We form many different types of relationships throughout our life. These relationships have different dynamics and no two relationships are alike. In this article we are going to address the relationships associated with a former addict who is in the process of recovery. The right kinds of relationship with the right kind of people will determine a person’s success in recovery. It is for this reason relationships a person has formed and sustained in addiction are not the same relationships a person can have in recovery. If you used with the person you need to lose the person, no matter what the relationship was. People who have not chosen recovery for themselves will inadvertently pull you back down if you continue a relationship with them. These were opportunistic friends who were your friends because there was opportunity to use with you. Friends who don’t care about your health or well being are not friends.
This is not the same for relationships that a person had prior to addiction (i.e. parents, wife, children). These relationships, unless they are toxic, can be healed and sustained. Most addicts have had supportive family members to start who possibly became a part of the problem by unknowingly enabling the problem. In the recovery process these family members will need to recover too and learn about the recovery process. Healing these relationships takes time as trust has often been broken along the addiction path and this trust will need to be rebuilt. In recovery these relationships will hopefully be restored into the type of relationship they were meant to be. Sometimes family members engage in behaviors that may be difficult to be around during your recovery process. You will need to stand up for yourself and politely ask them to not engage in your presence . They should understand and respect you.
When a person is early in recovery they need to limit their relationships to only the people who support the recovery process. This means you must make it a priority to protect yourself from those who don’t understand recovery and might possibly drink and/or use in your presence. It is up to you to choose who to associate with in your effort to protect your recovery. Those successful in recovery are the ones who have supportive friends and family with the same goals in mind. It is important to keep up with recovery meetings for help and support as well.
BEWARE! Early recovery is not a good time to try to find a mate. It is recommended people wait at least one year. People in early recovery are learning about themselves and how to be successful in recovery. When these people try to form relationships it often fails. This is because until a person learns who they are and what they want in recovery, there is no way they can make a healthy choice on who the right person would be for a life partner. It is seen time and time again, when a recovering addict gets involved in a romantic relationship too soon they fail in their quest for sobriety. It takes a lot of time and personal reflection to learn who you are and what you want in recovery. When you throw a new relationship into the mix, you will be focusing on the other person in this relationship, rather than your recovery. When recovery takes the back seat, it will surely fail. When sobriety fails so will the relationship and then you are back to square one. The cycle will have to be repeated and recovery time gained is lost.
When we get in a hurry to rush recovery and rush our lives, it ultimately sets us back. You can’t buy back time and it’s hard to restore damage done in ourselves and those close to us. It is for this reason we need to be patient and wait.
If a person in recovery was married while engaging in addiction behavior- this takes a toll on the relationship, but there can still be hope. If the person in recovery works on themselves and dedicates their efforts to remaining sober the relationship can definitely survive. The partner will have to get help and support as well to learn how to be a supportive person. The relationship will be different because now the former addict will be more present and more honest. Sometimes this shift in dynamics is hard on the partner because they were used to life as it was, even though most likely it was unpredictable and chaotic. Together with a dedicated effort you can achieve a relationship that is better and stronger than ever before. It’s a good idea to seek support from a qualified marriage and family counselor to help you along this process of re-establishing a new healthy, loving, supportive relationship.
Children of the recovering person have been innocent bystanders throughout the addiction process. Children get confused when a parent is disconnected and focused on the problem at hand instead of on them. They may feel unimportant and ignored. They may have been emotionally, mentally and physically abused. Children too will have to recover in their own way, as the person in recovery starts to become the parent they were meant to be. Depending on the age child they may act out since this switch is new to them, they may not respect or trust it. It’s important to understand that children have feelings too and process things in their own way. Be patient, loving and encouraging. Attend to their needs, listen to their feelings. Children are resilient, eventually they will come around. Remember, children no matter what age, need to know they are important, their feelings matter and they are loved.
The most important relationship to hold onto is with your creator. God created you for a purpose and most assuredly it wasn’t for addiction. He loves you and always has. He is waiting for you to understand how important you are and wants you to live out your very important purpose. Your new found sobriety is a gift, you have another chance to live a happy productive life, free of addiction. Embrace this new life, protect it, be thankful, and give back!