Outside Issues: Healthy Relationships

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Companionship, deep bonds, and the trust offered by family and friends can help us pull through life’s various challenges. This is especially true for those who seek recovery from addiction. Many of us would not have made progress if it wasn’t for the support of our loved ones.

Even when you are in the middle of a treatment plan, possibly at a recovery facility, you need to rethink how your relationships with loved ones can be repaired or improved. The journey of recovery should also supply you with enough resources and insight to discern what kind of relationships are healthy and what kind is not. In your early sobriety, it’s wise to avoid relationships that are full of heartbreak or disappointment. Train yourself to gravitate towards life-giving relationships that make you feel treasured and joyful.

We Need Healthy Relationships to Flourish

Even as a child, the whole person needs healthy relationships to flourish. What characterizes these positive relationships is mutual trust, respect, encouragement, gentleness, safety, and healthy boundaries. The lack of these traits often leads to poor relationships within the family and community. Relationships like these put unnecessary pressure on people, who then suffer all kinds of mental health problems. Addiction is almost always related to the experience of unhealthy relationships in the home and community. These relationships make up the environmental factors that shape one’s tendency for substance abuse.

At a 12-Step support group, you can learn how to nurture healthy relationships that are founded on honesty and accountability. It’s a place to practice compassion for others and for yourself. You will soon realize that it takes strong determination, wisdom, and long-term commitment to navigate your relationships. The relationship skills you learn in your support group can hopefully benefit how you repair old relationships.

Before you embark on the journey of repairing relationships outside your program, it’s important to remind yourself that there are certain relationships you need to avoid in early sobriety. These include friends who used to drink alcohol or use drugs with you. Do not underestimate their influence on you. They have made you feel bad about yourself and they will continue to do so. Some will even tempt you by offering you drinks or drugs. Friendships like these are not based on love and respect, but on consumption and self-destruction. These friends are simply not safe to keep.

In the early stages of sobriety, it’s better to prioritize and maximize the healthy relationships in your social circle. When you choose new friends, observe if they live a healthy (non-triggering, addiction-free) lifestyle. Also realize the vulnerability of your mental state in dating relationships, and minimize the stress from this part of life as well. Know that you need to be more stable in recovery before taking on any serious relationships. Meanwhile, you should also seek care from all supportive family members. Make use of any family programs at your treatment center. Be honest about your progress. Show your appreciation for their unwavering support and make a new commitment, so they can help hold you accountable as you move forward in recovery.

Healthy Boundaries Lead to Healthy Interactions

The first step of setting up healthy boundaries is with yourself. Value the journey of self-discovery during this time of recovery. Spend enough time to truly get to know yourself inside and out. Observe how your own behaviors and habits evolve in recovery. Regain self-compassion and self-care. This often means not pushing yourself too hard with unrealistic goals. Forgive your own mistakes and finally part ways with the soul-eating emotions of regret. Every day presents a new opportunity to make peace with yourself. This is the foundation of rebuilding your self-confidence.

Ideally, family programs and your 12-Step support group can both help you reflect on past relationship patterns. The ways that you handled relationships prior to recovery may rise again in early sobriety. Acknowledge the brokenness and own your mistakes, but look forward to new opportunities for positive change.

Always let honesty be the primary principle for shaping your future relationships and boundaries. With this principle in place, you can handle new challenges like whether or not to reveal your past addiction or conform to peer pressure when others are drinking alcohol or using drugs. Dishonesty is a slippery slope, one that almost always leads to unhealthy relationships and outcomes.

Rebuilding Relationships During Recovery

During recovery, the key to relationship rebuilding is patience. Your mental and physical recovery from addiction should always take precedence. Do not hastily jump into fixing a previously broken relationship while you are still struggling with addiction issues. Instead, focus on the hard work of persevering through 12-Step meetings, actively seeking help from counselors and therapists, and practicing daily self-care.

The benefit of entering a treatment facility is that you are now steering clear of relationships that might negatively influence your self-image or your substance use habits. Instead, you are surrounded by knowledgeable and compassionate medical professionals and staff who walk alongside you. Rely on their wealth of knowledge and wisdom as you navigate and build addiction-free relationships that serve you well.

Unhealthy relationships can take a toll on your mental well-being, increasing your risk of substance abuse that leads to addiction. Recovery almost always involves rebuilding relationship boundaries so that old problems no longer trigger you into relapse. Whether you are working on rebuilding your relationship with your parents, friends, or a romantic relationship that barely survived addiction, the skills you learn during recovery can become very useful. You also need to watch for the danger signs of socializing during this early stage of sobriety. At Jaywalker Lodge, we offer a wide range of resources and people who are happy to walk alongside you. Specializing in helping men who have been unable to find lasting recovery in the past, the staff at Jaywalker Lodge has vast experience in mentoring and guiding men just like you to lasting recovery. If you value the people in your life and want to rebuild healthy relationships during recovery, call us today at (866) 529-9255.

author avatar
Stefan Bate, MA, LAC, CCTP Chief Clinical Officer
Stefan Bate, BA, MA, LAC holds a Master's Degree in Applied Psychology from Regis University and is a Licensed Addiction Counselor in the state of Colorado. Stefan has wide-ranging experience in the field of addiction recovery including: working as a recovery coach, therapist, and program director.

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