If you have experienced addiction, you will likely know the toll dependency can take on close connections and how challenging it can be to rebuild relationships in recovery. In fact, many people cite addiction as the primary cause of a breakup or divorce.

In this article, you’ll find information on the common effects of addiction on relationships and which ones are most impacted, as well as advice on rebuilding relationships in recovery.

How Addiction Can Impact Relationships

Addiction is not just a personal struggle. It echoes through an individual’s entire social network, altering the dynamics, trust, and health of relationships. See below for a deeper look at the specific ways addiction can impact various relationships.

Breakdown in Communication

Addiction can cause individuals to become withdrawn, secretive, or defensive. This can hinder open, honest, and effective communication, leading to misunderstandings and growing distances between loved ones.

Erosion of Trust

Repeated lies, broken promises, and unpredictable behaviours associated with addiction have been known to erode trust in most relationships. Over time, this mistrust can become deeply ingrained, making relationship repair challenging.

Financial Strain

Addictions, especially substance addictions, can be expensive. Mismanagement of finances or spending large sums on obtaining the substance can put a significant financial strain on households, leading to arguments, stress, and even potential legal troubles.

Neglect of Responsibilities

Individuals with addiction might begin to neglect their familial, work, and personal responsibilities. This can put additional burdens on partners, children, or colleagues who might have to pick up the slack over time, adding another cause of strain on those closest.

Increased Conflict

The combination of financial worry, neglect of responsibilities, and impaired judgment can lead to more frequent and intense arguments or conflicts, especially where romantic relationship dynamics are concerned.


Out of shame, denial, or a preference to use substances in solitude, individuals with addictions might isolate themselves, pushing away family, friends, acquaintances, and other loved ones.


Partners or family members might develop codependent behaviours, where they inadvertently enable the addicted individual’s behaviour or become overly reliant on the dysfunctional dynamics.

Codependency in this context can look like providing individuals with financial support for substance abuse, making excuses to yourself and others regarding the addiction, and downplaying how severe a dependency may be.

We understand that the unpredictability of addiction can keep loved ones in a constant state of worry, stress, hope, and despair, often likened to an emotional rollercoaster. However, codependency behaviours can be incredibly damaging, as they allow the individual to remain in the cycle of addiction.


Common Types of Relationships That Can Be Impacted By Addiction

The truth is that all types of relationships can be impacted by addiction. Whether it’s work colleagues, your immediate family, or keeping up with friends, addiction can take control and compromise the quality, depth, and dynamics of what once was a healthy relationship.

See below for common types of relationships that are often affected by addiction.

Romantic Relationships

Addiction can lead to increased conflicts, decreased intimacy, mistrust, and other problems in romantic relationships. Substance abuse can distort perceptions, emotions, and reactions, leading to misunderstandings to arise.

Many romantic partners struggle with the constant ups and downs of their addicted partner’s behaviour, which can often result in a broken relationship.

Parent and Child Relationships

Parents with addictions might neglect their responsibilities, leading to emotional and sometimes physical neglect.

Children may feel abandoned, which can contribute to long-term psychological issues that can follow into adulthood. On the other hand, children with addictions create worry, stress, and heartbreak for their parents.

Watching a child succumb to the grip of addiction is an incredibly painful experience for any parent or guardian. They may experience feelings of guilt, wondering where they went wrong or what they could have done differently. Often, they find themselves in a cycle of blame and remorse, questioning their parenting skills or decisions they made during their childhood.

Sibling Relationships

Additionally, siblings of the addicted child may also face emotional turmoil.

They can experience a sense of hopelessness or feel overshadowed by the crisis, experience jealousy due to perceived neglect, or harbour resentment towards the addicted sibling for the disruption caused in the family.

The constant worry and tension can lead to tense relationships within the family, as everyone struggles to cope in their own way.

Work Relationships

Addiction can impact professional behaviour, leading to decreased productivity, frequent absences, or inappropriate behaviour in the workplace.

This can strain relationships with colleagues and superiors, potentially leading to job loss or stunted career growth.

The Relationship With Yourself

Often overlooked, the relationship that individuals have with themselves can be profoundly affected by addiction.

Self-esteem, self-worth, and self-perception can all significantly deteriorate with ongoing substance use or addictive behaviours. The pervasive nature of addiction means that no relationship is immune. The ripple effects can be vast, affecting not only the person with the addiction but also everyone they come into contact with.

Recovery, therefore, is not just about addressing the addiction itself but also about healing and mending these fractured relationships. It requires understanding, patience, and often professional guidance to navigate the complex web of emotions and dynamics to restore, rebuild trust, and rebuild connections.


Rebuilding Relationships in Recovery: Understanding That Hope Does Exist

In our experience, a significant number of individuals are willing to give relationships a second chance, even if one party has struggled with addiction in the past. When both parties are genuinely committed to mending their bond, there is significant potential to not only restore the relationship but to reinvent it.

