We all have times when our words or actions hurt others, or we have broken someone’s trust. Unfortunately, when we use substances, our mistakes are often repeated, and sometimes on a larger scale. Or maybe we did something embarrassing that we wish we could undo. When we repeatedly hurt others or lose their trust, it can be difficult for them to forgive us. We might even lose their trust and respect. As we become sober and look around at the people in our lives, an important question arises: How can I regain respect and trust?
We may have heard the phrase “saving face.” It means to save ourselves from embarrassment or loss of respect. However, if we did not “save face” and are well past that, then we should look to “losing shame.” Shame is defined by the Oxford Dictionary as “a painful feeling of humiliation or distress caused by the consciousness of wrong or foolish behavior.” We messed up, and we are painfully aware of it. Sometimes, it takes others to make us aware of doing something wrong and then we feel shame, but often we feel shame on our own.
There are two parts to shame, our natural desire to “fit in” and adherence to a spoken or unspoken moral code within society that tells us what is acceptable. Both are based on expectations from others, whether real or perceived. So in actuality, we are feeling bad because of what we perceive others expect from us. When broken down like that, it doesn’t sound as bad.
However, holding onto shame doesn’t help us. It can prevent us from seeking healing from our substance use, and it can monopolize our emotions. Shame may help us to recognize when we are outside of moral or societal norms, but it usually does more harm than good. It is always in our best interest to lose our shame. It is the first step to regaining the respect and trust of others.
Accepting the Past
The mistakes we make while under the influence can be relatively small or they can be life-changing and massive. But the one thing that they all have in common is that they happened. They are in the past. We cannot change what we did when we were sober, so we definitely cannot change what we did when we were using our substances. It may be painful to accept the pain we have caused others or even the humiliation we may have brought on to ourselves. But no matter what our past is, it does not need to define who we are today or in the future. Holding onto the past does not help anyone. But accepting the past helps us to start the healing and to seek respect and trust from others.
Watching the pain or tears on the faces of those we love when we know we hurt them can bring up very powerful negative emotions and self-talk. That is a normal reaction when we have hurt or disappointed people in our lives. However, it takes courage to accept whatever we have done and look in the mirror and be able to forgive ourselves. We can still accept responsibility for what we have done. And we can do whatever we believe we need to do to make amends if we can. But until we are able to look at ourselves and truly forgive ourselves, we will never fully be able to move on. And until we have forgiven ourselves, we will not have the respect and trust of others again.
Changing Our Ways
One big aspect of losing someone’s trust is based on repeated behaviors. For example, if we tell a family member that we are just going for one drink and come back six hours later having had a lot more, we break trust. But when we do it consistently for a long period of time, then we lose trust. In order to earn trust back, we can live authentically, showing that we have changed, doing what we said we would, keeping all of our commitments. Whether it be at home, in the workplace, or somewhere else, when we become sober and we do what we said we would do, we can regain the respect and trust we may have lost.
It is so important to communicate effectively, especially with those that we love. We can share how we felt in losing their trust, own up to whatever we did to harm them and ask them for forgiveness. They may not offer forgiveness, at least not right away. It often takes time for people to heal, time spent watching us, wondering if we have really changed this time. But if we keep the lines of communication open throughout the process, regaining respect and trust is possible.
We can regain respect and trust by transforming ourselves and demonstrating the change consistently. But it will only be effective if we have removed our shame and forgiven ourselves. AToN Center professionals know how to rebuild trust and earn respect again. They can help you through the entire process. You don’t need to wallow in shame or live in the past. By healing yourself and gaining your own self-respect and trust back, you can earn the respect and trust of others once again.
Regain respect and trust in yourself. AToN Center can show you the way. Call (888) 535-1516 to begin mending the relationships in your life.