Relationships in recovery
At NewDay Counseling we counsel clients regarding relationship issues. Addiction recovery and relationships are intertwined in several ways. If the client is married, or if the client lives with parents, or if the client has any long term relationship with a significant other, truth is always a casualty. In addiction, relationships are damaged because trust is damaged. The person addicted lies, intentionally and unintentionally, to cover up bad behavior or because they can’t keep promises. The addict might be serious when she tells her spouse that her last cocaine binge is the last one, but then she starts having cravings and can’t resist the terrible urge to use cocaine, thus the spouse loses more trust, or all trust.
Communication breaks down during the insanity of addiction. Most communication is harsh and angry and only serves to deepen the divide and increase the confusion. So, in recovery, these relationship issues must be addressed to make recovery complete and solid. If the significant other is not involved in recovery, communication can suffer even when the recovering person is no longer drinking alcohol or using some other drug. Just because the drug is removed doesn’t mean the damage caused in active addiction is automatically healed. Relationships are complicated, as are our emotions, and we don’t turn off years of emotional trauma just because the drug is removed.
There are stages of addiction recovery and relationship issues — these stages can fill a book, so I’ll simply talk about the process in broad terms. Going to an Alanon meeting can help a spouse concentrate on their recovery from the trauma of addiction. Seeking marriage counseling is helpful, but this type of counseling is more effective once the addicted person is firmly in recovery. Recovery management entails dealing with all areas of life, and relationships are important to all of us. If an addicted person in early recovery doesn’t have a spouse or significant other, there’s the tendency to quickly find a romantic relationship as a way to generate excitement, but these relationships usually don’t work and end badly. The recovering person should take time to recover from addiction and gain some emotional stability before jumping into a relationship that can be emotionally tumultuous.
The key is to make sure that recovery is grounded and real before dealing intensely with relationships. There’s time to heal all wounds. The more that everyone involved understands addiction and the process of recovery the easier it will be to find the right timing to deal with relationship issues. This is from alcoholrehab.com:
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 behavior. 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.
If a relationship is too damaged to repair, the recovering person has to be prepared to deal with the loss without relapsing. In treatment, counselors look at relationship issues realistically, never setting a person up with false expectations. If, though, all involved are willing to work on relationship issues, good things can happen.