Regaining Trust In Recovery

Regaining Trust In Recovery

Active addiction is about dishonesty, disloyalty, manipulation and taking from people, often your family and friends. Recovery from those self-defeating behaviors is going to take time, energy, and effort to correct.

Most actions, attitudes, and behaviors become mechanical and habituated over time. They become the normal way you think, act, and conduct yourself. Many people realize in their early recovery that they are still thinking and acting as they did in their use; viewing interactions with people from the standpoint of “What’s in this for me?”

They find that they either embellish truths by making their recovery progress seem more than it really is, or they minimize parts of their recovery, like their feelings. These are the continued dishonest reactions in early recovery.

Family and friends are probably relieved when someone is no longer using drugs and alcohol, but they are still wary because the actions have not changed enough to instill trust.

But I Didn’t Use, So Why Don’t You Trust Me?

Many people get self-righteous early in their recovery thinking that family or friends should only judge them by their abstinence, not their actions.

One of the reasons that family and friends continue being wary and distrustful of people in early recovery is that the actions, attitudes, and behaviors have not changed.
Simply because someone quits using drugs and alcohol does not mean that they are going to admit to their past wrongs, change character defects overnight, and make appropriate amends to those they have harmed.

Recovery is a process, and earning or deserving trust comes slowly for most people in recovery.

What Can I Do To Regain Their Trust?

If regaining or earning trust is an objective in your recovery, it is first necessary to acknowledge how much pain your actions caused family and friends.

This can be difficult in early recovery, when a part of you simply wants recognition and trust now that you are not using. Feeling sorry for yourself because they do not trust you at 30 days will only set up additional resentments on both sides.

If all of your betrayals were the product of your use, then not using would be a sufficient
amends, however, if you are honest, you will realize that your use only fueled and worsened the underlying self-defeating behaviors.

To look at these self-defeating behaviors and the harm they have caused takes courage; it is evaluating you, the short-comings, the character defects, and taking stock.

When you label these negative traits, you make the effort to correct them. Just like anything new that you attempt, you are not going to make changes seamlessly and gracefully.

You will fall back into the old behavior and have to correct that action.

Motive for Actions

One way to prevent this type of reverting to old behaviors is to become more aware of your
motive for your actions. Before you follow through with an action, see if you have a self-serving or self-centered motive for the action. Clearly, any motive that is self-centered and self-serving can ultimately harm others, as they were not even part of your decision-making process.

Then ask yourself, how likely is it that my action will harm someone else? If you can
reasonably decide that there would be no harm to others, go ahead with the action. If you are in doubt, reconsider.

Learning to anticipate reactions without predicting outcomes takes time. For instance, your
family trusts you enough to let you use their car to drive to a recovery supportive meeting. You understood the terms and directions; go to the meeting and then return the car.

You get to the meeting and someone needs a ride home. You start rationalizing and
justifying your decision to violate the terms: it is only 10 minutes out of your way; it would be helpful to this other person if you gave them a ride, and your family will understand if you are late returning the car.

If you look at motive, you may discover that you wanted to look important to someone, that you were in control of your life, you could give someone a ride; you wanted them to have a particular image of you; not the adult who had to borrow a car, but someone who was nice and helpful.

You disrespected your family’s directions, yet again.

Moving Towards Trust

The simple actions will regain trust from family and friends. Work towards becoming
accountable, reliable, and dependable. When you commit to something, honor it.
Have the courage to tell the person at the meeting that you would like to help them but you have a commitment to return the car after the meeting. Take five minutes, call your family, and ask permission to make a side trip.
Then you need to be willing to accept their decision; after all, it is their car.

Evaluate Your Expectations

Regaining trust will take time. The average family has suffered emotionally and often times, financially, from your use. They need to see that the changes in you are not just to appease them, but are genuinely ongoing so that they can feel some measure of security in their interactions with you.

Expecting family and friends to take your words at face value sets you up for feelings of
frustration, irritation, and possibly resentment. When you believe that they should immediately forgive you, simply because you have stopped using, also sets you up.
They do not have to forgive you. Forgiveness is a gift, not an expectation. You know yourself, that there are people who have harmed you that you are not ready to forgive and the same allowances need to extend to your family and friends as it relates to you.

That is a hard lesson in recovery and the trusting process, but it can make earning their
trust more realistic. Trusting others is about vulnerability; it exposes people to being hurt,
betrayed, and harmed.

Accepting the Differences in Levels of Trust

There will be some family and friends that have the ability to let bygones be bygones and will extend trust and show forgiveness as soon as you quit using. Enjoy these, knowing that other family and friends are not inclined to be vulnerable so quickly.
Some family and friends never extend the same amount of trust towards you as they have done in the past because they simply will not place themselves into a position to be hurt by you again.

Accepting this can help you stop trying to find the one action that will make a difference to those who will not extend their trust again. If you have asked them how you can correct and repair the relationship and have fulfilled those requirements, you have to accept that

it’s not in your power to alter this relationship any more than you have done.
There are also new people in your life that do not have a history of dishonesty and harm from you. They base their trust on your dependable, honest actions; showing up at meetings, sharing your experiences, and offering hope to them.

Marilyn L Davis, Certified Addiction Recovery Empowerment Specialist
Author: Therapeutic Integrated Educational Recovery System (TIERS) an integrated curriculum for recovery.