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Mending Personal Relationships in Recovery

Mending Personal Relationships in Recovery

Mending relationships is difficult, but do not let the hard work stop you from getting and staying clean

Addiction rips relationships to shreds. Although studies published by the National Institute on Drug Abuse show that professional treatment boosts chances of achieving sobriety and lowers relapse risk, healing never happens overnight[1]. In other words, it takes time to restore trust and repair broken hearts. For guidelines and encouragement that can help you through a process that can often be quite difficult, read on.

Remember that Recovery Takes Time

Overcoming addiction is a major achievement, but it does not signal smooth sailing ahead. In fact, relationships can seem even more tumultuous without the mind-numbing effects of heroin erasing negative emotions, even if only temporarily. Making amends for the destruction of active drug is arduous. Not all relationships can be salvaged, as not all people can forgive and forget. For the majority of your closest friends who have been hurt by your drug use, regaining trust and respect will be a matter of establishing a good track record month in and month out.

Forgetting this fact can be risky, as it can give you expectations that are unrealistically high for the people around you. For instance, you may think that you will get to celebrate your homecoming from rehab with children who get along peacefully and a spouse who no longer worries about financial problems. Hoping to be greeted like a conquering hero, you may feel cheated. Instead, try to give grace to other people by remembering that the folks at home love you, but are likely to feel quite wary even still. This response is both reasonable and appropriate, and the onus is on you to accept a cautious welcome as a consequence—not a rebuke. The best way to set things straight is to stay sober and build a respectable life. Accept the pain that you have caused, provide space and time to heal and look for ways to provide tangible signs of change in your heart, mind and character.

Keep Working in Recovery Even When it Hurts

Mending relationships is difficult, but do not let the hard work stop you from getting and staying clean. Research shows an undeniable link between having positive community support and avoiding relapse. While it may feel easy to throw in the towel and let yourself become isolated, you will only step closer to alcohol and drug abuse if you cut yourself off from other people. On the other hand, reaching out to other people can help keep you sober. For that reason, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy[2] and Dialectic Behavior Therapy[3], two therapeutic approaches frequently employed at professional rehab centers, focus on removing problems that block intimacy. They also teach patients how to rely on other people to cultivate sobriety.

Making New Connections

One skill that will help you rebuild your relationships is to learn how to communicate in healthy ways. The staples of all sober relationships is to ask for what you need, respect other people’s needs and to live empathetically, which means giving more than you take. Typically, these skills only grow once you kick dysfunctional ways of relating with other people to the curb. For instance, experts at the Centre for Mental Health and Addictions maintain that the friends and family members of addicts frequently stay “sick” and stuck in addictive patterns, because they enable each other, which means stepping in to solve another person’s problems[4]. Enabling addicts feeds the beliefs that love, acceptance and security are contingent upon caretaking. In contrast, taking ownership of thoughts, feelings and beliefs allows relationships to grow and expand. In turn, this behavior fuels positive connectivity, which is productive and mutually satisfying.

Sexual intimacy is one of the earliest casualties of substance abuse. Addiction is all consuming, so, as individuals fall deeper into addiction, substance abuse leaves less and less room for anything or anyone. However, once someone enters recovery, she often needs to recover her ability to enjoy healthy sexual relationships. Building blocks that form the foundation for this process often include the following qualities:

  • Knowledge of another person
  • Trust
  • Affection
  • Commitment
  • Equanimity
  • Learning to think in terms of “we” not just “me”
  • Mutuality

Without weaving these traits into the fabric of relationships, personal connections lack closeness and quickly become stale and unfulfilling. For a couple that has never known anything but dysfunctional ways of relating, the rebuilding process can feel overwhelming. The good news for those who seek treatment is that family and couples counseling is often an integral part of the treatment process. Attending rehab means letting someone with expertise guide you through the reunion process, which will help you reclaim the parts of your relationship that are still solid while creating new, vibrant points of connection that are entirely new.

Help for Heroin Addiction

If you or someone you love struggles with heroin addiction, then know that we can help. Admissions coordinators at our toll-free, 24 hour helpline can guide you to wellness. Do not go it alone when support is just one phone call away. You never have to go back to a life of addiction if you start your recovery now.