My husband and I split for a while and recently got back together. While we were split, he admitted that he relapsed on drugs. It’s something he had struggled with, and I assumed he had stopped. I confronted him about it nicely to see if he’d tell me the truth. Of course, he didn’t and then I told him I knew what he was doing, and he backtracked and said that it wasn’t as bad because he doesn’t do it in front of me or the kids. Should I just be okay with it? I feel ashamed in him because he probably brought it into the same house my kids and I live in, and I feel like it’s not fair and like he’s forcing us to live with drugs even though we’re not doing them. Is that fair for me to feel?
Yes, it’s fair for you to feel everything you’re describing. Your husband hasn’t only put you and your children at risk, but he’s also now minimizing your concerns. Based on his responses to you, it’s unlikely he’s going to do anything different without more severe consequences. It’s not your job to create those consequences, but it is your job to plan how you’ll protect yourself and your children.
A common phrase in addiction recovery communities is that an individual is most likely to start recovery when “the pain of the problem becomes greater than the pain of the solution.”[i] He’s clearly not in enough pain at this point to change course and seek help for his problems. You are feeling the effects of his actions and you don’t have to apologize or feel ashamed for the way his choices are creating pain and suffering in your life.
You didn’t identify where you live, but using drugs, especially in the home with children, is illegal and requires you to protect your children. You can visit https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/parentalsubstanceuse.pdf to learn more about your state’s laws for protecting children from the impact of substance abuse. If your husband is unwilling to work with you to protect the children, you have to make the painful decision to protect them from his choices. No one wants to get the authorities involved in their family life, but if your husband is actively using around your children, he has to be stopped.
Please recognize that his drug use introduces danger to you and your children. Here are just a few of the many threats his behavior creates for your lives:
- He’s personally compromised as an individual and unable to think clearly and fulfill his role as a husband and father.
- He could drive under the influence with them, neglect them in the home, and/or become violent.
- His betrayals to you compromise your safety and stability, which can have direct impact on your ability to adequately care for your own children.
- Financial instability
- Accidental exposure to substances
- Bringing unsafe people into your chidlren’s lives
Please seek support for yourself so you can think clearly about your next steps. There are many people who need to be involved and should be involved when your family is at risk like this. For example, seeking the counsel of mental health professionals, your bishop, child welfare workers, an attorney, and trusted family members will help you better understand your options as you move forward.
You’ll also want to begin attending recovery meetings for family members coping with a loved one’s addiction. The Church has free 12-step meetings you can begin attending immediately to get support and education about how you can heal and set healthy limits.
Your husband can’t force you and your children to live with drugs in the home. You are the adult and in charge of yourself and these children. He’s not acting like a responsible adult and, therefore, can’t work with you as a partner in behalf of your children until he takes personal responsibility for the damage he’s doing. Until that happens, you’ll have to make unilateral decisions in the best interest of safety and stability.
It’s difficult to hold your spouse accountable when you also have your own emotional needs. However, he’s not acting like a spouse right now. When he’s putting his own needs ahead of you your children’s safety, he’s acting like a single man. You’ve already separated and set limits with him. Continue forward protecting yourself and your children and keep this your priority until everyone is out of harm’s way. At that point, if he wants something different, he can start a new conversation with you about how he’ll join you in creating safe and stable conditions for his family and repair the damage he’s done.
Geoff will answer a new family and relationship question every Friday. You can email your question to him at ge***@ge**********.com
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About the Author
Geoff Steurer is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice in St. George, Utah. He is the co-author of “Love You, Hate the Porn: Healing a Relationship Damaged by Virtual Infidelity”, host of the podcast, “From Crisis to Connection”, and creates online relationship courses. He earned degrees from Brigham Young University and Auburn University. He is married to Jody Young Steurer and they are the parents of four children.