Addiction is a disease that doesn’t just affect you. It affects those you love and admire, and it can destroy the relationships that you value most. For many of those you love, the trauma of walking with you through addiction may have pushed them away or severed connections to the point that you no longer are in their life. When you’re going through rehab, and even after, it’s critical to know how to rebuild broken relationships and how to move forward in your new, sober life.
What Happens To Relationships During Addiction?
It’s inevitable. Relationships struggle and are often destroyed when you are misusing or addicted to substances. Your friends and loved ones are likely desperate to help you and feel helpless when they can’t.
Moreover, behaviors you may engage in when you’re misusing substances can gnaw at your closest relationships. You may find you’re lying to them about the amount you are drinking or using and get angry when they press or find out you’ve been lying. Or you may push boundaries in your relationships because you manipulate them to cover your resources—food, shelter, cell phone, etc. Furthermore, you could even destroy boundaries as you take money from them without their permission to support your addiction.
They watch you struggle and neglect your responsibilities, and they fear the consequences you may face as you possibly get into legal trouble.
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And while they do all of this because they love you and you’re valuable to them, there comes a point when they step back because they can’t take watching you suffer anymore. Your loved ones can’t take the heartache your addiction brings to them. For their sanity, the relationships go from strained to non-existent.
How To Rebuild Broken Relationships After Addiction
Once a relationship has been broken, you may feel like it is lost forever. The good news, though, is that doesn’t always have to be the case. When you take the steps toward your sober life, you are working on rebuilding yourself. This self-rebuild is what can lead to positive steps in the direction of rebuilding broken relationships.
It’s important to remember that the steps you’ll take to rebuild broken relationships after addiction will vary. Each relationship you have—whether friend, family, work, or community member—is different. You tried and tested different boundaries with each person. Different levels of mistrust and concern were built and toppled. That means that the steps you’ll take to rebuild broken relationships after addiction will vary too.
That said, there are some basic steps you can start on to rebuild broken relationships. These can help you work your way back to reconciliation with those you love and who love you.
Work On Making Amends
One of the essential parts of rebuilding broken relationships after addiction is realizing you probably owe friends or family an apology. You need to get in touch with those whose relationships meant something to you and face how your actions may have hurt them. This is important not just for their sake but for yours. When you are going through recovery, you’re likely to face shame and guilt. This may make you vulnerable, which could trigger the desire to continue using.
When you own up to how your actions impacted the relationship with your friend or family member, you’re acknowledging the situation. You’re also communicating that you want to repair damages as best you can. The last thing you want is to walk down the path of sobriety but feel like you can’t because you’re too embarrassed about what happened as you were using. It may be challenging to face them. But, when you see the picture from their point of view and talk about it from yours—you’re able to put everything on the table and work toward reconciliation. Thankfully, there is a lot that you can to do heal the family after addiction.
It’s Not Always Possible to Rebuild a Broken Relationship
Take note; you can’t reconcile some relationships. You may not always be able to rebuild the broken relationship, but the effort you put in will mean that you continue in your new, sober life, knowing you did what you could. It may be a bridge burned forever, but you can find peace in knowing that you can’t fix everything. This could be an experience from which you grow and fight for your sobriety even harder.
Accept That Life Is Different
While you must work to make amends, you must realize that rebuilt relationships are likely to be different. Things may never go back to the way they were before, but that’s not a terrible thing. You may find that working with those you love but have hurt leaves you both forging a new, more substantial relationship—one in which you allow each other some grace and the ability to grow together. Additionally, you may find boundaries that you previously had in relationships are different, but again, that’s not always a bad thing. These new boundaries can be good for you and your loved ones as they see them as safeguards to allow healthy, reconciled relationships to continue.
Remember, what once was is not always better. These new steps you take with your loved ones can be the strongest yet.
Don’t Push Timeframes
It’s also vital that you realize that you can’t push broken relationships when you are working to rebuild broken relationships. Your family members and friends have likely distanced themselves emotionally for their protection. It may be hard for them to see you’re really ‘committed to making a change, even if you are in a recovery program and working toward sobriety. The truth is, they’ve likely heard false promises and excuses, and they may need time to see that there is action behind your words.
But don’t let that discourage you! Strong relationships built on trust and love can take a long time to rebuild. Their acceptance isn’t in your control. Your ability to give them time and be patient in the reparation can show them how dedicated you are to rebuild that relationship. The truth of the matter is that sometimes, it’s going to take time for them to see you living your best, freest life before they can fully feel invested in a relationship with you.
Don’t Expect Unrealistic Situations
Keep realistic expectations for relationships at the front of your mind. You may be serious about moving forward in sobriety, but they still may be dealing with the hurt and pain of a scarred relationship with you. It may take time for them to receive your genuine apology, as we’ve discussed previously. Don’t expect that just because you are ready to mend a relationship, your loved ones are too.
Use Coping Strategies From Recovery
At Ocean Hills Recovery, we work to help you learn healthy communication skills. Learning to listen to your friends and loved ones actively will go a long way to rebuilding broken relationships. We help you learn how to deal with conflict that may come from those you’ve hurt. We’ll help you learn the triggers and temptations that may signal to your loved ones that there is a problem.
At Ocean Hills, you’re surrounded by supportive and compassionate professionals in an environment designed to help you heal. We want you to be in control of your sober life. Our therapies, nutritional consult, and years of experience will benefit you as you begin that new life. If you’re ready to break the chains and start rebuilding broken relationships, we’re here to help. Contact us today.
About the author:
Nicole earned her doctoral degree in Psychology with an emphasis on marriage and family therapy at California School of Professional Psychology. Her doctoral thesis was a grounded theory study exploring the role of alienation and connectedness in the life course of addiction. She specializes in treating addiction and trauma. She is certified in DBT and EMDR, two of the most highly regarded evidence-based methods in psychotherapy. Dr. Doss is a strong LGBT advocate and provides open and affirming support to her LGBT clients.
Dr. Doss’s earlier education included graduating cum laude from the University of California, Irvine in June of 2007 with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology. While there, she received honors recognition by Psi Chi and Golden Key honor societies.
Nicole has been working with alcoholics and addicts in our California drug and alcohol rehab center as an advisor and counselor for many years. She is passionate about providing quality counseling and care to her clients. Her main focus is on integrating the 12 Step and disease models of addiction with experiential therapeutic theory. She is married to Greg; they have two adorable sons together and an energetic yellow Labrador Retriever.