He Says: I'm afraid she's becoming addicted

Your Life
Dr. Manuel P. Santos and Karee Santos
September, 2015

I understand Michelle has chronic health problems, but she goes to multiple doctors to get different prescriptions for strong pain medications. I’m afraid she’s becoming addicted.

She Says: I’m in constant pain

I am in constant pain and can’t get enough relief from a single prescription. I’m not addicted, I am just trying to get through each day. It hurts and Adam doesn’t understand

What do they do?

Addiction of any kind can put a terrible strain on a marriage, but it’s not always easy to spot. Whether people are addicted depends on many factors, including whether the substance use causes problems in their work or social lives, whether they continue using the substance despite adverse health consequences and whether their friends and family are concerned.

Michelle’s behavior raises two red flags. First, she’s seeking out multiple doctors. Second, she’s resorting to more than one pain medication. Adam is right to be worried, and he needs to take action to help Michelle.

Adam could begin by following a system of conflict resolution modeled on Jesus’ instructions in the Gospel of Matthew. (Mt 18:15-17)  First, confront the person directly. Then, get the assistance of a few friends. Last, involve a broader community.

First, Adam can tell Michelle how much her behavior worries him. If Michelle continues to insist she doesn’t have a problem, Adam may wish to involve other close friends and family in confidence. These friends and family may have independently noticed a troubling change in Michelle’s behavior, and may be willing to speak to her. Michelle’s physician could also prove to be an ally.

If these gentler interventions don’t help, Adam could look for a 12-step recovery program for substance abuse offered at many parishes. Even if Michelle is unwilling to attend, these programs frequently include a support component for non-addicted family members or spouses like Adam. Such programs might also lead Adam to other sources of help for Michelle, including psychiatrists and rehabilitation facilities.