Your addiction is no longer calling the shots, and for the first time in a long time you feel hope. As an addict in recovery, you’ve got a fresh start ahead of you. Behind you, though, are often relationships that feel like they’ve been ravaged by a Class 4 hurricane. In a study published in the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs, it says that nearly half of participants (48.3%) with a past of alcohol use disorder got divorced at some point in their lives. Of course, drug abuse also destroys relationships as well as entire families. So, is it even possible to rebuild romantic relationships after this level of devastation? According to addiction experts, absolutely! Just as sustaining your recovery for the rest of your life is possible, so is mending fences with the love of your life.
Here are some things you can do to help rebuild your romantic relationship:
- Continue to take care of yourself. Find support groups that assist you in your recovery such as Alcoholics Anonymous or Narcotics Anonymous and attend them regularly. If your romantic partner is also an addict, assess where they are in their recovery. Determine if the timing to re-connect will benefit you mutually or be a trigger to use. Remember that recovery always comes first.
- Make amends with your loved one. While this sounds like asking for forgiveness, it’s different in that you’re not asking to be forgiven. You are acknowledging all the things you did wrong and trying to make things right. Your intention isn’t so much to be forgiven as it is to bring peace and healing to what had been a bad ending. This lays the whole foundation for earning back trust, and trust is essential for rebuilding a romantic relationship — especially if infidelity was involved. As SwiftRiver Rehabilitation explains, “Infidelity is traumatizing. It causes the wronged party to question you, your relationship, and themselves.” You now have the opportunity to regain trust by your actions.
- Because your romantic partner plays such a significant role in your life, it is clearly helpful that he/she takes an active role in your recovery. Support groups specifically designed for loved ones of addicts, like Al-Anon (a 12-step program created for friends and families of alcoholics) or Smart Recovery Family and Friends (a secular alternative to 12-step programs) can play a particularly helpful role. In these support groups, your loved one will have a greater understanding of addiction as a disease.
- Reflect upon what worked in your relationship and why you want to rebuild it. Feel it, see it in your mind, and keep your eye on the prize. Also reflect on what you’d like to do differently. Chances are, you’ll need to work on any unresolved issues and problems your relationship had prior to your addiction.
- Practice positive communication. For example, instead of saying “You never help around the house,” focus on what you need, re-phrasing it more like this: “The house sure needs cleaning. I’d love it if you’d help me.” Avoid defensive-inducing statements like “You never…” or “You always…”
- Enlist the help of a professional by seeing a licensed MFT (marriage and family therapist). An MFT will provide you with valuable therapy as a couple as well as your own individual therapy. When you’re both committed to personal growth, your relationship stands to gain so much more than just escaping the damages of addiction.
- Infuse some fun into your days. Explore fun new ways to be together — just because drugs and alcohol are out of the picture doesn’t mean fun has left, too! Plan date nights, weekend getaways, reclaim an old hobby, or get physical together by joining a gym or training for a marathon. Take classes at your local YMCA, volunteer in your community, or join a sports league. The opportunities are endless!
Just as hard work and the right tools help a community rebuild after a natural disaster, you too can rebuild your relationship. By following these tips above, you’ll be picking up the tools you’ll need on this healing journey of yours. Love, respect, and a sustainable recovery await.
Article by Michelle Peterson of Recovery Pride.