Going into recovery after any amount of time addicted to a substance can be freeing. For the first time in a long time, you’re yourself again. While that often means a different version of yourself than the person who started using, it does usually mean that the people in your life are more important than ever.
Unfortunately, substance abuse and addiction cause us to drive friends and family away. Whether through simply not being there, through lies and manipulation, or because they couldn’t handle substance use, families often keep addicted family members at a distance or may cut them out altogether. Chances are that you’ve disappointed them, not been there, and possibly hurt those closest to you. Coming out of recovery and going back to meet your family can be difficult because of this. Unfortunately, rebuilding your family’s trust in you won’t be easy, and it won’t happen overnight. However, you can rebuild their trust by consistently showing that you are changing and you are working hard for yourself and for them.
Talking to your family and being honest is important if you want to rebuild their trust. It’s not enough to say that you’re better, you also have to own up to your past mistakes. And, it’s probably important to talk about relapse and how and why you may slip up. Say things like, “I’m in recovery and I want to stay here, I’d like your help. I know I’ve made mistakes in the past, and I know I may slip up in the future, but if I start using again I want to go right back to rehab so that I can stay sober. It means a lot to me and I hope that you’re willing to help me see it through”.
- Own up to your mistakes
- Apologize where needed
- Don’t pretend it will be easy or that you’ll never relapse
- Ask for help
Building trust is about more than saying you will do something, it’s about putting in the work every day, showing up every time, and being reliable. Consider building a routine, if your family lives with you, do things around the house, do things for your family members, and consistently be there for them.
Creating routine in your own life will help with that a great deal. Cook yourself nice food, go to the gym every day at the same time, clean your home, take care of yourself, meditate or practice yoga. Building a regular and sustainable routine will allow you to not only create a sustainable and consistent lifestyle, it will show your family that you are working hard to be the person you want to be.
Do the Right Thing
People who are addicted do and say hurtful things. If your family doesn’t trust you, it’s likely because they are remembering another version of you. Saying that you won’t do it again isn’t’ enough. Consistently doing the right thing, being a good person, and taking steps to make your loved ones happy is.
This means that you can’t lie and expect to be forgiven, you can’t steal, if you take your anger out on someone you love they might not forgive you. Working to develop healthy coping mechanisms for stress and anger will help with this, but your biggest focus should be simply working to be a good person and to treat your loved ones like you want to be treated yourself.
Don’t Expect Anything
Most people have one of two attitudes when coming out of recovery. The first is that the person who was addicted was a different person. You’re different now and therefore anything that “other person” did doesn’t apply to you. Unfortunately, your family won’t see it that way. Almost no one is willing to write you a clean slate, and the worse you were while addicted, the longer it will take. Pretending that everything should automatically be okay will only make things worse.
This kind of attitude is easy to build if you think of yourself as a victim. And, chances are that addiction caused terrible things. But you made the choices that led you down that road, and you can make the choices that will take you out of it while owning up to the fact that they were your mistakes and your family can hold them against you if they think it’s important for their mental health.
Another common attitude is that you have to prove that you’re getting better and work for their trust. This is a better attitude, but you should keep in mind that there’s only so much you can do. Your best option is to consistently be the person you want to be, be there for them, and own up to your past mistakes. Except for apologies where needed, you don’t owe anything else.
Finally, your family members likely have no reason to trust you. This is especially true if you’ve lied and told them you were in recovery in the past, relapsed frequently, or otherwise given them reasons to doubt whether you’re actually clean and sober now. Try to deal with it, especially if mistrust is grounded.
For example, if your mother makes you show her your arms to prove that you’re into using, make a game of it. Show her first before she asks. Announce to the entire family that you’re not drinking and abstain at parties in front of everyone. Consistently proving that you’re still clean or sober can be hard, but it will build trust.
Put Family Second
While it might seem like an odd thing to do when you’re trying to rebuild your relationship with your family, they should always come second. Your health and your recovery always come first. If your family is getting in the way, still drinking or using themselves, or demanding things of you that you can’t do, you shouldn’t be prioritizing them. For example, if going to a family reunion means being surrounded by alcohol and you don’t trust yourself, say that and don’t go.
Your recovery and future health should always be your first focus, and while that doesn’t mean you should neglect your family, it does mean that you will give yourself the attention and care you need to stay clean and sober. If you do that, you will put yourself in a position where you can build your family’s trust over time.
Attend Family Therapy
While groups like Al-Anon are available to help your family members cope, many rehabilitation facilities offer family therapy. Here, you meet with a therapist together to discuss your relationship, how you communicate, and negative emotions. Your therapist will work through relationship problems, work to build healthy communication, and try to help you work through the past so that you can move forward on a foundation that isn’t relying on past behavior. In some cases, family therapy will include further one-on-one therapy with individuals in the family to address specific issues, harm caused by addiction, or to work through individual communication or emotional problems.
Even if you’ve already gone through rehab, getting help for you and your family can be important to rebuilding your life with the people you love. Addiction causes damage to family relationships, hierarchy and family roles, communication, and every other aspect of sharing your life with others. Getting help together can be an important step, but it is sometimes important that you ask carefully, telling family members that it’s for you and your recovery and not because they are dysfunctional.
No matter where you are in recovery, family is likely an important part of your life. Good luck rebuilding your life with them.
If you or your loved one needs help and would like to make a full recovery, please call us today at (877)-447-4977 and speak with one of our experienced and professional intake advisors about the treatment options that best suits your needs.