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Addiction and Relationships: How To Support Your Partner In Recovery (In A Healthy Way)

Updated: Jan 27

how to support your partner in recovery

Alright, your partner has finally agreed to go to rehab, and off they really go.

And this is exciting, right? Now they’re going to be healthier, and of course we’ll deal with issues as they come because, as we know, it’s a lifelong thing. But at least they’ll start to get back to normal right?

Well, it’s not as quick as you would like.

I’ve read posts and stories from others like me, and also have my own experience, that tells a different story.

Which makes sense, I mean you don’t have to know a lot about addiction and recovery on a scientific level to know that there’s probably some balancing and leveling out that has to happen, right? We know that the active addiction did a number on them physically, mentally, and emotionally, so it’s not just a somewhat quick journey to normal-dom.

But I’m sure you are also no stranger to the excitement at feeling like they’ve finally got it together and you can live happily ever after, which is then followed by the disappointment when they get to rehab and they become distant, depressed, unmotivated, and all kinds of other sad, low-energy adjectives.

And it’s hard, because we feel ready to start again since we may have started our recovery during their active addiction, or just feel mentally ready to move on, and get the show on the road to a better life and relationship. And they do not seem to be on the same page.

Like, at all.

But what we often forget is that they need time, too. They need to catch up to life in this moment, and while they’re also adjusting to life without drugs, they are in a facility without the normal everyday comforts and the people closest to them. Not to mention dealing with all the repercussions of their recent choices.

It’s a lot.

And while they are processing and understanding all of this, it may appear to us as though they are distant, unsure of us as a partner/our relationship, uncaring, moody, etc.

For me, I’ve been through this enough times to know what to expect. This last rehab stay I did my best to communicate and ask if he needed space in terms of our relationship, but he said that that option wasn’t what he wanted. So I asked him what he did want and respected his choices. What it came down to was just having things go naturally, which meant letting him work on his recovery while I continued to work on mine, and that’s something that we continue to do to this day.

Before I was this aware of my feelings and what I needed to do for myself, though, I took everything he felt and said in the worst possible way.

Why didn’t he have more energy when I visited (especially with our daughter), and why did he always say he was tired? Why isn’t he more motivated to start rebuilding his life and our relationship? Why is it always me that puts in 100%? Does he still want to be together? Why doesn’t he call or always call me back when I leave a message? Doesn’t he realize all that I’m doing for him?

And of course this just led to more resentments and unresolved feelings, and he would be so down already that this would just add to it and he would wonder what the point of even getting sober was. We also would both start to think that this was just how things were always going to be. If it hadn’t changed with him being in rehab from how it was when he was in active addiction, was there any hope at all?

And for some people, that is how it is. And that’s ok, because everyone finds their own way and their own path.

But it doesn’t have to be quite so negative and depressing.

But how do we get on the right track? Well, here's how to support your partner in recovery (in a healthy way), as what worked for me.

For one it takes some empathy to understand your partner’s feelings and experiences as a result of their addiction, but it also takes awareness and a motivation for your own recovery and life independent of your partner’s.

Just like when they were in their active addiction, you need to continue to put yourself first and focus on your actions and thoughts ahead of theirs. They are not obligated to be on the same level as you, and it is unfair to expect them to meet you where you are at.

I remember I would always find more of myself while he was away, and then once he returned I would fall right back into my own old patterns and behaviors which ended up being a recipe for disaster. (And this was because I didn’t keep the momentum of my recovery going, and saw the only goal being him returning after rehab. Because at that time I still thought he was the one that had to fix everything since it was his fault they got messed up in the first place).

Instead of relying on them for your own comfort and stability, find that within yourself.

And trust me, I understand that there is a lot on our plates. So many of us have children, financial responsibilities, jobs, and everything else that we are trying to put back together and keep afloat while they are still not around. And although it’s a positive thing that they are gone for this time, it can still be very difficult. I remember wishing that he was there to help me take care of our daughter, or feeling spread thin because I was raising her by myself while also working full time and making sure all of our responsibilities were taken care of and ensuring that she wasn’t hurt too much by what was happening. But in the end, I feel like I was able to learn so much from these experiences, and looking back I am grateful for them.

No matter how crazy things can seem, it is still very possible to find and maintain your independence during these times, and also start to rebuild both your life and relationship, if that is what you choose to do.

Just like always, we need to be our own person and only hold ourselves accountable for our health, happiness, and sanity. When the time is right, we will be able to have our partners, families, and lives the way we want them to be. But until then, we need to stay the course of our own well-being first, and never let go of the hope of a better future.

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