Why Can’t My Spouse Stop Using Drugs or Alcohol?

addiction denial

Finding out someone you love has been abusing alcohol or drugs can be heartbreaking. Your spouse may have already tried to stop drinking or using to no avail.

It can leave you feeling scared and asking a lot of questions – does he or she even care? Are these substances more important to him or her than family? How did this happen? What is preventing him or her from just stopping?

Addictions are complicated, confusing, and scary. Let’s take a look at some of the reasons why your spouse can’t stop using drugs or alcohol.

Your Spouse’s Predisposition to Addiction

Addiction is a mental illness, and many people who abuse drugs or alcohol are predisposed to doing so. For example, someone who has a family history of addiction becomes 8 times more likely to develop one themselves.

Other times, abuse or addiction to drugs or alcohol develops when a person begins drinking or using drugs to numb out unpleasant feelings such as loneliness, sadness, or guilt.

Most people don’t actively go searching for a drug to cure their troubles. Usually, they stumble upon a drug that makes them feel good by chance – perhaps they were pressured by a friend or tried something at a party, expecting it to be harmless. In the end, they enjoyed the feeling and went back to feel it again.

What Drugs and Alcohol Do to Your Spouse’s Brain

If your spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol, the substances have changed the way their brain works.

When someone gets drunk or high, the substance releases pleasure hormones and lights up the reward center in the user’s brain. At first, this may just be a pleasant feeling for the user, so he or she keeps going back for more.

After a few uses, the brain re-wires itself to prioritize the feeling of the rush of feel-good hormones. This is why, even if your spouse recognizes they have a problem and wants to stop using or drinking, it isn’t that easy to do.

Helping Your Spouse Find Help

Your spouse may not realize the severity of their problem with drugs or alcohol, or perhaps they don’t want to realize it. You can speak to him or her, gently, about your concerns for their wellbeing and offer to look into treatment options together. Ultimately, though, the decision to seek help has to come from your spouse.

Here is more information on helping your loved one realize they need treatment for their drug or alcohol abuse.

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