By: Marilyn L. Davis
We’re Not Using, so Why Don’t They Trust Us?
“Forgiveness may be immediate, whether or not a person asks for it. Trust must be rebuilt over time. Trust requires a track record.” Rick Warren, The Purpose Driven Life: What on Earth Am I Here For?
There’s no kind way to put it. In active addiction, we are dishonest, disloyal, manipulative, and self-centered. These actions, plus our use, created contentious relationships with families, co-workers, and friends, which prevented people from trusting us.
Even when we quit using, we can still operate from self-defeating behaviors. They became the norm for how we acted, thought, and felt. Recovery from those self-defeating behaviors will take time, energy, and effort to correct.
Think about this: If all of your betrayals were the product of your use, then not using would be sufficient amends. Usually, it’s not just about use.
Early Recovery: Same Old Thinking Even Without the Use
Unfortunately, just because we take away the drugs and alcohol, our thinking, feelings, and behaviors will not change overnight. Many people realize in their early recovery that they are still thinking and acting as they did in their use, viewing interactions with people from the standpoint of “What’s in this for me?”
They either embellish truths by making their recovery progress seem more than it is, or they minimize parts of their recovery, like their feelings. These are some of the continued dishonest reactions in early recovery.
Some People Trust Me; Why Not Others?
Specific family and friends will let bygones be bygones and extend trust and show forgiveness as soon as their family member quits using. If that happened for you, enjoy these relationships, knowing that other family and friends are not inclined to be vulnerable so quickly. The pain our addiction caused them is too much to forget so soon.
Some family and friends never extend the same amount of trust because they will not put themselves in a vulnerable position with us again.
What Can I Do To Regain Their Trust?
Family and friends are probably relieved when someone is no longer using drugs and alcohol, but they are still wary because the actions have not changed enough to instill trust.
One of the reasons that family and friends continue being distrustful of people in early recovery is that the actions, attitudes, and behaviors have not changed. Simply because someone quits using drugs and alcohol does not mean that they will admit to their past wrongs, change character defects overnight, and make amends to those they have harmed.
Trusting Again and Recovery Are Processes
Recovery is a process, and earning, or deserving trust comes slowly for most people. Unfortunately, many people get self-righteous early in their recovery, thinking that family or friends should only judge them by their abstinence, not their actions.
If regaining or earning trust is something you want, it is first necessary to acknowledge how much pain your actions caused family and friends. Click To Tweet
Check Your Motives
We have to admit that we harmed people in our use. This admission is painful in early recovery when a part of us wants recognition and trust now that we are not using. However, feeling sorry for ourselves because they do not trust us at 30 days will only set up more resentments on both sides. If you are honest, you will realize that your use fueled and worsened the underlying self-defeating behaviors.
Looking at these self-defeating behaviors and the harm they have caused takes courage; it is evaluating you, the shortcomings, the character defects, and taking stock. When you label these negative traits, you make an effort to correct them.
Just like anything new that you attempt, you will not make changes seamlessly and gracefully. You will fall back into the old behavior and have to correct that action. One way to prevent reverting to old behaviors is to become more aware of your actions’ motives.
Before you follow through with an action, see if you have a self-serving or a selfish reason for the response or action. Any self-centered and self-serving motive can ultimately harm others as they were not even part of your decision-making.
Then ask yourself, can my actions harm others?
If you can reasonably decide that there would be no harm to others, go ahead with the action. If you are in doubt, reconsider. Learning to expect reactions without predicting outcomes takes time.
Will This Action Restore Trust?
For instance, your family trusts you enough to use their car to drive to a recovery support meeting. You understood the terms and directions; go to the meeting and return the vehicle.
When you get to the meeting, someone needs a ride home. You start rationalizing and justifying your decision to violate the terms: it is only 10 minutes out of your way; it would help this other person if you gave them a ride. Your family will understand if you are late returning the car.
However, if you look at motive, you may discover that you:
- Wanted to look important to someone
- Were in control of your life
- You could be helpful
You wanted them to have a particular image of you, not the adult who had to borrow a car, but someone friendly and helpful.
Saying “I’m Sorry” Gets Old
You disrespected your family’s directions yet again, and frankly, a simple “I’m sorry” probably won’t get you anywhere. After all, how many times did you say that in your addiction? How often did you fake being sorry so they’d get off your back?
Work towards becoming accountable, reliable, and dependable. When you commit to something, honor it.
Have the courage to tell the person at the meeting that you would like to help them, but you promised to return the car after the meeting. Or take five minutes, call your family, and ask permission to make a side trip. Then it would be best if you were willing to accept their decision; after all, it is their car.
Evaluate Your Expectations
Regaining trust will take time. The average family has suffered emotionally and frequently, financially, from your use. They need to see that your changes are not just to appease them but are genuinely ongoing so that they can feel some measure of security in their interactions with you.
Expecting family and friends to take your words at face value sets you up for feelings of frustration, irritation, and possibly resentment. It also sets you up when you believe they should immediately forgive you simply because you have stopped using.
They do not have to forgive you. Forgiveness is a gift, not an expectation.
Families and Friends Need Time to Heal and Trust
You know that there are people who have harmed you that you are not ready to forgive, and the same allowances need to extend to your family and friends as it relates to you.
That is a hard lesson in recovery. Healing, whether it’s for ourselves or others, takes time. But being patient, making changes, and showing our families and friends that we’ve changed means there’s an opportunity to earn their trust again.
Trust Comes When You Use Admirable Qualities
Accepting this can help you stop trying to find the one action that will gain someone’s trust. If you have asked them how you can correct and repair the relationship and have fulfilled those requirements, you have to accept that it’s not in your power to alter this relationship any more than you have done.
There are also new people in your life that do not have a history of dishonesty and harm from you. They see admirable qualities. They base their trust on your recovery actions, showing up at meetings, sharing your experiences, and offering hope to them.
Enjoy those moments and work towards correcting the relationships with family and friends you harmed your addiction.
Bio: Marilyn L. Davis
Marilyn L. Davis is the Editor-in-Chief at From Addict 2 Advocate and Two Drops of Ink. She is also the author of Finding North: A Journey from Addict to Advocate and Memories into Memoir: The Mindsets and Mechanics Workbook, available on Amazon, at Barnes and Noble, Indie Books, and Books A Million.
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