How Do I Handle My Partner Who Is Abusing Drugs or Alcohol?

Many people come into therapy because their partner is drinking too much and/or using drugs.    The main thing to remember is that there is nothing that you can do to change the alcoholic or drug addict. You can however be supportive of their recovery process.  Here are some tips:

  1. Get your own individual counseling.  It is important for you to get your own support from a professional who can educate you on typical addiction behavior and can help you get an understanding of what is happening for the person you love.
  2. Go to a support group, such as Alanon or Smart Recovery, that will not only give you support and education, but will allow you to talk to other people in your same situation.  No matter who you are or what religion you are, there is a group for you.  Smart Recovery is not religious based at all.  AA has groups for non-Christians and for Atheists.  If you are gay, lesbian, transgendered or bisexual, and feel more comfortable attending “gay AA meetings” (as my client’s call them) they have those meetings as well so you can feel supported by your LGBTQ community as you get clean/sober.
  3. Don’t make threats that you are unable or unwilling to carry out.  For example, many people tell their partner “I’m going to leave you if you take another drink”, then when another drink is taken, they don’t leave.  If you are trying to communicate your process to your partner that you are ready to leave, simply tell them without threats, anger or retaliation.  THEN follow through when they do drink.
  4. During individual therapy, it is important to understand your own pattern.  You need to recognize how you respond to the addict in ways that puts you in their chaotic cycle.  It is important for you to be able to be supportive at a distance.  Allow them to access their own treatment and support them in that process.  It is not a good idea to be their only support.  They may have been isolating themselves because they are embarrassed about their addiction, but they need to reach out.  Support is a critical component to recovery.  The more they do on their own (without you making all the calls for them, for example), the prouder they will be of themselves and the more likely they will follow through.  You can hold their hand or sit with them while they call, but you shouldn’t be doing all the leg-work for them.  This is THEIR journey.
  5. During individual therapy, you will figure out your own limits.  This whole time, you have probably been trying to make your moves depending on what the addict is doing. It is time to define what your rules and boundaries will be and start living your life despite what your partner is doing.
  6. There is nothing you can do to convince your partner to stop using drugs or alcohol.  THEY have to “hit bottom” for themselves and figure out that they want to stop drinking for themselves.  Trying to stop to appease you or make you happy usually does not have long term results.  When someone stops drinking or using drugs for someone else, they start getting resentful of the person who “made them” stop using and then eventually, they start using again.

If you are looking for individual or couples therapy in Long Beach, please give me a call to ask me a question or to set up an appointment.

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