Some years ago I remember leading a family group at a drug and alcohol treatment center. I opened the group with the question: What does it mean to be a family or couple in recovery? Some people struggled with the idea that the non-addicted members of the family had some part in going forward in recovery.
Initially there’s a collective sigh of relief when a partner or loved one gets sober. Partners feel hopeful that a sense of normality can find its way back into family life. However, relief is almost always followed by increasing levels of resentment, anxiety, fear, anger, and a host of other negative emotions. Making sense of these co-existing oppositional feelings is confusing. You’re probably thinking, “Shouldn’t I feel better now that my partner is finally sober?” But often, it’s not that simple.
In my article, "Trauma is Not Codependency: Learning the Difference", I address the importance of acknowledging and understanding that active addiction creates trauma for both the person with the addictive disorder as well as for partners and family members. It is important for couples to recognize and accept that the impact of addiction often follows couples and family well into recovery. This is normal and to be expected in most most circumstances.