couple learning how to cope with a loved one starting rehab

He has begun his rehab treatment and you haven’t heard from him in weeks. You’re happy that she’s getting help for her addiction, but part of you is worried that she won’t be the same person when she comes out of inpatient rehab. When someone has a substance abuse problem, it’s never easy for the people who love them. Unfortunately, the worries don’t simply disappear when your loved one or significant other goes into rehab.

Those kinds of feelings of apprehension and worry are quite natural. You may also be wondering how your role in the relationship will change if so much time and energy had been spent in taking care of your partner and managing the fallout that commonly accompanies addiction.

Chances are, that for months or even years, your main preoccupation has been with helping your partner come to the conclusion that he or she needs professional help to deal with addiction and regain health and a normal life. (Read more about how to bring up rehab with a loved one.) Now’s the time to turn your focus towards equipping yourself with the knowledge and strategies that will allow you to be healthy and ready for when your partner returns from inpatient drug rehab or alcohol rehab.

What Happens In Rehab?

No matter what the expected duration their stay, if you have a loved one, girlfriend, or boyfriend in rehab, they will probably be facing some intense and, at times, difficult treatments. Following the detox process, they will be involved in different forms of therapy to help them on the road to recovery. (Read more about detox and post-acute withdrawal syndrome)

In most cases, rehab includes a combination of regular individual therapy sessions, group therapy, and a range of holistic therapies, among others. It’s a time for the patient to be focused on recovery, so it would be understandable if, during that time, you don’t hear from them as frequently as you might like.

Look After Yourself

Being in a relationship with someone who’s been struggling with addiction can be traumatizing in many ways. Your environment was probably emotionally charged and difficult, the effects of which can stay with you for years to come. Loved ones of individuals who are recovering from drug addiction and alcoholism may be facing some of those lasting after effects such as depression, loss of trust, and emotional numbness. If those feelings are not addressed, they can be detrimental to your well being, not to mention that of your partner.


It’s common for individuals to develop a co-dependency as a result of their relationship with someone with an addiction. Codependency occurs when an individual takes on the role of caregiver and sets aside their own needs. Typically, they derive a sense of satisfaction and fulfillment from being needed.

Codependency can make it difficult for individuals to have normal healthy relationships. Some of the common attributes of an individual who is codependent include:

  • A lack of boundaries
  • Fear of abandonment
  • A deep-rooted sense of responsibility for the behavior of others
  • Need for approval

Codependent behavior can also serve to enable the addiction of others and therefore be a barrier to recovery. Enabling behavior makes it easier for addicts to avoid facing the consequences of their addiction.

Some common enabling behaviors exhibited by codependent individuals include making excuses for the addict’s behavior, blaming others for the person’s addiction, and repeatedly helping individuals get out of difficult situations by lending them money or bailing them out of jail.

When Your Partner Returns From Rehab

A lot of people who are in a relationship with a person who is in rehab worry about things being different when they return. The truth is, things will be different, but that’s a good thing. Recovery means change for the better. It also means that you will have to adapt to those changes.

Some old and deeply ingrained behaviors will need to be modified. If you’ve found yourself expressing blame or bitterness at your partner because of the addiction, you’ll have to be mindful of that in the future. For example, if you’ve ever said something like “we wouldn’t be so broke if it wasn’t for the drugs” or “I wouldn’t act this way if you weren’t drunk all the time,” you’ll need to resist those urges in the future. Now that your partner is on the road to recovery, assigning blame will only serve to hinder their success.

Family Recovery Programs

Among the best tools at your disposal to help you deal with the residual effects of living with an addicted partner is a family recovery program. Programs such as these can be extremely valuable to assist family members to heal and prepare them for life with their loved one post-rehab.

An added benefit of family recovery programs is that they will arm you with the strategies and skills that will best support long-term recovery success while avoiding enabling behaviors. Hopefully, if you’re figuring out how to cope with a loved one, wife, or husband we’ve provided some useful insight and recommendations to make the time apart easier.