When a Spouse Struggles with Addiction
- 2006 4 Mar
Dear Dr. David:
My husband has been struggling with a cocaine habit for several years. I used to participate in this habit with him, but have since gotten clean and am active in a recovery program. My husband attends church with me even though he still uses substances. He has many excuses and "reasons" for not getting clean, and hates it when I confront him about it. I love him and don’t want to give up on our marriage. But, the lies and chaos from his addiction makes me crazy. What can I do?
You are certainly offering a witness to the power of an addiction—which many continue in spite of its harmful and extremely damaging consequences. An aspect of addiction is the double life the addict lives. They can appear to lead strong Christian lives, on the one hand, and engage in their addictive behavior at the same time. It is usually a chaotic life because of the deception and instability.
You do not mention whether you have sought help from the church. Your silence on the matter suggests you are enabling him by going along with his secretive behavior. This is a mistake and only allows him to continue to lead the double life, and keeps your loving church family from helping. There are many wonderful church-based recovery programs, including Celebrate Recovery, which incorporate powerful biblical principles with other aspects of recovery.
Matthew 18 is clear on mattera such as this. You are to confront your husband quietly and privately unless he will not listen to you. Assuming he refuses to seek help, you would assist him by confronting him with other witnesses. "If he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses." (Matthew 18: 16)
This confrontation, of course, would take a great deal of courage and may disrupt your marriage for a season. It could take the form of an intervention, and done correctly, could be a potent tool to encourage your husband to seek treatment for this gripping problem. We dare not underestimate the power of an addiction, and as we comprehend its power we have compassion for the addict. While he may not be able to truly choose whether to use or not, he can choose to seek treatment. Consider gathering your loving and caring community around both of you to discuss treatment possibilities—and then to build recovery and healing into your lives as well as your family.
I have been plagued by guilt since having an affair on my wife several years ago. She only found out recently, as did the other woman’s husband, and I believe I owe everyone an apology. I want to make things right for everyone. I have repented and asked my wife’s forgiveness, but feel that I owe the other woman’s husband an apology as well. I have been advised to leave them alone and let them rebuild their lives. I would appreciate your thoughts on the matter.
Indeed, your behavior has caused a lot of people pain. There are many times that we fail to consider how many people are injured by our selfish actions. I am glad you feel guilt and conviction for your actions, and have repented to God and your wife. Now what to do about the other woman’s husband?
This is a very personal matter, and I think your wife deserves a strong vote. She, and the other man, are the primary victims and deserve a say in what happens. They are the ones to decide if you should apologize. While it is tempting to encourage you to apologize, and it would clear up your conscience, it may be more injurious to your wife, and the others woman’s husband to do so. As you are sensitive to your wife’s feelings, you must also inspect your own motives. You dare not impulsively rush ahead simply to assuage your own guilt feelings but rather seek a long term solution. This would be selfish and may add insult to injury. Make certain to be prayerful and determine that your actions be motivated by a desire to help the victims.
Therefore, I believe the thing to do is to ask your wife how she would prefer you handle the matter. If she leaves it up to you, I believe it would be appropriate to send a note to the other man, and his wife, apologizing for your actions. You may need to live with your tensions, and guilt, for some time, not to mention the pain and sadness of your wife. Allow your pain to motivate you to love for your wife, as well as to find and heal the issues that led to this action in the first place. This is a small price to pay for your actions.
Have a question for Dr. David? Contact him at TheRelationshipDoctor@gmail.com.
David Hawkins, Pd.D., has worked with couples and families to improve the quality of their lives by resolving personal issues for the last 30 years. He is the author of over 18 books, including Love Lost: Living Beyond a Broken Marriage, Saying It So He'll Listen, and When Pleasing Others Is Hurting You. His newest book, When the Man in Your Life Can’t Commit, will be released in February, 2006. Dr. Hawkins grew up in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and lives on the South Puget Sound where he enjoys sailing, biking, and skiing. He has active practices in two Washington cities.