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Making Amends: How to Rebuild Relationships after Battling Addiction

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD By June 5, 2019
making amends

If you’ve struggled with addiction, you’re not alone. Millions of people are fighting that battle alongside you, and you’re the last person who needs to be told what a hard battle it is.

The good news is that addiction is a highly treatable condition. With proper care, attention, determination, and resilience, you can get to the other side. If you’ve managed to do this, congratulations are in order.

Unfortunately, there’s also a harsh truth awaiting on the other side of that journey. It’s entirely possible that you hurt some people while battling addiction. As important as your recovery is, it’s not enough to mend those wounds all on its own.

For that, you’re going to have to make an active effort, but that’s easier said than done. In order to help guide you in the process, we’ve put together this guide on how to make amends and rebuild your relationships.

Confront Reality

Now that you’ve beaten your addiction, it’s understandable that you’d want to move forward and never look back. The problem with that is that it’s impossible to correct your mistakes if you don’t confront them.

Usually, your family and friends are the first to suffer when addiction reaches its full force. While you may have moved on, it’s very possible the echoes of that pain are still affecting them.

As painful as it is, you need to have a firm understanding of how you wronged people in order to properly make amends. This doesn’t mean you need to dwell in the past and feel guilty, but it does mean that you’re going to have to look your wrongdoings head on.

By facing the reality of your past, you better equip yourself to deal with your present and future. 

Lead with an Apology

If you’ve ever gotten a wholehearted “sorry,” you know there are few things more healing than an honest apology. That’s why it should be the very first step you take when you reach out to your loved ones.

Even if you feel like a totally different person than you were while in the throws of addiction, people need proof that you’ve changed. What better way to start than by letting them know you have genuine remorse for your actions?

With all that in mind, you should prepare yourself for the very real possibility that they’re not ready to hear your apology yet. Sometimes, you’ll be met with resentment and anger even upon saying sorry. Other times, they won’t be ready to talk with you at all.

The only thing you can do is honor and respect those wishes. It can be hard to hear, but it’s likely they’re working through some very complex emotions, just like you are. Give them the time they need to process everything.

It’s also important that you take the lead on this. Don’t wait to be called out for your past behaviors before apologizing for them. Complete honesty is crucial during every step of this process.

Furthermore, be detailed in your apology. Lay out exactly what it is you’re apologizing for. The purpose of step one is making sure you understand what you’ve done wrong.

Step two is confronting those things out loud. An apology won’t mean much if it’s vague and general. By being specific, you show the person that you have a clear understanding of how you hurt them.

Sometimes, the apology comes with a more material aspect. If you’ve stolen money or goods from someone, it’s only right that you pay them back. This shows that your apology is more than empty words.

Demonstrate Your Change through Actions

Remember that time thing we talked about? Well, it also applies here. One of the biggest aspects of rebuilding your relationships is establishing trust through your actions, and that is going to take some doing.

The simple fact is that your loved ones have been given every reason not to trust you. Your duty now is to show them that your change is genuine, but they also need to see that it’s going to last. 

Staying sober isn’t easy for everyone, but no matter how hard it gets, none of this matters without that. Post-recovery life comes with its share of hurdles and bumps in the road, but don’t let them throw you off course. Your family and friends need to be shown that this new you is here to stay.

This ties back into making tangible reparations for your mistakes wherever applicable. Your actions need to be well-intentioned and consistent in order to be meaningful.

Again, this process is going to take time. Rebuilding trust isn’t easy, but by staying strong and unwavering, you’ll strengthen those bonds again.


Addiction aside, the truth is that almost everyone could do this better. For you, it’s going to be doubly important.

As much as this process is about them, it’s also about you. Healing is a two-way street. That’s why you have to keep the channels of communication open at all times.

Explain what you’re going through. That doesn’t mean you should make it all about you, but strive to be honest about how you’re feeling. Suppressing your feelings does no one any favors.

Learning to communicate healthily about those feelings will go a long way to righting old wrongs. This also means that you need to check in on others. Make sure to stay involved and interested in what they’re experiencing.

None of this works without communication. Keep the conversation going.

Battling Addiction Is a Lifelong Process

The main thing to remember here is that battling addiction is an ongoing process that you’re going to be pursuing for the rest of your life.

That doesn’t mean it’s always going to be this hard. It just means that the work on yourself and maintaining your relationships shouldn’t cease. Keep striving for more and never stop trying to better yourself.

If you haven’t made it to this stage yet but are still ready to beat your addiction, you deserve help. Don’t hesitate to look into this excellent rehab program to provide that extra assistance you need.


Article Reviewed by Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MD

Dr. Jeffrey Berman, MDDr. Jeffrey Berman is a psychiatrist in Teaneck, New Jersey and is affiliated with Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital. He received his medical degree from State University of New York Upstate Medical University and has been in practice for more than 20 years. He also speaks multiple languages, including French and Hebrew.

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