My spouse is an addict: 4 signals that fear of leaving has changed into the fear of not

When your spouse is addicted, what are the signs that you’re ready for action? More here on the internal process of coping with an addict spouse (from someone who’s been there).

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When your spouse is addicted to drugs or alcohol, life can be a living nightmare. So, what are the signs that you’re ready for action? And what hope can you take in the meantime.

An article and insight that you can relate to – from someone who’s been there. Then, we invite your questions, feedback, or ask that you share more about your situation in the comments section at the end. In fact, we try to respond to all comments personally and promptly.

Why is Daddy always sleeping?

“Mommy, why does Daddy sleep all of the time? Why can’t we wake him up?”

Those were the words of my four year old daughter which opened my eyes. If I did not leave my cocaine, crack, pain pill, benzodiazepine, alcohol, marijuana, and opiate-addicted husband and father of my child, our future was going to be grim. It was not the verbal or emotional abuse, the lies, the manipulation, the cheating, or the financial loss that occurred for years which fueled me leave my husband, it was the thought of my daughter having a junkie around as her father and her primary example of what a man should be like.

A lot of co-addicts (the loved ones of an addict) do not end up leaving for themselves alone… but rather for the situation the addict has put them in with their family and children. Life and finances become too chaotic and unmanageable to continue to ignore. Check out my article, “8 signs of a co-addict” to assess your own situation.

Acknowledging the signs: 4 signals of change

When all of the praying, hoping, crying, pleading and support have little or no effect on the addict’s condition, a co-addict comes to a point where they see how life is passing them by. For every co-addict the time to let go of an addict is different. The following are indications you are getting ready to make a change;

1. Observing the normalcy of other families.

When you start longing to have a normal life and watch friends and family members live happily, you start to imagine what life would be like if the addict was not in it. You envy and may become sad watching other families be happy together.

2. Seeking attention and support outside of the home.

When you start doing things that take you outside of the situation in your home; such as joining support groups, opening up to people about your life and struggles or having coffee with understanding friends, you are becoming aware that you need help.

3. Fantasizing about meeting a new spouse.

You start to yearn for a partner that can contribute to raising your family. The qualities that may have attracted you to the addict are no longer appealing. You desire someone more consistent, reliable, down-to-earth, and someone you would value as a friend. You look at a partner as someone that can take care of you, not just the other way around. When you fantasize about meeting someone else you are emotionally turning a corner.

4. Seeing your spouse or partner hurt your family.

When someone is hurting you, you may be able to make excuses for their behavior. When an addict is negatively affecting or abusing your family, friends and/and your children it is more difficult to rationalize or ignore it. It is the revolting feeling you get when your children are hurt by their own parent which fuels you to realize that something has to change. Through your children, sometimes you may be able to see more unequivocally how the addict is negatively affecting your life and the future of your family. You may be ready to stop helping an addict and start helping your family.

Emotionally detachment is the key

When you start to become less interested in saving the addict and more interested in saving the people that are drowning because of the addict, you are doing what is referred to as emotionally detaching. Emotional detachment does not mean that you lose all of your love for the addict, instantly become emotionally healthy, or even physically leave the addict. To emotionally detach means that you are starting to become less invested and affected by an addict’s addiction and behavior. You can even live with the addict but start to move on in your mind.

The fear of not leaving replaces the fear of leaving

The number one reason we do not leave an addict is all the fears we have about what might happen if we do leave. At some point, a co-addict begins to transition and begin to fear what will happen if they do not leave the addict. “What will your life be like in 5, 10, or 15 years if you continue on this path?” are the thoughts a co-addict starts to entertain. Most co-addicts do not like the answer to that question, so they search for answers.

Emotional detachment is the first step in your own healing and recovery. If you can identify your own behaviors and reactions changing you may be ready to emotionally detach from the active addict. This is a good sign that you may be ready to let go. This is an important stage which will enable you to work on your personal and family’s recovery and allow the healing process to begin.

About the author
Amanda Andruzzi, MPH, AADP, CHES, is a Certified Health Coach, founder of Symptom-Free Wellness, and the author of Hope Street. Her first book, Hope Street memoir is an inspirational story of one woman's frightening journey of co-addiction that led her to uncover courage, unbelievable strength and overcome great adversity. She resides with her daughter, husband, and two sons in Florida.


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  1. Jill,
    You definitely put yourself in a position having 5 children and one being a baby I will admit that this won’t be easy but that doesn’t mean its hopeless. What you can do is come up with a plan and start working towards that plan. It doesn’t have to happen overnight and it can just be done in small steps but if you are working towards something, it can help. I didn’t have a career when I left my ex-husband but I found one and started supporting myself and my child on my own. You may need help and support from family and friends right now but you can do it. Figure out some things that you can do that will get you going in the right direction; refresh on your career, take a class, sell some things, get financial assistance, file for child support and any other thing that might help you get through until you can figure out where to go from here. It is never hopeless. I promise you that!

