How Does a Family Help the Addict?
Addiction does not just affect the addict; it affects their entire circle of people, especially family members who are trying to help.
Regaining trust can be difficult and daunting, even after you have successfully completed treatment and continue to progress. You may be anxious to get things back to normal with family and friends. The question of “when” may be concerning you. If your loved ones don’t seem particularly trusting it can be disappointing. Below are some ideas and insights on how long it may take to regain trust.
Try not to expect too much, too soon. If that discourages you, don’t let it. Although your family and friends may support you, it is natural for them to have concerns about you relapsing and all that it entails. If you had the support of your loved ones while in treatment, they probably understand the cycle of addiction and may have concerns about the possibility of relapse. Give them the space that they need, especially if they are asking for it. Instead of feeling rejected, take this time alone to practice self-care. Detachment can be a time of growth. Also, try not to put time constraints and limits on when you think your loved ones should trust you again. There are no hard and fast rules. If you put a time limit on things and you don’t get the results that you think you should, this may cause tension and misunderstanding. Depending upon your particular situation, the time needed for regaining trust will vary.
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Make an attempt to look at the situation from the perspective of your family and friends. If a great deal of grief and/or loss was present when you were actively using, this may affect how long the process takes. Realize that emotional healing takes time. Regaining trust can be similar to the grieving process, and this process takes time. The length of time it takes to get through each step also may vary widely. Negative concepts may have been formed about you while you were using. Your family and friends may feel like you have to earn that trust back. Looking at things from their perspective may help you stay grounded. Part of staying grounded is understanding how people may view you. You don’t have to personalize those viewpoints, just accept them for what they are. Realize that the more growth they see, the more comfortable they will feel in trusting you. Remember that your family and friends were also affected by your addiction.
Engaging in arguments and becoming defensive can be signs that you are being overly emotional and overly sensitive, which may have negatively impacted your relationships when you were actively using. Also, negative emotions are very often triggers. The more control you have over your emotions, the better. Your loved ones will be looking for signs of growth, and they will be wary of any growth if they see too much drama. When you feel yourself becoming defensive or about to argue, tell yourself to “stop,” take a breath, and either continue speaking calmly or walk away. This will show your loved ones that positive changes have occurred.
You may feel obligated to prove yourself. Trying to prove yourself can be a futile waste of energy. Instead, tell yourself that you have made some mistakes, and go on about your life as best you can. Do this by using all of the coping strategies that you have mastered from treatment. Every day that you remain clean will speak volumes. The energy you spend trying to prove yourself is energy that you can use to grow emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Try to focus on being positive and doing positive things. Apologize for any wrongs you may have committed, either in word or deed, and then correct them if possible. Sometimes, positive action is all the proof that people need.
The reality is that you can’t force anyone to think, feel, or believe anything. Let people be where they are, and practice acceptance. One way of doing this is to think back to when you were in treatment and recall things that you learned to help you stay grounded. This can come from some of the things you read and learned about while in treatment. Examples are thinking or reciting the Serenity Prayer or any other motivational reading or lessons that helped you to stay positive while in treatment.
Having support outside of your network of friends and family is crucial. Make sure you maintain relationships with those that understand your struggles, such as your sponsor. A therapist who specializes in substance abuse can help you when you need to vent and problem-solve. Seeing a therapist can also help you keep your perspective and keep you from having unrealistic expectations. It’s important to remember to be your own advocate. Believe in yourself and the progress that you have made. Your self-confidence will shine when you believe in yourself.
The adage, “time heals,” has survived because it’s true. Although you may not be able to put a number on how long it will take before your loved ones trust you again, know that it will happen. Be positive. Stay on track. Realize each success will show that you can be trusted, and know how sweet that trust will be. You will know once you regain the trust of your loved ones, and you will not want to do anything to lose it.
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