Can you ever trust an addict? Even in recovery?

April 17, 2020

Can you ever trust an addict? Even in recovery?

You have probably heard the phrase, “Never trust an addict.” Chances are you know someone who struggles with addiction themselves. According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, over 17 millions Americans suffer from alcoholism alone. “It’s a complicated issue,” says Sally Anderson, a counselor specialized in addiction and recovery here at JF&CS.

“When somebody is in their disease, alcoholism or addiction, they do things that are not trustworthy. The disease causes them to act in ways that make you not trust them. The trust gets damaged, and usually to people that are very close to them.”

It is complicated indeed, especially when one of the most essential elements of mental health recovery involves validation and compassion. Many addicts fall into hurtful patterns such as lying to and even stealing from their loved ones. So, it can be very difficult for a loved one to practice compassion and validation, even when the addict is in recovery.

“In recovery, you have opportunities to build that trust back.” Sally encourages loved ones to keep an open mind and offer small chances of trust. “If you take it in little steps, you can start to build back that trust and recover your relationship.”

So, what are some small opportunities an ally can offer to their recovering addict? We compiled a short list of things you could do today:

  • Ask your recovering loved one for a favor, such as grabbing a coffee or picking something up from the store for you.
  • Offer to drive your loved one to an AA meeting or their counseling appointment.
  • Ask your loved one about their recovery-- how are they doing? What could they use support in? What are they hopeful about? What are they fearful about?
  • Invite your loved one to go to the movies with you.
  • Take your loved one and their sponsor out to coffee.
  • Confide your own hopes and fears with your loved one.

We hope that these activities will help both you and your recovering loved one better understand and validate each other’s feelings, as well as show a leap of faith in their recovery. Remember that trust takes time to rebuild, but we do believe it is possible.

“You are putting marbles in the jar. If the marbles resemble trust, you are offering your recovered loved one the opportunity to, one-by-one, put marbles back into your jar.”