Supporting a Significant Other Through Addiction Recovery

When your significant other tries to recover from an addiction, he or she is going to need a lot of love and support. Addiction is a disease that takes time, strength, education, support, and dedication to overcome. Without the right combination of treatment and support, the risk of relapse is anywhere from 40-80%, depending on the substance they abused. If you are helping to support a loved one through addiction recovery, here are a few ways that you can make the process easier.

When your significant other comes to talk to you about their addiction experience, listen to them. Judging them, blaming them, or resenting them is only going to cause more damage than has already been done. It won't be easy to sit down and listen to what they have to say, but listening is the best way you can support them while they begin the journey to a clean and sober life.

Learning to trust a significant other again after an addiction is not easy, but you can make the process something you both are comfortable with. One of the easiest ways to do this is to give the person chances to earn your trust back. Something as simple as keeping their word about something minor can make a huge difference in how you interact with them.

Consider couples counseling when you get to the point of stability with the recovery process. The counselor can give you both tools to work with each other on a level playing field, and you can both progress together.

The more of the recovery process you can do together, the higher the chances are that the addict will be successful with recovery long-term.

N.A. "Mortality Rates for Addiction Relapse."
Futures of Palm Beach. (2015).

  • 26 Commentsby Likes|Date
  • You have hammered this subject! But I did want to comment- not that you mentioned it wrong, just so others can understand and see an example:

    Not all addictions come from "illegal drug usage." I myself recently came off of a prescribed maintenance medication, and my husband had to step out of the home because I was too high strung to realize that this medication was a problem. Which, us being so young (22 and 23 at the time), I wouldn't have expected him to know exactly what was wrong. But he did the right thing. He stepped out of the home, and when we did talk on the phone a few days after he stepped out- the last thing he told me was that I "need professional help." 

    Still at this point, I was lashing out at him because I had not caught my fall. I was hurt, I didn't understand why he had left, i couldn't realize any truth at all. A few days later, I was hospitalized. I had tried to take myself off of the maintenance medication that I knew was causing my behavioral change (my doctor was on vacation for Thanksgiving), but my attempt was unsuccessful. I had become emotionally unstable, to the point I could not care for my son (and my husband had no idea because we were not talking at this point). When I realized I lacked control- I contacted a close friend who was already well aware of the situation, she took my son for me, and I was hospitalized for the next 2 weeks. 

    While I was in the hospital, only the friend who had my son was able to contact me. I had no idea that my husband or any of my friends were also trying to contact me- but at this point, I was all that mattered. Getting my life/self together so I could care for myself and my family. What my husband did for me during and after hospitalization:

    1: He paid all of my bills out of his pocket, while paying his own.
    2: He cleaned my house daily (after his 12 hour shift at work) and cared for my dogs.
    3: The day I arrived from the hospital, he showed up to clean, but walked away to give me time.
    4: He opened his heart back up to me slowly, because I fixed myself for me.
    5: (I referred to him as husband all the way through because he is now) After 5 years of dating and a full relationship, we married October 2014.
    6: Even today, he happily accompanies me to any and every session or doctor visit I have.

    Needless to say, in our full 6 years together, we have never been happier.

    The point that I am trying to make (and I know it will not be the same results for everyone) is that even with addictions of any kind, there can be hope for the broken relationship. It just takes the right kind of support.
  • Things To Do If Your Loved One Is Addicted To Drugs And/Or Alcohol

    1. Don't regard thіѕ аѕ a family disgrace. Addictive behavior iѕ ѕomеthіng аll humans express tо ѕome degree or thе other. When іt it "Gets оut of Hand"... Humans Can and DO make Changes.

    2. Don't nag, preach оr lecture tо thе person. Chances arе he/she hаs alreаdy told hіm or hersеlf everуthing yоu can tеll them. He/she will takе just so muсh аnd shut оut the rest. You may only increase their neеd tо lie оr force оnе tо make promises thаt саnnоt possibly be kept.

    3. Guard agaіnst thе "holier-than-thou" оr martyr-like attitude. It іѕ posѕible tо create this impression without ѕaying а word. A person's sensitivity iѕ such that he/she judges оthеr people's attitudes tоwаrd him/her mоre by small things than spoken words.

    4. Don't uѕе the "if уou loved me," appeal. Since addictive behavior iѕ compulsive...this approach wіll very likelу increase counterproductive guilt.

    5. Avoid аnу threats unleѕs you thіnk іt through carefully and defіnitеlу intend to carry thеm out. There mаy be times, of course, when a specific action іs neсesѕаry tо protect children. Idle threats оnlу make thе person feel уou don't mеan what уou say.

    6. Don't hide the drugs/alcohol or dispose of them/it. Usually thiѕ only pushes the person into a state of desperation. In the end he/she will simply find nеw ways of getting mоre drugs/liquor.

