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Healing the Family: 5 Tips for Rebuilding Bonds Broken by Addiction

Healing the Family: 5 Tips for Rebuilding Bonds Broken by Addiction

Addiction and substance abuse does more than damage your health; it can destroy close family bonds and friendships, cripple opportunities, and bring bright futures, full of potential to a halt. When one chooses to break the hold addiction has on one’s life, it is the beginning of a complete transformation. Beginning in rehab, a skilled team of counselors and therapists can help you to cope with urges and triggers, remove cognitive ties to substance abuse, and gain a healthier, more positive outlook on life.

But what about the external damage cause by a substance abuse disorder? Is there no way to mend what has been broken while under the influence of an addicted mind? Must what is broken remain so?

Thankfully, our profound human nature allows for flaws and mistakes; we use these traits and experiences to learn and grow as individuals and as a global society. This adaptive nature also fosters the ability to forgive and progress in our lives and relationships- if all parties are willing to work for the betterment of the bond. If you are in recovery and seeking to rebuild bonds broken in your active use phase, following the 5 tips for rebuilding a bond broken by addiction is a good place to start.

1. Be Honest

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Be Honest About Your Wrongdoings

    You cannot ask for forgiveness without admitting wrong. Rebuilding external relationships begins within; you have to understand, or at least attempt to understand your wrongs before you can atone from them. Recognizing another’s feelings and your part in them is key to beginning the relationship healing process. That’s not to say you are solely responsible for others’ emotional well-being, but part of being a mature adult is recognizing and accepting responsibility for yourself and your actions.

    Approach your loved one open and honestly. Verbally acknowledge the cause of contention  and the part you played in the perpetuation of it, and express your feelings on it. Be sure to tell your family member or friend that you want to fix the problem, why, and how. Giving a solid, planned course of action helps them to see you are serious about overcoming the issues and moving forward with a stronger bond and appreciation for each other.

    2. Listen

    Active Listening is Key to Healing Relationships

      It’s equally important for the person whose forgiveness you are seeking to be able to speak honestly about their feelings regarding past transgressions. To help facilitate an atmosphere in which they feel comfortable being open and honest with you, make sure they know you are listening- really listening. That means an in-person (if possible) conversation which has your undivided attention: no multi-tasking, no electronic devices, no other physical crutches.

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      While it may be difficult for you if you are anxious about the conversation, showing that you are serious about rectifying your mistakes can go a long way in helping mend what has been broken. Sincerity, above all else, must be the core of your intentions if you wish to be successful in mending the bonds broken by addiction. If you find you cannot act in a sincere manner, or that your efforts are not being truly accepted and appreciated, perhaps you should rethink if the relationship is worth salvaging.

      3. Be Cooperative

      Cooperate with Those Trying to Help You

        It’s one thing to listen, but you also have to be cooperative. Getting defensive will only serve to cause tension and further widen the divide between you and your loved ones. That doesn’t mean you have to accept abusive language; by all means, if you’re being attacked, feel free to get up and walk away. Fixing the kind of damage addiction causes to your interpersonal relationships is rarely a smooth road- but if you are forthright and willing to put in the work necessary for redemption, it is possible.

        When faced with friends or family members asking you to modify certain behaviors in order to salvage the relationships you value, at least consider their words and viewpoint. However, there are some things which are not up for debate on which you should not compromise, such as:

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        • Your gender and/or sexual identity and your right to express it
        • Your right to feel safe and respected
        • Your sobriety
        • Your right to be heard as an individual
        • Your universal human rights

        4. Stay Consistent

        Consistency Shows Reliability

          One of the main reasons people are hesitant to believe in people in recovery is that, while under the influence of addiction, one becomes unreliable, inconsistent, and flaky. With one’s priorities shifted by a substance abuse disorder, being there for others or committing to one’s responsibilities rapidly fall into the background. Unfortunately, some view a history of relapse as reason to doubt one’s reliability rather a part of the struggle to conquer the chronic disorder. So how do you rebuild this faith with the odds stacked against you?

          There’s not much you can say to rebuild broken trust; but there is plenty you can do- by backing up your words with actions. Following through with your promises and staying firmly on the sober path can help re-establish the trust and confidence past actions may instill in others. Beyond that, sticking to your word and your goals is a great way to build confidence in yourself and your ability to turn things around. Learning to rely on yourself is essential to successful recovery addiction.

          5. Know When to Walk Away

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          Know When to Walk Away From Toxic Relationships

            The reality is, no matter how much we may wish to repair the damage caused in the past and rebuild relationships, it often isn’t up to us. Sometimes we simply cannot let go of the hurt or anger- and sometimes that is for the best. Anyone who would insist on holding your past against you even as you attempt to improve yourself and your life is not someone you need in your future. You do not deserve abuse, neglect, or mistreatment, no matter what others may say.

            Walking away from bad relationships- even ones within the family- is the best thing you can ever do for yourself. With time and distance, you will come to realize those relationships only served to hold you back in the long run. Ideally one would have the support of friends and family through the recovery process, but if they cannot recognize your attempts to better yourself, it’s okay. Surround yourself with positive, supportive people- they’re more important than salvaging a relationship better left in the past.

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            Last Updated on August 6, 2020

            6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

            6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

            We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

            “Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

            Are we speaking the same language?

            My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

            When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

            Am I being lazy?

            When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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            Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

            Early in the relationship:

            “Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

            When the relationship is established:

            “Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

            It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

            Have I actually got anything to say?

            When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

            A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

            When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

            Am I painting an accurate picture?

            One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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            How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

            Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

            What words am I using?

            It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

            Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

            Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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            Is the map really the territory?

            Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

            A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

            I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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