As recovering addicts, one of the most important elements of the work we do to recover is rebuilding the relationships that may have sustained damage during the course of our addictions. We may have separated ourselves from the people in our lives who were trying to intervene and convince us to get help for our addictions and mental illnesses. Our loved ones may have chosen to separate themselves from us because the stress and turmoil of watching us self-destruct became unbearable for them. They may have given us an ultimatum, forcing us to choose between them and our drugs of choice. When we’re in the midst of our addictive cycles, we usually choose the drugs. We make the choice to maintain the lifestyles that support our addictions, and after awhile, the people in our lives simply can’t take it anymore. They’ve been subjected to our abusiveness, control and dishonesty. We’ve been unkind, volatile and manipulative. Oftentimes our partners, friends and family members are addicts themselves, causing us to become entrenched in cycles of enabling and codependence that can make our addictive patterns worse for both for us. When we are ready to do the work to recover, there are some important things we can keep in mind to help us rebuild the important relationships in our lives.
One thing we can remind ourselves is that there will inevitably come a time when we have to exhibit humility in our lives and our relationships. When we’ve made mistakes, we need to humble ourselves to be able to make amends to the people we’ve wronged. We need to swallow our pride, because it is in our humility that we open ourselves to growth and learning. We stand to learn so much when we are open to expanding ourselves and transcending all of the limitations and constricting expectations we had for ourselves. For example, we may have clung tightly to the limiting belief that we couldn’t humble ourselves enough to apologize to the people we’ve hurt, that it would be too embarrassing and demeaning, that we were too proud to degrade ourselves in that way.
The more we learn, the more we see that opening our hearts allows us to move through our difficult experiences with more grace and ease. We’re more likely to come to peaceful resolutions with the people in our lives. We’re better able to see the big picture and move past the superficial limitations holding us back and preventing us from seeing eye to eye. We’re better able to resolve conflicts because we’re focused on the solution rather on than the problem. Humility and openheartedness are key ingredients in rebuilding relationships and being able to make amends to the people we’ve hurt. Very often our pride made us defensive, quick to react in anger, or unable to accept criticism. We felt ashamed of ourselves, we were afraid of being judged and rejected, and we felt deeply insecure, but we didn’t have the words to describe our emotions. We hadn’t developed healthy coping skills for managing our anger, for handling our thoughts, feelings and actions, and we therefore weren’t able to handle our relationships in healthy ways.
Another thing we have to remember is the importance of self-forgiveness. As much as we want our loved ones to forgive us and allow us to make amends to them, we also have to give ourselves our own forgiveness. Without it, we’ll constantly be inundating ourselves with excessive shame, remorse and regret, all of which are wasteful emotions that are a misuse of the energy we could be applying towards healing and forward progress. When we forgive ourselves, we tell ourselves that no mistake or wrongdoing is worth hating or rejecting ourselves. We deserve unconditional love. We are worthy of our own acceptance. Self-rejection and being unable to forgive ourselves go hand in hand. If we can’t learn to love ourselves as we are, including not despite our mistakes and flaws, we will always be susceptible to the self-destructive tendencies that form our addictions. We can’t hope to have healthy relationships until we have healed our relationship with ourselves.
When rebuilding our relationships, it’s so important to have patience with ourselves. We can’t expect the people we’ve hurt to forgive us overnight, when there are years of layers of accumulated pain to heal from. We also can’t expect ourselves to forgive other people immediately, especially because we often haven’t even begun to do the work to resolve our issues with them. We have to remember to be patient with each other and with ourselves. Being impatient, demanding certain outcomes, or having specific expectations will only put more pressure on a situation that is already extremely difficult as it is. We’re putting even more pressure on each of us and on the relationship, and when our relationships are already strained and vulnerable from years of conflict, we don’t want to create more issues to have to unpack and examine. When we aren’t committed to being patient, we’re often reactive, dismissive, and quick to resort to anger needlessly. We’re less likely to focus on the big picture, on solving the problem together. We’re more focused on the negative, and rather than work towards a resolution, we dwell on the issue, giving it more toxic energy and preventing it from being healed.
Rebuilding our relationships in recovery will be some of the hardest work we do as we’re healing, but the reward is renewed partnerships that are healthier and happier than ever, and we deserve that.
Riverside Recovery is committed to helping you get back the life you love. Our treatment programs include multiple forms of therapy, family workshops and mindfulness-based relapse prevention education. Call (800) 871-5440 for more information.