Drug and alcohol addictions don’t just impact the life of an individual – they affect the lives of everyone around them. Families have been completely torn apart by heroin addiction. Best friends may no longer be on speaking terms because of alcoholism. Girlfriends and boyfriends, husbands and wives may call it quits when Hydrocodone addiction enters the relationship.
Drug and alcohol addictions don’t just damage the body – they can also destroy relationships.
No matter your background, your family situation or your profession, in the throes of addiction, you will change. Your ability to handle family relationships, friendships and marriage may fade away. Your behavior and actions may alter so dramatically, you may become unrecognizable to the person you used to be – and those around you will see and feel it.
While many of these relationships may seem damaged beyond repair, in recovery, your effort to improve your interactions and intentions with family, friends, and colleagues is a very important part of your sobriety. Repairing the relationships that have fallen apart can be critical in creating a life worth living after addiction.
Rebuilding connections and mending broken ties is not easy. In fact, for some, the anger and resentment may make it just as difficult as recovering from drugs. However, repairing relationships after rehab can be done with these important tips:
Relationships require communication. The process of rebuilding relationships involves reopening those lines of communication. Start by letting those you want to reconnect with know that you sought help for your addiction – and completed treatment. Let them know you are working to piece your life back together and want to mend your relationship. Communicate this message in person, if possible. If that’s not an option, send a letter, an email – even a phone call or text message.
Simple communication on your end may help to open up that line of connection. But know, if there is deep pain and resentment, that it may take additional action on your end to receive a response.
2. Ask for Forgiveness – And be Honest
If you’ve struggled with addiction, chances are, you’ve struggled with denial. In order to live without denial, you must acknowledge that you have made mistakes and in turn, hurt the people around you. Rather than carrying guilt and shame about your past, apologize to those around you, and ask for forgiveness. Even if friends or family members are slow or hesitant to forgive, know that by apologizing and asking, you are freeing yourself from the guilt.
In order to regain your relationships, you must regain trust. Be honest about your past mistakes, but also be honest in your present words and actions. By consistently proving that you can keep your promises, the more likely you will be able to earn back the trust that you lost. By regaining their trust, you will make great strides in being allowed to be a part of their lives again.
3. Be Active and Intentional
Relationships suffer when people are not active within them. When you were using, family and friends became secondary to your drug of choice, and you were not as active in your relationships. If your marriage was damaged because of your absence or neglect, take the opportunity to spend more time with your spouse. If your relationship with your kids was minimized, take time to get involved in their lives and their interests. Show up for the baseball practice. Make surprise dinner reservations. Leave a handwritten card on the countertop. Be intentional.
4. Attend Meetings
Getting involved in support groups or outpatient treatment after rehab shows that you are serious about your sobriety – which you should be. Attending meetings will also help you to connect with others going through the same process of repairing relationships after addiction. Support or advice from others in the same situation can go a long way – and keep you on track.
5. Don’t Expect an Immediate Change – and Be Prepared for Resistance
It’s important to remember your friends, family, and colleagues didn’t go to rehab and didn’t have the same opportunity you had to heal themselves. While you were in treatment and recovering, they continued living the same way they did when you left. Just as healing at rehab took time for you, repairing relationships will take time for them. Don’t be surprised or offended when you are met with hesitation or resistance, and those around you don’t believe what you say, or don’t trust your actions. Be patient and realize that it will take time to earn their trust again. This patience and your ability to stay humble throughout the process will make it easier.
Unfortunately, not every relationship will fully recover. In some circumstances, the resentment held towards you may run too deep, and the friendship, marriage or relationship may not be salvageable. While this is a hard truth, it shouldn’t discourage you. Repairing the connection with those you love and care for will take hard work and time – and in the end will help you stay on your path to recovery and committed to your new, sober life.