Coping with changes in relationships during early addiction recovery

Wonder how relationships will be if you give up the bottle or the drugs? Coping with changes in relationships is essential to healthy recovery from addiction. Learn how one man got through it, and how you can, too.

minute read

Early days in recovery

I look back at my early days in recovery and can now smile. But they were not all that much fun for me, my wife and my family.

I reminisce.

I look back on those early days, about three months sober with a month in treatment then home. It was truly like re-entry to a planet I visually recognized but had not fully lived in for a long time. I had made major change and was really unsure of who I was. I had all these feelings but had trouble naming them and was just starting to learn about dealing with them without my medication or other forms of escape from reality. Then there was Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome, (PAWS). But it was short term pain for what I now know to be long term gain.

Post acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) symptoms

  • clumsiness
  • confusion
  • difficulty with emotions
  • difficulty solving problems
  • sleep problems
  • temporary memory gaps
  • unexplained mood swings

The return of emotional intelligence

How well I remember sitting around the table with my family and saying let’s all take turns in identifying our feelings by calling it a colour. Thank goodness they humoured me.

The arguments with my wife for no real reason other than I was confused. Hearing loved ones say in a desperate moment “if this is what you’re like clean/sober, why don’t you go get hammered?” And to be honest, there were days that I felt the same way.

There were challenges in social areas. Bed time with my wife was a new experience- and we’ll leave it at that. Dancing together, having sensible conversations about anything including money; after drinking for over twenty-five years, all of these “normal” things had to be learned.

I bless my wife and kids that they hung in with me. I know today that they saw the good in me that I had lost sight of along the way. Despite my odd behaviour during early recovery, they continued to love me!

New levels of intimacy in addiction recovery

A funny thing has happened over the years.

I now understand intimacy and my marriage has moved to a whole new level, well beyond anything I could comprehend while using. My relationship with my children changed for the better; I could actually be there for them. I became a better friend, a valued friend, to my true friends. Importantly, I became a friend to myself and have developed a real and conscious contact with the higher power I know exists. Life is tough and some days suck but I am so grateful to have deep relationships in my life today.

Wonder how relationships will be if you give it up?

They will be different. Some relationships may end, others may flourish and those that survive will be relationships in a dimension that you will not believe. They will be real.

As the journey to recovery started, I was lacking the skills to cope with relationships. Through the love of some and some great coaching and teachers, I learned skills and learned to live as a far more humble and grateful person. The improvement in relationships alone was well worth the hard work and ups and downs that came with recovery. I would never want to go back!

Today I smile at those tough early days.

About the author
I am a Master Life Coach who is ICF certified and a certified addictions coach. I consider myself recovered from the effects of addiction (16 years) but still in recovery mode as it relates to personal growth. Professionally, I am university educated, a former corporate CEO and have been in the consulting business for over two decades. I'm a husband, father, grandfather, friend, uncle son, a trusted confidant and many other things but bottom line, I'm Keith. I hope that I can help SOME out there with ideas that will make you think deeply.


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  1. Thanks Bob and Craig for the comments. Skills come with time and in my biased opinion, with help from a good guide!

  2. Thanks for the article and pointing out how that just because somebody has quit, that is it. What a lot of people don’t realize is the domino effect that occurs because of the sobriety and these changes, often hard ones, can sabotage the recovery progress. Quitting is often the easy part, but it is learning to develop the coping skills in hard situations that is the key since, the old coping method of drinking is no longer available.

  3. speaking to a friend about this and he indeicated that his daughter is in better spirits and looks better than she has in a long time. she’s been sober – off drugs and alcohol for about 3 months – yes her outlook and personality seem different.

    so there is always hope. the challenge – of course – is for her to continue that way without following back into the old pattern.

    I enjoyed this article.

    Thanks – Bob M

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