Relationships are a necessary component of all walks of life and especially important while in addiction recovery. So much, that for myself, I simply realized that I couldn’t seek and maintain addiction recovery alone. Relationships provide emotional support post-rehab, they can help individuals remain healthy and increase their well being, and become a safe space for discussing and battling our fears. Perhaps most importantly, healthy relationships in recovery can help individuals struggling with addiction and those in recovery avoid negative situations, things or people. These negative situations, things or places can risk ones sobriety or fuel their addiction. Engaging in toxic relationships can bring about negative feelings, which often times can be a trigger for substance abuse.
It is sometimes difficult to decipher what a healthy relationship is and what an unhealthy relationship is. When new to addiction recovery, it’s especially important to identify any unhealthy relationships you may have. For example; previous people who you used to engage in risky behaviors with, friends who are still actively using, or individuals who don’t support your addiction recovery. There are certain relationships that you may have to sever because they are in different places in their lives than you. In my own personal experience, one of the more difficult relationships to navigate was that with my family. I was taught from my 12-step fellowship to avoid people, places, and things that didn’t influence my life and recovery in a positive way. Involvement with those negative things can be a trigger, and unhealthy for my recovery. Signs of unhealthy relationships include manipulation, placing blame, feelings of obligation, bullying and intimidation, mental emotional verbal or physical abuse, lack of respect, invasion of privacy and boundaries, controlling, putdowns and shaming, lack of equality.
While you’re navigating removing the unhealthy relationships from your life, for many of the reasons mentioned above, it’s important to identify healthy ones. Think about individuals who you may have gone through treatment with, was there anyone who you developed a healthy relationship in recovery with who you can continue to engage with outside of treatment. Many organizations, like Footprints to Recovery, have organized Alumni Support Networks that you should take advantage of. Take a scan of your environment, who in your life is a positive force? Who helps build your self-confidence up? Are there sober support networks, such as 12-step fellowships, you can join? Signs of healthy relationships include: mutual trust and support, honesty, effort, respect, support, and encouragement, safety and security, compassion, healthy boundaries, humor, feelings of confidence in one another
One of the most said beneficial ways to develop healthy relationships and positive support groups in recovery has been through 12-step programs. Participating in such fellowships can help individuals develop safe spaces to bond with others who may be going through similar things. Individuals share resources, tips, and tools for navigating addiction recovery. I learned from other women in recovery how to be a mother, a daughter, a friend, a responsible employee and how to be strong in my own skin. For example, I myself, gathered tools for dealing with certain relationships. Working with a sponsor I identified that certain situations were anxiety provoking to me; therefore, I worked to develop what I call ‘escape routes’. I put a time limit on how long I spend at certain places, or even better, I take someone from recovery with me. In other situations, if I know it’s going to be toxic for my recovery to be somewhere, I try to avoid it altogether. All in all, surrounding myself with people with similar and positive interests in a 12-step fellowship allowed me to develop more honest, positive and healthy relationships. Having healthy support within a 12-step fellowship and in a recovery community, with people who’ve been in my shoes was and still remains to be a vital component of my personal recovery.
Navigating drug and alcohol recovery can be tricky. Sure, you may be able to do it alone, but why go through the trouble when there are healthy, supportive and strong relationships waiting to be had in all of your communities? Whether you find your healthy relationships through 12-step fellowships or build upon ones that you have I can with full certainty say, it’s so worth it.
To find a list of local 12-Step meetings click below:
Author: Kristen Hall – Footprints to Recovery – Regional Outreach Specialist