Family forms the foundation of a person’s life. They are the first people with whom we experience life, through good times and bad. Sometimes, the family experiences a rupture that causes estrangement between members. Even if the healthiest family can experience addiction, mental illness, abuse, or neglect. Each of these issues can become a reason for separation. One member of the family with addiction may become estranged through their behavior.
Still, they may have already been putting distance between themselves and the family if others also struggle with addiction or other issues. Addiction can come out of families with difficult circumstances of all kinds and may give rise to negative emotions. Recovery is a great time to revisit these relationships and realize estrangement is not going to derail your recovery. It may actually be healing to understand how it happened. See if it is worth being part of the family again, as long as it will not be toxic to recovery.
Complexities of Estrangement
Estrangement can be painful for many people involved. A person’s identity is shaped through their first encounters within the family. The loss of a lifelong relationship with siblings or parents can bring ambiguity and unpredictability to their lives. There is no right way to end a relationship with someone when it is within the family. To bring peace of mind to recovery, an individual can try some different ways to understand the complex nature of estrangement to see how best to navigate it going forward.
As hard as it may be to deal with personal feelings of estrangement, first consider how and why it occurred. Everyone has a role to play in relationships. Addiction likely played a crucial role in it, but it may take time to see how this affected the relationship or series of relationships. Perhaps estrangement occurred for other reasons before addiction even started. Whatever happened, take time to know how this happened before approaching family members to discuss it.
Consider the Other Person
The other person in the family, or persons, will undoubtedly have their own perspective. Consider this before diving into a conversation with them. If they welcome contact, it may be safe to try it at some point in recovery. Perhaps not early on if it is too triggering. If the person is safe and receptive, they may be willing to discuss the situation. If the estrangement was hurtful to them, consider how and why it may be useful to give them space before contacting them. Everyone has needs in a relationship. Don’t prioritize personal needs over those of others. Other people must come first if you are to be successful in your recovery.
Decide How to Contact Them
As part of recovery, it can be healing to talk to someone from whom an individual is estranged. It might not be healthy, but if a person decides it is worth a try, it can definitely bring hope to a difficult situation. Start with considering how that person might feel and whether they want to be contacted by phone, letter, or some other form of communication. Sometimes, email is nice, but it is often too informal. Getting back in a relationship with someone requires work, which requires putting in some effort through a letter, perhaps, or phone call, to let them know communication is desired.
Learn to Let Go
Sometimes estrangement happens for a reason, and there is no going back. It may be that person is locked in addiction, too, and it is not healthy right now in recovery to go back into that relationship. Even if it is family, it is best to keep a distance from some people. In some cases, that may mean never going back. It might mean forever. It’s helpful to discuss these issues with a therapist and talk about what it means to be estranged from them. Work out the details and see what comes up. It may be healing to talk about the estrangement openly and honestly with a neutral party.
Other than a therapist, talk to your sober friends. Discuss with support groups the experience of estrangement. Talk to those who have gone through this and desire a deeper understanding of what it means. Broken bonds are not easily repaired. Difficult, toxic relationships can bring a lot of stress and anxiety. Estrangement is a decision that helps people move forward in other relationships and move away from the pain towards healing.
Don’t be afraid to continue moving away from what is not healthy to stay focused on a more favorable recovery. Estrangement does not have to have the last word. It simply may be time to let go of what is not working, and what has not worked, to continue moving forward and find better ways of relating to friends and loved ones in the future. In time, there may be hope for restoration. For now, however, it may be best to move on and focus on recovery.
Casa Capri brings hope for the future and healing to those who suffer from addiction and mental health issues. We also help you walk through family estrangement and other complicated issues in relationships. If you are ready to get started, call us today: 844-593-8020
Melissa Holmes Goodmon is the founder and CEO of Casa Capri Recovery, a leading California addiction treatment center created just for women—by women. Melissa is a licensed clinician and has stayed on the cutting edge of women’s treatment since 2006. Because of her own beautiful recovery story, she is proud to be among a small group of trailblazers since founding Casa Capri Recovery for Women in 2011, leading the way for other women to join them in this otherwise male-dominated industry. She is considered an advocate for the recovery community in the truest sense, standing up to discrimination and legally fighting for the rights of sober people in recovery to live in peace. To learn more about advocacy or if you’ve experienced discrimination, you can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out casacaprirecovery.com for more information on our program, or please give us a call at 844-207-4880.