Tips for Living Life with a Spouse in Recovery

Last Updated on October 2, 2020

Tips for Living Life with a Spouse in Recovery

Family, Marriage, and Addiction

In some families, addiction is something that is rarely talked about, but its effects are felt in the strained relationships of all those involved. Studies have concluded that the risk of developing a drug or alcohol addiction is largely based on genetics and poor coping skills, but also that children of addicts are eight times more likely to develop an addiction.1 That statistic alone makes it clear that addiction has a major impact on the family as a whole.

Marriages, in particular, take a hard hit when addiction is involved, especially when one spouse is abusing drugs. One 2014 study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs found that the presence of alcohol use disorder and other disruptive life stressors increased the odds of couples getting a divorce. In fact, 48.3 percent of the study participants who currently or previously had an alcohol use disorder got divorced at some point in their lives.2

Due to the nature of the disease, addiction is something that families must deal with together, even if one spouse is using and the other is not.

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Common Issues Addicts in Recovery Face After Drug Rehab

It’s tempting to think that your spouse will be “cured” immediately upon returning from drug rehab. While your spouse may behave, think, and treat others very differently after completing a drug and alcohol rehab program, he or she will still need time to adjust to a sober lifestyle outside of the rehab center.

Many people who complete drug rehab and return home still face challenges as they transition from a life of addiction into a life of recovery and sobriety.

  • Finances – A life of addiction often involves actively buying drugs or pawning valuables to get money to buy more drugs. This can lead to financial strain, especially in a marriage where income is shared. Couples will need to develop strategies to manage their finances and maintain accountability.
  • Relationship issues – Addiction causes a lot of turmoil and trust issues between spouses and a marriage will take time to heal, even after rehab. Couples will have to learn how to communicate effectively, keep each other accountable without placing blame, learn to correct enabling and codependent behaviors, and spend time getting to know one another other again.
  • Stress – Recovering addicts are more susceptible to stress and may be tempted to use drugs and alcohol to deal with stressful life situations in recovery. Spouses play an important role in encouraging and helping their significant others manage stress and cope with triggers, especially in early recovery.
  • Health problems – Long-term drug and alcohol abuse can cause serious and lasting health problems that continue long after drug rehab is over. Spouses will need to be prepared to deal with these issues and be consistent about going to the doctor and sticking to recommended treatment programs.

Addressing these challenges after drug rehab can be challenging and put additional strain on a marriage. There is no single or easy solution to facing these obstacles, but there are several strategies that can help you and your spouse develop and maintain a healthy relationship in addiction recovery.

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Strategies for Maintaining a Healthy Marriage in Addiction Recovery

Although it will take time and effort, it is possible to establish and maintain a healthy marriage while a spouse is recovering from addiction. If your husband or wife is currently completing a drug and alcohol rehab program or has recently completed one, here are eight strategies that may help you address the challenges of living with an addict in recovery.

  1. Participate in family therapy. In family therapy, you and your spouse will work with a clinical counselor to address communication, family roles, and other social issues as you learn to communicate more effectively and support one another. During therapy, you’ll also have an opportunity to ask questions and receive professional advice about how you should handle situations that arise at home.
  2. Participate in individual therapy. In many instances, it can be very helpful if each spouse participates in individual therapy as well. This can provide a healthy outlet to express emotions like anger, frustration, and hurt as each person deals with the challenges of living life with a recovering addict. It is also a great way to address codependency issues.
  3. Educate yourself. The more you learn about your spouse’s addiction, the better off your marriage will be. Educating yourself on the science of addiction, how it impacts the brain, and what you can expect from treatment will help you manage your expectations as your loved one continues his or her recovery journey.
  4. Maintain a substance-free living environment. Supporting your spouse in his or her recovery may also mean that you and the whole family also need to make a lifestyle change. Removing all addictive substances from your home will help create a living space where your spouse will feel supported, safe, and accountable. If in the past, you and your spouse spent most of your leisure time drinking or spending time in places where drug and alcohol abuse is frequent, it would be wise to encourage your spouse by suggesting other sober activities, such as going to the movie theater or going for a hike.
  5. Be prepared to handle relapse. Every person in recovery needs a relapse prevention plan, but this need also extends to the spouses of addicts in recovery. If your husband or wife has a lapse, it’s important that you both have a plan for how you will handle the situation. This may be something you can discuss with your therapist or at your next Al-Anon meeting.
  6. Prioritize self-care. Just as it was important to do this while your spouse was in rehab, it’s still just as important to take care of yourself now. Getting enough sleep, eating well, exercising, and doing things you enjoy are all things that will help you maintain your overall wellness, which in turn, will equip you to face the challenges of everyday life.
  7. Find support in the recovery community. If you are not already attending recovery support group meetings for loved ones of addicts in recovery, you are missing out on a fantastic opportunity to give and receive support, talk with other individuals who have experienced similar life circumstances, and share your experiences with marriage and addiction.
  8. Be patient. Addiction recovery takes time and long-term rehab and treatment are a part of the journey. Try to be patient as both you and your spouse adjust to a new lifestyle.

Helping Your Addicted Spouse at Nova Recovery Center

While your spouse is in drug rehab, he or she may live at our rehab center for several weeks or live at home while attending IOP. During this time, we provide an intensive family program for the family members of addicts in recovery who are enrolled in our inpatient program.

Our family program is designed to help families and spouses begin the healing process, explore family roles and the impact of addiction, develop healthy communication and boundary setting, and provide more information about the disease of addiction.

Our clinical and counseling staff are also available to provide family support throughout the duration of your spouse’s addiction treatment and will provide regular updates on your loved one’s progress.

We understand the challenges and obstacles you face with an addicted spouse and we are here to support you and your loved one in whatever way we can. Please contact Nova Recovery Center today to learn more about helping a spouse in recovery, our family program, or to enroll a loved one in drug and alcohol rehab.


  1. https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/is-addiction-a-disease.htm
  2. http://www.jsad.com/doi/abs/10.15288/jsad.2014.75.520
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