Making Amends in Recovery: Relationships After Rehab

There’s a reason why addiction is called a family disease. Its effects ripple through our family and close relationships. And making amends in recovery to repair those relationships is a crucial step.

Even if you think you’ve hidden your addiction well, there will inevitably be ways that it has impacted your relationships. Perhaps there has been a breakdown in your trust. Maybe you reached an impasse in your communication with each other.

Your addiction could’ve prevented you from showing up in your family’s life like you wanted to. That’s why the recovery process doesn’t end when we leave rehab. We need to help the family recover, too.

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Making Amends in Recovery

Many treatment programs will include some kind of discussion on the impacts of your addiction on others and the ways we can repair that damage. This is often referred to as the amends process.

To make amends simply means to right any wrongs. This process goes a long way to helping you and your loved ones heal from your addiction. Amends, and the rebuilding of relationships, are a critical part of ongoing recovery and returning to family life.

By way of background, the amends process originates from Alcoholics Anonymous, specifically, Steps 8 and 9:

[8] “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all.”

[9] “Make direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”

There are various ways that people can make amends:

  • Direct amends: Make an apology directly to the person harmed. Ask them how you can repair the relationship.
  • Indirect amends: Finding different ways to indirectly repair the damage of your addiction, like any damage you did to property, by volunteering, making a donation, or helping others.
  • Living amends: This is when you live the way that is most integral to your values to show yourself and others that you are serious about your recovery. You’re invested in not hurting yourself or others again.

You can make amends to those you’ve wronged in three ways: direct amends, indirect amends, or living amends. Whether you subscribe to AA or not, amends are a helpful framework for how to live your life in recovery, post-rehab.

Sarah reflected on how amends helped her recovery: “At first, I was really reluctant to make amends to people I’d hurt. I felt so ashamed,” she said. “But, once I broke the process down and spoke to others who had made amends, I could see how much it had lifted a weight off their shoulders.”

That was a critical insight for Sarah. She made the brave decision to put her shame to one side and make her amends.

“I’ll never forget how light I felt after making that first amends. Sure, I was nervous initially, but afterward, it felt so good to take responsibility and tell the person that I cared about putting things right. What’s funny is that I was frightened they would take it badly, but they were super supportive,” she explained.

What is Family Recovery?

It’s important to remember that recovery is a family process. And we don’t mean just in terms of you making amends and living a life of recovery.

Your family will need to invest in the recovery process, too, because addiction doesn’t happen in a vacuum. There may be many people in your life you’ve hurt and who have hurt you. Repairing the hurt and mistrust is important to family recovery.

Contributing factors may include:

  • Childhood and adult trauma
  • Untreated mental illness
  • Abusive relationships
  • Unemployment
  • Chronic stress
  • Serious health conditions
  • Poor communication
  • Unhealthy family dynamics
  • Punishing a person struggling with addiction

These situations can all lead to the development of addiction. This is why family and loved ones need recovery, too. This could take many forms.

  • Supporting a loved one in ongoing recovery by developing communication skills
  • Setting healthy boundaries
  • Being involved in the recovery process
  • Stop trying to save your loved one
  • Working on yourself
  • Finding family recovery support groups, like SMART Friends and Family, CRAFT (Community Reinforcement and Family Training), Al-Anon, and Nar-Anon

Dave told us about his family recovery and how it ultimately impacted his sobriety. “When I was stuck in my addiction, I was miserable at home. My family didn’t talk to one another, and I could sense that everyone was ashamed of me,” he said.

“It wasn’t until I went to rehab that I could see that my addiction was exacerbated by that situation. My counselor worked with me and my family to open up our communication and engage in some helpful ways we can talk about our needs and concerns. It has been a game-changer for me.”

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Tips to Repair Relationships

Relationships take the brunt of addiction, often leading to a lack of trust, poor communication, and an inability to handle chronic stress. Recovery is about repairing those relationships and using healthier communication and coping strategies.

Here are some helpful ways to repair relationships when you get out of rehab:

  • Practice patience: Addiction takes a time to develop and so does recovery and repairing relationships. Staying consistent speaks volumes about your commitment to recovery.
  • Keep your word: Sticking to your promises goes a long way to rebuilding trust and proving to your family and friends that recovery is here to stay.
  • Be open and honest: Keep your lines of communication open. Don’t be afraid to ask a family member what is on their mind and be prepared to listen to what they say. Similarly, be open and honest with them and share what’s going on in your life and recovery.
  • Try not to be reactive: It’s hard to receive feedback, especially when we’ve hurt that person. But it’s important to try to remain calm and respond respectfully.
  • Support one another: Ask how things are going. Or, if you can be of any help. At the same time, reach out if you need help or some support.

Remember that recovery takes time and patience, but if you stay on track, you’ll reap the benefits and so will loved ones.

Ready to talk to a treatment specialist? Contact us today at 800-839-1686Who Answers? to learn about our flexible treatment programs for drug and alcohol addiction.

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