Addiction is a powerful disease, one that not only causes physical and mental health problems but also impacts interpersonal relationships. If you love someone who is suffering from addiction, chances are good you’ve seen changes in that person that have eroded your ability to trust them.
Why Trust Becomes So Damaged Through Addiction
Never make excuses for the way a person treats you, even when it’s due to a disease. However, it’s important to consider why they may be lying, cheating, stealing, or otherwise hurting you.
Addiction changes the structure of the brain. Substances like opioids and alcohol rewire the brain so that it is driven to seek out that substance on a consistent basis. Nothing becomes more important to your loved one than the next drink or the next pill. This can drive them to manipulate, lie, and steal–anything to get the dose they need to feel “normal.”
Those lies and behaviors change the way you see your loved one. Even if you understand addiction, you don’t know if you can trust the person who is suffering from it. The lies can take several forms:
- They told you they would stop and didn’t.
- They said they would be there for you and were not.
- They may have told you that they were in treatment, but then you learned they never showed up.
- They use the money for rent and house payments to cover drug purchases.
- They lie about the reasons they don’t show up to their job/s or family events.
When trust becomes so damaged, is there a way to heal? Can the relationship recover?
Working to Rebuild Trust
A person who enters drug and alcohol addiction treatment learns to face how their actions have affected other people. They develop self-awareness and skills to mend the damage their behavior has caused. But in order for you to trust them again, they will need to prove themselves trustworthy over the long term.
Strategies for Rebuilding Trust in Recovery
If you’re feeling committed to your relationship with your loved one and want to take steps to rebuild trust, consider these strategies.
#1: Create Boundaries That Protect You
It will take time before you can confidently trust a person with addiction again. During that time, know that you can and should create boundaries to protect yourself physically, emotionally, and financially. Tell them what you need and expect, and agree to what the consequences will be if they fail to respect those boundaries. Don’t engage in enabling or codependency behaviors that could otherwise hurt their ability to succeed.
#2: Go to Family Therapy with Them
In a professional setting with a couples’ or family therapist, it’s possible to learn how to rebuild relationships by working through the pain of what’s occurred and creating shared goals for the future. Many drug and alcohol treatment centers provide family therapy as a way for their clients to repair the most important relationships they have. Play an active role in this counseling to learn more about what you need, what your loved one needs, and how you can support each other. Ongoing therapy after residential treatment can help your loved one, and you can continue to build trust.
#3: Ask Them to Not Make Promises They Cannot Keep
It’s often the case that individuals in recovery from drug and alcohol addiction sincerely want to improve relationships. In their eagerness to change, they may even make big promises about what they will do or how they will be there for you. Encourage them to pause and look at the situation more realistically. Ask them not to make promises that are too hard for them to meet or that could put them at risk. Decide together on some small things they could add to their routine that would foster your relationship with them.
#4: Hold Them to Their Obligations
During recovery, your loved one will face again the responsibilities that they avoided in addiction. They will need to contribute to the household, get a job or go back to school, and play a role in their family’s life. Expect them to fulfill the obligations you discuss together. That could be household chores or financial obligations. These obligations are components of personal responsibility that will help them stay on track during recovery.
#5: Communicate in the Best Way You Can
Communication is one of the most important yet most challenging aspects of any relationship. Do your part to keep the lines of communication open. This is where trust will form. Be honest about the way you feel, including the hopes, the fears, and the anger you have. This helps people connect with you and encourages them to be honest with you, too. Over time, their ability to open up honestly can build credibility.
Know That You Need Help, Too
Though you may not have addiction or dependence personally, it impacts your quality of life and mental health. Recognize when it’s essential for you to step away to focus on yourself. If you’re overwhelmed, afraid of your loved one, or being physically or mentally abused, step away. You don’t have any obligation to rebuild that relationship.
Get Help for Your Loved One
Canyon Vista Recovery Center can help you and your loved one. Reach out to our team in Mesa, AZ, today to learn more about the treatment options available for your loved one.