Addiction in a marriage is never a good thing. The drug or alcohol becomes almost like a third person in the relationship and drives a wedge between spouses. The personality of the addict and spouse changes, which alters the dynamic of the marriage. However, odd as it may seem, there are ways that recovery from addiction can end up saving your marriage. Here’s how:
The Role of Therapy and the Marriage Dynamic
Addiction recovery will involve therapy of some kind. For addicts who are married or have a family, it often involves therapy sessions in which the entire family participates. These family therapy sessions offer an excellent opportunity to address the family dynamics, discuss past hurts and rebuild damaged relationships. Doing so will cause you to come out with a stronger marriage, a renewed sense of trust in each other, and a deeper bond.
Without therapy, the marriage and family relationships may languish in the same dysfunctional interactions that arose as a result of the addiction. The behavior of the addict during the addiction likely caused significant damage to family relationships. Trust was replaced with deceit. Integrity was replaced with lies. If these emotions and actions are allowed to remain, the likelihood of the marriage surviving is very small.
Therapy can help families work through the emotional and mental component of addiction and its impact on the entire family. Through therapy, the addict and spouse or family members can regain open and honest communication, rebuild trust, foster forgiveness and learn self-acceptance. Once the old wounds have been brought out into the open, family recovery can begin to take place.
Family therapy provides a necessary and safe environment for children of addicts as well. Not only can children of addicts play a part in their parents’ recovery, family therapy can also serve as an intervention for at-risk children of addicts. These children may be on the path to addiction themselves, as a result of having to grow up with addiction in the family as well as genetic factors. Early intervention can help prevent children from following in their parents’ footsteps.
The 12 Recovery Principles
The principles learned during recovery from addiction can also help partners improve the marriage. A principle is a basic action or guideline that the addict has committed to following as he or she progresses through recovery from addiction. Principles become a way of life for recovering addicts and their families.
The principles of recovery from addiction will vary from person to person, but the most common core principles are taken from the 12 steps to recovery:
- Honesty – The addict openly and honestly faces up to their addiction and commits him or herself to honest interaction.
- Hope – As it pertains to the hope the addict can develop as recovery progresses. Hope of recovery is a powerful motivator.
- Faith – This can refer to having faith in yourself, your spouse or in a higher power, any of which can pull you through the tough times.
- Courage – This refers to the courage to openly and honestly confront yourself, your addictions and related actions.
- Integrity – The ability to own up to our past mistakes and take responsibility for them.
- Willingness – Willingness to change and willingness to let go of destructive habits.
- Humility – A willingness to ask for help when needed.
- Discipline and Action – Committed actions to support recovery from addiction and repair relationships.
- Forgiveness – Asking for forgiveness from those you have hurt through your addictions. The forgiveness must come in the form of actions, not just words.
- Acceptance – Admitting mistakes and accepting others and yourself.
- Knowledge and Awareness – Becoming aware of yourself as you move through life and having awareness of your life’s purpose. This principle requires you to try to do the right thing in all actions.
- Service and Gratitude – Serving as a mentor to other recovering addicts and expressing gratitude for the accomplishments you’ve made.
The Impact of the 12 Principles on Relationships
These 12 principles can go a long way toward saving your marriage. By following the principles, you and your spouse can enjoy more honest communication and trust, which will lead to a rebuilt intimacy. You will learn about codependent behaviors and how to break free of them. You will learn how to help your spouse, not control them. You will learn about taking personal responsibility for yourself and your actions.
Although recovery from addiction is a painful process and may at times feel as though it is tearing your marriage further apart, a couple can make it through addiction and recovery with their marriage intact and stronger than ever before.
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About the Author:
Alan Goodstat, LCSW, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, received his Masters in Social Work at Columbia University in New York City. He’s now a Director of Performance Improvement for a Behavioral Hospital System and contributes to the addiction treatment site RecoveryConnection.org. He wrote a chapter on substance abuse in the book Put Yourself in Their Shoes: Understanding Teenagers With Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.