Substance abuse does not occur in a vacuum. When you abuse drugs or alcohol, you are not the only one who has to deal with the damage it causes. Your family members are also victims of your addiction, and your relationship with them may suffer.
Regardless of how much you wish that your family relationships could go back to “normal” after you have gone through alcohol and drug rehab, it is important to admit to yourself and your family that addiction causes serious damage to all your relationships. Does this mean that you cannot ever repair a damaged relationship after substance abuse treatment?
Fortunately, the answer to that question is “no.” You can do much to repair your relationship with your loved ones. Here’s how.
1) Acknowledge that damage was done to your relationship
In an attempt to bring normalcy back to a relationship with your significant other, you may think that ignoring the damage addiction has done to the relationship is best. However, just as you had to acknowledge that you have an addiction in order to heal, so too you must acknowledge that your addiction has caused harm to your family.
The American Association for Marriage and Family Therapy states: “The important point here is substance abuse by a partner causes damage to the marriage or relationship and these problems need to be treated, too. If the issues in the relationship are not treated, they can set the stage for continued conflict and, in turn, relapse to drinking or drug use. Thus, lasting recovery from substance use depends, in part, on making the relationship better. Eliminating drinking or drug use is only the starting point; once sobriety is attained, a supportive, caring relationship can be one of the strongest factors in making that sobriety last.”
2) Keep communication on an even keel
Even though your spouse and other family members may only want what is best for you in addiction recovery, they may still be trying to heal the battle wounds your addiction has caused. This means that, at times, anger and resentment can surface.
When that happens, remember the coping skills you learned in rehab. Take a deep breath, and stop to think about what an angry outburst reveals. Try to calmly acknowledge your family member’s feelings, accepting that he or she is also going through a recovery process of sorts.
If possible, find time to speak calmly and rationally about your feelings and the feelings of your family member. By acknowledging their feelings, you will be helping them to heal.
3) Consider family therapy
The individual and group therapy sessions you had in rehab likely provided you with the strength you needed to win the war against addiction. In like manner, your family may profit from therapy as well. In a structured, therapeutic environment, everyone in your household can learn the coping skills essential to recovering from the trauma addiction causes.
4) Build a new “normal”
There is no getting around the fact that addiction changes your life forever. Here’s the good news, though. Addiction recovery changes your life forever too, but in a positive way. If you can win the battle against addiction, you can build a new family dynamic – one that is healthy physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Your family can survive and even thrive as you work together to maintain sobriety. You may not ever be able to recapture what was, but you can build something better, stronger, and more enduring.
We’re Here to Help
Harris House provides support for recovering addicts and their families. Contact us to discuss how we can help you build a better family life today.