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Addiction and Divorce: When Is Enough, Enough?

by Marie

After years of dealing with a husband or wife who is continually drinking or struggling with drug and/or alcohol use you may feel like you have had enough.

If you feel like you’re not ever going to change your spouses’ habits you may be right; you truly cannot change or control another person’s behaviors, thoughts, choices or actions.

Control In Marriages

Throughout history people have tried to control the behaviors of others. It is why wars are fought. And while laws can be imposed and morality preached, ultimately people are free to say, think and do whatever they want. We call this free will. And, likewise, those around them are free to say, think and do whatever they want.
So why do spouses and couples waste so much time and energy trying to control each other?

Ultimately people try to control others in an attempt to make the other person happier and in a marriage this is more than true. It can be incredibly hard to sit back and watch your spouse struggle with drinking or drugging, and even worse how their behaviors are affecting all aspects of your family’s life.

In some cases heavy substance use can even lead to physical and emotional abuse, disrespect, emotional pain, and lying. Sometimes you have to take a deep look into improving your own life to strip away all of the fear, guilt, resentment and negativity, and find out what kind of life you want for you, and those around you, including your own children.

Staying in a marriage with someone who struggles with substance use is ultimately your own decision. After all, you’re in control of your own fate, no one else is. This is not an easy concept to come to terms with and many people begin to use substances and continue using substances because it is easier then dealing with troubling issues in a marriage.

Deciding To Stay or Go

Ultimately moving beyond a marriage with a substance user is not easy or something that you can decide overnight. For some people it may take years to finally walk away from a distressed marriage due to substance use problems.

Others stay in the marriage for the long run, but are continually unhappy or feel unfulfilled. The most important thing you can do for yourself is doing what makes you happy and sticking with it. If you decide to stay with your spouse, realize that you can still do some things in your life that makes you happy, even though their journey might take awhile to get through.

If you decide to go your separate ways, you have to be strong enough to not continually give in to their every want or need or feel any remorse down the road.

Drug and alcohol use is never an easy topic but it can be overcome when the person is ready. A marriage can only hold on as long as the two people involved do and the process of healing and repairing it will take hard work, communication and trust.

Comments for Addiction and Divorce: When Is Enough, Enough?

Click here to add your own comments

by: Anonymous

It's all too often that our attention and efforts are on the addict,(of course that's the root of the problem). I think we should have a designated plan or area of major concern for "children of addicts" who are completely innocent of all that's going on and should NEVER be subjected to the insane behavior. Someone has to care for them, they deserve better!


Families are important too!
by: Marie

Harry, you are absolutely right. That is why, at Saint Jude Retreats( the link above) we have a family program that addresses the needs of the family members of substance users as well.

To Divorce or Not?
by: Anonymous

I'm struggling with an addict husband and can't stop thinking about how much I want out of this marriage (I've already started doing serious research - ). We don't have kids (thankfully), but his addiction is taking over my life. I've become the enabler and he is just sinking lower and lower. Any advice?

Try going to Al-anon meetings.
by: Debbie Wicker

Deciding whether to divorce or not is a difficult and highly emotional decision. Addiction is toxic for marriage and makes divorce a common choice.

I would recommend that you join Al-anon and work with a female sponsor to decide the best course of action to help yourself, your husband and your marriage. Don't try to do this along, reach out for support.

Going to Al-anon, working the 12 steps and finding a sponsor should help you to set appropriate boundaries for your husband and avoid enabling his addiction.

Good luck,


Relationships and addiction
by: Anonymous

I have been with my boyfriend 12 yrs we have 2 children together. In the past 2 years he has gotten into prescription drugs and it slowly gotten worse. He started out snorting them, then a peer introduced him to smoking them.

I didn't know all of this until recently. I'm struggling with this addiction because it's effecting the whole family. I battle myself with staying and waiting to see if he will get off them, but then i think is it worth the torture i go through in the mean time?

Things slowly starting to change all the way around and I just don't know what to do. Please, if anyone has advice I'd love to hear it, thank you.

Consider joining Al-anon
by: Debbie Wicker

Al-anon is such a great resource to help you to navigate through your marriage and help your husband end his addiction without enabling his addiction in any way at all. Through Al-anon you can learn how to continue to LOVE your husband but al the same time to HATE his addiction.

by: Anonymous

I recently made the decision to leave and ultimately filed for divorce. My problem is I am doing exactly what the article says not to do which is continue to enable by allowing him to make me feel guilty.

I have asked for counseling for the both of us but he refuses. He says he has been clean for months and we don't need marital counseling. Am I wrong for sticking to my guns about marital counseling?