As a part of the healing journey, structured programmes for those in recovery, such as AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) or NA (Narcotics Anonymous), often encourage individuals to reflect on their past relationships and make amends as part of the healing process. One of the pivotal steps in these programmes is the creation of a list of those who may have been adversely affected by addiction.

This list is likely to feature close relations, including spouses or partners. The core philosophy of these programmes is not just acknowledgement, but active efforts to rectify the harm caused, thereby instilling a sense of responsibility and offering a pathway to genuine reconciliation.


Advice on Rebuilding Relationships in Recovery

Approaching the process of rebuilding relationships will not look the same for everyone. After all, every relationship dynamic is unique, and circumstances widely vary. However, as a general guide, see below for advice on where to start when making a conscious effort to mend connections.

Take Your Time to Rebuild Trust

As trust is a fundamental element in any type of connection, it’s essential to take it slow with the process of rebuilding relationships in recovery, especially until this factor has been sufficiently restored.

It’s also key that responsibility is taken for the damage your addiction has inflicted on your relationship. It’s also key that you do not blame your partner for your addiction and the damage it has caused, and vice versa. The act of blaming one another continuously will only prove counterproductive.

Try Not to Dwell On Past Mistakes

One important tip to remember is that you cannot restore the relationship you once had with your partner before or during your addiction. Instead, you are able to create a new relationship built on mutual respect and trust.

During this time, you will be able to get to know each other again but from a fresh perspective. So, it’s important not to spend too much time dwelling on the past. Acknowledging and taking accountability is essential, but don’t rehash the past forever. Both parties will need to move forward and look ahead, not backwards.

Focus On Healthy Communication

Communication is key to any healthy relationship. In the context of recovery, it becomes even more important. When working on rebuilding relationships in recovery, it’s essential to establish open, honest, and consistent communication channels.

Being transparent about your feelings, struggles, and progress can alleviate misunderstandings. It’s equally important to listen actively to the other person. They might have pent-up emotions, fears, or concerns that need to be voiced. Offering a listening ear can make them feel valued and understood.

Prioritise Empathy and Understanding

Empathy goes a long way in rebuilding ties with those you care about. Remember, addiction affects not only the individual but those around them as well. Taking the time to understand the emotional trauma or stress your loved ones may have experienced can encourage feelings of mutual respect and understanding, which are essential components when trying to rebuild a severed bond.

For example, when situations get challenging, practice seeing things from the other person’s perspective. Step into their shoes. This act of understanding can help diffuse tension and create an atmosphere conducive to healing.

Seek External Support if Needed

Sometimes, despite your best efforts, there might be lingering resentment, mistrust, or unresolved issues that are quite hard to let go of. In such cases, seeking professional support, maybe in the form of family therapy or counselling, can be incredibly beneficial.

A neutral third party can provide valuable insights, mediate conflicts, and guide both parties towards a healthier relationship.

Work On Forgiving Yourself

Investing so much energy in repairing your loving relationships may mean you forget to forgive yourself.

Oftentimes, we find that individuals are likely to blame themselves for their addiction, even though their addiction is a disease. Forgiving yourself allows you to move on with your life without the weight and burden of self-blame.

Showing compassion for yourself will relieve a range of negative emotions, such as guilt, regret and shame, which individuals tend to hold on to for a long time. So, whilst forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting, self-forgiveness is an essential milestone on the road towards long-term recovery.

Practice Healthy Communication

You are likely all-consumed in your recovery. You’ve gone to rehab, and you’re focused on your goals. All the information you have picked up in recovery may mean you begin to look at your recovery in a vacuum.

Instead, you need to act and react according to the specific circumstances you now find yourself in. Make a conscious effort to open yourself up to others and listen to the concerns of your loved ones.

Listening to your loved one does not mean you must agree with everything someone has to say about your recovery. After all, this is your journey. However, you must factor in his or her concerns, or your relationship may not flourish now you are living your life in recovery.

Remember to Celebrate Milestones and Small Wins

Rebuilding a relationship is a journey, not a destination. So, try not to rush it, and instead, trust the process.

Along the way, focus on acknowledging and celebrating small milestones and achievements. Maybe it’s a week of honest communication or just a day of mutual understanding. Recognising these moments can act as a reminder of the progress you’re making together.

By integrating these pointers with commitment and patience, the process of rebuilding relationships in recovery can become smoother and more meaningful, helping both parties to build a sense of restored trust.


Contact Us Today For Support

If you’re struggling with life after rehabilitation or worried about a potential relapse, don’t wait. Contact us today, and our friendly and understanding team will provide more information on how we can help.

John Gillen - Author - Last updated: October 9, 2023

John is one UK’s leading professionals in the addiction recovery industry. Pioneering new treatment techniques such as NAD+ and ongoing research into new therapy techniques such as systematic laser therapy, John is committed to providing the very best treatment for people throughout the UK and Europe. During his extremely busy schedule, John likes to regularly update our blog section with the latest news and trends in the industry to keep visitors to our site as well informed as possible on everything related to addiction treatment.