How to Have a Relationship after Addiction Recovery

Posted in: Recovery

January 15, 2015

A couple holding hands looking at a sunset

When a person completes an addiction rehabilitation program, he will likely realize that many aspects of his life have changed. He might need to find a new job, new hobbies, and new locations to spend his time. The biggest change he might face in life after rehabilitation, though, is in his relationships with loved ones. Because addictions can make a person treat his loved ones poorly, many people in recovery are unsure of how to restore damaged relationships. It’s therefore important to approach post-rehabilitation relationships with extreme care.

In 2012, the National Survey on Drug Use and Health found that 23.1 million Americans aged 12 and older were struggling with a drug or alcohol use problem that needed professional treatment. But out of these millions of people, only 4 million received some form of treatment, and only 2.5 million received treatment at a specialty facility. Getting help with a drug or alcohol problem is an important first step for a person to take to regain control of his life, yet it’s only the beginning of the recovery process. Along with avoiding substance abuse and developing a healthy lifestyle, the person will also have to work on his relationships with the people around him.

Responses to Addiction Rehabilitation and Recovery

Since every person responds differently to substance abuse, addiction rehabilitation, and recovery, individuals may find that each of his loved ones act in unexpected and confusing ways.

People tend to respond to the recovery process in one or more of the following ways:

  • Anger: the loved one is upset with the ways that the addiction negatively affected the person and the people around him, and has a difficult time accepting that the person is truly trying to fix these problems.
  • Denial: this occurs to many friends and family members who abused the substance along with the person, or who enabled him to abuse it.
  • Fear: for those loved ones who were physically, emotionally, or psychologically harmed by the person’s addiction, fear is a common response, as they might be afraid that the person’s recovery is temporary, and that the addiction and its accompanying behaviors will return.
  • Happiness: even if a person’s loved ones feel some of the things listed above, most of them will also be relieved and happy to hear that the person is trying to live a substance-free life.

Keys to Restoring Damaged Relationships

In order to restore damaged relationships with loved ones, it’s important for both people in the relationship to be patient. Healing relationships takes time, and is not a simple and straightforward process. Drew W. Edwards, ED.D., MS explains that the successful rebuilding of a relationship requires two necessary components:

  • Trust: the person in recovery has to change his behavior to show that he is not continuing his former negative habits, and the loved one has to learn how to trust the person again; this is often a very slow process that requires a lot of work from both people.
  • Forgiveness: the loved one will have to figure out how to forgive the person who hurt him in the past, and to move on from the negative past experiences in order to have positive new experiences.

Where to Find More Information about Restoring Relationships after Addiction

Restoring relationships that have been broken by substance addiction is one of the biggest challenges a person faces when beginning the recovery process. Not everyone is able to deal with the many complex emotions and struggles that occur with learning how to build trust and forgiveness into a relationship. For those that are, though, their payoff can be a deeper and more mature relationship with their loved one. If you or someone you care about is looking to explore treatment options, give us a call at 615-490-9376.

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