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Having Healthy Relationships in Addiction Recovery

people in relationship

Relationships in Addiction Recovery

Surrounding yourself with a stable, uplifting community is pivotal to a happy and successful life—especially in long-term recovery. The relationships we entertain have a significant influence on our well-being and how we go about our daily lives. If you are choosing to spend your time with friends, family members, a boyfriend, or a girlfriend that encourages you and wants to see you succeed, this is going to facilitate long-lasting recovery.

In recovery, it can be extremely challenging to cut ties with people you had once been so close with—the ones who also led you towards a life of destruction. Stepping into a new life of recovery is difficult as is, and finding a new community to immerse yourself in can be intimidating and uncomfortable. When you have the right group of people surrounding you that only want to see you prosper, it’s going to relieve a load of pressure off of your shoulders. As you’re acquiring new relationships, it’s vital to remember the most important relationship of all—the one you have with yourself.

Having a Healthy Relationship with Yourself

Developing a healthy relationship with yourself is something we all have to work on every single day. In order to have and maintain healthy relationships with others, we must first be content with who we are. Being content with who we are doesn’t mean that we never have any insecurities or doubts about ourselves—it simply means that we don’t need or rely on someone else for validation. Codependency is very common in recovery as you and your loved ones are adjusting to new routines as well as a new you. Depending on someone for your own self-worth and fulfillment is not a healthy situation for either party involved.

A healthy relationship with yourself requires positive self-talk, which can be challenging for just about everyone. When you start talking to yourself in the way you want others to speak to you, you’ll start to see a significant change in the way you view yourself. Prioritizing your needs and discovering what feeds your soul is essential to internal growth in recovery and in life. An integral part of your internal growth process is always making time for the activities you enjoy. Oftentimes, we get so wrapped up in our friendships or romantic relationships that we abandon our own interests and daily routines. Remember to find a balance and hold yourself accountable for maintaining it.

The relationship that you have with yourself should always come first and foremost. When you develop a healthy, loving relationship with yourself, you’ll attract positive connections. It becomes unchallenging to dismiss a destructive lifestyle when you’ve experienced a wholesome lifestyle of growth and consistency.

Building Healthy Relationships with Others

Once you’ve established a healthy relationship with yourself, you’ll begin to notice how your other relationships simply fall in place. Loving yourself often means being picky with who you allow access to your life. When going through challenges and stages of growth, you want to surround yourself with family members and friends that are going to support you and help carry your weight, not add to it.

What Does a Healthy Relationship Look Like?

Each and every one of us has our own unique opinions and definitions of what a healthy relationship looks like— because we’re all different. Here are a few things that we believe every healthy relationship should have:

  • Mutual support
  • Attentive to each other’s needs
  • No lying, secrets, or games
  • Mutual trust
  • Mutual respect
  • Feeling safe and protected
  • Healthy disagreements
  • Strong, consistent communication
  • Supportive of each other’s hobbies/interests
  • Admits when they’re wrong
  • Respects each other’s boundaries and limits

In friendships and relationships, everyone is going to have their own individual list of what they consider healthy along with what their boundaries are. While in recovery, it’s important to surround yourself with people that respect your sober lifestyle. Someone that considers and respects your boundaries and limits will never put you in situations to set you up for failure. Mutual respect in relationships creates a bond of trust. “If someone recovering from addiction does not trust their partner, they may hide the progress of sobriety from their partner, or feel they cannot be vulnerable about their sobriety.” This is applicable to family members and friends as well. If you don’t trust them, you won’t feel comfortable enough to communicate with them—which can be very dangerous in recovery.

Setting Boundaries in Your Relationships

As you’re beginning to develop new relationships in recovery, it’s important to determine and define what your boundaries are—better sooner rather than later. Standing firm with your boundaries leaves less room for compromise, especially while navigating a sober lifestyle. Surrounding ourselves with new relationships helps us recognize our limits and different things and behaviors that trigger us. With that being said, you don’t have to know every single one of your boundaries right off the bat.
Having healthy relationships is crucial for success in long-term recovery. The community you surround yourself with will either make or break you, which is why it’s critical for you to be selective with who you spend your time. In any relationship, you should know what your friends, family members, or partner’s triggers are in order to avoid them as much as possible.

Respecting each other’s boundaries builds mutual trust and respect in relationships—two principal qualities. As humans, we crave the feeling of comfort and safety, especially in our interpersonal relationships. When the people in your life begin to better understand your recovery journey, they’ll discover how to offer you the type of encouragement and support that you need. Genuine relationships will never make you feel like you’re a burden or too much to handle.

Avoiding Codependency in Relationships

Codependency, as mentioned above, is incredibly common in relationships—specifically in recovery. More often than not, it is found that parents become very codependent when their child is actively battling a substance use disorder (SUD) or is in recovery. People make sacrifices and dedicate a huge part of their lives for their loved ones in order to get them help. Once their loved one completes treatment, a lot of times they forget to adjust to their new circumstances. They continue to treat them as such and end up smothering them. This becomes a self-fulfilling act as the parent or loved one finds validation and gratification from helping their loved one in recovery. Although this is done out of love and concern for their loved ones, it can enable them and prevent them from making decisions on their own. Adapting to codependent behaviors as a coping mechanism for your own internal issues is not healthy for either involved. When you’re in recovery, you need relationships that are going to encourage and allow you to live independently for yourself, not others.
If you or a loved one struggles with codependency in relationships, some options for help can include: (1) individual and/or couples therapy, (2) healthy self-care practices, (3) maintaining your physical and mental health, and (4) attending support groups like Co-Dependents Anonymous (CoDA).