How to fight addiction together with a beloved one

“Would you say heroin has ruined your life? – Absolutely.” I came across a story of an addicted couple at the Humans of New York, a photoblog where you can find street portraits of people living in New York City accompanied by short interviews.

The couple told the photographer that the problem started when one of them has got a prescription for OxyContin. Very soon they started to crush and snort it and ended up doing heroin. Now, after two years of drug abuse, partners admit they still love each other and are trying to fix their lives.

How does addiction affect relationships?

Couples in which one or both partners abuse drugs or alcohol and avoid going into couples rehab are often doomed. Addiction affects every aspect of their lives and relationships. Aside from the health damage, the main risks include:

  • A probability of substance use – Sharing home or life with an addicted person is a gateway to becoming an addict.
  • Domestic violence – Substance abuse becomes the cause of almost every argument. Verbal or physical aggression makes a person to seek escape through alcohol or drugs, which only aggravates the situation.
  • A break up – Partners start demonstrating unhealthy behavior patterns that can ruin the relationship. They criticize and blame each other; attack each other in a condescending manner, reducing their mutual warm feelings; or just withdraw from their partners and avoid conflicts.

Fortunately, there is a way out of this vicious cycle. It is called couples rehab centers (more info here).

What is the point of couples rehab?

Dr. Robert Navarra is an author of the Roadmap for the Journey workshop for couples and the Couples and Addiction Recovery training for professionals. He says that undergoing treatment separately helps addicts to focus on their own recovery, but discourages “couples from addressing relationship concerns or issues”. In a drug rehab for married couples or partners, the focus is made on 3 goals concurrently: “each partner’s recovery and relationship recovery”.

Recovery involves more than simply stopping substance abuse and compulsive behavior. It also includes treating the problems in the relationship. These problems won’t disappear because people become sober. Many couples return to their normal lives and have to deal with the same difficulties and triggers again.

What are the advantages of couples therapy?

The benefits of treatment in couples drug rehab are as follows:

1. Rebuilding the relationship between the partners.

Family therapy allows partners to clarify their own roles and see how their actions may impact their loved one. It also helps to reduce the negative emotional effect on their children.

Addiction often leads to the loss of mutual trust. Therapy aims at restoring trust as it is the foundation of any relationships.

Partners, especially co-addicted ones, can lose sight of themselves and their own needs. Rehab specialists teach to establish boundaries and develop self-care.

2. Solving those problems in the couple’s relationship which may be contributing to substance use.

Unhealthy relationships can strengthen the problems with alcohol and drugs. Couples therapy educates patients on addiction. This helps them better understand what their partner is going through and gives insight into their actions or behaviors. It allows identifying what led to addiction and learning how to avoid creating triggering situations.

Therapy sessions help to heal the hurt caused by your loved one’s addiction and solve the problem of domestic violence if there were cases.

In short, going into rehab together helps to overcome dependence or codependence and create new rules that will stimulate married or cohabitating partners to sustain recovery.

3. Problematic behaviors gradually replaced by positive behavior patterns.

Dependent couples often quarrel over money, not taking care of responsibilities, staying out late, and other issues. Constant offenses and the lack of support can provoke an addict to return to an old habit. It’s important to co-exist peacefully. Relationships should encourage a recovery process, and not retard it.

Therapists pay special attention to changing the ways partners think of or treat each other. It involves learning to perform such responsibilities as parenting, household tasks, handling finances, etc. When people can share responsibilities and cope with them well, the risk of misunderstanding is low.   

4. Reduced risk of relapse due to acquired coping skills.

An important part of therapy is learning not to control a partner’s recovery, but to provide meaningful support. An addict learns the techniques for coping with specific triggers and a non-addicted partner learns to help him/her stay sober.

Aside from the technics, couples develop rituals that add consistency and meaning into their relationship and gives a sense of connection. It can be taking yoga, celebrating an alcohol-free happy hour or some other activity they enjoy doing together.

5. Bringing the communication skills of both partners to a new level.

Family therapy shows couples ways to fix communication. People learn to express their thoughts and feelings, be a good listener, and discuss complex topics without starting a verbal skirmish and avoiding aggression. Effective communication skills contribute to better results in recovery.

There’s substantial evidence that couples therapy is effective. A study conducted by American researchers proves that Behavioral Couples Therapy (BCT) designed for married or cohabiting individuals is more beneficial than an individual treatment approach. It leads to longer abstinence, happier relationships, and fewer separations.

You may start wondering “How to find couples rehab near me?” However, entering rehab together is not a good idea if:

  • one member of a couple has concurrent health conditions and requires a special facility;
  • there’re cases of domestic abuse;
  • only one partner is truly interested in recovery;
  • there’s a lack of commitment to continuing the relationship after rehabilitation.

Entering rehab without a partner can be difficult. But you can become a role model for your loved one and bring him/her closer to recovery.

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