Recovery improves our lives in numerous ways. We regain jobs, develop a stronger sense of emotional stability, and begin repairing the many relationships left broken by our substance use. Unfortunately, all of these require quite a bit of patience. Once we begin feeling better about ourselves, we want the pieces to fall into place. Even after accepting that we cannot control the world around us, we still lament that the world will not bestow upon us the rewards we seek in a timelier manner. We encounter these feelings on several occasions, especially when seeking to rebuild family trust.
It doesn’t help that forgiveness is a standard part of recovery. We work to overcome old resentments, developing compassion for those who harmed us. When we fail to receive the benefit of the doubt from our own family members, it feels as if more is expected from us than from others. In a way, our own work to overcome resentments should help us understand their point of view. Even when we can see our part in previous negative interactions, it still takes time and effort to forgive those who we feel should have treated us better. Family trust works in very much the same way. Our loved ones want to see the best in us; however, it doesn’t come overnight. Lingering resentments will get the best of them from time to time, no matter how badly they may wish to trust us fully.
Rebuilding family trust may sometimes feel like an uphill battle, but it will happen if we give it time. Fortunately, we can do a bit more than just wait around for their trust to kick in. When seeking to regain your family’s trust, here are a few things you might want to keep in mind.
A Little Distance Actually Helps
We cannot force a person to trust us. The healing process takes time, and trying to rush our loved ones into it will only make things more difficult. During active addiction, we often demanded trust while in the midst of lying. Demanding forgiveness will bring up the memories of these interactions. Our loved ones may withdraw further, becoming emotionally distant as they find themselves reliving the same resentments they felt while we were using.
They need time, and they also need a bit of distance. Many family members enter programs such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, where they learn to process the feelings of loving someone who struggles with substance use disorder. Our loved ones learn to focus on themselves, rather than letting our substance use control their lives. If we come across as overbearing, it will stand in the way of their recovery. Not only does this accomplish little in the way of rebuilding family trust, it can also be harmful to the people we love the most. The purpose of rebuilding family trust is to keep our loved ones in our lives. If we truly care about them, we must demonstrate our love by giving them space when they need it.
Distance helps the addict as well. Recovery teaches us self-sufficiency and accountability, qualities which will benefit our goal of rebuilding family trust. If we become too reliant on our family’s approval, it stands in the way of cultivating these traits. Our loved ones often enabled us, whether intentionally or not. True family trust cannot thrive in a codependent environment, so they need time to overcome these tendencies—and we need time to get to the point where we no longer take advantage of these tendencies when they arise.
Setting Boundaries on Both Sides
Maintaining a little distance may help, but families must still know how to interact and work with each other. To do this in a manner that facilitates the goal of rebuilding family trust, we need boundaries.
Obviously, the user’s family must set strict boundaries to follow in the event of a relapse. For those who live at home, this may include some loss of privileges or even removal from the household. Those with kids may lose visitation rights, either partially or completely. Some families elect to cut the user from their lives altogether, though this often proves difficult for them. To be certain, follow-through is a major issue when it comes to setting boundaries. Nonetheless, adherence to these boundaries goes a long way toward the development of trust.
Likewise, the user must set their own boundaries to prevent enabling. We find it easy to acquiesce when our family offers us financial support, or other privileges that keep us from dealing with the usual struggles that plague most responsible adults; however, we must remain resolute. If we truly care about rebuilding family trust, we must demonstrate that we can make it on our own. More important than showing that we are able to do so, we must show our loved ones that we are both ready and willing.
Setting boundaries with others, while important, comes second to setting boundaries with ourselves. Family members may sometimes push our boundaries. They may pressure us to accept help we don’t need, or to put other obligations ahead of our recovery. If we know what’s best for us, we cannot give in. Sometimes, rebuilding family trust requires us to go against our family’s wishes. We must look at what benefits us more in the long run, and stick to it.
Rebuilding Family Trust Takes Time
Others may sometimes feel disappointment when we turn down their offer of assistance or decide to put our recovery first. Over time, however, they will see the importance of these decisions. At that point, we will not need to work so hard at rebuilding family trust. It will begin to happen on its own.
Despite these efforts to stay on the right path, rebuilding family trust may still take a long time. Some say that it can take as long as two years. Every time we forget to return a call, or show up sleep-deprived to a family dinner because we’ve been working all night, they might suspect that we are high or hungover. This hurts us inside. We know that we have been doing the right thing, and we wish to be acknowledged for it. Instead, it feels that our adherence to a moral code fails to yield any rewards whatsoever. Rather than trust and praise, we receive only doubt and criticism. Many use this as an excuse to relapse. If no one trusts us, why not simply live up to their low expectations?
Do not succumb to this way of thinking. Stay the course. You know that you are on the right path, no matter what anyone else thinks. They will see it in time, as long as you keep giving them reasons to put their faith in you. Rebuilding family trust may take time, but the reward is worth our patience and effort. Stay humble, refrain from setting expectations, and let the pieces fall on their own time. No one deserves a medal for doing the right thing, but we will be rewarded in due time. Just keep reminding yourself that an earned reward is far more meaningful than one freely given.
How New England RAW Can Help
Rebuilding family trust doesn’t happen all at once. There are ups and downs, times of unbridled faith in one another and times of dispute between loved ones. This is natural, but that doesn’t mean we cannot do anything to usher along the positive changes that all members of the family would undoubtedly like to see. At New England RAW, we do our best to facilitate this change through our detailed family program.
Our family program works to address the fears and resentments that affect all sides of the family. The client and their family will lay out the sources of distrust between them, with our addiction specialist counselors acting as mediators. Provided with an open platform to discuss their feelings, the family can pinpoint problem areas that may inhibit their ability to regain trust if left unresolved.
While participating in our family program, each member of the family unit will gain insight into their various points of view. The user learns to recognize the source of their family’s lack of trust; meanwhile, the family learns more about behavior patterns in addiction and how their loved one can resolve these problems through recovery. All parties learn about enabling and boundaries, and how to overcome such behaviors for the purposes of rebuilding family trust. In short, our family program helps loved ones to develop a sense of mutual understanding. This will not rebuild trust overnight, but will assist the process by improving overall family dynamics and allowing loved ones to see things from a new perspective.
For more information on our family program, you may contact us at your convenience. Change takes time, but we are here to help you through it.