Healthy relationships are a cornerstone of a life of sobriety, while unhealthy relationships can quickly lead to relapse. According to the Hazleden Betty Ford Foundation, differentiating between relationships that affirm and foster a healthy lifestyle and those that keep you repeating old patterns of unhealthy behavior is crucial for successful long-term recovery.
Relationships with people who are co-dependent or who enable unhealthy behaviors are counter-productive, and it’s important to end or repair these types of relationships as well as develop new, healthy relationships with other non-users, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
Repairing Co-Dependent and Enabling Relationships With Loved Ones
Cutting ties with co-dependent or enabling friends or those who still use is difficult, but it may be impossible – and indeed, highly detrimental – to end relationships with co-dependent or enabling loved ones. In the case of the latter, rebuilding the relationship based on your new reality is essential for preventing old, destructive patterns from re-emerging.
Codependency occurs when someone in your life believes that gaining your approval and love depends on taking care of you in the way they think you want to be taken care of, and enabling behaviors occur when people in your life help or encourage your substance use, either by standing by and preventing you from suffering the consequences of your addiction or by making it easier for you to get drugs or alcohol, such as driving you to the liquor store or a dealer’s house or giving you money.
These unhealthy relationship dynamics foster a higher level of dependence on your part, and it takes a great deal of effort and insight for family members to turn co-dependent and enabling behaviors around. To improve these relationships, encourage your loved ones to seek support through Al-Anon or your treatment program to help them break co-dependent and enabling behaviors and put your relationship on new, solid ground.
Developing New Relationships in Recovery
Isolation in recovery is a major trigger for relapse, but starting from scratch and developing new friendships can be difficult. So how do you go about building new friendships after treatment? To start with, the National Institute on Drug Abuse recommends looking to a support group.
Your peers in recovery can not only provide you with healthy companionship, but developing friendships with them can also increase your–and their own–level of accountability in a quest for long-term sobriety. Once you make a connection with someone in your support group, invite him or her out for a cup of coffee, or suggest a night of bowling, a movie, or an informal get-together with other members of the group.
While your support group is an ideal resource for developing healthy social relationships, you shouldn’t make it your only source for meeting new people. Here are some other tips for meeting new people with whom you can develop healthy relationships:
- Join a club or organization that interests you, such as a sports league, theater troupe, book club, or outdoor adventure club.
- Volunteer for a cause that’s dear to you to meet people with similar philanthropic interests.
- Get more involved with your church, if you belong to one.
- Look online for sober meet-ups, which occur all across the world, initiated by like-minded individuals in recovery who are also looking for meaningful and healthy relationships with other sober people.
Words of Caution
Remember that those you meet outside of your support group or sober meetup may be social drinkers, or recreational drug users, and you should decide in advance how you will approach these types of relationships based on your stage of recovery and the strength of your resolve to live a sober life. You’ll need to be ready to exit the relationship should your new friend exhibit enabling behaviors, such as assuring you that one drink or one hit off a pipe won’t hurt.
Working through these issues ahead of time with the help of your support group is a good way to make sure you’re prepared to “put yourself out there” and begin developing relationships that will ultimately be mutually beneficial and foster an overall healthy lifestyle.
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