Addiction does not affect one person. It impacts everyone who has a relationship with the addicted person – partner, family, children, friends and colleagues. Equally, the company you keep has an impact on your recovery, which means it’s important that when undergoing addiction treatment your relationships are stable and supportive, non-judgmental and trustworthy.
It is inevitable that you mixed with fellow users during your drug or alcohol addiction. You may even feel that they are your only friends because they understand what you’re going through. However, it is crucial that you stop seeing these people, as these are toxic relationships which are more likely to drag you back into substance abuse.
You have done so well by putting your addiction behind you and starting on the journey to recovery. Don’t jeopardise this by mixing with the wrong people who may try and entice you back.
Here is what you need to know about maintaining healthy relationships during recovery and eliminating toxic relationships from your life.
Toxic Relationships and Addiction
The highs and lows of toxic relationships can feel addictive in nature, but any toxic relationship is an unhealthy relationship if it makes you feel worse about yourself or affects your self-esteem in some way. It could be that the person berates you for being ‘boring’ by not continuing to drink or take drugs, or says you have let them down by deciding to get clean. You may feel guilt-tripped into returning to substance abuse.
Alcohol or drug addiction may have given you a social life, brought you a friendship circle and given you a sense of belonging, and it may be difficult to let this go. However, friendship groups where consumption of alcohol or drugs takes place are sites of mutual exploitation, deceit and distrust.
You may consider your drug dealer your friend, but any relationships that revolve around substance abuse are superficial. Real friends don’t make money from you and real friends will still be there when you have completed your recovery.
How Addiction Affects Relationships
Some relationships are borne out of addiction. Friendships and partners may have bonded over alcohol or substance abuse and when one person decides to undergo addiction treatment, the relationship can change. Just as substance abuse brought you together, it can also tear you apart.
Other relationships – be they with friends, family or partners or work colleagues – can also be seriously damaged by addiction. The financial burden of substance abuse, the lack of trust because of the lies told to hide an addiction, frequent absences from the home or workplace and an inability to function properly when there all contribute to the destruction of families, friendships and relationships.
Addiction and Domestic Violence
Someone with a substance use disorder can also become violent depending on the extent of their drinking or drug use. Domestic violence is incredibly common when one or both partners are suffering from addiction. It may become difficult, if under the influence, for someone to determine how much danger they are actually in.
Domestic abuse becomes a vicious cycle, as the abuse victim may be unwilling to report the attack for fear that their partner will physically, emotionally or financially retaliate. This can lead to the relapse of someone in recovery as well as the deterioration of physical and emotional health.
Codependency in Addiction
Codependency is an emotional reliance on another person which has been described as an addiction to love. In this type of relationship, a person who does not have a dependency may start abusing drugs or alcohol to feel connected to their partner. It may also result in one person working so hard to care for an addicted loved one that the codependent individual’s needs are neglected, which can also result in poor health, low self-esteem, depression, and other mental and physical consequences.
In codependent relationships, a partner’s response can facilitate substance abuse and hinder recovery, which is called enabling. This can be intentional, as they prefer their loved ones to be governed by their addiction as then they’re less likely to leave them, or it can be unintentional and they simply buy them alcohol or drugs because they want them to be happy.
A codependent person may also have weak boundaries, taking on their loved one’s pain, enabling their addiction and excusing poor behaviour. As a result, the codependent individual may become depressed and anxious if they are unable to convince a loved one to stay sober or enter treatment.
Family Members and Recovery
One person’s addiction affects their whole family. To treat substance abuse effectively, it is not seen as an individual’s illness but as a family illness. Everyone has to address the issue for recovery to be successful.
Many couples are united by their substance abuse. They may enjoy a party-loving lifestyle and live the weekends dominated by drink and drugs. They may have developed an addiction together or met through their dealer.
Even if they are not a user themselves, a person may be fine with a partner’s addiction as their behaviour and personality are calmer and nicer than when they’re experiencing withdrawal symptoms. It’s what they’re used to and they may not want to upset the status quo.
However, when it comes to maintaining sobriety and guaranteeing a successful recovery, both partners need to acknowledge the issue and undergo treatment.
Relationships with Children in Recovery
Regardless of how much a person with an addiction may try and hide it from children in the family, they are always affected. The house doesn’t have to be chaotic and violent for youngsters to be damaged by substance abuse. Missing their bedtime as you’re busy getting high and never making it for breakfast because you’re too hungover will make children see you as absent and uncaring. This can have a detrimental effect on their emotional development.
Enabling Behaviour in Recovery
Enabling someone with an addiction doesn’t just mean supplying alcohol or drugs. It can mean making excuses for their absences, taking on more responsibilities around the house or with the children as they’re too wasted to help, lending them money as they’ve blown it, or denying they have a problem in the first place.
Helping is being supportive without enabling. This can include setting boundaries (and sticking to them), ensuring the person with the addiction is responsible for their own actions and agree to access help themselves, such as family therapy.
Being honest about addiction and the impact it is having on close relationships is the first step to creating a healthy environment that will sustain recovery. Understanding that all members of the family need help – and then getting that help – means you are much more likely to recover successfully.
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Developing Healthy Friendships in Addiction Recovery
You may not be able to remember what friendships were like before they were dominated by drugs or drink. But if you want to change your behaviour, you need to stop seeing the people with whom you associate this behaviour. These are toxic relationships that will set you back.
Recovery can’t be accomplished alone. It helps to meet like-minded people who understand what you are going through, can support you in your dark days and won’t entice you back into addiction. Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous are good places to contact.
People transitioning from addiction to recovery find that socialising with a new group of friends helps, one where you can have a new identity – not as a substance user but as someone in recovery.
Think about what you used to enjoy before your addiction. This is the time to reconnect with your hobbies. An evening class might fill in the time you’d otherwise be spending in the pub, stop you from feeling lonely and help you meet new people. Connect with organisations in your local area. Maybe you can volunteer and acquire new skills and new friends.
Relationship Management in Addiction Recovery
Recovery doesn’t happen overnight and addiction isn’t a thing of the past as soon as treatment is ‘over’. You can, and probably will be, recovering for life and you need to build on the work you have made during treatment.
You may have to repair relationships with people who have been let down, including children. Before you can be honest with them you need to be honest with yourself. Acknowledge when you’re struggling, ask for help and keep in contact with the supportive trustworthy, people you have met – the people you know are helping your recovery.
If someone is making you feel bad about yourself or encouraging you to relapse you need to walk away. This might mean changing your life completely and turning your back on a toxic relationship, even if it is your life partner or other romantic relationships. Sometimes it’s not as easy as saying ‘I want my old life back – without the addiction’. The old life fed the addiction.
Keep on attending support groups. Many people continue to attend these to receive support, remember where they came from and help those who have just started on their journey to recovery. You are now their inspiration.
Relationship Management Therapy
Support at Castle Craig doesn’t end when rehab ends. We offer lots of support to keep you in recovery, on the right track, and focused on a brighter future.
Substance abuse treatment at a rehab clinic involves various types of therapy, including one-to-one therapy. One-to-one sessions can involve trauma therapy, PTSD and EMDR therapy, CBT, anger management and stress management, all of which can assist with relationship management as well as addressing any underlying mental health disorders.
If unhealthy relationships are an issue when it comes to your recovery, your therapy will be focused on how to form healthy boundaries and connections and help you break free from any toxic cycles.
If you feel your unhealthy relationships are hindering your recovery from substance addiction or you’re concerned about a loved one in a toxic relationship, contact our team of specialists today. Our addiction treatment has helped thousands of people on their recovery journeys.