Whether you are an addict in rehab or a loved one of an addict in recovery, you know that addiction destroys trust. What you probably do not know, is how to get it back. They say that trust is the last thing to come back in recovery and there is a reason for that.
Before you understand what trust really is, you need to understand what trust is not. Trust is not a gift you give to the person you trust. Trust is not something you can fake. Trust is not something that can happen overnight. While forgiveness is necessary and is healing, there is no such thing as a “clean slate.”
That being said, trust is not impossible and is not necessarily permanently destroyed. Trust is nothing less than the real knowledge that someone you know has proven, through consistent trust-building behaviors, that she can be counted on. That her word is true. That she will do what she says she will do. That she will be where she says she will be.
Trust is not wondering or hoping. Trust is knowledge.
When the person who has damaged the trust, and the person whose trust has been violated, are in agreement that they want to remain in the relationship, there is a process that can be followed to restore trust in the relationship, over time and with effort.
The violator of trust, usually the addict in this scenario, is the one who gives the gift of trust back to the person they took it from. And he must do this step-by-step, inch-by-inch, day-by-day, until the injured party knows he can be counted on.
Trust restoring behaviors are best focused on the specific area where the trust was violated. For example, where there was an affair in a marriage relationship, the offending party must be accountable for her whereabouts, must keep commitments relating to fidelity, and must demonstrate these things consistently and patiently until the trust is restored.
Where money is involved, for example when an addict has racked up debt for drug or alcohol abuse, the addict must be financially accountable. If he is married, for example, he will have to produce receipts for all of his purchases and/or go over the checking account statements patiently and consistently with his spouse. This is done continually and humbly until the wife knows that he has truly become financially responsible.
Above all, recognize that trust takes time and concerted effort. It also takes patience from both parties in the relationship. Going into it with that understanding can help avoid a lot of conflict, defensiveness, and hurt. Have patience, be consistent, and eventually trust can be restored.
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