Marriage Survival Skills, When your Child is an Addict

It’s easy for us to lose sight of ourselves and our marriage when our children struggle with addiction. Our sole focus becomes saving them, and others, inadvertently, can fall to the wayside. My own marriage was crumbling at one point, everything became toxic and unhealthy. I mean LITERALLY everything.

The blame game was in full force for a long time. I felt he didn’t support me, he felt I was enabling her every move.

For me, personally, I became OBSESSESED with saving my daughter Brittany. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I spent so much time trying to FIX my daughter, that I lost the connection with my husband that we once had, mentally, spiritually even physically. It certainly wasn’t intentional, I think I just became so lost in my own pain and fear, that I didn’t realize that my husband needed me too.


Going out to dinner, the conversation almost always led to Brittany…and it usually ended up heated, discussing doctor bills, what sober house she was at now, how much I spent on her this month.

Making plans for a vacation, we talked about Brittany…should we bring her, can we leave her at home, what if something happened while we were gone?

This time of my life was absolutely, hands down, the most difficult I have ever experienced. I was losing my daughter, myself and my husband. I was so broken in every way, I truly felt like I was drowning and there was no way out. I could barely get out of bed, movements throughout the day were automatic. I couldn’t stand to get on social media and see everyone’s HAPPY lives, or bad days. I would scream internally, “You have NO idea what a bad day is like!”. I was angry with the world.

Until I reached my own “rock bottom” of sorts. I had to stop the damn pity party. I realized I had a choice to make….Do I want to live miserable the rest of my life? Or DO something about it?!

I realized I couldn’t STOP my daughter from using drugs, but I could certainly change how I reacted to it. I also knew I had a husband and younger daughter that needed me to be present and in the moment. Not just going through the motions.

So what did we do to save our marriage? While I wont go into all of the personal details, I can say these few tips helped us TREMENDOUSLY get back on track.

  1. I stopped working harder on my daughter’s recovery than she was. Think about that. Say it out loud. Read it again. You know exactly what I mean moms.
  2. I started looking at myself again like a woman. Not the mom, not the wife, not the co-worker. I had to identify with MYSELF again.
  3. I had to look at my husband as a MAN again. Lets be real. We get comfortable in our marriage, and lets face it, marriage is HARD WORK!
  4. We started going on marriage dates again…and made a pact to NOT discuss Brittany, nor would I take calls from her during our dates.
  5. We both took an honest look at ourselves, our own actions, and started open and honest communication.  It wasn’t easy.  Many times I didn’t like what he had to say.  Many times I didn’t agree with it and likewise with him.  But we had to truly LISTEN and VALIDATE those feelings, not judge one another.  Man, that was hard.

As a family, we had to begin look at enabling RECOVERY, not addiction. Addiction will create some damage on relationships in one shape or another, there is no doubt. But HEALING and PEACE can come, not by fixing each other, but by mending OURSELVES.

If you or someone you love is struggling, we have resources that can help. Please don’t hesitate to reach out, you are NOT alone.

Katie Donovan

As seen on USA Today, ABC, NBC, FOX
Author, Public Speaker, Treatment placement, family recovery coaching


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  1. Mike Grider March 16, 2017 at 8:23 am - Reply

    Well said Katie.. Families have to decide to heal and get better regardless of what there addict family members do..

  2. Sue Turowski March 16, 2017 at 8:48 am - Reply

    As always such great information! So glad your family has found recovery.

  3. Nancy Hunt March 16, 2017 at 9:50 am - Reply

    I did this finally. Gave it to God. Then my son died.
    I regret I let him rely on himself….and others.
    If I were more involved, he may still be alive.

    • Carol-Anne March 17, 2017 at 9:14 am - Reply

      I’m so sorry, Nancy. I can just barely imagine the agony you must be in. I think we all struggle with this, and hope so much that there will be “the answer” for what to do. I just have no idea. The utter terror & sorrow I feel on a daily basis, with my own addict son (who is in prison now) is so all encompassing.

