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Couples in Recovery: What’s Community Got To Do With It?

Issue 28

When it comes to overcoming addiction, the significance of community cannot be overstated. Our social connections provide a safety net and an opportunity to cultivate healthy relationships. Moreover, couples in recovery have a unique opportunity to contribute to a stronger community by offering support to other couples walking a similar path.

Why is being part of a recovery community important?

As humans, we have an inherent need to belong, connect, and participate. By surrounding ourselves with individuals who are also on a recovery journey, we expose ourselves to values and attitudes that foster personal growth and healing. Relying solely on our partner for support can place immense pressure on the relationship and encourage codependency. Who better to turn to than those who have experienced similar struggles or have supported a loved one through addiction and recovery?

Belonging to a community creates a system of accountability. Regularly attending meetings allows others to know us—our stories, challenges, and victories. It keeps us honest and becomes a process of mutual learning and support. Seeking guidance from a sponsor plays a significant role in driving personal change. In turn, offering mentorship to others ensures that we remain accountable.

How does community support our relationship?

The recovery community is like a science lab for socialization. When we meet new people, we are likely to be more curious, listen more intently, and express more compassion. Isolation caused by addiction may have hindered the development of these skills or caused them to grow rusty. We can now bring these valuable tools back into our relationship. For instance, we can practice active listening when our partners share about their day, reflect back what we heard, and offer insights from our respective recovery meetings. As we engage with others, we may observe new facets of our partners that we hadn’t noticed before. It’s a rare opportunity to rediscover these qualities within our relationship. Most importantly, being part of a community fosters interdependence, offering comfort in knowing that others support our partners, and greater connection with each other.

How can couples help build a strong recovery community?

One of the most significant contributions we can make is reducing the stigma surrounding addiction. By openly sharing our stories, we challenge societal perceptions and illustrate that addiction is a treatable illness, not a moral failing. Couples who are publicly vocal about recovery in their larger community help normalize these concepts. We can also be an inspiration for other couples, decreasing isolation and creating hope.

Energy is contagious. When we choose our inner circle, we choose our energy. And when we share that energy with each other, it can be powerful healing for our relationship.

Elaine Shamos
Elaine Shamos
Elaine Shamos, MPH, has 30 years experience as a public health professional and is the former director of Dartmouth’s Women’s Health Resource Center. Glenn Simpson, LCSW, CADC, has a private practice specializing in substance use disorder, and couples therapy. They are working together on a book for couples in recovery.
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