If addiction has taken over your relationship, there’s plenty that you can do other than succumb to its evil yourself. Just because your boyfriend wants to get piss-drunk every time you go out, doesn’t mean you have to clean him up. Even if your girlfriend picks fights with everyone, doesn’t mean you have to make excuses for her. So your wife is hung over and hasn’t gotten up yet, that doesn’t mean you have to wait. Get out a little, be healthy, let your partner clean up his or her own mess. Create an Addiction-Free Zone.
You can create an Addiction-Free Zone in all kinds of places. If your wife is hung over and bedridden, the Addiction-Free Zone can be the whole rest of the house. Remove all the bottles, the glasses, the shakers, all the stuff involved with the addiction and confine it to just the spot where it needs to be.
If your husband never seems to come home because he’s out with his addiction, you have the house to turn into an Addiction-Free Zone. Redecorate it into an area of vitality. Put pictures on the walls and things that are involved with your interests, activities other than waiting for your missing husband.
Pursue your interests. Go to your yoga class, play softball with the guys, stay connected with family as you would cling to a lifeline. Even more importantly, confine the attitudes of the addiction. Close the door on the hopelessness, the irritability, the dependence to where it has to be and don’t let it invade everywhere else.
If your addicted wife doesn’t want to be alone with the illness, confined to the room just as she is, then you’re very lucky. That’s a sign of health on her part, an indication that her whole personality has not been taken over by the addiction. If your missing husband comes home from the track upset to find his barcalounger in the basement, new curtains on the windows, and the house filled with your bridge club, then that’s good, too. He’s showing an interest in something other than the horses. They, too, can create an Addiction-Free Zone where their drug is not allowed to invade.
Addiction-Free Zones can be created in time as well as space. Play chess with your addict, watch shows together, let him take care of you sometimes. Restrict actions related to addiction to certain times of the day. Ban the cigarettes from your presence, exile alcohol from date night. Lock up the illness, shove it in the basement, wrap it up in duct tape, and free the person.
You might have to be inventive about establishing Addiction-Free Zones. Addicted spouses tend to make messes and spread their madness everywhere they go. In that case, go somewhere they don’t go; somewhere they would never go. Most alcoholic husbands wouldn’t be caught dead at a tea party, so acquire a taste for having tea with your friends. Angry partners are apt to dislike therapists, so find a therapist and create a zone in that office where you can be yourself. If your husband does blow in the bathroom whenever you go out with him, don’t go out with him. He can go himself, while you go to your tea party. If your wife embarrasses you in front of your family, suggest she does something different on Thanksgiving.
Creating an Addiction-Free Zone is really very easy, though it might take some imagination. It’s all about knowing the difference between sickness and health and drawing lines between them. It might look like a selfish thing to do, but it makes you a better caregiver and a more loving spouse. An Addiction-Free Zone will ground you and nourish you so that you can better defeat the addiction and maintain your relationship with the person you love.