Human relationships are vital to the health and happiness of everyone’s lives. As the Journal of Health and Social Behavior shares, “Social relationships — both quantity and quality — affect mental health, health behavior, physical health, and mortality risk.” When relationships are damaged by addiction, relationships and their positive benefits may appear to be out of reach at first. However repairing damaged relationships and creating healthy, new ones can directly and positively affect a drug-free life.
When you heal your relationships, you begin to heal yourself mentally and emotionally. The World Health Organization (WHO) lists key facts about mental health, one of which is, “Mental health is more than the absence of mental disorders.” Even if you are no longer actively addicted and no longer struggle daily with cravings or co-occurring mental health issues such as depression or anxiety, you may not be healed or have complete mental health. WHO explains, “Multiple social, psychological and biological factors determine the level of mental health of a person at any point of time…Poor mental health is also associated with rapid social change, stressful work conditions, gender discrimination, social exclusion, unhealthy lifestyle, risks of violence, physical ill-health and human rights violations.” Addiction comes with many of the factors associated with poor mental health.
Addiction supports an overall unhealthy lifestyle and takes a toll on physical health, but the cost to an individual’s social health can be the most devastating and can seem to be the hardest to repair. Rapid social change often occurs with addiction when friends and family members with healthy lifestyles can no longer spend time with a loved one trapped by addiction. Individuals struggling with addiction tend to isolate themselves or find new drug-abusing peers to spend time with. Isolation and a social circle that encourages or allows continued drug use feeds addiction and challenges recovery. An early part of your recovery journey should include healing the positive relationships of your past and establishing new relationships with individuals who similarly value and engage in a healthy lifestyle. While relationships with friends, family members and significant others cannot change some of the factors determining mental health (such as biological factors), they can have a large impact on social and environmental factors that promote complete recovery. Healing these relationships has the positive effect of continuing to heal and rebuild your emotional and mental strength, resilience and health while allowing you to find support and enjoyment.
The mind and body are not separate, isolated aspects of ourselves although common thinking purports they are. The truth is that when you heal your relationships, you heal your body. As the Journal of Health and Human Behavior explains, “supportive interactions with others benefit immune, endocrine, and cardiovascular functions and reduce allostatic load, which reflects wear and tear on the body due, in part, to chronically overworked physiological systems engaged in stress responses.” Even when taken alone, the reduction in stress provided by healed or healing relationships can have a staggering positive effect on addiction recovery efforts. Stress impacts physical health on many levels and is a large contributor to relapse. Stress is often behind an individual’s original desire to use a drug like morphine or oxycodone to relax or escape. When stress is reduced, the desire or reason to use is reduced as well. Healing relationships can provide this needed stress reduction and can positively affect additional areas of physical health at the same time.
When you heal relationships, you make it easier to continue healing yourself and to build new or stronger relationships. If addiction has damaged previous relationships, consider that “Interpersonal trauma is more likely to be self-perpetuating and resistant to healing because it undercuts the trust we need to connect and put trauma behind us” (The Neuroscience of Human Relationships). If trust has been undermined because of the lies, secrets, trauma and stress of addiction, healing relationships may need to begin with repairing trust. It can seem easier or safer to not establish or reestablish friendships and family connections, but that disconnect only creates a self-perpetuating cycle and does nothing to further healing after addiction. Real healing comes from taking a chance, putting yourself out there and healing your relationships. Once the process begins, it becomes easier. Trust returns, positive relationships return, mental and physical health begin to return, and active addiction is put farther and more definitely behind you.
If you are ready to put an end to addiction and heal your relationships with friends, children, spouses or parents, call our toll-free helpline. We are here 24 hours a day to guide you toward individualized addiction treatment options or to help you find health and healing for your addicted loved one. We can connect you with programs that include family therapy or that teach social skills and encourage the development of healthy peer relationships. Healing from addiction involves healing on many levels; let us help you address them all and find a lasting, healthy and positive drug-free life.