Maybe the greatest challenge we face in recovery is being around alcohol. These social settings where friends drink can be tricky to navigate. It requires a strong support group and a lot of will power to talk yourself out of having a drink. Removing yourself from people and settings where alcohol is present is certainly one way to ensure you won’t fall to the temptation to drink. However, what happens if that person drinking is somebody you care about, like your spouse? Not only will having alcohol around be triggering but seeing it in familiar places like the fridge or the liquor cabinet can be double trouble when you are trying to stay sober.
We have all heard that communication is key, and it is, especially in relationships. How we talk and listen to our loved ones can influence how we respond to one another. Our actions during communication can influence the quality of our relationships long term, for better or worse. Here are some things to consider in communicating in relationships:
- How did your spouse feel when you initially expressed your wanting to get sober? Were they supportive? Were they defensive, meaning did they feel like you were trying to take drinking away from them?
- Sometimes in a relationship, whether with friends or married couples, the decisions made by one partner could threaten the other to feeling as though this decision should apply to them as well, especially if it is a decision to end doing something you both enjoy.
- Did your spouse dismiss you, reassuring you that your problem wasn’t that bad?
- Do they take your recovery seriously, or did they act as though this was something that was going to pass and that you would be sharing a drink with them in no time?
It is hard not to feel support from our loved ones right away, especially after displaying a certain vulnerability when expressing yourself. However, how you each react could be clues and warnings as to not only the role alcohol plays in the relationship but also in the idea of control. If this is less to do with drinking because your spouse does not drink all that often and when they do it is one or two, this could have something to do with the feeling that you are trying to control a part of their life and therefore they are meeting you with resistance.
Ultimatums Could Further Deteriorate Communication
Sometimes when spouses argue, one might create an ultimatum, either support me or I will go it alone or do it myself. This perhaps is not the best approach. Remember, relationships are not about power, rather they are about friendships. They are about trust.
If there is a breakdown in communication or trust issues, ask yourself, are we listening to each other? Are we taking each other for granted because we have known each other for so long? Are we trying to learn new things about one another? Try waiting. Approach a touchy subject after you each have had time to take things in. If you are still not getting through to each other, it might be time to consult a counselor.
Your Recovery Comes First
If your spouse refuses to stop drinking because they do not have a problem with alcohol, you need to remain focused on your own sobriety. Keep going to meetings, talking with a therapist, doing things in and around the community to keep you motivated.
Maybe your spouse doesn’t keep your drink of choice in the house, maybe they get their own refrigerator to store alcohol, just do your best to remove it from all the places that might trigger you.
You’re Recovered but You Can’t Bear to Watch Your Loved One Waste Away
You might find that alcohol has played a big role in your relationship and has been associated with social gatherings, watching movies, taking trips, etc. It could be time to stage an intervention, but you feel fear of angering them and pushing them away more. Still, you care about them and your relationship, and you can no longer let alcohol be any part of your lives together.
You might also feel triggered to drink now because you are feeling anxious. The meetings and therapy aren’t cutting it. Intervention might not be just for your spouse, but for you as well. Reset and reassure yourself, and don’t forget about the support you both have. Reach out to friends and loved ones to create a good support team for the two of you. You might also consider a counselor to be there to guide you both through the meeting. Having a counselor or mediator present can help you both listen to each other.
Recovery in a relationship, whether from substance abuse or communication breakdown, should be about evolving toward a positive future. The mission should be focused on building new memories. Memories that are not defined by or associated with alcohol. Like recovery itself, sometimes the relationship needs to be broken down and built upon a stronger foundation.
True Recovery believes that sustaining recovery takes great support and cooperation from all involved. If you feel like your recovery is in jeopardy, you might reach out to us by calling (866) 399-6528.