Addiction is often called a “family disease,” but it goes beyond the family, too. Addiction can harm the relationships we care most about, like our family, friends and even our significant others. But in recovery, you can learn a new way to interact with the ones you value most.
For many people in recovery, reconciling with loved ones can be challenging. Even when you’re sober and walking a better path, it can be difficult to overcome those powerful feelings of shame, guilt or disappointment from the past. However, this is where making amends comes in.
The process of making amends is a common dynamic in recovery. Whether you said something you didn't mean or did something you regret, you have the opportunity to make it right.
Although the process might look different based on your relationship and where you’re at in recovery, here are some failsafe principles to rely on throughout the process:
1. Take Ownership
Who is the only person you can change? Yourself. This lesson is important to understand because when you do, it can transform your life.
Taking ownership of your actions will help you remove the expectations placed on other people, both when reflecting on the past and present. Taking ownership of what happened in the past and your part in it takes honesty, reflection, and self-awareness, but it’s critical to healthy and fulfilling relationships.
Work with a sponsor, recovery coach or therapist to help you plan and guide an amends conversation, but start with ownership first. It’s the foundational principle that will guide your ability to stand in humility, ready for reconciliation and forgiveness.
2. Be Patient
Just because you want to reconcile a relationship doesn’t mean the other person feels the same way. It can be hurtful when others don’t recognize or see the changes you’ve made in recovery, but don’t let it disappoint you for too long. Instead, use it as an opportunity to learn and practice patience.
Give the people in your life the space they need to reflect on the words you’ve said. This not only allows you to be patient, but it is a real, tangible way to show others you honor their boundaries and respect their feelings.
3. Forge a New Path
Recovery is all about learning new ways of doing things. From the way you talk to the way you think and the way you interact with others, handling relationships with a new, recovery-oriented mindset will help you avoid the pattern of repeating old behaviors in your relationships.
No matter the outcome of a particular relationship, learn from the past rather than getting hung up on shame or regret. Use reconciliation as your platform to make friends in recovery, treat your family differently, and interact with your community in ways you haven’t before.
While these tips can help you work on reconciling relationships and having healthier relationships in the future, it's important to remember to be kind to yourself. Offer yourself forgiveness, grace, and understanding that your past is in the past.
Today, as you work on becoming a new person in recovery, focus on putting in the work for healthy relationships, no matter the outcome. Reconciling can take time. So, stay focused on your journey, the lessons you learn, and the new patterns you’re creating for yourself.
You won’t regret it.