How to Build Trust and Meaningful Relationships in Recovery

Building Trust and Meaningful Relationships in Recovery

By Family Therapist, Judi Jenett

Trust is at the core of all meaningful relationships. Without trust, there can be no cohesive family unit and rebuilding trust for those recovering from an addiction is a process that can take many months or years. The disease of addiction creates imbalances in relationships and challenges the entire family system.

Families often experience a variety of emotions, unexpressed anger and pain, confusion, embarrassment, guilt, shame and fear. Added to this, are the physical and psychological symptoms such as loss of sleep, headaches, depression, helplessness, hopelessness, isolation, loss of concentration and great sorrow.

Managing the Unmanageable

Many times family members are so focused on the addict that they lose sight of their own needs. Many families have been deeply hurt by the actions of their loved ones; serious financial problems may have developed due to excessive spending, frequent work absences or loss of employment.

Extramarital affairs and untrustworthy behavior may have led to marital conflict. Major concerns and fears over verbal, emotional or physical abuse may have caused severe anxiety and lead a person to disguise their true feelings in order to manage the unmanageable. However, it is possible to heal the hurt that has been caused.

Restoring the Family Dynamic in Recovery

Addiction in the family need not destroy the family unit, family members can strengthen their relationships with one another by being willing to talk and explore new avenues of communication in an honest and open format. When the addicted family member begins their journey toward long-term sobriety, they will be more open to receiving your love, support and guidance.

Working through issues separately and together takes time, but relationships can be repaired. Exploring the dynamics within the family are key to opening the doors to change. Building family connections requires effective family communication; clear, honest and regular communication leads to strong family ties.

Addressing Enabling and Codependency

Exploring the dynamics of the family unit helps families to step back and recognize long-standing patterns of ineffective communication, codependency or conflict. These patterns may have started in childhood long before the addiction. When a child experiences inconsistent parenting, in an attempt to avoid upsetting the family homeostasis, they turn to people-pleasing behavior.

This unhealthy dynamic may continue into adult life as a way of ensuring emotional danger is kept at bay. If emotions and fears cannot be expressed openly, children may develop destructive and impulsive behaviors in an attempt to conquer their pain. Feelings of low self-worth and shame, and feelings of helplessness may overwhelm those living within an addicted family system. Despite well-meaning intentions, families may inadvertently become trapped in a cycle of enabling and codependency.

The Importance of Family Therapy

Family therapy is an essential part of your own and your loved one’s recovery. The Treatment Center understands and recognizes the importance of ongoing family therapy and makes it an integral part of The Treatment Center’s Intensive Outpatient Program. For families who live locally, we provide a monthly/bi-monthly Family Support Group.

The support group offers a safe place to explore the genetic, emotional and social factors that may have inadvertently led to a breakdown of family cohesion. Meeting with a therapist as a family can help improve communication among family members, rebalance the family dynamic and give family members a safe environment to express their anger, fear and other concerns.

Attending Family Workshops

Family therapy may also be helpful in preventing the children of addicts from succumbing to the disease themselves. The family connections that you learn to develop today will no doubt reflect the type of relationships you have with your family tomorrow.

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