Addiction to drink or drugs doesn’t just affect the life of the person using the substance, but it also impacts the lives of everyone around them. In this sense, addiction is a family disease. The question is, how to rebuild a relationship?
From families torn asunder by crack addiction and best friends estranged because of alcoholism through to relationships wrecked by addiction to prescription painkillers, drink and drugs can damage more than just your body and mind: they can unravel even the strongest relationships, too.
When you’re caught in the throes of a serious addiction, many relationships will start unraveling.
There’s some good news, though. Learning how to rebuild a relationship, even if it seems damaged beyond repair, is something you’ll work on during your recovery. If you attend a treatment center with talk therapy and counseling, you’ll learn some important skills to help you rekindle broken bonds with your nearest and dearest.
Today, we’ll give you a solid overview of how to rebuild trust in a relationship, as well as exploring what type of relationships might need fixing in the first place.
As we’ve already mentioned, addiction is a family disease and has the capacity to create carnage if you leave it unchecked. We’ll help you to make sure that doesn’t happen.
Addiction is a Family Disease
Addiction is more common than you might imagine.
- According to the American Society of Addiction medicine, roughly 21.5 million Americans have substance use disorder
- 1.9 million Americans are addicted to prescription opioids according to the same source
- Over half a million Americans are addicted to heroin
- Among heroin users, 23% first developed an addiction to opioid painkillers
- According to the 2013 NSDUH, over 17 million Americans had alcohol use disorder or experience problems related to alcohol use
As you can see from that data, addiction is universal and impacts huge swathes of society, regardless of income and social background.
Addicts typically behave in an irrational manner out of kilter with their normal habits. This can be remarkably wearing on all those around them. This type of erratic behavior also makes it hard to predict what they will do in any given situation. They might behave markedly differently depending on whether they are sober, high, or recovering from their recent excesses.
Denial is often a central part of addiction, and you might find your loved one lying about their consumption, or even outright denying that they have a problem with drink or drugs. While this is one of the symptoms of addiction, that doesn’t make it any easier to live with an addict refusing to admit they have a problem even as their life is unraveling, and yours along with it. Don’t let your loved one use you to get resources to fuel their addiction. You won’t be doing them any favors even if it temporarily gives you an easier life.
The best thing you can do is to help your loved one get the right treatment for their addiction, and to support them with structure and love throughout their ongoing recovery.
So, before we delve down into how you can effectively rebuild relationships damaged by addiction, what sort of relationships most often break down?
What Type of Relationships Need Repairing in Recovery?
While everyone’s situation varies, here are the 4 relationships most commonly wrecked when someone is addicted to drink or drugs:
All romantic relationships need to be grounded on trust if they are to flourish. Addiction all too easily starts eroding trust once one party starts feeling let down on a regular basis.
The issue with trust being shattered is that it’s particularly difficult to restore.
If your relationship with your spouse or partner is suffering because of trust issues triggered by your addiction, be prepared for a long journey if you want to regain that trust and resume your relationship on a better, more equal footing.
If you are the injured party here, make sure you set firm ground rules so you can move forward – more on that below.
The children of parents struggling with addiction experience a number of relationship issues that need addressing as part of the recovery process.
With very young children, they may not realize anything is amiss. As they get older, though, problems become apparent and the child starts understanding that the problems stem from their parents’ addiction to drink or drugs.
Being clean and sober is key to establishing a worthwhile and honest relationship with your children. If your thought processes and emotions are clouded by addiction, you can’t be the parent you should be.
It’s normal to lean on your parents from the time you’re born. If you maintain a solid relationship with your parents, you know you can always lean on them when times are tough. The same usually applies to your grandparents, too.
While your parents might feel compelled to help you, they can also become angry if they discover they’ve been unwittingly bankrolling or otherwise enabling your addiction to drink or drugs.
On the bright side, the strength of your bonds with your parents should mean that you can put these problems behind you, and possibly even have a stronger relationship than before once you’re clear of dependence on drink or drugs.
When someone starts their road to recovery and abstinence, it’s normal for them to reexamine all their friendships, especially the less healthy ones.
When it comes to non-toxic friendships, these can be meaningfully rebuilt as part of the recovery process. It’s essential for friends to adapt to a lifestyle that no longer revolves around drink or drugs. If that’s not possible, the friendship should be left alone.
In most cases, though, you and your friend will emerge stronger than ever before.
Common Reasons for Damaged Relationships
Again, the specifics of why relationships have been derailed will differ from person to person, but the following reasons usually underpin the damage:
- Legal issues
- Fear issues
- Trust issues
Issues with the Law
If a loved one addicted to drink or drugs gets in trouble with the law, you might end up bailing them out or paying legal fees. You may even suffer complications yourself as a result of their actions.
Equally, you might be the one with an addiction to drink or drugs and accompanying legal issues.
