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Addiction and Relationships: Letting Your Partner Recover In Their Own Way

Updated: Jan 19

letting your partner recover in their own way

It can be difficult at times when you have a partner with addiction issues, although I’m sure I don’t have to tell you that.

But some things that might not be considered are the difficulties of recovery, too.

You see, when our partner is in active addiction, we can think that once they enter recovery everything will be back to “normal”, and if they could just get to rehab then we can then finally feel better.

I used to think that way, and while it’s not bad to think that, sometimes it just isn’t the case.

Depending on what path your partner chooses, whether it's going into a rehab center, doing outpatient, going cold-turkey at home, or whatever they decide to do, it isn’t always fun.

If they quit at home, you have the difficulties of having them being tired/sleeping a lot, irritable, depressed, and all of the other symptoms that come with detoxing. It can be very difficult, and it can cause emotional issues on our part both from seeing them go through that and also because since we have them around us, we assume they can function as normal and it’s better than if they left.

And at least in my cases with my partner, that’s not how it was. If anything, it was more difficult having him at home because of the ups and downs of detoxing, but it made me feel worse because I had the expectation that he would be more mentally and emotionally present than he was. Not to mention the threat of him going out to use again because the process of being at home was too much.

If they instead go to a rehab facility, you then have the difficulties of them being away for an unknown (but usually somewhat long) period of time, and also usually not having any kind of communication privileges, at least at first. And even if they were able to use the phone or have visitors, they oftentimes don’t want to, as they are handling a lot on a variety of levels when they are detoxing and in the early stages of recovery.

I remember the times when my partner would go to rehab, and I would spend a lot of time feeling miserable because he was gone. I felt that he was missing out on time with our daughter, and I missed having him around to help with her and also for my own emotional support. I wondered when he would finally be able to call us, and if he would even want to, and if he would be ready for visits when he had the permission to have them. Often we would go and find that he became tired very quickly, and frequently ended the visits short. Of course, I would then use that to fuel my beliefs that he didn’t want us around anymore or wanted to be by himself, which then made me feel worse and hurt my own hopes at recovery.

Once rehab or detoxing was completed, I would expect him to be fine at least by now, and for things to go back to normal (or how I imagined things would be when he wasn’t using).

But still, things were different. He would typically have a period of depression that wouldn’t let up for a while. He would be unmotivated, emotional, and I would feel that having a family only made it worse. I would try to help by getting him to do different things, like work out or eat better or anything that I had read might help, or I would become more resentful and upset because I had to continue to do things basically on my own.

I thought that this was just life now. Stressful and scary when he was in active addiction, miserable and depressing when he was in recovery. And as you can guess, I blamed it mostly on him, and it actually took awhile for me to figure out that I had just as many issues that needed work.

The last episode was when it finally clicked.

Thank goodness.

Because yes, I finally had the realization that my mindsets weren’t helping me, but along with that, I realized that I had my own accountability to face, because the way I was handling my emotions and feelings was not healthy for anyone. If I really wanted the life I thought I did, I needed to start my own recovery, and stop trying to rely too much on him while also trying to control his recovery.

The goal here is letting your partner recover in their own way. And for you to do the same.

Just as no two lives are the same, so it is for the experiences during addiction and recovery. What works for me won’t work for someone else 100% to the letter, and I can’t expect him to recover from his addiction in the same way others do, or in the way that I thought was best.

I also needed to understand that he wasn’t going to bounce back immediately and act like nothing had happened. It was going to take time for him to learn the new world of a life without drugs, and while that on its own would be a learning curve in itself, he also had to navigate rebuilding his side of our family dynamics and relationship.

It wasn’t doing either of us any favors when I expected him to do all of the things I thought he should, and often, what I was expecting were things that I had no problem doing myself. It’s almost as if I would look for things to be upset about in an attempt to have more control of the situation.

It also wasn’t helping when I would try to force him out of his down feelings, and expected that what I used to help myself would also help or benefit him. I just needed to let him work it out on his own, and offer my own healthy support in a way that worked for us both.

We both had to learn how to live in this new experience, and while it was definitely going in the healthy and improved direction I had always hoped for, I also had to remember that things weren’t going to go perfectly, and I needed to have some empathy and grace for the both of us.

I learned how to support him in a way that was well and sound for both of us, and didn’t overstep anything on my end that would lead to my more negative habits. I also learned to keep putting myself first, because no matter how well he is doing, if I’m not holding up my end and starting to let my own work and self care slip, things will fall apart very quickly.

That’s not to be negative or anything, it’s just a normal perspective to remind us of how important it is for us to put ourselves as our focus.

While things aren’t going to be perfect all of the time (because we’re still human), they can be good most of the time, as long as we are both doing what we can to keep ourselves mentally, emotionally, and physically well.

That means not trying to force anything, not overstepping what’s in our own individual control or responsibility, showing grace and empathy to others as they continue learning and growing, and continuing to work on ourselves and appreciate the good in our lives.

And really, once we take care of that, we have a pretty good foundation to move forward on.

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