Do you remember back to your days in the safe and supportive cocoon of drug treatment? It may seem like another age ago, but one of the main things you remember in the fact that you had a lot to learn.
Years of chronic substance abuse had done a number on your physical, mental and spiritual well-being, and the tools and support found in drug treatment rebuilt you from the group on up. At times, it may have felt that you had to start from scratch in regards to what feeling good really means and how to relate you yourself and others in a healthy manner.
A cornerstone of quality drug rehab programs is life skills education, and these tools are essential in helping you take care of yourself and your necessary daily obligations and responsibilities while working your program of recovery. One of the most important life skills that you have to master is learning to build healthy relationships in recovery.
So, what are the ways that we in recovery can go about building healthy relationships? The following building blocks will get you there.
The Things You Need to Build Healthy Relationships in Recovery
The first ingredient you need to build healthy relationships in recovery is accountability. In a nutshell, to be accountable is to fully admit that you have made mistakes and that you were wrong and had wronged others. It isn’t enough to admit wrong verbally, you must truly put meaning behind it with your heart. Additionally, to be truly accountable to yourself and to others is to fully accept responsibility for your behaviors, attitudes and values. This is the underlying theme of the Fourth Step of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step groups.
Another building block to building healthy relationships in recovery is keeping safety in mind. When we talk safety in the parameters of building relationships, we are referring to respecting the physical space of family, friends and other loved one. When we are safe, we keep in mind that we need to express ourselves in a non-confrontational and non-violent manner. Additionally, safety in this capacity means that we don’t resort to manipulation or intimidation to express our needs.
The next ingredient–honesty–shouldn’t need too much explaining. In short, healthy relationships are built upon us being completely transparent, open and above all truthful in our relationships with the ones we love. If you think about it, honesty was one of the first virtues we in recovery had to relearn. Honesty is the cornerstone of the First Step of Alcoholics Anonymous and other 12-step based support groups. It is much better to be upfront and truthful from the get-go then letting half-truths, lies and omissions linger and fester.
The process of building healthy relationships in your recovery also requires support. When we are supportive, we are fully understanding of people’s choices and we offer encouragement where we can. Being supportive also means being non-judgmental of others in the way we listen and act towards other people. Additionally, being supportive also means that we value the opinions of others.
Cooperation is another essential ingredient that is needed to build healthy relationships in recovery. The name of the game in cooperation is compromise, and you work with others towards solutions to problems that are a win-win situation for the parties involved. You aren’t afraid to make decisions with others and you willingly accept decisions that are made that don’t go totally your way or your way at all. You learn that when you truly cooperate with others you are asking of others instead expecting things from others.
The final puzzle piece in the building of healthy relationships is trust. This is perhaps the most important part of building healthy relationships. As alluded to earlier in this article, it is important to take steps to regain trust in those that you love. A huge part of sustaining your hard-earned recovery is having the solid support of family, friends and other loved ones. There are two important components in building trust. First, you are accepted of another’s word (and vice versa). Secondly, you are given and giving the benefit of the doubt.
Learning to Accept and Walk Away
No matter how solid your individual plan of recovery or the positive steps you are taking, you will inevitably encounter situations where someone has issues with you and your recovery. They may not understand what you are going through, or they may not be entirely supportive of your decision to stay clean and sober. When you encounter situations like these, it is best to walk away from those relationships. Keeping people like that in your life can add unnecessary stress to your life, and it can divert the focus you need to work your program of recovery. It is often said in recovery that you need to “stick with the winners” and this maxim applies in these situations.