Maintaining Healthy Relationships in Recovery
Tips on finding and maintaining healthy relationships in sobriety
The first and most important relationship in recovery must be developing a relationship with yourself. Through self-discovery in sobriety, you will begin to accept a new identity and an entirely new way of living. Addiction is a family disease and you may find many of your relationships to be in complete disarray and chaos. As you take inventory of past behaviors, resentments, and defects of character, you will begin to practice forgiveness, change, and hopefully make way for the development of healthy relationships throughout the process.
Developing Strong Relationships in Recovery
I’m sure you’ve heard it said that any newcomer, in recovery, should refrain from any intimate and romantic relationship for at least a year, in order to take the time to truly spend some time alone and heal. The rationale behind this advice is recovery is a lifelong process. This is a process that requires growth and maturity over time. It’s not uncommon for people in early sobriety to struggle to grasp the skills to effectively identify, own, process, and accept their emotions. The maturity required to handle emotions directly affects the quality and successes of newly forming relationships. The most important focus in early recovery should be understanding and accepting your own needs, expectations, and feelings—long before embarking on finding a new romantic relationship.
Developing healthy relationships in recovery is tempting and can eventually be achieved successfully. Once you begin forming a relationship with yourself, gain self-awareness, and begin to build a foundation of strong sober support, you can begin to achieve success in forming relationships outside of the relationships within your sober support. Here are five easy tips to consider when embarking on a journey to build new relationships in recovery.
First Thing’s First
The first step in this process is to develop a loving understanding and acceptance of your own needs and wants in early recovery. Who are you? What do you like to do now that you’re sober? What makes you happy? Prioritizing self-care is vital to maintaining sobriety and learning how to reciprocate a selfless nature within your relationships. Absent from drugs and alcohol, you need to get to know your newfound self, accept, and love yourself unconditionally. If you are unable to do these things, it is likely that you will find yourself living in fear, self-doubt, insecurity, and projecting your needs and judgments onto others. After all, you cannot transmit something you haven’t got.
As alcoholics and addicts, the root of our problem is centered around unrelenting selfishness. It is quintessential that you understand that a relationship includes more than just yourself—a relationship takes two. Appreciating and considering another perspective, embracing differences, practicing thoughtfulness, and accepting flaws take you outside of yourself. Just as you begin practicing service within the process of getting sober, begin practicing the same principles within your relationships with others.
Communication is Key
With the world at our fingertips, talking, texting, and emailing your feelings can have a lasting impact on how your thoughts and feelings are received and shared. Through communication, we begin to understand one another. Practicing consistent and transparent communication can teach us how to respectfully and effectively express our wants and needs. It’s important to remember that both agreements and disagreements can be communicated without intimidation or hostility. Initiating conversations about recovery and even unrelated topics will help you understand others and for them to better understand you.
Limit Expectations and Be Honest
One of the most common mistakes in developing relationships in early recovery is being misunderstood and setting unrealistic expectations on one another. Expectations are premeditated resentments. It is important that you are able to understand your wants versus your needs, as well as the other person, without feeling intimidated or fearful of retaliation. Most importantly, communicate your needs without expectations. Have a plan of action on effectively communicating progress rather than perfection. Refrain from making assumptions about the thoughts, feelings, wants, and needs of others. Transparency and honesty are key.
Know Your Boundaries and Know When to Walk Away
Setting boundaries is just as important within your relationships as it is to your sobriety. Avoiding toxic relationships will ensure the cultivation of your healthy, new behaviors. Old using, codependent, and enabling friends or significant others should be avoided. Potential friendships or relationships that trigger a sense of fear or intimidation should be avoided at all costs. These situations may remind you of relationships that once involved drugs and alcohol. These types of relationships can bring unwanted stress—triggering cravings, negative thoughts, insecurity, fear, resentment, and ultimately make you more vulnerable to relapse. Many people in recovery have a deep-rooted fear of loneliness. It is important to accept and understand that these feelings are fleeting—appreciate them and let them pass. If you find yourself feeling lonely, don’t settle. Find a hobby, meet new people that have the same interests, and get involved in events near you that attract empathetic, like-minded people like you. Embrace your support system, the new healthier version of yourself, and do not regret the past.