Relationships in Recovery

Living with addiction not only affects the life of the addict but it also greatly affects the lives of those people living with the addicted person.  It damages the relationships you have with your loved ones, be it, parents, siblings, partner, children, close friends etc.  It can seem like the first thing to do upon entering recovery would be to begin repairing those relationships.  However, in the beginning, stages, it is a good idea to keep your relationships and recovery separate until you get to a stable, trustworthy place.

When a person enters recovery, the urge to fix all the problems they have created can be overwhelming, especially when it comes to personal relationships.  But take a moment to consider your current state and the state of these relationships.  How long did it take for you to cause damage and strife to the people you love and get to where you are now?  It likely will not take as long to mend the relationships as it did to damage them, but it will definitely take time.  

The road to addiction causes difficulty in many areas of life including personal integrity.  Your continued alcohol or substance abuse has probably caused the people around you to lose faith and trust in you.  Given time and a true and honest recovery this can be fixed, but do not expect complete trust from the get-go.

Addiction tends to cause people to do and say things that are uncharacteristic of them.  These unbidden actions and behaviors cause great rifts in personal relationships.  Most people hurt themselves when they hurt others.  Because of this, people struggling with addiction often find themselves experiencing feelings of regret, shame, and guilt.  This beginning stage of recovery is a time to get yourself together and focus on rehab.  Yes, the relationships need work too, but that will come with progress in your rehab program.  The best way to help your relationships, it to make a strong effort to get fully clean.

Relationships for Support in Recovery

Addiction is a lonely place to be.  It seems isolation is a stigma of alcohol and illicit drug addiction.  Having connections and relationships in recovery makes a large impact on the effectiveness of your program.  While you may not have a choice as to who your counselor is, you do have a choice as to whom you make a connection with  your rehabilitation support groups.  The support groups are there to allow people to realize that they are not the only one going through an addictive problem.  People are able to have common ground with their peers and learn to listen as well as speak to others on the rational ground.  Support groups allow time for personal relationships to grow and teach people when to let their guard down and let people in.  This is a good time for recovering addicts to relearn how to communicate and interact with people.  This gives them the skills they need in order to begin work on the relationships they damaged at home.

This group is designed to facilitate personal growth and relationship enhancement. In life, it is important to maintain healthy relationships with family, friends, co-workers, and partners. This group explores relationship patterns, improving communication/social skills, how to have close and rewarding relationships, and overcoming social anxiety.

Current Relationships

Now is the time to take a look at your current relationships, assess the damage done, and create a plan as to how you can mend and improve these.  This is especially important for the relationships you share with your family and at home.  These are people who you love and want to be in good standing with.  The support groups in rehab help teach communication which will dramatically help you in your quest, however, actions speak louder than words.  These people have likely seen you at your worst and haven’t forgotten.  Now you have a chance to prove that you have changed and show this through your actions.  

Not all relationships are family or loved ones.  There always seems to be a person in your life who drags you down or makes you feel bad about yourself.  Recovering addicts and their relationships need to mesh well in order for the former addict to stay clean.  So decisions have to be made as to whether certain relationships are going to be beneficial to you and your new life or detrimental to the new life you are trying to create.  Being able to rid yourself of toxic relationships is extremely important on your path to full recovery.

New Relationships in Recovery

There is a certain point of recovery when a person gets to a very stable point but is still attending meetings and support groups.  At this time in a person’s life, they may meet someone with whom they would like to build a relationship.  When dating someone in or having other relationships in recovery, there are several things which are very helpful to know.  

  1. A person in recovery may not tell you straight away that they are in recovery.  This is usually a very sensitive subject, as even though people have fully recovered, that time of their life may still be an area of regret or shame.  Some people believe it is best to come out with it in the first meeting.  Others may be shyer and wish to wait and see where the relationship goes before they disclose any information to you.
  2. They may not wish to speak about their addiction and the path it took them down.  The details of addiction are not usually very pretty and are not topics for light conversation.
  3. It helps to be supportive.  Don’t drink or do drugs around a person in or freshly out of recovery.  Don’t take them to any situation in which they would have to confront their former addiction.  Though they have been taught coping techniques and plans to handle triggers, it is best to not tempt fate, so to speak.

Other types of new relationships may include a new job.  It is often a good idea to let people around you know that you do not do drugs or drink alcohol.  In some cases, a person could be ridiculed for having gone to rehab.  Take care to choose new jobs and relationships that help with your recovery cycle, not hinder.  

Recovering addicts and relationships of any kind can work very smoothly.  However, there are a few guidelines that could help things continue to flow.

  1. Wait about 1 year to start a new relationship.  This is commonly told to recovering addicts but it is not one to be taken lightly.  While a new relationship is great fun and excitement, it takes your focus away from your main priority: staying sober or clean.
  2. Try your best to not be overcome with guilt.  It is very easy to give into feelings of shame, guilt, and regret for your time as an addict.  But these feelings just make matters worse.  They hold you in a time of life that was harmful to you instead of giving you the chance to create anew.
  3. Communicate.  Communication is the fuel that keeps relationships going.  Communicate how you feel in your relationships to keep things open and free.
  4. Have empathy for both yourself and your partner.  Being able to put yourself in another’s shoes gives insight into what things are like for that person.  It can help improve relationships by allowing you to see things from a different viewpoint.

In the end, time, patience and persistence will get you through your recovery, and you and your relationships will be functioning well again.