Substance abuse, and all of the harm it causes, is a familiar pain to many. So much that 1 in 10 Americans will experience substance abuse disorder at some point in their lives.
If SUD has one major effect on our lives, it’s on our relationships. Luckily, that doesn’t have to be permanent. Let’s talk about the link between addiction and loved ones and how you can rebuild relationships during recovery.
While your close friends may play an important role in your life, we will mainly be discussing family or loved ones who live with you. The people within your home environment play a major role in both your addiction and your recovery.
However, if you have not begun treatment yet, it’s important to first cut people from your life who are enabling your addiction. If you have friends or acquaintances who supply or encourage your substance abuse, it is time to step away and seek treatment. Those are not real friends.
The people with whom you share a home, however, need to be aware of your treatment plan. They may have already expressed their concerns about your substance abuse, and they may have even done so in a less-than-productive manner.
Even if that is the case, remember that these are the people who want to see you succeed. Even if they didn’t handle it in the best way, ask yourself what you think their intentions were. If it was to get you the help that you need, then these are the people who you will need on your path to recovery.
While you were using, did you ever stop and think about how your environment was affecting you? If not, take the time to stop and reflect, as this is critical to making the necessary changes for maintaining a sober life when you are on your own.
For example, how did the behavior of your loved ones affect you? Sometimes, loved ones can enable substance abuse without even realizing it.
These behaviors can create a hostile or toxic living environment conducive to substance abuse. We’ll talk more later on how to address that after early recovery, but it’s important to acknowledge these behaviors early on.
You can join a 12-step program, distance yourself from substances, go back to rehab, or do whatever you want. You will still need loved ones to help you with recovery.
While codependency and substance abuse have a negative relationship before or during recovery, it is necessary to lean on your loved ones from time to time. Nobody ever said you had to do this alone.
12-step programs and therapy are important outpatient treatment options that can help you maintain abstinence, offer you a point of contact, and remind you of why you are doing this. They play an important role in recovery.
However, do you spend all of your time with your therapist or at meetings? You likely spend a lot more time with family and close friends, which is why rebuilding relationships is so important during recovery.
If you don’t have a supporting household to live in or loved ones around, then a sober-living home is likely your best solution for early recovery. Here, you will find a good intermediate between rehab and outside life where you will get to live your life as normal but with a controlled, substance-free environment.
Getting a headstart on the rebuilding of your relationships is always the best practice. It’s a lot more difficult to effectively apologize and mend relationships years later than it is to do so right away.
If you find yourself in an intervention or if somebody is voicing their concerns about your addiction before you begin recovery, do your best to listen to them. It is instinctual for many people to lash out during these moments, but you may find that you need that person in the future. Essentially, don’t burn bridges that aren’t already burned.
Remember, you’re not the only one to burn bridges or hurt their loved ones with their addiction. If that ship is sailed, then all you can do is start as early as possible.
For example, if your rehab center offers family therapeutic services, then this could be a great way to get a headstart on your relationship rebuilding. If you’ve gone through early recovery already, then the sooner you try to address these situations, the better. That starts with communication.
Talk to your loved ones, let them know how you’ve changed, and apologize. Be open about your mistakes and be as specific as possible. A simple “I’m sorry” isn’t as effective as “I’m sorry for–” and listing specific examples.
Honesty and openness won’t be the easiest part of recovery, but they will help everybody involved.
Assuming that your apology is well-received, let them know what you need. Your loved ones want to see you succeed just as much as you do, even if they are still upset.
Talk to them about your needs, what made your addiction management more difficult in the past, and how you would like to move forward with your relationship. However, you’re not done there.
While this is a major part of communication, it’s so important that it deserves a section of its own. If there are wounds to be mended, you will need to practice active listening and understand the pain and concerns of your loved ones.
Yes, this could be one of the most painful parts of recovery, but it’s a necessary step to recovery for both you and those around you. If you don’t understand how your actions affected them, then you won’t know how to move forward.
Don’t simply go through the motions and listen, either.
Take note of what you’re loved ones are saying and rebuild your relationship on a foundation of mutual respect. If you actively work together and consider each others’ feelings, then the relationship is bound to work better than ever before.
Your loved ones want to forgive you and they want to see you recover. However, it may take some time to reestablish a certain level of trust or forgiveness.
Because of this, it’s important to be patient and understanding. If you had an open, honest, and productive conversation, then you’re already on your way.
The best that you can do is to take it one day at a time and try to build that newfound trust. There are stages to rebuilding relationships, much like there are stages of recovery. Now is the time to start working to maintain your abstinence as well as your positive relationships.
Rebuilding your relationships is important, but it’s arguably more important to know how to have healthy relationships after addiction. Positive relationships are critical to long-term abstinence and relapse prevention, not to mention our overall mental health and wellbeing.
As time passes, you will need to learn to practice mindfulness in nearly every aspect of your life to ensure a long, healthy, and sober life. You will need to be mindful of your diet and exercise routines, avoiding relapse triggers, and more.
Well, practicing mindfulness in your relationships is a great way to start, and there’s a lot to be mindful of.
For example, be mindful of your previous conversations when loved ones told you about their concerns, what they need from you, and more. You should also be mindful of what you say to them, how you address difficult topics, and how you act around them.
A little goes a long way. If being mindful of others’ feelings was a struggle for you in the past, your loved ones will be ecstatic to see this improvement in your life.
One of the best things you can do for your loved ones is to stay healthy.
Remember, recovery is a lifelong process. Becoming too dependent on your loved ones for your recovery needs is not a safe habit to develop, but simply having positive relationships is a benefit in itself.
Instead of relying on one person, you need to keep up with your meetings, continue with therapy sessions, and work on your routines and habits as time passes. One of the most important aspects of maintaining your relationships is maintaining your sobriety.
If you notice yourself slipping or the idea of relapsing forming in your mind, then you must continue your treatment, exercise routines, and talk to your sponsor or loved ones about it immediately. In the event of a relapse, reattending rehab is highly recommended in most cases, but prevention is more important.
It’s important to remember that, while meetings are important, they are only a small part of recovery. It is challenging early on to form these new habits, but once you have them, they last for a lifetime, so don’t give up. This alone will go a long way toward promoting positive relationships.
A major part of early recovery after rehab is learning to have fun and enjoy life sober, and getting outside is known for its mental health benefits!
Why not kill two birds with one stone and try to spend some quality time with your loved ones doing a fun, substance-free activity?
Any of these or any other outdoor activity is a great way to get your exercise in, have fun, and build positive relationships and habits. Developing positive hobbies is also important for recovery, so there’s no harm in trying new things together to find what you like!
It doesn’t have to be a physical act, either. Attending a sit-down concert, seeing a movie, or going out to eat are safe activities as long as they are substance-free and you enjoy them. Don’t underestimate the value of quality time when it comes to recovery and mental health.
Many of the friends and acquaintances that you still had when you decided to seek treatment were probably friends associated with your substance abuse. You need to accept that these people are no longer your friends. The sooner, the better.
You shouldn’t stop there. Any toxic relationship, or a relationship that becomes toxic, needs to be ended immediately. Consider this one of the greatest threats to your recovery.
It’s critical to your sobriety, mental health, and social wellbeing that you avoid toxic relationships, even if they are with a close relative. If somebody is a threat to your sobriety or wellbeing (whether intentionally or not), they don’t have a role to play in your life.
Now that you know the link between addiction and loved ones and what you can do to promote positive relationships, the best time to start is now.
You will have a long, healthy life ahead of you if you start building that foundation today, so why wait? Stay up to date with our latest recovery news and feel free to contact us with any questions!