What To Do if a Significant Other Is Still Using?

loved one

The decision to seek treatment for a substance abuse disorder is a solitary choice that ultimately has to be made for your own benefit. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you will be alone in your decision to seek out treatment. From first acknowledging your need for treatment to finally asking for assistance with your addiction recovery, you can find an abundance of guidance throughout the decision-making process. Mitigating factors like preserving relationships with family and friends or maintaining gainful employment will always weigh in on your decision to get sober. No man is an island, nor should they try to be when dealing with addictive disorders. However, the choice for sobriety itself has to be made by you and for the betterment of your own life. 

It is ironic, as it is that final break from the perpetual cycle of isolation caused by substance abuse itself that must be a lone decision. The solitary nature and need for individualized motivations behind choosing a sober lifestyle are the necessary ingredients to make it persist. This means that just as no one can make that decision for you, you also can not make that decision for someone else — not even a loved one. However, this does set up a scenario unique to individuals in addiction recovery. What happens when a significant other or a loved one is still using illicit substances that could trigger a relapse and threaten your chances at long-term sobriety maintenance?

We will run through the three particular scenarios that we feel the majority of individuals in recovery experience when they re-enter society and begin dealing with maintaining newfound sobriety. We will also give you some tips on how to be aware of some tell-tale signs of substance misuse among family members or friends and guidelines for implementing preventative measures in each case. 

Loved Ones, Family Members, and Friends Still Actively Abusing Substances

The unfortunate reality, especially in scenarios involving shared homes or living spaces among partners, spouses, or even roommates, is that you will not be able to return to living with an individual who is actively abusing substances after leaving a rehab facility. It is important to remember that you have taken the steps to effect a monumental change in behavior and thought patterns to begin your sober lifestyle, but the rest of the people in your life have made no such decision for themselves. You may have just left a rehab facility after months of addiction recovery treatment, but for them, it is just another Tuesday. There is nothing wrong with hoping loved ones will take an empathetic and understanding approach to your sobriety by avoiding using illicit substances around you, but you can in no way expect such a reaction.

Making matters more complicated, chances are if your loved one is still abusing substances then you have used those substances with them in the past. That means spending any amount of time with that person, whether they are sober or not, will trigger familiar behavioral patterns making it much easier to slip back into old, unhealthy habits and relapse.

Most likely you will not have to look for any signs of active substance abuse in these scenarios as the individuals will still be openly misusing substances. Planning to find a separate living space is your best option to avoid any potential triggers. Options like Choice House’s sober living campus or even just a sober living home from a nonprofit like Oxford Group are great alternatives for ensuring you maintain sobriety when in early recovery.

A Loved One Begins Active Substance Abuse

If you think that a partner, spouse, or friend is starting down the path to addiction through substance abuse, then you should first broach an open and honest conversation about your sobriety. Not by accusing them or imploring them to change. Rather, the emphasis of the conversation should be placed on what kind of atmosphere you need to surround yourself with to maintain sobriety. Whether or not they think they are addicts, the important aspect in this scenario is that their actions are making you feel unsafe in your sobriety.

The next step, especially if you notice no change in behavior, is to put space between yourself and the loved one in question. Avoid social situations and keep interactions to a minimum if at all possible. For significant others, potential alternative living arrangements need to be explored. Staying with friends or family is a safe alternative as well as the previously mentioned sober living homes. 

These types of scenarios are one of the many reasons rehab facilities will push taking up residence at a sober living home while transitioning back into daily, independent life. There is a multitude of variables at play in maintaining sobriety, and you do not need to add finding a safe, sustainable living space to the mix.

Loved Ones Who Use Substances Responsibly

This final scene is one that every individual in addiction recovery will have to deal with at some point after leaving rehab. Responsible alcohol consumption and even to a smaller extent prescription pill use are eventualities that will need to be addressed in early recovery. Partners, spouses, family members, and friends who do not have addictive disorders will drink alcohol either at dinners or at the end of a hard day, and if left unchecked, they will do it around you without even thinking.

You will need to make an ever-evolving game plan early on in your recovery to address others responsibly consuming alcohol in your presence. Some basic ground rules in shared living spaces can be simple like no alcohol in the house or avoiding social events that revolve solely around drinking. Once again, keeping an open and honest dialogue — with yourself and others — about your needs and comfort level around alcohol will be vital to avoiding potential triggers and relapse. As long as you speak up and continuously remain self-aware about your comfort level around alcohol, we think you will be surprised at how accommodating your loved ones will be in helping you maintain your sobriety.


If you or someone you love is suffering from substance misuse and an addictive disorder, then Choice House has the addiction treatment program to help put you on the path to recovery. We offer men the opportunity to create a new foundation of love and understanding through a variety of therapeutic modalities as they learn the skills necessary to achieve long term sobriety. Our addiction treatment program consists of 90-day inpatient service, an intensive outpatient program, and the opportunity to take up residency at our sober living campus. Located in the Boulder County area of Colorado, our facilities benefit from having the Rocky Mountain National Park literally in our backyard. We take full advantage of our natural surroundings with a unique outdoor wilderness therapy that allows men to reconnect with themselves, nature, and fellow addiction recovery patients through physical activities like hiking, kayaking, and rock climbing. We strongly feel that the bonds of friendship you make here will prove vital to the recovery process long after you have left our facilities. In addition to being near the Rocky Mountains, our sober living campus is just a short drive away from the bustling city of Louisville. This proximity to a functioning city greatly benefits residents at our sober living campus as well as those participating in outpatient services; it allows them to begin the transition process of re-entering society through gainful employment and potential social lives while still under the guidance and supervision of Choice House staff. For more information about Choice House’s addiction treatment programs and facilities, please give us a call at (720) 577-4422.