We, the addicted ones in your lives–parents, lovers, children, friends–we know how hard it is to feel trust for us. By the time we enter recovery, we’ve done many things that make it unwise to trust us without caution. We’ve probably lied, stolen, broken promises and spun webs of partial truths to feed either our addiction or our denial. Often, you gave us the benefit of the doubt and we took advantage of it.
Sometimes we’re really eager for you to start trusting us again after we get clean and sober. We’re sincerely sorry for the things we’ve done, and we really want you to understand that we have changed (for real this time) and it’s going to be better now. The hope and enthusiasm we might be feeling about our program make us want to charge out there and fix everything, right away.
Some of us learn the hard way that patience is wise at this point, and not simply because the chances of relapse are high in the early months of recovery. We learn that showering you with rosy promises and apologies is one of the worst things we can do right now. We learn that, painful as it is, we just need to keep our heads down and work our program without trying to control the timetable of your feelings.
Perhaps our pride gets hurt by the lack of trust coming our way as we rack up more precious months or even years. “Don’t they see how hard I’m working?” we might grouse to ourselves in a not-so-spiritual moment. “How much I’ve changed? What more do they want from me?” But if we follow the advice given to us by those in long-term recovery, we tolerate these feelings and keep working. We practice patience some more, and as we grow spiritually we come to understand that nobody owes us trust. Or respect, or a loan, or a place to live, or a relationship, for that matter.
These things are gifts. When, or if, you choose to give any of them to the addicted one in your life is for you to choose. To choose free from fear or pressure or manipulation. If we try to manipulate you–for example, by implying that our recovery might be in danger if we don’t get what we “need” from you–you don’t have to give in. Make your choices as well as you can, hopefully without bitterness but with strength and care for yourselves. Know that our recovery is our responsibility, no matter what.
No, really, no matter what. If we are truly committed to our recovery, our behavior will continue to show it whether we are happy about your current behavior or not.
Perhaps all has been going well, and you are considering letting us back into a higher level of your confidence in some way. You worry and wonder about whether you are making the right decision: how can you be sure we won’t relapse? Dare you risk being hurt again? How much time in recovery is enough to make trust safe? A year? Two? Five? How can you know?
If we are humble and truthful, we will acknowledge to you that there is no absolute guarantee against relapse, only the hope and faith that if we continue to do what has been working we will continue to reap the benefits. Perhaps we’ll join with you in crafting conditions for our new association, or agreeing to an action plan in case of relapse.
We wish we had the power to make things easier for you. If we could reach in and rip this monster called addiction out of our bodies and minds and souls, we’d do it, no matter how much it hurt. It would be worth the pain to be able to look into your eyes and swear, with confidence, that we will never, ever hurt you again.
But we can’t.
We have a condition that can be arrested, but not cured.
We have a condition that requires regular treatment.
We have a condition that has killed millions and destroyed the lives of hundreds of millions.
Long-term recovery can bring us, and you, the gifts that come with a life free from active addiction. Your trust can grow, and the mending of past hurts might even help build a deeper and richer relationship. But there will always be a tiny corner of your mind that watches us. That evaluates anything not ringing true. That is alert for signs of trouble.
And that, unfortunately, is as it should be.