“The inability to open up to hope is what blocks trust, and blocked trust is the reason for blighted dreams.” – Elizabeth Gilbert
Here’s a challenging question many people are forced to ask themselves who have loved ones in recovery: “How can I be willing to have trust in my loved one when he/she has ‘fallen off the wagon’ (once or once again) or broken the trust between us by lying/cheating/stealing (or all three)?”
Certainly, the wounds run deep when we feel betrayed, especially by someone we love. Yet countless people with a family member in recovery have found all hope is not lost or wasted when their loved one struggles or stumbles along their pathway to freedom from active addiction. Indeed, family members have found trust can and has been restored between them and their recovering loved one, but only through a process that takes time.
Here are a few healthy reminders that may prove valuable to those who’re finding it frustratingly hard to have any trust at all, let alone rebuild trust, with someone in recovery:
- According to the American Medical Association, alcoholism (and substance addiction, in general) is a life-threatening disease that requires treatment, just like diabetes or any other chronic, deadly disease. By holding this perspective, if your loved one is in treatment and/or an active member of a 12-Step fellowship, you might be less likely to judge them—even though they’ve broken your trust—as being hopeless, unchangeable or morally deficient. By viewing them as having a disease with specific manifesting symptoms (including manipulating people to get their next bottle, pill, etc., regardless of the cost or consequence), and acknowledging they’re now seeking recovery for their condition (via treatment and/or the 12 Steps) may actually provide you with more insight into “what’s happening” (or what has happened in the past), engendering greater understanding about their affliction and how to best address it from your side.
- If you haven’t already done so, consider attending Al-anon or Nar-anon meetings (see links below) and/or reading their literature, in order to fortify your ability to address in the healthiest way possible the life issues (including rebuilding trust) that can arise when relating to a substance abuser or someone in recovery from substance abuse.
- Validate your own feelings by expressing yourself openly. Encourage your recovering loved one to do the same with you, showing yourself to be open and willing to listen to them, even if it’s challenging.
- Set and maintain healthy, clearly defined boundaries, as needed, establishing the consequences for stepping over them, being sure to follow through with whatever consequences you’ve conveyed. (I’ve found attendance at Al-anon and Nar-anon meetings particularly valuable in this regard… as well as reading their literature.)
Recognize and accept that a person in recovery may take months, even years to “heal” from old habits, attitudes and behaviors, while establishing new ones… acknowledging that this can be one of the more challenging components of a person’s recovery. However, when you observe progress in any dimension of their new lives in recovery, acknowledge it both to yourself and to them. In time, this can contribute greatly to building hope and trust for both of you.
If any of these suggestions prove helpful to you, the goal of sharing this blog-post will have been fulfilled. It will be good to close by emphasizing “consistency” (i.e., establishing regular/daily habits) in the application of the points stated above – trust will deepen much more readily if you’re consistent and steadfast in how you “walk the talk” on your side of the street, regardless of what your loved one does or doesn’t do.