In a relationship affected by substance use, trust is one of the largest casualties. Loved ones often go through significant worry and anxiety while an addicted person is using. Not only that, but they have often been lied to, concealed from, or even had their rights violated. And some have heard vows to get or stay sober before, so these promises can start to become less and less convincing. So then how can trust be rebuilt once an addicted person enters into recovery?
Slowly. This will take time. Remember how long it took to break that trust, and for how long it has been broken. The important thing is to stick to your new trustworthy path.
Empathy. Expressing empathy gives loved ones a sense that you do understand what they have been going through, too. It gets you out of your own head and into what others have been experiencing, and what they need. It is also a starting place for re-building connection and intimacy.
Trust-worthy actions. Of course a loved one is going to need to see that you don’t use. But this isn’t about what you don’t do. It’s about what you do: honesty, productivity, active involvement in therapy or support groups, taking on extra responsibilities, or all of the above. If you don’t know what you need to do, ask.
Accept responsibility. This also means accepting the consequences – within reason, of course. If a loved one feels the need to ask questions about where you have been, to set boundaries, or to monitor the finances extra closely, acting defensive will only fuel the fire of mistrust. Accepting the consequences gracefully and taking responsibility for your recovery will go a long way in showing that you can be trustworthy.
And remember again, it takes time. If you or your loved one need help with rebuilding trust, you might also consider seeing a therapist or talking to someone who can give you another perspective. People do find long term recovery, and so do relationships.
Kirsten Helgager, PsyD
AToN Center 888-535-1516