If you’ve been in a relationship with an addict, or as an addict, you know all too well the extent to which addiction can take its toll on relationships.
To a large extent, committed couples live in a reality that they co-create, and they share every aspect of their lives: their children, their home, their pets, their food, their finances and many of their habits. Their influence on each other can’t be underestimated. If you’re struggling with an addiction and you’re in a relationship with another addict, chances are that you’re also sharing your substance abuse.
While addiction clearly has detrimental effects on sufferers’ lives, it also vicariously affects their partners. The fears, denial, illogical reasoning and compulsive behaviors experienced by addicts are, more often than not, contagious. Drug use leads to conflict, which in turn leads to more substance abuse. Taken together with a host of other factors that come into play when addiction enters into a relationship, it’s easy to see why, for couples who struggle with addiction, rehab should be at the top of the priorities list.
Potential Pitfalls of Couples Addiction Treatment
While there are obvious and reasons why a couple would be motivated to seek treatment together, there are some potential drawbacks to take into consideration. The first year of sobriety is a notoriously challenging time even without the addition of relationship dynamics into the mix. In fact, because of the deep levels of self-discovery that are characteristic of this phase, addiction professionals generally advise people not to date in early recovery.
It’s no accident that, as relationship expert Bob Navarra points out, “addiction brings with it a divorce rate four times higher than average.” In addition to the codependency and erosion of trust so characteristic of addict relationships, relapses can send either partner into a spiral of anger and disappointment. All that increased conflict can be triggering, adding to the urge to use when stress levels reach a boiling point.
Lasting Relationships, Lasting Recovery, Couples can recover together
But for all of the potential drawbacks, couples’ addiction treatment certainly offers some compelling pluses, too. You, your partner, your relationship and your addictions are all intertwined – what affects one piece of the puzzle affects all the others – so it only makes sense that in order to heal fully, all must be treated simultaneously. Also, stable relationships can help your chances of long-term recovery – the chance of relapsing after completing a couples addiction treatment program together go down significantly due to the fact that both individuals are sober at the same time.
While being in a relationship with another addict can undoubtedly be crazy making at times, you can also take comfort in knowing your addiction-related issues aren’t all one-sided – you’re both familiar with the internal processes of addiction, because you’ve both experienced them first-hand. There are certain things you just won’t have to explain as if they’re completely new information, and being in the same stage of the recovery process certainly has its practical advantages.
Aside from being pragmatically expedient, making recovery progress together can actually reinforce the bonds of your relationship. There’s nothing like setting goals and reaching milestones together to cast an optimistic light on a relationship, especially if its value in your life has been somewhat questionable at times. Because of its innate challenges, the recovery process can really bring out the best in people and showcase their strengths, not least of which are the bravery it takes to look deep within yourself and take responsibility for your life, pursuit of higher life goals and the commitment to riding out difficulties in order to make them happen. Having a front row seat to your partner’s personal growth can be rewarding beyond your expectations.
How Couples Handle Early Sobriety: A Team Effort
Take responsibility for your own sobriety.
Adopt this mantra: “Self-care isn’t selfish.” Though the vast majority of us have had martyrdom drilled into us by a culture that values burnout as a badge of honor and self-sacrifice as an enviable trait, the truth is that prioritizing your own well being isn’t just good for you, it’s good for everyone. When you don’t take charge of your own mental health, you start looking to others to do it for you – and we know where that road leads. In a recovery-focused relationship, your sobriety is top priority – and that means taking space when you need it, communicating your needs and doing whatever else you need to do to stay on top of that goal.
Stay in drug counseling.
We repeat: stay in counseling. A solid aftercare program is recommended for recovering folks of all relationship statuses, but maintaining a connection with a therapist you trust is an indispensable asset for a couple dealing with the throes of early sobriety together. You need an objective third party to turn to when you hit a rough patch, and you each need a reliable source of support other than each other. Remember – when you hit a hurdle, don’t take it out on your relationship. Stick to your daily practice, up your therapy and group meetings and you’ll be back on track before you know it.
Commit conflict resolution cooperatively.
The same rules apply here as do in any healthy relationship. Don’t avoid issues, don’t personally attack each other, keep your conversations’ focus on the issue, respect your partner’s feelings as being valid and look for common ground. If you keep running into recurring problems and don’t feel you’re making enough progress on your own, your therapist can help you talk things out in a session or give you some helpful techniques to try at home.
Change your environment, Don’t put yourself around drugs and alcohol
Half of any battle is removing the obstacles in your path. Give yourself the best chance of recovery success by making a commitment to avoid the following aspects of your past life:
- People – Old party friends, dealers, anyone who doesn’t support your sobriety and toxic relationships in general.
- Places – Oft-visited bars, houses or any settings that remind you of using or prompt you to use.
- Things – Triggering situations and activities you associate with using.
Once the above are out of the picture, you’ll be amazed at how much room there is for new and exciting things in your life. This is a great opportunity to explore interests and hobbies that are healthy, creative and social, and do it together, making your life all the more full and fun in the process.
Set Yourself up for Relationship and Recovery Success With Couples’ Addiction Treatment
Remember, there are three recoveries to consider: yours, your partner’s and that of your relationship. If you’re seeking treatment as a couple, make sure you find a therapist who has experience working with couples in your situation, as the industry standard is generally to separate couples during treatment.
Broadway Treatment Center specializes in couples’ addiction recovery and offers a curriculum specifically designed to treat both partners in the same facility; our groundbreaking program has received accreditation through the Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval. For more information and to explore your treatment options, contact us today.