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. In addition, 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 addictive behavior, 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. Furthermore, we can let others know that this will be addressed in the future. For now, the focus is working on honesty. This includes following through and staying sober, no matter what. Read more about creating positive connection.
- Trust. Trust can be lacking in the early stages of recovery. Acknowledging this and coming up with plans to build trust is beneficial. Maybe it’s regular, planned check-ins. Maybe it is a meeting with a professional counselor. No matter what, trust-building will take time.
- Holding boundaries. It may sound contrary, but holding boundaries is very important in all relationships. This means being clear with ourselves and others about our needs. Hence, it also means we hold ourselves in high regard when we respect our own personal space and that of others.
- 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.
- Self-care. This one may be surprising, but good relationships start within. When we’re caring for ourselves, we can show up for others. In addition, taking care of ourselves builds our self-esteem, which only benefits the connections we keep.
Connection in Recovery
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 to choose connection and real happiness. It can be yours whenever you are ready.