After you’ve watched your partner go through addiction, you probably feel like you’ve seen it all. Staying with someone as they struggle with substance abuse is no small feat, and you’ve likely seen the lowest points of their life while struggling to stay afloat in your own.
Emotional neglect isn’t uncommon as people’s addictions grow; partners are often left out on the sidelines or as caretakers, begging and pleading for their significant other to get help. When they finally do, it’s a breath of fresh air but also a scary, uncertain future. What next?
Marriage after sobriety isn’t the fairy-tale ending many people wish it was. So many different emotions underscore this period, including unresolved hurt, disappointment and lingering anger about everything that happened so far.
As the spouse of a recovering alcoholic or a drug addict, you first and foremost have to take care of yourself. You have poured all your love, patience and energy into your partner’s sobriety, and now, you have to prioritize your wellbeing.
You can’t move forward if your feelings are in the past. Therapy will be the most important resource during this journey.
Being Married to an Addict
Addiction is often accompanied by mental illness, and when the two of them coexist, you can feel like your spouse has been stolen. The person you knew can feel like a stranger, and you have most likely been pushed to the absolute limits of your love and commitment.
Many people who are married to an addict find themselves ridden with guilt. Is it my fault? Why am I not enough for them to stop? Am I a bad person for wanting to leave?
It’s perfectly normal for you to feel all of those things. They show that you’re human, that your love is a real, living thing that needs to be nurtured. When it’s not, it begins to wither and suffer.
Recovering addicts and relationships can be a difficult field to navigate because it requires both forgiveness and commitment. You have to begin rebuilding the future while simultaneously resolving hurt from the past. It will take a lot of communication, which may feel forced and uncomfortable after such a tremendous struggle.
You may no longer trust your partner; addiction brings out the worst in people. Broken promises and lies aren’t out of the ordinary in the midst of substance abuse. You’ll have to be willing to put aside your reservations and work on trust-building exercises if you want your marriage to recover.
Your Marriage After Sobriety
When the worst is said and done and your partner has completed rehab, what’s the next step? Chances are that they will be continuing their treatment through an outpatient program. You may have already gone through some family counseling during their addiction treatment, but now, it’s a good idea to connect with a couples counselor and substance abuse therapist.
Recovering addicts are undergoing tremendous amounts of emotional change and stress; early sobriety and relationships can often add to the strain, making it difficult for them to be fully present and supportive. They too may be suffering from heavy feelings of guilt and betrayal, knowing that you’ve given so much while all they did was take.
Anxiety can cover up depression, shame, and regret. Relationships and recovery often include a lot of negative emotions that, in the beginning, outweigh the positive. When you’re married to an addict in recovery, you have to understand that there is much more than meets the eye. No one starts abusing drugs or alcohol because they’re happy, and it’s hard as a spouse to accept the fact that marriage wasn’t enough to emotionally fulfill your partner.
Does this mean that you failed? Not at all. Every human being is responsible for their own mental and emotional wellbeing. No one else, not even the person we love more than anything, can give us self-love. Being married to an addict means you have to accept the fact that their problems go far beyond anything you could ever resolve, no matter how much they love you or wish you could fix it.
Tips for Recovering Addicts in Relationships
As you navigate early sobriety and relationships, timing is everything. You are most likely readjusting to life as a self-sustaining adult, which includes following a routine and adhering to a schedule. Although recovery is going to take up 90 percent of your brain most days, you have to begin to make room for your spouse.
Spend time together. Even a trip to the supermarket is a chance to connect and just be with one another. Relationships and recovery are all about trust, and you’ll have to demonstrate that you’re willing to work on building that again.
Marriage isn’t easy even for people who have the closest bonds; for the spouse of a recovering alcoholic or drug addict, fear of history repeating itself may be a constant. As the addict, you can’t hold this doubt or worry against your spouse. You just have to give them time to see how committed you are to your recovery.
What Comes Next?
When treatment is over and life picks up again, recovering addicts and relationships can find themselves in a position of peace and harmony. It may seem unfathomable to you right now that life could ever be comfortable again, but it is possible.
Overcoming addiction by your partner’s side can bring you closer together. You can reach a level of honesty and transparency that many couples might never achieve; being married to an addict in recovery demands so much that you will also find yourself being a more empathetic, understanding and compassionate person in your regular life.
Both partners should work with a couples counselor and individual therapist to help them deal with their emotions and treat any depression or anxiety that the addiction caused. This will also give them a safe and healthy way to express their feelings and learn how to cope with them, growing together while bettering themselves as individuals.
Don’t believe that marriage after sobriety will be the same as it was before addiction. It shouldn’t. Substance abuse changes everything, but so does recovery. Contact NRhythm today to learn more about how we can help you and your loved one begin your next chapter.