Am I An Idiot For Staying With My Addicted/Alcoholic Spouse?

"Am I a complete idiot for staying with my alcoholic or addictive spouse? If I think about leaving, I feel guilty. On top of that, I feel like I get all this judgment from everyone around me. The people who know there's an addiction are judging me for staying, and the people that are in denial about it are judging me for leaving." 

Can you relate?

I know you feel upset with your spouse because this is not what you signed up for, and I can't even tell you whether or not your spouse will for sure fix their problem or not. This is a decision that you should not make from an emotional place because you're likely to take that decision back.

I will give you a framework to make this decision easier for you.

There will be six categories, and we'll group them into "Negative- I should go." and "Positive-I should stay." 

If you're married to your addicted loved one, I know you have mixed feelings. On one hand, you may be thinking, "Isn't addiction an illness? I made a vow to stay through sickness and health"? "Am I not committed to staying" and "Am I doing the wrong thing by my kids if I stay, or am I doing wrong by leaving?" 

As you can see, it's all very complicated.


Think through each of these as it relates to you and anyone else who will be affected. Let's grade each one with zero being it never happens or hardly ever happens to 10, being yes, it is dangerous, very dangerous, or extreme.

This column is the negatives(0-10):

  • How dangerous is their addiction to you and your kids?
  • Do they pose a financial threat to you? 
  • Are they bringing scary people in and out of your house? 
  • Are they driving or doing other hazardous activities with you or the kids while intoxicated or impaired? 
  • Are they emotionally harmful to you or the kids?
  • Is there constant fighting and screaming? Do they yell, curse, scream, and call you bad names regularly? 
  • Are the kids scared of them? 
  • Are they destroying your self-esteem? 
  • Are they destroying your sense of safety? 

This next column is the STAY column. This is all about where your loved one's insight, knowledge, and willingness. These are good signs, so if you're seeing things moving in the right direction, that's a positive. 

Stay column:

  • Are they in 100% complete denial, or do they have some change talk going on? 
  • Have they tried to make it better? 
  • Are they willing to take some steps to fix things? 
  • Do they acknowledge on any level that there is a problem? 
  • Do they feel awful about the problems caused because of their addictive behavior?

This next question will sound harsh, but I think it's necessary.

I want you to ask yourself, is this person worth fighting for? 

This came up for me when I was doing a family consult for someone, and they were telling me about their spouse who had an addiction. I asked her if everything was okay before the addiction. Everything this woman told me made me think this guy wasn't even a good partner before the addiction started. I know that seems harsh, but you must be honest with yourself. 

The following three categories or questions are more about you. I want you to ask yourself, 

  • Have you tried everything you can think of to try and help them? 
  • Have you cleaned up your side of the street? 
  • Have you given it a good, honest try? 
  • Maybe you've done the invisible intervention or motivational interviewing techniques and tried to get them to go to counseling, and you've positively reinforced their actions. Have you given it your all?

I think that's important because if you decide to leave, I want you to leave knowing you tried everything and feel good about your decision.

The next question is if your loved one is still in active addiction, are you willing or able to work to help them and work hard on the relationship even though it's not fair?

You will have to work as hard, or even harder than they are, to ensure a good outcome. Ask yourself this question. If they do get sober and things turn around, will you be able and willing to forgive them and move forward? Or has there been so much damage done that you are never going to be able to get past it because you do not want to stay with someone when they're clean and sober, and you're so hurt and resentful that you can't ever let them back in and love them? Now, I'm not saying that immediately you should be able to do that.

If you know in your heart that you're never going to get past it, and you're always going to be mean and resentful about it, that's understandable. I'm not judging you because of that, but it's not worth staying if you know no matter what, it will keep pulling out all those negative feelings, emotions, behaviors, and reactions.

Amber Hollingsworth 

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