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How to Enhance Recovery with Activities to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship

Apr 15, 2022

The breakdown of relationships can create a barrier to your path to staying sober. Over time, behaviors related to your drug use may have caused friction with friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors. Now that you’re ready to start recovery, the people you turn to for help may not be so quick to provide it. That doesn’t mean it’s not within your reach to rebuild trust in those relationships. Let’s look at some ways addiction destroys trust and how you can use activities to rebuild trust in a relationship or relationships that matter.

Over time, a person with addiction can lose the trust of virtually everyone in their life. Your choices may have had negative consequences for others, including loss of income, theft of their prescription medication, or damage to their personal property. Rebuilding trust is possible, but it takes an active process to achieve. Learning to listen to others, accepting responsibility for your actions, and developing a pattern of trustworthy behavior are some of the steps you can take.

The Truth about Addiction and Trust

One of the keys to sustaining sobriety can come from your closest relationships. Unfortunately, behaviors tied to addiction can break down those relationships. One of the areas most affected by addiction is trust.

The lack of trust from your friends and family members can come from a variety of moments. These interactions affect the relationship negatively. They created bad memories and ill-will. They might have even led to serious financial or legal issues for the other person involved.

It’s difficult to trust a person whose choices put someone else in debt or have them facing jail time. Trust can get broken by using someone else’s prescription medication without their knowledge. Anything your addiction has done to make someone else more vulnerable in their life is a reason for them to no longer trust you.

Let’s look at a specific example of how addiction can affect trust. Someone taking a family member’s car without permission so they can get drugs creates distrust. If that person drives while high and crashes the car, tow and repair bills will follow. The registered owner is now suddenly paying out-of-pocket for someone else’s risky behavior. They may not have the money to repair the car. If it’s totaled, they will be forced to replace it. The rippling effects through their life don’t end there.

Addiction turns a person’s focus almost solely onto themselves. They become preoccupied with drinking or drug use. Their only focus on other people is seeking help to continue their habit. That may look like asking for rides, asking for favors, borrowing money, or needing a place to stay for the night. These growing needs tied to addiction put great demands on any relationship.

By the time a person has developed a substance use disorder, they may have lost the trust of more than a few close friends and family members. The addiction-related behavior is repetitive, too. After a few troubled encounters with one friend, they may move on to someone else for help.

People with addiction may not understand the consequences that their behavior has had on other people. They didn’t necessarily see the mess that someone else had to clean up for them. They may even not remember certain encounters if they were using drugs or drinking at the time. Now, they may be unaware that trust has broken down to the point where their loved one wants to minimize contact or avoid them altogether.

For these reasons and more Hannah’s House uses experiential therapy activities to rebuild trust in a relationship as part of their family program for addiction.

Can you use activities to rebuild trust in a relationship?

Trust comes, in part, from someone’s reliability. When they say they will do something, being able to meet expectations is critical. When you’re able to commit to a promise, you’re a reliable person. Reliability will become a fundamental part of rebuilding trust with each person in your life.

Keep in mind, the attempt to rebuild trust will look different in each situation. Some people may not welcome any attempt to repair a relationship. Your past choices may have “burned those bridges.” It’s helpful to give people who don’t accept your efforts the space they need, too.

Rebuilding trust starts with identifying where it’s been lost. You will likely be unable to do that on your own. A counselor can help you create a list of people who have been affected by your addiction. The list may be longer than you expect when you consider everyone who’s life your path crossed.

Family therapy is another way to identify loved ones who no longer trust you. In these structured and supervised settings, your family is able to share personal experiences of how you’ve hurt them and lost their trust. It’s important to learn how to listen to them when these observations about your past choices are being shared.

Demonstrating you can be trusted again will take time. The duration will differ for different people, too. Some people may need to see months of committed work on trust issues from you while others may need years. Treat each person on a case-by-case basis.

Making promises is a path some people with substance use disorders take to quicken the process to gain trust. It never works. At this point, when you’re in treatment or early in recovery, no words will make you instantly trustworthy. Consistent, healthy behaviors can be combined with evidence-based, medically-supervised activities to rebuild trust in relationships.

It’s not enough to use behaviors shown to other people as your evidence of being trustworthy. Each relationship needs its own attention. You can practice good communication skills and healthier behaviors with a friend while failing to be reliable with a parent or child. Excelling in one relationship doesn’t restore trust in every relationship.

Making your needs known and accepting help can be another way to repair broken trust. When someone offers help, they’re openly supporting you and your needs. Responding with gratitude and taking action to get your needs met shows you trust them. That demonstration of trust in them first can positively influence their ability to start trusting you again.

The Benefits of Participating in Activities to Rebuild Trust in a Relationship

Rebuilding trust takes participation in intentional activities. It doesn’t come by accident or over the course of time on its own. You may need to reflect on what kind of activity is best suited to each person whose trust you want again.

5 Benefits of Participating in Activities to Rebuild Trust In a Relationship

1. You learn to take responsibility.

Taking responsibility for the broken trust is a big step. It tells others you know you own the problem and the work needed to solve it. It doesn’t mean you’re alone in the solution, though. You are making it clear that you’re not looking to blame anyone for the breakdown in trust.

  2. You apologize for your actions.

Saying “I’m sorry” to people you have harmed is an important step, too. You’re acknowledging you have caused them pain. It shows you are aware that your choices created problems for them, too. A blanket apology may not be enough either. For each person, the apology should be tailored to how they were impacted by your addiction specifically

 3. You learn to practice patience.

One of the mistakes of asking for forgiveness can be having the expectation that being forgiven means being trusted. A loved one may forgive you quickly after an apology but need more time to actually trust you. Be patient with the timeline that may be needed by each important person in your life. If they are worth keeping close, they are worth any efforts and time needed to restore trust. Carefully curated activities to build trust in a relationship that’s important to you can be a helpful first step.

 4. You learn to listen.

A relationship isn’t only defined by the label “friend” or “brother” or “parent.” It’s how you come together with another person. Think about how you behave around each other or how you think of each other. That’s part of what defines your relationship. The addiction that kept you self-focused now becomes recovery where active listening is essential. Spend time listening and processing what you’re being told and get to know the needs of the person whose trust you desire.

5. You develop a pattern of trustworthy behavior.

Sustaining trustworthy behavior is similar to sustaining sobriety. You can spend six months making good choices in a relationship and harm it with one bad choice. The need for consistency is unquestionable. People need to see you working toward earning their trust. It can come in how you help them when needed or how you show gratitude for the help you’re given. Being loving and loyal, consistently, can also help show you’re becoming trustworthy again.

Hannah’s House is a well-known care provider offering a range of treatment programs targeting the recovery from substance use, mental health issues, and beyond. Our primary mission is to provide a clear path to a life of healing and restoration. We offer renowned clinical care for addiction and have the compassion and professional expertise to guide you toward lasting sobriety.

For more information about the signs of trauma in women or to learn about our programs, call us today: 866-952-5532.

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