    Amanda Andruzzi, MHP, CHC, AADP,published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict View the video book trailer:

  2. Hi Amanda, thanks for all your willingness to share in the journey. I am going on 18 years of marriage and my husband has gone from prison and meth addition to JUST daily pot smoking. I say JUST because as I am sure you know the insanity of meth, so I have been stuck on the hopes that he can overcome this one. Well the other night he flat out stated he didnt want to stop. For the first time in 18years i tossed his stuff when i found it. Actually the past 3 instances in 3 month. I tossed pipes and pot. This time it was within my kids reach. It has never been in their faces til now. My oldest turns 18 next month and I have 5 kids. One is only 8 months old. Im scared as I have exhausted savings and I dont work. I cant keep doing this but I dont know what to do…

  3. Ella,
    You should stand up for you and your daughter. Tell him if he continues to drink that you are leaving with her and actually do it. It is harder to do than it even sounds, I know but it is a boundary for you and your daughter to not have to be the victims and live in this environment he is creating. Have you read Hope Street, it is about my life and marriage to an addict with our daughter for 12 years. If not I highly recommend you do. It will be very relatable and eye opening.
    I am just so overwhelmed and happy that all of you have been reaching out here. I usually write back instantly but the posts have been sometimes too many for me to respond to daily. That does not mean I have not read every one and that I am not listening.
    I understand and I am here to help.
    But I cannot enable you the way we enable the addict. I could give advice to the specifics of each situation but the truth is that if it is not getting better (meaning the addict is not choosing recovery and at some point taking sobriety seriously) and getting the right
    kind of help there is not much you can do.
    It is a cycle and if you read back to yourself your own story and all of the stories here you will see the PATTERN, I PROMISE YOU WILL.
    It is like one day (and it wasn’t just one day but a series of days) I just woke up and said “I AM SO SICK OF LIVING LIKE THIS.” that is when I realized that I loved myself and my child and
    wanted and deserved to live a wonderful life. If I was going to be happy and try to love life and my husband (addict) was not going to follow my lead then I had to LEAVE.
    PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, IF YOU HAVE NOT ALREADY, READ HOPE STREET. I wrote it for you to really be an eye opener. Sometimes when you are in the situation it is difficult to see
    the forest for the trees and seeing it through the eyes of another (an unbiased party) is the best way to get the message.

    Amanda Andruzzi, MHP, CHC, AADP,published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict View the video book trailer:

  4. I am thinking of leaving my husband who is an high functioning alcoholic (he is a hard worker) he is drunk 3-4 days a week unless on holidays then it’s everyday every social event he’s nasty verbally when drunk and gets way to aggressive with our 5 yr old daughter we have been together 10 years he was an addict when I met him I want to leave very badly but am very scared financially as well as hurting my kid by not having both parents when she’s finally able to get her dads attention it means everything to her As well I’m scared of repeating my mistakes how can me and my daughter heal from this I just have so many fears holding me back

  5. Lula,
    People like that are not well and that is why they cannot make good decisions but you are going to be okay. Remember that, you are lucky because you will be okay and have the potential to have a great life. You have the capacity to have a healthy, wonderful life and right now that person doesn’t. Be grateful for that.
    Amanda Andruzzi, MHP, CHC AADP, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict
    View the video book trailer:

  6. This site has really helped me. I just left my addict lover, who has drained me of everything from money to emotions. I can’t believe people like them exist and survive at the expense of so many who love them and believe in them.

  7. Laura,
    You remind me a lot of myself at 26. I graduated college with a 4.0 and fell in love with an addict when I myself never really liked to even drink. I never tried any other heavy drugs and all of that was never for me. It is all open to interpretation though, if you were more like your friends or boyfriends and liked to be high all day and inebriated every night then you would think that it was okay, but you don’t. You want more out of life then just getting high, there is definitely nothing wrong with that. I questioned my own sanity many times when I would plead with my ex-husband to stop drinking, or kick him out if he came home high, but I didn’t leave, so for 12 years nothing changed. There are those of us who appreciate life, every single second and there are those of us for whatever reason need to run away from it and escape. Please read Hope Street, I know you would benefit from my story. I was you many years ago and I can tell you a lifetime with an addict can be a struggle, if he is not what you want, let him go. Only you can make the change, he won’t and you won’t be able to make him. I can promise you this.
    Amanda Andruzzi, published author, Hope Street, a memoir from the wife of an addict
    View the video book trailer:

