Lorelie Rozzano is a guest blogger for Vertava Health.
A woman recently reached out to me. She said her son was finally in treatment and she wondered why she wasn’t happier about it. She described how awful it had been for her and the rest of her family, watching him spiral out of control and not being able to stop it. It was clear she was tired and in a lot of pain. On the one hand, she wanted to hope for the best, on the other, her past experience told her not to. This woman wondered if she would ever be able to trust her son again.
She’s not alone, either. By the time someone enters rehab they have lost the trust of their family. They have zero credibility. Walking through the front doors of a treatment center is just one step in the right direction.
To answer her question let’s define trust. Trusting someone means you think they are reliable and honest, you have confidence in them and you feel safe with them physically and emotionally. Trust is shown through a person’s actions, not their words. Addicted persons tell you they love you, but they don’t act like it. They want your trust, but they are not trustworthy.
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In order to be convincing, addicted persons must buy into their lies. This results in dishonest thinking. In other words, they become delusional. Delusion is a key symptom of addiction. It’s a sincere belief that everything is fine in spite of the mounting evidence to the contrary.
When trust is broken it is best for families to proceed cautiously. For trust to be earned, there must be consistency – and that takes time. In short, you can trust again when their actions and words match up.
To the parents; it’s important to acknowledge your baby is all grown up. The danger in parenting an addicted adult is doing too much for them. When you don’t trust in their abilities, you may over function in your role, crippling them physically, psychologically, and emotionally. They learn helplessness and remain in the role of the dependent child. As you watch your adult child take their first steps in recovery, it is natural to want to help. But try and resist. If they’re doing what they’re supposed to be doing, they will have lots of support. Their support and guidance should come from professionals and other people in recovery.
To the spouse; having an addicted partner is similar to having a cheating partner. Only this mistress isn’t of flesh and blood. She is far more powerful. You can’t compete with her. When you said I do, this isn’t what you signed up for. The man/woman you married is a stranger. In their place is someone you don’t like very much. While you do the work of two, they’re gone for days spending all your hard earned money. You’re tired and fed up and thinking about divorce. While your spouse is in treatment getting help and support, you’re left behind to clean up their mess.
To the children; when Mommy or Daddy makes you a promise, you don’t count on it. You don’t really believe anything they say. When you were little you used to feel sad, but now that you’re entering your teen years you don’t care. You learned early on feelings are dangerous. So instead of caring and hurting, you turned your feelings off. You find ways to escape through gaming, reading, fantasizing, bullying, or acting out in other impulsive, unhealthy behaviors. You’re at high risk of teen pregnancy, becoming addicted or getting into abusive/addictive relationships.
To the recovering person; now that you’re out of treatment you want the past to be over. It’s normal to want everything to be forgiven and for trust to be fully restored. You feel impatient when your family questions you and they don’t believe you. But you need to be realistic. Own your part and understand your family is hurting. They didn’t get this way overnight. Your addiction created a lot of pain in their lives. Put one foot in front of the other and keep doing the next right thing. You can expect it to take at least a year, maybe longer, before their trust is restored. You can help reassure them by doing what you say you’ll be doing. If you’re getting gas, get gas and then come home. If you’re running late, phone home and tell them why. If you’re going to a meeting, go. Creating trust is a big deal, so treat it that way.
Whether you’re the parent, spouse, or child of an addicted person it’s normal to feel worried, upset and suspicious. A lot has happened and it will take some time for everyone to heal. You can help the process by staying in the here and now. You don’t have to forget the past, just don’t bring it into each new day. If you’re struggling with difficult emotions that you can’t let go of, seek support. Addiction affects everyone. Chances are you’ll need help too. Try to be patient. Recovery takes time. It won’t happen overnight. But you should see consistent baby steps in the right direction. You will know you’re on the right track when the addicted person’s words and actions match up. Before you can fully trust again, you may need to forgive. You don’t forgive to erase the past. You forgive to move on from it. There is hope. With the right help, you can write a brand new story and live a happy, healthy life.
If you or someone you know needs help, please call this confidential support line for assistance. 1-888-614-2379.