How to establish respect in relationships after drug or alcohol addiction

How do you establish respect in relationships after active addiction has ceased? Three (3) steps to getting your relationship back on track here.

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Relationships and life after drinking or drugs

So how do you establish respect in relationships after active addiction has ceased? Once again, I have to draw on personal experience along with what I have personally witnessed in the lives of others. Watching the power of example that I witness in my clients is a great teacher. My experience tells me that establishing respect in relationships is a process.

1. Begin with self respect

As with most things in life recovery, it all began with me. When I faced the reality of my addictions, it is safe to say my self-respect was almost gone. Any honest person starting life recovery and the transformation to a “new and improved” is light on self respect if they are honest.

The road to gaining respect from others began by my getting respect for me. This did not happen overnight and took action based on hard work. But it did happen. How can I gain from others what I don’t have for myself?

2. Create an action plan for addiction recovery

For me, the most important person in my life was my wife, followed closely by my children. Suffice to say, with my actions, they had lost a lot of respect for me. I say respect; I don’t mean love; for that was never lost in my case. To those reading this, be aware, relationships will not change overnight. As I recall, it was likely four years before I regained my wife’s trust. Respect came back with action and new behaviour, but trust took a lot longer.

The biggest factor in regaining respect from those closest to me was action. They’d heard the words and I made the promises before. So, I put together an action plan for recovery with short term and longer term objectives. I sought their input and support. Then I went about executing the plan and used them as monitors along the path. I took the action I said I was going to take and they gave me support and feedback. As time went by, and I did what I said, things began to change and respect rejoined love.

3. Approach friends, colleagues and others face-to-face

In addition to my family there were a group of people: friends, close work associates and some “observers” who had lost respect for me. For those whose respect I wanted, I talked with face to face, explained my situation (to most it was no surprise; my addictions were a secret to me only). I took responsibility for what I had done and committed to a new path. Once again, the respect of others came incrementally with time; time where it became apparent to others that I had a major attitude adjustment and was living a healthier life.

Many I met with “respected” the decision I made to start recovery and were supportive. However, it should be noted that some were not and to be perfectly frank, their reasons don’t matter. I had lost their respect and I was not going to gain it back, at least publicly.

Getting respect from others is an action process

The simple truth is that getting respect back in relationships was an action process on my part, giving respect to others that they deserved and a reasonable amount of time to show I was sincere and continuing to make positive changes. Through help from many others, spiritual awakening and growth as a part of my journey of life recovery and transformation. I have not actively engaged in my addictions for many years. I regained respect for myself, and through deeds and actions, have gained the respect of many. It is an ongoing process and one I love to share with others.

Are you struggling with getting back respect from friends, family and co-workers? Have you started on the path to recovery or getting ready to change your life? Share your experiences about respect in recovery here. Or ask questions, and Keith will answer them personally!

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. Hi Keith. this is my first time reading this blog and it has pushed my hopes higher. I had been abusing alcohol for some years and now my marriage is in shambles. I had lost respect for myself and everyone I close to me. I’m in the process of sobriety and these blogs help a lot because they show me how much of a mess I was with alcohol. Sometimes would not even sleep at home going to pubs till morning and the worst is we live with my wifes mom and she is also very angry about the situation. I haven’t got the wits to apologise to her but I really want to. If you have any pointers will be greatful. Thank you

  2. My son is recovering from Xanax and heroin addiction hopefully for the last time. This has been going on for years and the first time he hit bottom he did ask me to let him earn respect back but the more he went back to drugs and surfaced again the more I was devastated financially and emotionally. He has never ask again forgiveness for anything.. Its as though he doesn’t care what he has put anyone through. He feels he doesn’t owe anybody an apology because we should understand. He took my life savings and anything else I had of value and refuses to even give me fifty dollars a month. I am close to forbidding him to be near me. I dont know how to get thru to him..

  3. Lori, I don’t have your problem; however, I am on the other end of the spectrum, being the family member of a drug addict. My 33 year old has been an IV drug user for years and we have gone thru countless programs, counseling, etc in that time. Each time promises to be better than the last and each time there is a relapse, even after clean for 3+ years. I have had years of anger, frustration and disappointment and to be honest, I may never trust my child again. I think perhaps you would benefit from going to counseling sessions w/your son. I am preparing to do that myself w/my child as well. There are many meetings free of charge where I live, so will check it out and will update. The trust may in fact be totally gone in our relationship, but I would like to explore some options. This is the 4th rehab program for my child. I hope for the best and expect the worst this time. I am tired.

