How Does Sobriety Affect Relationships

How Does Sobriety Affect Relationships?

There is no question that addiction – whether to alcohol or illicit substances – can destroy many relationships. Addicts often have issues with communication, trust, and respect. Since the focus is on using (or drinking), the addict’s intimate partner (or other family members) usually end up feeling hurt or betrayed.

How Does Sobriety Affect Relationships?

Given the strain of addiction on relationships, affected family and friends can’t help but advocate for rehab. After all, it may help bring about sobriety – which is good for the person physically and emotionally.

How Addiction Affects Relationships

Sadly, the addict’s relationships with virtually all family and friends suffer. These may even deteriorate further if the addict believes he/she has been ‘forced’ into rehab. Usually taking the brunt of these changes are the following people:

1. Spouse or Intimate Partner

Romantic relationships can be severely affected by addiction. More often than not, the partner may become codependent. This often happens because of the following factors:

  • Fear of abandonment
  • Inability to say no
  • The feeling of responsibility toward the partner’s actions
  • Fear of rejection should the partner refuse help
  • Inability to assert oneself
  • The need for the partner’s approval
  • More effort put into the relationship compared to partner

If ever the partner did manage to avoid enabling this addiction, he/she may end up struggling both emotionally and financially.

2. Children

Although young kids may not get the gravity of the addiction as of yet, older children or teens are extremely aware of what’s going on. In some cases, this may cause them to act up, rebel – and even use drugs/alcohol like the parent.

3. Parents

Parents of addicts, especially those who are still living with them, can be greatly affected by this problem. Like spouses, some parents usually become codependent – largely because they will do anything for their children.

What Can Be Done

Despite the negative effects of addiction with regards to relationships, a lot of things can be done! With the help of rehab, the following people may slowly see these positive changes:

1. Spouse or Intimate Partner

Should the spouse suffer from codependency, he/she will need to attend a therapy or support group. With this, the partner will be able to learn how to change his/her ways – so that he/she can finally say no to the addict’s dangerous lifestyle.

The spouse may also need to attend joint therapy with the addict. Here, they will get to learn better communication skills – which are essential for a harmonious relationship post-rehab.

2. Children

Given that older kids are usually aware of the situation, they need to be included in family therapy as well. With the help of a counselor, the addict can open up to his/her kids. At the same time, this can serve as a venue for the addict to counsel his/her children regarding the dangers of alcoholism or substance abuse.

Therapy with kids may also serve as a good driving force for the addict, as this may motivate him/her to do well so that he/she can finally go home to the kids.

3. Parents

Like codependent spouses, parents will need to undergo family therapy to resolve this issue. Open communication during sessions may help resolve codependency – among many other things.

What Happens During Therapy

What Happens During Therapy

Like the addict, relatives would also need to undergo a form of counseling – family therapy to be exact. It offers these aspects that will help both parties mend their relationships:

1. Mediation

When a person is in the throes of addiction – or if he/she just entered rehab – he/she might feel angry with the family. This is where mediation comes into play.

With the help of a counselor, both parties will be encouraged to express their feelings more constructively. With this, both the addict and his/her family will be able to improve their relationships in a healthier way.

2. Communication

Addiction is an issue that’s hard to talk about amongst family members. Fortunately, therapy emphasizes the importance of conversation – and how it may help both parties.  

For one, suppressing the need for communication can lead to unresolved conflict and resentment. Both of these can lead to more problems later on.

3. Understanding

Therapy will make the family members understand more about addiction – and why the addict may try and take out all the frustrations on them. This is particularly beneficial for the addict, as therapy can help him/her understand his anger or shame – and how it eventually affects the people around him/her.

How Sobriety Helps Relationships

After a stint in rehab, the patient – and his/her family – will definitely see marked improvements in their relationships. After all, the addict has learned the coping mechanisms that he/she needs to finally say no to drug or alcohol use.

How Sobriety Helps Relationships

But even with this newfound sobriety, there’s always this chance of relapse. Apart from the addict doing his/her part, the family members may be able to prevent this by instituting the following precautions:

1. Identifying Triggers

Some addicts end up using again whenever they encounter their triggers. This could be a certain location – even a particular feeling. Knowing these triggers will help both the addict and his/her family establish precautions that will prevent these from resurfacing.

2. Ensuring the Ex-Addict Takes Care of Him/Herself

Insomnia and fatigue are just some of the many things that can trigger a relapse. As such, the family must help the person follow a structured lifestyle, which includes a healthy diet, regular exercise, and enough sleep. Helping the individual take care of him/herself will help decrease the chances of relapse.

3. Participating in a Support Group

Self-help groups are not only good for the recovery process – they’re beneficial for maintaining sobriety as well. Attending regular sessions can help prevent relapse since you regularly communicate with people who are all-too-familiar with this feeling.

Remember: some of them may have experienced relapse too. With their assistance, the addict and his/her family may be able to address such issues right before they worsen.


Addiction can take a toll on relationships. Unfortunately, codependency may even make matters worse. Since sobriety is the key to mending these broken relationships, rehab and therapy are essential. Maintaining sobriety is vital too, as preventing relapse helps avoid conflicts brought about by addiction.

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