Mending Personal Relationships in Recovery

When you are an addict, the number one relationship in your life is with that particular substance or activity. Because of this, the other relationships around you that suffer tremendously. Your loved ones become crippled with fear, anger and grief as you continue to choose unhealthy behavior despite the consequences. In the United States, more than 10% of children live in homes with alcohol problems.[1] In some cases, relationships cannot be mended. The reason for the harm to relationships overall is because trust has been broken. The good news is that when you are in recovery, you build your life from the ground up. You have a new level of clarity when you embrace sobriety and remain abstinent from drugs or addictive behavior. How can you repair the personal relationships that were damaged? The following is a summary of the key elements to consider:

Reestablishing Trust Is Essential

You have hurt this person through many different actions such as lying, manipulating and possibly even stealing from this person. You must be open, honest and clear with your recovery. Also keep in mind that trust is not the same as love or forgiveness. You can love and forgive someone without trusting. For example, it is one thing to forgive a shoplifter and completely different thing to hire this person to work unsupervised in a store. If you apply this same logic to your relationship with your family member or friend, it makes sense. Even if you have been forgiven for your mistakes, trust is not present. Your history—times that you said you weren’t drinking or doing drugs but you were—plays a role here. When you step back and see the situation from the other side, you can understand more of the situation, especially now that you are sober.

Time Is Also Needed

The other person needs time to know that the change you have made in your life is true transformation and that it is not just an act or going through the motions. How much time is needed will depend on the situation. There is no one right answer. When you have been hurt deeply by someone you care about greatly, it hurts more. It is another level of pain that has the potential to cut to the core. While you want to reestablish the relationship, know that the other individual may not be able to do that. Think of the individual’s health and well being—both physical and mental health. Addiction pushes the human body to the absolute limits, especially stress levels. Actions speak louder than words, so don’t expect big changes overnight. Healing will take time. Don’t try to do too much too fast.

Some Relationships Cannot Be Healed

Sadly, not all relationships can be restored, at least at the present time. Trust is the key essential element, and it takes a different amount of time for each person to believe that you are trustworthy and sincere. The good news is that because someone does not want to have a relationship with you right now, there is nothing to say that they will not want that relationship at some point in the future. At the same time, don’t live your life dependent on the restoration of a specific relationship. That would be unhealthy, co-dependent behavior. Just continue to move forward and mature in your recovery by continuing treatment, working hard and living a healthy life. You will see that builds a momentum in your life and good things will come as a result. As you find more balance in your life and more stability, you will see that you are making better decisions, and you will also treat others better. In many ways, you are not the same person today that you were when you were under the influence. Healing comes from the recovery process.

Accept Responsibility for Your Actions

This means not blaming stress, the actions of your spouse, your job or anything else. You are the one who chose to prioritize your addiction over everything else, so no one else is to blame. For whatever actions you have taken, admit your mistakes and clearly communicate that you accept complete responsibility.

Stay in Continual Treatment

Even though you have been to rehab, it is important to stay in treatment. This step of continually seeing a therapist and talking with others about your addiction will help you throughout the many ups and downs of life. You can talk through your emotions, and this will help you process how you feel about the fractured relationships in your life. Be smart, and do not assume that once you leave rehab that any problems you’ve had in the past go away. The National Institute of Drug Abuse states, “Treatment must address the whole person.” You need to continue treatment so you can be the best version of yourself—not just to be happy independently but also so you can be healthy in the relationships in your life.

If you have any questions living a sober life or how you can find a good therapist, please call our 24 hour, toll-free helpline and talk to one of our counselors. They will listen carefully to your situation and provide guidance to help you make the best decision for what to do about your loved one.


[1] , Alcohol Facts and Statistics

[2] Drugs, Brains and Behavior: The Science of Addiction

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