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Alcohol and other substance use disorders

If your partner's substance use is escalating or causing distress, it is crucial to seek professional help immediately in order to prevent irreversible harm to your relationship.

Here at The Reconnection Institute, we tackle substance use disorders head-on and are committed to helping couples to regain control of their relationships. Our speciality lies in empowering couples with the essential tools and strategies needed to overcome these challenges. With a direct and no-nonsense approach, we closely guide couples in confronting the root causes of substance use, in turn forging a stronger and more resilient partnership. Together, we'll face these obstacles directly, and through determination and hard work, we’ll pave the way for a brighter future in your relationship.

A personal message from Michael Myerscough

Founder of The Reconnection Institute

Have you ever found yourself wondering how to help your partner overcome their struggles with drinking or drug use? Perhaps they've promised to change in the past, but sadly those attempts didn't turn out as you'd hoped. You might even suspect that they're now concealing their consumption from you, intensifying your worry that their habit is worsening. Deep down, you're afraid that trust is eroding, and you can't rely on them to steer clear of trouble.

Maybe it’s an issue with binging. Do you feel that your partner doesn’t have an “off” switch? That they will just keep partying, so long as drugs or alcohol are available?

Your partner's drinking or drug use may have caused alarming incidents—from public outbursts and financial issues to dangerous driving or private confrontations. These unpredictable behaviours can leave you feeling confused, helpless, and uncertain about the future.

It may feel like the caring, dependable person you fell in love with has been consumed by their substance use disorder. Whilst this term is more comfortable for many, let's be frank—your partner's behaviour is out of control. As you struggle to keep your family, home, and relationship intact, you may feel as though the ground beneath your feet is constantly shifting, making it difficult to find stability amidst the chaos.

Are you exhausted from handling the recurring chaos and seemingly irrational behaviour that substance use disorders often bring? Do you long for the days when your relationship was built on a solid foundation of trust, connection, and joy, untainted by the damage caused by drinking or drug use?

Drunken Behaviour in Relationships is Painful and Common

Let’s start with drinking. You are not alone. Alcohol dependence is extremely common all around the world—and especially here in Australia. In fact, it’s so common that people even joke about it, repeating the well-known line “I’m not alcoholic. I’m Australian.” Or maybe you’ve heard the “I just love beer” narrative. It’s worrying.

‘Jokes’ like these can make it difficult to distinguish “normal drinking” from dependency. But, as you no doubt know, alcohol abuse isn’t a laughing matter. According to a NSW Health report from 2017, “30% of adults drink at levels that increase their long-term risk of harm.”

This statistic only reflects medical harm and doesn’t even scrape the surface of the profound damage that drinking can cause to relationships, families or careers. Alcohol often causes, or at least fuels, intense and chaotic incidents and dynamics. For some of us, there’s nothing that a little bit of liquor can’t make worse.

The truth is that, often, excessive consumption is the symptom, not the problem. Modern life is stressful and generally not quite as rewarding as some of us may wish. This can lead to feelings of restlessness and discontent.

Drinking can seem like a tempting route to short-term relief from these emotions. However, it’s important to recognise that alcohol abuse is not the light-hearted joke that many make it out to be and can cause profound damage to relationships, families and careers.

As the partner of someone struggling with a drink dependency, you likely know that it causes more distress than it soothes. You have likely also found it impossible to effectively communicate your fear, pain, and frustration to your partner without the conversation turning into a fight.

Thankfully, with expert guidance in a safe environment, you can talk with your partner about their alcohol dependency and recovery. You can carve out a path toward mutual understanding, restored trust and lasting connection. You can get back onto stable ground together.


Other substance misuse

Everything I just said about alcohol applies to drug use too, only with the added complication that it’s also illegal which can result in serious complications. Whether your partner struggles with alcohol or drug dependency, the negative effects on your relationship are profound.

These issues often lead to increased distress, communication difficulties and eroded trust. However, with professional help in a safe and supportive environment, you can address these challenges directly and begin the journey toward understanding, recovery, and rebuilding a strong, lasting connection.

Dependency treatment can help you address this problem at the root

As your counsellor, I bring together substance dependency counselling and couples counselling expertise. The primary goal of our sessions is to provide both of you with the necessary support to reconnect and move forward. I'm here to help each of you express your fears and frustrations, guiding you toward mutual understanding and effective solutions.

