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Relationships in Recovery: Rebuilding Trust and Establishing Boundaries

Updated: Oct 13, 2023

Relationships in Recovery: Building Trust & Establishing Boundaries

The journey of recovery from drugs and alcohol addiction is a courageous and transformative process. However, the challenges don't end once an individual achieves sobriety. One of the most significant obstacles they may face is rebuilding and maintaining healthy relationships. Addiction often takes a toll on interpersonal connections, causing broken trust, strained communication, codependency and unhealthy behavior patterns. Together let’s explore the impact of addiction on relationships, the need for repair or new beginnings, and the importance of establishing boundaries to nurture positive and supportive connections in both romantic relationships and friendships.

How Addiction Impacts Relationships

Addiction can profoundly impact various aspects of a person's life, including their relationships with family, friends, and romantic partners. Addiction's chaotic and self-destructive nature can erode trust, honesty, and emotional intimacy. Often, individuals struggling with addiction become isolated, putting their substance abuse above all else, including their loved ones.

Addiction-driven behavior can lead to broken promises, dishonesty, and emotional distance. Loved ones may feel hurt, betrayed, and unable to trust the individual with addiction. Such experiences can cause resentment, anger, and frustration, further deepening the rift in the relationship.

After achieving recovery, repairing vital relationships is crucial to recovery and is addressed throughout the 12 steps. Individuals may feel the need to repair damaged relationships or seek new beginnings with healthier connections. The process of rebuilding relationships after addiction requires honesty, empathy, a commitment from both parties and time.

For some, the desire to mend existing relationships with family and friends becomes a driving force in their recovery journey. This process involves acknowledging past mistakes, showing genuine remorse, and making amends. However, it's essential to understand that not everyone may be willing to forgive or forget immediately, and patience is crucial during this period of rebuilding trust. Relationship conflicts can also be a major trigger for the person in recovery and can lead to relapse. Working to improve relationships leads to more positive outcomes and sustains recovery.

In other cases, individuals may find that certain relationships are too toxic or enabling to maintain in their sober life. Letting go of such relationships can be challenging but necessary for continued growth and well-being. Seeking out new, supportive relationships, such as through recovery support groups or therapy, can be instrumental in fostering a positive environment.

Establishing healthy boundaries is essential for nurturing positive and functional relationships post-recovery. Here's how individuals can reset boundaries and roles in their relationships:

Key take aways:

  1. Don’t Do IT Alone: Regardless of whether you are in recovery yourself or a loved one facing recovery, this is a significant shift and transition in the relationship. Seeking support from friends who may understand 12-step programs like AA, NA, Alanon or others can be vital in feeling supported with these new changes.

  2. Keep Recovery a Priority: Maintaining sobriety must be the top priority for individuals in recovery. By making this commitment, they are better equipped to build and sustain healthy relationships.

  3. Learn to say “NO”: no is a complete sentence. Doing something because an old friend, who may not understand your recovery journey, can be detrimental to the new life you are trying to build. Figure out if something is healthy or not healthy for you before committing.

  4. Start Establishing Healthy Boundaries: Setting clear boundaries is crucial in fostering positive relationships. Individuals must be assertive in communicating their limits, and loved ones should respect and honor these boundaries. This takes time and support from members of the recovery community is critical.

  5. No Relationships in the First Year of Recovery: Noone likes to hear this one. It is generally advisable for individuals in early recovery to refrain from entering into new romantic relationships. This period allows them to focus on their personal growth and healing without the distractions or pressures that come with new romantic entanglements.

  6. Take Things Slow: This is tough for most newly sober folks. Rushing into relationships or expecting immediate repairs in existing relationships can be counterproductive. Taking things slowly allows for organic growth and ensures both parties are ready for deeper emotional connections.

  7. Seek Outside Counseling: Professional counseling or therapy can be immensely beneficial for individuals in recovery and their loved ones. It provides a safe space to navigate complex emotions, address past traumas, and learn healthy communication skills.

Recovering from drugs and alcohol addiction is an incredible achievement, but it is only the beginning of a lifelong journey. Rebuilding relationships and establishing new, supportive connections play a pivotal role in maintaining sobriety and overall well-being. By resetting boundaries, practicing empathy, and prioritizing open communication, individuals in recovery can foster healthier, more positive patterns of behavior, strengthening their relationships and enriching their lives in the process. Remember, patience, understanding, and dedication are key components of this transformative process, both for the individual in recovery and their loved ones. As always the team at Gooding Wellness remains dedicated to supporting families and relationships through the recovery process.

Lisa Current, LMFT- Clinical Director
Gordon Gooding, LCSW - Founder & Director of Gooding Wellness LCSW PC


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