Recovering from addiction and reclaiming your life is an amazing achievement. But, the work doesn’t end when you graduate from rehab or a 12-step program. Part of maintaining recovery is rebuilding relationships and developing new connections to foster an environment for continued growth and endless gratitude.
During active addiction relationships can suffer severe damage. Addicts will often lie to protect their addiction, failing to follow through on promises, forgetting their commitments and deceiving those they love most. The anger and resentment that forms from family, friends or co-workers, during addiction can seem impossible to overcome once recovery is accomplished. But again, recovery may have also seemed impossible. It wasn’t. You did it.
You can rebuild trust in your relationships. With time and effort, you can reconnect with your loved ones and heal the wounds that formed prior to your recovery. Below are some guidelines to remember including actionable tips to help you strengthen your relationships and rebuild trust with those that you love.
It Will Take Patience and Time
Especially in early recovery, when sobriety is the primary focus your friends, family and/or significant other may feel neglected. This cannot be farther from the truth. The self-involvement necessary for successful recovery is actually an act of love for all those in your life and more importantly for yourself.
Involving those you hold dearest in your recovery by being honest with your feelings and where you’re at helps them feel like a part of the process. By being patient with yourself and with those in your life, you are acknowledging the hurt that has been caused and giving all those involved the necessary time to forgive and move on. It takes time to rebuild trust and it takes time for others to forgive past indiscretions. Know this and respect this.
Honesty Builds Trust
Be honest and establish open lines of communication that allow you to reconnect with those in your life. That means upholding commitments and keeping promises. If you are going to be home late from work, call those who may worry and reassure them. By reclaiming your story and following through on your responsibilities, your actions speak for themselves. Actions always speak louder than words. When you are actively working your recovery and engaging in positive behaviours, your loved ones will see this and your relationships can begin to heal and grow, just as you have and are continuing to do.
Accepting responsibility for when you’ve hurt someone is the first step in working towards repairing and rebuilding relationships. Being accountable for the things you said or did as part of your addiction, reflects acceptance. And while you may not be absolved for the wrongs that were done, by acknowledging them and accepting your part in them you can begin to work towards repairing them.
Forgive Yourself and Ask for Forgiveness
As hard as it may seem, you need to find a way to forgive yourself first, and then allow others the opportunity to forgive you. Some people in your life may find they’re not able to let past transgressions go, and that’s something you cannot change. But you have the power to unburden yourself of the guilt, shame and regret you have over your past deeds by forgiving yourself.
Learn to listen
Rebuilding trust is a process that starts with acknowledging the betrayals caused during active addiction, and most important, making every effort to understand the impact of those betrayals on those you love. One way to do this is by actively listening and being engaged in conversations. This goes beyond simply nodding your head and uttering an occasional ‘ahem’ to indicate you’ve heard what has been said. You must really hear what someone is saying – without being defensive — and then ask questions to show that you were truly listening.
By being present and active in your relationships you are showing your loved ones that you want to connect with them. While using, chances are you were not involved in the daily lives of those you loved. Now you have the opportunity to be there and demonstrate to your loved ones that you want to be a part of their lives and have them be a part of yours fully.
Write it down
After months or even years of emotional pain, frustration and rage, as well as lying and hiding, it can be very difficult to switch gears and become open and communicative overnight. If talking about tough issues is too hard at first, write it down in a letter. Once you have begun communicating through letters for a while, it should become easier to have face-to-face discussions. The point is to freely express and share your feelings, to open the door for healing and true communication.
Support groups allow you the opportunity to hear from others who have experienced what you have. If you aren’t ready to speak, that’s okay. These support networks let you simply listen to others stories that oftentimes, can be similar to your own. That connection is comforting and the tools and techniques people have used may speak to you. You are not alone. You can learn from others what they have experienced and how they have rebuilt trust in their relationships and you can utilize that knowledge for your own recovery and for your own relationships.