Ask Dr. Zoe – How Do I Help My Spouse Recognize an Addiction?

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Dr. Zoe Shaw, A Year of Self-Care

‘Trying to help’ Asked:

How do you help a spouse identify an issue with their addiction? Meaning, how do you help them see there is a problem that needs addressed because it affects you, your spouse, and your child? I’m normally very direct and that is not well received- to the extent that it is unilaterally dismissed.

Dr. Zoe Answered:

Stop trying to convince him. Instead, make statements of fact, and put up boundaries around the unhealthy behavior that is occurring because of the addiction. For example:

Instead of saying:

“I think you have a problem.”


“I will not engage with you when you are using because (this is how it affects us).” Or, “If you choose not to get help for your addiction then I will no longer…”

And follow through on your boundary.

overcoming addiction boardThis makes it clear that his addiction is not up for debate or defense. You will not collude with his denial. It is a reality in your relationship, and he will experience real consequences as a result.

Sometimes we think that we have to convince someone of their behavior before any changes can be made. Your decision to not tolerate his behavior and not co-sign his decision to deny his addiction is making a clear statement that is hard for him to ignore.

Many families stay in the stage of not addressing, denying the addiction, and protecting and enabling the addict because they are following the lead of the addict, instead of taking the lead. This causes more pain and dysfunction and actually grows the denial monster, instead of shrinking it.

You don’t need him to agree with you or even admit to the addiction in order to take steps toward health for you and your family. Start attending twelve step meetings, find some help for your child. You don’t need his acknowledgement for that.

You’ve got this! It just takes a little grit and grace.

If you have a situation in your life where boundaries need to be put up with a person who is not respecting you, this podcast episode is for you: Want to Be a Strong Woman? Set Healthy Boundaries – 103

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