March 6, 2018
When it comes to building strong relationships in recovery
, there is almost nothing that is more important, especially as you transition out of treatment and into independent living in sobriety. Having positive people around you who understand what you have been through
and support you as you work toward increased stability while staying sober can, at times, be the only thing standing between you and relapse. But when you’ve spent months or years living in the haze of addiction, building strong relationships isn’t always intuitive.
In fact, there are some behaviors that you may not even realize are alienating you from the people you want to be closest to in recovery. Though there are about a thousand things you can do to destroy the relationships in your life, here are the top 10:
- Trying to fix people: It’s normal for people in recovery to talk about the difficulties they are facing in life, and while it may be appropriate to offer a suggestion for how to fix it if they ask directly or if you are in a support group, they may be more interested in a listening ear in a personal setting. Constantly telling someone how to live their life can ultimately make them feel worse and then cause them to avoid you when they don’t follow through on your suggestions.
- Judging people: Yes, you need to be discerning when it comes to building new relationships in recovery but judging people based on appearance or on a random comment they made in a meeting isn’t an effective way of choosing whom you will and will not be close to in recovery.
- Holding a grudge: Maybe someone you were spending time with committed one of the above transgressions or did something else that put you off. It may be a healthy choice for you to give yourself some space, but holding onto anger is only going to get in the way of your recovery, stop you from rebuilding a friendship with someone who may have made an honest mistake, and otherwise impede your ability to stay focused on the positive things that will build you up in sobriety.
- Being melodramatic: Everybody goes through ups and downs and it’s good to talk about what you are going through with the people you are closest to. In fact, in sobriety, it’s an imperative that you share your challenges – that’s what a support network is for. But sharing is one thing and being over the top with melodrama is another. If you are always the person who is in the midst of a crisis, it’s going to drive people away.
- Lying: This is a big one in every part of your recovery. Just like it is important to be honest with yourself and with your therapist about what you are feeling and experiencing in recovery, it is also important to be honest in the little things with new friends. Overstating your experience to appear to have overcome more than anyone else, saying you did things you didn’t, or otherwise being dishonest is going to make it more difficult for others to trust anything you say.
- Spreading rumors: There are always stories circling in the recovery community – who relapsed, who’s sleeping with whom, who’s at risk for relapse, who’s lying about this or that – but if you take part in it, you could inadvertently harm someone whether or not the story is true. It’s better to stay out of it and mind your own business rather than getting involved in what others are doing.
- Using people: In addiction, taking whatever you could get from anyone who was offering (or in many cases, not offering) may have been the status quo, but in recovery, it is important to maintain a steady give and take. Yes, you can and should ask other people for help when you are struggling, but you should be just as quick to offer your help to others and be there for people when they are in need as well.
- Keeping score: Though it is important to make sure there is a flow of give and take in a relationship, it is also important to avoid keeping score. Getting irritated because you feel like you have shown up for someone more frequently than they have shown up for you can be burdensome on your ability to focus on recovery and on the relationship. Instead, take a more laidback approach. If you feel like you are in a relationship with someone who simply isn’t giving back the way you need them to, discuss the issue. If things don’t change, it may be time to give yourself some space.
- Being overbearing: Finally, you have found someone who is amazing, who makes you laugh, who really gets you and what you’re about, doesn’t judge you in any way, and just makes you feel good. That’s awesome, but it is important to maintain personal space in any relationship. That means don’t try to spend every single day together; don’t be jealous when they spend time with other people and don’t include you; and don’t spy on them or otherwise try to insinuate yourself into someone’s life by any means necessary.
- Second guessing other people’s goals: Even if you do not necessarily think someone’s goals are interesting or what you would do in their situation, it is important to be supportive of their choices. Even if they are in recovery with you and they decide to relapse, you cannot undo that choice. While you can always let them know that a return to recovery is an option, judging them will not help them to turn things around, and it won’t help you to be stronger on your own path either.
How do you keep your relationships strong in recovery?