What to do when a spouse with alcohol addiction relapses

What is “tough love” when you have an alcoholic spouse who has relapsed?

Recovery from alcohol addiction is a long road. Not only is it a long road for the addict, but also for the spouse and family members as well. Husbands or wives who are married to individuals who are recovering alcoholics feel a sense of hope, joy and relief when they see their mate make changes and slowly get on the road to recovery. However, when their spouse relapses, all of the hope that they had can be completely shattered. They may fear that all of the problems that they had before recovery will come back again. During a relapse, a spouse may choose the course of showing tough love.

Defining Tough Love

When most people think of the word love, they think of showing kindness and affection to an individual; they think of being nice to them. Tough love is a little bit different though; it is showing goodness or love to someone, but expressed in a harsh, stern or matter-of-fact manner. The reason why a person would decide to show tough love to their spouse is because they want to promote good behavior in them or in this case stop the alcohol addiction. The feeling that motivates a person to show tough love is a genuine desire to help them.

Tough Love Prevents a Spouse from Enabling an Alcoholic

It is absolutely heartbreaking to watch a spouse destroy their own life and the lives of their families when they give into alcoholism. At first, a spouse may try to be reasonable and kind when dealing with the alcoholic. However, they have to realize that this often does not work. Being kind and reasonable could actually be enabling the alcoholic spouse. Why? Unfortunately, when a person develops an alcohol addiction, they can very quickly learn how to manipulate their spouse and others in their life so that they can get their way. At times, the alcoholic may actually use the kindness and love, being shown to them, against their spouse.

It is very likely that the individual who is dealing with alcoholism hit their personal rock-bottom when they decided to join a rehab program or begin their recovery from alcoholism for the first time. After the initial phases of recovery, they may have felt like they were in control of the situation or there may have been something specific that led to their relapse. No matter the cause, a supporting spouse is going to have to realize that certain actions they take can enable or make their alcoholic spouse feel like they are consenting to their behavior. Enabling an alcoholic’s behavior would include shielding them from the consequences of their actions. A husband or wife of an alcoholic could become so wrapped up in sorting out the mess that has been made by the alcoholic that they could become addicted to the chaos. This is extremely detrimental to the recovery process.

Using Tough Love after a Relapse

Despite the fact that it is extremely difficult, a spouse is going to have to employ tough love when their spouse relapses into alcohol addiction. This is going to include a variety of things and will depend on the circumstances of each couple or family. They may include things like not allowing the alcoholic to manipulate those around them, making decisions and sticking to them and refusing to enable the addict in any way, including providing financial resources.

Despite the fact that the road to recovery is long, just because an individual has a relapse does not mean that all hope should be given up. It is comforting to know that you are not alone. If you or someone you care about is currently battling with alcohol addiction, give us a call. Our rehab center is staffed with medical professionals who understand alcohol addiction and have the skills necessary to help on the continued road to recovery.

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