How do you learn to trust again after being lied to over and over about drinking and doing drugs?

ask-a-professional
relationship

#1

Need advice on trust issues. My husband struggles with addiction: alcohol & pills. Been sober for a little over a year this time and is doing great. We started the sobriety journey 5 years ago and he was sober for nearly 2 years. Then I started finding the hidden bottles & other things around the house and it eventually turned back into full blown drinking & drugging. My problem is that he has lied to me so many times in the past, that I still get those feelings that he is hiding things from me and I will start to look for stuff. In the past I would find things, but not lately. This does not rule my every day, just some times when I think I see signs. Some times I will just ask him to hear him say no, and I believe him but he says it’s the worst thing I can do. It’s so hard to let go of years of lies and mistrust. Time has made it easier & I know I have no control, it’s all on him. Thanks for any insight


#2

This used to rule me! I know that feeling. And I know what you mean about as things get better they start to fall away but it’s easy to be triggered - something seems off - a signal! And then once again we’re searching, awareness is heightened.

I have two ideas here: celebrating the wins and time.

  1. keep drawing attention to the wins (can be small - making the bed, taking out the trash - things that he didn’t used to do but now can again) so that they increasingly help shift your intuitive reactions to the situation.
  2. not a quick fix but know that over time, he’ll regain your trust - 1 action at a time

Don’t beat yourself up over not being as trusting as you might like. It will come as it’s earned back, and it takes a while for that to happen given the trust that was broken was done in such a painful way for you both.

Being open with your loved one about your own scars can help too. I remember one night I got very angry and emotional - completely out of proportion and it took me painfully explaining why it had come out that way for my loved one to understand the pain I had been through and give me allowances for overreacting today in a situation that didn’t warrant it - but we’ve come through insane times so we get to be a little irrational too. I think.


#3

It can be difficult to navigate the topic/idea of trust once it has been broken, however, for every mile walked into the woods we need to walk a mile back out. By saying this, I mean that although the trust may seem broken at the moment, by engaging with our loved ones in a positive and healthy way we can all work together to both rebuild trust, and simultaneously encourage them to make positive changes. It’s important to keep in mind that when our loved ones are in active addiction, their decision making can be impaired due to the impact of substances on how the brain functions. One thing to think about is one area that you know you can trust your loved one in, for example, even though my loved one is breaking my trust by breaking curfew, I know I can trust in them to make me laugh if I’m feeling down. If you can identify areas of trust that exist, you can work on areas of trust that need improvement.

One tip that I have used in the past and have found very useful regarding asking and getting feedback that asking is “the worst thing” we could do:

  • Have a conversation with your loved one when you know they are sober and doing great, or are in a good state of mind to have open and honest communication. Let them know that you are very proud of them and are here to support them. Then state the realistic fact that you are going to have concerns in the future and may see red flags that could be concerning, and potentially indicate return to use. Ask your loved one how they would want to be approached about these concerns if they come up, and share how you imagine yourself approaching them. Work on finding a common ground that works for both of you.

Certainly you are not alone in your concerns regarding trusting your loved one struggling with substance use so I wonder, how have others navigated rebuilding trust?


#4

You give them a little rope and over time they surprise you! 3years into recovery I still get a tight feeling in my stomach when he stays later somewhere but now more often than not he surprises me by not going down the paths he’s been down before. It takes time but the old distrust is replaced with new admiration and reason to believe in change oh and love.