07 Sep The Effects of Substance Abuse on Relationships and How to Rebuild Them
Addiction is a complicated subject with such a wide variety of underlying causes and motivations it makes generalisations on the subject somewhat futile. What we can all agree on is that addiction is not healthy for the mind or body of those afflicted, in fact, it is hard to imagine how we as humans could do more physical and psychological damage to ourselves.
But of course, the addicts are not the only people negatively affected when casual substance intake morphs, as it so often does, into full-blown addiction. In creating this article, we collected the thoughts and experiences of our incredible, knowledgeable team at Calm drug rehab in Bali on all aspects of substance abuse and rebuilding relationships after addiction. We would like to share them with you.
How societies view substance abuse
People take drugs of all kinds to elevate themselves from whatever sentient plane they are currently existing on and artificially arrive at another. And there’s nothing theoretically wrong with that, people who swear they cannot function without a strong cup of coffee in the morning are also undergoing an alteration or elevation of state. It’s just that, as societies, we have been taught to judge those substances and altered states differently, often pillorying those who participate in activities deemed unacceptable while fully embracing others.
- Alcohol is the perfect representation of this cultural dichotomy
As perhaps the most destructive, relationship-destroying of all mind-altering substances, alcohol leads some people to exhibit unpleasant, often dangerous behaviour. Yet so many cultures have evolved to simply accept it facilitates users in losing inhibitions, socialising and having fun. And it does so very effectively, but at what cost?
The destructive nature of addiction and how it affects our relationships
The nature of addiction is such that it cannot ever be anything but inherently selfish. When individuals value the pursuit of their chosen substance over all other considerations, it can only lead to self-centred, thoughtless behaviour. Addicts will make any excuse or take any convoluted path that leads them to satisfy their cravings and can be notoriously grouchy and even aggressive if things aren’t going in that direction. This puts an extraordinary strain on any close relationships they have, alienating them from the very people best placed to offer support and guidance.
- The trail of damaged or destroyed relationships where substance abuse is the primary cause of the breakdown is a vast, wide one, leaving none who travel it unscathed
Rebuilding relationships after addiction
The chaos of illogical, self-destructive emotions and actions associated with addiction can be like a whirlwind, trashing everything in its wake. Those unlucky enough to be caught up are left bewildered and uncertain in its aftermath. None will be unscathed, but if they remain, all is not lost.
As with almost all affairs of the human heart and its dealings with others, communication is the key to success. The old, stoic ways of the past do not really help people move forwards individually or collectively, and very little progress can ever be achieved if each person lives locked up inside their own negative thoughts and emotions.
- This leads to our first major point in rebuilding relationships after addiction, and that is:
Set realistic expectations
It is fairly certain those family members, partners, and friends who have played their part in a life of addiction, whether their own or that of a loved one, have suffered for a long time. Addiction creeps up on us and takes most people many months or even years to acknowledge, let alone act upon.
The body has an incredible capacity to heal itself and regenerate after trauma, but it is unrealistic to expect emotional and psychological damage to heal so quickly. We humans are incredibly adept at forgiving each other for the most terrible words and actions, but it takes time, understanding, and reciprocated effort.
Take things one step at a time
Individuals bravely undertaking the process of getting clean and sober must endeavour to switch some of their previously selfish inclinations towards their wronged loved ones and start the healing process. In return, those upset friends and family members must be prepared to acknowledge those actions were due to a terrible, all-consuming affliction and were not representative of the person themselves. This process undoubtedly takes a more conscious effort on the part of the addict but is certainly not a one-way street. It involves:
- Taking responsibility for previous and ongoing words and actions
- Recognizing hurt caused to oneself and others
- Apologising and taking steps to make amends
- Forgiveness all around. Guilt is a crushing, negative emotion that must not be allowed to prevail in recovery
- Accepting any harmful behaviour was not deliberate but an unwanted side-effect of addiction
- Celebrating small steps and victories
- Making time to address and deal with issues
- Communicating regularly in a positive, healthy way
When trust has repeatedly been betrayed, rebuilding a real sense of togetherness and understanding will take time and, in some cases, never happen at all. If there are people who simply cannot forgive and forget what has happened, that is their right. It is important to accept and respect their decision and do your best to let them go with forgiveness and kindness.
Discard toxic relationships
Part of the healing process of recovering from addiction comes in recognising those people you can no longer afford to associate with, for whatever reason, and letting them go. This is perhaps one of the most difficult but important steps to take on your road to recovery and can cause a lot of hurt and bad feelings, but you have to protect yourself and your loved ones moving forwards. If you have a group of friends who will never be anything other than hard-drinking buddies edging you towards relapse, there is no choice except to distance yourself from them and start a new chapter of your life. Look at all your relationships carefully and assess them with brutal honesty, as the following people can no longer play a role:
- Peer-pressure experts
- Enablers and co-dependent addicts
- People who cannot forgive you and join you on your new journey
Would you like to learn more?
It can be all too easy to feel you are facing an interminable battle against addiction alone, but nothing could be further from the truth. If it’s difficult to reach out to your loved ones and friends, there are still people you can turn to help make sense of your struggle. If you would like to talk about any of the issues surrounding addiction with our dedicated team of professionals, please do not hesitate to get in touch. Here at Calm Rehab, we have developed an inclusive, clinical program of abstinence and recovery based on neuroscience, and we will be only too happy to discuss the details with you.