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Repairing Relationships After Substance Use Disorder

Making amends and rebuilding trust

Those in recovery often realize that their actions during active SUD can have long lasting impacts on relationships.

To support recovery and build hope for the future, it‘s important for the person in recovery to try to repair the damage done to relationships.

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According to Kennedy, someone recovering from SUD will typically build self-forgiveness by:

  • working through difficult emotions and resentments

  • taking accountability for actions that may have harmed others

  • making amends to those they may have hurt

“They can also begin to rebuild trust with their partner through this process, which involves increasing transparency and honesty, as well as taking steps to build healthier behaviors,” she adds.

Trust is a fundamental part of every relationship, and it often takes a big hit during periods of substance use. Rebuilding lost trust can be a priority when repairing connections during recovery.

It’s important to try not to be discouraged if anger, resentment, and distrust pop up along the way. Instead, Green recommends looking at things from the other person’s perspective: Is their emotional reaction understandable given your history? Can you see why they’re hurt, worried, or angry?

When resentment comes up, Green suggests the following tips for navigating the situation:

  • Find ways to validate their reactions.

  • Avoid minimizing or discounting their experience.

  • Let them know that you truly see and hear them.

  • Reassure them that you’re trying to respond to their needs in healthy ways.

“When you’re dealing with addiction recovery and relationship recovery, it can be a really tough road,” says Green. “But it’s totally worth it when you’re able to repair and rebuild relationships so they meet your needs more fully, allow you to meet the needs of your loved ones, and improve your overall quality of life.”

Your SUD recovery may benefit from the social support and closeness, too.


How to repair relationships after substance use disorder

It’s important to remember that you don’t have to go through this alone. There are tips and resources available to help you along your SUD and relationship recovery journey.

Here’s a list of expert-backed strategies that can help you mend your relationships and rebuild emotional safety with loved ones going forward. You can try:

  • putting yourself in their shoes

  • listening to and validate their experiences

  • respecting feelings that come up

  • working on rebuilding trust

  • improving your communication skills

  • following through with commitments and promises

  • talking openly about your recovery journey

  • joining support groups

  • reading self-help books

  • listening to recovery podcasts

If you need further help or support during the relationship recovery process, consider speaking with an individual, family, or couples therapist.

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