How to Support a Spouse in Addiction Recovery

Most people understand that alcoholism is a disease.

Recovering addicts explain the damaging effects of their condition. If you are supporting a spouse during addiction recovery, understand that addiction is a family disease.

Spouses often suffer from co-dependence. Your spouse is in recovery. Perhaps he or she is beginning the first steps of recovery in an inpatient rehab or an outpatient rehab.

Regardless, you have some work to do as well. Supporting your spouse also means supporting yourself during addiction recovery. Here’s how you can do both. 

Counseling During Addiction Recovery

If your spouse is undergoing therapy, so should you. Counseling isn’t only about how to quit drinking. It’s for the whole family. Therapy can be individual, couples, or small group therapy.

Counseling sessions help you both develop communication skills. You now need the time to understand each other’s needs now that your spouse is sober.

Spouses want to be supportive. Remember that you have suffered as well. Addiction damages relationships. If yours is worth rebuilding, both of you could use some help during recovery

If your spouse was abusive during his or her active addition, you might choose not to take part in couples counseling. Though, you would benefit from individual counseling as part of your healing process.

Supporting Your Spouse During Inpatient Rehab

During the initial days of inpatient rehab, your partner will be detoxing. He or she will have limited contact with you. Take this time for yourself, knowing he or she is taking those all-important first steps.

Once the detox program ends, you will be able to take a more active support role. You’ll be asked to visit and keep a positive attitude. Now is not the time to bring up old hurts.

You can address those in couples therapy. During therapy, a counselor helps you and your spouse find ways to express your feelings. You also learn to identify unhealthy behaviors and replace them with healthier ones.

Know that you don’t have to handle this all yourself. If you have other family and friends who wish to take part in your partner’s recovery, let them.

Take care of yourself, too. Make time to do things you enjoy, like sports or a long-forgotten hobby. You may even want to visit family and friends you haven’t seen in a while.

Rebuilding Your Relationship After Rehab

After rehab, the recovery process begins in earnest. Recovery applies to both if you. Your relationship is starting over. Now is the time to lay healthy groundwork in to move forward together.

Addiction destroys relationships. Rebuilding yours will take some time. Here are some ways to do that.

Continue Couples Therapy

Continue counseling session. A therapist will give you extra tools for communicating and tackling conflicts. Be honest with your feelings. You can’t work out issues unless you talk about them.

Identify Triggers

Together, identify potential triggers that could invite your partner to start using again. Perhaps there’s a friend who encouraged addition. Or, your spouse may have a high-stress job.

You can’t remove all life’s stresses. Though, you can remove some of the triggers that could compromise his or her recovery.

Substance-Free Activities

Think of things to do together that don’t involve alcohol. Think of old favorites like going to a movie or visiting a local museum. Or try something new, like hiking or scuba diving. Get to know each other again.

One Step at a Time

Relationships damaged by addiction take a while to rebuild. The path is steep and often rocky. Couples who survive work through the bumps in the road. But, they don’t do it alone. They reach out for help.

If you have additional questions, here are some common questions about addiction recovery.


Brockwell has served on the Communications Team at L.I.F.E. Recovery since 2000.

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