Trusted Content

Building Trust In Recovery From Addiction

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

Medically reviewed by

Isaac Alexis, M.D., AAMA, AMP-BC

March 4, 2019

Regaining trust from loved ones after facing addiction is often one of the hardest parts of recovery. It is important for both sides to be open to working through the problems that addiction may have caused together in order to build a new foundation of trust.

Many things get lost when people use drugs or alcohol, including jobs, friends, and homes, but usually one of the first things to be lost, and the last thing to get back, is trust. In the aftermath of an addiction, regaining lost trust or building new trust, can often be a long and daunting road. Despite this, it is not impossible, and with the right awareness and skill set you and your loved ones can be successful in seeing this through.

This journey is not without its rewards, this trust is crucial within any type of committed relationship, whether it be with a spouse, parent, child, sibling, coworker, or boss. An investment of time, paired with the following steps will help to solidify and strengthen this process, resulting in a greater capacity of trust within your relationships.

Understand That It Takes Time

First, you need to understand that trust was not lost overnight, inversely, it will not be built back up in a day. Relying on patients and the knowledge that this is a process—one that will have ups and downs, and good days and bad—is important, and at times necessary in order to rebuild trust.

This mindset is essential for all parties, as both the person recovering and their loved ones will likely struggle to trust one another, due to the damage and mistrust caused by addiction. Respect this and the other person’s boundaries—you cannot force trust upon a person, rather you must be steadfast towards creating an environment that fosters the honesty, accountability, intimacy, and reliance that are all elemental within a trust.

Avoid Blame And Shame

Sometimes life can be hard, and recovering from addiction can at times be a difficult situation to bear, both for yourself, and your family and friends. When a person is in the throes of addiction or striving to contend with a loved one that is, they may react to one another in a way that is negative or harmful. Though this can be a somewhat natural reaction, it is not a healthy one.

There is little room for blame and shame within a healthy and trusting relationship. While it is true that both parties may have experienced these mindsets during the addiction, in order to move forward in the most healthful and mindful manner that is consistent with building both trust and progress, you must seek to uproot these and replace them with healthier thoughts and behaviors.

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It can be very detrimental to a person’s recovery if they are steeped within an environment that yet imposes blame or shame on them. Forgiveness allows people to work through the past hurts and emotional conflicts that may have impeded the progress of both their relationship and recovery.

A person needs to forgive not only their loved ones but themselves—this goes both ways—it is relevant for both the individual in recovery and their friend or family member. Though forgiveness may occur on your own, it may also be aided by the guidance of a therapist or a support group.

It Is Time For Honesty

Someone in recovery may have been dishonest throughout the course of their addiction, both to themselves, and their loved ones. This may have been due to denial, a blatant attempt to mislead a person or a combination of both. Either way, in order to forge trust, this has to stop.

These reactive and unhealthy behaviors only serve to drive you farther apart from the people you need most—having a solid network of loved ones behind you, can increase your chance of having lasting success.

Taking an honest inventory of your life, behaviors, and the impact they had on your loved ones, as is similar to practices in Alcoholics Anonymous, may be a helpful first step. The detriment of addiction often starts with a person being dishonest with themselves, in a capacity that begins to affect those around them.

Generally in the form of denial, this may revolve around how much of a substance they can use, what they can get away with, how it’s impacting their health, the damage it’s incurring on their life, the devastation its exacted on their loved ones, and a multitude of other things. When you enter into recovery, you are taking responsibility for your actions, and striving to return balance to your life, and subsequently the lives of those around you.

The next step is being honest with people in your life. This can be intimidating at times, as you have to unlearn unhealthful mindsets and practices. This will take perseverance and patience, because like many things in recovery, you are learning new ways to do things that may go against your comfort zone or learned behaviors. Remember, this can bring wellness and balance to your life.

The last step in promoting honesty is for the recovering individual’s loved ones. They must be able to be honest both with themselves, and the person in recovery. This is especially pertinent when they feel that the person is starting to slip into old, bad behaviors or thought patterns that may lead to relapse.

You might be afraid to jeopardize the seemingly tentative and newfound balance your life and relationship has by pointing this out to them. Keep in mind, helping your loved one to maintain their sobriety only helps to further this state—approaching them in a loving, encouraging, and nonjudgmental way can make the difference between them reacting in a negative manner, verses one that resonates and carries them towards change.

Do What You Say

This may seem simple, but not many things go further when it comes to building trust than doing what you say you will do, and being consistent about it. When a person suffers from an addiction, they very commonly let their compulsive need for drugs or alcohol overwhelm the other demands of their life. Now is the time to reverse this, by directing focus and dedication back on the areas that you let fall into disrepair.

Think about it like this—if you had a friend that consistently forgot the dates and times of your obligations, and could not be counted on to follow through with anything, would you trust them in an important situation? Likely not.

Addiction is often marked with dishonesty, inconsistency, unreliability and other unpredictable behaviors. Take the time to be mindful before you speak, consider the impact that your actions have on your life and that of your loved ones. If you grant them respect by making them a priority in your life, they will have a greater opportunity to respect and prioritize you, which in turn creates an environment that is more conducive towards building trust.

Strive To Do The Right Thing

While trust is one of the first things that are lost to addiction, it is not the only thing that falls prey to this devastation. A person may lose their sense of social responsibility or obligation, causing them to make choices that they’re not proud of. When a person suffers from a severe addiction, they begin to lose sight of the world around them, focusing greater energy and time on feeding their addiction.

Due to this, they may begin to harbor negative emotions towards themselves, which can lead to them not trusting their worth or doubting that they are a functioning part of society. Learning to engage those around you in a respectful, mindful, and conscientious manner not only better enhances your relationships, but it builds critical measures of self-confidence.

Reaping The Long-Term Benefits

When a person uses drugs or alcohol, they are often seeking an immediate sense of gratification. Sometimes there isn’t an immediate reward each time you do the right thing, but by being honest, developing positive behaviors, and following through with what you say, you are investing in a more lasting benefit, one that develops solidarity both within yourself and your relationships. Doing all of this over time will go a long way towards repairing, and even strengthening your relationships while in recovery.

Trust Us With Your Recovery

Recovery takes a lot of work and commitment. It can be intimidating to try and repair and renew the relationships in your life that were damaged by your addiction. If you have any questions about this process, or if you’re concerned that you’re becoming too overwhelmed, in a capacity that is pushing you towards relapse, contact us now.

At we understand the immense toll addiction can take, and the ways in which it changes your life afterward. The good news is—we also understand the many ways in which positive changes can move you towards greater health and continued sobriety.

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