Couples in Recovery

Your partner is finally sober!

Now what?

You figured that, free from drugs or alcohol, your partner would revert back to the person you originally met. But changes aren’t that immediate, and not all problems are resolved in recovery. It takes time. But if you’re committed to making your relationship work, it will be worth it.

A Joint Venture

The key to a successful recovery is remembering that, like all things in your partnership, recovery is a joint venture. The recovering partner can’t be expected to carry all the weight of stabilizing the newly reformed relationship. Both partners will need to take actions to ensure a successful recovery and relationship.

One of the ways many partners do this is by participating in Al-Anon or Narc-Anon, which were created to provide support to the family members of those with or recovering from an addiction. Through these programs, you will become better educated about addiction, and will learn healthy ways to address any issues you have with your partner. These programs can also help you learn to differentiate between what is your responsibility and what is not.  

If your partner attended a residential treatment facility for substance abuse, it is likely that family or couples therapy is part of the treatment program. Most effective treatment centers make family a priority in patient recovery, so make sure to participate in anything the center offers. You will not only gain valuable insights, but you will likely be able to identify problematic behaviors in your relationship. 

Individual therapy may also be helpful to you. It will give you a chance to process your own fears and concerns about your partner’s recovery, and work on any issues you may be having about the relationship. No matter how long your partner was addicted to substances, it likely took a toll on you and your relationship. Spending the time now to talk about issues will create a stronger post-recovery relationship.

Adjusting to Sobriety

An addiction to drugs or alcohol affects couples of every background, economic status and type of relationship. If your partner was addicted to substances, it’s likely that you took on a lot of responsibility that wasn’t yours, and had to readjust your own lifestyle as a result.

Once your partner has achieved sobriety, you and your partner will have to adapt to new behaviors, which can be difficult. There may be a redistribution of power in the relationship, and the roles you and your partner take may be more even than they were when your partner was using. Therapy can help you better adjust to these new roles, and any other changes sobriety brought to your relationship.

Because change can bring about so much turbulence in a relationship, most treatment centers recommend that couples make no major life changes (such as a move or a job change) during the first year of sobriety.

Remember that making any partnership work requires a lot of effort – especially one in which addiction has been involved. The changes that couples experience in the shift from addiction to sobriety can be very dramatic. Couples need to understand that sobriety is just the beginning of the journey toward creating more satisfying lives, both as individuals and as a couple.