Trusted Content

Repairing Relationships Damaged By Drug Abuse

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

April 2, 2019

Drug abuse doesn’t just affect the addict. It has both direct and indirect consequences for family, friends, co-workers, and acquaintances. Established relationships of value to the addict and those affected by their choices and actions require attention and action to repair the damage.

Broadening Perspective By Working On Relationships

When substance abuse enters the picture, naturally the effect on those involved is inevitably negative. After they themselves have acknowledged and acted to repair their own addiction, the addict doesn’t always recognize how they have affected people around them. They and those with whom they have been close may value the relationship and be willing to tend to and maintain it again. However, they may not know how to make amends and rebuild.

Working on the relationships involved broadens the focus of treatment from the addict themselves to they and those around them. The addict has been through their own personal work on their issue and now has to work through how their addiction affected each person in their circle. Each person involved will have their own issues to work through. It is an unenviable position in which the former user finds themselves – trying to establish what needs to be done to make amends when one person may have reacted very differently than another to the same circumstances. Then there is the matter that those around them are often called upon to be supportive or encouraging of someone who may have caused them stress or even harm. Each person has their own degree of understanding or willingness to forgive.

Personalized Approaches And Methods

Not only may the former addicted individual have multiple people they need to work with, each different person may require a different approach. Just as sometimes different methods need to be used in treating the addict of the addiction itself, the people involved may have to try other ways of working on their relationships. If one method doesn’t work, the solution isn’t necessarily to “give up,” but instead to go about it differently. Sometimes a break is also in order, time to reflect independently on things and come back with new insights and understandings.

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In some cases, the addict may not recognize that re-establishment of a relationship can be counterproductive to themselves, the other party, or both. For instance, when one person is successfully treated for drug abuse, but the other is still addicted. In such a case, it can be questionable whether a relationship can – or should – be re-established. Questions arise as to whether it’s possible for the former addict to maintain their non-using status if another still keeps the substance in their presence. The stress of resisting a drug to which they were formerly dependent may take too much effort, leaving not enough energy or focus for the work involved in the relationship itself.

Communication And Therapy

Some relationships may have suffered from other issues not directly related to the addict. The other party may be unwilling or unable to work through issues of conflict that existed prior to or during the period of addiction. This can cause a stressful cycle to repeat itself.

Sometimes the damage is such that simply “talking things out” among each other isn’t enough. Hurt, mistrust, and fear can go too deep to allow people to step back and approach the situation with sometimes necessary objectivity. There can be misunderstandings and communication breakdowns that just don’t allow for necessary healing. In such cases, rehabilitation and counseling can be an invaluable resource to help the parties move forward. Therapy relieves the need to figure out the process itself. Rather than having to figure out what to do and what not to do in working toward the goal of repairing the relationship, the parties can be guided toward productive interactions.

Emotions, fear, mistrust and more hurdles can make the attempt at reconciliation daunting. Thus, to see even some willingness to try is an important start. Each party will need both to assure and be assured. There might be the need to “try something else” if impasses are reached. But if the effort is there, hopefully, the result will be a new start to a healthy, happy relationship.

Treatment And Help For Those In Need

For those who find themselves struggling with substance use disorders and the aftermath of addiction, help is always available at We are here to ensure that you and your loved ones receive the best care and treatment for your individual needs. Outpatient treatment and family counseling can provide many solutions, and we are always here to answer any questions you may have. Reach out and contact us today.

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