Drug addiction takes a toll on many people, not just drug users. Often, a person’s behaviors while using alienate them from healthy relationships they once had. And being involved with drugs usually means a user has developed unhealthy relationships while in the throes of addiction. These relationships need to be rebuilt, especially if it has affected relationships with a user’s support systems. Having a strong support system is important to sustaining recovery and preventing relapse.
Addiction is often called a family disease because it absolutely does affect an entire family unit. It’s not really specific only to children of parents who use or vice versa. It can affect siblings and spouses, also. The strain substance use puts on a family is immediate. A user can completely destroy the trust that their family once had for them.
When the trust is lost, the support becomes harder to give. For parents of children with substance abuse issues, this is especially hard. They have no boundary between support and enabling, anymore. They may mistake the two and hold back on support in fear they are enabling.
Supporting and Enabling
Understanding the difference between support and enabling is important in repairing damaged relationships. When providing support, a person will help a user complete tasks they cannot do on their own that will help them in recovery. This can consist of giving someone a ride to or from treatment or support meetings. Enabling is allowing a user to engage in unhealthy behaviors, like making excuses for why a child refuses to find a job and providing them with money. Substance users need a lot of support to prevent relapse.
There is also the trauma that comes from relationships with substance abusers. If the user is a parent, they may be neglectful or lash out emotionally at those around them, especially children. They could feel embarrassed that their parents are addicted to substances. Many families engage in group therapy sessions for this reason. It is also the reason why groups like Al-Anon exist. Professionals understand that families of drug abusers need support, as well. Besides trauma, dealing with a loved one’s drug use can be incredibly stressful.
Group therapy provides a way for a family unit to deal with stress together. If substance abuse stems from mental illness, there can be a genetic factor at play, and that will need to be addressed. Participating in family therapy can help find what family dynamics influence drug abuse. Group therapy sessions support the whole family’s mental well-being. It can also teach families how to trust each other again.
If substance abuse caused the end of friendships, it may be hard to rebuild those relationships. Often, it is easier to rebuild relationships with families because there is a sense of love and a familial bond that is not there with friends. Some people never want to rebuild those relationships, and they can’t be forced. It is best to not try to force a relationship on someone once it is broken due to substance abuse. The best step would be building new, healthy relationships with people who are not associated with past drug use.
This is often the hardest relationship for people to let go of because as humans, we need connection with other humans. A family connection is not enough, we naturally seek different types of relationships like friendship and romantic love. Just like friendships, romantic relationships may never be able to be rebuilt. It’s best to move on from these and not let them negatively impact your recovery. Make room for the people who you can rebuild healthy relationships with.
The rate at which people allow you back into their lives may be different. You may find that your siblings are better prepared than your parents, or friends are ready and your family is not. That is okay. Rebuilding relationships is a long process. It may not happen as quickly as we may like it, but it is still worth the effort. It’s best to find those willing to work on relationships when you are and work on rebuilding others when both parties are ready.
While rebuilding relationships, you may be confronted by actions you took or words you spoke while using that have permanently impacted that relationship. This can present new emotions you may not be prepared to process and may trigger cravings.
Getting the Help You Need
Continuing therapy after recovery is a highly suggested step. Providers are well aware of the processes people take at rebuilding their lives post-recovery, especially relationships, and how stressful it can be. You can start with individual counseling to learn tools for rebuilding relationships. If possible, you can transition into group therapy. Just because someone has never used drugs, doesn’t mean they have good relationship-building skills. It may be that people need an objective mediator to help work through issues.
You may feel a lot of anxiety when attempting to rebuild relationships, that is a normal part of recovery. What you should realize is that by completing treatment, you have proven you are ready to build a life apart from addiction. If others don’t perceive your achievements in that way, move on to people who are supportive and not critical. You deserve to feel good about your recovery and you should surround yourself with people who support that feeling.
Recovery means more than just being free of substances or abstaining from alcohol, it is about repairing your life. Northstar Transitions knows that relationships around addiction can be complicated and even hurtful, and we are here to help you rebuild or move past. Northstar Treatment is here to help you heal and reconnect. Call us now at (303) 558-6400.