When you have a substance use disorder, chronic pain or a mental health issue, you aren’t always the person you’d like to be. And when you aren’t yourself, the people closest to you are the first to notice and feel the effects. Addiction puts pressure on your relationships with parents, children, friends and romantic partners, and it affects every one of your loved ones differently.
Different Ways Addiction Affects Relationships
Addiction has a different impact on a child than a parent. It affects a coworker differently than it affects a best friend. Yet all of these individuals notice the effects of your changing mental and physical health even if they don’t know the reason behind it. And as your health and well-being changes, their health can begin to suffer too. Close bonds become strained and roles within relationships change.
Addiction and Children
The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) explains that children who grow up in homes where addiction is present face difficulties both now and long into the future. They may have trouble trusting others or developing healthy relationships. They may look for love and acceptance everywhere, or they may become withdrawn and have trouble making any connection with others. They are at greater risk for mental health and substance use issues of their own.
Addiction and Romantic Relationships
When one partner has a substance use disorder, the other partner may feel like he or she has to keep the household together, work extra hours to pay the bills or protect a child from the truth. He or she will feel stressed, worried and overwhelmed. The partner of someone who uses drugs and alcohol may also turn to these substances or end up enabling addiction in their efforts to make things “better.” Relationships become filled with secrets, anger, guilt, and unhappiness.
How Do You Heal Relationships After Addiction?
All relationships struggle when a substance use disorder is present. The great thing is that most modern treatment providers recognize just how important both old and new relationships are in recovery. They offer resources for healing and repairing relationships or for simply building great ones from the start!
In rehab and therapy, you’ll learn new interpersonal skills. You may learn how to better resolve conflict or manage anger. You’ll learn how to change unhealthy patterns and identify which relationships can be made healthy and which are not good for your long-term recovery.
Treatment should include family outreach. Expect rehab to involve family weekends or evenings and connect your loved ones to recovery resources of their own. The National Institute on Drug Abuse explains that programs like family behavior therapy can create a better living environment, teach parenting skills and help everyone use recovery tools in real life, practical settings.
The key to recovery is connection. If you connect with other people in recovery, you will get your real needs met. Healthy relationships are a great foundation to build a life of recovery.
When you include your family in your recovery, your relationships can begin to heal. When loved ones learn how to care for themselves at the same time they learn more about substance use and recovery, they are better able to set boundaries and guidelines that will keep everyone on track.
If you don’t have relationships you want to save, rehab is still there for you. You gain immediate access to social support. Aftercare, including group therapy and alumni events, is a great way to continue building positive relationships with like-minded individuals.
Ending the Effects of Addiction on Relationships
No matter how much you think your drug or alcohol use is only your concern, it affects every relationship you’re in. But no good relationship has to be lost to addiction! Your recovery helps your loved ones too. And as everyone begins to heal, relationships become stronger, healthier and more supportive than ever.
For greater insight into interacting with those suffering from the issues mentioned in the article or if you would like to chat with others affected, try the app, WeAreMore.
Alanna Hilbink has been writing for as long as she can remember. While childhood pieces featured unicorns and talking squirrels, she is now happy to use her powers for greater good. She has spent nearly 15 years focusing on, researching and living mental health and addiction recovery. Over 10 of those years, she has been writing for Foundations Recovery Network. She continues to be excited about this company, the work she does and reaching out to help people live their best lives.