Sobriety and Relationships - How to Handle a Partner who does not want to be Sober

Sometimes our addictions become intertwined with our spouses, as you become each other’s using partners and encourage each other to find ways to acquire more of your substance of choice. These toxic relationships are often based on need rather than true affection, but perhaps yours is the exception rather than the rule in this regard. Hopefully you have both decided to seek treatment for your respective substance abuse disorders, but what can you do if your spouse does not wish to join you in recovery?

First, do not allow your partner’s reluctance to seek sobriety to sway you in your decision to admit yourself to a substance abuse treatment center. It is likely your day to day relationship with your partner has become tense and frayed as you have both descended into the depths of addiction, so look at this as an opportunity to take a breath and spend some much-needed time apart in order to allow time for wounds to heal. Focus on the work you are doing on yourself and your recovery program rather than worrying about your partner’s continued substance abuse while you are in treatment. Perhaps your absence will even drive them to realize the futility of their continued abuse of drugs and alcohol, compelling them to follow you to treatment shortly after your arrival!

If you complete residential treatment and your partner is still entrenched in their active addiction, the time has come to face some hard truths and make several important decisions. First and foremost, it is obviously not a good idea for you to live with your partner at this stage of your recovery, as you will be exposed to both their drug and alcohol consumption and their pressure to join them in these activities. Opt instead to reside in a sober living facility so you may continue to work on your recovery. Beyond your living arrangements is the question of whether it is worthwhile to continue on in the relationship at all. If you truly love your spouse, and they you, then you could cautiously continue to be with them after establishing some firm ground rules for your interaction. Your spouse must be sober whenever they are around you, and they must respect your recovery program and newfound sobriety. If you find they are stepping over these boundaries, you should end contact with them for a time in order to emphasize the importance of their respecting you in your recovery. Hopefully these limitations on your relationship will influence your spouse to seek recovery on their own, as they see you flourish in sobriety and watch as your zeal for life comes back.

Relationships poisoned by substance abuse are fraught with danger for those new in recovery, especially if your spouse is continuing to abuse substances after you have transitioned to sobriety. While you should carefully consider your true motives and feelings surrounding the relationship in order to determine whether it was a marriage of convenience or rooted in genuine affection, if you find you truly love each other it is possible to carry on in limited capacity when only one spouse is living in sobriety. After a few weeks or months, if the active addict has not yet seen the light and transitioned into recovery themselves, it is probably time to move on for the sake of your own recovery. Above all else, remember that your sobriety must come first, for as soon as we put anything before our recovery, we lose everything!