Sometimes the people closest to a person struggling with substance use disorder are impacted the most, making it difficult to rebuild trust in recovery, even if you’ve completed a treatment program. Though it takes time, you can rebuild trust in recovery if you take the appropriate steps toward becoming a reliable and stable friend or family member.
Is it possible to rebuild trust after addiction?
The consequences of substance use disorder can extend far beyond the physical and mental damages felt by an individual. Addiction can affect your job, friendships, family, relationships, and much more, and unfortunately, these problems aren’t always quick to resolve after entering recovery.
The lingering consequences of addiction can cause significant distress for those new to recovery. Stopping substance use doesn’t always mean that the source of the problem has been resolved. Unfortunately, that’s not how recovery works, and the start of recovery can be a difficult path to trust, particularly for the people surrounding you.
Accountability and a commitment to recovery can go a long way toward repairing relationships with friends and family. Stopping drinking or using is an essential first step, and you should be proud of your work! Still, recovery is an active, life-long process, and you’ll need to address different layers of healing as you progress.
8 Steps Toward Rebuilding Trust During Recovery
So how can you begin rebuilding trust during recovery? We’ve outlined some key steps that can set you in the right direction and help you to heal damaged relationships. Just remember that rebuilding trust during recovery is a process that doesn’t happen all at once and often doesn’t happen quickly. Still, you are worthy of trust and community.
Staying the course and working diligently on becoming a better friend, parent, sibling, or partner can only benefit your recovery in the long term. Rebuilding trust during recovery with friends and family helps you build social support – a vital piece of the recovery puzzle. Social support has been linked to lower relapse rates and can do wonders for your feelings of self-worth and motivation. Here’s how to make it happen.
1. First, Stay Sober
Perhaps the most crucial step in rebuilding trust during recovery is ensuring that you refrain from using. For people with substance use disorders, a relapse can often mean breaching the trust you’ve been trying to build, so staying focused on the self-work required to remain abstinent is essential. This process naturally looks different for different people but may include:
- Seeing a therapist
- Attending support groups
- Working a 12-Step program
- Participating in sober activities
- Taking medication as prescribed
- Continuing to practice introspection and self-improvement
These self-care actions can help you to maintain your motivation for sobriety and keep you on the path to recovery. If you feel like you’re beginning to struggle with maintaining your sobriety, don’t be afraid to reach out for help. Being honest about your struggle helps you stay in a recovery mindset.
Sometimes, checking into an addiction treatment center is the best action you can take to prevent a catastrophic relapse. There is no shame in returning to treatment, and going back to rehab does not mean you failed. You are not starting over, you’re building on the skills you’ve learned.
2. Start Small
The next step in rebuilding trust in recovery is making yourself available (with boundaries!) and becoming more dependable. It helps to start small in this task – don’t dive in headfirst, make a significant promise that you won’t be able to keep, and overwhelm yourself with tons of high-pressure responsibilities. Instead, commit to smaller obligations like showing up on time when visiting friends or family, helping around the house, or remembering important dates and anniversaries.
Remember, trust doesn’t come back all at once – it’s hard-earned and easily lost. Don’t expect anyone to regain complete faith in you instantly. Their experience has taught them to be cautious, and giving them time and space to relearn to trust you is the only path forward.
3. Respect Other People’s Boundaries
Sometimes, even though you’re ready to start rebuilding trust, the people you care about aren’t quite ready yet. If they’re not prepared to meet with you, extend their hand in friendship, or trust you quite yet, you need to respect their boundaries. Pushing yourself on them or trying to explain that things are different now that you’re sober can sever an opportunity for you to repair this relationship in the future.
Let people know you are committed to working on yourself, you know you have a problem, you are sorry you lost their trust, and you’re committed to earning it back. Be honest about how you may have caused harm, let them know you’re willing to give them the space and time they need to heal, and then really commit to honoring that space.
4. Keep Showing Up
People new to recovery often get discouraged when rebuilding trust with friends and family. They recognize that their relationships are now different than they used to be and want things to return to how they were before, but that’s not how change works.
Instead, you’ll need to keep showing up, doing the small things, and proving yourself dependable and trustworthy. In most cases, people need to rebuild trust because they’ve broken it in the past, and it’s part of your job to accept the responsibility for that action. Denying it or trying to skip steps in building trust can prove to be extremely counterproductive. Keep showing up, and if you find yourself struggling with guilt or shame, connect with those who will help you rebuild your confidence. Recovery isn’t a race – it’s about consistency.
