Living With a Substance Abuser?

By Jackie Pilossoph, Editor-in-chief, Divorced Girl Smiling, Love Essentially columnist and author

Men and women living with a substance abuser often face the choice, “Should I stay or should I go.” That most likely includes Khloe Kardashian, estranged wife of Lamar Odom. In this week’s Love Essentially, published yesterday in Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press, I interview certified drug alcohol counselor, David Cohen about what it’s like to be the spouse of a substance abuser, and what you can do to get help.

Can Lamar and Khloe’s Marriage Survive?  by Jackie Pilossoph

“There is a very long road ahead of him, and he has to walk that road by himself. But I’ll be there supporting him every step of the way.”

That’s what Khloe Kardashian told People magazine with regard to her husband, Lamar Odom, who authorities suspect overdosed on cocaine and other drugs before being found unconscious at a Nevada brothel.

The reality TV star, who in conjunction with Odom recently filed a petition to dismiss their divorce filing, said they decided to put the divorce on hold for medical and other reasons, but that by no means does this action mean they are back together.

While Odom and Kardashian will have to confront this situation together, millions of other Americans deal with their own challenges balancing relationships with substance abuse.

David Cohen is a Chicago-based licensed clinical social worker and certified alcohol drug counselor, who describes addiction as a chronic, progressive and often fatal disease that requires treatment and ongoing maintenance for remission.

“The only way to sustain recovery is to get treatment through a 30-day residential or intensive outpatient therapy program, along with individual therapy, which is an important ingredient in sustainable recovery,” said Cohen, a 15-year veteran in the field, who said he is personally in long-term recovery from addiction.

Cohen said addiction is characterized by denial, minimization, manipulation, rationalization and blaming others alongside the chemical use, and that what ends up happening is the spouse begins to exhibit these same traits, becoming codependent.

“A codependent will say things like, ‘Oh, it’s just beer,‘ or ‘He is still able to work and bring home a paycheck,’ or ‘He’s never been arrested,'” Cohen said. “It’s the same minimizing and rationalizing that the addict does.”

Cohen said codependents often do things like hide alcohol, hide money, talk to the spouse’s coworkers and friends about the addictive behavior, and become “obsessed with trying to fix the problem.”

“The addict is obsessing over the chemical and the codependent is obsessing over the addict,” he said. “None of it helps. The addict has to want recovery for him or herself. You can’t force the person. It’s that person’s journey.”

Another extremely difficult aspect of living with a substance abuser, according to Cohen, is that if the addict decides to get help, the spouse and family often go untreated. In other words, the spouse and family doesn’t experience rehab, and therefore they don’t get the emotional support they need to understand the disease, heal and move forward.

Cohen suggests Al-Anon and Families Anonymous, which he said are both great programs for spouses and families of substance abusers, whether the addict is in recovery or not.

“There are three ‘C’s’ they talk about in Families Anonymous: ‘I didn’t cause it, I cannot control it and I cannot cure it,'” Cohen said. “You can’t fix him or her, but you can help by helping yourself. That’s something you have control over.”

I can’t judge any man or woman living with a substance abuser when it comes to deciding whether or not they will stand by the loved one or choose to leave. Either decision surely takes immense courage and strength.

And, just as I would for any married couple facing challenges…Click here to read the rest of the column, published yesterday in Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press.





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Jackie Pilossoph

Editor-in-chief: Jackie Pilossoph

Divorce is a journey. Live it with grace, courage and gratitude. Peace and joy are on the way! Jackie Pilossoph is the creator and Editor-In-Chief of Divorced Girl Smiling. The author of the novels, Divorced Girl Smiling and Free Gift With Purchase, Pilossoph also writes the weekly dating and relationships advice column, “Love Essentially”, published in the Chicago Tribune Pioneer Press and the Chicago Tribune online. Additionally, she is a Huffington Post contributor. Pilossoph holds a Masters degree in journalism from Boston University.

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