‘I suspect my husband, and father of our new baby, is using drugs’

He gets easily agitated over small things and finds excuses to leave the house

PROBLEM: I suspect that my husband is abusing drugs, and I feel powerless to do anything about it. But my suspicions keep getting stronger by the day. We have a new baby, our first, and during my pregnancy I began to see a lot of changes in his behaviour that didn’t add up.

He seems to get easily agitated over small things and finds all sorts of excuses to leave the house whenever he is home. I can’t easily get to see what he’s earning as he works in an industry where sometimes cash payments are made, so I’m unsure if what he says he earns is anything close to what he does earn.

Although we’re in our late 30s and have just been lucky to get pregnant after a long wait, his social life increased during this time and I’m shocked at how little time he makes to spend with our beautiful daughter. I can’t talk to my family about my worries as they don’t have much of a relationship with him, disapproving of him early on in our relationship. I lost my job due to Covid, so we’re fully reliant on his income. And I just don’t know where to start.

ADVICE: The first thing you need is support and a place to discuss and check out your worries. The HSE runs an alcohol and drugs freephone helpline on 1800 459459 from Monday to Friday, 9.30am-5.30pm or email helpline@hse.ie.

You say you are feeling helpless and without this support your communication with your husband may be defensive and frightened and this might result in further avoidance from him and panic for you. That you feel so trapped financially is probably exaggerating your suspicion and, of course, you cannot leave your daughter with your husband if you are worried that he won’t be responsible.

Yet communication is the place to start, and this needs to be consistent and real – he needs to know that you are still on his side while being clear about the effect his behaviour is having on you and your daughter. He may already feel guilty about his behaviour and could be looking for an opportunity for change. If this is the case, he might be relieved to talk about how he is feeling and so appreciative of the care you are offering.

However, drug taking may be his way out of facing up to any difficulties and you may get a response that is full of anger and resentment. Pick and plan a time to talk when you are feeling calm, and he is not edgy and backing out the door. Ask him how he copes with life’s worries and tell him you are worried about his coping mechanisms and give him clear examples of what you are talking about, for example, about his aggressive responses and how agitated he seems at certain times.

Let him know that you want to be there for him and that you will not back away from him if he will let you know what is going on. It is highly unlikely that he will be open the first time you talk so be prepared to put time and effort into this strategy.

Supports and mechanisms

There are many supports and mechanisms to help people come off drugs, and this path is not a simple straightforward one – you may go through setbacks and false starts but there is a lot of expertise and support available to those who want to change. The starting point is acceptance that there is a problem, and this is where you will need persistence and determination to get him to this point.

Is there one person in the extended family who you could confide in? You may need them to babysit for you as you go to supports with your husband

To maintain your position you will need support, so start now and connect with the HSE supports. It may be that you are over-reacting but if this is true the worst thing that can happen is that you are embarrassed, so do not let fear of this be a block to you taking up the challenge of asking about drugs.

If you go through all this and it turns out that your husband is not open to change or support, then you will need your own family to be there for you – particularly financially.

Is there one person in the extended family who you could confide in? You may need them to babysit for you as you go to supports with your husband or you may need periods of time away from home, so you feel safe about thinking about your future.

When you select your person, tell them that you need their help to change the way the family talk about your husband as he will always be your daughter’s father and cannot be cut out completely. You will need to educate them about drugs and what is helpful rather than a “I told you so” attitude, so patience and calmness are again needed.

What all of this points to is that you need to resource yourself, surround yourself with good people and use them when you are feeling defeated.