Addiction is a chronic, self-preserving disease that not only affects those who are drinking or using substances, but also those around the person as well. It is very much a family disease because of its effects on the people close to the addict.
Relationships often break due to the behaviors and actions of those using, such as:
- Lying about the amount they use or drink
- Stealing money
- Manipulating loved ones to get necessities (i.e. food, shelter, cell phone, money, etc.)
- Getting into legal trouble
- Neglecting their responsibilities
Loved ones may even try to step in and help, having good intentions. However, they may not know the proper ways to help. This could make the situation or the relationship they have with the addict even worse. Disputes concerning the best way to handle the addiction can tear families apart, leaving the addict alone, when they need a solid support system. This can be a dangerous time, as addicts often realize they can continue using or drinking as their loved ones are distracted by arguments.
According to the American Society of Addiction Medicine, 21.5 million Americans aged 12 or older have a substance abuse disorder. 1.9 million of these individuals are addicted to prescription pain medications. 586,000 are addicted to heroin. 23% of those using heroin often develop an addiction to opioids. These numbers are alarming, as they only reflect those that are using. The number of relationships destroyed by addiction adds millions to these numbers.
How can relationships be repaired after addiction? Can they be repaired? Here is some information regarding what kind of relationships are broken during addiction and tips for how to help repair them.
Types of Relationships Often Broken During Addiction
Spouse or Partner
The foundation of a healthy relationship must be built on trust and communication. Addiction often breaks this trust, and it can be difficult to rebuild once the damage is done. However, it is possible to regain trust and rebuild the relationship, after the addict has started walking through the process of recovery.
The recovering addict should start by coming clean about everything they have withheld from their spouse or partner. From there, the spouse or partner can begin setting boundaries and rules on how the relationship and trust can be rebuilt.
Parents are often the first line of support to their children suffering from addiction. This support comes in many forms, including physical, emotional, financial, and more. Since parents usually demonstrate a willingness to give support but can be met with negative results and behaviors. Due to this, parents often end up feeling lied to, betrayed, angry, and hurt.
They also end up feeling foolish as they can’t stop their child from inflicting pain on themself and others. Trust is broken when the child lies to their parents to get what they want. The child may even steal from their parents to get their next fix.
Rebuilding trust can be difficult, but it is possible when addicts show their parents through their actions that they are serious about recovery and will not betray them again. As a son or daughter, you can talk openly with your parents about your situation, treatment, recovery, and more to help them understand. You can also recommend resources for family members such as Al-Anon.
Often, friends unknowingly or knowingly aid in enabling a person’s addiction. This is why after rehab, many recovering addicts must go through the process of reevaluating their friendships and getting rid of any unhealthy ones that may hold them back from sobriety.
It is possible to rebuild the healthy friendships you want to hang onto, though. You can do this by regaining your friends’ trust and discussing the needs of each individual in the new friendship. Show your friends that you are willing to work towards reconciliation.
Show them that they mean enough to you that you want their presence in your life, as well as to earn their trust back. However, you should make sure your friends will be supportive of your recovery and sobriety. This will lessen your risk of a relapse.
How to Rebuild Relationships While in Recovery
Set Realistic Expectations
Many recovering addicts are focused on the future, as they should be. However, they must also not forget the pain and hurt they caused when they were in the midst of their addictions. Often, genuine apologies are not enough to mend relationships and friendships. Keep realistic expectations in mind, taking the time to rebuild and heal. Do not believe a simple apology will heal all the hurt that has passed.
Addiction is a selfish and self-preserving disease. It causes an addict to always put their addiction first, often causing them to hurt loved ones in the process. After treatment, you must prove to loved ones that you have truly changed and are committed to your sobriety. Prove this to them through your actions rather than only through words.
Learn Healthy Communication Skills
Communication is a two-way street that involves both talking and listening. Learn how to use active listening skills to really understand what a person is saying to you when you speak with them. These skills are often learned in addiction recovery.
Learning to deal with conflict is an aspect of treatment that helps recovering addicts avoid the temptation to use or drink to cope with conflict. Clients also learn to refrain from manipulating others to do what they want. Learning these skills and utilizing them allows friends and family to feel more comfortable talking to you since they feel more heard. Effective communication ultimately helps people avoid arguments over small, nonsensical things and helps rebuild trust.
Get Rid of Unhealthy Relationships
Remember that unhealthy relationships are not worth repairing. Do not allow people that do not support your recovery to be around you or be present in your life. Only surround yourself with those that want to see you succeed in your recovery.
Addiction is a known destroyer of friendships and close relationships. It is a self-preserving disease that puts itself first, causing the addict to do things they wouldn’t do when sober. This often includes hurting loved ones, causing tension, and losing friendships. Take the necessary steps to show friends and family that you are committed to your recovery and sobriety after leaving treatment. Take time to regain their trust through your actions and show that you want them in your life. For more information regarding rebuilding relationships after addiction, contact NorthStar Transitions at (303) 558-6400.