If you are in a relationship with someone who is recovering from substance use disorder (SUD), you should recognize the difficulty of the task they are undertaking. Recovery is a process rather than a destination, and it is important to understand that this will not be an easy or short process. You might be wondering how you can support them through this endeavor. While there are many ways to help, one essential aspect of your support will be maintaining your own sobriety.
Mitigating the Risk of a Relapse
A very real risk in recovery is relapse. No matter how much a person prepares or how diligent they are in their treatment and recovery, relapse can occur. Being exposed to substances greatly elevates this risk. While it is true that people in recovery will need to learn to cope effectively with triggers, minimizing exposure to substances, especially in early recovery, can increase the chances of success.
Even if you are not encouraging your partner to partake, continuing to use substances around them can exacerbate the risk of a relapse. Presenting this temptation can undermine the work they are doing to maintain their sobriety, even if that is not the intention. Choosing to abstain from drugs and alcohol can signal your support of their recovery and remove an unnecessary threat to their progress.
Modeling Sobriety in Your Relationship
For someone struggling with addiction, it can be hard to imagine the possibility of a life without drugs or alcohol. When someone has become accustomed to physical and emotional dependence on substances, envisioning another way of living can seem impossible. It is common to feel trapped and resigned to the current situation without the possibility of making a change. This is why it is important to see role models who are living well while maintaining sobriety.
You can demonstrate how you are able to enjoy yourself without the use of substances. Furthermore, you can display how you cope with negative emotions and situations without relying on drugs or alcohol to dampen sadness or anxiety. This is especially important if you yourself are in recovery from addiction. Modeling how you are living well in recovery can show a path forward for your loved one and offer hope.
Advocating for Sobriety
Many social gatherings encourage the consumption of alcohol or other substances. These expectations lead to feeling like drinking or using drugs is necessary to fit in or not “kill the mood.” Peer pressure like this is not limited to high school; it persists long after and permeates our culture. This can make socializing challenging for a person in recovery. Walking the line between wanting to be included and needing to maintain sobriety can turn social situations into minefields. Choosing between spending time with friends and family or putting recovery first can create isolation and decrease morale.
You can play an important role for your partner in this situation. It is most likely difficult for your partner to advocate for their need to avoid substances. Trying to set those boundaries can lead to feelings of ostracization and shame. Helping to coordinate social events free from alcohol or drugs can limit the number of triggers your partner has to endure and make it easier for them to engage with people they care about.
You can suggest engaging in active events like playing on a recreational sports team at your local gym. Choosing outdoor activities like hiking, swimming, or ice skating can create opportunities to get together without being tempted to drink. Finding restaurants without a bar and that don’t emphasize their alcohol selection can facilitate a connection in a lower-risk environment.
If you find that your friends and family are resistant to these attempts to engage in sober activities, the issue does not reside with you but rather with them. You can only do so much to create an environment supportive of sobriety if others are unwilling to change. Surrounding yourself and your partner with people who see the value of your partner’s recovery is crucial.
Partnering in Recovery
Going through addiction alone is challenging, and recovery can also be hard without the appropriate support. Making the decision to seek help for addiction is one of the hardest things a person can do. It is common to have doubts and fears about the process and a person’s ability to see the plan through. Confronting the reality of living with withdrawals, urges, and triggers can present anxiety and frustration. Having a support system can make these changes not only tolerable but successful and sustainable as well.
By choosing to abstain from drugs and alcohol while your partner is in recovery, you are showing up for them each day. You are putting their needs first and demonstrating your commitment to their success and wellness. They do not have to go through this alone because they have your support. If giving up substances is new to you, this can be a shared experience as you both navigate sober life and redefine your values.
It might also be the case that you are in recovery. While being in a relationship where both partners are seeking to become free from addiction can be uniquely challenging, it also presents the opportunity for accountability. You both can empathize with the challenges of recovery and remind each other of the importance of your sobriety. Recovering from addiction will better empower you as individuals and as a partnership and create a path toward a healthy future you can share.
When you are in a relationship with someone in recovery from addiction, there will be ups and downs. There will be much to celebrate in addition to many stressors and challenges. This is especially true if you are your partner are both working toward recovery. One of the most important steps you can take to support your partner, their recovery, and your relationship as a whole is to abstain from drugs and alcohol yourself. The two of you don’t have to go through this alone. Family-Centered Services offers a wide range of services to support your partner’s recovery, including individual and family therapy, case management, sober accountability, and treatment placement consultation. Call us at (509) 991-5822 to learn more.