Substance use impacts every aspect of our lives. Outside of our own selves, perhaps nothing is impacted more fully by addiction than our relationships with others. As we begin our recovery process, we learn to heal ourselves. However, our relationships also need healing. If we are to truly recover, we need to learn how to build healthy relationships.
The best way to have healthy relationships with others is to first have a healthy relationship with ourselves. One of the benefits of recovery is that it gives us the opportunity to discover who we really are and what we really want in life. We need to listen to our inner selves and find the things that give us long-lasting happiness, not just temporary pleasure. As we do so, we can create a healthy relationship with ourselves.
This may be foreign to us at first, as we are the first ones to be lost in our substance abuse. We can forget what made us happy, hobbies and pastimes that we enjoyed, and our dreams that we previously had for our future. Just as if we were meeting someone for the first time, as we step into our recovery, we can look inside ourselves and discover who we really are, what we want, and who we want to be.
As we heal from our addiction, our understanding of what we want from our relationships also begins to be more clear. We have the chance to evaluate the types of relationships we have had in the past and determine what worked for us and what didn’t. Once we begin to find who we are, then we can work towards building healthy relationships with others.
Some of the most important skills for healthy relationships include:
• Communication – one of the most important skills in healthy relationships is good communication. This is only achieved when both parties are successful in the communication process, which can be difficult when one person does not hear or understand what is being communicated. We can do our part by sharing what we want, need, or are feeling in a way that is clear. Then we can check to see if what we said was understood. If not, we can listen and try to communicate it again another way. Patiently working together until there is mutual understanding can create positive communication.
Controlling our emotions is another important part of effective communication. So many times, our reactions create misunderstandings and miscommunication. As we learn to control our emotions in recovery for ourselves, we need to remember to apply this same concept to our communications with our relationships. We can monitor our reactions, and we can also notice if the other person is simply overreacting emotionally. This can take both patience and practice, especially if this was a dynamic in our relationship previously, we may need to work that much harder to change our communication.
• Healthy Conflict Resolution – when using substances, we tend to create more conflict within our relationships. Depending on how long we were under the influence of substances, creating conflicts may be a habit that we developed. There will always be some kind of conflicts within our relationships, however, how we resolve them is up to us. Learning to control our emotions and our responses are skills that we can develop in recovery. Using these skills, we can learn to change old habits and resolve conflicts calmly and fairly with other people in our lives, including partners, children, co-workers, and friends.
• Setting Boundaries – as we heal, we can be raw emotionally and may not always be aware of how our relationships are impacting us. This is such a crucial time to set clear and obvious boundaries in all of our relationships, as we are setting the tone for our life moving forward. While it may seem like a lot to think about as we are healing, this is actually the perfect time to assert ourselves appropriately and empower ourselves to have healthy boundaries and relationships.
This may include learning to say “no” or asking for help, two things that can be very difficult, and are also so important to healthy boundaries. Likewise, we need to be accepting and learn from our own mistakes, yet at the same time be confident in the decisions we make, and not let others sway us. We can make healthy compromises with others while still maintaining distance from those who are negative influences. We can remain calm and grounded, even when others around us become emotional. For example, if someone attempts to guilt trip us or create a power struggle, we can remain calm and neutral and avoid the need to engage in games or the impulse to “fix” other people.
Learning to rebuild our lives includes rebuilding our relationships, as well as building new relationships. To gain the support we need in our lives, we need to do our part and create a world of healthy relationships surrounding us. By improving our communication, learning to resolve conflicts and set boundaries in healthy ways, we can create relationships in our lives that are healthy, dependable, and rewarding. By investing in ourselves, we can create our own network of helpful relationships that will in turn support our recovery.
Learn how to build healthy relationships. Learn how to build a new you. Find everything you need at AToN Center at (888) 535-1516.