This is one of the worst things that can happen to a marriage.
It's worse than an affair. It's worse than one spouse suddenly deciding to turn Muslim. It's worse than spending binges.
Substance abuse destroys people, slowly and inexorably. And the only thing a husband or wife can do is watch - and pray.
Please understand that I speak from some experience. Due to illness, I've had to take high doses of narcotic painkillers. They are both physically and psychologically addictive, and while they were (and are) quite necessary for me to live a reasonably pain-free life, I decided to discontinue them.
It was horrible. Withdrawal from this stiff is one of the worst things you can experience short of severe injury. And bear in mind that I am trained to severe discipline, and to a degree of mind-over-matter than most civilians are lucky enough to never have to think about, much less experience.
Breaking the habit is hard. Many can't do it, or struggle all their lives. In Alcoholics Anonymous, there's no such thing as a recovered alcoholic. Just an alcoholic who's not taken a drink for awhile
So - this post will not tell you how to cure anyone.
It's tell you how to survive.
How to you cope, if your spouse is an abuser of alcohol or drugs?
First, it's not your fault. No matter what you're told by your mate, you did not cause this. You did not drive him or her to drink.
Your 'impossible behavior' didn't drive anyone into the sanctuary of a drug-fueled haze You are not the cause.
And you'll have to tell yourself that every day, for the rest of your life.
Second, you cannot be responsible for recovery. Only the substance abuser can do that. They have to make the right choices, they have to avoid the old friends and old haunts. They have to choose to participate in the programs that are out there (and are effective).
Substance abuse makes the abuser want to shift blame, because self-awareness is a nightmare.
Third, you have an obligation to self-protection. This may seem to fly in the face of 'sacrificial Christianity', but consider this - you are just as important as the abuser. Their problem does not make them more valuable in their 'brokenness', and does not make you expendable.
It's easy to become expendable, to stand by in loyal attendance while someone destroys their own life - and yours along the way.
To protect yourself, you'll need friends. Same-sex, if you please, because you don't need sympathy turning to infatuation. But you will need a safe place in a friend's heart, to kick and scream and cry.
And you'll need faith. Do not stop going to church, even if your spouse refuses and ridicules you...even if you're told that it'll shame them by uncovering their 'secret'.
You need God. So go to His house.
Fourth, it is your place to require accountability. If your husband is stopping by bars on the way home, you have the right to demand to know where he's been. You have the right to set conditions on your life, and on your marriage, if he doesn't seek help.
You can smell his breath when he comes home. You have that right.
Fifth, you have an obligation to support a sincere effort to become sober. This means that you have to be supportive of the meetings, the midnight calls to 12-step sponsors. You have to go to church with your mate, as often as necessary through the week to provide the spiritual support needed.
You have an obligation to abandon alcohol yourself. You have to set that example, and live that discipline. You took the vow - for better or for worse. Now, it's worse. No beer, no wine, nothing for you.
Sixth, you may have to save yourself and your children. If things are spiraling downward and there's no effort on the part of your mate to arrest the dive, you need an out.
It sounds disloyal to prepare a place of refuge, to prepare to physically (and possibly legally) abandon your marriage, but you have to be loyal to Him what made you first.
Again, you're worth something. Just as much as anyone else. And so are your kids.
Living with a drunk who's eschewed any effort at sobriety is an evil version of through-the-looking-glass. Nothing is stable, nor can it be. The money in your bank account today may not be there tomorrow. The man who's reasonable when he's sober can become physically violent when under the influence.
You don't owe anyone your own self-destruction, even if it's 'passive', staying in a death spiral with your spouse.
Seventh and last, you have an obligation to compassion. You may not be able to stay, but you cannot turn vicious in your leaving. You can't damn the memory of the person you had to leave.
There does come a point where recovery is impossible (remember, I do know how hard withdrawal is). When that fork in the road is gone and the only way is down, it's incumbent on you to pray with all the compassion you can muster.
It's incumbent on you to remember the good.
It's incumbent on you to care, for the rest of your life, because you made a promise. You may not be able to stay - but you can't turn your soul away.
Because while you are just as important to God as they are - they are just as important to God as you are.