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Reframing Relationships

Issue 30

I’ve lived on the edge of the recovery community for as long as I can remember. I grew up amid an opioid resurgence on the West Coast and saw firsthand the pain that splinters through a community when there isn’t a sense of hope.

About 15 years ago I met a now dear friend of mine who was struggling with active use to soothe her trauma. In getting to know this friend, I had the opportunity to step into her experience while establishing her path to recovery.

The piece that has stayed in my mind all these years is the notion of relationships. I truly believe the relationships that my friend formed with her peers at this time saved her life. I can be a support as an outsider, but there is nothing that compares to a shared understanding to begin healing.

It has been my understanding that we live in a world where romantic relationships are more valued than those of a platonic nature.

Partially through my time with this friend, I came to reflect on what relationships mean to me—do I need to subscribe to the cultural norm of placing a romantic relationship above all others or can I evaluate what I see as necessary and right for me as an individual?

I saw this friend’s marriage dissolve, boyfriends that came and went, and yet the relationships with these friends remained constant. They were the people that were there to help cook, wipe tears, and pick up her son from daycare as needed.

The relationships that we build with each other impact how we access resources, help, and support. These relationships impact how we feel about ourselves, and even how we feel about our circumstances.

Finding people with shared values, experiences, and goals helps us frame our future as part of community, rather than being disconnected and feeling isolated. Relationships are the foundation on which we build much of our lives.

As I reflect on some of the amazing things I’ve had the opportunity to do in life, the connections and relationships I’ve nurtured and grown with folks have been at the root of these experiences.

I have taken a child to their first day of kindergarten while they nervously held my hand looking for reassurance. I’ve taken friends home from the hospital and cared for them. I’ve had so much joy and support from these friendships that I see them as an integral part of who I am.

I share this to remind you, as well as myself, that the positive relationships we foster with one another are valid and meaningful in whatever capacity they may be formed.

We can bolster our resilience with the support from loved ones that we have chosen to be in our lives. It is not about seeing relationships as an either/or type arrangement, but rather an addition.

Take the opportunity to grow those relationships that help you feel like your best self to see the positive impact you can make with your own well-being.

Kristel Thyrring, LSW, is the Director of Youth Education at NAMI Maine.

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