Substance use disorders cause all sorts of damage in our lives. Some of that damage is, of course, to our own physical and mental health. But some of that damage is to others and our relationships with them. Important people in your life may be reluctant to reconnect with you—even after you have been through treatment for your substance use disorder—because you hurt or disappointed them before you got help.
Once you are on the road to recovery, it is only natural that you will want to try to repair those broken relationships. Indeed, one of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous involves making amends to the people you have hurt while struggling with drugs or alcohol.
As sincerely as you may hope to repair your relationships, the path may not be easy. Here are some things to keep in mind as you work to restore trust.
- Offer Sincerity
It may be tempting to rush through apologies; you want to get the difficult conversation over with quickly. But in a certain sense, the difficulty is the point. Your willingness to be honest and humble regarding the ways in which you have hurt someone else demonstrates sincerity and a willingness to change. If your loved ones feel you are not being sincere, they are less likely to commit to restoring their relationship with you.
- Offer Patience
The people you have hurt are probably feeling strong emotions—and those emotions will not vanish or magically transform into warm fuzzy feelings just because you have offered a sincere apology. Putting a broken relationship back together is a process, and your apology is just the first step. Your willingness to let your loved ones process their own emotions in their own time demonstrates your commitment to the relationship.
- Offer Action
Actions speak louder than words. That is a cliché, but a true one. Once you have made your sincere apology, your next step is to make sure your actions align with your intent. Work at your recovery and be willing to share milestones and challenges you encounter. Your loved one probably won’t want a blow-by-blow account of your daily life (and you might not be interested in opening up quite that much), but odds are they will appreciate knowing that you are committed to sobriety and are striving to maintain it.
- Offer Service
You may also find opportunities to perform acts of service—either directly for the person to whom you are making amends or more generally in your community. If you can do something nice for a loved one you have disappointed in the past, you may move the needle forward toward forgiveness. If this kind of direct service isn’t feasible—perhaps because the person isn’t quite ready to let you fully back into their life—you might consider volunteering in your community, especially if you and your loved one have a cause that is important to you both. Seeing you engaged in positive activity for the wider community may help your friend or family member feel more confident about trusting you again.
Different Issues, Similar Solutions
We have focused this discussion on relationships damaged by substance use disorders. But of course, any number of things can upend a relationship—including, for example, mental health disorders. The erratic behavior that can underpin major depression or an anxiety disorder can also hurt the people in our lives.
Regardless of how or why a relationship was damaged, the notions of sincerity, patience, action, and service still apply.
The First Relationship to Repair: Your Relationship to Yourself
Whether a substance use disorder, a mental health disorder, or a combination of both has upended your life, Peak View Behavioral Health is ready to help. We have the expertise and compassion needed to help you improve your life—and by extension, improve your relationships that may have suffered due to your disorder. A sincere commitment to improvement and the patience to see things through will get you on a better path.