As a recovering addict, you spend a lot of time making amends to loved ones and rebuilding their trust in you. After all, you may have lied to them or stolen from them and, if you were addicted to substances over a long period of time, it likely became a habit. However, they were not the only ones whose trust was broken.
Lying and misleading people can become a survival mechanism when you are addicted to substances. The lack of trust this ingrains in others is also ingrained in your own thinking. You begin to see the world as untrustworthy and assume that others are betraying you.
There is often truth to this. Everyone is betrayed by people they love at some point. When your friends are addicted to substances, you are likely to face betrayal more frequently than most. Furthermore, since many people still see substance abuse disorders as moral failings rather than illnesses, your loved ones might have betrayed you by being punitive rather than supportive.
How do you rebuild your own trust in others after drug and alcohol rehab? Here are 4 tips to help you get started.
1. Become trustworthy
Before you can start trusting others again, you need to rebuild trust in yourself. This requires a conscious process that is not other focused. When you lie or mislead someone, you need to call yourself out and hold yourself to account. This is not in order to punish yourself, but to build healthy habits when it comes to trust.
If you are no longer keeping secrets or hiding things from the people you love, you can begin to feel more at ease with the world. The sense that someone’s trust is being broken is no longer ubiquitous and you can engage with people in a natural way again.
2. Be vulnerable with others
Being vulnerable with others is extremely difficult when you don’t trust anyone. Vulnerability always involves risk, as you are letting your guard down and allowing people to see you at your most tender. But that is also why it is an excellent way of rebuilding your sense of trust.
You don’t have to dive right into the deep end and share all your deepest secrets with strangers. Rather, you can create safe spaces for yourself. Tell a loved one you want to speak with them, and share something that you would generally keep to yourself. You can start with something that is low risk, such as a past incident you are ashamed of. This might be tough to share, but you are safe in the knowledge that it won’t be used against you.
The ability to be vulnerable and trust others is a muscle that needs to be developed. As you start to share more and trust more freely, you do open yourself up to betrayal. You will need to make the decision that trusting people is worth the risk. You will be happier living in a world where you trust people and are betrayed than living without trusting anyone.
3. Trust your self-awareness
The idea of trusting people is frightening to recovering addicts because of the risks involved. However, trust is not an all-or-nothing virtue. By choosing to trust people, you are not choosing to be blind. If someone gives you reasons to be wary, exhibiting behaviors that you recognize as dishonest, you can decide to withhold your trust from them.
In the process of recovery, you will have become more self-aware than ever before. Trust in the awareness you’ve developed. You know enough to differentiate between people who have your best interests at heart and people who may have reason to lie. This doesn’t mean you should be unkind to those people or not trust them at all, but you can give them some of your trust with special care.
4. Practice forgiveness
As long as you are holding grudges, it is going to be difficult to build up trust in others. By reminding yourself about how you have been betrayed, you continue to open the wound. Not only will you struggle to trust those who have betrayed you, but you’ll also withhold trust from those who have earned it.
Practicing forgiveness is difficult. You cannot just decide to get over something. However, you can stop your thoughts from spiraling when you think about past betrayals. You can also challenge those thoughts. When you think about what the person did, ask yourself why you think they did it. Try to remember the times you have broken the trust of others and how you have learned to view your mistakes with kindness.
Forgiveness is another learned skill, and it is a necessary one. There is a saying that holding a grudge is like taking poison and expecting someone else to die. Without forgiveness your trust in others continues to be tainted by that poison.
Learning to trust others after rehab will require work. Start with rebuilding your trust in yourself so that you can learn to be vulnerable again.