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Where Does Trust Fit Into Recovery?

Dillon McClernon

Authored by Dillon McClernon

Sometimes, the hardest people to trust are the ones we love. If you have a family member who’s recently undergone treatment for Substance Use Disorder, it can be tough to trust their commitment to stay sober. Earlier broken promises to “stop drinking” with memories of other chemical-driven betrayals keep playing in your head.

Innocent Until Proven Guilty

Sadly, the risk of relapse is real – about half of people recovering from addiction eventually take a new fix. We’ll look at ways to help prevent this (or help keep a slip from turning into a fall) shortly, but first, consider whether you really are worrying without cause. Few relationships succeed without trust, and if you check up on your family member too relentlessly, they may eventually count you among the stress triggers they need to leave behind, or be driven back to Substance Use Disorder.

Reasonable proofs of whether someone is staying sober include:

  • Is your loved one keeping up support-group attendance—and do they come home eager to share points of interest from the meeting? (Keep in mind that group confidentiality rules may limit what they can share about their fellow members.)
  • Are they otherwise in and out on a predictable schedule, and glad to be greeted on returning?
  • Do they spend a fair percentage of their non-work hours at home, interacting with the rest of the family?
  • Are they following a healthy diet and getting a normal amount of sleep?
  • Have they taken specific actions to make amends with you and others for the trouble their Substance Use Disorder caused?
  • Have coworkers or friends noticed improvements in your family member’s grooming/performance/sociability?

As long as you can answer “yes” to the above questions, consider your loved one to have proven themselves trustworthy.

Lead Us Not Into Temptation

That said, it may take months or years of recovery before someone can really be trusted to handle “trigger situations” such as the smell of an addictive substance or exposure to a situation associated with “using.” Most people who relapse don’t plan on it: they get caught off guard or put too much trust in their ability to “handle it now.”

Your loved one’s detox counseling will help with a plan for warding off trouble, but here are a few ways to avoid pulling any triggers yourself:

  • Go to counseling with your family member. Be willing to admit, and remedy, ways you may have contributed to the problem.
  • Keep all addictive substances out of your house—out of sight isn’t enough. If the substance in question is a medication, keep it locked in a remote corner and hide the key—and ask your doctor about alternatives to continuing the prescription. (You may be saving yourself from developing a substance use disorder of your own.)
  • Be willing to tighten your budget if your family member needs to leave a stressful, temptation-ridden job. (Remember the money that’s not being spent on addictive substances.)
  • If a relapse does occur despite everyone’s best efforts, focus on your loved one’s needs instead of your own hurt. Help them consult with their doctor and therapist immediately to take remedial action. Do everything possible to convey the message, “I know you can bounce back from this.”

Don’t You Trust Me Yet?

If you’re the one fresh out of detox and into recovery, you may be hurt to find your loved ones still regarding you with suspicion. Don’t they appreciate how hard you’ve worked? Haven’t you earned some right to come home without having your breath checked?

Yes, you’ve been through a lot and are still under pressure, but try to see your family’s point of view. They’ve been hurt repeatedly by your substance use disorder. They’re on edge and unsure what to expect.

Be open about what you need from them, but also listen to what they need from you. Commit yourself to being empathetic and responsible. Get your family to join you in therapy, where you can all learn to understand each other better.

Above all, don’t give up hope. It is possible, through ongoing support in recovery, to rebuild trust for the future!

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder, we can help. Call 1-800-RECOVERY today to learn more and get started.

Authored by

Dillon McClernon

Dillon McClernon

Dillon currently serves as the Senior Director of Sales and Marketing at RCA. After his tenure as Chief Communications Officer and senior advisor to RCA, he opted for a full-time position at RCA where he could build a new team linking sales and marketing to directly impact RCA’s mission of saving 1 million lives.


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