      I wish I could say something to ease your pain and guilt. But I have nothing to offer, except my wish for you to find peace.

      • Katie March 17, 2017 at 9:39 pm - Reply

        Nancy, I am so so sorry. Nothing I can say could even begin to take that pain away. But know that I am here for you, ALWAYS. I am a family coach but aside from that I am a mother and a friend and if you need to talk, please email me or call me anytime.

        Anything you did or didn’t do, did not contribute to his death. Deep down you know this, but I understand it is hard to accept. Whether you know me personally or not, you gained a friend through this. I will hold your hand and help in anyway possible through this part of your journey.

        • Alejandra March 18, 2017 at 4:50 pm - Reply

          Hi Katie,

          I did emailed you and I really hope you respond, because I, going thru hell and like Nancy I gave it to God and detach and my daughter have try to commit suicide twice in a month, right now she is in the hospital but she doesn’t want the help they are offering her. She just keeps telling everybody that if I take her in our home she will be fine and won’t use drugs anymore but I have a hard time believing this and I’m firm on my boundaries but is she going to keep trying to kill herself? And if she finally succeed, how am I going to feel? This is the worse nightmare !

    • Anne September 10, 2017 at 8:19 pm - Reply

      it could have happened even if you were there… lots of what ifs

  4. Teresa Wroble March 16, 2017 at 4:40 pm - Reply

    I can relate to this in so many ways. I had even thought about divorcing my husband over our son because, I was such an enabler. We fought every day.

    • Katie March 17, 2017 at 9:41 pm - Reply

      Exactly! You become addicted to them and you tend to forget that the rest of the family still needs you.

  5. Dotsey March 16, 2017 at 4:58 pm - Reply

    I can so relate to everything you say. Four of my five children have some sort of addiction. Recently, my 30 year old daughter was released into a long-term rehab after serving 2+ years in a state prison. She has struggled with addiction since 2003 and I am so tired. When I went to see my therapist last week, I mentioned to her that I feel I lost myself while trying to fix my daughter. I will never give up on any of my children, but I do have to take your advice. I want to stop working so hard on my daughter’s recovery and allow her to do it for herself. Thank you!

    • Katie March 17, 2017 at 9:44 pm - Reply

      Try to find a balance in your life. The rest of the family needs you but more importantly you need you. You need to be happy and healthy and spiritually at peace. It is so hard to do that when your loved ones are in active use, but try to focus on yourself. I do coaching and if you ever want a consultation or just to talk feel free to contact me via email or cell. My daughter is an interventionist and recovery coach as well.

  6. Vicki March 17, 2017 at 12:18 am - Reply

    I love this article. My husband and I knew there were other parents like us out there, but didn’t know how to contact them. How can we start a support group in our area?

  7. Erika March 18, 2017 at 9:25 am - Reply

    Thank you for sharing your family’s story. My husband is a recovering alcoholic and even though the relationship is different, much of what you write about hits very close to home. I particularly loved the first point in this article. We cannot work harder on recovery than our addict does. It just will not work!

    Thank you again!

  8. Melinda March 20, 2017 at 12:01 am - Reply

    I so understand how Nancy feels. I live with the torment every day. My little brother was like a son to me and after 7 years living with my family and I and numerous rehabs I finally had to let him go. It was the hardest thing I’ve ever done but my children were picking up the tab. I was spending thousands trying to keep him sober and like you said Katie, I was working harder for his sobriety than he was. He left to visit ‘friends’ and I told him if he left, I was not bailing him out again. I finally stood firm. He passed away from cirrhosis last September, alone in another state and it just breaks my heart. I struggle daily with it. I just want to have peace with myself over it.

