Losing Trust, Gaining Trust

One of the hardest aspects of recovery is the issue of trust. I’m talking about two sides of it – gaining it for yourself and having others regain it from you. The destruction from active addiction is often so catastrophic that it robs us of this important element quite early on, and without it we drown more in the swamp of shame, lies, and manipulation. Lies we say to ourselves and to our loved ones about our addiction, broken promises we make (even though we mean them full-heartedly, often, in the spirit of the moment), and betrayals we commit to fuel our disease. Having broken the trust of others, we often have to engage in even more grandiose manipulations, come up with greater lies, break more important promises… and we erode and corrode ourselves to the point where we can no longer feel safe and where hope is so elusive that we stop believing it exists. And the greatest breach is the trust that we break with ourselves.

I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten to the depths of addiction where you feel like you’re a complete liability to others and to yourself, where you’re terrified of the world outside and inside you, but it’s a dark place from which recovery seems impossible. So many of us exist in that state, full of shame and disillusioned about our chances and about being able to make a positive a change – many people with substance use disorder live in this self-destructive conduct for years, some thinking of death as the only way out.

But there is, of course, a way out. I’m not saying this in any way smugly from some kind of a perch of Recovery, but I’m saying this because I’ve been there myself and I’ve seen many others who have been there and came back only to flourish and get another shot at life.  I’ve broken the trust of others and I’ve not trusted myself. I was drowning in shame and sense of failure whenever I would go and drink again after promising – to myself and to others – that I was not going to. I spent many nights alone, in a basement, with the television on as my only company, drinking so that I would forget how ashamed I was, so that I could numb the feeling that I couldn’t trust anything and that no one could trust me anymore.

Becoming sober seemed unattainable, but I was lucky enough that a health scare and support from my family arrested my drinking long enough for me to be able to come to a realization that I had to stop for good. And once I detoxed and stabilized and got myself into recovery, I had a glimmer of hope that I could rebuild my life. My family hadn’t abandoned me – and I know many people with SUD can’t say the same thing – but they certainly didn’t trust me. So, in a way I was alone on my journey despite having all the support and love – but it was support and love that was cautious and fragile, so I had to entertain the idea that it might not last. I was no prize as a newly recovered person with addiction, and I had no delusions that my luck of having my family with me would last. Fortunately it did, and for that I am grateful, but I never took that for granted. I still never do. My recovery was a journey to rediscovering Reality – being always diligent about what was truly happening around me versus how my perception was twisting things.

Photo by Toa Heftiba on Unsplash

What was truly happening around me in the beginning was a family that was scarred and in need of repair along with my self being scarred and in need of repair. I was sober but recovery was a long process of repair. This meant repairing the trust they lost and repairing the trust that I have lost in myself. Without trust nobody could feel safe, I knew that, and I also knew that it would take time and right actions in order to get to the point where safety was possible, where everyone, myself included, could take a breather.

It might seem daunting to know that it takes time to repair trust.  It might seem tragic that some of us won’t ever regain it or won’t have a chance to show their loved ones how much they’ve changed, but thinking about how daunting and how hopeless it seems is damaging. It means living in the Future, in the Unknown, and the only way for people with SUD to remain on track is to be able to attend to their Present. If in your Present you still don’t trust or are not trusted, don’t worry about it now – you cannot magically make it happen by thinking about it. Trust is action and action takes time. So just go about your sober day the best you can and as the days add up, you’ll find that you trust yourself more and more and the people around you do too. Recovery is evolution in the right direction and by taking even the smallest step toward it you’re already on your way. Recovery is a process—that is the first thing you need to trust. From there, hope springs eternal as the saying has it.

 

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