    7. Don't let the person persuade you tо use drugs or drink with him/her on the grounds that іt will make him/her uѕe less. It rarely does. Besides, whеn you condone thе using/drinking, he/she puts off dоing sоmething tо gеt help.

    8. Don't be jealous of thе method of change the person chooses. The tendency іs tо think that love оf home аnd family iѕ enоugh incentive for seeking change. Frequently the motivation оf regaining self-respect іs more compelling fоr thе person thаn resumption оf family responsibilities. You mау feel left оut when the person turns tо other people for helping stay sober. You wouldn't bе jealous оf the doctor of somеоne needing medical care, would you?

    9. Don't expect an immediаte 100 percent change. In thіs effort, thеrе іѕ a period of "convalescence." There mау be relapses аnd times of tension and resentment.

    10. Don't try tо protect the person frоm using/drinking situations. It's one оf the quickest ways tо push onе into relapse. They muѕt learn on thеіr оwn tо say "no" gracefully. If yоu warn people аgaіnst serving him/her drinks, you wіll stir uр оld feelings оf resentment and inadequacy.

    11. Don't do for thе person that which he/she can dо fоr him/herself. You сannоt tаkе thе medicine fоr him/her. Don't remove thе problem bеfоre the person cаn face it, solve it оr suffer thе consequences.

    12. Do offer love, support аnd understanding іn the recovery.

  • my husband relapsed after several months.  This went on for his two days off.  He was very drunk most of the time.  I lost it and lit into him when I first found out.  I stayed with him during his relapse, even though he constantly verbally demeaned and berated me, telling me that I was "nothing" and much, much worse when he was awake.  He is a mean drunk, and will focus his verbal cruelty usually on one person when he relapses.  That person is usually me.  The day after his two day binge I calmly repeated the verbal abuses that he had said to me.  He said he was sorry, but then said he know that sorry wouldn't cut it. He had taken the breathalyzer and threw it out into our acreage when he was drunk.  He did this after I asked him to blow a sample.  The day after--when he was sober-- he went and retrieved it and brought it back to me.  I packed what I needed and left after he left for work.  I left him a note telling him that I could not live with him when he was drinking and verbally abusive.  I wrote that I will need some assurances if I am to come back.  I understand he cannot assure me that he will not relapse again, but he does not want to deal with his addiction.  I want him to return to AA.  He doesn't like AA and doesn't think it has helped any because he can't buy into their "higher power" step.  I am at my daughter's house, which is a little over 10 miles from his.  I told him I would come in while he's at work and feed our cats and occasionally make a dinner for him during this time.  I really don't know what else to do.  If anyone has any suggestions, those would be much appreciated.  BTW- I stayed with him while he was on his two day binge to make sure that he was okay.  I was never in fear of my safety.  So far he has not relapsed during his work week.  He takes his job seriously, and I believe he is sober during the work week as his behavior is a 180 (he's a great guy when sober -- but is a Dr. Jekyll Mr. Hyde due to the alcohol) from when he drinks.  He has always been moody -- alcohol greatly exacerbates his moodiness.  I tend to think he may be more likely to start drinking if he gets into one of his "down" moods.  Don't suggest meds -- tried that and he almost died from the medication.  I don't think either of us want to risk that again.  Thanks. 
  •  Hi @zelda! I am not expert on this subject either, but I do go through this with my Dad and I am also struggling with how to deal with him. Unfortunately, I have been one to take the beer from him while he is drinking, when I catch him--especially when I can tell he has something bothering him emotionally. He is much like your Husband: good worker, a good person when sober, and when he does drink, he becomes verbally abusive toward me and my son especially.

    I am not fond of AA either, only because sometimes you don't always find someone you can connect with there--often due to the fact that a lot of people there are court ordered and show resentment during meetings.

    It sounds to me like you are doing everything you can. You still tend to the house when he is not there, and are supportive in any and every way that you can be. I don't personally blame for not wanting to live with him while he chooses to drink, after all, you don't deserve the emotional/verbal abuse. 

    I am in no way suggestion medication, but has he considered just regular ongoing therapy? Someone to talk to who doesn't have a biased opinion? I have come to terms that people who lock up their feelings about whatever is bothering them, tend to let these feelings come out when drunk. Even though they say differently once sober, there is usually a reason they were feeling that way. I have found with my Dad that usually he is picking on us for attention. He wants attention and he is not getting the kind that he wants, so he picks on others to get some kind of attention good or bad. His actions are not excusable, and often when I am not around he targets bosses and family on Facebook. Getting him to understand that he actually has a problem didn't happen until he landed in the hospital with mini-strokes this past November. 

