Today, we will be discussing strategies for repairing relationships that have been damaged by addiction.
Addiction often causes people to prioritise their drug use above all else, including important personal commitments and relationships. This can lead to neglecting our responsibilities, becoming unreliable, and causing harm to those around us.
Additionally, drug use can affect our behaviour and mental state, leading to unpredictable and erratic actions. This can cause strain in our relationships and make it difficult for those close to us to trust us or feel safe around us.
It will take time to turn things around if this has been a cycle or pattern of behaviour over many years and in some cases the damage may be irreparable.
I once ran a father’s group. It was by request for a group of men that were in residential treatment. It was a 6-week (one evening a week) group that was what I’d call, experiential (we didn’t have a set curriculum).
The format was:
• We would ‘check in.’
• Talk about any ‘live’ issues or current family developments and/or tensions including any tensions linked to treatment.
• The men would get and give feedback / learning from each other.
• We’d then do an exercise of some sort based on a particular theme often expressed as a story or an object, e.g., I’d tell the story, or we’d look at the object then we would discuss it and relate it back to the men’s recovery and their role as fathers.
One exercise that really had impact in the group was when I asked the men (between groups) to write a letter to themselves from their children. I made it clear that the letters would stay in their possession, and they would have the option to read it out to the group the following week. The fathers had to imagine themselves as their own children and imagine what the child would say to their dad about the impact of their addiction and resulting behaviour on them as a child or young person. It was a moving and impactful exercise that gave the fathers additional awareness that they were able to get help processing in their formal, regular counselling sessions.
While there are no quick fixes, the following are some strategies that individuals in recovery can use to repair and rebuild relationships:
1. Apologise and take responsibility:
One of the first steps towards repairing relationships is acknowledging the harm that was caused and taking responsibility for our actions. There may be amends to be made but in the first instance it’s important to be sincere and be willing to find ways to make amends.
2. Communicate openly and honestly:
Communication is key to building trust and repairing damaged relationships. Individuals in recovery should strive to communicate openly and honestly with their loved ones, being transparent about their thoughts, feelings, and actions.
3. Set healthy boundaries:
It is important to establish healthy boundaries in relationships, particularly with those who may have enabled or supported addictive behaviour in the past. This may involve setting limits on communication or avoiding triggering situations.
4. Show consistent progress:
One of the best ways to rebuild trust is by demonstrating consistent progress in recovery. This might involve attending support groups, working with a therapist or counsellor, and staying committed to sobriety.
5. Practice forgiveness:
Forgiveness can be a powerful tool in repairing relationships. It is important to acknowledge the pain that has been caused, but also to let go of resentment and bitterness in order to move forward.
6. Seek professional help:
Repairing damaged relationships can be a challenging and emotional process. It may be helpful to seek the guidance of a therapist or counsellor who can provide support and guidance throughout the process.
Remember, repairing relationships takes time and effort, but it is a critical part of the recovery process because we are built for connection and thrive in relationship to others.