Recovering Together: Why Couples Rehab Works

When two people are in a relationship, they share a great portion of their lives. They may have the same interests and hobbies, enjoy going to the same movies together, have the same taste in art and books, like the same kinds of food. They may also both abuse alcohol or drugs.

A couple’s substance abuse may have started with one partner and drawn the other in. Or both partners may have begun drinking or taking drugs together and codependently slipped over the line to addiction. In whatever way it started, the result is that addiction ultimately erodes their trust and intimacy and puts their relationship as well as their individual well-being in serious trouble.

Couples treatment is ideal for couples, married or otherwise, in which both parties are suffering from drug or alcohol addiction. When both partners undergo rehab at the same time, it gives them the tools to withdraw from their own addictions as well as to repair their relationship and encourage each other as they learn to live healthier and better lives substance-free.

Why Rehab Is Better Together

Motivation and support are important factors in recovery, and if only one partner undergoes rehab it can make it much harder on that partner to return to the relationship without relapsing. For obvious reasons, it can also destroy the relationship entirely.

This is particularly true if drinking or doing drugs has played a significant part in the couple’s dynamic. They may have used drugs or alcohol routinely to fuel their time together, be part of love-making, or facilitate conversation about serious issues. Once one partner is sober, things are not the same. Their relationship is out of balance and can readily fall apart.

In one scenario, the recovering partner can fall into the trap of enabling the other’s continued substance abuse by trying to avoid tension and conflict in order to keep the relationship together. It’s a miserable way to live, costing the enabler in terms of mental, emotional, and physical health and putting his or her own recovery at risk. It can even exacerbate the problem, because the partner who is still using feels no pressure to stop.

In the second scenario, the recovering partner becomes critical and resentful of his or her mate, and it’s met with all the defensive mechanisms a substance abuser is adept at employing. It’s not a stretch to imagine what that does even to a loving relationship: it pushes it to the brink and often sinks it.

What Couples Rehab Is Like

Going through treatment at the same time doesn’t mean doing everything together, but couples can share the same room and would ordinarily be together at meal times and during recreational activities. Depending on other factors, partners would have both private and joint counseling sessions, and may also participate in group sessions with other couples.

These are among the relationship issues that would be addressed during a couple’s time in rehab:

Communication. It may be the first time in years that a couple has had a real conversation without using drugs or alcohol, so there are new skills to learn and to practice. Putting aside anger and resentment and talking honestly with each other is a first step toward repairing and rebuilding a relationship that will survive and thrive.

Stress management. Everyone has personal triggers, and then there are the ones that life throws at you. Learning to manage stress on your own without resorting to drugs or alcohol is an important tool, and learning how to do it as a couple can be even more effective.

Self-awareness. Self-awareness usually falls by the wayside when drug or alcohol abuse is in the picture. Part of a healthy recovery is re-establishing that awareness, not only for the individual, but for his or her life as half of a couple. How each partner interacts with the other takes careful attention and mindfulness.

Once The Couple Returns Back Home

Recovery is an ongoing process, and partners can be the greatest source of support for each other once a couple returns home. With a commitment to keep each other and their relationship on track, they can help each other to avoid triggers, quash cravings, and discover new ways to enjoy each other’s company without the substances that had made their lives unmanageable.

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