Recovery (and all its aspects) is a lifelong journey- if we stay sober and work a program, we are nearly guaranteed to stumble, succeed, fall short, reach goals, and experience the full spectrum of life, even the bad. For many of us, this is a hard fact to face and accept. If you are new to sobriety, whether in the rooms of AA or are in a treatment facility, there is probably a part of you that expects that if you cut out the drugs and alcohol, your life should be perfect and free of conflict. This includes the common expectation that once you get sober, your relationships will all be miraculously cured overnight. Parents will welcome you back with trusting and open arms, significant others will applaud our efforts and immediately move beyond past hurts, and friends/family members will be so thrilled that we are sober that they will (or should!) just forget about all the damage we have caused in the past.
However– it rarely, if ever, works like that. And here’s why.
First of all, while it is certainly admirable that we are trying to turn things around, and are (hopefully) using the tools of a program of recovery to learn to live without drugs and alcohol, we often have a long road of “proving ourselves” ahead of us. Most of us put our families and friends through the wringer while we were in active addiction- stealing, lying, cheating, manipulating, fighting, and neglect- only to come back to issue shallow apologies, which were usually followed by more of this behavior and heartbreak. There are, of course, varying degrees of this, and everyone has their own story. But at the very least, most of the people who cared about us worried endlessly whether we would take the steps to change before it was too late. So, when we finally get sober, even if *we* know we are taking the steps and staying clean, it sometimes takes a while for our loved ones to catch on and trust that we are truly going to be different. This takes patience and perseverance on our part- we cannot get mad at them for needing time to start trusting us again. And there are things we can do to begin the rebuilding process- slowly but surely.
- Maintain regular contact. Whether it’s phone calls or visits, do whatever is within your ability to begin to re-grow that connection. Don’t wait for them to come to you.
- Respect their wishes. There are some that may not want to hear from us or see us. Some harms can push people to that point, and it’s OK. If you work the steps (with a sponsor!), your amends process will clarify what, if anything you can do. But in the meantime, don’t force it. Work on building a relationship with yourself and your higher power, and things will shake out how they are meant to.
- Show up for them. If you do have regular contact with the person, show up. Ask how they are doing. Express an interest in their life. We have spent long enough making it all about us. Go to the birthday party/wedding/Sunday dinner. Do what you say you’re going to. Ask how you can help- or just jump in and do it. Wash the dishes, cook a meal for them, see what you can do to make their day just a little bit better. Our actions will say much more than our words.
- Give it time. This is where faith in the program and surrender come in. We can’t control others, but we can control how we treat them and react to them. If we continue to show up and prove our new way of life *through actions*, we will know we have done the best we can.
- Avoid frustration. While in an ideal world, all wounds would be healed the instant we got sober, there is usually work to be done, and we must have patience. It is key to avoid making demands on our loved ones for gratitude or forgiveness or recognition of all our new accomplishments. Learning to accept them for where they are at, and being at peace with it, is difficult, but gets much easier through regular step work, prayer, and meditation.
The hard thing is, there are some relationships that may never be fully healed, regardless of how principled we try to be and how much the program changes in our lives. And THAT IS OK. It may hurt, but accepting that loss and respecting their right to make that decision is much, much easier when we know we have made amends and our side of the street is clean. It is the action we take that matters, not the result.
If you are still drinking or using, the chances of repairing those relationships are slim to none. Contact the team at Serenity Acres today to begin the journey towards recovery and healing.