Whether you are working on rebuilding a romantic relationship that barely survived addiction, narcissistic abuse, trauma, grief, codependency… and you are longing to connect with new friends, or find yourself trying to get along with coworkers at work, there is an art to building healthy relationships in recovery. Here is what you need to know:
You are a great person to be around.
No matter how you feel about yourself right now, how people treat you based on events that transpired before your recovery – you are changing and growing into a healthier human every day. Because you are doing the hard work to better yourself and make healthy choices every day, you are a good friend to have around and a positive influence on the people around you. (YES, that is right you CAN be a positive influence and NOT be perfect….WOW go figure)
The past will play a role.
Especially if you are in the process of repairing a relationship that began before or during active drug/alcohol use, active codependency, untreated mental disorders, or abuse and/or subsequent trauma. It will be impossible to completely excise your history from your current & future relationships. That is not necessarily a bad thing – it means that you have the opportunity to look back at how you have functioned previously in your relationships, identify your strengths and weaknesses, and learn how to make changes that will improve all your relationships going forward. (The past can only hurt you if you view it as if you are still IN IT, you can re frame it and honor it without STAYING in it.)
Your MOST IMPORTANT relationship is with yourself.
Take the time to truly get to know yourself and allow yourself to evolve in recovery before trying to acclimate to the needs and desires of others in relationships. The stronger you are in your self-understanding and the stronger you are in your recovery, the easier it will be to build strong relationships with others.
You need to be stable in recovery before taking on serious relationships.
It is one thing to develop acquaintanceship's with people at work and it is quite another to start dating in early recovery. Before you attempt to develop serious relationships that could impact your emotions and therefore your ability to prevent relapsing, it is important that you pause and honestly assess your recovery.
You can learn from past relationship patterns.
The patterns that you exhibited in prior relationships may very well rise again in recovery – especially early on. Consider what has happened in your past relationships – the good and the bad – so you can know what to look for to circumvent trouble.
Codependency may be an issue.
For many in recovery, codependency played a key role in addiction and may be something significant to overcome in relationships of all kinds, from the workplace to “the rooms” to home. An imbalance in relationships, codependency is often defined by manipulation by one party and an unhealthy need to please in another. The problem is that this can enable a return to addiction because there are no healthy boundaries in place – a primary concern in early recovery.
Hiding your past is not healthy.
As you meet new people, you will be faced with the task of determining when it is appropriate to talk about your recovery status and how much about your past you should divulge. This will vary depending on the person you are talking to and your current relationship with them, but if you are seeking to have a new friend in your life who will be more than an acquaintance, then honesty about your sobriety is essential.
You are not automatically the least healthy person in a new relationship.
Many in recovery assume that they are BROKEN and everyone they meet is healthy by comparison. Not true. It is important to remain vigilant when bringing new people into your life and to notice any red flags. Dishonesty, violence, drug and alcohol use, or any kind of unhealthy behavior should be a warning sign that it is time to move on.
It is important to take things slow.
Moving into a committed relationship too fast, can get you enmeshed in an unhealthy connection that gets in the way of your recovery. Go slow in all your new relationships and allow them to unfold naturally over time.
Your recovery must always take precedence.
No matter how amazing a new person in your life is or how good you feel when you spend time with someone, it is important to make sure that your number one priority is your recovery. Continue to attend 12-Step meetings, show up to therapy sessions, and put your daily health first (e.g., eating healthfully, getting good sleep, working out regularly, etc.). This is the only way you can ensure that you will continue to make positive progress in your recovery and be a great friend or partner while healthfully managing any stressors that arise in the new relationship.