Mending Personal Relationships in Recovery

Mending Personal Relationships in Recovery

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “Addiction treatment must help the individual stop using drugs, maintain a drug-free lifestyle, and achieve productive functioning in the family, at work, and in society.”1 This means that for a recovery treatment to become successful, it must address the relationships of the recovered addict.

Yes, addiction changes the behaviors of the addict on nearly every level. In a sense, the addict becomes a different person. Addiction causes a person to lose interest in the affectionate bonds of friendship or love (at least to a certain degree). Often, addiction causes a person to lose interest in the activities they used to enjoy doing with friends. How can one go about bringing relationships back to make life more worth living?

Humans are uniquely tuned, sensitive creatures and need to be treated as such. Even those who seem to be able to take it all—the thicker skinned, as we might say—have deep emotional responses running inside of them that they may not even be aware of. So keep this in mind as you go back to your relationships after recovery and do not expect everyone to forgive you immediately.

Your friends and loved ones care about you and may feel wounded by your behavior and the way it harmed the relationships you had with them. It is likely that they grieved the loss of that relationship, and it is possible that they could want it back, causing them emotional vulnerability. Though many relationships will need to be re-established in unique ways to account for the special circumstances, personalities, and emotional characters involved, each relationship can benefit from remembering that the other person had deep care and concern for you and may be afraid of getting hurt again.

A Word of Caution – When Not to Pursue Relationship Recovery

Not all relationships should be restored after recovery. It is proven that failure to change certain aspects of social life after rehabilitation treatment will very likely lead to relapse. If you have relationships that involve drug use or criminal activity, or friends who encourage you to return to your former ways through even indirect pressure, sever these ties as completely as you can. Look to cultivate new relationships, perhaps even with persons outside your own age group or immediate circle to gain new perspective on life.1

Practical Steps for Different Relationship Dynamics

Romantic relationships include a degree of intimacy. As this is based on trust, it should take time to re-establish this aspect of the relationship. A healthy intimacy is based on caring about the other person’s point of view, and not taking advantage of him or her. So, be patient. Cultivate appreciation for the other person with whom you are involved romantically, and show him in regular and simple ways that you are becoming more dependable.

This will by no means be a quality that you can develop overnight! You cannot become trustworthy all of a sudden, so do not expect one who loves you to trust you immediately. Your loved ones may be skeptical of all claims that you are healed. Give them time to get to know you and trust you again.

Honesty is key in adult relationships. Especially if you are a young adult recovering from an addiction and now facing the pressure of having your parents involved in your life after recovery, make special attempts to avoid telling even the smallest lie. Dishonesty leads to more dishonesty. Even white lies will weaken the trust. Develop the skill of accepting responsibility when things go wrong. In time, this will show through to be your true character. When people see that they can really trust you, you will sense their approval, which will help you grow into an adult who is capable of taking on the anxieties of life without becoming overcome by them or returning to relapse for support.

Parents who have hurt their families by their addiction are encouraged to spend an increased amount of time with their children. Children are best reassured in this way, not by words. Children easily recognize hypocrisy, and can easily become confused and untrusting when they see a double standard. So do your best to live up to what you say. There is no need to make grand promises of how you would like to make up for anything that you have done wrong, simply, let your yes mean yes from here on out. A willingness to apologize will show your children you love them and they can really count on you, not as a perfect person, but as their amazing parent.2

Bring Empathy and Love into Your Relationships

Remember that the friends, coworkers, and family members around you did not go to rehab as you did. Try to apply the principles listed as the H.E.A.L. method. Hear, Empathize, Act, and Love.3 Be willing to listen to loved ones without being defensive. Do not focus on past hurts or feelings of abandonment. Instead, focus on moving forward and creating a healthy relationship.

Empathize with your loved ones’ feelings by trying to see things from their perspective. Act by doing small things that show them that you are still involved, perhaps by small acts of kindness or service.

Finally, love. Remember to look for and focus on anything that drew you into a healthy relationship in the first place. As you move away from your addiction and meditate on developing love for what really matters, you will likely find many of these suggestions flowing somewhat naturally to you without even having to be told.

Find the Help You Need to Heal

Multidimensional family therapy is one form of treatment that is worth considering for some families in need of professional counseling. Social rehabilitation facilities may help.4 If you believe that your family has an addiction concern, do not wait to restore the love and trust that flourish in the security of an addiction free home. Call our toll-free helpline 24 hours a day to talk with an admissions coordinator about your concerns and find the help you need to heal.


1 http://www.drugabuse.gov/publications/drugfacts/treatment-approaches-drug-addiction . Retrieved 11/24/2015.

2 http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK64269/. Retrieved 11/24/2015.

3 https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-mindful-self-express/201304/four-steps-relationship-repair-the-h-e-l-technique. Retrieved 11/24/2015.

http://ccld.ca.gov/PG552.htm. Retrieved 11/24/2015.