July 29, 2022
Q: How do I start repairing relationships after addiction?
A: It all starts with honesty. During our months or years of addiction, we’ve likely been dishonest with a lot of people in our lives, including ourselves. Maybe you hid your drug use, lied about why you were home late or called in sick to work when you were intoxicated or hungover. You may have also made excuses or broke promises, like missing a child’s game or quality time with a spouse. When we’re in the midst of addiction, we justify our behavior however we can.
Chances are, you’ve also been dishonest with yourself in a lot of ways.
“I don’t have a problem.”
“I only drink when I know I’m not driving.”
“It’s only beer or a little pot to help me unwind.”
“I’ve never missed work, although some mornings I don’t get much done.”
"I'm only hurting myself.”
“I can quit any time I want to.”
It’s not easy, but you may need to be honest and kind with yourself before you can rebuild relationships with others. Accepting all of ourselves leads to healing and true self-acceptance.
You may feel ashamed, weak or worthless. Facing those feelings and fears head on will help you move forward. You don’t have to do it alone, either. Peer coaches, for example, have made it through their own journeys of forgiveness and self-acceptance. If you need someone to talk to who won’t judge you, they’re a great place to start.
I’ve talked with a lot of people who say, “I’ve never lied to my partner, but I leave out certain details.” It may seem harmless, but it’s another form of dishonesty and makes it that much harder for people in your life to trust you.
Being honest comes with its own set of challenges and relationships take time to rebuild. I like to think of honesty as making amends. It can initially seem hard, but it’s the first step on a journey to regaining the trust of others and feeling good about yourself. It can also improve your work performance, allow you to let go of shame and help you feel better mentally and even physically. Admitting to problems and owning your mistakes only proves you are human. And once problems are in the open, they can be dealt with.
It’s important to keep in mind that you may not need to share absolutely everything to a spouse, parent or other loved one. Ask yourself, “Is this relevant to the relationship? Will this help us heal and move forward?” If your answer is no, consider your purpose behind sharing. If we overwhelm someone with every hurtful truth, it may cause more pain than relief.
Whether you need to work on your relationship with yourself or with others, do your best to move forward in honesty and acceptance. While admitting your past dishonesty may be tough, the rewards are many. You may be surprised to feel a weight being lifted from you once you open up.
These changes won’t happen overnight. If you’re trying to repair a relationship with someone you’ve lied to, don’t expect them to trust you immediately. Be prepared for some initial distrust and try to understand where they’re coming from. It’s healthy for people to mistrust you once trust is broken. It takes time to feel safe again.
It may be helpful to bring in a third party like a therapist while you work through past hurts. Remember, relationships can and do heal every day. It is possible.
Don’t forget that there’s help out there for you. Our name, Face It TOGETHER, really says it all. There’s power in numbers. Whether you speak to a peer coach, therapist, pastor or someone else, you can get the support you need without judgment or guilt.
Honesty brings things out in the light. As we’re reminded each spring, light and warmth makes good things grow.