  4. I have used drugs on and off for ten years. My son recently found a bottle that had subtex in it. He doesn’t believe I had a prescription because they weren’t in their right bottle. He told me I was a liar he hated me and when he turned 18 in a year he never had to see me again and I would never be able to see his children. I know he’s upset but I don’t know how to repair the relationship. Has anyone had a problem similar to this

  5. Hi

    I am a recovering alcoholic and have been clean for a month now, so it is very early days, but by the grace and love of God and hard work on my side, I will overcome it.

    This is not the first time, but definitely the last time. I have destroyed too many lives by drinking myself into another person. A person I don’t want to know. I’m sure I was close to hell. The last time I drank and passed out in a hotel room. Luckily I passed out otherwise who knows.

    i confessed to my wife and even though she’s been to a lawyer previously, this was the final nail in the coffin. She was patient for 13 years and I totally destroyed her. The best woman in the world. Last night she handed me the divorce settlement and I tore it up. Now I am waiting for a court order or whatever the next step is.

    I’ve been sleeping on the couch for a month now and don’t blame her, I deserve what’s coming to me. I also have 2 kids and my wife and they mean everything to me. Just a pity I realised it so late. I wasted 13 years!

    I am also seeing a psychologist and psychiatrist. A long road is lying ahead. How do I help myself and win back my wife or should I accept defeat? And if I do lose them, how do I cope with staying sober? I am terrified of what’s to come.

    Thanks for your post above, I am taking it to heart, but need more help.

    1. Stay strong Terrence. I’m happy to read that you are receiving help to deal with the psychological and emotional issues. You have time for mending broken or damaged relationships. Maybe you can ask your psychologist about this and maybe you can benefit some family or marriage counseling.

  6. Hi, ive never reached out like this before, i found your information hit a chord as my partner is in recovery and we feel stuck. Id like to know more from your partners perspective, after browsing through forums, seeing the stories but never really seeing how someone dealt with and sorted the problems. I believe i have lost respect for my partner as i believe he hasnt respected me. The issues we face now are mainly because i dont trust him, as youll be aware, the using may stop but other behaviour patterns continue, like secretiveness, lying, depression and other personality traits you believe will dissapear. Although were working hard, its become difficult to stop analysing and comparing if this behaviour is him or not… which is causing confusion. Its so sad as weve come so far to be continually in fear of each other and falling out as we do. I know the love is still there and we have made plans to go for counselling (finally, although daunting!) It just feels like we cant get through this part and both so want to be in that happy place we deserve. I believe i also have formed behavioural patterns which may be holding us back and i just wondered if your wife also went through something similar and if you both had any help? Any good books or tips much appreciated.
    Massive congratulations on your self discovery and recovery, reading your posts helps to know it is possible.

