Building Relationships in Rehab
The importance of social support for health, well- being and quality of life has been widely studied and its benefits are well-known.
The relevance of having strong and supportive relationships increases when going through rehab. The love and support of our family and friends in these situations becomes a key aspect of our recovery and a determinant of the treatment outcomes.
The success of rehab can be measured in terms of how satisfying and fulfilling your life is now that you have stopped drinking and no life can be satisfactory without the love and support of those who are part of it.
However, for many people currently going through rehab finding the courage and support they need from their loved ones in such a difficult situation can be a real challenge.
This tendency to isolate from others and prioritizing alcohol use over quality time with friends and family are the first step towards damaging our social support network. At the same time, the change of interests and the new unavoidable habit reinforce the addiction and the conflict with our loved ones, until a point in which there seems to be no way back.
Fortunately, most times there is a way to restore these relationships. It is not easy, but there are some things you can do to rebuild healthier and, why not, stronger relationship with your friends, family members and community.
A first step to do so is by genuinely apologizing and making clear your desire to change. No doubt that seeking for help and initiating the rehabilitation process is the best way to show how committed you are to improve your current situation.
You’ll also need to be patient and prepared for different types of reactions when you announce you are entering or currently going through rehab; from anger to happiness or disbelief, all responses are legitimate and they will probably change over time as the treatment progresses.
Depending on how damaged the relationships are it can take more or less time and effort to be mended. Everyone has a different time to heal and you will need to respect that and keep in mind that those who love you will always want the best for you and will want to support you even if they are struggling to trust again at the beginning.
Support is not about having people around you, but about accepting the help they can give you and ask for it when is needed. Share your thoughts and feelings about what happened in the past and what you are currently going through with sober living and the rehabilitation process in which, sometimes, personal motivation won’t be enough and that external support will become necessary.
To gain back some of the trust you have lost from your community you can start getting involved in activities, volunteering, participating in school meetings or going to church with your family. Any activity that cultivates new and old relationships will be good for you and help with long term sobriety.
Leaving behind the isolation caused by addiction is a step-by-step process; rethink yourself in terms of the communication patterns that might have led you to addiction in the first place. Sometimes, the lack of skills to express ourselves (feelings, thoughts and opinions) in an assertive way can trigger conflict. Identify the patterns and try to change them.
BUILDING NEW RELATIONSHIPS
Once you start rehabilitation you change many aspects of your life. You will find a new job, visit new places and enjoy new hobbies. All these modifications in your life will give you the opportunity to meet new people and build new relationships that match this new identity you are working on.
Building a strong relationship requires effective communication, which basically involves being assertive and have good listening skills. Put in practice these abilities by talking to new people at the gym, the community, church, etc.
Conciliating your past with the future you are building for yourself can be difficult so you will need to find the balance between being honest about who you are without putting yourself in awkward situations (i.e. after work meetings at the bar on a Friday) at least until you are ready for it. Respect your own process.
Support groups are also a good place to build and cultivate new healthy relationships. These groups not only offer a safe environment in which you can express your feelings and thoughts in an honest way, but they are also made of people who have been through similar situations, so it will be easier for them to empathize with your current struggles and feelings.
IDENTIFYING QUALITY RELATIONSHIPS
There are two types of relationships you have to move away from: those that trigger your desire to drink and those that are built upon guilt, intimidation, and abuse. In the long term, engaging in unhealed and conflictive relationships can be a source of frustration, stress and anxiety, all these well- known drinking triggers. Be wise to identify them well.