It may sound simple, but none of this is possible without directly acknowledging and addressing the problem at hand… Your husband drinks too much. To that end, I’ll encourage you to express all of the ways in which alcohol is wreaking havoc in your relationship. I’ll help you to develop the tools that are required to ensure that your needs are met without triggering your spouse’s shame or anger. That way, your husband can begin to take real responsibility for the current chaos and conflict in your relationship. He can become accountable, and you can both begin to have the conversations you so desperately need.

Even if you have valid reasons to suspect that your partner has a substance use disorder, expressing your concerns may be met with anger or defensiveness. You deserve to feel heard and understood without being labelled as 'crazy' or 'a nag' for trying to keep your family afloat. When you work with me, I provide a safe space where both of you can share your thoughts and emotions openly, reducing the chances of heated arguments.

As your coach, I combine expertise in substance dependency counselling and couples counselling. My primary goal is to support the two of you to reconnect and move forward. I'm here to help each of you give voice to your fears and frustrations, guiding you towards mutual understanding and effective solutions.

Couples counselling for substance use disorders involves supporting your partner in finding the best path forward. By participating in sessions together, you can have peace of mind knowing that your partner is actively engaged in treatment. You'll also have the opportunity to ensure that the full story is being shared, even if it involves difficult or uncomfortable topics. Most importantly, you and your partner can work towards understanding the underlying issues that led to the substance use disorder to begin with, and start creating a plan for recovery together.

‘Substance use disorders can erode the foundation of your relationship, much like a cancer. Both you and your partner deserve to free yourselves from its grasp. It may sound drastic, but people need to be woken up and need to be made aware that there is a very real choice to be made; they can have their addiction, or they can have their family, but very rarely are people able to maintain both.‘

We are only as sick as our secrets

There's a strong possibility that your partner has been grappling with hidden pain that they've kept buried for a long time. They might not be aware of it or may struggle to express it. For instance, they may use drugs or alcohol to mask a deep-seated feeling that life isn't going as it should. Or they may be trying to numb a sense of anxiety or create excitement in a life that seems dull compared to their dreams and aspirations. It's also possible that they're simply unable to figure out how to stop using substances on their own.

Regardless of the underlying cause, treatment can empower your partner to cope with challenges without relying on substance use. Together, you and your partner can tear down the walls between you, using those bricks to build a bridge that is stronger than ever. You can then use those new experiences to construct a sturdier, more resilient relationship.

On both a personal and professional level, I understand the all-consuming impact of substance use disorders. Drawing from 30 years of experience addressing these issues in my own life and in the lives of my clients, I firmly believe that change is possible. Addiction is what prompted me to enter the therapeutic industry, so I can promise you that, with the right support, you can heal your relationship and rekindle the love you once shared.

Key questions answered

If I call you, will I be betraying my partner?

By reaching out for help, you are not causing a problem—you are acknowledging a problem that is already there. A substance use disorder is something what will never get better on its own. It is progressive in nature and tends to accelerate. In a way, it’s like you’re stuck in an elevator that is quickly accelerating down a hundred floors. It’s up to the two of you to decide where you want to get off and begin a journey back to sanity, one step at a time. That’s not betrayal—that’s support and care.

Is counselling confidential?

Absolutely. Treatment is 100% confidential. As I do not accept Medicare or Private Health Insurance, no diagnosis is ever entered into an official record. This guarantees that only you and your partner will know about your counselling. Your privacy is of utmost importance to me.

We've already tried everything. How is your approach to substance use disorders different?

Many attempts to address a substance use disorder focus solely on eliminating the problem substance. However, if we use alcohol as an example, completing a challenge such as “Dry July” doesn’t address the underlying issues or provide long-lasting change. It simply places a flimsy band-aid on a deep wound and hides the actual concerns. To truly help your partner stop drinking, it’s essential to understand the reasons behind their alcohol use. Once you uncover the root cause, you can both work on rebuilding trust, communication, and emotional intimacy.

I can help you to communicate that something terrible is occurring and that their behaviour is eroding your relationship. You do not have to wait until their dependency sets fire to you and your family.

Fight against denial.

It's not uncommon for individuals with substance use disorders to deny that they have a problem. Denial is a powerful force, and they may rationalise their behaviour by offering numerous reasons as to why their substance use is not a concern. They may genuinely enjoy using the substance and may not consider quitting unless a significant event forces them to re-evaluate. That significant force is often going to be you, communicating in no uncertain terms that if they carry on, you will take steps to protect you and your family.

If you’d like to know more about the couples counselling I offer, please take a look at our counselling services or my FAQ page for more information. My practice is based in St Ives on Sydney’s North Shore.