  7. Hi, after years off my wife and soulmate trying her damnedest and pleading with me to stop my cocaine use she left with my beautiful daughter on 23/12/13, not only had I become a shadow off the man she loved they became scared off me due to my mood swings from the comedown off the drug. It had got worse and worse over the years and we really really did love one another she is the only woman I want to be with still, but I tested her and tested her not intentionally off course but for my own selfish reasons to mask certain feelings I abused cocaine and in turn it became an abusive relationship with a daughter I really do adore in the middle off it. I am both ashamed and heartbroken not for me but for them both I never ever thought that out love story would end but I promised and promised and just never kept them. However after a stint in prison and not being able to see my daughter for the last ten months and the loneliness and the realisation and understanding off what they went through I have worked tirelessly and it’s been a struggle but when it gets really hard I think off the times I put them through and how much more it has affected there lives, they never asked for that or made it happen but they lived it, I love them so so much I should off done this sooner I wish and pray I could turn back the clock. Both myself and my wife both still laughed and went on date nights and talked, people complemented us on our togetherness but in reality it was my wife holding it all together and I should of been as strong as I now am back then. I now work everyday and after work I am a personal trainer at a local gym, I take three random drug tests a week and I am a much stabler, better, caring person, more so than I think I have ever been, but still I often cry myself too sleep it’s so lonely without them both, but there happiness is paramount too me as it should of been before and I am really proud off them for there strength and love xx I lost most off my friends I had by either duping them out off money or just being a general idiot, so I find it hard not being able to let all this out so I write it, it’s never ever too late for a boy to become a man and to be that shaken by losing the only two human beings in the world he cared about and truly deeply loved that you finally awaken and realise you were to blame, not the sexual abuse as a child you blamed it on or the fact you were stressed, no I was to immature to find the strength needed to be a reliable and strong husband and father, now I don’t promise anything I show everyone, even by speech they can tell I am a new man with a lot off making up to do, my wife’s family were my family and they have lost all respect for me too which hit me deeply, I feel like I have lost my whole family they cared for me and all off them really tried to help me, I will always deeply love them for that no matter what they now think off me. I will have to live with this torture in my mind 24/7 for the rest off my life, every husband days there wife was perfect but she truly was and it’s so hard not to have her by my side especially as I would never jeopardise going through this heartbreaking soul destroying torture again, maybe god will give me a helping hand and she can see the change in me I can only pray……..most importantly there is a chance that I can maybe soon start repairing the damage I have done to my beautiful, intelligent, funny, perfect and strong daughter the first time I see her after all this time will be really really tough but I know it will be tougher for her so I remain strong and remain determined so that excuse for a man never rears his head again, not one second off it is worth losing your world because once there gone what do you have???

  8. Hello Josh. Have you included her in your therapy sessions? Perhaps it can help to work with a family counselor on these larger issues of patterns and expectations. A certified family psychologist can help.

  9. I recently went to a ninty day program and stayed adv extra twenty eight days i got out and have been trying to talk about the things that led me to use in the past with my gf but i felt she was viewing that it was just amatter of time before i used and just let it go and time would prove it so several weeks went by and nothing changed si stupidly i reverted back to old behaviors and started playing the same games now we are right back where wr wwere when i used and she doesn’t want to see that im not bringing up old stuff i just want us to work together and not have fears or issies at all and for both of us to work together to help the othet person not feel like that so it never escalates i have been clean for almost a year now and im rwally worried she doesnt want it to workand she is not telling me something what do i do

  10. They made a mistake its not like they said I want to be a f%$& up. If you bust there balls they will just screw up again or get supportive and show affection or it will be over soon enough

  11. Hello Ashy. Give it some time. Things tend to “come out in the wash”, if you know what I mean. Trust in sobriety comes with nothing but time. If he can maintain 2 years of sobriety, his chances for long term abstinence from alcohol are greater. But if he experiences relapse after relapse, you may need to consider letting the relationship go. Does that help? Keep doing the hard work on yourself. More will be revealed the healthier you get…

  12. Hello. My husband is working on sobriety. I feel as if trust may never happen again. I have so much resentment towards him and constantly blame him for everything we have lost do to his addiction. I have been meeting with a therapist, but still feel so lost. I have kicked him out of the house so we can re prioritize. But the more he’s gone the better I feel, and that scares me. Any advise?

  13. The article information looks quite impressive. No doubt, it is really hard to establish relationship after drug and alcohol addiction. Mostly people prefer to stay away from drug and alcohol addicted person. But is they try to recover from it, may be useful for them to build relationship. Keep sharing more valuable information in future.

  14. Mr. Bray,
    My husband has been struggling with addiction for the last 10yrs. I took our two kids and moved into a safer home 6yrs ago. Now, my husband has not had a drink in 7months and has 3 encounters with drugs during this time – the closest to clean he has ever been. Our 12yr old daughter has less than zero respect for him and lets him know it everytime she sees him. It infuriates and hurts him especially because he is working hard on the 12 Steps. He gets very angry with me that “I allow” our daughter to treat him this way. Quite frankly, after everything she has seen, felt and lost I don’t blame her for acting out this way BUT at the same time, it is getting old and is interfering with the rest of our recovery and is just awful to hear her say these things. As the other parent, I feel he needs to take the initiative with her, find better strategies to deal with her, help her, support her. Most often, he stoops to her level, ugliness is exchanged, and he storms out. I speak with her privately, I show understanding of her hurt feelings and anger but also remind her of our values and how adults should be spoken to. I often tell her that I am not asking her to forgive and forget but outright rudeness is unacceptable. Any thoughts, books, strategies?