    I sincerely hope that whatever you can do to help your Husband get the help he needs, you will share. I know that not every method will work for everyone, but you never know what exactly will until you try. Keep your head up! Remember, it's not your fault. Wish I could be of better help.
  • Addiction has a purpose sometimes especially in dysfunctional homes. Most people would rather leave their better-half than stay with them until they recover. However, this is exactly the time to test a person's love and devotion for his or her significant other. I commend those who have the courage to stick with their better halves all the way through to the end.
  • My husband has dealt with his addiction for years, the last 11 being with me. He was heavy into Methamphetamine's and it ruined our relationship many times. He has been "sober" for the last 4 years but has used or "relapsed" (?) 3 times in these last 4 years. Obviously he isn't cured of his addiction but he refuses to get consistent help. He says he kicked the habit on his own and even though he has fallen off the saddle he thinks counseling or rehab are unnecessary. I personally feel he is wrong and see that the only way for him to stay clean for the rest of his life is to be honest about his addiction and to get help even when he doesn't need it. 

    Long story short I have supported him for a long time, and I'm afraid that my support is wearing thin. I fear a relapse every day of my life and know that if it does happen again it will be the end of us. How long is one person supposed to stand by someones side if that someone won't admit their problem?
  • Recovery is a little less difficult and painful if you have family or friends, but most especially if you have an SO that's truly supportive. The connection you share with your SO is perfect for withstanding the feelings of depression, doubt, anger, and hopelessness associated with recovery.
  • When I met my husband he was a avid cigarette smoker. He quit before we got married. his personality changed drastically. He snapped at me all the time and was very mean. Sometimes I wonder he went back to his habit but I would not dare ask. It's been 2 years. We were leaving away from his family (that allowed the vice and promoted it). Now, we moved with his family and they smoke up a chimney and some other addictions. I'm concerned for him but I feel cornered. Whatever I do to help seems to backfire. Sometimes I feel like he hates me. The way he look at me. And I wonder what about everything we have been through?
  • I think a lot of addicts don't actually realise how hard it is for their loved ones to stay strong and help them recover from an addiction.

    For somebody to not only be there for you and help you through your recovery, but to also carry on with their own life and keep up with the daily routine is probably one of the hardest times a person can go through in life.

  • It takes lot on the part of the significant other as well to cope with the recovery of his or her partner. My boyfriend is in the process of trying to quit alcohol, and it's making him as agitated and cranky as a grizzly bear. It gets really frustrating sometimes. His behavior and attitude towards me changes during his moments of cravings and he doesn't seem to care at that point whether his words are hurting me or not. Even though I know this is not him and just his moods reacting to the change he's trying to bring, that it has nothing to do with how he feels about me, it still makes me sink with hopelessness and despondency at times. 

    Still I realize just how important it is to have some loved one stand next to us in our moment of need. It's easy for the world to point fingers and pass judgments, but only those going through the situation know how difficult it is. It takes tremendous patience to stay supportive through all the frustrations, relapses, attempts and outcomes. 
  • When it comes to recovering the person you love will be capable hopefully of helping you get through the addiction. They should be the ones helping you and making sure that you are so happy you wont want to touch any drugs.
  • Probably the most important thing to always remember is that they are not perfect, and they are going to have issues outside of the recovery that may make things  difficult.  Also, it is always important to remind families and loved ones that recoveries are not usually successful and many people fail a few times before getting it right.  Do not put all your eggs in one basket emotionally to the point where you are devestated when the fail.  Failure is definitely part of the recovery process, and setbacks almost always happen.
  • For me the number 12 is the hardest, because a part of me feels  like am doing nothing and am just watching him put poison in his coffee every morning and evening (yes, he loves drinking coffee after dinner).  I feel like that, like he is poisoning himself little by little, and I know this is going to end up killing him.

