Restoring bonds with loved ones is an often overlooked part of recovery. Post-rehab recovery isn’t talked about much online, and it can be difficult to realize how much work is still left to be done to get your life back on track once you complete a treatment program.
One of the most challenging but important parts of recovery is regaining a loved one’s trust. Your family and friends suffered throughout the course of your addiction; some may have stood by your side while others may have been unable to bear the pain anymore and severed all ties. In either case, you have to recognize the importance of meaningful connections in your life.
Every relationship in the world is based off give and take. Sometimes, one person will give more when the other needs it, but there is no scorecard. It’s simply loving. Sometimes, however, a person takes far more than another person can give, which leads them to feel used up and drained.
You may have discussed social skills and conflict resolution in therapy, but once you’re face to face with someone, it can be a lot harder than expected to put everything together and actually rebuild something meaningful.
Some of your loved ones may have visited you in rehab, and others may have been out of your life for months or even years. The first time you meet up after treatment will be nerve-wracking, but you can’t make any improvements without taking the first step.
The first time you see each other shouldn’t immediately revolve around apologies and heart-wrenching talks. There will be plenty of room for this down the line. Before you can even reach that point, you have to demonstrate sincerity and interest in having a relationship with your loved one.
It’s natural to want to plunge right into apologizing for any wrongdoings, begging for forgiveness and insisting that you’re different now, but this is fundamentally wrong. When you take this approach right off the bat, you immediately place yourself below your loved one. You are put in a position of inferiority, left to grovel and plead at their expense. This is not a healthy dynamic in any relationship. Before an apology can truly be forgiven, trust has to be established.
What Is Trust?
Trust is a unique concept. All of our closest connections rely on it, but it can be tricky to actually put into words. Trust can be defined as a set of values you can apply to your own relationships.
Trust is the belief that another person’s words are honest and reliable and that their actions are sincere. Trust is a fundamental a spect of bonding, but it always comes with a risk. The first step toward regaining a loved one’s trust is to demonstrate that you are trustworthy. You cannot expect someone to say that they trust you right away. It might be painful, but this is a necessary part of growth.
Accepting the fact that you have to demonstrate your sincerity and commitment toward building a healthy relationship will take time. You can start by following some of these suggestions.
Tips for Rebuilding Trust with Someone
Expectations will vary throughout different types of relationships; your parent won’t want the same things from you that your best friend does, for example. But there are many aspects of a relationship that are consistent regardless of who it’s with. Honesty, reliability, and respect are three primary aspects that are fundamental to happiness and connection in any relationship.
Addiction can destroy our validity to many people. You can still love someone even if you don’t trust them, so you shouldn’t believe that someone simply doesn’t care about you because they do not trust you. The fact of the matter is that human relationships are incredibly complicated, and the best way to start rebuilding them is from the ground up.
These tips are designed to give you a healthy foundation in any relationship. More importantly, these actions are all character-building exercises. You can heal from your addiction as you rebuild your self-confidence and learn to form new ties with people as a sober person.
Some relationships may never be fully salvaged, but that’s okay. Remember that you can never control how another person ultimately feels, but you can always control how you treat them. The following covers five tips to rebuild trust and improve existing relationships:
Vulnerability is a major challenge for people, and a lack of openness often causes relationships to crumble. When one person is consistently honest about how they feel but the other person remains closed off or hard to reach, trust begins to dwindle. Self-esteem wears down, and a power struggle comes into play.
In order to establish trust, you have to be honest, and you can’t be honest without being vulnerable. You may have grown up being taught that showing vulnerability is akin to showing weakness. Perhaps you’ve been open with others in the past only to be hurt, abused and betrayed.
Past experiences don’t dictate our future, however. While it may be hard, you still have the ability to break chains that bind you to painful beliefs while you become more open with people you care about.
Learning to be vulnerable starts from within. There are two primary ways you can start to practice vulnerability in your day-to-day life:
Being vulnerable requires disclosure, and that can be risky if you are always insecure. When you open your heart to others without accepting who you are, you become desperate for their approval. A vulnerability isn’t about hearing a right or wrong answer. There are many times in life when you will be vulnerable and get hurt; it just happens.
