, in an attempt to regulate their use.
  • Covering bills or legal fees that would normally be your partner’s responsibility.
  • Lying to employers when your spouse misses work because they were abusing their substance of choice.
  • Covering for your partner with family or friends, or making excuses for their behavior.
  • Going out to the bar with your spouse to make sure they don’t drive home drunk, even if it’s affecting your health or career.
  • Covering for your partner with your children by saying that they are “sick with the flu” when they are actually hungover.

When it comes to having a spouse struggling with addiction, it can be very difficult to take action, like with a spouse intervention. The financial strain, legal problems, lying, communication issues, episodes of aggression, unpredictable mood swings and inability to help out with household obligations can quickly create a tension between you and your loved one. It is important that you stop enabling them or offering excuses for them. They need to be accountable for their actions, and you need to make sure that you are taking care of yourself and any immediate family members that may be directly affected (such as children).

Staging Your Intervention

When you do decide that it’s time to move forward with an addiction intervention, it is important that you not rush into it. You will want to make sure that you have everything in place, and that your intervention will be productive and successful. There are a few things that you will want to make sure you have ready before you begin the spouse intervention or addiction intervention.

Some things to consider before the intervention:

  • Pick your people. You do not want to go into this intervention alone. More likely than not, you’ve already tried talking to your spouse and gotten nowhere. With just the two of you, it’s your word against theirs and as a result, you’re not likely to make much headway. You will want to choose at least 2-3 other people aside from yourself to intervene with you. The best choices are close friends, family members or coworkers who have seen the damage caused for themselves.
  • Get help. Look into having a professional come and help you through your intervention. They will help you make sure you have all the tools and talking points you need, and can help set the proper tone for your intervention.
  • Be prepared. Get together with your team so that you are all on the same page, and you’re all able to speak knowledgeably about your spouse and their addiction. Practice what you’re going to say to make sure it carries the right message, and that you’re clear and to the point.
  • Don’t judge. When writing your letter or practicing what you’d like to say to your loved one, try to omit using words or tones that come across as confrontational. Your tone can mean the difference between success and failure when it comes to your intervention.
  • Be stealthy. Even though it may seem a little cruel, sneaky or dishonest, the element of surprise is one of your greatest assets during your intervention. If your spouse knows it’s coming, they may prepare a defensive argument or even avoid showing up.
  • Set your goal. Safe to say, the ultimate goal of an intervention is to facilitate your loved ones need to seek treatment. Usually it is best to have a treatment option lined up before the intervention that is prepared to take your loved one as soon as your intervention is complete. This will eliminate any cold feet they may have about entering a rehab program after “sleeping” on it.
  • Stand your ground. While making threatening remarks or ultimatums will likely have a counterproductive effect, you do need to make sure that your loved one understands there are consequences for their actions, and you stand by them. If they refuse treatment, you need to have a plan in place for what your next step will be in the addiction process. Whether that is family interaction, living situation or your relationship as a whole, you need to be strong in your conviction to show that you will act in whatever way you see fit to overcome the role of addiction in your life.

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