3 Ways to Repair Relationships Through Recovery

couple with a restored relationship

Valerie began her career as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines when she was in her early 20s. She loved her job, the company and her fellow crew members, and for many years was a loyal employee. Valerie’s life took a turn for the worse, however, when the lives of two of her family members were claimed by violence. Soon, she was taking prescription drugs to alleviate the depression that was ruining her life, but before long she transitioned into using cocaine and alcohol to self-medicate. Due to Southwest’s strict policies on drug and alcohol use in the workplace, Valerie had to resort to sneaking and lying to avoid getting caught by the drug tests. Though she managed to stay on the crew, her co-workers were having to pick up the slack as the quality of her job performance steadily deteriorated. She felt terrible about lying to the employer she loved so much and for letting her fellow crew members down. As an addict, however, she continued to abuse drugs and alcohol to numb the pain she felt, and the distress she felt about her duplicity only made the addiction worse. Her relationships at work were far from being the only ones in jeopardy as a result of Valerie’s addiction. Things got so bad, in fact, that she had to leave home, spent extended periods living out of hotel rooms, and would even go for weeks at a time without seeing her young son.

Things are better now for Valerie, and she credits the positive changes in her life to Narconon. After completing the program at the Narconon Arrowhead center in Oklahoma, Valerie has reunited with her son and is helping others to make the same types of changes that she did. She has, furthermore, gone to great lengths to repair the relationships that her addiction to drugs and alcohol had ruined. For one thing, she has gotten honest about what was going on in her life. People who are living as addicts usually become estranged from their loved ones as they find that they have to be more and more secretive about what is really going on. As in Valerie’s case, they also often become increasingly dishonest with their colleagues and employers. Not only did Valerie admit the truth to her friends and family as part of her recovery, she actually went so far as to pen an op-ed piece that ended up being published in the magazine for her workers’ union. In effect, she told the truth to everyone that she was previously working with at the airline.

Repairing the Damage Done and Learning to Truly Communicate

Doing what Valerie did takes courage and is just one step towards repairing relationships and trust that are lost because of addiction. Another step to take in restoring relationships that have suffered time spent as an addict is to do whatever you can to make amends for the damage that you have done to those you care about. This may be something as simple as repaying money that you stole from a family member in order to buy drugs. It could consist of a larger project involving help and contributions toward something that is important to the other person, such as repainting their house or assisting them on a personal project that they have been wanting to get done for a long time. In Valerie’s case, she chose to go a step further by leaving her job as a flight attendant in favor of working in the field of addiction treatment. Beyond simply making amends to a single person, she is actually helping to turn the lives of other addicts around, thereby creating an even larger impact in the fight against substance abuse and addiction.

Finally, repairing relationships that have been damaged by drug addiction depends in no small measure upon developing new skills of communication. After all, many people who go to rehab for drug addiction can trace their problems with substance abuse back to their efforts to find relief or refuge from stressful relationships. Having better tools for handling communication, especially during emotionally charged situations, can prove to be invaluable in restoring relationships with family and friends who have been estranged by addiction. Valerie learned such tools during her time in rehab.

The Narconon program includes Life Skills components which help the student overcome the barriers to good relationships which arose as a consequence of the person’s past addictive behavior. Thus relationships thrive on the basis that those involved can achieve true understanding and respect for one another.

(To preserve privacy, the photo does not show an actual Narconon student or graduate.)


Sue Birkenshaw

Sue has worked in the addiction field with the Narconon network for three decades. She has developed and administered drug prevention programs worldwide and worked with numerous drug rehabilitation centers over the years. Sue is also a fine artist and painter, who enjoys traveling the world which continues to provide unlimited inspiration for her work. You can follow Sue on Twitter, or connect with her on LinkedIn.