You may need to work on the relationship for a few months, a year, two years, or more. In some cases, the relationship might not be the same as before, but it can slowly evolve into something new. Rebuilding trust cannot come with expectations, and it’s important to remember that sometimes people may not forgive you at all. Still, this doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to put in the effort for yourself and build new relationships rooted in trust.
5. Show Humility
Substance use disorders can often lead people to behave in ways they never would with a clear mind. These actions can create lasting hurt and resentments in the people you care about the most and are one of the key roadblocks to building back lost trust. If you’ve already made efforts to prove that you are dependable and committed to setting things right, you may need to face these actions head-on.
Take responsibility for your actions. Even though substance use played a role in them, taking accountability for yourself is a sign that you’re trying to work on yourself and do better in the future.
Don’t fall into the trap of blaming drugs, alcohol, or external circumstances – this can often lead to further caution and concern from the people surrounding you. Own up to your actions, admit you have a problem, show humility, and outline the steps you’re taking to improve yourself and not let them happen again.
These conversations can be uncomfortable and sometimes triggering. A therapist can help you practice these conversations and offer a safe space to debrief after challenging interactions.
6. Learn to Trust Yourself
Learning to trust yourself is a critical component of rebuilding trust with others. Many people, even those well into their recovery, still have doubts about whether they can show up, keep their obligations, and be good friends, partners, or family members, and that’s totally normal!
Too often, people with substance use disorders beat themselves up about past actions and have negative self-views that become self-fulfilling prophecies. Take a moment to look back at how far you’ve come since you started working on your recovery. Recognize your achievements, self-growth, and progress. With time, you’ll learn that you are worthy of trust and can live up to that expectation.
One way you can learn self-trust is to keep the promises you make to yourself. Find habits that you enjoy and that support your overall wellness, like journaling, meditating, going for a walk, cooking healthy meals, and showing up to your appointments. Set aside time to complete these tasks and keep repeating them as necessary until they become a healthy habit.
Create processes that work for you in moments of crisis and moments of calm. These processes will become natural parts of your routine with time and practice.
7. Make Amends
When the time is right, you should consider making amends for your actions. This is a common step in addiction recovery programs, and it can’t happen until you follow the other steps first.
If you’re not involved in a recovery group, you can still benefit from heeding this advice: don’t make your amends immediately. Work on yourself first and reach a stable and comfortable position where you can be relied upon before starting the amends process.
Making amends is about much more than apologizing for your actions – it’s owning up to your part in past hurt and attempting to set things right any way you can. For example, if you damaged somebody’s property during your addiction, you can offer to replace or repair it for them. If you’ve borrowed money that you haven’t been able to return, pay it back when you make amends.
A good place to start is to ask your friends and family how you can make things right. Be prepared for tall orders and consider your boundaries before you commit. If you don’t have thousands of dollars to pay back yet, ask how else you could be of service. Sometimes, there’s nothing that can be done to make things right, and that’s okay. Continue to show up and put in the effort, and with time, things may change.
Making amends is one of the best ways to rebuild trust. Not only are you showing accountability, but you’re also showing that you are working on setting the past right. This process can profoundly impact both parties and go a long way toward rebuilding trust in recovery.
8. Give Back
Recovery involves a lot of self-reflection, and you’ll focus on addressing your behaviors and managing your consequences at the beginning. Once you progress with your recovery, you can pay it forward and give back to the people hurt by your past actions. This doesn’t have to be an elaborate process. Just be there to support them when they need it, offer to help out around the house, or pick up the slack when they get overwhelmed.
Not only does this cement the trust and goodwill you’ve been building, but it feels good and it may even help you stay sober. You can deepen your commitment to recovery-based behaviors by volunteering in your community.
Becoming a Trustworthy Person
All of the steps above are designed with a single goal in mind: become a person who is worthy of trust. By demonstrating that you can keep your obligations and communicate openly with those you care about, you show others that you’ve put in the work and deserve to have their trust again.
You don’t have to work your recovery on your own. If you’re struggling to manage these steps on your own, consider reaching out to the mental health and addiction professionals at All Points North. You can reach our team via the live chat function on our website or by filling out our online form.
- Ellis, Bruce, et al. “Effect of Social Support on Substance Abuse Relapse in a Residential Treatment Setting for Women.” Evaluation and Program Planning, ScienceDirect, May 2004, http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0149718904000126.
- Luciano, Allison, et al. “Long-Term Sobriety Strategies for Men With Co-occurring Disorders.” Journal of Dual Diagnosis, ScienceDirect, 15 September 2014, https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/15504263.2014.961884.