Burning Broken Bridges: A Common Mistake in Early Recovery

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Ryan just reached six months sober. Eight months ago, Lindsey finally gave up on him and walked out. It was the proverbial straw that broke Ryan’s back and got him into rehab.

Ryan hopes to win Lindsey back. He wants to earn her trust. Hopefully, things can go back to the way they used to be, long before addiction ruined their relationship.

Ryan called Lindsey to ask if he could see her. When she didn’t return his call, he texted. Then he texted again. Then he called. He went by her sister’s house, where he knew she was staying. She refused to see him. Ryan kept pushing. He was hurt that she wouldn’t give him a chance. He’d changed! Ryan tried to force himself into her life until she took out a restraining order.

Bridge burned. Lesson learned.

Same Story, Different Outcome

Gary’s story is similar to Ryan’s. Leah walked out after years of watching Gary slowly kill himself. Now, he’s clean and sober. He knew he hurt Leah deeply. Gary wanted her back, but knew she had every right to hate him.

Gary wrote Leah a letter, apologizing for everything he’d done, for all the wasted time and for the things he knew he could never make up for. He told her he still loves her and wants to be with her – if she could find it in her heart to forgive him. He asked her to contact him when she was ready. He suggested they could start with a simple conversation over coffee and go from there.

After sending it, he gave Leah space to think it over and to heal. When Gary saw her at the grocery store weeks later, he approached to say hello. He didn’t try to force conversation or demand she respond to his letter. He simply told her that she looked great, that he missed her and he would love to get to know each other again if she was ever ready for that. She teared up and said she was still working through things, but would think about it. Two weeks later, she called him.

Lesson learned. Broken bridges can be repaired.

When You Want to Hurry, Take it Slow

We have to be careful not to burn bridges in an effort to force repairs too soon. Our loved one needs time to fix things themselves. They need space. Time. Healing. And…some relationships might be irreparable; they may never come back around.

When we reach recovery, we have to be ready to accept this. Some bridges are already burned. We can attempt to restore and heal relationships, but we must acknowledge that not all are salvageable. We must give our loved ones some healthy space. They could come around eventually if they see changes in our lives, but we can’t force it.

Remember: Tread those broken bridges carefully…or they may catch fire.

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