But when you accept yourself, your addiction and your mistakes, you can learn to move past them and focus on all of your strengths as well. Humans are never really “all good” or “all bad.” You are more than your addiction and harmful choices. You have made a commitment to yourself to improve your life and treat others with respect, kindness and love. That won’t always be an easy choice, but it’s still your choice to make.
Begin with compassion for yourself, and practice self-forgiveness. The first person you have to be vulnerable with is yourself.
Use “I” statements when you talk about your feelings. Instead of saying, “You don’t trust me,” try to express what a person’s distrust means to you. For example, you can say, “I feel hurt that you don’t trust me, but I’d like to work on rebuilding that trust if you’re willing.”
Expressing ourselves isn’t about the other person’s reaction. We have to express ourselves to live more honest, sincere lives. You may feel anxious and even rejected when you talk about your feelings, but don’t let this stop you.
Practice in a mirror. Say, “I feel …” and don’t offer any justification or excuse. You are always entitled to your feelings, and you must believe that before you can comfortably share feelings with others without needing approval or validation.
Keep Your Word
The old adage “actions speak louder than words” is a core aspect of regaining a loved one’s trust. Honesty without action is useless. You must prove to others and yourself that you’re committed to your recovery and overcoming addiction.
If you make plans with someone, keep them. If you offer to do something for someone, do it in a timely fashion. Stay on top of your therapy sessions, attend support groups and do everything in your power to do what you say you will.
Don’t limit your trust-building to one relationship, either. At work, at school and everywhere else, go out of your way to act honestly and sincerely.
You can’t force someone to trust you no matter how badly you want them to. If you are too insistent, people may become angry and feel disrespected. Boundaries are important for our mental health and well-being, and they relate to what we will tolerate and what we won’t.
They’re also our own personal limits in a relationship. If you reach out to someone and they aren’t receptive, don’t harass them, don’t get angry and don’t let your emotions take the reins and make the person even more guarded.
Acknowledge that people may not want to talk to you like they used to or that they aren’t comfortable getting together right now. Leave communication open and understand that things may take far longer than you’d like them to in order to improve. Your patience and respect will help rebuild your trustworthiness in your loved ones’ eyes, especially if you used to be reactive and argumentative in the past.
Being consistent in a relationship is only one aspect of trustworthiness. Addiction most likely took away your routine and caused you to abandon things that brought security and stability to your life. Now, it’s time to demonstrate that you are a reliable person to others by living a life that’s committed to consistency.
First and foremost, prioritize work and other responsibilities. It can be taxing and even annoying to focus on a job or other obligations, but you have to prove to yourself that you can do it. Expectations might be low from your loved ones if you have a track record of giving up or flaking out on important things, but the present is a new opportunity to start fresh.
You can also be consistent in other areas of your life by creating a healthy routine. Maintain a regular sleeping schedule, work out regularly, join a group or fitness class, and eat three balanced meals a day.
A schedule is only hard to follow in the beginning. Don’t view it as a way of confining yourself but rather as a form of safety. Your routine is a frame around your entire life that keeps everything in place and guides you from one thing to the next.
Empathy isn’t easy, and you know firsthand how selfish addiction makes you. Your loved ones have inevitably said hurtful things to you about your substance use disorder. Maybe you’ve been told it’s all your fault or that you’re a disappointment, a failure or a let-down to everyone around you. These words weigh heavily on one’s heart long after they’ve been spoken, and sometimes, they hurt the one who said them even more.
Understand that empathy is a two-way street, and it takes a lot of practice and patience. Empathy and addiction don’t go hand-in-hand. As emotions swell and people become more and more angry at the sight of their loved one losing touch with themselves, it’s human to give in to the pain and lash out.
Understand that past transgressions cannot be undone, only forgiven. Recognize the hurt that others have caused as well as the hurt that you have inflicted on them. Try to consider how they must have felt while they watched you grow increasingly addicted, and realize that while things they may have said were wrong, their feelings were understandable.
You won’t be able to erase the past, but you can take steps now that guarantee a brighter, happier future filled with fulfilling relationships and meaningful interactions. Start with yourself, and make sure you get any help you need. If you think a family counselor could help you restore trust with your loved ones, seek one out.
While you work on rebuilding old relationships, don’t be afraid to form new ones. You deserve support, kindness and happiness, and new connections can help you trust others and prove to yourself how good of a friend you can be. With time, you will be able to move forward in your life as you learn to love and be loved without the weight of addiction.