Rebuilding Trust in Recovery

Ioana Cozma
Morgan Blair
Written by Ioana Cozma on 05 December 2023
Medically reviewed by Morgan Blair on 05 December 2023

Substance use disorder may lead to negative behaviors and poor communication, leading to relationship strain. Rebuilding trust in recovery takes time, but it is possible with the right tools. This article discusses actionable advice to repair broken trust with your romantic partner, family, friends – and, more importantly, yourself.

Rebuilding Trust in Recovery

How can addiction break trust?

Addiction can break trust in numerous ways.

First, substances like alcohol or cocaine remove inhibitions. As such, excessive, long-term use may cause volatile behavior. Relationships may be affected as the person struggling with substances may enact power struggles, problematic control, and even physical and psychological violence in their relationships.

Secondly, addiction entails persistent negative behaviors despite consequences. Therefore, communication is also affected because people with substance use disorder are less receptive to rational arguments. They may also be less empathetic to their loved one’s needs or plead as a way to hide their behavior. This misalignment in needs and communication erodes trust in the long run.

Additionally, people with drug or behavioral addictions may exhibit manipulative behavior. Relationships may be strained by deceit and broken promises. Loved ones may also be persuaded to hide illegal activities, such as DUIs or illicit substance consumption. Some people with substance use disorder may borrow money from their friends and family without reimbursing it. All these factors contribute to resentment and, ultimately, loss of trust.

Rebuilding trust in relationships

Rebuilding trust in romantic relationships is not impossible. Staying sober, solving past issues, and proving good intentions are the cornerstones of repairing broken trust.

1. Maintain sobriety

Maintaining sobriety proves consistency and good faith. To avoid relapses, prioritize self-care and healthy daily routines.

Also, take the recommended medicine, if any, and work on your mental health. You may have to see a therapist, attend a support group, or enroll in a 12-step program. In-patient treatment may also be recommended to mitigate withdrawal symptoms in early recovery.

2. Make amends

Making amends is an important step in many 12-step therapy programs. 

Making amends entails apologizing and repairing potential damages. Your partner might meet you with accusations and negative emotions you may not be equipped to handle in early recovery.

First, work on yourself to build resilience. Improve your physical and mental health. Learn better coping strategies to manage your triggers, regain employment, or take anger management classes. Once you become more consistent in these behaviors, you will develop a better mindset and a stabler position to make amends from.

3. Respect your loved one’s boundaries

A common mistake when trying to repair a romantic relationship is performing big gestures of redemption. However, rebuilding trust in recovery is a long-term process based on doing the little things well and consistently.

As such, starting small, making yourself available, and showing dependability is best. This might involve attending couple’s therapy, helping with chores, or remembering important dates. As long as you keep showing up consistently, you are on the best road to repairing broken trust.

4. Have patience

Broken relationships require time to heal. If physical or psychological violence is involved or a child has been harmed, your romantic partner might need more time to process their feelings.

Additionally, trust is hard-earned, so it is best to maintain an objective view of the situation. Avoid letting feelings of guilt consume you; bad situations can be changed if you stay consistent in the long term.

Use tools like meditation and mindfulness to help you put things into perspective. Additionally, a four-day 15-30-minute journaling protocol may lower your anxiety.

Rebuilding trust with family

Family may be more lenient and forgiving than a romantic partner. However, they might have many bottled-up emotions and resentment regarding your past behavior. The steps below help you recover their trust.

1. Prioritize yourself

Your family is more likely to trust you again if they see a consistent pattern of correct behavior. Continuing treatment, sticking to a healthy daily routine, and avoiding temptation may rebuild trust with your family.

2. Take ownership

Your family may have felt manipulated, abandoned, or betrayed. It is important to recognize their feelings and the actions that contributed to them. To repair the drift, show you understand the consequences of your actions without self-blame.

Try to make amends by focusing on specific issues. For example, if you have borrowed money from your family to pay for illicit drugs, create a repayment plan. If you have missed important dates or events, strive to be present for future ones.

