Navigating Difficult Relationships

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Navigating Difficult Relationships

There are several different ways to move forward with people in your life who have a substance use disorder. Let’s look at four common strategies. You could find yourself wanting something very different from the person in recovery, consequently experiencing tension, conflict, and disagreement. 

1. Complete Disconnection- Disconnection is a tactic used when the relationship has deteriorated past the point of reconciliation. This is usually not a quick decline, but a staggered downhill course resulting in a breakup, separation, divorce, or a cutting of ties. Disconnection is emotionally painful and may be the result of betrayal, abuse, and mistrust that is caused or made worse by substance abuse and mental health disorders. 

2. A Working Relationship- This is an arrangement that is reached as a compromise to parent together, provide care for aging parents, or run a business. This relationship has very little or no interpersonal or intimate connection. Friendship, mutual respect, admiration, and social connections are typically faked or absent. This style requires strong limits and solid boundaries. 

3. A Partial Restoration- This occurs as two family members begin working to improve a relationship without knowing fully how it will end. Forgiveness and rebuilding trust are important dynamics in this approach. This could include close relationships that have recently become casual friendships. Trust is rebuilt as positive behaviors and attitudes are displayed consistently overtime. Setbacks, likewise, can occur as lies, betrayals, and inconsistent behavior increase. 

4. Complete Restoration- Reconciliation often happens as an outgrowth of a strong recovery program. As people work through past hurts and resentments relational healing occurs. In a solid recovery, people listen to each other, communicate without reacting, and resolve conflicts quickly. When there is forgiveness and trust has been rebuilt, the damage from the past does not determine the direction of the future. 

The Reconnection Process

Seeking a partial or complete restoration, in some cases, isn’t realistic, possible, or advisable. Although often desired, relational restoration takes time and great effort. When you determine to reconnect, watch for common setbacks and difficulties, get help when you need to, and be patient and hopeful. 

Recovery is a Journey. Enjoy the Ride!