coupleWhen addiction is newly discovered, and sadly, it is usually discovered, not disclosed, the innocent spouses world is often devastated. Things are no longer as they were once thought. The possibilities of betrayal arise, trust is gone, security and feelings of safety that living the gospel create are erased. The devastation of the spouse is vast and sadly often ignored.

Spouses often shift into fixit mode. They find therapists, addiction recovery meetings, search the web, and buy books. They are often shocked when the addict replies, “Counseling never works… I don’t want to be seen going to ‘those’ meetings, it would be embarrassing… I am not going to the Bishop, Bishops have never been any help before.” The questions may change, but the tone is constant; there is a hostility and element of anger in them that often makes the spouse retreat.

Which is just what the addict wants. And I do make distinction between the good human being in there and the addict. When we are in addict mode, we abandon the “good” part of ourselves and follow the addict mantra, “I want what I want, when I want it!” and “I don’t want anything interfering with my addiction!”

The learning curve for spouses is slow.  Knowing how to react is confusing. Being a loving, caring person, we offer our love and support and try to understand, we sometimes even defend and protect.  That type of reaction would be perfect if our spouse was not an addict.  But because of the addiction, the rules change and learning what the new rules are can take years.  Years of struggle and heartbreak, years that can be avoided.

One spouse reacted in a way that initiated healing:  “Hey, I did not agree to marry your addiction.  You have lied to me and mislead me about who you are. I thought we were working toward something eternal here… It turns out only I was.  This is not ok with me and WE can not continue with this going on.”  That is the talk the addict needs to hear.

The addict alters reality with denial.  The justifications and minimizing allow the behaviors.  Shining the light on the lies and establishing accountability, forces the addict to choose between the addiction and healing.

How can one tell if healing is chosen?  The presence of humility, it is the catalyst for healing.  If anger or contention presides, the addict is choosing to stay in the addiction.

Hold up the mirror so the addict can see reality.  He can not do that alone, denial blinds him.  Let him be angry, let him bellor his disgust for therapy and Bishops and recovery meetings.  Do not allow him to control things by his use of anger.  Just recognize that this is an addict that is choosing to remain an addict, and the ramifications for the spouse of that addict are not good.