Addiction can take a toll on any relationship.
Many addiction recovery programs recommend people focus on themselves and sobriety before engaging in relationships.
“Every relationship is different and how it has been affected by addiction is different.,” said Dr. Kelly E. Green.
Dr. Green is a licensed psychologist and teaches psychology at St. Edwards University.
She says addiction recovery and relationship recovery are interrelated processes.
“We know the majority of people who get into recovery or who enter treatment report that improving their relationships is one of their primary goals,” said Dr. Green. “We actually see a lot of people entering treatment because their loved ones said please get help or we can’t really be around you much.”
Dr. Green shares skills for improving relationships at any stage of addiction recovery in her new book, “Relationships in Recovery: Repairing Damage and Building Healthy Connections While Overcoming Addiction."
“What my program is really trying to do is deliver some of those same interventions but in a self-help format, so that the loved ones don’t have to participate in an active way,” explained Dr. Green. “It’s really kind of unilateral family therapy where the readers of the book can learn to apply these strategies to the particular relationships in their life to see improvements even if there’s some resistance towards ‘quote’ working on the relationship from the people they’re trying to repair with.”
In Texas, 1.4 million people aged 12 and older had a diagnosable substance use disorder in the past year, and that percentage is highest among 18 to 25 years old, according to the 2019 National Survey of Drug Use and Health.
“A lot of people in recovery are really having to kind of go through a process of rediscovery of what they're interested in. So, when they have to stop using alcohol or drugs, how do they want to spend their time? It does present that opportunity for loved ones to go on that journey with that person,” said Dr. Green.
Dr. Green says long-term addiction recovery should also focus on improving relationships in their life and improving social functioning.
“What they need is that compassion and that acceptance and that acknowledgement of ‘hey I see you and see what you’re going through’ and if there’s any way, I can help them be supportive for you, I'm here,” added Dr. Green.
For those going through the process of healing, Dr. Green suggests three ways to improve relationships at every stage of addiction recovery:
- Strive for interdependence, where both people are able to give and receive support in the relationship
- Provide and seek validation
- Don’t let the addiction to be the sole focus
“It comes down to better communication and more open communication rather than doing all the mind reading that leads to misunderstanding and hurt feelings,” said Dr. Green.