Relationships In Early Recovery

The Significance Of Relationships During Early Recovery

Relationships in early recovery heavily influence our lives. In fact, prolonged recovery depends upon quality bonds between people. We all want to feel like we belong. And the people we trust leave a lasting impact on us. Therefore, it’s important for us to navigate our relationships in a way that fosters our recovery.  In this article, you will learn: 

  • Why do I need relationships at all? 
  • How can I form meaningful relationships in early recovery? 
  • Should I form romantic relationships in early recovery? 
  • What can I do about a toxic relationship? 
  • How do I put boundaries in place to protect myself from toxic relationships? 

Why Do I Need Relationships At All?

Solitude does us good from time to time. But social isolation harms our mental health. The COVID-19 lockdowns proved that. The English poet John Donne wrote, “No man is an island entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” Human beings are primarily social creatures. In order to survive, we need interactions with other humans.  Researcher William J. Chopik published a landmark study on human relationships. One of his research groups consisted of over 270,000 people. This group indicated that friendships had even more positive effects on their lives than family relationships. Chopik surveyed a second group of over 7,000 older adults. Those without meaningful friendships were more likely to suffer from long-lasting illnesses.  Anecdotally, we know we need relationships. They help us thrive. Without them, we open ourselves to increased suffering. Chopik’s study offers legitimate scientific evidence of this fact. Humans need relationships. But what about forming meaningful relationships in early recovery? 

How Can I Form Meaningful Relationships In Early Recovery?

If you’re enrolled in a treatment plan, you can learn from others in treatment. You may glean a great deal from time spent in group meetings. Your therapist or counselor will likely provide useful insight. However, best practices suggest not forming social relationships with people we meet in therapy. The same holds true for your therapist.  To begin forming meaningful relationships, first look at the ones you already have. Give it some thought. Write down a list of your 3-5 most meaningful relationships. Define “meaningful” however you like. Writing things down improves mental health. Next, list what makes these relationships meaningful.  If you cannot think of one person to list, take heart. It’s very possible to make new friends. Continue with your writing. Create attributes that you would like to have in a friend. How do you compare with your own list? Is there anyone in your life that you think exemplifies the traits of a good friend? Work with your treatment provider on this. 

Should I Form Romantic Relationships In Early Recovery?  

Some evidence suggests that romantic relationships might help promote recovery. This study indicated that romantic relationships reduced heavy drinking among adolescents. Among married and unmarried people, this finding held true. In another study, participants counted a romantic relationship as integral to their recovery.  However, that same study offered a major caveat: only a few of their participants had such relationships. Romantic love and addiction might produce similar effects in the brain. The recovering brain needs time to heal. Best practices indicate that you ought not to date during your first year of recovery.  If you are currently in a romantic relationship, evaluate it. How does your recovery impact your relationship? On the other side, how does your relationship affect your recovery? 

What Can I Do About A Toxic Relationship?

In a perfect world, all relationships would make us healthier. The people in our lives often mistreat us. They might appear mean, or even cruel. Adverse childhood experiences can sometimes predict addictive behaviors later in life. Relationships can cause us trauma.  If you’re in recovery, what can you do about a toxic relationship? First, identify specifically what makes the relationship toxic. Use a writing exercise to nail this down. List specific examples of things that cause you pain. Get honest with yourself.  Next, examine your list. Could you speak to the other person about this list? Do you think they would receive your words? If so, then talk to them. Express yourself openly. Keep your calm, but stick up for yourself.  Hopefully, the other party will listen to you. Then, they will change their behavior accordingly. If they don’t, perhaps you ought to question the value and meaning of this relationship. 

How Do I Put Boundaries In Place To Protect Myself From Toxic Relationships?

Boundaries serve 2 functions. They keep some things in. But, they also keep things out. It’s up to you to create and defend your boundaries. Define the kinds of relationships you want. You deserve relationships that treat you with dignity and respect. Your relationships ought to encourage your recovery.  To develop a boundary for a toxic relationship, get specific. Define particular behaviors or actions. Then, identify how they make you feel. Then, take action yourself. Practice saying this out loud, if you need to. “When you _______, I feel ________. I want you to stop.”  An emotionally healthy person will ultimately assume responsibility for what you’ve told them. Do not take ownership of the person’s response. Their response lies solely with them, not you. If they refuse to change, you might need to consider the worth of the relationship. 

What If I Still Need Help?

Blue Hills offers multiple treatment programs to suit your needs. We know that change is possible. We have seen change manifest in the lives of our clients. We specialize in the hope of recovery. Do not wait any longer to demand the best for yourself. Either fill out the contact form below or give us a call.  Blue Hills is here to focus on you. You can recover. You can preserve meaningful relationships in early recovery. Or, you might need to form new ones. Either way, remember that hope is real. You are not alone.  If you or someone that you love is struggling with addiction, contact Blue Hills now at 508-680-0115.

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