Drug and alcohol addiction can wreak havoc on your personal relationships. The behaviours you engaged in while addicted, such as lying, stealing, manipulating, being unfaithful, or even becoming violent, may have greatly impacted the lives of your loved ones. Addiction can be especially damaging to a long-term relationship or marriage. According to a study funded by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, couples are more likely to divorce if one spouse is a heavy drinker.
An important step in recovery is repairing the relationships that became damaged while you were battling your addiction. You may not be able to repair all of your relationships, no matter how hard you try. Your loved one may feel too angry or hurt, so you can’t expect the relationship to return to what it was prior to your addiction. You can, however, create a new relationship based on solid communication, mutual respect, and trust.
With hard work, patience, and trust on the part of both people, relationships can be healed. While it may be a rough road — and you are sure to encounter obstacles along the way — there is always a chance to rebuild trust with a friend, family member, or spouse. Below are a few ways to get started with repairing your relationships.
As an addict, you probably weren’t as involved in the daily lives of your loved ones as you should have been. You may have been absent — physically in the same room but not fully engaged in the conversation. Take the time to reconnect with loved ones, and engage in the conversation. Show your friends and family you’re interested in what’s going on in their lives.
Keep Your Promises
While recovering, many people make big promises that prove difficult to keep. Be honest with yourself and your loved ones about what your capable of in recovery and beyond. Keep your promises small, and be mindful of your commitments. Before saying you are going to do something, ask yourself, “Does this support my recovery?”
Good communication is at the heart of any successful relationship. Be open with your loved ones about your recovery, the steps you’ve taken to get better, and the work that you’re willing to do to repair your relationships. Discuss your past mistakes honestly, and acknowledge any hurt you may have caused your loved ones. Doing so will help alleviate some of your guilt and shame, and allow your loved ones to heal. While it may take some time for those around you to forgive, keeping the lines of communication open gives them a way to reconnect.
Resolve Past Problems
Moving forward in your relationship with a loved one may mean working on issues your relationship had before your addiction. If you’re married or in a long-term relationship, seeking counselling — both individually and as a couple — is crucial to repairing the relationship. Both partners need to attend therapy to heal from the damage caused to the marriage or relationship.
It may sound simple, but the easiest way to earn someone’s trust is to be trustworthy. Remember, actions speak louder than words. To regain the trust of those around you, you need to be reliable: call when you say you will, be where you say you’ll be, and take responsibility for your actions. When you were using you may have made many promises but failed to keep them. From this point forward, you must show your friends and family that your actions match your words.
Focus on Your Recovery
Even though you’re clean now, a relapse can occur at any time.
While repairing your personal relationships is important, your recovery needs to be your first priority. As part of your recovery from drug or alcohol addiction, you will participate in a 12-step program that will require you to make amends to those you hurt while using. See ARCProject.org.uk for details here.
Find a Support Group
Going to support groups alone or with your loved one can be very helpful. Although not considered a substitute for professional counselling, groups like Alcohol Anonymous, Al-Anon, and Narcotics Anonymous are good places to find others who are going through the same things you are. You don’t have to share your own experience — simply listening to the experiences of others can be incredibly comforting for you and your loved one.
Understand that it will take time to rebuild trust and for others to forgive your past indiscretions. Be patient, and keep working on your recovery. As you continue to engage in positive behaviours, your friends and family will notice, and you’ll find your relationships strengthening.
Sofia Payne is a recently trained therapist who took a career change after experiencing addiction with a close family member. She wanted to truly be helpful in the world, and now writes articles and gives talks on the subject to help and enlighten people.