Oftentimes, we come to recovery with previously relationships in tact, however, tenuously. Sometimes our partners are our codependent enablers with no using problem of their own. Sometimes they are out best party buddy. Either way, problems can arise as we embark on a way of life that changes substantially how we interact with the world. We may start going to recovery meetings. We may also want to avoid places where liquor will be served or others will be partying. All of this can present significant conflict when our partner simply wants to continue the way things were (with us just not overdoing it), or worse, when our partner wants their party buddy back.
Whatever the circumstances, the number one consideration should always be, Can I stay sober while in this relationship? It is a question only you can answer, but you should try and answer it truthfully. Also, it is a question that cannot be answered without exploring the issues and possibilities with the partner.
Educate Your Partner
Perhaps the easier situation from a recovery point of view is the one in which the partner does not also have a substance abuse problem. For them, educating them on the importance of staying in dry places and dry people and simply giving them space to adjust to the change, may be all it takes. Focus on getting to meetings and other recovery groups, but don't completely oust them from your life. Encourage them to seek their own support groups and try and keep lines of communication open.
Find Mutually Enjoyable Activities
Work with your partner to plan activities where you both can enjoy yourselves, and where you can feel safe in your recovery. For example, you may have some friends who never did quite imbibe the way you did, and they may enjoy spending a quiet evening talking, going out to eat and a movie, playing games or bowling—well, you get it—activities that are not primarily about the alcohol or drugs. In the beginning, you may need to ask them to refrain from drinking. Let them know that in time, you will be on more solid ground, and them having a drink won't be an issue.
Set a Time Limit and Have an "Out"
If your partner insists on hanging out with the same people you got wasted with, this may present a bigger challenge to your newly found sobriety. First and foremost, you can simply beg off altogether. Let your partner go, but stay away. Alternatively, if it is a group that starts slow and revs up as the night goes on, you may decide to stay only for a short time. For me, most parties that involve drinking are good until about 10 pm. Once people start getting buzzed, any number of feelings can arise, but mostly, I just get uncomfortable.
If you think your partner may want to stay longer than you, then drive separately, or prearrange for someone to drive him/her home. It is very important to have an out at all times. A trapped alcoholic may panic.
When Their Addiction Is Just Too Much
When you are dating an alcoholic or addict who is in the throes of his/her addiction, you are dealing with a completely different set of circumstances. In this case, it may be possible to stay together and stay sober, but it may also put a huge strain on your recovery efforts. Rather than making a huge decision to end a marriage or long-term relationship right away, it may be the wiser course to consider a temporary separation while you sort things out. You need to be in a relatively sane and sober environment in order to recover. You can make relationship decisions down the line, after you have some sober time under your belt.
No one can or should tell you how to live your life. However, if you are serious about getting sober, then you must also be honest about your ability to do so in certain company, and you must be willing to make the changes necessary to support your recovery.
Related article: Should You Date a Recovering Addict?
P. G. McGraw is a 30+ year sober alcoholic, writer, blogger and "joyfully rebellious heretic and mystic." She enjoys learning about Eastern and Indigenous Religions and applying that knowledge to her spiritual recovery. A former attorney, McGraw has a certificate as a chemical dependency counselor assistant and has worked as a sponsor, helping many people in the recovery process over the years.