Being married to someone in recovery from addiction can in unpredictable ways alter the dynamics of your relationship.
You may feel elated that your spouse is no longer using their preferred substance of abuse but may also feel bitter about the missed moments, the stress you have experienced as well as the future of your partnership.
If you decided to stay in your marriage then you’ll need to understand the recovery process. You’ll also need to understand how to support their recovery, care for yourself, and discuss the importance of making changes.
Recovery will change your marriage just like active addiction changed your relationship. It will take time to readjust, to heal, and to learn how to live together once more.
There’s a saying in Alcoholics Anonymous that not only do alcoholics have a drinking problem, but also a thinking problem. These “thinking problems” require that the newly sober person learns how to cope, live, and react differently to life. This is why recovery is a lifelong process and needs constant attention.
Want to learn how to support yourself and your spouse during this time of change? Read on to discover our tips for sober spouses married to an addict in recovery.
Tips for Being Married to an Addict in Recovery
We often view marriage as an equal partnership. But, when your spouse was struggling with their addiction, they likely weren’t equally contributing to your home life.
Explore the following tips for spouses who are married to an addict in recovery to better support yourself and their recovery process.
1. Understanding Addiction
Do your best to educate yourself about addiction.
It’s difficult to understand something we’ve never been through, but do your best to empathize with your partner’s addiction. This doesn’t mean that you condone it or allow it to continue. It just means that you can understand that they wouldn’t choose this type of lifestyle for themselves.
This can help you to reduce the amount of blame and anger you feel toward your spouse.
Taking care of yourself will give you a renewed sense of purpose and a direction in life. Many spouses who are married to an addict in recovery expect that once their spouse gets sober, there will be more time for their relationship. But, this isn’t always the case at the beginning of recovery.
Recovery needs to be your loved one’s number one priority. They need to attend meetings, learn new coping skills, and get support from other addicts and/or healthcare professionals.
When they are newly sober, it’s important for you to put yourself first just as they are putting their recovery first. Take time to exercise, be with friends and family, and pursue your hobbies. You can also join a support group yourself such as Al-Anon to learn how to cope with living with people who are in recovery.
3. “Alcohol was but a symptom”
Removing the addictive substance won’t cure your spouse of their character defects completely. You both may see their recovery as a life-altering change, but it also comes with its share of challenges.
Your spouse is learning how to cope with emotions and problems without their addictive substance. If they’ve been using for many years, their development may also have been stunted.
This is where the AA phrase, “Alcohol was but a symptom” can be most understood. The problems that led your loved one to their addiction likely still exist without their substance. This could be trauma, mental illness, or negative thinking patterns.
A twelve step program, mental health professionals, and potentially medications can help them to overcome these challenges, but it doesn’t mean that it will be a smooth ride.
Because of this, you’ll need to be patient, take care of yourself, and have firm boundaries. Remember, you are never obligated to stay in your marriage, especially, if you aren’t happy. Aim to be communicative with your partner, but realize that they need to learn how to regulate their own moods, actions, and behaviors.
4. Find Support
Finding support is especially important if you felt isolated while your spouse was in active addiction. If it felt like your life revolved around their addiction, then you’ll need to lean on like-minded people who can understand and support you.
When a loved one is addicted to a substance, some people develop a set of behaviors, thoughts, and actions known as codependency. Codependency occurs when the non-addicted person gets their needs met by caretaking for the addicted individual. Codependent partners typically enable their loved ones, make excuses for their partner’s actions, and feel like a martyr.
Support groups can help you to learn how to not engage in codependent behaviors. They can also teach you how to emotionally support yourself and become more self-reliant.
5. Set Boundaries
Setting boundaries with a person in recovery is just as important as setting boundaries with someone in active addiction. This is because of the reality that they may relapse again. It’s also important to hold your spouse accountable for their behavior in recovery.
Be patient while they re-learn how to cope normally again or even for the first time. But, don’t allow them to manipulate, lie, or treat you disrespectfully. If these behaviors seem to be a problem for your spouse in recovery, then individual and couples therapy could be beneficial.
Individual therapy is also a great environment for you to learn how to set firm boundaries and enhance your communication skills.
6. Rebuild Your Identity
When your loved one was in active addiction, it’s likely that part of your identity was based on their addiction. A lot of your life revolved around worrying about them, trying to get them to change, and taking on their responsibilities around the home.
Their addiction likely didn’t give you much time to do things you enjoyed.
Make a conscious choice to re-build your identity. Rebuilding your identity will also be useful in the event that your loved one relapses. Your new identity and life paired with your firm boundaries can help you to not take their relapse personally and to act in your own best interest.
Start by getting in touch with your old hobbies. Contact friends and family members and make a commitment to spend quality time with them.
Married to an Addict in Recovery? You’re Not Alone
If you’re married to an addict in recovery, you’re certainly not alone. Millions of families struggle with a loved one’s addiction, but many learn how to successfully adapt to the changes recovery brings. To be successful and manage these changes, it’s important to put yourself and your children first.
When those factors take precedence, then you can more confidently support your spouse throughout their recovery.
Live in Arizona and need to find an accredited treatment program? Check out our list of affordable programs that can help your loved one to get sober and help your family to heal from addiction.