It’s been said that addiction in any form is a lonely disease that can destroy the lives of everyone around the substance abuser. It’s no exaggeration to say that years of deception, denial, and deflection can cause seemingly-irreparable rifts between you and the people you care about the most. One of the first things that each and every person in drug or alcohol rehab wants to do when they have a period of sobriety under their belt is to start to fix the damage their addicted, dysfunctional behaviors did to their closest relationships. They desire to make “direct amends” to the people they have harmed, in accordance with the Ninth Step. It’s not going to be easy, because sometimes there are years of pain and built-up anger and resentment. Here are a few things to consider when you are trying to rebuild or repair your personal relationships during recovery:
Tip #1 – Learn to Forgive Yourself
If you want your friends and family members to fully accept the “new” you and take you as you are, you first must release any lingering resentment or anger at yourself that you may be carrying around. Why should they forgive you if you are unable to save forgive yourself?
Tip #2 –Move Past the Past
Be entirely ready to move forward, instead of looking backwards. It is possible to acknowledge your past mistakes, without letting them control your life today.
Tip #3 – Back up the Words of Your Apology
Like most addicts, you undoubtedly – and insincerely – said “I’m sorry” every time your addicted behaviors hurt someone or let them down. After a while, your apology didn’t mean much. Today, show that you have truly changed by backing up your words with some kind of concrete action.
Tip #4 – Respect Their Feelings
A person doesn’t have to accept your apology just because you’ve given it. If and when they decide to forgive you, it will be when they are ready, not when you are.
Tip #5 – Learn to Listen
Stop trying to justify, rationalize, or explain your actions. Instead, learn to listen – actively – to what your loved ones are trying to say. If you actually listen, your friends and family will tell you exactly what you need to know about how to repair the broken relationship.
Tip #6 – Be Tolerant
Just because you see things a certain way doesn’t mean that yours is the only viewpoint or that other people share it. Other people have their own ideas about right and wrong. Learn to respect and celebrate your differences.
Tip #7 – Accept What Cannot Be Repaired
No matter how initially resistant they may seem, most of your loved ones will eventually come around and accept that you have truly changed. They WANT to believe you. They WANT to see you sober, successful, and sincere. But for others, there’s just too much resentment, anger, and pain for them to welcome another attempt at reconciliation. The Ninth Step of recovery talks about “making direct amends”, except where those attempts will harm someone else. If you try to force your way back into someone else’s life, you will only cause them more pain. It is better to accept the painful reality and move on. Moving forward, you can even take their unwillingness to reconcile as a reason to carefully watch your words and deeds from now on.
Tip #8 – You Deserve to Be Happy, too
Be humble, but do not abase yourself or jeopardize your hard-won sobriety in an attempt to repair a broken relationship. That only sets the stage for renewed dysfunction. Make a sincere, humble effort that demonstrates how much you value the relationship, but remember that YOU also have value. Addiction is characterized by dysfunction, while recovery is about making the best of your current situation. For the most part, your sincere efforts at reconciliation will eventually be welcomed by most of your loved ones. But whenever you are denied, remember to practice acceptance – their forgiveness is beyond your control. Learn from your experience and be a better person moving forward.