Earning Trust of Family and Friends After a Long Battle with Addiction

You’ve changed. You know it; your friends in recovery know it. You feel God working in your life and for the first time you have hope for your future. Yet your friends and family—the people who you expected would be the first to see that you really have changed—insist on living in the past. They treat you as if you were still using, they are slow to see that your life really is different now. They withhold their trust. They seem slow to forgive.

This is to be expected. The last few months of your life have been monumental. The early days of recovery always are. You are beginning to see yourself and your life in a new way. You have hope that you really may become the person you have always wanted to be. You believe that you can finally keep the promises you make to yourself and others. The ‘old you’ seems like such a distant memory.

But to those around you, that ‘old you’ isn’t so very old at all. In the minds of friends and family, the memories of your addiction may be very fresh indeed. They remember quite soberly the broken promises, the betrayal, the deception, and the embarrassment. A few months in recovery cannot quite erase the years of turmoil your addiction has inflicted on the lives of others.

This does not mean there is no hope of forgiveness or restoration—indeed there is. But it begins with you—not them. What is needed at this time is patience. Rather than being surprised or angered that your family doesn’t seem to trust you, seek to be a trustworthy person. Character is not transformed overnight. Begin making the choices today that will make you a respectable person in the future. If loved ones feel the need to vent or express their anger at your previous behavior, allow them the space to do so. Seek the friendship, support, and guidance of your recovery community at this emotionally challenging time.

Trust was not lost in an instant. It was your behavior over a long period of time that eroded the trust and respect of your family and friends. Realize that the reconstruction period may also take some time. When you are frustrated with family members who seem slow to forgive and forget, it may help you to think back on your wrongs against them. Would you be so willing to forgive if the same behavior had been inflicted upon you? Though they may welcome your efforts to change, that only thing that will really convince them that you have changed is consistent behavior over time.

Rather than forcing your progress on your loved ones, wait for them to recognize it. Pray that God would help you to rebuild these relationships. Ask that He would give you patience and grace, and that above all, He would help you to just stay sober. This is the single most important thing that you can do to regain the trust of the people you love.