One of the first things you learn in early sobriety is that recovery is a process. It’s not something that happens overnight or that occurs magically without effort. This is especially important to remember when learning how to regain trust in your relationship after addiction.
Addiction recovery is an ever-changing journey, during which the small, habitual changes you make each day become a foundation for a different way of life. For many addicts and alcoholics, the loss of family members’ trust is devastating. While in active addiction, addicts tell white lies, steal, and manipulate friends and family members for years before treating their disorder. However, that doesn’t mean there aren’t ways to restore your family’s trust and learn how to maintain trusting relationships.
Rebuilding Trust Starts with a Strong Foundation
Before you embark on this journey, arm yourself with patience because regaining trust takes time. Even if you’re putting consistent effort into changing your way of thinking and living, that doesn’t necessarily mean every family member will be ready to dive into a new relationship. Sometimes, a family’s trust has been unraveling over years and years. It won’t be rebuilt overnight.
The best thing to do in early recovery is to focus on living sober and healthy. Quitting drugs, or no longer drinking, isn’t sufficient change for the addict. Your entire perspective on life, patterns of thinking, and living habits also need to change.
Define what trust means to you and ask your family what they think about it as well. When you have clear expectations of what a trusting relationship after addiction looks like, you’ll have a better direction.
Signs of a Trusting Relationship
You already know that trust means different things to different people. Also, trust changes according to the nature of your relationships. The confidence you hope to receive from a family member is not the same as you expect from a romantic partner’s trust or friend.
A trusting relationship means you:
- Feel committed to the relationship
- Feel safe and have established healthy boundaries
- Know people listen when you communicate your needs
- Don’t feel you need to hide things from others
- There’s respect for one another
- Feel safe to be vulnerable around them
- Support one another
Restoring Trust in Your Relationship After Addiction
Those in early recovery often feel it will be impossible to regain their family members’ and friends’ trust and affection. While it isn’t a smooth or steady path, it can be possible. When trust is broken, repairing a relationship takes a lot of work, and both parties need to be successful. The good news is that a break of faith can be restored with personal work and commitment, depending on the situation.
Go Back in Time
Before you start trying to regain trust, you need to check-in with yourself to understand why. Figuring out the underlying aspects of your drug or alcohol addiction can provide an insightful view of your idea of trust. Go back and try to identify those breaches of trust that caused this long-term damage.
But, beyond analyzing your addiction, think about why you broke the trust. Understanding the motives behind your behaviors can be harsh, but it’s critical to rebuilding trust.
Apologize — For Real
A genuine apology is always a great way to start making amends. If you visit fellowship group meetings, you know this step a bit too well. Nonetheless, you must acknowledge and face that you made a mistake.
But, a simple “I’m sorry” won’t be enough. The idea is not to justify your actions, explain, or blame them on someone else. This is about sincerely apologizing for your behavior. Try a specific response, for example:
“I’m sorry I lied to you about my substance abuse. I know I should have told you the truth. I’m deeply sorry for causing you pain. I want you to know that I’m working in my recovery, and I hope to count on your support and understanding.”
Give Them Time
You might be ready to apologize and start regaining your family’s trust, but they aren’t. Please don’t feel discouraged by this; it takes time to come to terms with trust’s betrayal.
People take different times to process things. Let them know that you’re ready to explore how to regain trust and rebuild your relationship. If you’re struggling in the meantime, consider talking to a counselor who can offer supportive guidance.
Listen to Their Needs
At first, you might feel as if this process is all about you, but it isn’t. Your family and partners might need space and time before they can start rebuilding broken trust. It might be difficult to face, but you must respect your partner’s boundaries.
Be open and attentive to their needs. Remember to actively listen and be willing to satisfy their needs even if they make you uneasy. You have to be open and honest to understand their love language.
For example, they might ask for your phone or computer; in the past, sharing these was a big no-no for you. It’s time to let go and trust them as well. Talking to a family or couples counselor can help throughout this process.
Engage in Clear Communication
Prepare to answer any questions and to have an open conversation with them in the future. Ensure you’re all on the same page on the level of communication they need and how each person feels. Talk about your needs and expectations until you reach a mutual understanding of what excellent communication means to both of you. Clear communication is key to making your relationship after addiction stronger.
How to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship After Addiction
Trust is one of those crucial, intangible building blocks of any stable relationship. It’s vital, and often the addict has been given a chance after a wasted opportunity to prove themselves trustworthy.
When exploring how to rebuild your family, remember patience is crucial in rebuilding trust. As with all things that are worth having, give trust time to grow. Be honest, consistent, and share your family time. In turn, they’ll help you rebuild a part of yourself that had been lost.
Addiction is a complicated and often misunderstood disorder. Quality addiction treatment requires a comprehensive and compassionate approach. Contact us today to speak with our family therapists and learn more about our family recovery programs to build healthy relationships. Our clinical psychologist can help you pave the way to restore your relationships.