If you’ve ever talked to someone who is just getting sober, or you yourself are sober, then you know how important the rebuilding of relationships can be. It seems to be the first thing on most people’s minds when they sober up, because the reality of the things that they have done sets in and they are awash with guilt. I know that this was the case for me when I was first getting sober. All of a sudden I was left without my coping mechanisms, in a treatment center far from home, and all I could think about was how I am ever going to make things right.
The effect that addiction can have on relationships is profound. It is a disease that causes a fundamental personality shift in the person afflicted, which results in all sorts of atypical actions. A person who may have been the kindest and most honest person before the onset of their addiction can become a hardened liar. Many times the addict is forced to steal from the people closest to them and all of these actions put a tremendous strain on relationships, sometimes even breaking them completely. Rebuilding the relationship after addiction takes time you have to reestablish trust.
It is difficult because the people closest to the addict usually do not how to deal with these things, as I don’t believe anyone is truly equipped to handle such situations. They are faced with the impossible dilemma of attempting to reconcile the person that they knew with the person who now stands before them. Without actually suffering from addiction and then getting sober, it is very challenging to be able to grasp the fact that many of the actions that the addict takes during their active addiction are not them. So rightfully so many people closest to us get very hurt from our actions and rebuilding the trust in these relationships can be a timely endeavor.
That being said, it is not impossible to regain the trust of loved ones and rebuild your relationships with them. In fact in my own experience I have actually been able to build better relationships with my loved ones. Sobriety in a sense is a miracle and the things that can occur once a person gets sober can be miraculous. If you are just getting sober and are worried about the period of reconstruction ahead, remember to take it a step at time and hopefully some of the suggestions below will help you in your journey to come.
Four Things to Remember When Rebuilding Relationships
The 9th step is 9 steps in for a reason
I am personally someone who wants everything immediately, so when I got sober I wanted my parents to no longer be mad at me and I wanted my relationship with my children to be completely fixed. This however was not the way that things panned out and I was lucky enough to be told early on that amends are not made until the 9th step for a reason. The urge to rush to the people that we have hurt 10 days into sobriety and attempt to make amends can be overwhelmingly strong, but if amends are made prematurely they can actually have an adverse effect. I found that that it was important for me to wait for the 9th step before I truly made amends because before that point I didn’t really grasp what it was I was making amends for. Only after the completion of my 5th step and then the subsequent discussion of my character defects was I read to face the people I had harmed with a clearer picture of my wrongs.
Give people their space
This was also a difficult task for me in the beginning because like I said I wanted everything fixed right away. I learned that attempting to force people into forgiving me by continually broaching the subject of how sorry I was, was not a great way to rebuild relationships. I was taught that I had to give people the space that they needed in order to heal from my actions and allow them the time they needed in order to come to forgive me. Giving people their space meant that when they were finally ready to begin the rebuilding process we were able to do so on a non-coercive and equal playing field, which allowed for a true healing of the relationship.
Relationships are rebuilt through action not through words
This is probably the most important thing to remember when attempting to rebuild relationships. For many years I gave lip service to people and just told them what they wanted to hear and then went about my business anyway. Once I got sober I began to realize the futility of my words because at that point they were essentially meaningless to my loved ones. I realized that my actions would be the real measure of my change in their eyes and so I spoke less about how I was going to be better and just acted better instead. My ability to act better was the result of the Steps and over time my loved ones began to realize that the change was real and therefore some trust was restored to our relationships.
I read somewhere once that, “Truth without love is brutality,” and this is a good thing to keep in mind when finally having honesty in a relationship. I have found that in order for me to rebuild my relationships they had to be based in honesty. That being said, I had to temper my honesty and not always share everything that I thought because that could possibly hurt the other person. There did however need to be a trust level that I never had before. One where when I said something that person believed me. Without this I don’t believe that many of my relationships could have been rebuilt, so remember to be honest.
If you are just at the beginning of your process of rebuilding relationships or you are sometime in, remember that relationships take time and effort to build and coming from a place of less than zero can mean it may take a substantial time to rebuild. This is to be expected so don’t get discouraged, just continuing working on yourself and in time you will see that your relationships have far exceeded anything you could have imagined.
Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.