When a Significant Other Relapses and You’re Both in Recovery [Guide]

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Medically Reviewed By:

Dr. Patricia Sullivan MD MPH on 6/20/2021

Article Overview

Relapses in Relationships: An Overview

If you’re in recovery and have a significant other in recovery, there is always a chance that one of you will experience a relapse. If your significant other relapses, knowing what to do and how to protect yourself does not come easy.

But in the end, protecting yourself from a relapse should be your priority, and your recovery must be the most important thing to you. Without your recovery, you won’t have the life you want, and if you end up relapsing as well, you could completely tear down the life you have spent so much time and effort rebuilding for yourself.

Article Contents

couple in recovery sitting together to resemble their closeness but one is experiencing a relapse on drugs and alcohol

The Reality of Recovery: Relapses Happen

Unfortunately, the risk of relapse is just the reality that comes with loving anyone who has a drug and alcohol problem; however, the choices you make for your recovery and how you handle the situation from the beginning can make a difference in how things turn out.

If your significant other, whether spouse, boyfriend, or girlfriend, has relapsed, you have some serious decisions to make; you must draw upon all of your inner strength to ensure that you don’t fall into a relapse with them.

Suspecting a Relapse and Confirming It

The first thing that you have to do is determine if there has been an actual relapse. Ideally, your significant other will come out and be honest with you about what has happened, and if so, this honesty is a good start. Many times, however, fear takes hold, and your significant other will attempt to keep their secret.
Relapses cannot be hidden for long, though, and all of the signs and symptoms of their alcohol or drug use, as well as the consequences of it, can show up rather quickly.

If your significant other is being dishonest and won’t admit that they relapsed, you may feel like you’re going crazy. You see, all the signs are there, but you don’t have any solid proof yet. The best thing you can do for yourself is to approach your loved one using the best assertive communication skills that you can muster up in a deeply complex situation as this. Ask your significant other directly, “Are you using?” or, if possible, ask if taking a drug screen is possible.

Once you have confirmed that there truly has been a relapse, you can start putting boundaries into place and make a plan of action of how you will deal with the situation.

Once You Have Confirmation, This is What You Need to Avoid

Once you have confirmed that your loved one has relapsed, you have to promise yourself to make no compromises with your recovery. You must continue to do the same things that you always do to upkeep and maintain your sobriety.

It’s important that you not give in to the temptation to isolate yourself from others, no matter how difficult this situation may be or how reluctant you feel to talk about it. You’ll want to reach out and talk to someone you trust about the situation without feeling judged—find someone to talk to who embodies love and non-judgment but will still give you the straightforward truth. The person you reach out to could be a close friend, family, or if you’re involved in a 12-step program, a sponsor. Finding immediate support (in the right places) will be an important component of handling this situation in the healthiest way possible.

Go into the situation from the beginning with the understanding that you cannot control the choice that your significant other makes, and there is a real possibility that you will have to remove yourself from the situation if it continues to decline. Suppose you are in a position where you can’t immediately leave. In that case, it’s probably best to come up with a strategy to ensure that you stay on top of your sobriety while living under the same roof as your significant other.

“Go into the situation from the beginning with the understanding that you cannot control the choice that your significant other makes, and there is a real possibility that you will have to remove yourself from the situation if it continues to decline.”

If You Are Considering Leaving

Removing yourself or your significant other from your current living situation is going to be ideal because it protects you from potentially relapsing as well. Of course, there are situations where this isn’t possible. Still, if you’re in a position where you can remove yourself—especially after your significant other has shown through their actions that he or she is not ready to get clean and sober—it’s probably the best step you can take.

Realizing that each day you live under the same roof as a person in active addiction can completely risk your sobriety and all of the healthy changes you have made to your life. Just because you leave, it doesn’t mean that it’s the complete end of the relationship or love that you have for that person. If anything, it will show your significant other that you’re serious about your recovery and will not hang around to watch him or her fall back into that damaging lifestyle. It may even help to let your significant other know that once they do what they need to do to get help, you will consider giving the relationship another chance, but only after you see action on their part to get better.

In the end, these decisions are up to you, but understanding the importance of not putting your recovery and sobriety at risk in the process, no matter what is essential.

What if They Don’t Accept Help?

There is always the real possibility that your loved one will not accept the help and may not be ready in any way to stop using. If you choose to stay—knowing that they’re using and not motivated to seek help—you have to be realistic and ask yourself what you can do to ensure that you don’t relapse as well.

Suppose you’re in early recovery, with only a little bit of time being sober. In that case, you run an extremely high likelihood of relapse, especially if you and your significant other share the same drug of choice. Knowing that your loved one is using may bring up triggers and cravings that threaten your recovery. It may be difficult to resist the urge to use, knowing that your significant other has a direct connection.

All in all, choosing to stay with your significant other after they have relapsed may be signing you up for one as well—so it’s not the best choice that you can make for yourself.

If you’re interested in getting your significant other, who has relapsed into treatment give us a call. You can contact one of our specialists at (888) 906-0952.

Even if you’re not sure if they’ll accept and you’d like to go over options, we’ll help give you the information you need to move forward. who can go over some of the options you have including intervention. 

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About the Author

Susana Khai (Spiegel)

Susana has over 5 years of experience writing content about addiction, mental health, recovery, and treatment. She’s been in recovery for over 5 years, after battling addictions that sought to claim her life. Susana specializes in Organic SEO and Content Marketing and utilizes her experiences to create impactful, insightful, and educational content. Connect with her on Linked-in.

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The Right Path Isn’t Always Easy

If you’re facing the reality that your loved one has relapsed, we here empathize with you. It’s not easy and the feelings that come along with the realization that you may lose the person you love is a pain no one deserves to feel. However, if you’re wanting to speak to someone about the best way to get your loved one in treatment, we are here to help. We have specialists standing by, many of who are in recovery from drugs and alcohol themselves. Call to get the advice you need.

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