3. Ask for help

Chances are your family wants to support you in recovery, so it is wise to let them. A good support system decreases your chances of relapsing and allows your loved ones to understand you better.

Spending more time together allows you to communicate more to understand each other better. Additionally, supporting your recovery makes your family feel valued, as they play an important role in your sobriety.

Rebuilding trust with friends

The trust you share with your friends may be strained for different reasons. Rebuilding trust in recovery depends on the severity of these issues and your original relationship. Although it may take time and effort, following the ideas below may increase your chances of success.

1. Apologize with empathy

Strive to understand their feelings and points of view without placing additional blame on yourself. Maintain a solution-oriented perspective instead of a person-oriented mindset as you apologize.

Show your availability to solve the issues that led to the breach of trust. Offer to help your friends process their emotions without placing your condition in the limelight. Be truthful, but avoid self-blame or victimization.

2. Give them space

Allow your friends to process their emotions if they do not wish to interact with you. They may need time alone to determine how they want to move forward.

As with repairing romantic relationships, avoid big gestures and focus on consistency in behavior.

3. Avoid gossip

Refrain from gossiping about the friends you’re trying to make amends with or other mutual acquaintances. Holding an empathetic and solution-oriented perspective proves you have changed for the better.

Building trust with yourself

Rebuilding trust in recovery with others depends on regaining trust in yourself. Many people recovering from addiction find it hard to accept their past weaknesses and mistakes. It may also feel difficult to believe that you can overcome this addiction and avoid damaging your relationships in the future.

However, self-blame and unjustified worries create self-fulfilling prophecies. In other words, an irrational fear of failure subconsciously leads to behaviors that facilitate that failure.

To solve this problem, stay objective and grounded and put your situation in the right perspective. While accepting your mistakes lets you take ownership, it is important to focus on what you can do to change your situation.

Empower yourself with healthy coping mechanisms, therapy, and holistic wellness practices. Focus on creating good habits, eat nutritious meals to avoid withdrawal symptoms, and aim to improve your sleep quality.

Also, celebrate your sobriety milestones and strive to appreciate your positive actions. Remember that you are not defined by your addiction or your past mistakes.

Resources:

  1. Denison, M. E., Paredes, A., & Booth, J. B. (1997). Alcohol and cocaine interactions and aggressive behaviors. Recent developments in alcoholism: an official publication of the American Medical Society on Alcoholism, the Research Society on Alcoholism, and the National Council on Alcoholism, 13, 283–303.
  2. Khedr, M. A., El-Ashry, A. M., Ali, E. A., & Eweida, R. S. (2023). Relationship between craving to drugs, emotional manipulation and interoceptive awareness for social acceptance: the addictive perspective. BMC nursing, 22(1), 376.
  3. Luciano, A., Bryan, E.L., Carpenter-Song, E.A., Woods, M., Armstrong, K., & Drake, R.E. (2014) Long-Term Sobriety Strategies for Men With Co-occurring Disorders, Journal of Dual Diagnosis, 10(4), 212-219, DOI: 10.1080/15504263.2014.961884
  4. Stritof, S. (2022, November 7). How Couples Can Rebuild Trust in a Relationship. Verywellmind.
  5. (2023, November 20). A Science-Supported Journaling Protocol to Improve Mental & Physical Health. Huberman Lab.
  6. Lookatch, S. J., Wimberly, A. S., & McKay, J. R. (2019). Effects of Social Support and 12-Step Involvement on Recovery among People in Continuing Care for Cocaine Dependence. Substance use & misuse, 54(13), 2144–2155.

Activity History - Last updated: 05 December 2023, Published date:


Reviewer

Morgan Blair

MA, LPC

Morgan is a mental health counselor who works alongside individuals of all backgrounds struggling with eating disorders. Morgan is freelance mental health and creative writer who regularly contributes to publications including, Psychology Today.

Activity History - Medically Reviewed on 03 December 2023 and last checked on 05 December 2023

Medically reviewed by
Morgan Blair

MA, LPC

Morgan Blair

Reviewer

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