The addicted individual is not only hurting him or herself. When the obsession and compulsion to use takes over, addiction’s victims may lie to, steal from, neglect, or even abuse the people around them. Relationships shatter, and that is why making amends and trying to restore these relationships is an important part of the recovery process. Simply feeling regret or making an apology isn’t going to be enough to regain trust with a loved one. Although it can be a difficult process, there are many resources for guidance in seeking how to reconnect with loved ones.
The words “I’m sorry,” are very important. Acknowledging what went wrong and asking for forgiveness can be a deeply cleansing process. Addiction is built on a platform of minimization, denial, and excuses. Recovery demands that you acknowledge and own your mistakes and imperfections, and recognize that you truly hurt someone else. When you admit to hurting someone else, you respect them by acknowledging that their pain is real. That can mean so much, and be the start of a conversation where you can learn how to set new patterns of mutual compassion and respect.
Don’t be the only one speaking, but take the time to listen to the other person’s response. You might not be totally aware of how you hurt him or her, or how deeply your wounds penetrated. The person may react with anger, or deep sadness. They might not be able to forgive you, or welcome you fully back into their lives, at first. Whatever their reaction, this two-sided conversation is an important part of reaching a point of mutual understanding. This can be the beginning of you both doing the work to make the relationship better.
Make it better:
There are many times when talking will not be enough. For a traumatic breaking of trust, an apology and conversation should be understood as the start, not the end, of the reconciliation process. Perhaps the most important step is to make amends. Making amends means acting justly, and restoring things back, fixing what is broken. The 12-Step program dedicates two steps, 8 and 9, to reflecting on people harmed by your addiction, and then making direct amends wherever possible. Effort put towards amends shows that you are committed to really making the relationship better, by righting your past wrongs. For example, if you stole money for drugs, just apologizing will not have the same impact as actually giving money back.
Trust can often take a long time to rebuild, especially after it has been destroyed. Big grand gestures of restitution are important, but are only a starting point towards a truly changed life. For many people, what will really make an impact are the small, day-to-day things you do that show you consider their feelings, strive for honesty, and act to make their lives better. Telling someone “I’ve really changed” without giving reason to believe you will do little good. Instead, find ways to really show that you are now living in a different, mindful, and considerate way.
Some people find it helpful to take a little bit of time at the end of every day and reflect on what they have done, or not done. Assess both your strengths and weaknesses, and think about small steps you can take to do things a little bit better. Be gentle and forgiving with yourself, since getting caught up in shame will simply debilitate you. If you fall down, just pick yourself back up and resolve to try again.
Restoring what was broken sometimes takes time. There is no magic formula for how to put relationships back together, or make trust come back after it’s been lost. You know that your recovery has changed you and made you a different person, but sometimes it takes time for other people to recognize that and let you back into their lives. Respecting them, listening to them, and doing whatever it takes to care about their feelings are all important ways that you both can move from the past, and find new ways to enjoy life together.