Breakups in Addiction Recovery

In a healthy romantic relationship, an equal partnership full of empathy, understanding, and compromise can often be a complex challenge in its own right. A healthy relationship almost sounds like the ideal practice for learning how to maintain sobriety. However, the complexity and stress in these partnerships can be compounded when addictive disorders or mental health issues are thrown into the mix. Many relationships might struggle under the pressures occurring during the treatment of an addictive disorder. 


That does not mean that romantic relationships for those undergoing treatment for an addictive disorder are doomed to failure. Rather, those in recovery should be aware of the potential struggles that lie ahead to better prepare them for the difficulties of juggling long-term sobriety and a romantic relationship. A breakup may already occur as patients must “divorce” themselves from their past selves and actions. Most have demonstrated that the relationship between themselves, their wants and needs, and coping strategies have been unhealthy at best. This is why they are seeking treatment. This stands to reason that their relationship skills may be in dire need of a tune-up and will be tested. A tune-up, mind you, that will teach addiction recovery clients some practical skills directly applicable to maintaining long-lasting personal relationships.  

Navigating Newfound Sobriety with a Previous Romantic Partner


There is no ideal way to deal with entering treatment while having a significant other. A huge sacrifice will have to be made by both in any scenario. On the plus side, if you have a previous romantic relationship, it can be beneficial to have that built-in support network. Undergoing treatment for an addictive disorder and the trials of learning how to maintain sobriety will test the limits of that support network as it stretches the bounds by which either individual can cope with helping. It also can help the relationship grow as well, creating a stronger bond between individuals.


Why uncertainty surrounds previous relationships during recovery has to do with this being one of the first extended periods that those in recovery will have been sober around that loved one. Clients may find that they do not like their significant other as much as they thought, or their significant other may not like the client as a sober individual. These are extreme instances, but the fact remains that both partners are entering uncharted territory, which needs to be taken into consideration when entering treatment. This will be the start of a new relationship, and addiction recovery patients would be wise to approach it as a new beginning. Another benefit is that it does offer the potential for experiencing a second honeymoon phase. 


The pressures from managing a previous romantic relationship will be placed on top of already starting a new sober relationship with the self. These additional stressors alone are what make maintaining sobriety and a previous relationship so difficult. Chances are individuals in addiction recovery may have already burned some bridges in their past relationships. Some of that time will need to factor in healing those divides that an addictive disorder and substance misuse have previously created between the two individuals. Attending Al-Anon meetings, an affiliate Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) program of recovery for the families and friends of addicts, should be encouraged for both participants when attempting to maintain a previous relationship. 


Addiction recovery patients should also remember that any healthy relationship is a two-way street. The focus should remain on individual sobriety, but If a partner is going to accommodate for an addictive disorder, those in addiction recovery must actively listen to their wants and needs. This may sound like relationship 101, but it is easy to forget others when consumed with learning new habits and struggling to maintain early sobriety.


Actionable Tips on Avoiding Stressors While Breaking Up


Unfortunately, romantic relationships do not always work out between partners, especially when both parties have to cope with the strain of an addictive disorder with or without co-occurring mental health issues. Timing can be an issue for some, while others simply cannot recover from the stressors that an addictive disorder places on their partnership. No matter the reason for the dissolution of a relationship, you need to ensure that your sobriety is safeguarded during these potential scenarios. Here are four helpful tips for maintaining long-term sobriety even during a break-up. 


  • Alternative Living Space: Finding separate living quarters is ideal even for married couples in early recovery. Sober living homes are an excellent transitional tool even for more established relationships. Sober living homes provide an affordable and sober apartment-style transitional residence where fellow recovery members assist one another through early recovery. Choosing to live in a sober home can allow enough of a buffer zone as you and your partner establish this new relationship and navigate the frustrations of working toward long-term sobriety.
  • Form an Extended Support Network: As mentioned previously, having an already established support network with a significant other is advantageous for those in addiction recovery. However, addiction recovery patients would be wise to seek an extended network of support through AA meetings and sponsors. Not only do relationships sometimes end, putting all the pressures of being a support network on your significant other is unfair and might undoubtedly damage what is most likely a delicate situation.
  • Couples and Individual Therapy: Therapy, either individually or through group sessions, can be incredibly beneficial for those in addiction recovery to further deal with co-occurring mental health issues that will certainly arise while maintaining sobriety. This will help addiction recovery patients gain awareness of issues and potential triggers before they become problems that have the potential to lead to relapsing. These sessions also provide an outlet for creating an open dialogue about how recovery and previous substance misuse has affected both parties, a conversation that may have gone ignored if otherwise only addressed at home. 
  • Avoiding New Romantic Relationships: The need for treatment is proof that the age-old adage of not be able to receive love until you love yourself is true. We may paint with a much broader brush using terminology like self-care. However, in essence, the popular phrase about loving yourself still holds weight in the realm of addictive behavioral disorders and co-occurring mental health issues. How can an individual include love and care for another person when they are so clearly in need of learning how to provide the same treatment to themselves? If you happen to not be in a romantic relationship or wind up breaking up with a significant other, we recommend avoiding romantic entanglements until at least a year of sobriety is gained


Although you may receive the benefits of love and attention from a partner, you will also have to deal with two personalities trying to co-exist through all their differences. Struggles might arise and create unnecessary stressors while you are still coping with building a newly sober and healthy relationship with yourself. For these reasons, you may want to hold off on starting a romantic relationship until you are ready to give the type of undivided attention a romantic relationship deserves. 


Relationships can be difficult to navigate while in recovery, none more so than the relationship with the self. That is why at Choice House, clients begin their treatment by building a new foundation of love, understanding, and empathy. Through a variety of therapeutic modalities, we offer men the opportunity to achieve sobriety as they learn the skills necessary to maintain a long-term sober relationship with themselves. Our services include a 90-day inpatient program, extensive outpatient treatment, and the chance to take up residency at our sober living campus.  Our facilities are ideally located in the Boulder County area. Our proximity to the Rocky Mountains allows us to offer a unique outdoor wilderness therapy where men begin the process of reconnecting with themselves and fellow peers through physical activities like hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing. Through these therapeutic activities, men will re-learn how to better develop relationships with others as sober individuals forming bonds of friendship that will prove beneficial long after leaving our rehab program. For more information regarding Choice House’s addiction recovery treatment services or facilities, please give us a call at +1-303-578-4977.

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