One of the casualties of addiction is usually relationships. If you are married, the relationship is likely to have suffered a lot of damage due to the substance abuse. In some cases, the harm caused by addiction is too much and the marriage becomes unsalvageable, even though it may continue to limp along for a few years after you become sober. In many cases, the marriage will be salvageable though, but it is likely to require effort from both you and your partner to put things right. Here are a few tips for how you can begin to heal this relationship.
Trying to save your marriage may have been one of the reasons why you decided to quit alcohol or drugs, but it is vital that this does not becoming a pre-condition of your sobriety (i.e. you intend to relapse if the marriage is not repaired). Getting sober will improve your life, but this is something you do for you – sobriety only works if you make it your number one priority in life. If your recovery depends on fixing your marriage, it is not going to be a strong recovery.
There is likely to be many unresolved issues related to your substance abuse, and these can continue to have an impact on the state of your marriage. A good option is to seek the input of a devoted professional. Couple’s counselling can provide a safe environment from which you can sort through the mess of the past and start building a better future.
Groups such as Al-Anon are a great resource for the partners of those in recovery. It is important not to be too pushy about getting your husband or wife to attend, but it is certainly something you should support if they want to do this.
It is great that you have taken a positive step to improve your life, but you have to have realistic expectations of what is going to happen now that you are sober. Your partner will likely be delighted that you have made this change, but it is unfair to expect a clean sheet right away. You have to win your partner’s trust again; it takes time to prove that you have really changed. If you have expectations that are unrealistic, it can just lead to resentment and disappointment; this then becomes an excuse to relapse.
Humans can adapt to even the most miserable of conditions. There is comfort in the familiar even when this involves a lot of pain. Your partner will have developed habits that allowed him or her to cope with your behaviour but, now that you are sober, it can be like living with a stranger. It will take time for your partner to get used to this new you and adapt to living in this new way.
You need to be patient and give the relationship time to heal. It is unlikely that the problems in your marriage happened overnight, so it is unreasonable to expect everything to be hunky-dory right away. There may be times in sobriety when you feel your partner is being unfair by not letting go of the past, but as long as you keep on doing the right things then your marriage should become stronger and stronger. One mistake people can make when they get sober is giving up on their marriage too quickly – give it time and it may still be salvageable.