What happens when someone is in a relationship with another person, whether or not they are married, and they are both abusing substances? It’s extremely difficult to fight addiction when you are doing it on your own, but what about when you’re also using with and simultaneously worried about another person? It’s double trouble, pure and simple, and both people need to participate in drug addiction recovery.
It should come as no surprise that many people who abuse alcohol or drugs drift toward one another and form relationships. After all, we value our connections with people who enjoy the same things that we enjoy; and very few sober people develop romantic bonds with people who like to go out and party.
Because relationships come and go, it’s difficult to find statistics citing the number of American couples in which both partners abuse drugs or alcohol. We do know, however, that separation and divorce rates are at least four times higher when couples need to fight for recovery from drug addiction. Women are more likely to fall into alcohol or drug abuse if they connect with a partner who is already abusing drugs, because they mistakenly believe that if they get high with their partner they will be cementing the relationship.
They may believe that they have a strong relationship that will last forever if they can just quit abusing their drug of choice. However, people living in the dark, cloudy world of addiction often lose the ability to connect with other people—because their primary relationship is with the bottle or with their drug of choice.
A Sober Home
Maintaining a drug-free or alcohol-free home environment is a must. If one person continues using, no matter how enthusiastically they cheer on the partner in treatment, the partner will relapse when substances continue to be available in the home.
Social support of one another is vital, also. It’s much easier to face those celebratory days when people typically party—from the football playoffs through St. Patty’s Day through the summer picnic holidays, all the way through to Labor Day, Halloween, and December holiday festivities. It’s easier if you have another person by your side who is not carrying a bourbon and water, who is not snorting up that line of coke, who is not cooking up that last little bit in the spoon. All of that last bit sounds terrible, doesn’t it? It is.
Working Together on Recovery
Many couples find counselors who treat their dual problem with behavioral couple’s therapy. Each of the persons in the relationship will also have separate individual counseling sessions to sort out their individual baggage, but there is much they will work on together. Many counselors ask couples in drug addiction treatment to sign a recovery contract that spells out the ways each person will support the other:
- They will have a daily trust discussion in which they pledge their sobriety for that day. They will promise to take their medication if they are involved in medication-assisted alcohol or drug treatment. They will thank one another for their continued support.
- Each person pledges not to bring up past substance abuse or accuse the other of planning future substance abuse.
- Each of them will attend three 12-step meetings per week—but not with the other.
Many counselors recommend that couples utilize a calendar to cross off each and every step in the recovery contract that they have accomplished throughout the month.
When Couples Counseling Will Fail
If you feel ready for drug addiction recovery and your partner is also using, you should proceed on your own if any of the following is true:
- There is domestic violence in the household.
- One partner fears the other for any reason.
- One person blames addiction for any problems in the relationship.
It’s best to discuss your desire for sobriety and drug addiction recovery with a licensed, certified professional at a local substance abuse treatment program. Find your way to a phone, take a deep breath, and make a call today. It could be the first step that awakens entirely new possibilities in your life.
At TPRC, we have chosen to never treat a couple for substance abuse at the same period of time. We will, however, assist in placing the other spouse or partner, in another program. Addiction is a disease, and it affects the entire family. Our programs offer family support. For the programs to be successful to aid in your path of recovery, it is imperative that the home is a sober one.