Certified advocate, coach, and trainer, Lesa shares skills, principles, and tools for creating healthy habits in recovery and in life.
Relationship Repair Begins With Looking Within
It is well understood that addiction negatively impacts relationships. It is also understood that unhealthy relationships can be a factor in the evolution of addiction and its progression. Repairing relationships is a crucial component to recovery, but understanding how to do that is not a process that most people have been trained in. Many in recovery continue to unintentionally engage in behaviors, perceptions, and attitudes that contribute to the demise of their relationships rather than the repair—even in their relationships with themselves.
In recovery, it's important to access a different mindset within many areas of life. Doing this, however, is a mountain climb for most because accessing that different mindset requires acceptance and guidance to take action. This holds true with relationship repair. Einstein said, “We can’t solve problems from the same mindset that created them.” Doing the same ineffective thing over and over again does not lead to success. In order to see circumstances differently and handle relationship challenges more effectively, we need to go deeper than our minds and into our hearts and souls.
When trying to repair a relationship as part of recovery, regardless of with ourselves or with others, there are three practical steps that can help us access a different mindset and utilize a new approach.
3 Steps to Repair and Rebuild Your Relationship
Recovery is a re-birthing and it takes a lot of self-observation and looking within. It requires a changing of our mindsets or how we see and perceive things. The process of addiction treatment and/or counseling sometimes assists with the guidance to take action to do this, but not always and usually not deep enough. Additionally, many people in recovery did not get there through treatment, therapy, or counseling, so understanding how to repair and rebuild relationships, change a mindset or perception, and work toward an alignment of what we are actually trying to create is very difficult without awareness and guidance.
Steps to repairing a relationship must be intentional and include consciousness, responsibility, and action.
Step 1: Conscientiously Acknowledge What Is Going On
Denial is something that most who have experienced a cycle or cycles of addiction have some life experience with. Denial does not just exist in active addiction, it also exists in recovery and can be a killer of relationship success. Denial causes one to neglect that action is needed or something needs to be done. Denial sabotages our ability to conscientiously acknowledge what is going on - so we ignore it - and just like with active addiction nothing improves from ignoring or neglecting.
Acknowledging the need for change, being able to see what is going on conscientiously, and being able to admit that something has to happen is an essential first step. You have to accept the unhappiness or unhealthiness to seek a resolution.
Take a moment to sit and think about your relationship with yourself or another. Have you conscienceless admitted to the unhealthiness or unhappiness? Are you ignoring what is going on causing you to neglect yourself, another, or the situation?
You are achieving recovery because you came out of denial. You have succeeded with ending the cycle of addiction in your life, but are you successful with repairing the relationships impacted, even with yourself. If you want a resolution, you must take this first step.
Step 2: Take Responsibility
There is power in taking personal responsibility. It is understood that there are many factors as to why addition evolves. Whether those factors were out of our control or not, to overcome them we had to take personal responsibility; placing blame or pointing outward got us nowhere on the journey to recovery. So like taking responsibility for breaking our addiction, we must also take responsibility for breaking unhealthy relationship cycles in our recovery.
Looking outwards at our problems, outwards for the solutions, and placing blame is not taking personal responsibility. Instead, we must turn our sights inward so we can connect to our power of responsibility. This step takes work, because during the addiction process we programmed ourselves to do the exact opposite.
When we take responsibility for our choices, our words, thoughts, actions, and behaviors, we can see our part in the situation as well as our part in the solution. This taking of responsibility can involve many areas that will go unrecognized if in denial, so we must be sure to accomplished step one before attempting step two.
This action may include taking responsibility for:
- Making the wrong choices in the first place.
- Staying too long or not long enough.
- The way we treat the other person that contributes to the way they treat us.
- The way we respond to someone else's treatment of us.
- How we perceive the actions of ourselves and the other person.
- Accepting that some things are just the way they are.
- Our own behavior and how we respond to someone else's behavior.
