How to Rebuild Your Relationship and Reconnect After Substance Abuse

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Substance abuse causes all types of relationships to suffer, but your significant other bears the brunt of the emotional pain. Your past actions may have broken down trust and left your partner with residual feelings of isolation and anger, but this doesn’t mean your relationship can’t be mended. With time and patience, there are steps you can take to rebuild your relationship and regain that trust.

Listen to Your Partner

Before you can move forward in your relationship, you must try to understand what your partner is feeling and the effects your substance abuse has had on them. According to PsychCentral, those who are closest to the person who is addicted feel the greatest pain. They have likely felt grief, anger, and helplessness watching their loved one suffer. Even once you are in recovery, this deep emotional involvement means those feelings don’t go away overnight. Just like everything else in recovery, rebuilding your relationship is a process that takes time, and truly listening to how your partner has been affected is a crucial first step.

Involve Your Partner in Treatment
Joining a support group or working with a therapist is key to your recovery, but these resources can also be tremendously helpful for your partner. One option is to look for a 12-step program geared towards family members of those who are addicted. There are also independent groups popping up all across the country, typically created by family members of addicts, that allow their members more time to share than the traditional model. This lets loved ones focus on making connections and shared experiences. Participating in such a group can help your partner realize they aren’t alone in feeling the way they do, and the shared stories can give them hope and tools for helping rebuild your relationship.

Work on Resolving Ongoing Problems

Even after substance abuse has stopped, the problems in your relationship that were caused by it don’t usually go away on their own. Besides the emotional roller coaster that you’re both going through, there may also be recurring issues that you fight about that come from addiction. For example, if your substance abuse has caused money problems, those may not be resolved simply because you have stopped using drugs or alcohol. If these underlying problems continue, the resulting stress could even lead to a relapse. That’s why addressing them is critical to rebuilding your relationship and your continued recovery.

Building Trust

One of the biggest barriers to mending your relationship is the erosion of trust that comes from actions you took when you were using drugs or alcohol (especially infidelity).

“Infidelity is traumatizing,” notes SwiftRiver.com. “It causes the wronged party to question you, your relationship, and themselves.”

This questioning lingers even when you’re in recovery and possibly long after the infidelity has ended. You must actively work to regain their trust and know that it takes time. Part of rebuilding trust means being intentionally open and honest with your partner. This degree of honesty can be emotionally painful, but it is necessary if you truly want to reconnect and rebuild trust. While you work on complete honesty, your partner may also need to work on what Mindbodygreen describes as “inner trust.” Your partner may feel as though they didn’t trust their own instincts, perhaps sensing something was going on but choosing to ignore it. This doesn’t mean they did anything wrong, but they could still feel a sense of guilt. Honoring these feelings and working through them with a therapist or in your support group is an important part of rebuilding trust.

As hard as it may be to look backwards when you’re ready to rebuild your relationship, you can’t move forward without acknowledging where you and your partner were at the time when drugs or alcohol were causing problems. Rebuilding your relationship that was damaged due to substance abuse is hard work that takes time and patience, but if you follow this process with complete honesty and commitment, you may find your relationship even stronger than it was before.

Pat McGraw | pat@thepreventioncoalition.org

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