Repairing Relationships That Were Strained Due to My Substance Use

in Addiction
Published Jul 15, 2021

One of the most painful results of substance use disorders is strained relationships with family members and friends. This may be due to broken trust, failure to keep up with day-to-day responsibilities, issues with the law, or even simply lack of understanding regarding what a substance use disorder is. Even after an individual seeks treatment and overcomes their addiction, they might still struggle to repair the relationships they strained or even broke through substance use. However, through time, effort and honesty, it is possible to get these relationships back to what they once were. 

How Are Family Members Affected by a Loved One’s Addiction? 

Substance misuse doesn’t just affect the individual but everyone close to them. It currently affects countless families all across the nation. A study conducted in 2018 by The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Association (SAMHSA) found that approximately 20.3 million people in the United States had a type of substance disorder. 

Typically the people hurt by a loved one’s substance misuse are their partner or spouse, parents, and children. In the case of a spouse, the most significant issue is often a decreased sense of trust. Individuals may have lied to their spouse about their use or how frequently they engaged in substance use. They might have snuck around their spouse’s back to obtain a substance or lied about how they were spending money. Because trust is the foundation of a relationship, it can be challenging to rebuild it once it is lost. Nevertheless, it is the starting point for repairing the relationship. 

The parents of an individual struggling with substance use may feel a variety of emotions, whether it be a sense of guilt or betrayal, anger, hurt, or disappointment. They may discover that they unknowingly enabled their adult child’s substance misuse by providing them with financial help or other types of support. 

Children can often be the most challenging to repair relationships with while in recovery due to their inability to fully understand what a substance use disorder is if they are still young. They may be able to recognize that their parent is behaving differently than usual but not understand why. This can lead to fear and confusion. 

Where Do I Start? 

The best place to start the process of repairing relationships with loved ones is to be completely open and honest about one’s substance use problem. Being honest may include revealing when the substance misuse started, what types of substances they misused, and perhaps most importantly, what steps the individual is actively taking to seek treatment or maintain recovery. In some situations, anger and hurt caused by substance misuse can make it challenging to have productive conversations regarding these topics. It is for this reason that many families find greater success through family or group therapy. 

With the guidance of a specialist or counselor, family members can work through their emotions and more accurately express how their loved one’s substance misuse made them feel and how it impacted their lives. They can also ask any questions they might have about their loved one’s substance use. With a therapist, the person who is working towards recovery can explain what factors caused them to want to use in the first place and open up about any mental health struggles they may be dealing with. Group therapy allows for an increased sense of understanding between loved ones and individuals with substance use disorder. In turn, family members will likely be more willing to support the individual throughout their recovery journey. 

SAMHSA provides additional resources to support the loved ones of an individual with a substance use disorder. 

How Do I Move Forward?

It is essential to recognize that repairing relationships and rebuilding trust takes time. The best thing an individual can do during this process is to remain as honest as possible with their loved ones and put in the hard work that will show that they are taking their recovery process seriously. 

Just as an individual in recovery will need to repair strained relationships with loved ones, they may need to cut some relationships out of their life as well. This would include anyone who engages in substance misuse, is not supportive of the individual’s recovery journey, or anyone who in any way puts the individual’s recovery in jeopardy. While it can be challenging to sever old relationships, it is essential to be surrounded by only supportive people during recovery. 

Substance misuse can tear apart families due to broken trust, lack of understanding, disappointment, and anger. However, through time and effort, these relationships can be restored. If you are struggling with substance misuse, it affects everyone around you differently. The people who are typically impacted the most are partners, parents, and children. The first step in repairing relationships is being completely honest about your substance misuse and answering any questions that loved ones may have. Many people find greater success having this conversation in family therapy when a counselor can guide them. Moving forward, you should take every step possible to show your family that you are taking your recovery process seriously. If you or someone you know is dealing with a substance use disorder, there is help available. All Gallus Medical Detox Centers, we have helped many people take their lives back and start the recovery process. Call (866) 296-5242 to learn more.