When things get serious and issues with the law develop, it can be hard to set this aside and move forwards without constantly revisiting the old issue.
If your loved one has a history of reacting explosively and unpredictably, it’s only natural for that fear to linger deep into their recovery.
The behavioral changes that addiction brings about can easily create trust issues.
Perhaps your loved one lied to you about the amount they were drinking. Maybe they stole your possessions in order to fund their addiction. They could have gone missing for extended periods while under the influence of drink or drugs.
Trust issues are probably the most common of all reasons for relationships crumbling when one or both parties is addicted to drink or drugs.
If you feel like you’ve unknowingly enabled your loved one’s addiction, it’s natural to feel guilty about this. These feelings can interfere with your relationship.
How Addiction Affects Relationships
Not all families are affected by addiction in the same way. The coping mechanisms of the individuals concerned, the family structure, and how well family members adapt to the changing situation will all influence how relationships are impacted.
A few examples of damaging behaviors include:
- Breaking the law
- Constant negative communication
- Continually making hurtful remarks
- Engaging in violence
- Poor parenting
All of these behaviors can affect and damage relationships while making trust difficult to achieve.
How can you fight back if you find yourself in this unsavory situation, then?
10 Tips for Rebuilding Relationships in Recovery
With the following tips, we’ll be looking at how to rebuild relationships in recovery from the side of both the addict and the affected family members.
Here are 10 actionable tips if your relationships need working on:
- Reach out first
- Set reasonable expectations
- Remember that your loved one is affected by a disease
- Be ruthlessly honest
- Resolve to let go of the past
- Consider family therapy or couple therapy
- Maintain regular contact
- Start journaling
- Complete AA’s step 9
- Expect change to take time, and expect resistance
1) Reach out first
If you want to rebuild any relationship, it can be beneficial to reach out first to demonstrate this willingness.
Simply taking this crucial first step can inspire your loved one with the confidence that you’re committed to recovery.
Equally, if your loved one is struggling with addiction, help them by extending the olive branch and starting the process of mending your relationship.
2) Set reasonable expectations
If your loved one is addicted to drink or drugs and beginning the process of recovery, you should set very clear boundaries of what you will accept.
Make sure that any attempt to repair a relationship is reciprocal. If you both put in the effort, there’s no reason not to get back on track.
3) Remember that your loved one is affected by a disease
Even though it can be hard when you’re on the business end of helping a loved one with a drink or drug problem, try to remember that they’re suffering from a disease and that this disease doesn’t define them as a person.
Focus on rebuilding your relationship with the person you know them to be beneath the mask of addiction.
4) Be ruthlessly honest
Total candor is vital if you’re looking to meaningfully repair fractured relationships.
Admit to any and all mistakes and look at this as the opportunity to make a fresh start. To do that, though, you’ll need to focus fully on the next step to rebuilding relationships broken by addiction…
5) Resolve to let go of the past
If you hold on to past indiscretions and mistakes, you’ll hamper your loved one’s recovery.
It’s natural to feel aggrieved about serious transgressions, but you need to set these incidents aside as characteristic of a difficult period in life, and you need to resolve to move forwards in time rather than getting pointlessly hung up in the past.
6) Consider family therapy or couple therapy
With some dysfunctional relationships, therapy or counseling can work wonders.
An intermediary can often help if you lack the communication skills or conflict resolution skills to go this alone.
Don’t be afraid of asking for outside help when you’re struggling with an issue as complex as addiction.
7) Maintain regular contact
If you want to rebuild a relationship with someone, make the effort to stay in regular contact. You don’t need to rush things, but remain consistent if you’re committed to mend the relationship or friendship.
8) Start journaling
If you find it hard to communicate with your loved one, try writing your thoughts down in a journal to better order and understand the way you’re thinking.
You can use this as a chance to write down some things you might not yet feel ready to share with your loved one.
9) Complete AA’s step 9
The ninth step of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) involves apologizing to all those you have wronged in any way through your addiction.
Embrace this step and use it as a chance to make genuine amends at the same time as making a fresh start.
10) Expect change to take time, and expect resistance
Last but not least, remember that any worthwhile change like this will take time.
Recovery is a lifelong journey, and you have all the time in the world to slowly and patiently rebuild your relationships for the better.
Expect some resistance and difficulty along the way, but accept this as part of the natural ebbs and flow of life.
Now, not all relationships will completely recover from the damage caused by addiction. Sometimes, there’s so much deep resentment, that the friendship or relationship becomes yet another victim of addiction.
It doesn’t need to be that way, though. However serious you feel the problem might be, it’s always worth doing your utmost to repair broken relationships.
If you’re hoping to leave drink and drugs behind you but you’re struggling to get started on the road to recovery, we’re here to help you every step of the way at The District Recovery Community. Call us today at 844.287.8506 and we’ll get you back on track and help you to become another one of our addiction recovery success stories. Get in touch today!