One of the common issues facing us in early recovery is the lack of trust and respect from others in our lives, whether family, friends or employers. While some — especially family — are often willing to accept our new, sober selves and welcome us back into the fold, there will always be some who find themselves unable to trust, and others who will continue to think of us as they did when we were active in our addictions — as worthless drunks and junkies.
And why shouldn’t they? Compared to the chaos that we created when we were using, and the length of time involved, why should a few weeks or months of new found sobriety impress them? Most of us used for years, eroding the trust and often respect of practically everyone around us. How many unkept promises, how many financial fiascoes, how many drunken escapades, how much despair, worry and heartache did it take to damage those relationships?
That being the case, it’s not the least bit surprising that it might take quite a while for folks to trust us, and to see that we really are trying to do the next right thing. The remains of our addict personalities (which certainly don’t disappear simply because we put down booze and/or other drugs) don’t help the situation, either. Defenses built up over years against our behavior can’t be expected to disappear overnight. If we were in their positions, we’d behave the same way.
So, what can we do about it? Simply continue to live our sober lives. The only way that we can reasonably expect others to begin trust and respect us again is by earning that respect and trust — the same way anyone else would — by showing ourselves to be worthy of it. This doesn’t happen overnight, just as it wouldn’t with a stranger that we happened to meet. We would watch that person, trusting them a little more each day, until we came to consider them a friend we could count on. Is it not reasonable to expect that the same would be true of people who knew and were affected by us in our addictions? Where we have no reason but caution to be leery of strangers, those folks have plenty of reasons to worry about us. Most will get over it in time; others may never feel the same way about us as they used to. If that is the case, and if we have been unable to repair the relationships despite our best efforts, then we have to accept that things may never be the same. That can be painful, but we have to live with what is, not with what we might wish it to be. We need to remember that while we are responsible for making amends and righting wrongs to the extent that we can, we are not responsible for the way that others react to our efforts.
So we stay sober. We take care of our recovery by sticking with our support groups and doing what we need to do. Then we get jobs, pay bills, go back to school, carry out our obligations to our families and others, and generally live trustworthy lives that command respect. This isn’t going to happen overnight — but the chances are good that it won’t take nearly as long to regain people’s regard as it did to damage it to begin with. Remember – they want to give us the same regard they used to, they’re just afraid to. It’s up to us to prove that it’s safe for them to do so.
It’s amazing how we often get what we are looking for in recovery, simply by living clean and sober, one day at a time.
Hi Bill, Great post. Time is the only way to properly get back the trust that others have in you. Especially if there’s a long list of broken promises behind you and you’ve shredded just about any level of trust that people had in you before. But, though it may take a long time to get back, it may never get back to a good level. I’d say that you have to remember that you’re doing this for you, this is about you becoming a better you, staying sober, keeping clean, and a bonus is that people start to trust you again. James