With so many people suffering from substance abuse problems, it’s become quite common for the disease of addiction to penetrate both sides of romantic relationships. In other words, we’re talking about couples in which both parties suffer from substance use disorder. So what can a couple battling addiction do to overcome this disease and restore their emotional connection?
That’s where couples treatment and couples therapy comes into the picture.
For the past several decades, we’ve seen rates of substance abuse and addiction rise exponentially. In fact, there are more people suffering from substance use disorders today than at any other point in history. There are a number of reasons why substance abuse has become such a widespread behavioral phenomenon, including increased availability of addictive substances, a culture that’s increasingly tolerant (and even somewhat supportive) of hedonistic lifestyles, and perhaps a growing ambivalence toward consequences.
We’ve seen substance abuse rates grow on a massive scale, devastating entire communities across the country, but the effects of addiction are even morepronounced when you consider the micro-level effects. In particular, how addiction affects families and relationships.
Introducing substance abuse into a family unit can be problematic at best or catastrophic at worst. For younger generations, exposure to substance abuse in the family unit has become one of the leading causes of addiction in adulthood, but this doesn’t even account for the more immediate effects of addiction in the family unit. Having a substance-abusing parent puts children at many types of risk, including being less aware of their physical well-being. But what about the parents and the parents’ romantic relationship? What happens when substance abuse is introduced into a romantic relationship?
There are only a few possible outcomes when substance abuse is introduced into a romantic relationship: The non-substance-abusing party either endures, ends the relationship, or likewise becomes a substance abuser.
In the case of the latter, you end up with a romantic relationship in which both parties have a substance abuse problem. This is incredibly dangerous and toxic for a number of reasons. For one thing, with both parties addicted to alcohol or drugs, there’s no longer a “voice of reason” in the relationship, an individual to encourage the addicted party to get help. Instead, both parties are addicted to a mind-altering substance. In turn, the severity of the couple’s addictions will increase at a faster rate since each becomes a resource for the other. When it becomes financially difficult to sustain two full-fledged substance abuse problems, both parties can develop strategies and pursue opportunities that will allow them to continue to abuse alcohol or drugs.
When both parties suffer from addiction, the relationship can quickly devolve into a relationship of convenience, especially since the substance of addiction usurps the actual relationship and becomes the most important thing in both parties’ lives. Thus, either party would likely be willing to throw the other under the proverbial bus if that’s what it took to score the next fix, resulting in a toxic codependent relationship.
Traditionally, substance abuse treatment consisted of a program for someone who suffered from addiction. He or she would enroll in the program, which was either inpatient or outpatient care, and complete the curriculum on his or her own, accompanied only by fellow patients who lended a small level of support and encouragement. However, as addiction has become a far more common disease, there have been growing instances of both people in a romantic relationship suffering from substance use disorders, making forms of treatment designed specifically for addicted couples a more valuable commodity.
The idea behind couples treatment is to offer a resource for couples who are suffering from addiction and substance use disorder. In practice, when both parties suffer from addiction but only one seeks treatment, neither party is likely to achieve stable sobriety; after the one party completes treatment, he or she would return home to the party who is still abusing alcohol or drugs, putting the other individual’s newfound sobriety at risk. Thus, couples treatment is a practical solution for this scenario.
For couples treatment to be a viable option, both parties must be willing to embrace the prospect of recovery. Additionally, both parties should prefer to enroll in a program together rather than individually, which would separate the two for the duration of the program. Although individuals seeking treatment are often discouraged from establishing romantic relationships while in the earliest stages of recovery, the fact that a couple has an established relationship implies that there either currently exists or previously existed an emotional connection that could be rekindled and that couple prove to be a valuable asset (and source of motivation) throughout the recovery journey.
A key element of any high-quality couples treatment program is couples therapy. As you’d expect of any couples therapy, the couples therapy offered as part of our couples treatment program at Just Believe Recovery in Port Saint Lucie, FL, is intended to help addicted couples to work on their relationships.
Over the course of addiction, alcohol or drugs take an increasingly central role in a person’s life. This means that substance abuse becomes even more important than the person with whom a substance abuser is in a romantic relationship. Unfortunately, the result of both parties suffering from addiction is a dysfunctional relationship with poor communication and emotional realization. That’s where couples therapy comes into the equation.
Our couples therapy helps couples seeking treatment for addiction to re-establish and solidy their emotional connections. While in the throes of active addiction, an addicted couple’s relationship reinforces their addictions, but in recovery, a couple’s relationship can be a valuable asset, increasing their resolve and dedication to recovery as they strengthen their emotional bonds.