It can take years in relationships to build trust—and only minutes to break it. As a person in recovery, you likely know this to be especially true. While you’re rebuilding your life in sobriety, you might also be starting to reconnect with close friends and family. Here are some ways to build and maintain strong relationships while in recovery.
Decide How You Want to Talk About Addiction
Unless you want them to, the whole world doesn’t have to know that you are in recovery. However, those closest to you are usually the ones you want to be most honest and open with.
Deciding how to have that conversation can be based on the individual and the relationship you have with them. You might choose to be as up-front as possible and tell them about your history of substance abuse and where you are now in your recovery. Or, you may simply wish to state that you’re in recovery and leave it at that.1 Whatever the message is, deciding early how to communicate it can help.
Rebuild Damaged Trust
Rebuilding trust is a difficult thing when you are in recovery. During active addiction you may have been dishonest, not honored your obligations or failed to keep your promises. You almost certainly deliberately deceived others to conceal your addiction and how it was affecting you. All of this is now in your past, and this is the time to shed the shame and start rebuilding damaged trust.1
When it comes to trust and relationships, the best approaches are honesty and realistic expectations. It’s important to realize your boundaries now as a sober individual and stay within those limits.
If a friend asks you to attend a big party with them that will have drinking and other triggering factors, you may have the urge to go with them in order to be a good friend, but you know it will be risky for you on a personal level. At this time, it’s best to be as honest as possible. Instead of saying yes and canceling later or saying yes and making it hard on yourself, tell your friend why you can’t attend.
Making your best effort to always do what you say you will and being honest about your thoughts and feelings are important steps on the way to rebuilding trust.
For Healthy Relationships in Recovery, Be the Best Friend You Can Be
You can’t be everything to everyone. Decide who is important in your life, and commit to making them feel as if they are. Support them when needed. Call them and ask them how they are doing.
If you aren’t sure how to be a good friend, make a personal list of the qualities you would like in a friend. Once you have this list, you can encourage healthy relationships in recovery by displaying those behaviors.
Sometimes, despite your best efforts, a friend or family member will let you down. This doesn’t mean you failed at relationship building. It just means that your friends are human. Look for opportunities to move forward, and don’t give up. Healthy relationships in recovery are the result of hard work and forgiveness where necessary.