Can They Handle the Truth? How to Admit an Addiction to Your Spouse

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Dave could hardly look his wife in the eyes anymore. His struggle was real, and it was intense. It was beyond daily – it was minute-by-minute. Yet, the thought of telling his wife that he was addicted to painkillers was nearly as crippling as the withdrawal he suffered when he didn’t take the pills. He knew he couldn’t go on living these lies forever, but he didn’t see an alternative.  

Dave is trapped in a common struggle. Like many who are addicted to one substance or another, he is consumed with both the addiction and the effort of hiding it from loved ones. His mind is constantly churning with questions: What will they do if they find out? How could I ever admit to something like that?

The Truth Isn’t What You Think 

The truth is that most spouses likely already suspect something is wrong. Addiction changes behavior on such a large scale, it’s not usually as hidden as the sufferer thinks it is.

Admitting your addiction will likely not come as an all-consuming shock to your spouse. It’s more likely that they already know or suspect, and they are simply wanting and waiting for you to admit the problem and get help. They want you to be able to turn your life around – and that starts with accepting and admitting the truth – to yourself and to them. 

Realizing this will hopefully make the conversation easier – but it’s still not easy. It can help to develop a plan before you have this difficult conversation.

Make a Plan

Consider including the following in your approach: 

  • Discuss your recovery strategy. Have a plan in place and share this with your spouse when you admit your struggle to them. Include them in the next steps you will take toward sobriety. 
  • Ask for forgiveness. Apologize for anything you’ve done that negatively affected your life together and your relationship with them.  
  • Be honest. Starting with this conversation, stop all lies and cover-ups. Don’t try to justify or ignore the problem. Admit to it and start working toward recovery. 
  • Inform your spouse about your triggers. Help them understand what situations, attitudes, and actions are associated with your addiction and will make it tempting to use again. This will help them avoid enabling. 
  • Ask for support. (And be willing to accept it.) Let your spouse know you would like their support during this journey. Ask them to be there for you emotionally to help you stay on the path to recovery. A strong, honest partnership with them can make a huge difference in the days ahead. 

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