Confronting addiction is a difficult process, both for addicts and the people that care for them. As the partner of someone in recovery, it can be a confusing and scary time. You have just discovered that the person you love has a serious problem and needs your help. But where do you begin? How do you support a partner in recovery?
Your relationship doesn’t need to change in a major way to accommodate their sobriety.
The most important thing to remember is that your partner is the same person they have always been. Your relationship doesn’t need to change in a major way to accommodate their sobriety. However, there are a few simple things that you can do to be there for your partner and make their recovery easier on both of you.
11 Real Strategies to Support Your Partner in Recovery
How do you support a partner in recovery? The first thing you can do is keep an open mind and try to be understanding. People confronting their addiction are likely feeling a lot of guilt or shame already. As their partner, the last thing you want to do is add to that. Research has shown that addiction is better understood as a disease than a choice. Let them know that you understand this is not their fault, and that you are here to help them get through it like any other health issue.
Create a plan
Open communication is the foundation of every good relationship. Beginning your partner’s recovery journey as a team means talking about it openly and coming up with a plan of action. Having clear goals and a routine is hugely helpful for addicts in recovery. Sit down and define exactly what you both expect from each other, and what your boundaries are. This will set you up for success and avoid pain and conflict down the road.
Explore treatment options
As the partner of an addict in recovery, it is important for you to recognize whether their recovery is going well and decide if you can handle the burden without help. For some addicts, the support of family and loved ones is enough to get through early recovery and into a sober life. If your partner is severely addicted or has failed to get sober in the past, it may be necessary to explore treatment options. Not all addicts will enter treatment willingly. You may need to give them the push that they need.
Be aware of their triggers
The most common cause of relapse for addicts is being exposed to triggers. For some addicts, that can mean moments of emotional distress or loneliness. For others, it can be a party or family event. It is important for you to talk to your partner and identify their triggers so that you can be aware of them. That way you can help them to avoid them where possible and recognize times when they may need additional support from you.
Suggest sober activities
Finding new activities and habits to enjoy is essential for addicts to have a healthy and lasting recovery. However, often addicts in a relationship will feel guilty about limiting the options of their spouse or partner. A great way to support them in their recovery is to be proactive and research fun sober activities that you can enjoy together. That way they will feel less like a burden and more like a partner in a loving, supportive relationship.
Try couples therapy
No couple is perfect, and adding addiction recovery to the mix can put your relationship under considerable strain. Couples therapy can be hugely valuable to even the healthiest of relationships, so why not when you are going through addiction recovery together? One of the best things you can do to help your partner in recovery is finding ways to keep the foundation of your relationship strong. Therapy might just be what you need to help you do that.
Don’t take it personally
We won’t sugar coat it. Sometimes supporting someone through recovery can be difficult, particularly in the early stages of recovery. Addicts going through withdrawal are prone to mood swings and may lash out at those close to them. It is important for you to remember that these outbursts don’t reflect their true feelings. Try to focus on the positive moments. With that being said, when they cross a line be sure to communicate your feelings and do not accept abusive behavior.
Try to keep a sober shared space
Just because your partner is sober, it doesn’t mean that you have to be. However, drinking or using other substances around them can be a difficult temptation for them to resist, and make them feel unsupported. Particularly in the early stages, try to keep your shared space sober-friendly. Research has shown that addicts in early recovery are much more likely to be successful if they live in a sober space.
Remember to take care of yourself
With all of your focus on your partner’s recovery, it can be easy to forget to look after your own needs. You won’t be any good as a partner in their recovery if you are not in a good place yourself. Remember that it is okay to get angry and express your emotions with your partner. It can also be very helpful to have someone else to talk to about your experiences. Consider finding a therapist to talk to, or joining a sober partners support group.
Recognize their progress
Recovery is an incredibly difficult time and is often accompanied by feelings of shame and depression. Choosing to enter into recovery is a brave decision and staying committed to it takes a lot of dedication. Rebuilding self-esteem is a critical part of recovery. It may sound simple, but letting your partner know how proud of them you are and how much you appreciate their efforts can go a long way.
As much as you might want to get back to your ‘normal life’, you have to accept that it won’t happen overnight. Recovery takes time and one of the most helpful things you can do is try your best to be patient. Relapses are common and they do not mean that your partner has ‘failed’. There will be ups and downs but, if you are willing to put in the work and get through the difficult early phase, then you can have a normal, happy life with your sober partner.
How do You Support a Partner in Recovery?
There’s no way around it. Supporting a loved one in recovery, particularly through the early stages, is never easy. It can be even more difficult when that loved one is also your partner, the person that you rely on for emotional support. Every relationship has its ups and downs, and addiction recovery can make the ups feel less significant, and the downs feel far worse. It is easy to feel like your needs become secondary to those of your partner in recovery.
Confronting addiction doesn’t need to be the only focus of your relationship, and nor should it be.
However, it doesn’t need to be that way. By using strategies like the ones above, and being open and clear in communicating your expectations and feelings, you can keep your relationship healthy while supporting your partner. Confronting addiction doesn’t need to be the only focus of your relationship, and nor should it be. The best thing you can do to support your partner in their recovery journey is to keep your relationship healthy.