Renaissance Ranch

Is It Necessary to Repair Relationships in Recovery?

Jul 5, 2024

Understandably so, interpersonal relationships often suffer in the wake of alcohol and drug addictions. The brain changes caused by repeated substance use can cause an individual to exhibit emotional and behavioral challenges, leading to greater interpersonal conflict and complications with loved ones and other supports. Because of this, many people in recovery may wonder if it is necessary to repair relationships that were impaired by their substance use. As the 12-Step philosophy reminds us, making amends is vital to achieving and sustaining lasting sobriety. Nevertheless, it can be helpful to understand why it is necessary to repair relationships in recovery. 

At Renaissance Ranch, our approach to treatment is grounded in the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) because we know that they provide invaluable guidance to emotional and spiritual healing in sobriety. These steps serve many purposes, including assisting individuals in reflecting and reforming their understanding of, and participation in, their interpersonal relationships. Part of this process involves making amends with those we have hurt to, ultimately, repair relationships in recovery. Not only does this help us recognize and accept our fallibility as humans but it also allows us to take accountability and responsibility for the mistakes we made in active addiction. 

How Active Addiction Impairs Relationships

There are many ways that substance use and addiction impair relationships. First and foremost, they can be impaired when an individual is actively under the influence. It is important to keep in mind that alcohol and other drug use can trigger a wide range of effects, especially when several substances are used in tandem (known as polysubstance use). 

As a result, some individuals may appear aggressive or violent when under the influence, which can cause loved ones to feel fearful or end up as the victim of an abusive situation.  Others may become disinterested, depressed, or isolated when under the influence of alcohol and other drugs, which can cause distance and separation between friends and other loved ones. 

On the other hand, relationships may also be impaired when an individual with addiction is not under the influence and, instead, experiencing withdrawals. Those with addiction may experience a variety of unpleasant withdrawal symptoms when not using. Loved ones may become their unintentional punching bag as a result, experiencing the wrath of their irritability, depression, and other distressing withdrawal effects. 

When a friend or loved one is harmed as a result of an individual’s substance use, rarely is it a one-time occurrence. Rather, loved ones may feel a sense of responsibility in encouraging and supporting their loved ones to recognize the harm that they have caused and seek professional treatment to establish sobriety. Yet, these supportive efforts may lead them to get hurt repeatedly as well.

Making Amends to Repair Relationships in Recovery

In the context of the Twelve Steps of 12-Step recovery, there is not just one step that highlights the importance and necessity of making amends. Rather, the Twelve Steps acknowledge that making amends is a gradual, ongoing process that has no end. Each time we work through these steps, there will be new wrongdoings and shortcomings that we must recognize in ourselves and ask God (or another Higher Power of our choosing) to remove. Similarly, there will likely be new opportunities to take accountability and responsibility for those we have hurt and make amends, even well into sobriety. 

Meanwhile, the initial process of making amends begins with taking a moral inventory of our wrongdoings and admitting these wrongdoings to ourselves, God, and others (such as a 12-Steps support group). Following this, we must ask God to remove these defects of character and other shortcomings. This also requires us to believe that we truly want to change our behavior and will do our best to not hurt others in the future. Next, we must reflect again on what relationships we have impaired and be willing to make amends. Finally, we can put in effort to make direct amends, unless doing so could cause further harm to us or the other party. 

Steps to Repair Relationships in Recovery

As we near the step of making active amends to those we hurt as a result of our past substance use, it is crucial not to rush these amends. Remember that every person grieves and heals differently. Some individuals may not be ready to accept an apology or effort to reconcile. Therefore, it is important to prepare for such dismissal just in case. In addition, remember that reconciliation does not require reconnection. 

Additional steps to consider before actively repairing relationships in recovery include:

  • Putting oneself in the other person’s shoes
  • Taking ownership and accountability for the harm that was caused to the individual and the relationship as a whole
  • Practicing genuine and compassionate communication with loved ones 
  • Strengthening conflict resolution, active listening, and other communication skills in treatment
  • Knowing how to differentiate a pressured apology from a genuine apology: “I am so sorry that I hurt you.”
  • Practicing non-verbal cues such as maintaining eye contact and having an open posture
  • Understanding your deeper motive for repairing relationships: Do you not want to feel bad about it anymore or are you genuinely sorry that your substance use impaired this relationship?

Meanwhile, at Renaissance Ranch, we can provide each individual with the peer and professional support that they need to make amends and repair relationships in recovery. 

It is common for interpersonal relationships to experience damaging effects as a result of alcohol and other drug abuse. Thus, putting in effort to make amends and repair relationships in recovery is essential. Doing so provides an individual with the opportunity to take accountability and responsibility for their wrongdoings in active addiction while also practicing compassion for themselves and others. Furthermore, making amends is not a one-time thing, but rather an ongoing process in recovery. At Renaissance Ranch, we prioritize the use of 12-Step philosophy, which helps clients develop healthy and meaningful relationships with themselves, others, and a Higher Power of their choosing. Allow us to guide and support you on your journey to lasting sobriety. Call (801) 308-8898 today.