Rebuilding Trust in a Family Affected by Addiction

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Addiction is often referred to as a family disease because it doesn’t just affect the person with the substance use disorder, it affects the entire family. In families affected by addiction, there is often a lack of trust between the person with the substance use disorder and the other family members. This is usually the result of the family being exposed to behaviors associated with their loved one’s substance use disorder, like lying and stealing. The loved one’s broken promises, false assertions that they’re staying sober, and stealing quickly chip away the family’s trust for this person.

The thing about trust is that it’s much easier to lose it than it is to gain it back. This can often be frustrating for people in early recovery. They may feel that staying sober is enough evidence that their family can start instilling their trust in them again. Trust is a privilege, not a right, and it takes time to rebuild once it’s been broken. If your family has experienced a loss of trust as a result of a loved one’s substance use disorder, here are some helpful ways to begin to re-establish trust.

Clear Expectations

Discussing expectations with your loved one from the beginning puts your family on the right track towards re-establishing trust. Talk with them about what you need them to do in order to begin to trust them again. Make sure to provide them with realistic and attainable expectations. This will help your loved one feel like they have concrete things they can do to begin to earn your trust back and will alleviate feelings of discouragement.

Prompt, Open, and Direct Communication

Talk with your loved one directly when they do something that does or does not meet your expectations. They can use this type of feedback to gauge whether they are doing what they need to be doing to gain your trust back and use it to inform their decision making process. Talking with your loved one promptly prevents negative emotions, like resentment and anger, from building to an explosive level. Make sure to talk with your loved one directly, instead of going through other family members, as this will prevent miscommunications and hurt feelings.

Family Therapy

Working with a neutral third party as you begin to rebuild trust in your family can be very helpful in working towards honest and open communication. A family therapist can help your family collaborate to set boundaries and ground rules and identify consequences for when these rules are not followed. Since a therapist is a neutral third party, he or she will be able to provide unbiased input that keeps things fair to both the family members and the person with the substance use disorder.

Restoring trust takes and patience. Your family’s feelings and memories won’t go away, but setting expectations, utilizing open communication, and seeking professional resources are three things you can do to help everyone heal and rebuild. For more information to help you and your family heal during the addiction recovery process, learn more on our post on forgiving a loved one with an addiction.

If you think your family could benefit from therapy, contact Pyramid Healthcare to learn more about our outpatient counseling programs available to people with substance use disorders and their families.

Written by Shaylyn Forte, M.Ed., CAADC

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