  8. I came across this blog while doing some research on dealing with my boyfriends drinking and smoking problem…. I guess I have recently gotten to this ’emotional detachment’ part of the relationship that was stated in the above article. I feel very conflicted.
    I am a 26 year old woman living in New York. My boyfriend of over 4 years is six months older than me, working in NYC. Anyone who knows him thinks he is the nicest, most loyal, trustworthy and thoughtful guy they have ever known. I agree, although this is not always the man who comes home to me.
    My boyfriend and I have been dating since our last year of college. College is a crazy time, people are experimenting with all sorts of things, while figuring out who they are and growing up into who they will become. I was always very studious and can’t say that my college years were really all that wild. I went out drinking and dancing with girlfriends, I smoked some pot here and there and had a great time. My boyfriend on the other hand, admittedly starting smoking pot daily when he was in high school. In college he began smoking all day, binge drinking a few nights a week and experimenting with other drugs. When we got together, he had basically failed out of college and moved back home to start somewhere with a fresh GPA. At this time he was still smoking daily (if not hourly) and drinking heavily a few nights a week. Looking back, I can’t believe that I thought “this is the guy for me!” and continued this tumultuous journey, but I think I genuinely thought, this is just the college years, he will grow out of it.
    I am writing to you 4 years later, because he didn’t grow out of it. Despite our constant battle, there isn’t a day that goes by that my boyfriend is sober. There are less binge drinking days then there were, and he isn’t smoking hourly, but probably daily. I am not sure anymore because he hides it from me.
    The problem I am mainly struggling with is “what is normal?” I feel like this is a topic of conversation in so many areas of life and we are told that there is no ‘normal’ to make everyone feel better about their crazy. I feel like I live in a very fast paced environment, I think majority of my peers have these substance abuse problems. I like an occasional drink to slow it down and enjoy myself, but that is just it, it really is occasional. Am I just a prude? Is 26 still the age where I should be blacking out, smoking all day and taking the occasional trip, or is it the time to be paving the road for my career, settling down and having a family. Maybe this is all up for personal interpretation, but I know that I want the latter. My boyfriends laid back personality, and friends with similar issues make me feel as though it really is just me. I must be up tight, why do I have to take everything so seriously? He had a rough day he wants to unwind, there is a sporting event on tv, he wants to drink, so what? Whatever the excuse may be, there always is one, and I am always in his ear and frankly I am beginning to annoying myself.
    I am definitely a classic enabler. I read the co-addict article as well. I cook, I clean, I do all that laundry and make him lunch for work everyday. I handle majority of the bills and the few that he handles have been sent to collections, or shut off. I fight with him to no prevail whenever he is belligerent (or the following day) as well as comment anytime he is mildly tipsy. I have gone time without answering his calls. I have had him sleep on the couch countless times and even threatened to leave. I guess I really haven’t set boundaries, just made empty threats. He has admitted to me before that he is addicted to smoking pot and that he “never thought he would be drinking this much daily”. These statements have changed nothing, my actions have changed nothing, I know he would never seek help, is this just a lost cause? Is it just me being up tight or is that a ploy so he can continue his shenanigans. Does he just need more time to grow up? Help.

  9. Robert,
    Go with your gut. If you feel she is using, then she is. You know the signs so don’t even question yourself. If you think she is using an herbal supplement to cover it up for urine tests then you tell your lawyer and take it to court and have her tested at random or they will do a hair sample test. She cannot hide from that. You need to let go, for your children, although it may not be easy, your wife has to take on this problem alone because she is not doing it for her family at this point.
    Don’t be afraid to speak up, fear will keep you with her longer than you should be.
    Amanda Andruzzi

  10. I am married to a recovering addict of oppiates. I just read this post and realize I went through all these stages. I honestly feel at stand still. We been through family court 2 years, i had two orders of protection put in place against my wife for her behavior. My fear is leaving simply because she will get residential custody of my kids because her file at her treatment facility says she’s clean but her behavior does not conveince me she 100%. I believe she dables in something. I even found Kratom and erbal supplement taken by opiate abusers to maintain their withdrawel so they can pass drug screen. So being the Dad in a disfunctional family i a difficult spot. The marriage has disolved, yes I Kove her but don’t wanna be together any longer. I don’t want to babysit an adult anymore. The household is disfunctional and I know in my heart the only way to show my kids the difference is to leave and when they are with me they can see the difference the 2 households oporate. But yet, stand afraid and should be nagging my lawyers to move fast but we are at a standstill fighting over the house. I am frustrated and feel maybe its best I go. Amazing, I am the clean parent but because she can pass test I am gonna go. I am frustrated

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