  9. Kari Jewett March 20, 2017 at 2:42 pm - Reply

    Thank you so much for this article. I am so tired…Over the last year and a half, my father died, my husband had a massive heart attack (thankfully survived), my mother fell and broke her arm (thankfully is healed) and my son relapsed this last October after 3 years clean. He worked 2 jobs he loved, saved for a house and lived on his own. He had a very stressful thing happen in his life and relapsed. He went into detox, then 30 day in patient, over Christmas. He lost everything and is back home with us and has started again abusing anxiety medicine and cocaine on and off. It has just about killed us.
    Last week after taking him back and forth to court dates, dealing with 2 more lost jobs, I finally gave him over to God. He is living with us. But, we are giving him no more money, stopped enabling and my husband and I have decided to love him, but put ourselves first. It is so hard, but all we have done since October is fight.
    I am so thankful I found your website! Thank you thank you for all of the wonderful information. You and your daughter are such a Blessing. Kari Jewett

  10. Carol July 17, 2017 at 10:08 am - Reply

    Hello, My daughter is a heroin addict. I have been through it all. She had almost 2 yrs clean and relapsed she was in drug court so she is working out her prison sentence. When she was doing good I told her if she went back to using I wasn’t visiting her in jail, taking calls, putting money in her canteen. She conned the prison into letting her call me 2 times and last week got into work release. So now she needs a bike and a phone to get a job. Somehow I have been signed up to do that just like so many other things she has needed. I went and got her socks, shampoo, conditioner, tooth brush, paste, deodorant. Don’t get me wrong I am glad I still have my daughter and she told me she will pay me back but, somehow addicts can sign you up real quick for their needs. So the battle goes on in my head. I have done all this many times, and when I say I want her to stand on her own two feet I mean it but, how do you not help? She will be there till Dec. 20th and I want her to succeed but, I have told her I am tired of paying the price for your mistakes. That is the way I feel and I don’t know about her but, I have learned my lesson. Husband is over it all. I told him where she was at yesterday and he said nothing. We have a bike she could have but, I am sure the tires are dry rotted so I won’t even ask him to fix it for her. The straw that broke this camels back was the cops showing up at our house at 2 am. her ending up in my new neighbors yard dragging her boyfriend by the hair of the head like a cat with a prize up to my door. He was very controlling said she couldn’t get away from him and then going back to him in a day or so. We had let them stay in our home to get on their feet and that never happened. When I said something about that is great I bet our new neighbors wonder what kinda neighborhood they moved into she was like oh no I explained to them it was ok and said she was sorry like they would just take her word for it. So I love her but, it puts such a ying yang in my life it is hard to deal with. So now she can call on the phone. A LOT>>> I hear I just want to get back home and get my family back. She has a 8 yrs old daughter and two teen age boys going down the same road as her. I feel I need to back off and let her do what she needs to for her and her family. She has never listened to anything I have said so basically I feel like she needs to learn her lesson. With her success with drug court I know she has the tools to do what she needs to do but, SHE has to be the one to do the foot work. So with her being in work release I am out about 260.00 bucks already and she has only been out a few days 🙂 after she gets her stuff I want her to figure out the rest. The car I got her cause I was falling asleep on the road after working second shift she let the drug guy pick it up when she was arrested the last time. I told her cause she knew she was gonna be picked up to put it where it will be safe oh no doing that that would be the smart thing to do. Then wanted me to go pick it up from the guy that has gun charges ah NO….. I have been there and got the T-shirt on it all in 7 1/2 long years. So I function better by separating myself from the drama but, I get mad when my hubby doesn’t want to sign up for any of it. Therefore the ying yang thing going on 🙂

  11. Jana Holmstrom August 7, 2017 at 4:31 pm - Reply

    My 25 year old daughter has been struggling with an addiction to “escaping” for 7 years. She is just leaving her 2nd Rehab and will go into sober living for 2 months. I am exhausted but have to turn her over to God at least 5 times a day. God says, “Be anxious for nothing…” I remind myself of this a hundred times a day and through the night. Peace. It just steals your peace.
    Every time I rock her two precious babies to sleep, I tell them beautiful stories about their Momma when she was a little girl…

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