The irony of an addictive disease is that those closest to the person with the addiction suffer tremendously in desperate hope that their loved one can become sober. It’s horrifying to watch someone you care about self-destruct. Crippled by fear, anger and overwhelming grief, families and friends either stay helplessly entangled in the addict’s illness, trying to control the uncontrollable, or they separate themselves emotionally. Either way, the relationship may be damaged – sometimes beyond repair.
The difference between trust & forgiveness
Family members who are trying to rebuild trust with a recovering addict are not starting from scratch, but are trying to climb out of a deep hole of hurt, disappointment, and fear. Rebuilding trust involves commitments from family members as well as the addict. Family members must commit to being honest with their feelings and their expectations and they must be clear on setting boundaries. Building trust in recovery is not only with others but also with ourselves. During addiction, being trustworthy and credible for some is not a priority.
Remember, trust is NOT the same as love or forgiveness. You can love and forgive someone without trusting them. Think of it this way, it is one thing to forgive an apologetic thief, and another to leave him alone in a retail store. Likewise, you can forgive a recovering addict who asks for the forgiveness, but it takes time, honesty good choices and continued sobriety to regain the trust.
Forgiveness is not a mental exercise; it’s a determined change of heart by those who have been hurt. It means not letting resentments steal your peace or rob your future. Forgiveness is not a natural thing to do, it’s very hard, but it is the only thing that releases shame and restores the possibility of trust and intimacy.
Steps to build or improve trust:
1. Be accountable
In the most simple of terms, being accountable is the ability to honestly answer for your actions. As a recovering addict, the blinders are removed and the reality of the devastation caused is obvious. Owning your actions is essential.
2. One brick-at-a-time
Good recovery allows you to remove only a few bricks each day. Over time, there will be a hole in the wall large enough to talk. And then, the opening will be large enough to reach through with your hand and offer a loving touch.
3. Life is out of control
At times life is just plain hard and full of surprises and disappointments. There is something about us that expects life to be fair and most of the time, good. Yet bad things do happen to good people. When bad things happen, change what you can, let yourself recognize the things you cannot change. This philosophy is summed up nicely in the Serenity Prayer.
The journey to sobriety is often a long and challenging one however, the road to rebuilding the damages cause by an addiction is even more difficult. Many recovered addicts often ask themselves after being sober what now? They are also unsure of how to approach others or even feel they can pick their life back up where it was before addiction and should remember that rebuilding trust is a process like recovery and takes time.