Guide for Spouses Supporting
Their Spouses in Recovery
Interview with Per Wickstrom
Addiction is a disease that can negatively impact any relationship, especially the connection between spouses. In this interview, Per Wickstrom, a recovering addict and successful entrepreneur, guides us through spousal support during the recovery process.
How does addiction impact relationships?
When one or both partners in a relationship struggle with substance abuse, there is often a cloud of mistrust hanging above their heads. The sober spouse may experience constant worry about whether his or her partner will come home under the influence, or whether he or she will come home at all. The sober spouse is therefore left to carry the burden of all family obligations, including work and childcare.
Spouses who experience addiction often feel shame about their actions and may feel torn between their need for drugs and their family obligations. Sadly, in many cases, the addict chooses illicit substances over all else, creating a rift between family members. Once the addicted spouse enters rehabilitation, it is time to heal these broken bonds.
How can addicts in rehabilitation guide their spouses through the process?
While the sober spouse likely encouraged you to enter rehabilitation, they may not know how to best support you once you commit. This is especially true if prior discussions on your addiction only lead to frustration, yelling, and anger.
One of the most important pieces of advice that I can give would be to remain patient. Both spouses must practice this task while re-learning how to properly communicate with each other. Ensure that your spouse knows that you are committed to this change, even if prior attempts at sobriety have failed. It is important to the healing process that you both set clear goals and understand the consequences of past actions.
During treatment, it is likely that there will be family counseling sessions. These meetings are essential to the health and wellbeing of your family once you return home. So, encourage your spouse to attend these sessions with you. Lead the way in participation so they feel comfortable doing the same. Making amends for the past will help you and your spouse plan for a happy, healthy, and sober future.
Additionally, it is important to keep your spouse informed on your progress, even setbacks. The honesty will help rebuild a relationship that has functioned on mistrust for too long. In turn, this will help your sober spouse openly share his or her feelings with you, as well. This healthy line of communication will be essential for your transition back to regular life.
How can the support continue once the recovering addict returns home?
Once you are home, your spouse may still be worried about a potential relapse. While you can’t guarantee that this won’t happen, you can continue to ensure your spouse that you are committed to the recovery process.
It is essential that you attend any aftercare programs, doctor’s appointments, or support meetings. Invite your spouse to any sessions that are open to others. This will help both spouses keep an open line of communication. If you find yourself in situations that make you uncomfortable or at risk of relapse, create a code word or sign to let your significant other know how you are feeling. This way, he or she can help you get to a safe place. This connection will allow both of you to work towards a positive and healthy relationship.
Interview provided by Michelle Peterson, a proud recovering addict. She is fighting to eliminate the stigma against those who suffer from or have suffered from substance abuse and addiction. She created RecoveryPride.org to spread messages of hope and help to those in recovery, those wishing to be in recovery, and their loved ones. When she isn’t building the site, she enjoys running and crafting.