How to Tell Your Significant Other You’re an Addict

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By: Renaissance Recovery

Clinically Reviewed by: Diana Vo, LMFT

Last Updated: 7/1/2021

how to tell your significant other you're an addict | Renaissance Recovery

Authored By: Joe Gilmore

Table of Contents

Confessing anything to a loved one is never easy. It takes a sense of dedication, honesty and coming to grips with the fact that you’re not perfect. Knowing how to tell someone you’re an addict requires some careful consideration. Substance abuse problems bring with them a whole host of problems not the least of which is having to confess the problem to loved ones. We’ve put together some suggestions to help you through this difficult time.

Choose the Right Moment

If you’re suffering from addiction, it’s important to act as soon as possible. Treatment professionals will tell you that waiting can be dangerous, even deadly. This is partly because your addiction will become stronger day by day. But if you don’t know how to tell someone you’re an addict, the temptation is to wait. In some cases, people just blurt it out with no plan and with no idea of what to say.

If you’re thinking that you’ll wait to have this conversation until after you’ve checked into rehab, that’s probably not the best approach. Perhaps you’re thinking that rehab will show you how to tell someone you’re an addict. That’s usually not the case but regardless, it’s much better to have the support of your loved one before you’re in rehab. To do this, you need to do some preparation. You must choose the right moment, the right location and have a plan in place. Unlike breakups, holding this conversation in a busy restaurant or other public place is not a good idea.

A better approach is to have this discussion in a private, comfortable location. The conversation will likely be a bit emotional as you may be confessing other transgressions you committed to feed your addiction. Your partner will feel betrayed, confused, even angry, but remaining calm and explaining that you need help will see you through.

Remind your loved one that realizing you needed to confess was no easy task and you are doing so because you love them and want to be honest with them, despite your previous history.

Explain Addiction

Many people think addiction is a choice. In fact, only the first high was a choice. After that, the changes in your brain caused by the addiction took over and drove you to become a different person. You should remind your loved ones that the path to recovery is long and requires the support of family and loved ones.

Continue by explaining that you’re counting on their support to hold you accountable for your progress and discipline during the recovery process. You should show them your treatment plan and share with them the facilities you’ve chosen for rehab and sober living. This shows that you’re serious and have done your homework. Addicts want you to know about their addiction and if they’re being open an honest enough to confess their addiction, they will tell you how it got to this point.

Be Honest

Honesty with a loved one will take some serious introspection. What led you to addiction? Were you dealing with abuse from the past? Were you depressed over family issues? Or were you simply unable to cope with life’s daily pressures? You need to be honest because this will all come out in recovery. After some painful self assessment, it’s time to speak honestly and openly with you’re significant other.

Tell them about the root causes of your addiction and let them know you’re committed to changing your ways and breaking the cycle of addiction. Let them know that you’re seeking treatment not only for yourself, but because you don’t want to suffer the consequences of losing them. Their reactions may be harsh at first, but if you are open, honest and truthful about the causes of your addiction and are sincere about treatment, they will likely come around.

Confession Can Be Cleansing

While the confession itself may seem scary, after all your secrets are laid bare, your spouse will probably have a strong reaction. They may need time to think about what they want to do. This is frightening because you’re at your most vulnerable point, but there’s no turning back. If your spouse embraces your recovery, it will be a big relief and a confidence booster.

They may not embrace it initially and it’s not uncommon for a spouse to unleash a firestorm of rage, anger and disappointment. You have to look at it from their side: they may have been lied to for years and are wondering what else you lied about during that time. This is only natural. In some cases, your spouse might already know about your addiction but didn’t know how to confront you. In either case, the admission is a necessary step in the recovery process. Having your spouse on-board early in the process is far better than calling from rehab after an arrest.

Once your friends and family are aware of your addiction, there are other benefits. Friend’s support during your recovery can be helpful and knowing that you can pick up the phone and call them for encouragement is a nice feeling.

Of course, once they all know, they have the right to tell you about the effects your substance abuse had on them. In this case, the conversation can be emotional. Learning that you’ve hurt a friend or a loved one is painful, especially when you’re going through recovery. All of this is cleansing. It washes away the inner pain, lays bare the truth and allows you to focus on the importance of living a sober life.

Addiction treatment and recovery is a challenging process, but with the support of friends and loved ones, you have a better chance. That inner circle of support becomes a pillar of strength, something that can be leaned on reliably and leveraged when necessary. The comfort and guidance they can offer will help provide needed balance and help you control the strong feelings that will inevitably emerge during recovery. The people who know you best are best able to help you through the process.

The support of friends and loved ones is so important, many recovery facilities offer family counseling. The belief is that families of addicts need counseling too, as they may feel they’ve somehow contributed to the addiction or alternatively, they’re struggling to deal with the aftermath of the addict’s actions. One thing worth remembering is that if a recovering addict is still friends with people who are actively abusing substances, that’s one relationship that should not be continued. Toxic friends threaten your sobriety and should be avoided at all costs, no matter how long the friendship has existed.

Once your loved ones have seen you at your most vulnerable point at life and have made the conscious decision to stay with you, they have proven themselves to be committed to you despite your past missteps and transgressions. We cannot think of a clearer demonstration of love and this should serve as powerful encouragement and affirmation of your choice to seek recovery treatment.

One of the things we hear in recovery is that addicts continued their addiction despite wanting help years before. Even if you don’t know how to tell someone you’re an addict, you’re going have to confess at some point. It’s better to have that conversation in a comfortable place and with a treatment plan in place. This will show you’re serious about your recovery.

If you’re are looking for a treatment center, Renaissance Recovery’s California rehab is here to help. Reach out to our team today and inquire about our Orange County rehab or one of our partnerships if you’re looking for inpatient or a detox program.

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Pat C

“I owe my life and my happiness to these people. October 8th, 2019 marked two years of sobriety for me, and prior to finding Renaissance I hadn’t had 24 hours sober in nearly 20 years.”

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Paige R

“They truly cared for me and the other people that I served with! From this group, I have made 8 new brothers and friends for life! We have continued on, after the program, to take care of each other”

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Courtney S

“Great staff who took the time to get to know me. They have a lot of experience in this field and have first hand experience with what I was going through. IOP is outstanding and really built up a ton of great relationships and found this program to be a ‘breath of fresh air’.”

Diana Vo, LMFT

Diana is an addiction expert and licensed marriage and family therapist who has been in the field of mental health for over 10 years.

Joseph Gilmore

Joseph Gilmore has been in the addiction industry for three years with experience working for facilities all across the country

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