When a partner stops drinking/drugging, shouldn’t things be better?
We know from the research that relationships continue to struggle after recovery and that this is normal and predictable. The Family Recovery Project at the Mental Research Institute in Palo Alto, California, began in 1989 when the project’s Co-directors Dr. Stephanie Brown and Dr. Virginia Lewis asked the question: “What happens in the family when one or both parents stop drinking?”
Couples consistently reported the difficulties they experienced in the transition from active drinking to recovery, especially in the first year of recovery. Recovery represents new hopes and new beginnings, but it also involves dramatic changes in how couples manage their lives, individually and as a couple.
Addiction treatment models historically have emphasized individually-oriented approaches. Couples are encouraged to work their own program, yet, we know from research that the couple relationship plays a significant role in addiction recovery outcomes.Divorce rates are up to 7 times higher than normal for couples who report substance misuse problems.
Recovery for Couples: A Path
My own research came from one component of the Family Recovery Project, the Couples Focus Group. I discovered that couples have three different components of their relationship that need attention when trying to manage individual recovery as well as manage issues in the couple relationship: How they define and understand what couple recovery is, how they manage the impact and influence from their own histories, and creating ways to meet individual need as well as relationship needs.
Helping couples sooner rather than later means providing tools for communication, managing conflict, dealing with the baggage from addiction, and helping couples create new behaviors and attitudes that support individual recovery as well as relationship recovery.
This website is a forum for recovering couples, therapists, researchers, and recovery professionals to post ideas, get support and contribute to the research by sharing perspectives and experiences that we all can learn from. I encourage comments, ideas and thoughts about couple recovery.