What if My Spouse Also Uses Substances?

Couple relaxing at Venice Beach

Standing up to addiction requires more effort when your spouse is at your side. What if your spouse uses substances, too? Once you have become sober but your spouse is not ready to give up substances, you might wonder if you can succeed in recovery. Ideally, everyone in your network should be supportive of your plans to abstain from using substances. However, circumstances are not always ideal. Just because you decide to make a life-altering change does not mean that your spouse is ready to make that change, too. So, how can you make sobriety work when your spouse continues to use substances?

Understand Your Triggers

Triggers—or internal impulses that cultivate the desire to drink—can occur when you experience certain emotions, see certain people, or travel to specific places. You might hear a song that reminds you of a time and place where you previously used substances. Experiencing these effects could create a desire to drink. Alternatively, when you continue to see your spouse actively consuming alcohol, not only is this triggering for you, but this can be very frustrating, which ultimately leads to resentment.

Set Clear Boundaries

Boundaries are crucial in life, especially in early recovery. Try your best to understand your triggers and accept that you might not fully understand or identify all of them. By establishing boundaries, you have a better chance at setting yourself up for success. However, it might be hard to know what you need from other people in early recovery because you might not know what you need from yourself first. Remember, alcohol and other drugs are never the answer. When you focus on putting your sobriety first, you might see a clear direction in approaching your spouse and addressing the issue.

Communicate honestly about what you need from them while using “I” statements. Using “I” statements will help prevent your spouse from feeling attacked and better convey your message. Whatever you do, don’t hold back; you will only harbor resentment. Further, when you hold things inside, your spouse might not understand what is bothering you. It is essential to focus on your needs and calmly communicate this rather than escalating to confrontation. Some examples include:

  • Asking your spouse not to drink in front of you
  • Asking your spouse not to keep alcohol or drugs in the home

Take a firm stance on what you will and will not tolerate, and stick to it.

Evaluate the Relationship

It can be hard to stick to your boundaries, especially with people you love. Therefore, it is essential to evaluate your relationship now that you are sober. You might discover that with the absence of substances, you no longer share commonalities. Ask yourself, “Am I able to connect with my spouse now that I am in recovery?” Recovery is about putting your health first, regardless of how much you love this person; if your spouse puts you at risk, it will interfere with your recovery.

Alternatively, sometimes addiction takes hold later in the relationship. Therefore, try to think about what you once did with your spouse that did not involve drinking or using drugs. Further, are you able to communicate with them when they are sober? Addiction is rarely linked solely to the substance; many underlying causes contribute to alcohol and substance abuse. You or your spouse might be struggling with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues. It is essential to evaluate how you communicate and respond to each other’s needs.

You will also benefit from seeking a therapist or counselor. At Choice House, we provide family programs that will help you address the needs of you and your spouse in a constructive and not aggressive way. Therefore, if you find that you cannot communicate healthily, then you should seek professional support.

Put Your Recovery First

You can’t make your spouse recover with you. Suppose you have become sober, but your spouse has not, and despite trying to communicate, set boundaries, and seek professional intervention, they still drink. In that case, you are in an unhealthy environment that is not conducive to recovery. While sobriety is easier said than done, you should seriously evaluate the relationship to determine what it offers and if there are opportunities for growth. You might find that all you share are substances, which have no place in your life in recovery. Although it may be difficult, you can’t force them to get help. You also cannot wait around for them to be sober with you.

Living with a spouse that uses substance while you’re in recovery adds layers of emotional challenges. The lack of support and continued use is counterproductive to your needs. At Choice House, we provide professional support for men to explore their emotions and grow into the person they want to become in recovery. If this does not align with your spouse, we lend additional support through guided family therapy sessions. In these settings, you and your spouse will become more educated on addiction and how it affects your relationship. You will learn about healthier alternatives to communicate your needs, set boundaries, identify triggers, and work to help one another. If you are focused on sobriety and want to restore your relationship, you should seek professional support. Don’t wait. Put your recovery first and reach out for help today. You deserve to live the life you desire and deserve. To learn more, call Choice House at (720) 577-4422

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