It’s only natural to feel as though you should know everything about your spouse. Sadly, this isn’t always the case; unless you have Sherlock Holmes-style powers of observation and deduction, you’re unlikely to be aware of every single thing going on with your husband or wife. The important thing is to not blame or criticize yourself for not knowing something, not only for the sake of your own self-esteem, but also to ensure that the focus remains firmly fixed on the person who really needs the help.
Why You May Have Missed the Problem
There are many reasons you may not have been aware of your husband or wife’s drug abuse, but the most likely cause is the fact that drug or alcohol abusers can be very secretive about the issue. Probably out of an acute awareness that their drug or alcohol use is a problem, there is a tendency to try to hide the problem, perhaps using in private and covering up any telltale signs. This in itself makes the already challenging task of spotting drug abuse even more difficult.
The reason may also be a reflection of your personal opinions about drug abusers or your spouse. For example, you may buy into the idea that drug abusers are all malnourished, terminally unreliable and constantly erratic in behavior, or even that addicts have some type of moral failing that would show itself in other ways. In reality, this isn’t the case, and there are even examples of high-functioning addicts where the expected symptoms may be absent or only appear in a minor and ignorable form. There is also a possibility that you did notice some clues that there was a problem but simply would never have assumed that your loved one was abusing drugs, so you mentally discounted the signs and continued with your life.
Signs of Drug Abuse
The most important thing is not to blame yourself for the addiction or the fact that you didn’t notice it. Without an expert eye, an ability to detach yourself from personal beliefs, and the opportunity to notice that there is a problem, spotting the issue is very challenging. Despite these facts, it’s still a good idea to be aware of common symptoms of drug abuse, such as a deterioration of physical appearance, skipping work or neglecting other responsibilities, a continuous need for money or financial issues, mood swings, irritability and changes in personality. When your spouse completes treatment, it’s important to keep an eye out for the signs of relapse. If you know the substance your loved one abused, you can look for drug-specific symptoms, such as the long periods of time with no food or sleep associated with stimulant use.
The Importance of Being Supportive
It’s essential that you not focus too much on the fact that you missed the problem or blame your spouse for the abuse and related problems. Regardless of your opinion on the initial cause of drug abuse, addiction is a brain disease, and those suffering from it should be treated accordingly. Your partner doesn’t need somebody to be judgmental; he or she needs your support through the difficult time. Things can get better, but it’s a difficult journey you need to take one step at a time. If you still love your spouse, being supportive (without “covering” for him or her in the event of a relapse by making excuses or facilitating continued use) is an absolutely vital part of recovery. Your spouse needs psychological support, because the triggers and cues to use drugs can cause cravings long after the substance itself has cleared his or her system. You need to be there for him or her.
There are no easy solutions to the problem of drug or alcohol abuse. The fact that your spouse has agreed to seek help is a very positive sign, however, and if you come to understand more about the problem you will find it much easier to be supportive and compassionate. If you truly love your partner, you need to avoid blaming yourself and help him or her along the road to sobriety as best you can.