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Recovering Hand-in-Hand: Advice for Couples Affected by Addiction

by Caleb Anderson from RecoveryHope.org

· Mental Health,Addiction,Recovery

Life with someone healing from an addiction is challenging. When journeying the road of recovery, relationships can be tried in ways you might not expect. Here is important advice for managing the struggles you face together.

Collateral damage. Addiction to a substance damages the user’s mind and body. In time, that damage can be repaired through discontinued use, medical treatment and counseling. However, the damage from addiction is typically more far-reaching than the addict’s physical and mental health. The relationships with people intimate with the addict, especially partners, also need healing. By incorporating some basic strategies, couples affected by addiction can begin rebuilding their relationship.

Be patient. If you’re in a relationship affected by addiction, it’s important to keep in mind that your troubles didn’t arise overnight. As Psychology Today points out, you may want to fix things immediately but just as the relationship deteriorated over time, it will take time to repair it. It takes time to rebuild trust, forgive wrongs, overcome guilt and shame and to let go of anger. Every day you will need to choose to work at your relationship in order to repair it. It’s impossible to predict how long it will take to heal, but thankfully, there are numerous tools at your disposal.

Initial steps. The first thing that needs to happen for the relationship to heal is for the addict to stop using. Some people try to manage the journey with self-help, but as the American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy explains entering a treatment program is a worthwhile choice. Addicts receive the support of a program catered to individual needs, which helps navigating every step of the way. As explained by some experts, treatment programs medically manage detoxification and withdrawal. Then the addict receives help delving into destructive social patterns, self-damaging concepts, and other issues.

Aftercare treatment. Once an addict completes initial treatment, it’s important to remain supported and engaged through aftercare. Aftercare plans are unique to the individual and there are several important components that support the addict and help prevent relapse. Three of those key components include cognitive behavioral therapy, family therapy and maintenance medication:

  • Cognitive behavioral therapy is a key aspect to aftercare treatment, as addicts learn improved coping skills and stress management techniques.  It encourages personal growth and addresses issues that led to the initial addiction.
  • Family therapy is just what it sounds like and addresses the family.  Addiction is considered a family disease, and it’s vital to treat the dysfunction that occurs in families in order to find healing for those relationships.  Communication needs to improve and trust must be repaired in order for everyone to move forward.
  • Medication therapy supports recovery with maintenance medication.  As explained by Silver Mist Recovery, combining medication and counseling is oftentimes the key to a successful recovery.  Medications can thwart cravings and withdrawal symptoms, thus providing integral physical and mental support for avoiding relapse.  

Refresh. There are several seemingly small things couples can do for a successful relationship following addiction. One of the essential ingredients can be establishing new routines. Evaluate where the weaknesses are in your old behavior patterns, like places you visited or people you spent time with and plan some new activities. Also, try rewarding good behavior. For instance, for each week of clean living you can plan on a dinner date together. And, when troubles arise, because they do for every couple, fight fair. Don’t resort to attacking your partner. Instead of blaming your significant other when struggles arise, try identifying and expressing what you are feeling and what it makes you afraid of or upset about. Then look for ways you can work on the issue as a team.

Moving forward together. Addiction can wreak havoc on relationships. With appropriate support and tools, you can repair the damage. Be patient, and find ways to move forward hand-in-hand.

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