Living with an addicted spouse

If you are living with an addict, neglect is probably common. How can you avoid co-addiction and place the focus on yourself? We review here.

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Do you feel neglected?

If someone living with an addicted spouse was asked which person in their life was most neglected, the answer might be, a child, friend, family member or parent. The least likely answer would be “me.”In fact, a co-addict will usually neglect themselves the most. If this person loved and took care of themselves, it would be highly unlikely they would be able to focus some much time and energy on an addict.

But if you’re feeling neglected by a drug or alcohol using spouse, you might just be experiencing features of co-addiction.  So…are you a co-addict? And how can you cope while living with an addicted spouse and becoming a recovering co-addict? We review here and invite your questions, comments, or stories about letting go of an addict at the end.

When is the last time you felt good about yourself?

Remember the last time you awoke feeling happy and ready to start the day, glided into the bathroom to take a nice hot shower and walked out of your bedroom excited for what the day might hold? When was the last time you felt attractive, in good shape, happy in your clothes? Can you remember a time when you felt overall wellness? Read a book, took a class, and participated in a hobby just for the sake of enjoyment?

Negative Feelings Breed Negativity

When living in or dealing with a situation where you are faced with an abundant amount of fear, anxiety, depression, loss, betrayal, hopelessness, and pain, it may be difficult to put a positive spin on your life. As a co-addict, living with my addicted spouse, I was exposed to negative feelings on a daily basis. If there was peace for a few weeks, I never trusted it. I was living with the fear of what might happen next and could never relax in the moment or feel good about my life.

I always worried about how I was going to take care of everybody else. My needs were last on my to-do list. There became a point where I did not even know what my needs were or how to start to address them. I felt trapped beneath rubble and I could not find my way up. If I was going to bed feeling like there was a black cloud over my life, then it made sense that I woke up feeling the same way.

When the bulk of emotions a person experiences are discouraging and negative in nature, it can’t be expected they would feel good about their life. The body and mind are meant to handle extreme stress. When that stress occurs too often, it can take a toll on physical and mental well-being. To enjoy life or hobbies or anything that makes people happy, we must be able to be present in that moment. If a person is preoccupied with worry or ill feelings, it would be difficult to enjoy even the simplest of pleasures. A co-addict may get to a point where food becomes tasteless, and numbness and sadness supersedes all good feelings they once experienced.

Co-addiction Meets Co-dependency

When a co-addict neglects themselves and their own basic needs, living can become impossible. They may find that the things they used to enjoy have become a distraction from dealing with the addict. When a person supports, enables, becomes addicted to, and/or loves an addict, they are making a choice on a subconscious level. They are choosing to invest their life and well-being into someone else’s. This is where co-addiction meets co-dependency. When a loved one has a serious addiction, there is cause for alarm. Your energies will be refocused, but as the addiction continues, and if you stay engrossed in the outcome of someone else’s life, you will be less engaged in how well your own life will be. When your happiness, sanity and well-being become compromised by the condition of another person, then you are neglecting yourself.

Change the Focus and Educate Yourself

Sometimes it takes a simple walk out of the door of your life, and a gaze into it from the outside window to realize that something is terribly wrong. To recognize that there is extreme neglect going on, is a difficult insight to grasp, but one necessary to change the focus off of the addict and work on making positive changes. Negligence is a word that implies lack of care, attention and abandonment. Most people find neglect an awful offense and the person accountable, a criminal. If you look at it from this perspective, the co-addict is both the offender and the victim, a situation extremely difficult to reconcile and repair.

To change focus, a co-addict needs to make a conscious choice to put the focus back on themselves. This cannot be emphasized enough. It may seem like a large task. Educate yourself on the cycle of co-addiction on the propensities of co-dependents. The more information and knowledge you obtain, the sooner you will have your “ah-ha”moment andthe more your actions will make sense to you. Armed with knowledge of your own condition and the situation you have become immersed in, you can use this to help you focus, and make a positive change.

About the author
Lee Weber is a published author, medical writer, and woman in long-term recovery from addiction. Her latest book, The Definitive Guide to Addiction Interventions is set to reach university bookstores in early 2019.
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