There’s no way around it: Drug addiction leads to broken relationships and hurts the people you love. When you were under the influence of drugs, you were not the same person. Addiction changes the brain’s chemistry, so you lied and manipulated others to feed your addiction.

Now that you are not using drugs and have spent some time in rehab, you likely feel like a new person. You are probably ready to reconnect with your loved ones too. But how can you rebuild your relationship with your child? There are several things to keep in mind as you begin to reconnect with your son or daughter now that you are living drug free.

As you reconnect with your child, the most important step is to rebuild trust through open communication. When you abused drugs or alcohol, you hurt your relationship with your child. You acted in unpredictable ways and said things that created insecurity and mistrust. As time passes, many family members can offer forgiveness for past hurts, but that word “time” is the key. There’s a tendency to want to rush that process, trying to make up for the past as quickly as possible, but it takes time and space to heal. While one child may be able to forgive you immediately, another child may reject your efforts and keep you at a distance. This is quite normal.

As you know, each child is different. Some people may require more space than others. An addicted parent may have the best of intentions, but the disease often leads to lie, manipulate and possibly even steal. That behavior may be in the past, but the hurt and the consequence still exists in the present. To rebuild a relationship you must be open and honest with your recovery. Also, keep in mind that trust is not the same as love or forgiveness. You can love and forgive someone without trusting him. In the past, there may have been times that you said you weren’t drinking or doing drugs, but you weren’t telling the truth — all of those behaviors play a role here. Try to step back and see the situation from the other side. If you can do that, you will have a clearer understanding, especially now that you’re in recovery.

Ways to Start Rebuilding Your Relationship

Talk to your spouse and your therapist. If you have young kids, it is a good idea to talk to your spouse before you talk to your children. He or she can help you develop a plan about what to say. Additional perspectives can provide you with valuable insight into the situation. Remember, things may have changed while you were in treatment. Your therapist can also help you prepare to talk to your child.

Make it clear the child is not to blame. In some cases, children blame themselves for a parent’s addiction. Be clear that you are the one responsible for your actions. You were the one who made the choice to use drugs. Explain that addiction — what you have — is a disease or sickness that requires treatment. 

Be open to questions from your child. If your kids have questions, be sure to answer them as best you can. If you do not know how to answer a question, be honest and tell the child you do not know the answer, but that when you do, you will share the answer with them. Do not skip the question. Again, be as honest as possible.

Continue aftercare treatment. Even though you went to rehab, it is important to participate actively in aftercare treatment. Keep seeing a therapist. Continue to talk with others in support groups. Take advantage of any ongoing alumni services offered by your treatment facility.

It is important that treatment addresses the whole person.1 And the treatment process isn’t finished once you complete a residential or outpatient program. You need to continue getting help so you can be the best version of yourself, both mentally and physically. Also, actions speak louder than words. Remember, you were saying things that weren’t the truth in the past. As you stick with treatment, stay clean and speak the truth to your children, you are demonstrating that you have made changes in your life.

Why Family is Important in Recovery

Often your family can provide a stable, safe environment for you in your recovery. Family members can also provide you with support, love and encouragement that motivates you as you move forward. It is important to stay connected with family members and loved ones to avoid loneliness. In many cases, loneliness leads to depression, which is a known relapse trigger. In fact, studies have found that it’s the single biggest predictor of alcohol relapse. Drugs and alcohol also appear to interfere with the effectiveness of depression treatment.2

Family members who extend forgiveness for past hurts can be an important part of the healing process. If you have completed rehab but have not been able to reconnect with your family — or a specific family member —don’t get discouraged. Remember, it takes time to heal and rebuild trust. The healing process can look different for you than it does someone else.

If you are not sure what to do next, here at Skywood we are happy to answer your questions and help you move forward in your recovery.

[1] “Treatment and Recovery.” National Institute On Drug Abuse. N.p., July 2014. Web. Accessed 13 June 2017.

2  Sack, David. “Tough Truths You Should Know About Addiction, Depression.” Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers, 14 Aug. 2014. Web. Accessed 11 June 2017