Relationships And Addiction Recovery
Active addiction has a way of impacting all of our relationships; families, marriages, friendships all change when alcohol or drugs take control. Drugs and alcohol don’t just damage the body, they can also damage our most valuable relationships.
But what about after addiction? When healing takes place and you’re on the road to recovery?
After years of putting your body through abuse, you may have experienced weight loss, weight gain, lack of exercise, lack of sleep or lack of nutrition from addiction. And while rebuilding your health physically will be a large part of your road to recovery, rebuilding relationships will also be key to long-lasting recovery and well-being. Without a strong support system through relationships, finding health, balance and happiness in recovery can be a challenge.
As humans, relationships are at the core of our existence. A strong support system in recovery can keep you focused and balanced; toxic relationships can put your recovery at risk.
Recovery As Your Responsibility
While relationships play an integral role in recovery – your recovery is ultimately yours and no one else’s. Deciding which relationships are healthy for you is your responsibility alone. Just like you wouldn’t credit someone else for the hard work it takes to get sober and on the recovery path, you also can’t blame others for relapse.
As unhealthy relationship patterns are a common ground for many entering treatment for addiction, learning better judgment, setting personal boundaries and limits can be key to maintaining responsibility for your recovery.
Unhealthy People in Your Addiction Recovery
In order to protect your recovery, there are certain personalities types to be aware of – and potentially, even avoid.
- The Critic
At some point or another, it’s likely that you’ve experienced a critic in your life. A person who finds subtle (or, maybe not so subtle) ways to let you know that nothing you do is good enough. In recovery, The Critic will remain focused on your faults, despite any and all hard work you’ve done in order to get to your recovery.
- The Coddler
Coddling can feel like concern – to the extreme. Repeated questions like, “How are you feeling?” “Are you ok?” “Do you need help?” are signs that a person may be making a scene out of your sobriety. The Coddler will want to protect you from temptations and situations, which also means protecting your from opportunities to grow in your recovery.
- The Undercover
During your course of treatment, it’s likely that you heard the phrase, “People, places and things” — you know, the people that you used or drank with, the places that you used or drank at, or the things that remind you of your using or drinking days.
You’ve made changes and put in the work to enter recovery. However, there are still plenty of people out there who haven’t. People who are still actively using or addicted may see your successful recovery as a threat to their lifestyle. The Undercover will encourage you to drink or use in order to feel better about their own behaviors.
- The Blamer
The Blamer and The Criticizer are close cousins. Whereas The Criticizer is quick point out the things that you’re doing wrong, The Blamer is quick to refuse responsibility. The Blamer will use you as a scapegoat for their poor choices or circumstances – and can manipulate, trick or shame you into doing something.
- The Reminiscer
The past is an unhealthy place to get stuck. The Reminiscer doesn’t just live in the past – they remind you of it often. They’ll focus on your addiction and shameful things that may have happened while you were actively addicted. The Reminiscer can’t move beyond these painful topics because they gain strength and self-confidence from the misfortune of others; the worse you feel about yourself, the better they feel about their own life.
- The Narcissist
Just like The Coddler, The Narcissist will – on the surface – seem to be interested in your recovery. However, with The Coddler, their boundaries are extremely misplaced – and your needs come before anything and everything in their own life. The Narcissist, on the other hand, fake interest in you and your recovery, but simply only care about themselves. The Narcissist will let you down when you need them the most. In many ways, The Narcissist plays the role of an abandoner.
- The Negative
Unfortunately, we live in a world where we are quicker to criticize than to compliment; a world where dirty looks stay with us longer than a smile; a world where negative news holds our attention longer than positive stories.
A common characteristic of those in active addiction is distorted and negative thinking. Therapy models such as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy address and treat these types of thoughts. For those in recovery, associating with negative attitudes and behavior can be contagious. Being around The Negative can leave you feeling heavy and unhappy – despite successes and accomplishments in your recovery.
Seeking Safe Personalities
No one in this world is perfect. In fact, many people may be working through some of the characteristics above. It’s unfair to yourself to believe you’ll be able to completely avoid anyone who falls into the above categories. However, it’s fair to yourself to build relationships with people with healthy traits and habits.
For example, safe people may include:
- Those who demonstrate respect for you – on a consistent basis
- Those who communicate with you – respectfully, openly and honestly
- Those who are open to learning
- Those who engage in mutually beneficial relationships – who support you and also count on you for the same respect and support
Separating From Unsafe Personalities
If you find yourself in a relationship (romantic, family or otherwise) that incorporates the above, unsafe traits – it’s important to remember these things:
- It is OK to politely disengage from relationships that cause unnecessary stress. If you are not firmly grounded in your recovery, take the time that you need to work through any issues. Change happens with time.
- Boundaries are key in all relationships. Practice setting and maintaining healthy boundaries – and follow through with consequences when they are broken.
- If you are in a relationship that is driving you to relapse, threatening your recovery – remember, this relationship isn’t worth the risk. No relationship is worth your life.