Many of us struggle with what to do when a loved one is in trouble in some way. Some of us believe that we need to mind our own business: it is not my place to say anything! Others interpret detachment to be license to disregard the responsibility for loving another person. Still others rush into every problem to “fix it” regardless of whether or not they have permission.
While it is true that you cannot control the physical, emotional, and spiritual health of your mate, you share responsibility for being of service to them when you are spiritually fit. Few people will be as well equipped as you are to see the signs that your mate is struggling. The secret to successfully sharing a recovery journey with your partner is to learn the difference between being responsible to someone and being responsible for someone.
Couples who are in recovery absolutely can work recovery together as a team to build an emotional and spiritual bond that each can draw from when personal reserves are low. The reservoir that each partner will come to depend on in their romance is not intended to replace each of the partners’ individual recovery support network, it is intended rather to expand and deepen it.
Every addicted person who has completed an honest examination of the powerless and unmanageably resulting from his or her addiction has invariably come to understand that active addiction can be a very lonely place. The deeper the “bottom” that he or she has reached the greater the likelihood of achieving complete isolation and desperation prior to recovery. Recovery is not intended to occur in isolation from others.
We are taught in the fellowship rooms to understand sobriety to be a “WE” experience. The Twelve Steps address what “we” have done to establish and maintain sobriety. The literature promoted by the various 12 Step organizations supports the idea that service to others is one of the greatest insurance policies against a relapse. The first, of the Twelve Traditions, further encourages us to remember that “our common welfare should come first”. If we are intended to recover and flourish in a fellowship, then it stands to reason that we should avail ourselves of all the support available to us and be prepared to render it wherever it is needed.
Thus, recovering couples are encouraged to adopt the same spiritual foundation of unity, service, and mutual support in their romantic relationship as they promote in their respective 12 Step fellowships. If need be, do not hesitate to solicit the help of a sponsor or therapist but take time to be sure that the support you choose is comfortable with couples working to become a part of each other’s inner circle of support. The lessons and gifts which await you along this journey will truly prove to make the effort you and your partner invest in this process well worth it.
This next phase of your recovery work can and will appear complicated at times because of the emotional reactions that each of you can experience as you move through this new voyage. Remember, there are no “tricks” that will magically connect two partners in blissful joint recovery, but self-exploration and mutual introspection with an intimate partner can heighten your awareness of your pasts and your relationships that you have only had suspicions about up until the point of making yourself truly vulnerable to your partner.
Yes, with spiritual courage, emotional determination, and physical perseverance, you and your partner can indeed evolve to become intimate members of each other’s support system with a depth you may find unparalleled in your other recovery relationships.
This article was written by John & Elaine Leadem, senior supervisors of the Leadem Counseling & Consulting offices in Toms River, NJ and East Brunswick, NJ. The content of this article is based on the soon to be published book and recovery course for couples from Leadem Counseling called A Shared Program of Recovery©
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Last reviewed: 30 Jul 2012