Lifeline Connections

Reconciling Relationships after Drug Addiction

Valentine’s Day is almost upon us. Often, we don’t think about what Valentine’s Day can be like for someone in drug addiction recovery. It can be difficult for those in recovery, as the day can be a reminder of the damage that addiction has wrought on their personal relationships. However, Valentine’s Day can be a good time to reconnect with loved ones and possibly find reconciliation in those relationships that have been damaged by addiction.

Drug addiction and recovery can be very hard for the person struggling with addiction, but also for their loved ones. Under the influence of drugs, normally compassionate and honest people might find themselves acting in ways they never had expected and hurting the people they love. Repairing those relationships may be difficult, but not impossible. Personal relationships and emotional support play a big role in successful recovery, so though it might be hard to face the mistakes of the past, it shouldn’t hinder the desire to move forward.

For those in recovery, take the first step this Valentine’s Day to nurture your personal relationships and reach out to loved ones. Write a letter thanking your sponsor, giver your mom a phone call, or send a Valentine’s Day card to a friend. It doesn’t have to be elaborate or expensive, just a gesture showing that you care. If the relationship is considerably damaged and/or in a rough patch, then take some time to reflect.  Drug addiction can cause the user to sometimes act self-involved and forget the needs and boundaries of others. Is your loved one’s hesitancy to reconnect due to having been hurt by your actions under the influence? If so, reflect on how they might be feeling and their point of view regarding you reaching out to them. Be empathetic. Let them know that you understand where they are coming from and their hesitation. Apologize for any hurtful actions.

If there is still hesitation, then give it some space. Sometimes, emotional wounds can be hard to forgive and may cause feelings of anger, doubt, and fear of being hurt again. Try to not take it too personally, though it may be hard when others enforce distance. Sometimes, loved ones that have been hurt by addiction just need to know that their boundaries are being respected and that they also have some control in moving the relationship forward at their pace, as addiction can cause everyone involved to feel out of control. Express your apologies and desires to reconnect, then step back. Don’t lose hope; let them know you are still there but are respecting their boundaries. Most importantly, don’t get discouraged if reconciliation doesn’t happen immediately or if there is no “Hallmark moment.”

However, if they express no desire to reconnect and aggressively attack your recovery process, perpetually using your gestures of reconciliation as a way to scathingly criticize you and put you and your ability to stay sober down, then consider whether you should move forward. After drug addiction, it is normal for loved ones to feel angry and hurt. However, past addiction does not validate emotional abuse and toxic behavior from others. Healthy relationships and support are fundamental for recovery, but toxic relationships can potentially sabotage the process. Know when to reach out, when to give space, and when to let go.

For those who are dealing with a loved one in recovery trying to reconcile, try to be open and supportive. Addiction can be incredibly painful for loved ones to witness. Sometimes, those wounds might feel so deep, that it feels like you can never forgive. However, your loved one in recovery is trying to make amends for their addiction, and the actions they may have taken under the influence of drugs are not going to be same as the ones they make sober.  It may be difficult, and you may be feeling hesitant or skeptical. This is normal, but try not to use the attempts to reconcile as an outlet to perpetually condemn past actions and remind them of failures.  This will only continue to damage the relationship, and further instill negative feelings within both of you. If you are struggling with your feelings of hurt and anger, seeking mental health services and talking with a therapist can greatly help.

Sometimes, despite both parties desiring to move forward, it may be difficult to communicate in a way that is effective or healthy. Choosing to receive mental health services during the process can prove very helpful. When you talk to someone in mental health services, your therapist will not only ensure you are maintaining good mental health, but will also provide insight on how to mend the relationship and make your time together more rewarding. It might even prove beneficial for both parties to seek out mental health services together such as family therapy.

So for this Valentine’s Day, make reconnecting with your loved ones a priority. Reach out, don’t be discouraged, and be empathetic toward each other. Relationships, especially reconciliation, can be difficult under any circumstances, but especially after addiction. If you are struggling with the reconciliation process or wanting professional insight, don’t be afraid to seek out mental health services. In Portland, OR, receiving mental health services, like talking to a family therapist, will aid the process and help you reconnect relationships marred by addiction.

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