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The Importance of Regaining Trust Following Relapse

If you relapsed following a period of sobriety, you may be feeling full of remorse and disappointment. This is normal. A return to drinking or drugs is never a good choice, but you can learn from this mistake and use it as a basis for creating a strengthened sobriety. One of the consequences of this relapse though is that you are likely to have lost the trust of your loved ones. It may be difficult to win this trust back, but it is something you will need to try to do as part of your renewed sobriety.

The Loss of Trust Following Relapse

"When you're screwing up and nobody says anything to you anymore, that means they've given up on you."

Randy Pausch

It can be incredibly difficult for people who care about you to see you get better only to then return to the way you were. It can be a crushing disappointment and, if it happens enough, this will eventually lead to a complete loss of trust. When this happens, there is a risk that friends and loved ones will lose hope completely, giving up on the idea that you are able to recover. This acceptance of your situation is understandable if these individuals do not understand how addiction works, but it is not the reality. Those dealing with this type of situation do tend to relapse numerous times before being able to quit for good - this is not to say that relapse is necessary or in any way desirable.

Trust is a vital component in any strong relationship, so as long as it is missing then this connection with the other person will be dysfunctional. You cannot make others trust you again, but you can act in ways that will make it more likely to happen. Relationships are those that give life meaning, so it is always worth trying to save them. In many situations, it can take years to completely win the trust of other people back, but it is worth the effort. There can also be times when the breach of trust has been so huge that the relationship will never be salvageable, so you need to be able to accept this.

How to Regain Trust Following a Relapse
  • Telling people that you are going to get sober again is unlikely to win back their trust, you have to prove this to them in your actions
  • don't make your sobriety all about winning back the trust of others - if you are not doing this for you, your recovery is always going to be weak
  • make sure you understand why you relapsed and take steps to prevent it happening in the future - if you don't learn from this mistake then you are doomed to repeat it
  • have realistic expectations about other people - don't expect forgiveness right away just because you are starting to do the right thing
  • don't beat yourself up over the relapse and the loss of trust - as long as you learn from what happened, a lot of good can come out of it; beating yourself up can just be a way to sabotage your attempt to get back on track
  • take responsibility for the relapse and do not try to blame it on others or make up excuses to justify the decision - if your loved ones don't see that you are taking responsibility for what happened, it will be much harder for them to trust you again
  • it can help if you explain to your loved ones why you relapsed (without making excuses) and the action you are now taking to prevent this from happening again in the future
  • if you build a solid sobriety, you will usually win the trust back of your loved ones over time - just have some patience.
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