  15. Thanks for sharing your story, Agnieszka. If this relationship was meant to be, than I think that you can experience a renewed connected during sobriety. But I would suggest that you give it some time. We are very vulnerable in early recovery, and can often place a relationship in front of the inner work that we need to do. In my first year of recovery, I examined my past relationships and only started dating again after 12 months clean. As a woman, I think that this was an very important “me” time. I know that it is very tempting to want to make things better with your ex, but can you give him some time to be without you while you heal some old heart wounds that prompted your drug and alcohol use in the first place?

  16. Hi,
    I have been reading this forum and find answers for some my questions. But can’t help thinking if it’s possible to get back with someone who left because of all the problems?
    I have been taking drugs fof a few years now. Wouldn’t call it addiction, but more way of dealing with so much stuff that had to be done. Occasionally. It gave me the energy and made me feel amazing. Combined with alcohol made me behave in a way that I wasn’t myself anymore. Constant arguments with my boyfriend, all that drama, blaming each other….. I love him and never realized how much he meant to me, until about a month ago. We had a messy break up and despite trying to get back i blew it off and lost him completely. Never admited that the problem was in drugs and alcohol. He had been there for me when I had eating problems, willing to help and stood by me all this time. I tried to change many things but never got anything right. Never thought of drugs as the trigger of the arguments. My mood swings became more often and I’d loose my temper and say things i didn’t mean.
    Now I am sober and clean. I now it has been only few days, but I can feel, see and tell the difference. I have reached the bottom. It’s hard and dark and very rocky, but once you get there, you know that it can not be any worse then that. I hit that bottom. Could hear my bones cracking. I want to get better, and I want to be myself again. The girl that used to never get drunk, who wouldn’t approve any sort of drugs near her. Beccause she believed that you don’t need that to be happy. You are happy, just have to find it within yourself.
    The pain of knowing how much I have hurt him is horrible. It’s disgusting what I have done to him. Now I feel like my life sudenly became very empty. He meant a lot to me. He was everything in my life. And there were times when I was clean and sober and had an amazing time with him. And about those times I can say, I was happy only with him.
    So if you are in a situation where you think that something isn’t going right, ask yourself; what the hell am I doing? taking drugs to be happier? better? perfect?
    You are a good and happy person. Stop making yourself to see that distorted life! You are doing this to yourself, so stop. Because one day it will be too late.

    Good luck guys! Good luck to myself too 🙂

  17. Hi Linda: an interesting quote:”Addiction isn’t a spectator sport.Eventually, the whole family gets to play.” I think you’ve discovered that.
    While I can’t recommend a local coach, I would be pleased to talk to your son by phone or Skype at no charge to understand where he is at. Being clean is just the start.There would be no charge to asses.

    I work with people by phone or Skype globally and my client’s success rate is high. My services are unique because they are personal and a combination of my background and education. Take a look at hopeserenity[dot]ca and you will find full details including rates. This addiction thing is no fun, and more than your son should get a little help.

    If you want to contact me directly my email is khbray[at]hopeserenity[dot]ca.


  18. Dear Mr. Bray,

    Reading the information give hope with the many problem of post drug addiction. My son is a recovering herion addict. The most difficult challenge has been to find a recovering coach. Our lives were turned up sidedown by the active addiction. The joy of his successful recovery has not been celebrated because of the frustration we are now experiencing.

    Could recommend just how to find recovery coaching services in our area that are affordable and have meaningful results. We are from Hemet, Riverside County, CA.

    Thank you


  19. Living with an addict can be hell, and addiction adversely affects all who are close to the addicted one.

    A term I’ve heard is loving detachment.

    Detach as much as you can from addicted behaviour while remaining to give love (support). Most importantly, get help for yourself.

    When an addict has no respect for themself, they will be unable to truly give it to another! You can’t give to others what you haven’t got for yourself!


  20. I think that respect from others came back for me in time. But that’s true of any situation, new or old. You need time to establish trust and confidence, whether you are starting a new relationship with someone or healing a former one.

  21. My question is from the opposite end of the relationship. How does one who enabled and experienced life with an addictive person begin developing respect and trust with no acknowledgement by the addict that there were relational and addiction problems?

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