My Spouse Needs an Intervention
As a spouse of someone dealing with an addiction, you might notice that something seems a little “off” with your spouse. You might even suspect that your spouse is dealing with a drug or alcohol addiction, but you can’t seem to put your finger on whether it’s recreational use, a reaction to stress, or if it’s a real problem. Many spouses don’t intervene right away, if at all, because they don’t know exactly what to look for. Even when they recognize obvious symptoms, they may not know how to approach the problem. Often, shame and embarrassment drive the spouse’s addiction deeper, making it even more challenging to bring the issue out into the open. Such denial confuses the problem for the intervening spouse even more.
Knowing and accepting that addiction will worsen without treatment and recovery should be a motivating factor in leading your spouse to overcome addiction. You won’t want to wait until your spouse has been involved in a tragedy to intervene. The first step to an effective intervention is recognizing the signs and symptoms of addiction. The second step is knowing how to intervene. The following describes the signs and symptoms of addiction and how to intervene to help your spouse recover.
The words “signs” and “symptoms” are often lumped together, but they have two distinct meanings. A sign is something that other people notice. A symptom is something a person experiences. For example, bloodshot eyes may be a sign of sleeplessness, suddenly falling asleep or being unable to fall asleep are symptoms of insomnia. People dealing with addictions will have signs and symptoms of addictions. Signs and symptoms are often subtle and difficult to detect. There can be other variables that make substance dependence difficult to notice including:
• Individual metabolism
• Family history/genetics
• Personal circumstances
• Individual coping ability
It’s generally best to trust your instincts. If you think something is wrong, it probably is. Let’s review some of the common signs and symptoms of addiction.
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF SUBSTANCE ADDICTION
Secrecy and Solitude-Many addicts find times and places to abuse substances when they are alone or away from family or friends. They don’t want to face judgment or feel shame. They feel like others don't understand their desire to use drugs or alcohol and they don’t want to stop. It’s easier to hide the addiction than to deal with relationships honestly.
Denial-Some addicts don’t believe they have a problem. They don’t feel that using drugs or alcohol is the wrong thing to do. They mistakenly think they can control it so that it doesn’t affect other areas of their lives. Minimizing the habit or denying that it’s a problem becomes an internal coping strategy for continuing the habit.
Relationship Struggles-the person may struggle with relationships with the spouse, friends, co-workers, and other family members.
Dropping Activities-Spouses struggling with addiction may pull away from sports or other activities that they formerly enjoyed.
Stashing, Maintaining Supply, Financial Sacrifice-People who struggle with addiction make sure they keep a good supply of their substance. They may stash small quantities away in different parts of their home, car, or workplace. They may work their habit into their budget or make other financial sacrifices to support their habit. They may develop an obsession with how to continually get more.
Social or Recreational Sacrifices-Substance abusers avoid activities where they can’t use, especially for cigarette smokers or alcoholics where some amount of substance use is socially acceptable.
Risk-taking and Legal Problems-Substance abuse impair judgment. The person may take risks that they wouldn’t take otherwise like speeding, driving under the influence, or rolling stop signs. Some people will take risks to support their habit, like stealing or trading sex for money or drugs, which gets them into legal trouble.
Continues Using Although Obvious Health Risks-The person continues the addiction despite developing physical or medical symptoms, like developing a heart or lung condition from smoking or having visible needle marks on their arms.
Changes in Sleeping and Eating Habits-The addict may have cravings and suddenly put on weight due to increased appetite. They may also get constipation or diarrhea or have insomnia.
Withdrawal Symptoms-When, the substance abuser, tries to quit the habit, certain body levels of that substance drop. This causes physical symptoms such as cravings, moodiness, ill temper, poor focus, depression, frustration, anger, bitterness, and resentment. Severe cases of withdrawal can trigger violence, trembling, seizures, hallucinations, and sweats.
HOW A SPOUSE CAN INTERVENE?
Your spouse may not need a full-fledged intervention. If your spouse has acknowledged having an addiction and wants help, but is not able to stop on his own, getting him or her enrolled in a treatment program may get your spouse on the road to recovery. Fountain Hills Recovery has counselors standing by to help.
At first, it may be a little frightening to think about intervening with your spouse’s addiction, but the success rate of interventions is strong. According to the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence, when interventions are done by trained and experienced interventionists, over 90% of people make a commitment to get help. Take the following steps to proceed with an intervention:
1. Consult an Addiction Professional
The first step in the intervention process is for the family and friends to educate themselves about the subject of addiction. When those who care about the addicted person’s well-being come together with the common goal of intervention, they share information and support one another. An addiction professional at Fountain Hills Recovery can give you the information and support that you need to arrange a successful intervention. The addiction professional will consider the individual’s circumstances and offer guidance about the best approach.
2. Decide Whether You Will Use an Interventionist
Deciding to use a trained interventionist is a personal decision. It’s possible to do an intervention without a professional when you are educated and informed how to do it, though it is sometimes preferable to have the interventionist participate in the intervention. The intervention may occur at your home or the interventionist’s office. Interventionists can be especially helpful when your spouse has a history of mental illness; a history of violence has shown suicidal behavior or is taking several mood-altering substances.
3. Decide Whom Will Participate in the Intervention
Consult with a professional regarding who should participate in the intervention. Participants may include parents, spouses, siblings, friends, co-workers, or others. Having the right combination of supporters present can be instrumental in a successful outcome.
Even when an intervention is done well, your spouse may refuse help. Remember that denial of addiction is a common problem. Your spouse may request assistance at a later date, and you will want to be supportive at that time.
4. The Intervention
Members of the intervention team express their feelings and concerns. Part of the intervention includes presenting your spouse with a treatment option and asking him or her to accept it that day. Each team member states what changes they will make if the addicted person is not willing to receive treatment. Don’t threaten and don’t cave in, but be genuine and honest. Sticking to the plan and following up with accountability and support are essential components of the intervention.
Be cognizant that addicts become dependent on their drug of choice. Addiction cravings are extremely powerful, and they may not be able to quit on their own, even when the consequences of addiction have a hugely negative impact on their lives and relationships. Your spouse may want to stop the addiction, but may not be able to do it without help. If they try to quit on their own, they may need a formal recovery program and a system of strong support. When your spouse is ready to tackle addiction, and you are prepared to help, the success rate is very strong.