How did do you restore relationships in recovery? Boy, that was a question that stumped me and my daughter for years. People’s behaviors change when family members are using, and our relationship was destroyed almost beyond repair. Lindsey thought I was a terribly controlling and mean mother. I thought she was controlling and even meaner. And frankly, both of us were a little bit right. Our problems that began with substance use and escalated over the years made getting along impossible. We needed help and separation to recover.
Are you longing to restore a damaged relationship
Wouldn’t you just love to restore precious relationships that have been destroyed by addiction? So did I. In the high school years of my daughter’s substance use, all I wanted was for using substances to stop. I did what many parents do. I covered it up. I didn’t tell anyone. I thought substance and alcohol use was a phase. I was in denial. Then I got scared, and treatment began; then I got furious. That was a long time ago, actually 20 years ago now. We’ve been working on it. Recovery has been the guide for me and my daughter, Lindsey, for more than two decades now. As a mother and daughter, we’ve been studying and writing about addiction and recovery since 2010. Now we’re creating workbooks, so other families can learn healthy behaviors like we did.
Lindsey recently reminded me that 2021 marks our 11th anniversary writing about addiction and recovery
Why is recovery so hard for every family
Recovery takes time and patience. It may not work the first, second, or third time. Who has the patience to stay sweet and hopeful and balanced? I sure didn’t. As each one of my phases of coping with the trauma of addiction progressed, my family members moved farther and farther away from me until I couldn’t do or say anything right. I’d fallen into the addiction trap as completely as my loved ones had. We were a dysfunctional family. And you know what? I don’t know any family that has escaped this trap. We expect things will return to normal where we are all respectful, honest and responsible when we or our loved ones get sober, but that doesn’t happen.
Guess what, sobriety does not magically restore relationships
Here’s what happens in relationships. We love our children. We love our spouses and lovers, friends and family members. And they love us. When substance or behavior use impacts those precious relationships, however, all of our personalities change. That doesn’t mean children stop loving parents who try to help them, or parents stop loving children who keep using. It means new behaviors we haven’t experienced before like lying, hiding our feelings, manipulating, negotiating, controlling, along with the inability to communicate honestly, break our confidence in each other and our precious circle of love.
It may seem as if we hate each other, but underneath the hurt and anger we really still love each other deeply and want those connections restored. When feelings associated with addiction get so hot and volatile that you can’t talk about anything or even be together in the same room, you have to calm down before you can reconnect in a healthy way. That’s why Lindsey and I created workbooks for the new decade.
What is the state of your relationships right now
Regardless of whether your loved one is using or not, here are some questions to ask yourself about your relationship. This can apply to any relationship.
- Are you in a place where everyone is angry, and no one is listening?
- Do you feel you can’t tell your loved ones what you think without starting an emotional nuclear war?
- Can you talk openly, objectively, and honestly about what’s going on?
- Do you feel lost and battered and blamed no matter what you say?
- What are you willing to do to improve the situation?
- Can you take a good look at yourself?
How can you restore relationships and close the circle of love again
Everybody is different, but there are some key components to restore relationships. One of them is emotional safety. We have to feel we won’t be judged or blamed. We have to feel understood. My recovery began when I stopped relying on sobriety as the solution. Addiction had changed my family for the worse, and we had to change again. But how? We couldn’t go back to life before addiction. Too much damage had occurred. We had to start over.
For me, that meant that I, as the adult and mom, had to learn to listen and to accept that I wasn’t perfect. I made mistakes and could be hurtful myself. I had to let go of wanting to be right. I had to detach from outcomes and not be codependent. I had to accept that I might lose the fight. That’s a lot of changing for one mom to make. To restore relationships, I had to provide a safe space for my children so they could return home to a better me. Al-anon was helpful in teaching me how to do that.
You can go to therapy from now until doomsday, and not digest the fundamental fact that good relationships require emotional safety.
We wrote the books to make recovery work for you
100 Tips For Growing Up
After writing and researching recovery for Reach Out Recovery in dozens of articles over the years, Lindsey Glass compiled the tips from experts that guided her on her 20-year recovery journey. She added her own insights, notes, and space for journaling in her newly published 100 Tips For Growing Up. This simple book of tips from professionals to improve life at any age is already getting raves. See inside the book.
Find Your True Colors In 12 Steps
My mission has been to translate the meaning of the 12 Steps and the unique way they work to establish emotional health and healthy relationships. As I noted above, families don’t get healthy without an information path to follow. Recovery literacy is crucial for everyone impacted by addiction, and there’s no better way than to explore it through art, journaling and recovery philosophy. That’s the reason we first combined coloring, journaling and recovery principles into a workbook anyone can use.
In 2018, we created the first edition of Find Your True Colors in 12 Steps. It was a good beginning and sold out three printings. But a more comprehensive edition was needed. We spent 2019 working on an expanded version that offers more information, more pages to color and more writing prompts. This Find Your True Colors is perfect for people in treatment programs, teens and family members impacted by addiction, and anyone who loves coloring and learning. See inside the book. Get yours on Reach Out Recovery or Amazon
Now everyone can have the tools we used to restore our precious relationships.