Addiction is more prevalent in our households than we realize. Individuals can be addicted to any number of things including drugs, alcohol, gambling, or even sex. An addict cannot successfully recover by simply stopping the addiction. They need to have a support system in place and the ability to make lasting changes in their life.
When treating someone for an addiction, it is common practice to separate the family unit and treat only the individual having issues or to treat each individual separately in a family. That is typically how most therapists have been trained to treat addictions. Couple and family treatment is postponed until individual treatment goals are well established. However, that does not mean it’s the best method. Research shows that treating the couple together will help to prevent a relapse. This will also strengthen the bonds of a family during a difficult time.
The current method of treatment can leave a family and/or couple’s relationship in limbo for months or even years. After learning how to deal with their own issues for such an extended period of time, it can be hard for a recovering addict to work on making the necessary changes in their relationship. The trust between themselves and their partner has been broken as a result of the addiction they’ve battled. While treatment has been ongoing, the relationship itself has been on hold while both parties have made changes in their lives. Since they are not focusing on their growth together, they will now need to make more changes to bring them back together. They will need to unlearn and relearn things to fit within the dynamic of the relationship. This can add even more stress on the couple and relationship.
Dealing with any sort of addiction is a difficult time for a couple. By focusing on only the issues of the individual dealing with addiction and their treatment, the partner may feel like their needs do not matter. When addiction enters the household, communication between partners will begin to break down. Family members often begin to isolate themselves from their social circle out of embarrassment or because they feel a need to make excuses for the addicted person. In some cases, addiction may lead to instances of domestic violence, infidelity or financial issues. Couples are rarely given the tools to handle these additional crisis topics while managing the addiction.
There is another option! A couple can go through addiction recovery together. They can not only learn to heal their relationship together, but they can focus on their lives individually. Taking the relationship into consideration, you are able to start to build recovery into the relationship treatment. When it comes to treating couples, the point is to help increase communication and understanding about the addiction. It is also to help couples create boundaries, start to heal the damage and rebuild trust from the impact of addiction.
3 Reasons Why We Should Treat The Couple, Not Just The Individual’s Addiction
1) In standard addiction treatment, you are supposed to wait one year before starting treatment as a couple. However, during that one year, there is a lot of hurt and trauma that is not being addressed that needs to be addressed. Couple with addictions are four times more likely to get divorced. Therapists should be helping them work through their issues in a manner that will benefit the family unit, not further hinder it. Treating the couple instead of just the individual will help to reverse some of that hurt and pain.
2) By working together, a couple will gain a better understanding of the role they may have played in enabling the addiction and a better understanding of the issues at hand. In common addiction treatment, where someone is treated individually, partners do not have time to talk and understand it together. But during this time, they are learning a lot about addiction, what causes it and deserve the opportunity to share that knowledge with one another. By treating them individually, they are unable to talk about how they each played off of each other and their role in perpetuating the addiction. By treating them as a couple, they can learn what triggers to avoid.
3) With addiction comes a lot of shame and secrets. By treating the couple, not the individual, this helps the couple remove some of that shame and stigma. In traditional treatment, the feeling of secrecy continues because they are treated away from one another. By being isolated, they are not aware of the changes and feelings of the other. This continues to cripple the couple’s ability to talk and communicate in a more open and honest way with each other.
For example, going to AA meeting 3 times a week might feel very different for the spouse going. However for the other, it might feel the same as if you going out after work to a bar. It will evoke the same emotions and feelings because you are still not being present in that relationship. They might fight when they get home. That continues the cycle and nothing feels different in the relationship.
During couples therapy, we help the couple talk about what is happening in the relationship and the emotional impact that it has on both of them. We work on building empathy and help couples find a better way to talk about the concerns and issues that arise as they both move through the healing process. The therapy room becomes a place to safely address all the different issues that arise during this challenging time.
It IS possible to go through addiction recovery together with your partner and emerge with a stronger relationship than before. You don’t have to struggle with addiction alone. If you are willing to put forth the time and effort that will be required of you to win this battle, you can be successful. You and your partner both deserve a relationship full of honesty, where communication and intimacy is at the forefront.
Contact Solid Foundations Therapy today to schedule an appointment with one of our skilled therapists and make a lasting change in your life.