By: Suzanne Maiden
When your partner is in recovery for substance abuse for either drugs or alcohol or both, the supporting partner should abstain. Period. I know many couples who have a partner in recovery and continue to use, specifically alcohol. I hear, “Why should I stop drinking? I’m not the alcoholic?” I do not understand this attitude.
I thoroughly enjoy drinking wine. I especially enjoy fine wine. I enjoy the buzz and relaxing with friends. But, if my partner had issues with alcohol – I would never drink again. I would give up my love of wine. Why? Because, I would never want my partner to taste wine on my lips, or smell it on my breath, or do anything that could contribute to their relapse. I would behaviorally convey that we’re a team. My partner’s sustained remission would be so paramount to me that I would permanently adapt my behavior. I know my provocative position will elicit a prickly response in many people. I get it. And, you may say, “If you’ve never had a partner in recovery then you don’t know what you would do.” True enough. It’s always easy to make righteous judgments full of bravado until you walk in that path. But, I would like to think that my partner’s recovery would be such a priority for me, and for us as a couple, that I would willingly forgo alcohol. I would like to think that my love for them would trump any temporary use of mind altering substances that I formerly enjoyed. I am also speaking from the assumption that I am not addicted and have to ability to discontinue at will.
The bottom line: If your partner is in recovery, or reached sustained remission, and you still use that substance, ask yourself:
- What do I “need” from the substance?
- Am I metaphorically flipping my finger in a passive-aggressive stance at my partner and thinking: “Ha! I can do it but you can’t?”
- Does my partner want me to stop, but I don’t?
- Do I minimize the impact of my use on my partner?
- Am I addicted either physically or emotionally to that substance?
- Am I subconsciously sabotaging my partner’s recovery? For example, often the sober partner has more control over the addict and is not in a big hurry to help them heal. They don’t want to give up their power and control in the relationship.
These are tough questions. And, they need to be honestly answered if you continue to use while your partner is in recovery. If you answer “yes” to any of the above, find a competent therapist who specializes in addictions, and/or attend ALANON meetings. Help yourself better understand your resistance – it will only serve to increase the probability that your relationship survives… if you want.