Mending Personal Relationships in Recovery

Mending Personal Relationships in Recovery

Personal relationships can suffer extensive damage during and after addiction. The level of trust needed to maintain any relationship is lost when an addict makes excuses for her behavior and repeatedly harms her loved ones. However, with proper treatment, those who struggle with substance abuse can find healing for their minds and bodies while they cultivate hope for a new and better future. However, for those who ride the roller coaster of addiction with their loved ones, recovery is often difficult. Not that recovery from addiction is simple – it takes a lifetime commitment to a daily journey to stay clean and sober. Furthermore, loved ones and friends do not always get the same level of treatment as the addict for the pain they have endured. Ergo, you must take each relationship that you injured as a small step in the process of healing. To heal your relationships from the pain of addiction, first understand how you hurt them, and then seek help.

Addiction: A Family Disease

The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence calls addiction a “family disease”[i]. They argue that addiction stresses families to the point of breaking, and it impacts the stability of the family unit. It also impacts the family’s unity, mental and physical health, finances and interactions. When something so powerful causes this much damage, it is easy to see why relationships may have been broken beyond repair.

For instance, the spouses of addicts may have worked overtime to cover up for their partners’ shortcomings. The addicted loved one may regularly miss work, family functions, play dates with children and school events; when he is absent, it is up to the spouse to make excuses as to why he is not there. “Working late,” “feeling bad” and “visiting a friend” become go-to responses when others ask about his absence. Furthermore, keeping children away from the intoxicated parent is also important so as not to make him angry or to cause an outburst.

Children of addicted parents learn early to take on adult responsibilities when it comes to keeping their rooms clean, helping out with chores and caring for younger siblings. Making sure the house is running smoothly is by nature an adult job, but the children of an addicted parent may believe that, the better they behave and do their jobs, the better the home will run. Unfortunately, children also tend to blame themselves for their addicted parent’s problem. This problem can lead to life-long self-esteem and self-image issues if ignored.

Additionally, being the friend of an addict can present unique challenges. Watching a friend succumb to the power of drugs can have someone feel helpless. In case the addict gets into trouble, a friend may be on call all day every day, which can take its toll on the relationship. As a result, emotional and physical problems may occur for the friend.

Along with immediate family and close friends, co-workers, extended family members and even business associates can all suffer from someone’s struggles with drugs. In short, your addition impacts every part of your sphere of influence.

The Road Back to Relationship

For the addict in rehab, learning about her addiction and the impact it has had on those around her is a big step toward healing. While under the influence of drugs or alcohol, the addict has little or no knowledge of her actions and what she is doing to those around her. In that regard, consider drug treatment as waking up from a bad dream: you are aware of what you are doing, but are powerless to change it on your own. Once you begin to recognize your drug triggers and cope with drug cravings, you can start to make better choices in all areas of your life. At this stage of recovery, the most important way to help other people is to continue progressing through treatment. Once treatment ends, commit to a support group and build relationships with accountability partners to show your family members and friends that you are committed to recovery. This process can rebuild the trust that you have so badly shaken.

If relationships are to heal, then it is just as crucial for the family of an addict to seek treatment as it for the addict. The National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence recommends support groups for family members and friends who are dealing with an addicted loved one, and some of these include the following list:

  • for families of alcoholics
  • for families of drug addicts
  • org for adult children of addicts and alcoholics

Individual and family therapy also help those who are dealing with an addicted loved one. The most important thing to remember is that it takes time to heal relationships, so a recipe for disaster is pushing those you love to be in relationship with you before they are ready. However, by rebuilding trust, asking for forgiveness and staying committed to your recovery journey, the relationships that truly matter will heal with time.

Find Help for Drug and Alcohol Addiction

If you or your loved one struggles with drug or alcohol addiction, then know that we are here for you. Call our toll-free, 24 hour helpline to speak to an admissions coordinator about available treatment options.

[i] National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. “Family Disease.” Accessed November 30, 2015.