Sometimes, the most difficult people to trust are those we love. If you have a family member who’s recently needed treatment for a Substance Use Disorder, it can be particularly difficult to trust their commitment to stay sober. Earlier broken promises to “stop using,” and memories of other chemical-driven betrayals, may keep playing in your head.
Innocent Until Proven Guilty
Sadly, the risk of relapse is real: about half of people in early recovery from addiction eventually relapse, returning to drug use sometimes for a day, other times for years. We’ll look at ways you can help prevent this (or help keep a slip from turning into a fall) shortly: but first, consider whether you really are worrying without cause. Few relationships succeed without trust, and if you check up on your family member too relentlessly, they may eventually count you among the stress triggers they need to leave behind.
Reasonable questions to ask when evaluating if someone you love is committed to their recovery include:
- Is your loved one keeping up support-group attendance—and do they come home eager to share points of interest from the meeting? (Keep in mind that group confidentiality rules may limit what they can share about their fellow members.)
- Are they otherwise in and out on a predictable schedule, and glad to be greeted on returning?
- Do they spend a fair percentage of their non-work hours at home, interacting with the rest of the family?
- Are they getting a healthy diet and a normal amount of sleep?
- Have they taken specific actions to make amends to you and others for their bad behavior while using?
- Have coworkers or friends noticed improvements in your family member’s grooming/performance/sociability?
As long as you can answer “yes” to most of the above, it looks like your loved one is committed to their recovery.
Lead Us Not Into Temptation
That said, it may take months or years of recovery before someone can easily handle “trigger situations” such as the smell of an addictive substance, or exposure to a situation associated with “using.” Most people who relapse don’t plan on it: they get caught off guard or put too much trust in their ability to “handle it now.”
The treatment and education you and your loved one received as well as support from others in recovery will help keep you safe in times of trouble
Here are a few ways you can contribute to supporting your loved one:
- Go to counseling with your family members. Be willing to admit, and remedy, ways you may have contributed to the problem.
- Keep all addictive substances out of your house—out of sight isn’t enough. If a family member requires a potentially addictive medication, keep it locked up and dispose of it properly when no longer needed. Also, ask your doctor if there are any non-addictive alternatives, you may be saving yourself from developing a substance use disorder of your own.
- Avoid putting pressure on yourself or your loved one to participate in activities he or she dislikes.
- Be willing to tighten your budget if your family member needs to leave a stressful, temptation-ridden job. (Remember the money that won’t be spent on addictive substances if the recovery continues.)
- If a relapse does occur despite everyone’s best efforts, focus on your loved one’s needs instead of your own hurt. Help them consult immediately with their doctor, therapist, or sponsor and get back on track. Do everything possible to convey the message, “I know you can bounce back from this.”
- Don’t You Trust Me Yet?
If you’re the one fresh out of detox and into recovery, you may be hurt to find your loved ones still regarding you with suspicion. Don’t they appreciate how hard you’ve worked? Haven’t you earned some right to come home without having your breath checked?
Yes, you’ve been through a lot and are still under pressure, but try to see your family’s point of view. They’ve been hurt repeatedly by your behavior when your substance use disorder was active. They’re on edge and unsure what to expect.
Be open about what you need from them, but also listen to what they need from you. Commit yourself to be empathetic and responsible. Get your family to join you in therapy, where you can all learn to understand each other better.
Above all, don’t give up hope. It is possible, through ongoing support and commitment to growth in recovery, to rebuild a trusting relationship, and it’s often better than the one you had originally!
If you or someone you know is struggling with substance use disorder, we can help.