Over the last year, many of us have been spending the majority of our time with the same few people. When you spend that much time with a person - and no one else - you begin to become very attuned to their patterns and behaviors.
Especially with many of us working from home, we’ve been given an even bigger window into our loved ones’ lives.
Maybe you knew what time your partner usually got up, but you didn’t realize they drink four cups of coffee a day. Or maybe your spouse had told you they had a lot of meetings, but you now fully understand just how many Zoom calls they have a day.
This additional insight can be kind of fun - just when you thought you couldn't’ learn more about your significant other, you do.
However, what do you do when the discovery you make is a bit more nefarious?
Maybe you see them drinking a few beers throughout their work day. Or you’ll peek your head into their office and notice an empty pill bottle on their desk (one you don’t recognize).
It can be shocking to see these things, but it’s important not to react negatively in the moment. Not only will your partner likely feel attacked, they’re more likely to hide their behavior in the future.
Instead, look at our tips for what to do when you think your significant other has an addiction.
Do Your Research
Maybe you’re not sure if what you’re seeing is a sign of addiction. In this case, educate yourself. Find out what the signs and symptoms are. Have they been dodging conversations about money lately? Are they hesitant to go to the doctor? Are they adding alcohol to the grocery list more often?
Once you do some digging, you may realize that they are showing more signs than you’ve noticed.
Also, look into some treatment options to have in your backpocket. If you talk to your partner and they do think they have a problem and are willing to get help, make sure you have a few phone numbers readily available.
When looking into treatment options, think about what will be most effective for your loved one. Do they tend to like more natural healing options? A holistic program is a good option to look into. Do they like to be hands-on in their learning? A non 12 step treatment center may be the way to go.
They can travel for treatment or stay close to home. Maybe find some options for each and see what they connect to.
While you don’t want to overwhelm them with options, it’s also never a bad thing to come to a conversation prepared.
Try to Stay Away from Blame
Most people who are struggling with an addiction are in a deep state of shame. This is often why they’ll refuse to admit that they have an addiction, or why they get so angry when you bring up how many drinks they had the night before.
Instead, try to stick to what you’ve been feeling and what you’ve been noticing.
For example, maybe you saw that they were visibly intoxicated during a recent Zoom meeting. When the two of you are doing the dishes or are doing some gardening in the backyard, you could bring up what you saw. “Hey, I walked by your Zoom call and noticed you seemed kind of off. It almost seemed like you were drunk. Were you?”
Let their answer guide you. They may joke and say they had started their happy hour early that day, and it was actually kind of funny to see their boss’ reaction.
In this case, be strong in saying that you don’t think this was funny at all. In fact, you’re a bit concerned about them. “Why did you feel like you had to have a drink at 2pm?” Try to stay as calm and nonjudgmental as possible throughout this conversation. If they see that you’re open to talking with them about this, then there’s a much better chance they’ll confide in you now, or in the near future.
Or let’s look at another scenario. So you say, “Hey, I walked by your Zoom call and noticed you seemed kind of off. It almost seemed like you were drunk. Were you?” Instead of joking, they get defensive and are mad that you even suggested this. In this case, tread lightly. You can say you noticed an empty tumbler sitting next to them, so you just wanted to ask.
You can also say something like, “I know this has been a super hard year, so I understand if you’d want to take the edge off a little.” Again, you’re opening the door for conversation rather than shouting back that you could smell the alcohol on them.
Give Yourself a Break
Your significant other is not the only one hurting right now. You’ve now found yourself in a very difficult position that will no doubt bring up some fear and anxiety.
No matter how the conversation goes, give yourself some leeway. You’re not a counselor. You’re doing the best you can.
And if you notice that their behavior gets to the point where outside help is necessary from an interventionist or additional loved ones, you’ll know that you’ve done everything in your power to help them get support.