We all have a certain set of expectations in regards to the “welcoming committee” that anxiously awaits our arrival from the rehab clinic. I know I did and, based on the numerous stories heard in support groups, so did other fellow patients. The only problem is that these dreams of the national parade and public praises or receiving the key to the city often don’t withstand the light of reason that’s brutally shined into our eyes upon arrival.
The Harsh Reality
You’re not coming home a hero and, although you’re going to be congratulated for pulling through and completing your rehab program, you’re bound to feel that most of the people you love have somewhat distanced themselves from you. You will be looked upon with a degree of weariness and mistrust. They’re not wrong, since there’s no telling if or when you might relapse.
But it always comes as an unpleasant shock and not easy to swallow. You’ll be tempted to feel like the major effort you’ve put in recovery doesn’t even matter to those people, but that line of thought only leads to depression. Trust me, I’ve been there.
Curb Your Enthusiasm
It turns out that my loved ones’ weariness to accept me as someone who met alcohol on the field of battle and emerged triumphant was not misplaced. I would relapse several months later and go back to square one. You see, with alcoholics, there’s really no telling what they’re thinking or what you should expect from them, because the years of abuse has distorted their thinking and, during this time, they learned several ways to trick and manipulate their peers into getting them what they want. Next time, when you’re disappointed about the cold welcome home, think about this.
Rebuilding Trust and Relationships
Rather than expect the transition back into the real world to be seamless, try to focus on repairing the aspects of your life that suffered due to your alcohol abuse. To put it simply, start by determining the ways your binge drinking has affected every person in your life – particularly the ones who you’d like to keep around – and start making reparations.
The AA program suggests asking forgiveness, but in my view, that’s only part of relationship rebuilding process because:
- They’re not automatically required to forgive you.
- You haven’t done anything to earn this forgiveness.
Like in most cases, action speaks louder than half-baked apology speeches.
It’s also vital to refrain from hanging onto resentment and bitterness for the ones who aren’t ready or simply refuse to accept your apology. Yes, I was, on many occasions, unable to repair a relationship and there are many members of my extended family and ex-colleagues who, to this day, refuse to speak with me.
And you know what? That’s okay, because you can’t force anyone to like you and I respect their decision. Does it feel good? Of course not, but I won’t let my head fill up with negative thoughts or emotions that are unproductive and possibly harmful for my self-esteem and my confidence!
The bottom line is that you should do your best to repair the relationships you’ve damaged by abusing alcohol without expecting anything in return. The ones who aren’t just fair weather friends will forgive you in time, if you prove you’re worthy of their forgiveness. By the way, if you need new friends who understand you, you can certainly join our family.