Could Substance Use Come Between You and Your Partner?

Substance abuse is a major problem that affects about 20 million Americans each year. Could it be coming between you and your partner? Read on to see some scary scenarios and how to handle them.

Picture this: You and your partner have been together since you were in college. You remember many nights spent partying with friends, celebrating the 21st birthday rite of passage, perhaps experimenting with some substances. You took full advantage of your early 20s, sharing excitement and joy and visiting the bars and parties, and then had a wonderful marriage. Now, you’re both in your thirties, and you realize you want to “adult” a little better and start having kids. Is your lifestyle sustainable? How do you change it? You ask yourself, “is it time to call a couples counselor?”

Or, what about this scenario: You and your partner have been together for over a decade, but you notice something seems wrong. Your partner has been withdrawn, distant, and money from the household budget just keeps disappearing. You start being more attentive and realize that empty liquor bottles end up in the trash can outside, but you never saw them in the house. Or maybe you find some paraphernalia from other substances. Is your partner having a mid-life crisis ? You know you have to address this.

One last example: In your golden years, you decide to take up a whiskey-tasting class. You love it so much, you sign up for another, and start trying different cocktails at home. Even when you can’t get the nice stuff, or the fancy mixers to go along with it, you like that warm, fuzzy feeling, and the fact that you don’t remember arguing with your partner when you drink. Before you know it, you realize you are drinking most every day, and you really like the way it feels when you mix your beverages with the painkillers you have from that old back injury. Your partner tells you to cut down, but you think they’re just jealous. You’ve met some new friends at the bar who understand you much better.

Red Flags and White Flags

At any stage of a person’s life, they can be affected by alcohol or drug abuse. Whether you have a history of problem drinking, always have to be the “life of the party,” or love the way that substances help you to escape problems, the line between “social” use and problematic use can be blurry. Unfortunately, it can also come between you and your partner. In some cases, only one partner has a substance abuse concern, which places much of the burden of managing household responsibility  and children on the sober partner. In other cases, both partners are struggling and often enabling each other, trapping one another in a cycle of negative behaviors, arguments, and guilt. You and your partner may not agree on the exact same level of substance use, but when it comes between your marriage, affects your performance at work or as a parent, or causes health concerns, these red flags let you know that you need help! When you reach this point, you may want to work with a skilled couples counselor in Highlands Ranch, as well as a certified addictions counselor. Even if you are not the “patient” (the one with the substance abuse issue), your relationship is undoubtedly affected by substance use, and a therapist can help you to work through the ways that your partnership has been affected.

You don’t have to deal with substance use or abuse alone. If you, your partner, or both are having problems with substance use, there is help available. Working with substance abuse professionals and attending couple’s therapy can break up that relationship with substances and rebuild your relationship with each other. Set up a couple’s counseling session today to reclaim your relationship!




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Tricks, Treats, and Trauma: Triggers at Halloween

Not long after fall sets in, the season of spooky ghosts, fairy princesses, and undead ghouls and zombies comes to life! This is an exciting time of year for most kids, but for those who have survived trauma, it could be a little more than is desired. In this month’s blog, we’ll discuss the reasons why we love to be scared, what can be too scary, and how to handle the sights and frights in a positive way.
Fright is Fun!
When one thinks logically about it, Halloween, horror movies, and even dangerous sports like mountain climbing or cliff diving shouldn’t appeal to us—or our kids! Any good child psychologist in Littleton knows that these are things that make our hearts race, send a shiver down our backs, and mimic some of life’s biggest dangers: falling, losing to the elements, monsters, and worse! But kids, just like adults, are drawn to these things. The act of seeking out that excitement plays a role, but it also helps us to manage and deal with these feelings when they come up in real life. Humans play with all our emotions, from tear-jerking romances to action-packed superheroes, and fear is one of many!
When Scary is Too Scary
For some children (and adults!) these “fun” scares are not so fun. While many people associate this with very younger children, people of all ages can have experiences that can make horror a true fright. For example, children who have witnessed violence or graphic accidents may find that the prop blood used to stage many horror scenes is just too close to reality, or may not want to see or touch it. Children who have been abused may shy away from threatening figures, and for good reason—these behaviors keep them safe, both physically and emotionally.
How to Enjoy the Season
How can you enjoy the Halloween season and help your child to do the same? First, help your child to understand the fear and put it into words. Is your child simply afraid of all monsters? Try visiting an age-appropriate fun event, where the focus of the costume is to be cute or funny, not frightening. Make sure to check age recommendations at haunted houses or festivals, as many are designed for teens or older. If you know that something in particular triggers your child, work with a behavior therapist in Littleton on ways to stay calm and present during these triggers, or build strength by gently exposing him or her to the frightful event through play therapy. Teaching your child to repeat a mantra, such as “these are just costumes, the blood is just syrup and food coloring” can help to keep them focused. Make it clear that nothing is really going to harm them, and encourage them to have fun and master the fear by “being” the scary monster, including jumping out and yelling “boo” at mom and dad from behind corners.
If your child’s fear or trauma reaction is getting in the way of normal functioning, or if he or she is thinking about it very often, working with an experienced mental health therapist is your best option! Dr. Lazarus has helped many children to process trauma and emerge stronger than ever!