Last Updated on December 18, 2020
It’s common for people who drink or use drugs to do so with their romantic partner. Couples spend a lot of time together, often in the same environment and around the same people. Naturally, they may participate in the same activities, whether because of social pressure or similar interests.
But if it’s common to drink together, is it possible to get sober together?
Yes, it’s possible—but it’s also challenging. Getting sober on your own is tough, so getting sober together can be even tougher. Yet if you’re both committed, on the same page, and willing to do the work, quitting or cutting back on alcohol is a journey that you and your partner can take together.
Challenges of Getting Sober in a Relationship
First, it’s important to understand that getting sober in a relationship won’t be easy. Common triggers for people in recovery include the sight and smell of alcohol, spending time with people you drink with or in places you like to drink, having alcohol in the home, etc.
For these reasons, it’s essential that both you and your partner are committed to recovery. If one of you changes your mind or slips up, the other can easily follow suit.
Additionally, your partner’s willingness to change their drinking habits is beyond your control. Your partner must genuinely want to stop drinking. If you have to beg or badger your partner into getting sober, it’s less likely that they will be successful.
Before attempting to get sober in a romantic relationship, ask yourself:
- Do we both genuinely want to change our relationship to alcohol?
- Are we both committed to the recovery process?
- Are we both willing to explore and address the causes of our addiction?
- Will we hold each other accountable and be positive influences on one another?
If you answered “Yes” to these questions, then there’s a possibility that you can recover as a couple. In fact, you may find that your partner is a powerful and helpful ally in this process. Working together to overcome the same issue may ultimately strengthen your bond and result in a healthier, more sustainable relationship.
However, if you cannot answer “Yes” to the above questions, you face a difficult decision. Can you stay sober if your partner continues to drink? Will your partner still support you, honor your choices, and respect your boundaries? If not, as difficult as it may be, you may need to end the relationship to prioritize your health and sobriety.
How Couples Can Get Sober Together
If you and your partner are truly committed to recovery and ready to do the work, recovery as a couple is possible. Here are some helpful tips on how couples can get sober together:
1. Remember: Recovery Is an Individual Process
Although you and your partner can encourage and help one another along the way, it’s important to remember that recovery from alcohol addiction is an individual process. You must focus primarily on your recovery and ask your partner to focus on theirs.
Worrying about both your sobriety and your partner’s can feel overwhelming. It may lead to arguments and stress, which won’t help you stay sober. And ultimately, you can’t control one another’s choices or behavior. Focusing on your own personal journeys gives you the best chance of recovering as individuals, then supporting one another as a team.
2. Address the Cause of Your Addiction
Each person’s experience of addiction is unique, and it is often linked to underlying causes. These may include mental health disorders, trauma, and other difficult feelings or life events. Additionally, long-term problem drinking can actually cause changes in the brain that lead to mental health issues.
To establish lasting change, it will be important for you and your partner to address these related and underlying issues. This can be a difficult process, and take a long time. But if each of you engage with this aspect of your addiction or alcohol dependence, you’ll have an easier time overcoming triggers and subconscious habits, and in turn be less likely to trigger each other.
This process can be challenging. However, a holistic approach to recovery often results in more permanent, sustainable change. And the greater self-awareness that comes out of this process may strengthen and improve other areas of your relationship as well.
3. Consider Couples Counseling
Couples counselors can help you and your partner better understand and communicate with one another. Even if you normally excel in these areas, you may find communication and problem solving more difficult as you work through your addiction and its root causes. Some couples counselors specialize in helping couples deal with substance abuse.
You may both harbor resentment, disappointment, hurt feelings, shame, or anger about situations that stemmed from your problem drinking. Couples counseling can help you navigate these issues, making it easier to focus on staying sober, and effectively support one another.
Strengthening your relationship and communication skills will improve your ability to successfully get sober together.
4. Find Additional Support
Make sure that your partner is not your sole support during recovery, and vice versa. Relying only on each other for support will put too much pressure on both of you. Plus, it’s helpful to have other people in your corner who aren’t working toward recovery themselves.
Your support system may include friends, family members, support groups, and online communities. Confide in people you trust, and gain renewed energy and determination from their love and encouragement.
5. Try New Sober Activities Together
If drinking was a big part of your relationship, you’ll need to find new sober activities to replace it. Think of this as a fun opportunity to explore new places, try new hobbies, and discover other experiences that you both enjoy.
Here are a few ideas:
- Cooking foods you’ve never tried before
- Trying DIY home décor or crafts
- Playing instruments
- Making art
- Exploring nature
- Working out or playing a sport
- Taking a class or learning a new skill
- Playing board games or cards
- Having themed movie/snack nights
Try a few of these suggestions and some ideas of your own until you find something that’s fun for both of you. You’ll have new hobbies to bond over, and healthier ways to spend quality time with your partner.
6. Give Yourselves Grace
Recovering from alcohol use disorder is an ongoing process. It can be challenging and emotional, and it goes beyond simply pouring your alcohol down the drain. As you both work through addiction—and potentially trauma, tough feelings, and mental health issues—be sure to practice patience and grace with yourselves and one another.
For many people, it’s tough to adjust to life after heavy drinking. It’s possible that the adjustment may be easier for one of you than for the other. Your recovery processes might look different, and the underlying issues you grapple with may not be the same as your partner’s. Communicate openly and try to offer empathy and understanding—giving each other space to recover both individually and together.
Giving yourselves patience, space, and forgiveness will take some of the weight off your shoulders, and make recovery less of a grueling process.
Help for Cutting Back or Quitting Together
If you and your partner are interested in cutting back or quitting alcohol, but haven’t found an alcohol treatment option that suits both of you, Ria Health may be able to help.
Our online program provides flexible, holistic addiction treatment from home—including anti-craving medications, digital tools, and recovery coaching. Plans are customized to each individual, and the whole process can be done privately from an app on your phone. Each of you can get care tailored to your unique needs, on your own schedule—making it easier to support each other during your time together.