Addiction is widely known to be a family disease. Those battling addiction, and their families, are faced with the grueling task of reconciling with the negative consequences that come along with this lifelong disease. A common challenge that loved ones inevitably find themselves confronted with is learning to trust again. While in active use, loved ones have broken trust, kept secrets, stolen, disappointed, lied, made false promises, and more. This unavoidably places a strain on the trust that families have built over time, often leaving our relationships in a state of disarray. Our relationships become less functional over time, and for some, cease to exist altogether.
It is imperative for the recovering addicts, and families, to learn how to establish or re-establish supportive bonds again in recovery. The people that we love the most, can at times be some of the hardest to love. These tips can act as a guide, to learning to regain trust with your loved ones, while recovering from substance abuse.
Give it time
We must consider that it took quite a while to build our trust in the first place, and although, it seemingly was broken quickly, we have to allow time to rebuild our trust. Addicts often want to quickly prove their trustworthiness right after regaining their sobriety. Rightfully so, they have often longed for the connections that they once maintained with their families. This, however, may lead to unrealistic expectations on re-establishing trust again quickly and emotionally pressuring one another to take steps that we are not yet ready for, therefore, perhaps making our trust more fragile than before. It is imperative that we not rush this process, but allow each person time, and respect the emotional limits that love ones have.
Honesty is a bridge to trust
One of the first things that families have to learn to do is open up to each other again. At times, this is easier said than done, because we are nervous that our trust may lead to further resentments. One way to begin exploring the openness of honesty, accepting responsivity for our unhealthy decision making has affected the people we love. Acknowledge can go a long way in rebuilding trust. As we acknowledge the impact of our indiscretions, we can learn more appropriate ways of engaging with one another moving forward.
Be open and speak often
It is natural for families to feel skeptical. We should be talking about this. Communication is one of the areas that hit hardest in addiction. Families need to learn to talk again, especially if we are expecting change to occur. Establishing open communication leaves room for progress and allows each person to express ways in which they can be supportive of one another. It is also common for families to expect the worst, and experience feelings of abandonment. Talking about these things can be helpful.
Set realistic goals as unit and individuals
As we establish trust, we begin to feel positive about the changes that are happening. At this point, we may linger on the past less frequently, and be enjoying the gains of the commitments to the changes that we have made. We must be mindful of taking small reasonable steps and setting goals that are realistic. These goals should be focused on what we can agree to work on in the present. Family members may be tempted to make projections towards the long-term future.
It’s normal to feel hopeful for what the future can hold, however, we should be sensible when doing so. Consider making both individual and family goals that are supportive of how we hope to see things going now, instead of making projections and promises related to the future. By working to repair the trust in your family, you offer yourself and your family hopes that your relationships can get better in the future.
I hope these tips help you and your family gain momentum in considering the first steps to rebuilding trust in your journey to recovery. Enlisting the support a local Family Therapy, or Mental Health professional may be necessary to help navigate this process.
Written by Nisheba Parker, MS.
Nisheba Parker, MS is a Registered Marriage and Family Therapy Intern who specializes in substance abuse counseling and Family Therapy. She enjoys working with families and individuals in this area. She also specializes in Stress, Depression, and Anxiety Management, as well as Personal Development. Nisheba received her MS in Family Therapy from Nova Southeastern University. Nisheba is now owner and operator of Thoughts and Things Therapy. For appointments call: (954)903-1676.