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You Got Sober, But Your Spouse Didn’t

If you’ve gone through treatment for addiction, you know that your environment and support network play  crucial roles in your long-term success in sobriety. It’s a regular part of recovery to reassess your relationships in light of your new goals and set boundaries if you need to in order to protect yourself. This can be an uncomfortable but manageable process when you’re distancing yourself from friends who might be detrimental influences. However, it can be much more difficult to navigate if the unhelpful influence is your spouse or romantic partner.

Pay Attention to Changes and Be Honest With Yourself

Addiction is a highly personal problem for each person and is often deeply tied to strong emotions like shame, fear, anger, and regret. Your partner may be in denial about the depth of their addiction or they may be struggling with feelings of resentment or confusion about your ability to recover while they have not. In the weeks and months after you return from treatment, pay close attention to how your relationship evolves and what role substance use plays for your partner.

Though it’s not a pleasant realization to have, it’s critical for you to be honest with yourself if you see your partner’s behavior as affecting your own. No two people are the same and substance abuse that has posed a problem in your life might be totally acceptable for your partner. You don’t need to save them or lift them up–you can focus on yourself. What you must do is be aware if their habits begin to negatively influence you.

Your Partner’s Addiction Is Not Your Responsibility

Although it may be tempting to rationalize your partner’s substance use once you’ve gotten sober, keep your eyes firmly peeled for signs that it’s influencing your recovery. The last thing you need is to shoulder the burden of overcoming two addictions. Your partner’s addiction isn’t your responsibility. You’re being in recovery doesn’t mean that you can magically heal them or fix their problems and to place that on you is setting you both up to fail.

If your partner’s relationship with substance abuse is affecting your own wellbeing, the best thing you can do for them is to encourage them to get professional help. You can use yourself as an example of how getting help can make a lasting difference, though this is, understandably, a delicate conversation to have.

Communication Is Everything

Relationships live and die based on strong, open communication in both directions. If you’ve gotten sober, you’ve probably already made it clear to your partner how seriously you’re taking your sobriety. The next period of time is going to present many changes for both of you. Your partner may see you differently and you may see their actions through a new perspective as well. Substance use can bring people together and once it’s removed from the equation, it can leave you feeling imbalanced.

Above all else, communicate regularly and thoroughly with one another. Talk about how your relationships with substance use make one another feel. Talk about your boundaries and see if you agree on how to proceed. Before you consider anything as drastic as ending the relationship, make sure you’re doing all you can do to get on the same page. If you value one another, you’ll take the time to hear each other out.

What If My Partner Won’t Get Help?

Your relationship should be built on a foundation of mutual respect and understanding. You aren’t doomed to fail if you get sober and your partner doesn’t. It’s entirely possible for one person in a relationship to be in recovery while the other continues to use substances–if it’s done responsibly and in a way that doesn’t negatively affect either party. Your compatibility in this area is something you must both decide and agree upon. If you set your boundaries and can commit to respecting one another’s goals and limits, you may be able to move forward despite your differences.

Unfortunately, it’s just as likely that things break down even once you address your differences in position head-on. If your partner’s substance use is having a negative effect on your own sobriety and they’re not willing to change or consider getting help themselves, you may need to consider changing your relationship in order to protect your future wellbeing. Make sure to explain how important this is to you. If it seems like you’re at an impasse, don’t hesitate to reach out to professional recovery resources. Your situation is not an uncommon one and plenty of treatment services offer options for counseling and mediation between couples whose problems center around substance use.


Your recovery is a lifelong process and navigating your new life in sobriety can be a challenge, especially if people close to you are affecting your progress. Part of your recovery is going to be assessing your relationships and learning how to make adjustments that protect your investment in your own stability. Don’t feel like you have to go through this complex process on your own. At RECO Intensive, we provide an immersive healing environment designed to move you through the process of recovery in every aspect of your life. Our staff work with you on an individual level to address your unique circumstances, including connecting you with personal therapy and relationship counseling. We can help you set goals, learn to establish healthy boundaries within your relationships, and build a sustainable life of intentional wellbeing for you and the people you love. Get sober, stay sober, and become the best possible version of you. Call (561) 464-6533 to learn more.

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