Before coming into AA many of us had burned our relationships with family, friends, and loved ones. By working on ourselves, whether it be through 12-step programs like AA and NA, or simply by taking therapeutic direction, we can begin to rebuild these relationships.
We are all social beings and, therefore, crave connection with others, despite how much easier isolation can feel. Only with honest self-reflection can we begin to make restitution to those we have hurt.
Where Do I Start?
The starting point is different for everyone. Whether you’re just dipping a toe in AA, or you’ve been around the program before, you will need to find a sponsor who you trust.
A sponsor is someone who takes you through the twelve steps and hopefully shows you that you can have a better life. Once you get this sponsor, they will begin to take you on a spiritual journey of self-discovery.
At this point, commitment to vulnerability will be key. If AA isn’t a fit for you, make sure you find a substitute program that you can do business with. Reflecting on your behaviors and patterns is imperative if you want to maintain your sobriety and doing so alone is extremely difficult.
The first step in building back relationships is to look at your part. Where did you hurt others? By looking at your own actions and reactions you will learn more about yourself and begin to identify patterns that have kept you in the same painful cycles when it comes to your relationships.
It’s this kind of awareness that will lead to behavior changes, resulting in improved relationships with others.
Still Mad About What They Did?
When thinking about past relationships, it’s easy to remember who did what and how it made us feel. Often, pointing this kind of blame leads us to justify the actions we took in return.
Staying in this thought pattern will only intensify feelings of resentment and further separate us from the people we love and care about. In order to move forward, we must make sure that we acknowledge the pain they’ve caused us, while also staying committed to owning our part. Instead of solely thinking about who did what, we can try considering our own reactions.
Did we retaliate with harsh and cruel words? Maybe we stole from them or tried to fight them? Perhaps we talked about them with others in a negative way? We must constantly try to acknowledge our part in the conflict. What exactly did we do to contribute to losing that relationship?
What if They Don’t Want to Talk to Me?
After we’ve looked at ourselves and what we did wrong we should try to speak to them. However, this shouldn’t be rushed or forced. If someone you’ve caused harm to over the years doesn’t want to talk, you should give them time and space.
Remember that this also applies to you. Assess how you feel and don’t move forward with the communication if you don’t feel ready.
Once you’ve considered your feelings, try reaching out to them to see if you can either call them or meet up in person to talk about what happened. Keep in mind, the purpose of this meeting is to take responsibility for your actions, without any expectation of the same in return.
The Most Important Relationship
It’s said that wherever you go, there you are. This is a great way of measuring the importance of your relationship with yourself.
You can’t hide from you, so you better try to know and love yourself! Who are you? What do you like? What do you dislike? These are questions many people don’t know how to answer, showing that so many individuals lack basic self-awareness.
We believe that working on your relationships with others opens the door to start working on your relationship with yourself. The more you are able to do so, the better you will feel about yourself and your life in general.
Begin the process of getting to know and love yourself again by committing to spending time with yourself. Find out what you think is fun and do it! Take the time to build yourself up with positive affirmations and basic self-care practices.
Exercise and eat healthy. Take a hot bath or treat yourself to freshly cleaned sheets. You deserve these kindnesses.
Additional methods of self-care include practicing meditation and yoga, or getting outdoors and enjoying nature. The best part of getting to know you again is that it’s an adventure! Get out there and start exploring.
Expectations can get us into a lot of trouble. Our minds will constantly think things like, “Someone should do this because of their position in our life,” or “Our parents should act like this,” or “Our significant other should respond like that.” Thoughts like these create expectations regarding how others should behave.
Unfortunately, humans are imperfect and are bound to disappoint us. When we project expectations like these on others, we are only setting them up to fall short.
Relinquishing expectations and the need to make attempts at controlling the behaviors of others is imperative. Once we let go of expectations, we can walk into any relationship ready and able to be loving and compassionate, despite the inevitable imperfections. As a result, we become more useful to others and our relationships can flourish.
Remember a Higher Power
As alcoholics and addicts, we tend to swap addictions. Upon beginning the process of recovery, we are likely to become addicted to relationships, both romantic and platonic, often making another person our higher power. But, what exactly does that mean?
When we make a person our higher power, it means that we arrange our life, plans, and decisions around this person. Often, this results in significant self-sacrifice and a false and empty sense of wellbeing, based entirely on the other person.
The problem with this is that relationships with others are impermanent and constantly changing. Basing self-worth entirely on a relationship or significant other is a recipe for disaster.
Instead, take the time to connect spiritually and learn to focus internally for that sense of fulfillment and worth. Cultivating this relationship with your intuition and spirit is what will keep you going, regardless of your external circumstances.
Commit to seeking a sense of wholeness through connection to something greater than you. From there, all relationships will blossom.
Looking for Recovery Support?
If you’re struggling to cultivate and maintain healthy relationships as a result of active addiction, relapse, or a lack of guidance in your recovery, Avalon Malibu is here to help. We offer couples and family counseling, as well as individual and group therapy to help our clients work through difficult emotions and navigate mending relationships.
Specializing in mental health and substance use, our team of experienced professionals is committed to creating individualized treatment programs to help you meet your unique recovery goals. Call us today for more information, at 844-857-5992.