Rebuilding Relationships in Recovery

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Recovery is an intimate journey of self-discovery and healing, often including rebuilding relationships affected by substance abuse. For many people, rebuilding relationships in recovery can offer the love and friendship that are key to their recovery journey.

However, relationships are often easier to damage than they are to repair. Because of this, it is important to rebuild relationships by first understanding how substance abuse affects relationships.

Understanding Substance Abuse’s Impact on Relationships

There is no question that abusing substances is a different experience for everyone who does it. It may involve alcohol, prescription medication, or illicit drugs, each substance having unique social components. However, while substance abuse is specific to the person with addiction, it impacts many others. 

Along with the individual challenges of SUD, a workplace, family member, friend, or social community always ends up being affected by substance use disorders (SUDs). Sometimes these contribute to SUD, but sometimes they end up in the damaged trail after an SUD. We must first understand how addiction affects personal connections to start the recovery process.

The Role of Trust in Relationships

Trust, the bedrock of any strong relationship, is often the first casualty of substance abuse. The closer someone is to us, the more devastating it can be to our well-being when we realize that trust no longer exists. It’s important to understand there are no shortcuts to rebuilding trust– it takes time and consistency. Part of rebuilding trust also means rebuilding healthy lines of communication.

If there is broken trust, there is a strong chance that communication has also suffered. Mending these wounds requires open, honest, and respectful dialogue, and involved parties must take various steps toward healing their differences.

Acknowledging Past Mistakes

Acknowledging past mistakes is a critical step toward healing. It shows acceptance of responsibility and a willingness to make amends.

Offering and Accepting Apologies

Apologizing for past wrongs is essential to the healing process. It’s equally important to accept apologies others offer.

Establishing New Boundaries

Creating new boundaries is crucial to help avoid repeating past negative patterns and behaviors, promoting healthier interactions.

Ongoing Communication

Maintaining open communication channels ensures mutual understanding and helps individuals promptly address emerging issues.

The Role of Professional Therapy in Relationship Recovery

It is important to stress that the above steps can apply to people with addictions and their friends and family members. While many of those steps are straightforward and may even appear obvious, attempting to apply those steps in relationships that lack trust or healthy communication is easier said than done.

Professional therapy can provide guidance and support throughout the recovery journey. They can also provide safe spaces to address issues and develop healthier behaviors and patterns. It may be surprising to learn how much therapy plays a key part in the treatment and recovery process. Therapy can help in everything from the effectiveness of treatment medication to coping with post-recovery stress triggers and improving families’ health. 

Family Therapy

Family therapy can address shared issues and heal wounds addiction causes within the family unit. In fact, recent studies show that family therapy improves family functions in recovery and seems to make the greatest positive impact in severe substance abuse cases.

Couples Therapy

Family therapy can sometimes apply to the entire household and how each person relates to the recovery process. Other times, the focus may need to apply to couples. Couples therapy provides a safe space to work through relational issues and develop healthier interaction patterns. Again, if communication is strained, these sessions can focus on improving communication.

Individual Therapy

Individual therapy can be instrumental in personal recovery, helping address personal addiction issues. There is wide range of benefits to individual therapy. Still, individual therapy is key in rebuilding relationships between couples and other friends and family.

One benefit of individual therapy could include how someone suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) from an experience. This personal suffering affects friends and family, but it can often be hard for friends and family to relate to such trauma. Individual therapy can be key in helping someone work through these issues while rebuilding relationships.

Coping With Relationship Setbacks

Setbacks should be viewed as part of the recovery process, not failures. If this could occur in substance use relapse cases, it could certainly happen in the relationships we want to rebuild. Understanding and accepting this can make coping with setbacks less daunting.

Understanding and Accepting Relapse

Part of this concerns understanding what is occurring during substance abuse treatment. During the early stages of treatment, the body can experience detox and withdrawal symptoms. These include how the brain communicates with the rest of the body, which can have a physical and emotional effect. 

The body’s central nervous system undergoes many changes during recovery, especially how the reward center works. As recovery progresses, emotional stability could improve. Of course, many factors come into play, and it is important for everyone involved to view the entire recovery process as a process. 


Putting the relational building blocks into place means that when relapse happens or when relationships experience setbacks, everyone knows how to get back into the recovery process together. Continual therapy sessions can help reinforce these recovery values in everyone’s minds and serve as a place to re-establish trust and communication.

As each piece of the recovery process starts to work together, relationships have a way of resolving conflicts constructively and helping maintain relationship stability during recovery.


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