June 1st, 2017

Q. I have never been so happy as the moment I walked out of treatment. I knew I had made a smart, healthy decision. That was three years ago, and I have kept myself on the right path. Now I don’t know if I’m being so smart. I fell in love with a guy who said he never experienced addiction himself, but lately, I feel like he’s hiding one from me. What should I do? — Lisa B., Hoboken, NJ

Glad to hear you have three years of sobriety. That’s an amazing achievement that should make you feel proud. You are also right to feel protective of your sobriety. When you are in a relationship with someone who you think might be struggling with addiction, the best way you can support them is to take care of yourself. As a person in recovery from addiction, self-care is of the utmost importance. Maintaining your own sobriety should be your number one priority.

One of the issues with addiction is that the addicted person often feels very alone, that no one quite understands what they’re going through or what they’re thinking. You might be familiar with that feeling, and you know how that feeling can be extremely isolating for someone just coming to grips with their issue. Helping to guide your partner to a 12-step meeting, or connecting them with someone who has experience with 12-step meetings might be a good place to start – even if they have not yet admitted their issue. Just getting them there can be helpful. Often when people attend these meetings – even if they haven’t stopped using yet – they get exposure to people on similar journeys. They’re able to see, for the first time, that they’re not, in fact, alone. Hearing others’ stories in this environment can also help people to be more open to the fact that they have a problem, and thus more open to taking the next steps towards recovery.

If your partner isn’t ready to talk about his or her addiction and AA or 12-steps seem out of the question, at the very least you can encourage them to see a therapist.

However, take care of yourself first. In the end, it’s the addicted person’s choice to get better. If the person is not ready to change, you can’t make them change, so you MUST take care of yourself and do what’s best for you. You are in control of your own life – but not theirs.

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