Our Allies member has been through so many years of her husband’s use, the fabric of their relationship seems unraveled. She doesn’t know how to emerge from a state of resentment and hurt, after single-handedly keeping everything going through his years of use. Arguing daily, she wonders where the love and compassion went…

*This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns. To take advantage of our current special offer and get full access to the Allies in Recovery eLearning program for families, click here.

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I was an AIR member about 10 years ago, but left when my husband finally got into treatment. We got him into treatment 3 times, for a total of 120 days over the last 12 years. He is now a completely lost soul, continuing to use every waking moment. He only stops when he runs out of money. Over the last 4 years, he has used every penny for drugs. A man who used to make $165,000 a year is broke, with rarely $5. I will not give him a penny, as I support the house, pay for everything to do with the house, vacations, my son’s expenses, everything. Often, I feel like a married single mom.

I’ve been in this so long and have used the CRAFT strategies multiple times. But he is so far deep after over a decade of heavy drug use, he is almost unreachable. Unfortunately, in my state, unless I file for divorce, I cannot make him leave my home unless he is abusing me. And he is not. He is a wonderfully, loving caring man who is very sick. But when I look at him, I’m disgusted. What happened to my understanding and empathy that I’ve had over the years?

If only he would give me space.

Dominique Simon-Levine empathizes with this wife and mother, who’s struggling alone, while trying to hold everything together

Using CRAFT skills creates the best conditions around your husband. You’ve done this continuously, as best you can, for over a decade. It has helped your husband into treatment three times. Yet your husband has relapsed and continues to use. His use is quite dangerous. You describe a situation where your husband is in active addiction, at home, and jobless, and you feel hopeless and resentful. You have young children who are living in this situation.

It has been up to you to keep everything together in the home. I envision a busy young family with dad on the couch, hunched over with guilt. You are working hard but the resentment and hurt is winning out.

This is completely understandable. There is so much optimism when a loved one finally enters treatment. It is crushing when the treatment doesn’t lead to lasting abstinence and recovery. You know this better than most. It can take repeated efforts at recovery before traction is gained. It can be incremental in terms of time and it can play out differently depending on the specific drugs involved. Yes, it really is infuriating and dumbfounding when your loved one returns to active use.

Right now, you are the number one priority

The first step is to get yourself into a better state regardless of what your husband is doing. Can you find and pay for a psychotherapist willing to work with you, who is also willing to pull in your husband and children as necessary? You want a good family counselor who understands addiction. Your children need a way to talk about their father’s illness.

Where are you geographically? Use the email on this site if you would prefer to keep this private.

Can we help you find a family support group in your area? Al-Anon can help in this instance, since it is designed to help you focus on you. With Al-Anon, you’ll need to put aside the talk of “he has to hit bottom,” or “disengage until he stops.” Take what you need from the support it offers to address your own needs. Right now, you are the number one priority.

Pull back and fill your own tank. Forget about working CRAFT right now. Your actions are halfhearted at best anyway. You are too upset and exhausted.

We are here. One step at a time right now.

This is a case for a civil commitment

The next step is to get your husband back into treatment, starting almost certainly with a detoxification program. Your situation is urgent (I take it your husband is injecting opioids). This is a case where a civil commitment or interventionist could be  called for. Let’s get to work on this in the next couple weeks.  

You have done a monumental job of holding it all together over these years. It has taken enormous love and compassion – I hear this in the way you describe your husband’s situation. You still have this in you. But right now, the person who needs this more than anything is you. Don’t judge yourself for whatever feelings you experience about your husband, about this painful situation. Step back and commit to reestablishing your own health and well-being. Whatever comes next, you have our support.

Yes, the family DOES have a role to play. Your stance, behavior, and choices DO make a difference. At Allies in Recovery we are absolutely convinced of this. “Tough love” is not a successful technique. Our learning platform is set up to help family members learn the techniques that will reduce conflict, build that bridge of communication, and be effective in guiding your loved one into treatment. Together we will move your loved one towards recovery. Learn more here.

 About the Author:
Dominique launched Allies in Recovery in 2003. Her work has been featured on HBO and NPR. She is a facilitator and a trained speaker on issues of addiction and the family. She has worked extensively developing and evaluating federally-funded substance abuse programs for organizations and clinics throughout Massachusetts and New York. With an interest in recovery and substance abuse that spans 20 years, she sees a huge need to help families develop the skills that will help a loved one recover fully in a supportive, whole, and lasting way in their families and in their communities. Her mission is to have Allies in Recovery fill that gap.

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