    But lately I have been trying not to nag him, I still ask him how many cigs he has smokes every 3 or 4 days, but that's it: no more nagging or lectures. It is hard, but I guess the only thing we can do is to hope for the best, no doubt about it.
  • It was very difficult to support someone who is on their first trimester of recovery. It needs strength and a lot of patience to help them recover. I cried a lot during that times but I swallowed it all up for the benefit of the one dearest to me. I tend to compromise his pacing to his recovery and tried to understand him the best possible way. I tried not to argue with him and just show him that I am here for him. Whenever he is anxious, I tried to divert his attention. I did the things that we used to do prior to his addiction. I kept him active just to keep his mind off of his addiction. I initialize a talk everyday about random things but keeping in mind that I should not touch anything that relates to his addiction just yet. Just keep the conversation light and happy.
  • One of the things I found was that the person that is going through the recovery and who is relying on the other person, will often be overcome by a sense of guilt. In the first stage of recovery your body and emotions are all over the place anyway, you body will be detoxing and its only then your mind will start to clear and you'll see just what you've put yourself through, and all those around you.
  • On these examples you will see how big a person you are. In Serbia we have a proverb or a saying. Na muci se poznaju junaci - The hero is seen when it's hard and tough. More less, this is a literal translation but the point is you will find out if you really love the person and will you make everything about yourself or you are going to man up and do the right thing. A partner is the first help you should get. Your love should grow stronger if it is real love as people like to call the feeling. Love. That is another topic but again the big part of this one too. If you feel the love from your significant other you will feel the boos of energy and your recovery will go faster.
  • I think it is important to know the difference between "support" and "enabling." You have to set boundaries to your significant other when they are recovering. Have a discussion about what they need during their recovery and what you need too during this time.
  • I am so happy I found this site and I hope to get some insight and help. My name is Lauren and on December 11th I would have been married for 5 years but together for 8 years. On Oct 8th my husband told me he was addicted to pills..... We did great for two weeks I am supportive of him I believe in marriage and we have a 3 and 2 year old together.... October 28th came and he said he needed to leave. He needed some time to figure out if this is what he wanted anymore? I am beside myself I am a strong woman but our family has been turned upside down. We have normal marital issues but we are a good team and had an amazing family. I am so lost and feel so sad for my kids 
  • Well they vow does say "for better or for worse, until death us do part". But it is very difficult to keep this promise when it comes to addiction because most addicts lie not only to their spouses but to themselves as well. How long does this unconditional support go on before the mental, verbal, emotional and sometimes physical abuse takes its toll and you say enough is enough. And what if the addict has lost his/her job and is unable to pay his/her half of the bills. How do you make up this financial deficit and still be a loving supportive partner to your addict spouse?
  • I feel like I'm doing all the positive, pro-recovery things that have been discussed in this thread. My biggest issue isn't that I'm not doing right by him; but... is he really in love with me? I just feel like I take a back seat to all the things he became more reliant on within his recovery. I'm not loved as much as the television, the cell phone, maybe not even the medications he's taking to recover... maybe not even the memory of how good drugs made him feel.  

    i will stick by his side, regardless. His full recovery and well being is more important to me than anything else... but some days I just feel so unloved and unwanted. 
  • Support is number one in getting through addiction. Excellent post, I couldn't agree more.
  • Hello, my boyfriend and I split up after a night of his drinking evolved into a huge fight, which became physical. He is currently in AA and counseling, and we've been communicating recently. What can I do to be supportive?  I've been attending Al Anon meetings, but I'd appreciate any feedback here! Thank you!
  • It is definitely a difficult question to address, especially when you consider that each person is different and requires different amounts and types of support.  I know that personally I did not really crave much support and actively shied away from it, which was fine for me.  I also know, however, that many people do need a lot of support from others to keep them going and keep them motivated to stay clean.  The best thing to do is just be honest and be there for someone.  Ask them and have an honest discussion with them.
  • I have been walking through the recovery process with my husband, after uncovering an addiction that he had been "hiding" for a year and a half. All of the signs were there that he had a problem, but it took some in depth investigating on my part to give a NAME to the addiction and pin point the extent of his addiction because for so long he gas-lighted me, and made it seem like I was what was making him miserable at every turn. He would say the most irrational things and blame me for things that I was in no way at fault for constantly. He threatened me constantly as well. In reality, his double life was eating away at him and caused him to become a man that was nearly unrecognizable. The kind hearted, strong Christian man that I fell in love with had become demeaning and abusive. 

    We are about 6 months into the recovery process and are in counseling both individually and together every day. I have seen very distinct changes in my husband and what appears to be a genuine desire to save our marriage and cut himself off completely from his pattern of addiction.Our communication has gotten better and better over time as well. It's been very encouraging. However, that doesn't mean the past 6 months have been easy, and I still have a lot of healing to do on my end. 
  • I am new to this site, I was wondering if someone could give me the name of a book or 2 about this issue.  Supporting/Loving someone who is recovering from addiction. Thanks  
  • It is very hard for the significant other of the addict. My husband is an addict and I have always been by his side and supported him. I came to understand that I enabled him in many ways. He went to rehab and was sent to a halfway house after only 30 days. He did it without telling me a word and just disappeared. About two months later, he calls to tell me he is still clean and struggling but doing it for him. That was two weeks ago and I have no idea where he is and I can't even call him. I called the halfway house and they said they never heard of him. I am not even sure that I called the right place. But I feel that he lied to me. I told him how proud of him I was and that I would always be by his side. He said that he was working on himself and that he needed me. But I have not heard one word from him.I have no idea where he is or if he is okay. It tears me up inside every single day. He has my love and unconditional support but I guess he doesn't care. I don't even understand why he bothered to call me to just abandon me again.
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