Putting the Pieces of the Recovery Puzzle together: How to Cope with Your Feelings Toward a Former Addict

Any addiction — sex, drugs, gambling — has ripple effects. It takes a toll on family members and close friends, and can leave a once well-put-together puzzle in pieces. 

The catalyst to these ripple effects isn’t the only person that needs help. The puzzle consists of spouses, parents, grandparents, children; they all need to take their own journey of recovery after months or years of giving their compassion and resources. 

In this article, I am going to offer some tips for how to cope with feelings of anger toward a recovered addict. Please keep in mind that I am writing with the assumption that the addict is still a part of your family or is still present in your life in some way. Many different people have various different experiences with addicts — this article is only focusing on one perspective. 

Two people on the porch of a cabin in the woods hugging
What do you do with leftover feelings of resentment toward a recovered addict in your family? Image courtesy of Addiction Campuses.  

If you’re still feeling resentment toward a spouse or family member who just recovered from an addiction, the first thing to understand is that your feelings are normal, and certainly aren’t selfish. Remember that you’re one piece to the addiction puzzle; while the addict is at the center of it all, you still need to recover as well to complete the picture of recovery.

Yet we all know that letting go of anger isn’t easy, especially after standing by someone who just overcame addiction. You’ve given your time and compassion, but what about you? How are you going to return to your normal self after an event that could have drained your savings account, taken a toll on your emotions or on your family?

A family sitting in the living room and happily watching a movie together
You did your fair share to make sure everything remains in tact. Image courtesy of Dissolve. 

The first step is to understand that you’ve done your fair share in completing this puzzle. You stuck by your family member when most people wouldn’t, and that’s incredibly important for someone on the road to recovery — receiving compassion. 

At this moment, after months or years of standing by someone with an addiction, people think that everything’s OK. If the addict is recovered, then everything's back to normal, right?

That isn’t exactly the case — you’re going to have pent up anger that needs to be released in a healthy manner. So the second step is letting go of anger towards an addict: Follow these steps of how to properly let out your feelings of resentment. 

A hand writing and tearing a piece of paper
There are various steps you can take to release your anger in a healthy manner. Image courtesy of wikiHow. 

First, try writing about your feelings. It’s an age-old practice — keeping a diary, writing about your thoughts and then ripping them up — that has helped people cope with their feelings or mental illnesses. 

Secondly, give meditating a try. When dealing with any feelings of anger, it’s important to learn how to control your breathing and calm yourself down in the moment. Check out this meditation guide if you’re a beginner. 

A shirtless man sitting and meditating in with a lake behind him
Learn how to calm yourself in any moment of anger. Image courtesy of Chris Winfield. 

Lastly, attend a support group. It probably sounds uncomfortable at first, but convening with others that have had similar experiences as you and sharing your story will be incredibly productive on your own journey to recovery. 

You are an essential piece to this puzzle should be treated as such. You’ve spent years putting others first; now it’s your turn to improve your health to complete the puzzle.


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