Relationships in recovery can be complicated. And relationships take time to build or mend. Over the past decade, major strides have been made to de-stigmatize addiction and mental health concerns. The scientific consensus is clear, addiction is a diagnosable, treatable condition of the brain. Although there are similarities to other treatable conditions, there are also specific challenges for those in recovery. Of these, mending broken relationships is at the top of one’s list when in recovery.
Damaged Relationships Before Recovery
Many people living in active addiction behave erratically. The central tenet of the disease model concept is that the brain becomes “hijacked” by the chemicals that produce happiness. Thus, people are willing to engage in erratic, dangerous, and alienating behaviors.
Relationships require work. Furthermore, new behaviors take time to develop. Some of these include accountability, dependability, and awareness. While using substances, we often sacrifice healthy relationships to consume drugs or alcohol. Sadly, many die due to substance and alcohol use disorders and can never mend what’s been damaged. But, in recovery we can work on relationships and devote attention to their evolution.
Luckily, with proper treatment, those who enter into recovery can slowly re-build the relationships that matter most to them. Healthy relationships aid in long term recovery. It is through connection that we nourish relationships in recovery.
Tips for Healing Relationships
- Communication. The foundation of any good relationship is communication. In active addiction, we may manipulate and create facades that protect the addiction. To start mending relationships in recovery, we need to communicate regularly and clearly. In the beginning, we may just explain that we are working on changing behaviors. In addition, we may note that we fully understand the harm caused during active addiction. Furthermore, we can let others know that this will be addressed in the future. For now, the focus is working on being honest. This includes following through and staying sober, no matter what.
- Trust. Trust can be lacking in the early stages of recovery. Acknowledging this and coming up with plans to build trust is beneficial. Maybe its regular, planned check-ins. Maybe it is a meeting with a professional counselor. No matter what, trust-building will take time.
- Setting realistic expectations. Although most people want to immediately fix the harm they have done, this may not be possible or appropriate in the beginning. Talking through the process of recovery, the commitment to treatment and the timeline for goals can be invaluable in the process.
The beauty of sobriety is that we can focus on ourselves and those we love. When we walk the recovery path, we’re willing to learn, to grow, to evolve. In addition, our loved ones can see the shift. It is truly magical. If you or someone you love is in need of support, professional help is available. The caring guidance of a thoughtful mentor or clinician can lead to better communication skills. Don’t wait for true connection and real happiness.