The Destruction Caused by Addiction
Escaping an addiction is a wonderful achievement, but it does not mean that everything is going to be perfect right away.
It can take a long time to put right the destruction wrought during the years of substance abuse. The hardest challenge can be rebuilding relationships. It may take some time to regain trust and respect of people who have been hurt. There may even be relationships that are unsalvageable. Not everyone will be ready to forgive and forget. The threat of losing a relationship is a common reason for why people get help for their addiction. Just giving up the alcohol or drugs alone may not be enough to repair the damage.
Realistic Expectations and Rebuilding Relationships in Recovery
When people leave rehab they usually feel proud and positive about the future. They have just put a lot of effort into getting their life back on track and are looking forward to the rewards of this. When they return home they may expected to be greeted like the conquering hero. The reality is that many complain that the response they received was not quite as effusive as they had been expecting. People at home may have congratulated the newly sober person warmly on their achievement, but there might also have been a sense of wariness. There may even have been individuals who did not seem happy to see returner at all.
Finding out that there may be a great deal of work needed to rebuild relationships can come as a disappointment to those new to recovery. They may even feel a great deal of resentment because of it. After all, they are now trying their best but family and friends do not seem to appreciate this. Such negative thinking may be used as an excuse to relapse and return to their former destructive behaviour. They will usually try to blame their loved ones for this development.
It is vital that people who are new to recovery have realistic expectations about their relationships. Years of hurt and disappointment cannot be put right overnight. The newly sober person has to work to regain any lost trust. The best way they can do this is by staying sober and building a good life in recovery. They need to accept that they have caused pain and be willing to give these people the space and time to heal.
Living with an alcoholic or drug addict can be highly stressful. Some people adapt to this by becoming co-dependent. Their life now revolves around the substance abusing partner and their own personal needs take second place. They even begin to lose their own sense of identity. If their partner manages to get sober it can mean a major upheaval in their life. They have to readjust to the new situation and this can be difficult. It can take a long time before a more healthy relationship develops. In a lot of instances they couple may require outside help in the form of counselling.
How to Rebuild Relationships in Recovery
There are things that people can do to help rebuild their relationships in recovery including:
- Apologizing for any hurt caused and giving the other person the opportunity to fully express how they feel.
- Action is always going to impress more than words. The individual needs to put effort into their recovery to show that they really have changed.
- It is important to understand that other people do not have a duty to forgive. They may only do so if they feel such forgiveness has been earned.
- Those people who are practicing the twelve step program are asked to make amends to people have been hurt as part of step 9. Trying to make amends can help to heal the pain caused, but it should never be done in the hope of receiving anything.
- Letting go of the past is an important aspect of recovery from addiction. If the individual is full of resentment over the past actions of other people then it is unreasonable that they should expect a clean slate over their own wrongdoings.
- Patience is vital for anyone hoping to rebuild relationships. Expecting too much too soon will always lead to disappointment.
Accepting That Some Relationships Cannot Be Saved
There may be some relationships that will never be fully repaired. It is not possible to force other people forgive and forget. All that can be done is to respect the other person’s feelings and accept their decision. This can be difficult, but there really is no other choice. Any further attempts to rekindle the relationship could potentially cause more damage. The only thing to be done is to back off. Maybe one day this individual will feel ready to rebuild this relationship again.
At Hope Trust, the counsellors help clients and their families rebuild relationships. Moreover, they help identify and restore healthy boundaries so that there is balance again within the family.