Loving someone with an addiction is a painful and tumultuous experience. You may have watched your spouse, child, sibling, or friend turn from a kind, happy individual, into a selfish and destructive person you no longer recognize. Addiction can cause good people to lie, steal, and say terrible things. Whether you have been a part of enabling an addicted person, walked away from them entirely, or fall somewhere in between, the trust in your relationship has most likely been severely damaged or even destroyed. If your loved one has chosen to seek treatment for their addiction and is currently in recovery, you may be wondering how to repair your relationship, or if salvaging your bond is even possible. While a large part of the work to heal old wounds will have to be done by the person in recovery, there are steps you can take to open yourself up again and learn to trust your loved one.
The first step in forgiving your loved one for their past actions is understanding the science of addiction. Addiction is a disease that requires professional treatment to overcome. It is chronic, and treatment should include a long-term plan for relapse prevention. Substance use disorders rewire the brain in a way that takes away a person’s power to choose. Your loved one is not able to quit on their own or through sheer force of will. Recovery means finding the right balance of therapy, group counseling, family support, lifestyle changes, and treatment for any co-occurring mental illnesses. By taking the time to educate yourself on addiction and the recovery process, you may begin to understand your loved one’s struggle from their perspective, and perhaps let go of some animosity.
This is not to say that your loved one should not be held accountable for their actions. Recovery means owning up to their behavior, whether they were intoxicated at the time or not, and making amends with everyone they have hurt. Your loved one will need to work through their past to fully understand the ways in which their addiction affected those around them, including you. Forgiving them does not mean they no longer need to take responsibly for the pain they have caused, it only means that you are emotionally mature enough to see the big picture. Forgiveness allows you to open yourself up to the possibility that your loved one will make better choices in the future, without the influence of substances.
The most efficient and healthy way to rebuild a relationship and reestablish trust is to seek professional help from a psychologist or counselor. Therapy can teach you how to communicate your feelings, take responsibility for your actions, practice vulnerability, and abandon enabling behavior. If your loved one is in treatment for addiction, they may have access to counseling and therapy services that conduct family sessions. A therapist that understands the complexities of addiction and the unique circumstances of yours and your loved one’s situation can act as an unbiased third party to assist in resolving conflicts and facilitating the healing process.
You may also find it beneficial to seek individualized therapy for yourself. Having a loved one with an addiction can take a serious toll on your mental health, especially if there was emotionally abusive behavior taking place. You may be struggling with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, or anger issues that need treatment. You may also need to work on any codependent tendencies you have, as well as develop productive coping strategies for stressful situations. A qualified therapist can address past trauma and help you to focus on self-care at a time when you are likely to be preoccupied with the recovery and wellbeing of your addicted friend or family member. You can’t provide healthy support or establish mutual trust until you work through your own pain and mental health obstacles.
Give it Time
Even if you have every intention of repairing your relationship with someone in recovery, building trust will take time. Your addicted loved one might have spent years displaying deceitful behavior and inflicting pain in the process, so you can’t expect to become emotionally available to them again overnight. The process of rebuilding trust in a relationship can and should be slow, and involves taking the time to learn effective communication and set healthy boundaries. You can offer an open heart and mind to your loved one in recovery while still expecting them to earn your confidence. The first realistic expectation your loved one can fulfill is to admit they have a problem and seek professional treatment. You can’t begin to work towards honesty and openness until a plan is in place for recovery, and substances are removed from the equation.
With the right help, saving and rebuilding relationships after addiction is possible. If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, now is the time to reach out for help. At Burning Tree, you will find knowledgeable and compassionate professionals that structure treatment to fit individual needs, including the identification of co-occurring disorders. Through accountability and commitment to the 12 Steps, each client will develop the tools to create a sober lifestyle and find lasting recovery. We specialize in the treatment of chronic relapsers and believe with the right support you can experience true and permanent healing. For more information, call us now at 866-287-2877