When a spouse or partner suffers from substance use disorder (SUD), it doesn’t affect just them; it affects the entire family. Families can become very fragile during these times of difficulty, especially if the infrastructure of the family unit is not very strong.
Pain, frustration, guilt, anger, sadness, hopelessness, and more are all emotions you and your family members may experience. Even once a spouse is in recovery, those within the family can continue feeling these painful emotions. As a spouse or partner of someone who has experienced SUD, you may question your role or wonder what you should do. As responsibilities may shift, you may begin to experience a wide variety of emotions.
You must seek the help you need to heal from any painful experiences your spouse or partner may have caused while in active addiction to help you and your entire family move forward. If you do not take the time you need to heal, you could begin to experience the following:
- Loss of interest in your significant other’s recovery or treatment
- Difficulty reconnecting on an emotional level with your spouse or partner
- Not wanting to see your significant other make changes for the better because these changes will interrupt your life
- An urge to sabotage your partner’s sobriety
- Unrealistic expectations of recovery that puts stress on the relationship
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Strategies to Help You Support Your Sober Spouse or Partner
If your spouse or partner is sober and they are actively managing their recovery, you may want to know how you can best help or support them in their recovery journey. Here are a few tips and strategies to consider:
#1. Educate Yourself on Their Addiction
There are many resources to help you learn more about the signs and symptoms of your spouse or partner’s specific addiction. Addiction is a disease, and the more you know about its causes and effects, the more you will be able to empathize with them.
#2. Seek Professional Help
To help you and your partner understand what the other is experiencing, it may be beneficial to seek professional help and attend couple’s counseling. It is vital that you keep your relationship as strong and as healthy as possible. If you’re not sure where to start finding the right counselor or therapist, ask your health care or insurance providers for referrals.
#3. Be Aware of Your Loved One’s Triggers
There is always a chance of your spouse or partner experiencing a relapse. To help them avoid this, it is essential to be aware of their triggers. Triggers are those people, places, or things that can cause your significant other distress and could leave them with the urge to consume alcohol or drugs again. Be sure to talk with your partner and develop a plan to avoid or overcome their triggers.
#4. Have Realistic Expectations
Recovery is a life-long process for your loved ones and something they will face daily. They will experience both good and bad days. Learn to be patient with them. It may be hard to resume your “normal life” as they manage their way back to sobriety if a relapse occurs. Be sure to have a plan in place before a relapse occurs to help the entire family navigate through this circumstance.
#5. Recognize Their Progress
Choosing to remain sober every day takes courage, determination, and work. Take the time to acknowledge the steps your loved one is taking to maintain their sobriety. Even simple words of encouragement such as “I’m proud of you” can go a long way in helping your partner rebuild their self-esteem and overcome feelings of shame and guilt.
#6. Practice Self-Care
It is important to remember that your mental and emotional well-being may also be affected while your loved one journeys through recovery. You may experience feelings of stress, anxiety, and even depression as your significant other faces their addiction and recovery. Self-care will help you manage your emotions.
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How to Recognize if Your Sober Spouse or Partner Is in Distress
If your sober significant other relapses and begins to use again, it is time to seek immediate help. Warning signs that your loved one may be in distress or crisis can present differently in each individual. However, some common signs of distress include:
- Increased Isolation:
- Noticeable changes in daily routines
- Withdrawing from family and friends
- Desire to be left alone
- Does not leave the house
- Personality Changes:
- Becoming aggressive
- Increased level of conflicts with friends and family
- Demonstrating disruptive behavior (i.e., excessive crying or screaming/yelling)
- Noticeable changes in behavior (i.e., drinking, eating, or sleeping more than usual)
- Changes in Health and Appearance:
- Frequent sickness reported
- Extreme fatigue
- Dramatic weight loss or gain
- Disheveled appearance, poor hygiene
When a significant other suffers from substance use disorder (SUD), it affects the entire family. As a spouse or partner of someone suffering — or who has suffered — from SUD, you may question your role or wonder what you should do to help them. To help you and your entire family move forward, it’s vital that you seek the help you need to heal from any painful experiences your spouse or partner may have caused while in active addiction. At our treatment centers in Hawaii, Hawaii Island Recovery provides outpatient and aftercare programs that provide individualized support and family support services to help you, your significant other, and your family members heal from the pain of addiction. Here at Hawaii Island Recovery, our licensed professionals are always available to help you reach your recovery goals. Call us today at (866) 390-5070 to learn more, and we’ll provide you with the support you need to manage your sobriety.