There is Hope—Recovery and Relationships

By: Chris Pickett, M. Div., MA, CADC, LCPC,

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Wow! You are doing great! You recognized that your addiction was a problem, you got some help to get off the stuff. Great job you were able to get clean and sober and now life is great! You are going to meetings and changing friends and hang-outs, it’s not easy but it is happening. Sometimes you even wonder what was so attractive about that drink, spliff, hit on the pipe, pill – recovery is wonderful…. But then your sponsor, who has been such a significant support in your life says you gotta work the steps: seek forgiveness, make amends. “Make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves (Fourth step), and you begin to think what your behavior has done to your relationship with your spouse or partner. 

This is the point where many people in early recovery get stuck. Now they are clean and sober and have to look back at the path of destruction their substance dependence has caused in their work, family relationships, with spouses… It can be daunting. It takes courage. At the same time those around the active alcoholic and addict are beginning their own recovery. The closer one is to the alcoholic or addict the more difficult this is and it is particularly difficult for the spouse or life partner. This person has been closest to the destructive path. They have had to put up with the deception, broken appointments, financial loss, work problems and may have covered up a lot of the problems. The spouse or life partner may have initially joined into the partying and fun and thought it was no big deal, but then felt guilty because “I could have said something but didn’t” or “If only I were a better wife/husband, boyfriend/girlfriend he or she would not have done this.” Poor decision making is often part and parcel with this disease as the addict’s judgement is impaired resulting in financial problems, loss of employment, deterioration of moral values and infidelity. 

Some couples faced with all of this will simply say, “What’s the use, it is better to just start over with someone new.” However, there is a high likelihood that they will take that baggage from the previous relationship into the next. There is hope. The relationship can be revitalized by entering couples therapy to repair unhealthy communications problems, look honestly at the consequences of the addictive behavior and develop new and healthy patterns of interdependency and love. Even if too much damage has been done to the relationship this couples work can be good at helping the couple end their relationship peaceably if not amicably. If you have children it is very important that you resolve what you can so that you can do the necessary interacting and still be parents. 

Seek the help you need with a therapist who is skilled in both working with recovering alcoholics and addicts and in doing marital work. We at BBHW would be glad to be a part of your recovery, but find the help you need whether here or elsewhere.