For many, getting treatment for addiction isn’t what scares clients the most — it is the daunting thought of rebuilding one’s life. Recovery does not end when you leave the doors of the treatment center; it continues for the majority of your life as you work to navigate and repair any damage done during the time spent struggling with addiction.
One such area that will likely need attention post-recovery (and even during recovery) is that of friends, family and/or a significant other. These people, like some of the ones closest to you, likely felt a lot of the ripple effects of addiction. Therefore, it’s important to address these relationships as soon as you are able to help repair trust, gain their support and foster a healthy recovery community.
Can a relationship survive addiction?
To put it simply, yes, a relationship can survive addiction. Whether that relationship is one with a sibling, parent, friend or romantic partner, it is possible for a relationship to persevere during the course of an addiction.
That being said, it is not easy. You might not be as close with your sibling or friend afterward because not a lot of time was spent fostering a relationship with them while addiction was a factor. It’s possible that actions were done or things were said that hurt either one or both of you. Addiction is an emotional topic, and people can be left feeling raw and exhausted when dealing with it either first or secondhand.
If you have people who have remained available to you during the process of addiction, it is a great blessing. Their support is invaluable during the recovery process and will provide you with the structure on which to fall back if things get rough. In order to show your appreciation for their efforts, there are some steps you can take to repair these relationships and help gain back the trust of your loved ones.
Self-reflect and take responsibility
It may be tempting to be selfish during the initial stages of your recovery from substance abuse, viewing yourself as the only one having to deal with problems. And while it’s true that you’re the only one needing to heal from the addiction physically, it’s important to recognize that your loved ones might need time to heal emotionally and mentally from the effects as well.
It takes great self-awareness to recognize that your substance use may have forced others to endure abuse or mistreatment. Even if physical abuse was never part of the equation, certain actions may have left your loved one feeling particularly taken advantage of, including:
Verbal abuse or manipulation
Theft or taking advantage of their desire to help you out of addiction before you were ready
Putting loved ones at risk, such as driving under the influence with them in the car
Failing to be present at familial obligations
Not following through on your responsibilities to your partner or family, such as failing to bring in income as a result of poor attendance at work
Depending on how often these situations occurred, or how hurt your loved ones were during the process, it may take a significant amount of time for everyone to heal. Keep that in mind while working on repairing relationships in recovery — everyone is healing at their own pace, but putting down the intentional groundwork to promote this healing is key to repairing trust.
How can I repair trust and rebuild relationships?
It’s not easy, but rebuilding damaged relationships is a critical part of your recovery.
Start by being selfless: So many problems that stem from addiction center around you only caring about yourself. Turn the tables and try to not only help those you’ve hurt by making reparations but by serving others as well
Talk: If you feel as though there is a lot in your own head that needs to be said to your spouse, partner or friend, imagine how much more he or she may have to say to you. Sit down and talk openly about what has happened, how you both feel and what you both want to see change. Relationship therapy (outside of your addiction treatment) is a great forum for such discussions
Hold yourself accountable to him or her: Involve your loved one in your recovery by allowing them to hold you accountable. Report your daily happenings. Consider starting a treatment journal together so that they can understand where you’re at in your recovery
Understand it’s going to be bumpy: Vulnerable conversations involving hurt people are tough. Go into these conversations with this understanding, and work together to keep emotions at bay. You’re all emotional, but speaking from peaked emotions will do more damage than good. Speak rationally by thinking through what you want to say, and if it gets heated or angry, don’t be afraid to revisit the conversation at another time
Odds are your loved ones will be open to repairing this relationship and will work harmoniously with you in order to rebuild a sense of trust all around.
Don’t be afraid to seek additional help
Despite the depths that your addiction may have taken you to, you may be pleasantly surprised at how willing your loved ones are to forgive and forget. However, you need to be able to demonstrate a daily commitment to your recovery in order to earn their trust back.