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Working Your Recovery Into Your Relationship

Although some recovering addicts might not see the connection between their recovery and their intimate relationship, the two are closely connected.

The reasons for this are three-fold. First, a significant part of recovery is the exploration and change of your thinking patterns. These thinking patterns will have an impact on your relationships. For instance, if you have thoughts about your self-worth or whether or not you are loveable, these thinking patterns are going to have an impact on the relationship you have with another. For instance, if you have concerns about your self-worth, then you might be vulnerable to being treated poorly in a relationship. You might be more willing, perhaps unknowingly, to put up with rude, cold, or invasive behavior from your partner. The types of thoughts you have about yourself can affect the kind of relationship you have. Furthermore, these self-thoughts, often the negative ones, may have contributed to addiction in the first place. In recovery, as you begin to identify the thoughts that are self-harming, you have the opportunity to change them and experience the effects of that change.

Secondly, the types of relationships you have growing up, particularly if there was addiction in your family, will likely also play a role in your intimate relationships. For instance, if your family ignored the addiction and refused to discuss the elephant in the room, the same may also take place in your relationships. The relational patterns you learn in your early childhood are frequently what gets played out in adult relationships. However, just like those thinking patterns that are identified in recovery, relationship patterns can also be identified and changed. It's often necessary to examine these patterns because they affect whether or not we can sustain healthy boundaries, effective communication, and self-care in our relationships. Recovery from addiction, which often includes a look at unhealthy patterns, is a chance to change these patterns.

Finally, if you suffer from a mental illness, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorder, this too may play a role in your relationship. It might have also played a role in your addiction. Frequently, mental illness contributes to addiction. Often, when men and women feel the symptoms of depression, for example, they may turn to drinking or drug use as a means for feeling better. Recognizing that alcohol or other substances can ease the discomfort of a mental illness, a person can easily grow dependent on it and ultimately develop an addiction. If this is the case, mental illness can also play a significant role in how two people treat each other in a relationship. It will affect how they relate to one another and how much love or affection they might be able to give to the other.

For these reasons, it's important to bring recovery into your relationship. It's necessary to work the new skills and knowledge that you are learning in your support groups, AA meetings, therapy into the way you relate with your significant partner. In fact, your intimate relationship can be a precise mirror of what you need to work on in yourself. For instance if you notice that you get angry every time your partner tells you what to do, this might be an opportunity to explore the triggers to your anger. In this example, as you work with your anger, you may even realize that anger was what drove much of your addiction. As a result, healing anger, which a relationship can facilitate, can bring you closer and closer to sobriety.

By now you can see that recovery isn't just about getting and staying sober. It's also about learning the techniques and tools to change your life, of which relationships give us the opportunity to practice. If you're in a relationship and you're also in recovery, explore the possibilities the relationship has and begin to build this new foundation to bring positive changes into your recovery as well as your relationship. 

 

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Chris Massman is a Licensed Marriage & Family Therapist. Chris' training includes Family Systems Theory along with numerous other theories. She believes therapy is an art and chooses the theory she feels will most benefit the individual sitting in front of her. Her specialty lies is in the field of Chemical Dependency and Addictions. Chris is currently seeing individuals, couples and families. Chris is a Clinical member of the California Association of Marriage and Family Therapists as well as the American Association of Marriage and Family Therapists. Chris has two locations including Tarzana and Agoura Hills, CA.