Relationships and Addiction

Many people severely damage their relationship with their partner through drinking too much or using drugs. This is true for both the binge drinker or user and the alcoholic or addict. In the case of the person who occasionally goes overboard, this person can be embarrassing, indiscreet, aggressive, violent – in fact they can misbehave in all sorts of ways that are not relationship enhancing. The alcoholic or addict will become remote and distant from their partner most often over a period of time, until their partner barely recognises this person as the one they fell in love with.

Working in a treatment centre, I see people come to treatment with their relationships in various stages of breakdown. Sometimes a partner is still loving, concerned and forgiving though this is not always the best scenario for the alcoholic or addict as it means that they have still been getting away with their addiction without too high a price to pay at least in terms of their relationship. This can make it harder for them to surrender to a new abstinent life. More often, the relationship is seriously damaged, or hanging by the finest thread – or beyond repair.


In recent months I can think of two women we have had in treatment whose husbands had stood by them. Their relationships seemed to be still strong and there was a ready forgiveness for them if these two women did not drink after treatment. Both did drink and their partners snapped. Both had young children. For both, they did not believe that they might have to pay a high price if they drank again. As they had not seriously had to contemplate this before coming into treatment.

For one of these women, her husband taking the children and leaving was a very sharp wake up call. Her relapse lasted one day and she quickly realised how powerless over alcohol she was, that she had a choice and she knew what to do to get back on the right path. She did it. The other woman could not stop drinking, and got defensive, aggressive and nasty with her previously indulgent husband. He left with the child and that is the state of play still – she is drinking, he has gone.

Relationships Can Blossom or Sink

For some, whether or not they drink or use after treatment, it is too late – there has been too much water under the bridge. Very long term marriages e.g. over 40 years can finally be laid to rest when the drinker gets to rehab. I have also seen relationships which seemed to be over repaired in rehab. To go on to thrive again once the drinking or using stops.

Whatever the state of play with your relationship, or even if you are single, you are not advised to get into another relationship for the first year in your recovery as you are too vulnerable and difficulties and breakup in the new relationship can lead to relapse. It is usually against the rule in the treatment centre itself to start a so-called special relationship. Whether sexual or not, as it also diverts the alcoholic or addict from focussing on themselves and their treatment – vital in order to reach a solid recovery. Starting a so-called special relationship, especially if sexual, can often lead to discharge from treatment.

You and Your Recovery

Whether in a relationship or not before you get into recovery, the most important person in the early days, weeks and months of your recovery is you. Only by looking after yourself and your recovery will you have a hope of repairing a damaged relationship or becoming a strong enough person to eventually have a new relationship. So although it might go against what you think you should do i.e to make it up to those you have harmed before indulging yourself. You need to do the exact opposite and put yourself first.

The Haynes Clinic is a drug and alcohol rehab clinic offering detox and treatment. For those suffering from addiction to alcohol, drugs and prescription medication. Call 01462 851414 for confidential help and advice.