Addiction and Relationships: How to Regain Trust in Your Relationship
I saw a post recently on Twitter that I feel applies to our situation. It was made by someone who identifies as an alcoholic, and they were asking how they can establish trust again between themselves and their family members and friends.
Now, I’m going to assume that like me, you may also struggle with the whole idea of trust surrounding your relationship (whatever that is, I’m not just talking between partners).
The thing is, while trust can take a very long time to establish in the first place, it can be broken and destroyed in a fraction of that time. Sure, sometimes it can be disintegrated over time by repeated offenses, but it can also completely disappear in an instant.
Like if you thought things were beginning to turn around and you had hope forming again, but then cleaned out his pockets to do laundry and found something you weren’t expecting.
Before we get into the meat of this post, though, let’s define trust so we can see what it means in its essence:
“Trust: the firm belief in the reliability, truth, ability, or strength of someone or something”.
Now, yes, I will say that to trust someone in active addiction is a delicate game that most people don’t want to play. And believe me, I get you. When they are actively using, you aren’t dealing with the same person. This person has a whole other agenda, you can’t believe anything they say to a point, and it can be unnerving and a whole slew of other descriptive words I won’t put here.
But let’s dive a little deeper.
Who is the person inside?
I’m not going in the direction of sappy or emotional, but I’m going to assume again that, like me, you are with this person or still have this person in your life for a reason, a reason that goes beyond just being related or in a relationship.
You are still willing to associate with them because you kind of like them right? You love them? You see the person they are when they aren’t using, you like them for who they are under the addiction, and when they are in that state, they add value to your life right?
You see where I’m going with this?
When it comes to trust, I don’t see it as “I trust that you will never ever in your whole life ever pick up anything even close to resembling a drug and that you will prove to me everyday that you are doing exactly what I need from you to feel comfortable and then maybe I will hold this trust in you over your head to see if you deserve it.”
Although, I’ll be honest, I did see it as that for a period of time.
I see it as “I trust in myself, and I trust that I will be able to handle things as they happen. I trust that I will be able to make the right decision, and I trust that I will be able to carry out that decision. I trust that you are the person I know you to be, and that you will do what is right for you to ensure that you stay this person through your own recovery methods. I trust that we have this understanding, and that we are both responsible for our own recovery in order to move forward.”
That means that you don’t keep track of how many meetings they went to this week, or go to meetings with them. It also means that you don't need to check with their sponsor or repeatedly check in with them on what step they are on, or if they are even doing the steps at all.
It means that you do your own work on your own recovery (because as we’ve established, we aren’t perfect and need to do some hard work just as much as they do), and have faith and hope that no matter what happens, you’ve got this under control and no one has to prove anything to you.
At the end of the day, you’ll be so confident in yourself that no matter what happens, you are sure that both of you are doing just fine, and things will stay that way because you got the assurance in yourself to back it up.
I don’t know if you have noticed it yet, but there’s a theme, and this fits right into it. The goal of these life experiences aren’t to collect them all and use them as ways to feel bad about yourself or keep you stuck. No one wants to see your badge of codependency or watch you flash your victimhood club card.
The goal is to learn from them. Use them to learn about yourself and the world around you, and become a better person as a result.
This is what will help build you up, little by little, into becoming that person that is unwavering and strong, and who knows that no matter what they’ll be just fine.
Honor the experiences, trust the process, and instead of looking at your partner as something to be graded or someone who needs to be seen if they’re checking some imaginary box (✓ can be trusted, has followed all demands and passed for now), see them as a person who is struggling and doing what they can to survive, or someone who is doing their best to move forward.
Sure what they are sometimes doing is not always ideal or healthy, but once you can empathize, turn the focus on yourself, and be supportive in a way that works for the benefit of both of your recovery, then things will get a lot easier and trust will follow naturally as a result.