Reconnecting with family after struggling with addiction can sometimes be very challenging. Sometimes, an addiction can tear a family apart, and in some cases the damage done can seem irrevocable. In rarer cases, it truly is irrevocable.
The loss of friendship during an addiction can also hurt – on all sides. And mending that takes time and effort, with no guarantee of success. There is no way to guarantee that any of your attempts at reconnecting with those you cared about will be successful. However, the bond of family and the bond of friendship is precious. It’s lifegiving. It’s lifesaving, in many cases. And it’s worth fighting for. Regardless of how things will look a year or two from now, you should definitely make every effort to reconnect with family and friends.
But the big question is: how? It’s not an easy process, and it’s a little different for each case. It depends entirely on how things ended; where you left off. Nevertheless, here are a few basic tips for reconnecting with family and friends to help you get off on the right foot.
Are You Ready?
The first thing you must decide is whether you’re ready to do this. There’s little sense in getting to work on interpersonal relationships when you’re still largely struggling with yourself and your own inner turmoil. Every has an inner battle they’re fighting, sure – but there’s a difference between the everyday struggle to be better, and the unique deconstruction and reconstruction that occurs through the early stages of addiction treatment, rehab, and recovery.
Addiction treatment is a lot about taking a step back to evaluate how you got to where you are, where you want to be, and the struggle you have to go through to make it from point A to point B. Throughout that time, you may be battling thoughts of self-loathing and guilt, anger and sadness. These are not good times to focus on striking up relationships with other people, especially people from the past. The pain of rejection after a heartfelt attempt at reconnection can be soul crushing and can leave you in a relapse.
Some of the struggle will always be there, but it’s at its worst in the first few months. You need professional help and therapy to begin with – and when you feel like you’re ready to deal with more than your own emotions, you’re ready to reconnect.
Show Your Commitment
The saying that “actions speak louder than words” is very valuable, and very true – especially when you’re trying to regain someone’s trust. Gaining someone’s trust is hard enough but regaining someone’s trust can require a Herculean effort. And in that same nature, you’ll have to show your commitment through actions rather than speeches.
Start by focusing on your sobriety. This is a difficult task in and of itself, but it can be made a little easier through treatment. If you have someone supporting you, or can afford it, it’s important to consider seeking out continuous help after the initial rehab program is over. Outpatient programs are one option, but an even better choice would be a sober living home. Here, you can focus entirely on getting your life back together without the temptation of using again.
By demonstrating that you’ve been clean for a set amount of time, by demonstrating that you’ve been holding down a job or continuing your education, and by demonstrating that you’re consistently attending local meetings and making a daily effort towards your recovery, you can help alleviate the major fear looming over your loved ones – that despite what you might say, the addiction will get a hold over you once again.
It’s through addiction that people break the trust of those they love, through lies and unkept promises. And it’s the memory of those that remains freshest in the minds of your friends and family when you tell them that you’ve changed for the better. Making an effort to show through months of hard work that you’re dedicated to that change is a good first step towards regaining their trust.
Talk to Your Family and Friends
Once you have the opportunity to set up a meeting, do so. You could pick your own place if you’ve got one, to show how you’ve been handling life. Or you could meet on neutral ground, at a restaurant or place you used to enjoy. From there, it’s time to talk.
You cannot make excuses for what happened. There’s also no sense in blaming it on the drink, pill, or needle. It’s true that addiction changes the way the brain works, and that the cravings are overpowering. It’s true that addiction causes people to do things they regret. But the only way past that chapter of your life is to accept that you’ve done what you did, and that you have to live with the consequences of those choices.
Acknowledging that is a much bigger step than some might realize. The ability to take full responsibility for one’s mistakes and not deflect or seek blame is important for sobriety, and it’s important for regaining someone’s trust. Your friends and family have to know that you understand the severity of how things went down.
Or Start with Writing
Verbally expressing your innermost thoughts to someone face-to-face can be difficult. While it’s an important part of reconnecting, you might not want to start things off that way. It can be a little easier and partially cathartic to write your thoughts down instead, and then decide to pass them on as mail, online or on paper, or delivered in person.
You can also write for yourself. Keeping a journal or just taking the time to collect your thoughts on paper now and again can help tremendously in any journey of recovery.
It Won’t Happen Overnight
It takes a lot of time for wounds to heal, and a lot of time for trust to reform completely. Chances are that you will face some struggles in that department. It will likely take more than one try to reconnect with your loved ones. But it’s worth the effort.