“Ever has it been that love knows not its own depth until the hour of separation.”
– Kahlil Gibran, Lebanonese poet and essayist, and known as “The Poet of Exile”
Addiction is like an exile – sending you far, far away from the love and warmth of family, of friends, and of those around you that you also care about. For many addicts, the distance is too far, and they never find their way home, and never manage to complete their journey across the border into a successful recovery from their previously addicted life.
Addiction never just affects the addicted one either. It affects the lives of these very same people from which the addict is torn away from, and the relationships they shared are often strained by the addiction beyond what those heart-felt connections can stand, until, when finally at breaking point, they all just simply snap.
Regardless of your age, your gender, your socio-economic background, or your job (and the list goes on…), no one is immune from the dangers of substance misuse that becomes abuse, and then elevates into an addiction. No relationship, be it by blood, a marriage, a romance, or friendship is immune either.
Substance addiction brings changes, too – no one ever stays the same.
The addict endlessly changes their behavior and their actions, making them erratic, moody, and untrustworthy – virtually recognizable from who they were before, and certainly so very different from the person another may have fallen in love with.
Fixing such fundamentally damaged personal relationships is seriously difficult – often as difficult as those early days of addiction recovery, when keeping your newfound sobriety going is all you can focus on. I know that feeling only too well myself – upon leaving the excellent drug rehab center in Pennsylvania that finally saw me clean and sober, some days it felt like hard work just putting one foot successfully in front of the other, let alone dealing with all the bridges I thought I had burned.
However, fixing relationships post-rehab, when you’re now clean and drug-free, is possible, as I happily found out, and you will too. Still difficult, agreed, but still possible.
Here are your “4 Constructive Ways to Fix Your Relationships – Post-Rehab”:
Good, honest communication is the air relationships need to breathe. Without it, as addiction has proved only too well, a relationship of any kind will be starved of vital oxygen. Therefore, if you hope to fix a relationship damaged by your substance abuse, you need to have the lines of communication 100% open.
Obviously, these will be difficult to establish. In the beginning, you may feel like it’s all one-way traffic. You should always start by letting those you want to reconnect with know that you sought help for your addiction – and, more importantly, that you successfully completed treatment. Secondly, let them know as you try to repair your life, now clean and sober, it’s important for you to repair the damage your addiction has done to your relationships, especially this one.
If you can speak to the other person face-to-face, excellent. If not, don’t despair. Write a letter or email (letters are far, far better, by the way), or even a phone call or simple text message – anything that establishes a new connection between you both.
Be warned – you may have to try several times. Don’t give up.
2. Ask for Forgiveness
Addiction is a powerful presence, even making you deny to yourself and others what is happening to you. However, you are now clean and sober, and if you wish to be successful in your recovery, you must stop the denial. Admit honestly your past mistakes, behavior and actions, and try to apologize to every person that was hurt by your addiction, asking for their forgiveness.
It may not come naturally or straight away, but it is the only thing you can do to free yourself from the guilt and shame you will be feeling.
In tandem with this, you need to show you are now trustworthy, now that you are clean and sober. This will take time – serious time – but it’s essential if you want to move your relationship on, and improve it too.
3. Act with Honest Intent
Addiction makes you neglect, even abandon your relationships. So, now you are clean and sober, and remembering that “actions speak louder than words,” show your new commitment to a relationship by actions (as well as words) from now on – and do so with honest intent.
4. It Will All take Time
Of course, all of this will take time. Possibly, a long, long time, but hand on my own heart, it’ll be worth it. Your addiction has done damage – it’s what addiction does, and does very well. Remember, nothing is fixed in an instant, and if you do finally get a relationship back on track, it will never be the same – not fully. That’s because there’s a lot of history now, packed with memories of your substance abuse and your past actions.
That said, a rekindled relationship can be something new and different – not exactly better, just different. The resistance that you will undoubtedly encounter at the beginning will take time, the adjustments in your new relationship will take time, and proving you are no longer the addict you were – that will take time too, maybe the most time – however strong that early resistance.
Never Give Up…
Communication, forgiveness, acting honestly, and time – these are the foundations to fixing your damaged relationships once you have completed addiction rehab. Persevere, and never give up or lose faith – you will get back to where you want to be. If you don’t give up, but too much has happened historically for a relationship to recover, don’t lose heart – you’ll still be somewhere that the newly clean and sober you need to be.