For people struggling with substance use disorders, the recovery process can be difficult. Oftentimes, relationships with family, friends or loved ones may become strained or permanently altered as a consequence of addiction. In many instances, addiction recovery requires individuals to rebuild trust with the people they once had friendships or intimate relationships with.

Rebuilding trust is very much a part of the recovery process, especially if a person with substance use disorders violated another person’s trust at some point in the past. Individuals might feel undeserving of the trust and support they once received from their loved ones. The work needed to repair relationships in recovery can introduce many different feelings, including some stress and anxiety. Therefore, it is important for people in recovery to seek a healthy means of self-expression, adopt positive and constructive coping strategies and learn how to mend broken relationships with those they love.

Relationships in Need of Repair

When contemplating how to build trust in a relationship, individuals should assess which relationships are in need of repair and why. People in addiction recovery must be mindful of the potential harm that can come from continuing a relationship with someone who is not concerned about their recovery or growth toward a substance-free life. If you are in recovery, it’s important to rebuild relationships where trust has been breached and with individuals who encourage your recovery.

Rebuilding trust in recovery takes time. Other people’s emotions, time, space and the healing process must be taken into consideration in order to mend broken relationships. When rebuilding trust in a relationship, individuals should set small, but clear goals and have a plan about how to achieve them. This could be something as small as a phone call once a week with an estranged relative or a lunch date with an old friend. The transition period should move naturally, gracefully and without force, as other people deserve to make a conscious decision about whether they want to have a relationship with someone in recovery who has hurt them in the past. Examples of relationships where individuals may hope to rebuild trust include:

  • Relationship with yourself
  • Relationships with friends
  • Relationships with family
  • Relationship with your spouse

It is important to note that there are other potential relationships that individuals in recovery may wish to mend. These may include relationships with sponsors, teachers, coaches, coworkers or bosses.

Rebuilding Trust in Yourself

Trusting yourself in recovery is one of the greatest challenges. Substance use disorders can leave lasting impressions that can cause someone to lose their self-esteem, motivation and sense of purpose. Feelings of self-doubt and inadequacy can exacerbate difficulties during recovery. Individuals must remain intensely dedicated to their recovery by having a support system that can help them through turbulent times.

One way people hinder their own recovery is through internalizing a victim mentality. The underlying reasons why a person may feel victimized are often complex. Generally, individuals may blame others for their own predicament, even if they are the cause of their own problems. It is important to practice building self-esteem in recovery.

Forgive yourself for past mistakes and committing to adopting healthier habits is a huge step toward healing. If you continue to focus on how others have wronged you, where you fall short, or your past mistakes, then you may continue to be distracted from opportunities for building trust in recovery. Replacing old habits with new, positive habits and thoughts can go a long way in establishing constructive routines. For example, going for a morning walk in nature can help you devote time for self-reflection in your day.

Rebuilding Trust With Friends

Rebuilding trust in a friendship requires a great deal of honesty. Having support and friends in recovery can be extremely beneficial to a person’s growth and ability to abstain from drugs or alcohol in the future. Friendships, like any other relationship, need to be nurtured. Once lies and deceit enter a friendship, it can quickly disintegrate, leaving those involved with a great deal of hurt and frustration.

Addiction creates wedges between friends because in an attempt to hide addiction, lies are created to cover it up. When trying to figure out how to rebuild trust with someone you hurt, taking responsibility for your actions is of the utmost importance. Second, acknowledging wrongdoings when talking to a friend can go a long way. Third, apologizing and moving forward, even if a friend decides not to repair their relationship with you, is necessary.

Rebuilding Trust With Family

Rebuilding trust and repairing relationships with family can take months or even years. Relationships may never be fully repaired. Remaining patient and dedicated to repairing and nurturing a “new” relationship with family or loved ones can make a difference in how the relationships are mended.

The importance of family support in recovery cannot be overstated. If you have a family that has been supportive throughout the recovery process, taking time to acknowledge and thank them for their support can reinforce the positive changes that have taken place and the progress that everyone has made.

Research suggests that family support is a crucial part of a person’s recovery. The same way that addiction can destroy friendships, it can also impact relationships with loved ones. Family members may lose trust because of lies to cover up your addiction, for example. When building trust in recovery, honesty should be the guiding principle. Openly expressing to loved ones how you plan on repairing the relationship with them is the first step. Following through on promises is the second step. Drug addiction recovery is a lifelong process for most people. Continuing to make efforts toward mending relationships with family will be beneficial in the long run.

Rebuilding Trust With Your Spouse

Rebuilding trust in a marriage can be complex, especially during recovery. Professional family or marriage therapists are available to help navigate and coach people in recovery on how to rebuild trust with their spouse or partner. Addiction may drastically change how one partner views the other. With professional help, conversations about what it means to be in a relationship with someone in recovery can be a learning experience for both parties. Repairing relationships with a spouse is important for the same reasons as rebuilding relationships with family members. Having an adequate support system can ease stress and pressure during recovery.

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Editor – Melissa Carmona
Melissa Carmona puts years of writing and editing experience to work helping people understand substance abuse, addiction and mental health disorders. Read more
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Medically Reviewed By – Eric Patterson, LPC
Eric Patterson is a licensed professional counselor in the Pittsburgh area who is dedicated to helping children, adults, and families meet their treatment goals. Read more

Atadokht, Akbar; Hajloo, Nader; Masoud, Karimi; Narimani, Mohammad. “The Role of Family Expressed Emotion and[…]g Addiction Relapse.” March 2015. Accessed September 20, 2019.

Medical Disclaimer

The Recovery Village aims to improve the quality of life for people struggling with substance use or mental health disorder with fact-based content about the nature of behavioral health conditions, treatment options and their related outcomes. We publish material that is researched, cited, edited and reviewed by licensed medical professionals. The information we provide is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. It should not be used in place of the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare providers.