Spouse of a Veteran in Recovery? 5 Things You Need to Know

It is not easy to be a military spouse. Moving every few years makes it difficult to get an education, to start and/or maintain a career, or to ever really put down roots in a community outside of other military spouses. When you have kids, it is especially difficult to manage the constant moving and even more difficult when your spouse is deployed and everything falls on your shoulders during the months they are gone.

When your spouse develops a substance use disorder, all those issues are exacerbated. While treatment is a sign of hope, there is still a great deal of work to be done in terms of healing and finding balance at home — by you and your spouse.

Here are five things you need to know to make the process easier on you and your family:

  • Things will not go as planned. Just like every part of life in the military, nothing is certain in addiction recovery until it has happened. Relapse may happen even after the most comprehensive and intensive treatment and with the best of intentions in place. There is no cure for addiction, so it will unfold day by day. This is not to say that you must expect relapse, but like every other part of military life, you hope for the best and prepare for the worst.
  • Family and couples counseling sessions help. It is important that your spouse stay actively engaged in addiction treatment for the long-term, attending medical and therapeutic appointments regularly as needed. It is also important for you and the kids to work with your spouse in couples and family counseling sessions in order to process past trauma and broken trust and figure out how best to communicate needs going forward.
  • You and your kids need treatment too. It is also a good idea for both you and your kids, if they are of an appropriate age, to engage in personal therapy sessions. You need to heal from what you experienced during your spouse’s addiction and learn how best to support yourself and your entire family — not just your spouse — during your spouse’s recovery.
  • You can’t do it for them. As much as you may feel that the path to recovery is self-explanatory, you cannot do the work of recovery for your spouse. Staying sober is an ongoing process, and it will take time for your spouse to figure it out. Though you can be supportive, you cannot control the process or tell your spouse what to do or what not to do. In the end, they must figure things out for themselves.
  • There is a community around you. Recovery is not a guarantee. Your spouse may or may not stay sober, and you will need to decide what is best for you and your family. You are not alone in this process. There is a community of people both inside and outside of the military community who are similarly facing substance abuse issues. Connect with them and remember you will have support in doing what is right for your family.
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