Addiction can take a toll on your entire life, including your loved ones, which is why it’s often called a “family disease.” The behaviors that accompanied your addiction have hurt you and others as well, especially your spouse, who is now in a phase of rebuilding with you after treatment. Critical elements of a healthy relationship can be worn down quickly when one partner is unable to think clearly due to their illness, causing the unraveling of a loving bond. However, with your hard work in treatment and the hopes of long-lasting recovery, there are steps that can be taken to restore your marriage as you begin to rebuild your life.
Forgiveness: This step is two-fold as you need first to forgive yourself, before your spouse can fully forgive you. Unburdening yourself from the guilt of your past actions that were influenced by substance use disorder is going to be difficult, but necessary. Rebuilding the bond between you and your partner will require a lot of listening and hard work together to work through forgiveness to make it successful.
Self-Accountability: Part of your treatment counseling will involve steps like accepting your responsibility for the things that have happened in the past that were influenced by your addiction. This can be a painful but very vital thing to share with your partner, and it can significantly help for them to hear you acknowledge your wrongdoing. It doesn’t come with any guarantees of immediate forgiveness, but it’s a step towards leaving those times in the past and moving forward.
Listen: Sometimes you are going to hear things you don’t want to hear, potentially making you think back to times you’ve hurt your spouse or making you feel defensive or angry. In order for communication during this healing time to be productive, consider using a counselor to help during these discussions with your partner to ensure that both parties are being heard. Often it is best for significant issues to be discussed and worked through in a controlled and safe space for both you and your spouse.
Patience: Sobriety will allow you to think more clearly than ever, though a full recovery is still on the horizon. Your work in treatment is a big step you’ve taken to begin building a new and better version of yourself. Focusing on this phase will require some patience from both you and your partner as your healing process will still need to be a priority before you can jump into any significant new changes concerning your marriage. Rebuilding trust will take time, so patience is a must for successfully rebuilding a marriage.
The Spouse: Part of the “family disease model” is that everyone in the family unit has contributed to the dysfunction that emerged from the substance use disorder. The person who struggles with the disorder often has several friends and family members who are enablers. They cover for, take care of, or otherwise support the substance abuse by allowing the person to continue using drugs or alcohol without suffering consequences or difficulties. Even healthy family units can create codependency and unproductive behaviors once the substance use disorder enters the home, putting the whole family system at risk. The spouse, family member or friend can struggle with the feeling of powerless over their loved ones substance use disorder. Resources such as Al Anon, Nar Anon, and CODA (Co-Dependents Anonymous) can assist with these contributions to the Substance Use Disorder.
A major factor in repairing the damage addiction inflicted on marriage is regaining trust. It’s not always easy if your partner has been on the receiving end of deceptive behavior from you in the past due to your addiction, and they certainly can’t be expected to overcome their own challenges with forgiveness overnight. The key is to give them space and time to work through the next phase of your relationship with you as you continue to work on yourself in treatment while also remembering that they have some healing to do of their own. The spouse must be willing to openly and honestly address their part in the issues you face as a couple, and work together to get the help needed to assist in navigating through the rebuilding phase of the relationship while in recovery.