If you have experienced addiction, you will likely know the toll this takes on your loving relationships. Many people cite addiction for the reason for a breakup or divorce. Studies indicate families affected by addiction are 400% times more likely to break up compared to families who are unaffected by addiction.
Unfortunately, even if the addicted partner manages to sustain his or her recovery, the damage caused during the addicted period is too great to overcome. This means families often break up even after the addicted partner has succeeded in recovery.
In one US study conducted in 1999, a massive 48.3% of marriages where addiction was present ended in divorce.
Sometimes, there is simply ‘too much water under the bridge’ no matter how much progress you manage to make in recovery. Your partner may have suffered too much for too long, and your efforts in recovery are just not enough to turn the tide back in your favour.
New hope does exist
However, time may heal these wonders. If both of you wish to remain committed to each other, it’s important for you both to redefine and recreate your relationship in recovery. During this time, you will be given the opportunity to build new bridges and knock down barriers created by your past addiction
If you attend an AA or NA meeting, you will be required to make a list of all the people you have damaged due to your addiction. This list will certainly include your spouse or partner. You will then be required to do as much as you possibly can to repair this damage inflicted due to your addiction.
One important tip to remember is that you cannot restore the relationship you once had with your partner before or during your addiction. Although your partner may forgive you for the damage your addiction has inflicted, he or she will not forget this damage. Instead, you are able to create a new relationship built on mutual respect and trust. During this time, you will be able to get to know each other again but from a fresh perspective.
This process of ‘making things better’ is often referred to as ‘reconciliation’. Reconciliation may require the services of a professional marriage counsellor who specialises in this sort of thing. Often, the non-addicted partner will have been traumatised by the addiction just as much as you have been yourself. Some experts believe the non-addicted partner should seek out therapy him or herself, or attend a support group such as Al-Anon.
Acceptance rather than blaming
If you and your partner choose to stay together, it’s vital that your partner understands the nature and science of addiction. Addiction is essentially a disease of the mind. Addiction isn’t so much a choice as it is a disease. This will help your partner understand that you are not to blame for your addiction. This will help shift the focus away from blame and onto emotional healing.
Your partner must also realise the trauma you have suffered due to your addiction. It’s important for you to approach this topic with care, and not make it sound like it’s only you that’s suffered due to your addiction. Perhaps this process would be better handled by a professional marriage counsellor.
Staying together through your initial recovery
When you enter life in recovery, you will be busy attending meetings, going to aftercare sessions or continuing to see a therapist on an outclient basis. This may mean there is little time to spend rebuilding your relationship. Inform your partner of the importance of these tasks, and that these tasks are essential for you remaining in recovery.
Try to involve your partner in recovery activities as much as possible. This will help your partner feel he or she is actively contributing towards your recovery.
Rebuilding trust and accepting responsibilities
It’s likely your addiction has damaged your partner’s sense of trust towards you. Many aspects of the relationship are built on trust. This includes physical intimacy. Do not pressure your partner to be intimate with you until you have rebuilt enough trust to do so.
It’s also key that you take full responsibility for the damage your addiction has inflicted on your relationship. It’s also key that you do not blame your partner for your addiction and the damage it has done to your relationship. In fact, we recommend you repeat the fact that you accept responsibility for your addiction repeatedly to get this important message across.
Practising the art of self-forgiveness
Investing so much energy in repairing your loving relationships may mean you forget to forgive yourself. Addiction often burns a whole in the sufferer’s sense of self-worth. It’s likely that you blame yourself for your addiction, even though your addiction is a disease. Forgiving yourself allows you to move on with your life without the weight and burden of self-blame. Whilst forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting, self-forgiveness is a major and essential milestone on the road towards long term recovery. Self-forgiveness will relieve a range of negative emotions such as guilt, regret and shame.
Hear your loved one’s out
It’s likely you are all-consumed in your recovery. You’ve gone to rehab, you’ve read all the books and bought the t-shirt. All the information you have picked up in recovery may mean you begin to look at your recovery in a vacuum. Instead, you need to act and react according to the specific circumstances you now find yourself in. This invariably means you must listen to the concerns of your loved ones.
Listening to your loved one does not mean you must agree with everything he or she says about your recovery. However, you must factor in his or her concerns, otherwise, your relationship will not flourish now you are living your life in recovery.
Investing in private counselling may assist this process. Here, you will engage in activities that harness healthy communication. One exercise is to direct you and your partner to write each other’s thoughts down on paper. You will then exchange notes, and you will be asked to uncritically analyse each other’s thoughts and then discuss this content in a therapist-led environment.
If you’re looking for addiction recovery books, check out our guide on the best books on addiction recovery »
Posted on Thursday, April 27th, 2017 at 9:57 am in Relationships.