On Divorcing an Addict

 But if the unbeliever departs, let him depart; a brother or a sister is not under bondage in such cases. But God has called us to peace.

-I Corinthians 7:15, NKJV

What ought a Christian do if he or she is married to someone with an opioid or meth addiction?

***IMPORTANT DISCLAIMER***

I am not a therapist or a lawyer. This is not therapeutic or legal advice but rather spiritual care advice from a chaplain. Please seek appropriate, professional help as needed!

 

First, I would point out that it is not the spouse’s responsibility to shield the addict from the legal consequences for breaking the law. In fact, I would discourage such shielding behavior. You do not want to create your own legal problems because of their irresponsible behavior.

Second, I believe this situation calls for separation. The home is no longer safe with an addict. Even if she never becomes violent, she is not operating with a sound mind and may do things–like steal the grocery money–detrimental to your (and the kids) well-being. Also, these drugs are known to give people incredible strength, which is dangerous for you even if you are a big man.

Third, I would recommend pressing for treatment first. After ensuring your own (and your children’s) safety, I would recommend looking to get the addicted spouse into treatment. The addict might not be able to choose not to use, but he or she can choose to allow people to help or not.

If the addicted spouse refuses help–i.e. treatment–then I believe divorce is on the table as an option for the spouse left behind by the addiction (see I Corinthians 7:15).

I would add that this is my opinion and my application of I Corinthians 7:15 to the situation. As I see it, the addicted spouse’s behavior as incompatible with Christian identity as well as an example of truly and physically leaving the other spouse. That said, this is a tricky situation not directly addressed in Scripture; so, genuine Christians may come out on different sides of the issue regarding divorcing an addict.

Two Final Thoughts:

1. Sexual infidelity may come along with the addiction. 

People do wild things when on mind-altering substances. And the bondage to those substances might lead them to do things that they wouldn’t normally do under a sound mind. That does not excuse this behavior as the addict is responsible for not addressing the addiction that led to the infidelity. Obviously, sexual infidelity situations would mean a clear option to divorce (see Jeremiah 3:8, Matthew 19:9, etc).

2. I am limiting this discussion today to substance abuse addictions.

“Sex addiction” strikes me as too convenient an excuse for cheaters to use to avoid taking responsibility for their infidelities. Also, I caution people from calling everything an “addiction” in an attempt to “justify” an otherwise biblically unjustifiable divorce.

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