Making Successful Amends After Addiction: Keys to Repairing Relationships

“Trust takes years to build, seconds to break and forever to repair.” ~ Unknown

When bridges get broken, the damage is hard to repair. Dealing with a loved one’s addiction and watching them destroy their own lives with chemical dependency is extremely traumatic, as you can personally attest if you’ve experienced this in your own life. You probably have friends whose parents never recovered from drug and alcohol abuse, and they’ve waited their whole lives for their parents to make amends with them, but that moment never came. Perhaps you project their experience onto your own, as you wonder if you’ll ever get to repair the relationships you’ve damaged when you were battling your own demons.

Regardless of what’s happened in the past, you can do something about the future of your relationships when you learn the skills of making amends in a dual diagnosis treatment program.

[See: 11 Strategies for Staying Sober While Traveling.]

Don’t Just Apologize — Back It Up With Action

Has anyone ever said “I’m sorry” and left you with a lingering feeling that they weren’t very sincere? Don’t be that person who just apologizes and walks away.

Apology backed with an action plan says more than just words alone. Acknowledge specific ways in which you have hurt each person, and allow others to express exactly how you made them feel as well.

When you admit or confess your mistakes, don’t just say, “If there’s a way I can make it up to you…” The question is not “if” but “how.” There’s always something you can do to make amends. Ask the person how you can make it up to them and then commit to it. If, at this point, you have not yet signed up for a drug and alcohol rehab program, and your loved one wants you to seek help, then commit to that. Find a dual diagnosis treatment center that offers client-centered, individualized plans that cater to your specific needs.

If you have a hard time articulating your apology in an earnest way, or if you’re afraid how others may respond when you do try to make amends, consider bringing in a third party, maybe a friend or your substance abuse counselor, to help facilitate the conversation. Expressing emotions in sensitive situations can be difficult for those coming out of addiction, because they’re barely coming to terms with their own emotions from which they have been detached for so long.

[See: 7 Ways to Build Resilience for Crises and Everyday Life Challenges.]

Winning the Trust Back

Give them a reason to trust you again. Show them that you’ve changed and that you’re truly a different person now. You can prove to your loved ones that you’ve changed through:

— A radically different lifestyle evidenced by healthier choices and social circles.

— Consistent and persistent habits that last longer than a year.

— Your private identity that’s congruent with your public identity.

— Sustained relationships with substance abuse counselors and peers who will help you when you’re faced with temptations and triggers.

— Your active presence in a recovery community showing your commitment to long-term sobriety.

[Read: The Psychological Impact of Victim-Blaming — and How to Stop It.]

Depending on what’s happened in your relationship histories with your family members, friends and significant others, it will take time for them to heal from the damage incurred by drug and alcohol abuse. Part of healing includes acceptance of what is out of your control. You can only do your best with what you have right here, right now, and understand that others have the right to be reserved about trusting you again.

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Making Successful Amends After Addiction: Keys to Repairing Relationships originally appeared on usnews.com