As a former opiate addict, someone who through my addiction journey experienced a lot of relapse I had to come up with tangible ways I could demonstrate to my loved one that I was really serious about my recovery and rebuilding trust.
Rebuilding trust in healthy recovery
During my addiction the trust of those closest to me was broken time and time again. This is true for most anyone stepping out of a susbtance use disorder. Once recovery begins those on that journey know that the process of rebuilding trust with their loved ones is daunting, often overwhelming, and at many times it can feel like there is no measurable progress. There is a fantastic article about the more fundamental steps in the process of rebuilding trust that you can read here (The Cabin, How To Rebuild Trust in Addiction Recovery).
Practical steps to rebuilding trust
There are many much discussed and tested and true steps when it comes to rebuilding trust: making amends, being patient, taking responsibility, improving your communication skills, etc. but the purpose of this article is to give some practical ideas that put the bigger ideas into action.
If you want to show a loved one you are serious about recovery there are two things they will observe in you that speak louder than any words you may use: How you spend your time, and how you spend your money. The practical steps below are tangible actions you can put into practice that will (with time) show a loved one that you are committed to healthy recovery.
A few of these ideas may seem extreme to some people – but the lifestyle I was stuck in was extreme and some extreme action was required to turn it around. These ideas worked for me, but they aren’t practical for everyone. When coming up with your own ideas consider the two key ideas above: what you spend your time & money on reveals how important something is to you. If your goal is to communicate the importance of recovery in your life, then your time & money need to reflect that.
1. Stop carrying cash.
For most people substance use wreaks havoc on their bank account and financial habits. The lack of accountability around loose cash can be a danger for someone in early recovery. If you stop carrying cash & making ‘untraceable’ cash withdrawls from ATMs your bank statement will become an accountability tool. All your purchases will be visible. I’d also suggest you stop using credit cards, and take steps to get your finances in order.
2. Get receipts for EVERYTHING
Track your receipts and show those receipts to your loved one! This is a lot of work, and by taking the time to put effort into something as simple as keeping all your receipts your actions are saying “I’m being accountable with the way I spend my money”. You can take the time to go over your bank statements together, or just print them off and leave them for your loved one to look at.
3. Give a loved one access to an app like iPhone’s find friends.
Using Find Friends or another GPS locator app, while a bold step it could give your loved one some peace of mind. This is another action that says I’m willing to be accountable to you. This may not be helpful for some and could be counter productive in some cases, so be wise.
4. Establish a strong routine, and send text messages when you are leaving or arriving at places.
Routine is an important part of early recovery. Establishing that routine and communicating it to a loved one is going to give them the opportunity to notice when you deviate from that routine. Post your calendar, or use a shared electronic calendar. Recognize one can’t be so ridgid that deviations can never happen, but they should have valid explanations.
5. Purchase drug testing kits (Like these 14 panel kits on Amazon, aff. link)
Now give your loved one permission to test you at any time. Don’t be defensive. Don’t allow insecurity to make you feel accused. If they are asking you to do a test it doesn’t always mean they are suspicious of your behavior. It’s more reasonable that they are acting out of genuine concern and care.
6. Commit to some healthy recovery related activities.
Balance is key! There are a lot of options out there, and one of the most common ones you’ll hear about is attending meetings. Take time in early recovery to find some meetings you feel comfortable and safe at (I’m 100% all for SMART recovery). Exercising, being in nature, writing, reading these are all healthy activities that can keep you moving forward in recovery. Communicate with your loved one what activities you’ll be doing and when. By sticking with them your loved one will see over time that you’re serious. Complacency can be a real problem for many when the initial ‘glow’ of early recovery wears off. By sticking with an activity and doing it even when motivation is waning your actions will speak loudly. Here’s a bonus link: twenty sober activities that are more fun than using drugs or drinking.
7. Listen, and don’t be defensive!
Ok these last two are probably the hardest ones on the list. Maybe because they are more of an ideal, as opposed to easy to implement actions.
This quote came from an article about rebuilding trust after an affair but the process is similar and it’s applicable here:
“Give your partner the time and space to vent their feelings. This includes crying about what you have done, asking you lots and lots of questions, hurling a great deal of judgment, even raging at you, all the while you stand strong, stay faithful, keep apologizing, and reaching out with compassion and understanding.” (original article here). Along with listening it might be worth mentioning it can often be helpful to just talk less.
8. Be Patient
Rebuilding trust takes time. In recovery you will inevitably find those moments when it feels like trust in your relationships is taking a step backwards. Behavior from a loved one that you feel is them being unreasonably suspicious of you may actually just be genuine concern. Try for a moment to put yourself in their shoes, and see things from their perspective. At times their guard will go up, and when your behavior is interpreted to be unusual (this will happen) be prepared to politely and without defense give an account for your actions – even if they were completely innocent.
Be mindful, have hope
With the name of this site in mind, I must end this article reminding you to be mindful of your recovery and the process you are in. It is a journey! Stay hopeful for your future – rebuilding trust takes time, more time than it took to tear down.
Please share in the comments your own thoughts on rebuilding trust and practical steps along the way.
Daniel is a project & peer coordinator for the Langley Community Action Table and Overdose Response Project. He is a passionate public speaker who shares his story of addiction & recovery, advocates for drug policy change, and a greater understanding and compassion for those who use substances and suffer from addiction.