Addiction is a family disease, according to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence.1 It causes enormous stress as family members attempt to maintain normalcy amid chaos, and it leads to dysfunction in the family system. Reconnecting with parents can be a daunting endeavor if your addiction has caused your parents to experience deep feelings of resentment, anger, despair or fear.
A major focus in a high-quality recovery program is helping people repair damaged relationships.2 This typically occurs through family therapy, which helps individuals in recovery and their families work through a variety of issues and learn healthier communication skills.
But restoring relationships takes hard work, and reconnecting with parents once you’re in recovery is no exception. Here are a few tips to help you repair some of the damage done by addiction and rebuild a trusting bond with your parents.
1. Set realistic expectations.
While you may no longer be focused in the past, chances are, your parents are still nursing wounds inflicted during your active addiction. They may have a hard time trusting you, and they may be living in fear of a relapse. It will take time to regain their trust, and it may take time for them to accept that you’re in recovery for the long-term. Be okay with the process taking as much time as it takes. Whatever you do, don’t give up hope.
2. Work on healthy communication skills.
When you’re reconnecting with parents, you may fall into old, destructive patterns, such as becoming defensive or angry. It’s important to communicate calmly, openly and honestly with your parents, and it’s absolutely essential that you listen to them. Try to really understand where they’re coming from, and acknowledge their perspective without taking offense. Study up on good listening and other communication skills, which also include de-escalating an argument and resolving conflict.
3. Make amends where you can.
If you stole money from your parents, neglected them, used them, or otherwise treated them poorly, do what you can to make amends. How you do this depends on your specific situation, and sometimes an apology is all that can be done. But making an attempt to make things right will go a long way toward helping them see you’ve changed. It also helps you overcome the guilt, shame and other negative emotions that can contribute to relapse.
4. Encourage them to get support.
Families of individuals in recovery often need support, too. A support group for families of people in recovery offers a safe place to express fear, anger and other negative emotions. It gives them a platform to tell their story to a sympathetic audience who’s been there, and it lets them understand that they’re not alone. They’ll learn more about addiction, and they’ll get helpful tips for repairing their relationship with you.
5. Keep attending meetings, and stay in therapy.
Your parents will likely want to see you walking the walk for some time before they let down their guard, and attending regular meetings is one way to show them you’re serious. Your support group is extremely important during early recovery and beyond, and regular attendance helps you stay accountable and self-aware of your thoughts, attitudes and behaviors each day. Ongoing therapy helps you continue working through issues and developing essential skills.
Reconnecting with Parents is Worth the Effort
Your parents are special, and you want them to be proud of you. Staying on the road to recovery and making a point of reconnecting with parents gives you a broader support system and helps you resolve negative feelings associated with your relationship with them. Healthy, happy relationships take time and work, but if you stay vigilant and determined, you’ll likely find a new beginning with your parents.