Addiction does not just affect the individual who is struggling with drug or alcohol abuse. The ordeal is tough on the addicted person’s spouse, as well. The sober spouse often has to cover for his or her partner, leading to increased anger and resentment. Having tips to help the spouse of the recovering addict is an important resource. 

The addiction could also lead to financial or legal troubles. The addicted spouse may lose his or her job or commit crimes in order to support the addiction. Even a once-happy marriage can fall apart as drugs and alcohol turn spouses against each other. One study found that 48.3 percent of participants who had an alcohol use disorder got divorced during their lives.

The struggle does not end once the addicted spouse decides to get help. Staying sober takes plenty of mental toughness from both spouses. Here is some advice for spouses of recovering addicts.


Therapy is not only for the addicted spouse. The husband or wife of the addict should seek professional help, as well. The spouse can use the therapy session to cry or vent about his or her emotions.

The sober spouse should also join the addicted spouse’s therapy sessions. This should help both individuals learn to communicate more effectively and deal with household stressors. Couples therapy will also provide a safe environment for one spouse to tell the other about any feelings of distrust or shame.


Therapy sessions can additionally help a spouse determine whether he or she inadvertently enabled the partner’s addiction. Enabling can take many forms, from paying for legal fees to making excuses for a spouse’s absence from a major event.  Even those who try not to enable could end up doing so due to emotional fatigue or the fear of what will happen if they do not cover for their partners.

While protecting a spouse from negative consequences may seem like the correct move, doing so only encourages the addicted spouse to continue destructive behavior. To keep the addicted spouse on the road to recovery, the sober spouse must hold his or her husband accountable.  

The sober spouse must also show support for the recovering addict in the home. That means removing any alcohol or addictive substances from the home. It also means eliminating any artwork or other items that could remind the addict of his or her drug of choice.  The sober spouse should additionally find leisure activities that both partners can enjoy away from the temptations of drugs and alcohol.


Besides learning the differences between enabling and supportive behavior, the sober spouse should also research addiction as a whole. This should help the sober spouse understand exactly what is going on in his or her partner’s brain. The sober spouse should then know what to expect during recovery.  


Both spouses need to take care of themselves during recovery. That means that the sober and the addicted spouse need to eat well, exercise and get plenty of sleep.

The sober spouse should also spend some time doing things that he or she enjoys. It is tempting for the sober spouse to focus entirely on his or her partner’s recovery. However, this could just lead to more resentment in the future. When the sober spouse takes a few hours each day to do a fun or relaxing activity, that spouse will feel less stressed and more powerful.

Support networks are a great tool for spouses of addicts, as well. Nar-Anon and Al-Anon offer meetings where spouses can bond over their shared experiences. A spouse may discover someone at one of these meetings who has been in a similar situation and has advice for handling it.

The spouse may even decide to build his or her own recovery program. A spouse of an addict can find a sponsor and practice meditation just as the addict does.


Above all, patience is important for spouses. Recovery from addiction does not happen overnight. Both parties in the marriage have to realize that it takes time to adjust to a new lifestyle.

Because sobriety often requires major, difficult changes, relapses are all too common. Both spouses should have a plan of action in case a relapse occurs. Al-Anon meetings and therapy sessions can help a couple develop a relapse strategy.

Not every marriage involving an addicted spouse leads to divorce. If both partners commit to the recovery process, they can heal their relationship. Hopefully, these tips to help the spouse of the recovering addict will be a valuable resource for you and your love one. 


Carol Evenson is an entrepreneur and professional consultant specializing in C-level training and business growth. She currently works with organizations across the globe assisting CEOs with their expansion strategies. Carol also works as a real estate agent when she has the time.


  1. I’m glad I was referred here. This is going to help me out big time. I love all the different classes/groups yell offer.

  2. Jessica Vaught Holtzclaw Reply

    It’s a long road but I see y’all have put your work into this
    Thankful to be here

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