Drug and alcohol addiction makes it hard to maintain everyday responsibilities, meaning that in recovery it is necessary for addicts to have to effectively rebuild their entire lives, often from the ground up. One of the areas of your life that is likely to have been badly affected by your addiction is your relationships with friends, family and partners.
In the throes of addiction, your need for a substance becomes the most important thing in your life, and the chances are that you will have had to lie, manipulate and mistreat the people around you in order to support your habit.
It often takes the loved ones of an addict some time to realise that this is what is happening, meaning that they can in time become disillusioned with the addict, due to their negative and destructive behaviour. You may have made promises to change that you weren’t able to keep, caused drama and upset that have devastated those closest to you, and made them feel that the only way to cope is to separate from you entirely.
Whilst these relationships may seem damaged beyond repair, the good news is that with hard work there often is a way to rebuild your support system, and prove to friendly and family that you really have changed since you have become sober.
How Can You Start To Make Amends?
Just as you had to take steps to overcome your addiction, you will have to dedicate yourself to rebuilding your relationships with loved ones. Some of the ways to do this include:
Whilst it can be tempting to promise your loved ones that you are changed forever and will never let them down, chances are that you have done this before and then had a relapse, undoing all your hard work and loosing their trust in the process. In order to earn their trust and not let your loved ones down again, make amends for the things that you have done in the past, and set small achievable goals that you know that you can stick to in order to rebuild their trust in you.
Understand that it will take time, and some friends or family members may no longer be prepared to join you on your recovery journey. Be respectful of this and try not to push blame onto those who simply do not have the desire or ability to continue associating with you.
Change How You Communicate
Many addicts use guilt and manipulation in their relationships, in order to keep their support circle around them. You may have used emotional blackmail, walked away from difficult conversations, or forced your loved ones to feel guilty in order to end discussions in the past. Make a decision that you will no longer resort to these methods, and keep an open mind and a listening ear on what your loved ones are trying to say to you. This is as much about them as it is about you.
Let Unhealthy Relationships Go
This can be particularly hard for an addict, who is already having to let go of so much of what makes them feel safe and secure. The simple fact is that some of your relationships will not be healthy, and trying to rebuild these will just lead you back towards relapse. People that are enablers, allowing you to continue on the path of addiction, or those who refuse to stop drinking or taking drugs around you, are not people that you can continue to associate with once you are in recovery.
Codependency is another unhealthy factor for recovering addicts. These relationships are usually with family members or partners, who allow bad behaviour to continue so that the relationship will not end. It is up to you to cease communication with these people so that you are no longer given leeway to behave as you have been.
How To Start Rebuilding Your Relationships
When you feel strong enough to start thinking about repairing relationships, it can be hard to know where to start. If you have badly hurt people around you then it will not be as simple as saying that you are in recovery and then waiting for them to reconnect with you. Here are some steps towards improving your relationships
•Reach out first. Don’t expect people to come to you just because you are in recovery. The people that you want to reconnect with need you to reach out and let them know that you are sorry, that you are making changes and you would like them to give you a chance at building a new relationship with them.
•Be honest about what you want. Be prepared to own up to the things that you have done in the past, and then give them your perspective on how this new relationship will work. If you are trying to reconnect with an ex-partner, for example, be prepared to admit that you are not ready for a romantic relationship, but would love to have them back in your life as a friend.
•Let the past go. For a new relationship to work with people that you have hurt in the past you will have to both be prepared to let go of the past. Apologise and make amends where you can, but if they or you don’t feel that you will be able to move on from things that have happened then perhaps this is not a relationship that can be rebuilt.
•Go to meetings. Prove to your loved ones that you are serious about your new-found sobriety by continuing to attend meetings and counselling once you are out of rehab. It will be important for them to see that this time is different from any time before.
How Can You Trust An Addict Again?
If you are someone that has been involved in the life of an addict, and are unsure whether or not you want to reconnect with them, it is important that you lay some ground rules. You may have no reason whatsoever to trust them again, so this is a critical time for establishing a new relationship and new trust.
Make Your Demands Clear
For you to allow this person back into your life you need to let them know what behaviour you will and will not accept. They must remain clean and sober for you to be back in their lives, and you must remain strong on this. Allowing them to have ‘slips’ without repercussion could see you become an enabler.
Give It Time
It is ok for it to take a long time for you to trust the person again, even when you can see that they are doing well. Take small steps towards rebuilding your relationship, there is no need for you to try to have the exact relationship that you had before right away.
It is impossible for your relationship to ever become healthy if you are not able to forgive and forget the things that they have done in the past. Part of rebuilding the relationship must be discussing what they have done and receiving their apologies, but once this is all done you have to be comfortable moving on and not dragging them back by bringing up these events again and again.
Cassiobury Court is a dedicated, residential rehab centre, which encourages those suffering with addiction to receive the support needed for their journey to recovery. Patients are looked after from detox through to therapy, and are able to enjoy 12 months’ aftercare including a personalised recovery plan to help them to cope with cravings.
Rehabilitation is a long process and can be difficult for all involved. At Cassiobury we recognise this and offer support groups and individual and family therapy sessions to help every member of the family come to terms with the problem, and for them to help the sufferer navigate a path to rehabilitation. Please call us on 01923 369161, or you can text HELP to 83222 to take the first steps towards rebuilding relationships with your loved ones.