The Do's And Don'ts Of Communicating With A Spouse In Recovery

Most people in recovery have only one regret about treatment: that they didn't start it sooner. Once you are in recovery, the joy and freedom of a life without drugs or alcohol can be so elating that using again can seem like a nightmare. To get to that point, it's important to get a thorough and effective treatment that's customized to your needs.

When you have a spouse in recovery, there are lots of exciting new beginnings for you, your spouse, and the whole family on the horizon. Seeing a therapist is important, and you may see a psychiatry locum regularly during this time to help your family adjust to the inevitable changes. Individual therapy and marriage counseling are good ideas and can both be beneficial. Be sure to consider these do's and don'ts of communicating with a spouse in recovery so you can both optimally support each other.

Do Offer to Help Make Things Easier on Your Spouse

If you want to support your spouse more than anything, yet you just can't think of anything to do that would alleviate their struggles, that's okay. Letting your spouse know that they can turn to you for whatever they need during this time can be the most powerful way to offer help.

You may also want to offer specific ways to help. For example, if you are willing to go to family therapy as part of the recovery process, be sure to express that. State all the things that you know you are willing to do to help support a spouse's recovery.

Don't Focus on the Past While Your Spouse is Receiving Treatment

Many addicts have deep regrets. Making things right with the past is even a vital part of the twelve steps. If your spouse harmed you through their addiction, they will probably have a strong need to hear that you offer full forgiveness. It's okay if you are not there yet, and you can instead tell the person that you are trying to forgive and want to move forward.

Reiterate that you want to focus on the present. Don't focus on your anger over the past unless it comes up as a part of family therapy or otherwise working through the spouse's addiction. It can be helpful for the former addict to be regarded as a whole person who is not defined by the addiction that has caused so much harm in their lives. It can help motivate them to continue with treatment for their addiction.

Do Encourage Your Spouse to Embrace Full Wellness

The hopeful phrase of being "weller than well" was created by psychiatrist Karl Menninger, and it is sure to resonate with someone who is striving for self-improvement in such an extreme way. Beating an addiction is the hardest thing that many former addicts do in their lives, so hearing this hopeful encouragement can help your spouse stay the course.

You may want to expand on this idea, too. You can talk about the ways that you see your spouse embracing a new sober lifestyle. You may even want to start making plans for life beyond the addiction, but don't go too far with it. The idea is to provide encouragement without pressure.  

Finally, if you have problems with communicating with your spouse during their recovery, couples' counseling or family therapy may be the best solution for finding common ground and improving your communication. A psychiatrist can offer insights you may not consider on your own. Therapy can be an essential part of the recovery process and can help you build a strong foundation for the former addict's new life of sobriety.