Healthy connections with others infuse our life with meaning, purpose and joy, but addiction can seriously damage these relationships. Figuring out how to reach out and reconnect in recovery is a critical part of moving forward.
When you are in recovery, you are in a place of healing. You are slowly regaining both your physical and mental strength, and finding your bearings after a period where much of your life had been dictated by a dependency. As you begin to take stock of where you are at, and what’s been impacted by your addiction, you will likely turn your focus to your relationships.
Relationships get negatively impacted by addiction, and can lead to serious tension and even estrangement from those you were once closest to. Part of rebuilding yourself in recovery is breaking the isolation of addiction and repairing important relationships in your life. This is a process of course, but committing to it can yield lasting positive impacts for you and the ones you love.
Key Elements of Relationships Impacted by Addiction
Trust is an essential building block for any relationship. This bond feeds into so much of what we need and value in a partnership with another person – things like reliability, loyalty, honesty and accountability. The nature of addiction erodes trust in progressively damaging ways. You don’t show up when you say you will. You’re emotionally unavailable. You lie – about where you were, who you were with, or what you were doing. You manipulate to get what you need, and you refuse to take responsibility when someone else is hurt by your behaviour. Over time, the steady loss of trust can be devastating to once close relationships.
When we care about someone, we’re invested in their health and safety, both physically and emotionally. When a loved one is going through a difficult time, we want to make sure that we can support them and give them the help they need, just as they would do for us.
In the case of addiction, the sense of helplessness experienced both by the person struggling with addiction as well as those witnessing it can be overwhelming. The feelings of guilt and worry that can follow tend to eat away at our security in our relationships, making once solid bonds seem fragile and tenuous. For example, loved ones may have felt like they did something wrong that contributed to the addiction, or feel like they failed to give you the help you needed, and stepped back as a result. You may also have distanced yourself due to feelings of guilt about the impact your addiction had on those you loved.
When you are living with a dependency, it’s normal to be defensive about how you’re living. The way that addiction rewires the brain to prioritise a substance above all else leads people to alter their lives in sometimes dramatic ways in order to continue to feed the desire for more. This can lead to questions and conflict, particularly with those you were once close to, as you try to defend behaviour that is against the interests of your own health and wellbeing, and is impacting your relationships with others. In other cases, it may result in an avoidance of communication, as you may find that preferable to an argument or emotional conversation about what’s going on. Constant breakdowns in communication can result in distancing, if not a total severing of ties between those involved.
Ways to Repair a Relationship Damaged by Addiction
Reach Out Honestly
When you start to reflect on the relationships that matter to you, and the ways in which your addiction has impacted those relationships, you will likely realise that you need to begin some healing conversations with those you love. Initiating these talks may be difficult, but it’s important to let people know that you’re in a different space, you are willing to listen and be accountable for what has happened, and that you are committed to mending what’s been broken. Be honest, direct, and patient – a lot has happened on both sides of the relationship, and it’ll take some time to get back on track.
Remember to Be Realistic
Just as recovery is a process, so is rebuilding. You may be aware of the extent to which your relationships have been affected, or you may be figuring it out as you emerge from addiction. Either way, it’s important to accept that not every relationship may be able to get back to where it was, and this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Some will grow and develop in positive ways during your sobriety, and strengthen your bond. Others may settle into the past, making way for new connections. Some relationships you may recognise as unhealthy and realise that it’s time to move on. Accepting the reality that relationships change will help you continue on this journey with a positive outlook.
Try to Let Go
As you reconnect with people, it can be easy to get mired in all of the things you wish you’d done differently when you were living with an addiction. This can generate some strong and triggering feelings that can push you to the brink of relapse.
While it’s important to be accountable for the mistakes you have made, beating yourself up over them isn’t going to change the past, and it could very well derail your future. The best you can do, for yourself and for those you love, is commit fully to living life differently. Put your focus and energy not on what happened, but what you will do moving forward, and what kind of friend, parent, sibling or partner you’ll be from now on.
Settle In, Because This May Take a While
While it’s important to remember that not all relationships can be repaired, it’s also critical to ensure that you’re giving people the time and space they need in order to trust you again and to heal from old wounds. This process can be lengthy, and painful at times as you both reckon with what’s happened in the past. However, for a relationship that you value, the effort will be worth it. Having a good support system, whether in the form of a support group, a therapist, or another loved one, is essential during this period. Feelings of guilt, regret, anger, and sadness are common as you work through recovery and reconnecting with those you love, and it’s important to have an outlet to process these emotions.
Overcoming Addiction at The Dawn
The recovery process is a journey, and can be one with significant challenges along the way. Having a supportive community behind you to help you navigate this new path can make a world of difference as you move forward and reconnect with those you love after addiction.
Here at The Dawn Wellness Center and Rehab in Thailand, we offer a highly personalised addiction programme that seeks to meet the specific needs and personal aims of each of our clients. Located in stunning northern Thailand and staffed by an internationally-trained professional team, The Dawn is internationally accredited by ACCI.
Long-Term Rehab at The Dawn
The Dawn offers a unique long-term addiction treatment programme to help clients move through several stages of recovery with compassionate, professional guidance in a safe and supportive environment, as well as learn about any co-occurring mental health disorders that can underlie an addiction. This eight-week plus programme allows you to expand beyond the first month of recovery, where both your body and emotions are adjusting after detox, and go deeper into what’s been affected by your addiction and what you want for your life as you heal and move on.
You don’t need to chart your new course alone. Call The Dawn today to learn more about how we can help strengthen your recovery.