One of our greatest challenges in recovery is returning to our former lives and reintegrating back into the relationships we’ve left behind. It can be incredibly difficult to come to terms with all of the changes we’ve made in our own lives and reconcile those changes with the relationships in our lives. Some of our loved ones may not have been supportive of our recovery efforts, particularly if they themselves are addicts and not yet in recovery. Others may have wanted to support us but were unknowingly enabling our destructive patterns and unconsciously holding us back. Part of our recovery is figuring out how we will proceed with the positive changes we’ve made while rebuilding the relationships that are important to us.
Some of the relationships we left behind while we were in treatment are ones we don’t feel are healthy for us. They don’t support our sobriety or our mental health. We might feel tempted to stay in these relationships out of loyalty or a sense of obligation, even though we know they aren’t good for us. They might be filled with toxicity, negativity, or even abuse, but we feel unable to let them go. We might feel an allegiance to this person because of how long the relationship has lasted, or because they’ve been a good friend to us in the past. The challenge is to listen to our instincts about the relationship and follow them, no matter how difficult that might be. Separating ourselves from these relationships might feel like an unkind thing to do, or it might feel excessive or unnecessary, but the more we can follow our intuition, the healthier our choices will be.
When someone enables our addictive patterns, we want to create as much distance from them as we can. Our sobriety has to be our first priority. We might have a friend who tries to convince us that we don’t have a problem, that we’re not actually an addict, or that we can quit later. We might have a family member who brings so much stress and turmoil into our lives that we feel tempted to return to our drug of choice every time we interact with them. We might have a loved one who we feel contributes to our depression and anxiety. Whatever the situation, learn to listen to your instincts. Your health and well-being have to be most important.
Other relationships might need to be modified if we’re going to be able to keep them in our lives. We might have to change how we interact with them, how much space we give ourselves, and what kind of boundaries we establish with them. We might be close to other addicts who are in recovery but who push our buttons or trigger us in some way, creating undue stress for us when we’re trying our hardest to surround ourselves with peace. We might have friends or family members who try to convince us we can drink or use in moderation, because that is the approach they are taking with their own recovery. These might be the same people who enabled us when we were using, who lied and covered for us, who helped us score drugs or committed crimes with us. We might see the value in the relationship, especially if we are close to them and they too are in recovery, but we will need to be very honest with ourselves and work to be diligent about the boundaries we set. We will want to be clear with them about what our needs and expectations are, and we can’t be afraid to distance ourselves if that is what our recovery requires.
We’ll want to give more time and energy to the relationships that we feel are beneficial to us, the ones that are fully supportive of our recovery efforts and that don’t undermine them in any way, the people we trust and with whom we feel we can entirely be ourselves. These relationships will be part of the foundation of our recovery, people we can lean on for motivation, encouragement and inspiration. Some of these people will be in recovery themselves, and we’ll be able to learn a great deal from them, from their stories and their experiences. These are the people we want to prioritize when we’re reintegrating back into our relationships while in recovery.
This can be a difficult process of taking inventory of our relationships and deciding which ones are healthy for us and which aren’t. There can be a grieving period involved, where we experience all of the sadness and grief of losing loved ones, even if it was our choice to let them go. We can feel bad about causing them pain. We can be filled with regret. We can feel we’ve let them down, particularly if we’ve stayed close out of a sense of obligation to them. We have to remind ourselves that this reintegration process is not going to be easy, and that we have to put our well-being first at all times if we’re going to be successful in our recovery. We can try to be patient with ourselves as we grieve and let go of people that were important to us. We can try to be as compassionate and forgiving with ourselves as we possibly can, reminding ourselves just how difficult this process is and affirming to ourselves that we’re doing the right thing by prioritizing ourselves. We can also enlist the support of a therapist or mentor to help us navigate this tough reintegration process.
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.