Responsibility is not about self-blame or any blame for that matter. Responsibility is about opening up and tapping into our power for change. Taking responsibility helps us stop behaving or feeling like a victim of our own choices. It allows us to start making more powerful decisions in collaboration with what we are trying to create.
Areas of Focus for a Healthy Relationship
There are three primary areas of focus that can guide us back to a healthier relationship with self or another by taking responsibility:
- Practicing acceptance
- Changing our perceptions
- Changing our behavior.
Practicing Acceptance: Sometimes if we remain in resistance to simply what is, there is suffering. Sometimes things in life are just the way they are. There are things within ourselves, things within others, and circumstances. Many in addiction recovery understand the concept of serenity and the famous quote within the prayer that says “Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change.” Acceptance can be freeing. It allows us to either move on, be more calm and wise in the decisions we make, and/or make meaningful choices in response to what is. People make themselves crazy trying to change that which is not changeable or trying to change something that is not their responsibility to change.
Changing Your Perception: Regarding addiction recovery and relationship repair, changing perception is a tough concept. We all have a story that we react and relate to. In my coaching practice I often find people reacting to their own stories through their relationship experiences, which is often not the relationship truth. This clearly causes more problems than necessary. Sometimes all that needs to change in a relationship is how we look at it. For instance, jealousy is a common factor in why relationships are unhealthy and end. Jealousy is a perception that is often not based on any truth all, but when we act on that perception it creates a problem in the relationship that may not have been caused otherwise. We cannot constantly blame someone for something they are not doing simply because it is our perception, a perception that we must take responsibility for changing. Additionally, the opposite holds true. Because of the insidious behaviors demonstrated in active addiction, those close to us have a difficult time trusting again. This is understandable and we must accept that the regaining of trust will take time. With this being said however, the other persons perception also has to change for the relationship to gain strength. If we are doing our part in taking responsibility, acknowledging and taking action, and the perception that the other person has of us is not changing from when we were in active addiction this in and of itself will always be a wedge between the relationship. We must admit and see the truth of the situation, the whole situation.
In taking responsibility for our perception and it's truth in the relationship, we must also take responsibility for how we respond to someone else's perception of us. Often times, perceptions have to change, or the relationship will be destroyed by it.
Perception also plays a huge role in the relationship with the self. Feeling like we don't deserve to be loved is common in addiction recovery. We have done inappropriate things in active addiction that we would never think about doing in a million years. Shame and guilt can make us feel not worthy of love. Many in addiction recovery also have past trauma that adds to this idea. Sometimes people who believe that they don’t deserve love will not believe they are loved even when they are. People in recovery may even allow themselves to be treated poorly. Addiction recovery is a strength, not a weakness. People choosing to take action against their addiction are some of the most well-adjusted and are deserving of love, health, and happiness. A simple change in perception of self can hugely change your reality.
Before you try to change your relationship or your partner think about your perceptions of self and the other person. Examine your thoughts and beliefs about what is happening. Look at these thoughts like an assumption, are you just assuming; is this just a false perception instead of the truth and reality.
Changing Your Behavior: Changing behavior can mean changing our own behavior or our response to other people’s behavior. When we claim obedience over our actions, words, thoughts, and beliefs we become more capable and strong. Taking action in line with what we are trying to bring into our existence regarding the relationship with the self and another promotes powerful change.
In general, people don't change because we want them to, or through trying to make them change. People can and do change however in response to what we do. Again, sometimes the only thing that needs to change in a relationship is how you see it.
Step 3: Take Action
In order to bring about relationship renewal, change or repair we need to take action in being more aware, conscious, and responsible. This can be a slippery slope because nothing changes if we don't take action, and things could get worse if we take the wrong action. Action should be taken carefully and with the knowledge of who we really are and what we are trying to achieve.
Let the steps in this article be the foundation for the right intentions; conscience intentions that will lead you to a stronger and healthier relationship with yourself, with another, and with recovery.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.