Not enough information to answer.
by: Debbie Wicker

I totally understand why you want marital counseling and why he doesn't. You think that the counselor is going to help both of you to work through the hurt that has been caused by his addiction. He thinks it's going make him feel worse than he already does about his past mistakes.

You both may be right, which is why it's hard for me to say whether you should "stick to your guns" about counseling.

If it were me, I would require him to go to 12 step meetings three times a week with you so that you could both work on the 12 steps together. That's likely to be much more constructive to help him to avoid relapse and help you to understand his addiction.

by: Anonymous

Thanks for your response. I will ask him if he is willing to go. I have been going to Al-anon but not working the steps. Just mainly listening.

I know he is not working a program, which I believe is part of the problem. At least that is what I am being told. He went to some classes which he says helped him get clean but I don't believe he has been clean.

He says he hates me for the pain I put him through and I should not have left but I put a boundary in place because he was getting high in our home in front of me. What was I supposed to do.

He wasn't leaving so I left and now he wants me to come back home but his behavior is still the same. Any comments are appreciated.

I encourage you to begin working the steps.
by: Debbie Wicker

Just from the little you've told me, I think I know you love your husband and want him back. But it's not possible if he continues to be drug addicted.

Addiction is attacking his brain and likely turning him into a different person. That person is most likely becoming capable of doing ANYTHING to get his next dose.

I can't say exactly what's happening to your husband, because God has made each of us COMPLETELY uniquely and therefore each of responds uniquely to drug/alcohol addiction. Addiction attacks our brain in unique ways so that there is no one-size-fits-all approach to ending our addiction. It also means that working the steps and connecting with our higher power allows us to learn our unique needs for our specific addiction recovery. That's why the 12 steps work.

I encourage you to begin working the steps for yourself and then you can encourage your husband to do the same. The 12-steps will work to help him to end his addiction, but they can only work if you and he are willing to truly work them.

Once you're both working the steps, then together you can set the appropriate boundaries for re-establishing your relationship.

Good Luck,


Husband hiding addiction?
by: Anonymous

My husband has only gotten better at hiding his addiction and lying each time I've confronted him over our 15 year relationship. I've been with my husband for 15 years . We've been married for 1 year and have a 7 yr old daughter.

We both smoked marijuana when we met but he's always been more addicted. I quit when I got pregnant. He also quit for a year.

Then he started secretly smoking again. Then he switched to synthetic marijuana which was worse.. and then alcohol and back to marijuana. He attempted rehab twice.. never completed it.. but said he was clean each time. I've only enabled him by trusting his lies.. as soon as I got pregnant I told him that's not the life I wanted for my child, and not prying to catch him out..

Then he switched to crack .. and when my daughter was 3 he fell asleep in the car and when I got back she had left looking for me .. luckily I founded her a while away.. but that was it, I left him.. found out he maxed out our credit cards.. we were behind in rent.. so i packed up our house and moved back to my parents city 100klm away... he caught up to me to win me back for 6 months and I was not interested.. because I was tired of being hurt I couldn't love him..

Then, after 6 months, he started to make real changes going to the gym..looking clean healthy, doing counseling..after a year we got married, and I promised him if I ever caught him again ... I'd divorce him .. here we are ..1 and half after marriage and he's been doing it this whole time just hiding it ..

I don't know what to do but I feel like each time he lied and got caught, each time I left.. and moved homes left jobs.. lost thousands of dollars on his habit. Something in me has died a little, now I'm numb and know I should leave but my hearts in shock so I don't really know how I feel.. do you think I should leave?

Trust is earned one day or one minute at a time!
by: Debbie Wicker

Dear Husband hiding addiction,

Marriage is such an important relationship in our lives. I'm a counselor and every day I see the horrible effects of separation and divorce. In marriage, we usually take a vow... for better for worse, in sickness and in health, till death do we part. That is one of the most serious commitments of our lives.

But addiction is a disease of the brain that is OFTEN fatal if left untreated. Addiction often devastates marriages. So that puts many of us in a horrible situation. We love our husbands but we HATE their addiction and know that it's killing them. So what do we do?

There are no easy answers and honestly I'm not sure what you should do. You love your husband and want to help him but his addiction is and must be TOTALLY unacceptable to you.

Please consider joining Al-anon and working the 12 steps. I would look for Al-anon meetings at a few churches in your area. Visit a few and try to find a meeting where you get the support you need. Also, try to find a sponsor who has been where you're at now and has helped their husband to get into treatment and end their addiction.

You need support and a plan to help your husband but to avoid enabling his addiction in any way.

Good luck,


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and Finally Remember:

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- Matthew 7:7-8

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