December 27, 2023

Rebuilding Trust and Relationships in Recovery

This article guides those who are struggling to forgive an addict in their lives. We explore the challenges of rebuilding trust and relationships in recovery.

rebuilding trust with loved ones in recovery

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

Contributors & Editors

Julie Miller

Addiction & Mental Health Writer

Last Update on December 28, 2023

grief and loss signs and symptoms

Let us help you start your journey to recovery.

Get compassionate evidence- based and trauma focused substance abuse treatment in Arizona.



Watching a loved one begin the process of recovery from addiction is characterized by a mixed rollercoaster of emotions, so how do you go about forgiving an addict? 

This article offers guidance for those who are in the process of forgiving an addict in their lives.

understanding addiction

Understanding Addiction and Dispelling Stigma

Recognizing Addiction as a Brain Disorder

Understanding addiction as more than just a behavioral issue is crucial; it is a profound brain disorder that fundamentally alters the brain’s chemistry and function.1

This condition significantly impacts the brain’s reward system, altering how pleasure and reward are processed and understood.

Substances like alcohol, opioids, and nicotine dramatically influence this system, leading to the compulsive behaviors that are characteristic of addiction.

These substances can rewire the brain, affecting critical functions like decision-making, learning, and memory.

Recognizing addiction as a brain disorder is pivotal—it shifts the narrative from blame to empathy, countering the addiction stigma and acknowledging that addiction is not a moral failing.

Instead, it’s a health issue that demands medical intervention and a compassionate, understanding approach.

Dispelling Myths and Confronting Stigma

The stigma surrounding addiction is often rooted in myths and misconceptions that can hinder effective recovery.

Commonly held beliefs, such as the notion that addiction is purely a choice or a sign of moral weakness, are not only incorrect but also harmful.

These misconceptions contribute to feelings of shame and isolation in those struggling with addiction and can deter them from seeking the help they need.

Actively confronting and dispelling these myths is vital in addressing addiction stigma.

This involves educating society about the true nature of addiction, highlighting its status as a complex health condition that transcends all socio-economic and cultural boundaries.

By debunking these stereotypes, we actively work towards creating a more understanding and supportive environment for those on the path to recovery.

Here are some common MYTHS vs FACTS:

Myth Fact
Addiction is a choice. Addiction is a chronic disease that alters brain structure and function, leading to compulsive behaviors beyond an individual’s voluntary control.
Addiction is just a lack of willpower. Addiction is a complex brain disorder, not merely a matter of willpower.
Addicts can stop if they really want to. Recovery requires more than desire; it often needs medical intervention and continuous support.
Addiction only affects certain types of people. Addiction can affect individuals from all walks of life, regardless of background or status.
Treatment for addiction is usually unsuccessful. Many effective treatments are available, and recovery is a realistic goal for many people.
Prescription drugs are safe and aren’t addictive. Even prescription drugs can be addictive and should be used only as directed by a healthcare professional.

Childhood and Environmental Risk Factors

The Influence of Early Life Experiences

Childhood and environmental factors play a critical role in shaping an individual’s risk for addiction later in life.

The study “Identifying Early Risk Factors for Addiction Later in Life: a Review of Prospective Longitudinal Studies” by Morales et al. (2019) offers significant insights into how early life experiences contribute to this risk.2

It highlights the role of externalizing and internalizing symptoms, early substance use, and environmental influences such as parental behavior and traumatic experiences.

These factors are crucial in understanding the developmental pathways that can lead to addiction.

For instance, children who exhibit externalizing behaviors (like aggression) or internalizing symptoms (such as anxiety or depression) may be more susceptible to substance abuse as they seek ways to cope with these challenges.

The Impact of Childhood Behaviors on Opioid Use

Another vital piece of research, “Prevalence and Childhood Precursors of Opioid Use in the Early Decades of Life” by Shanahan et al. (2020), sheds light on the specific links between childhood behaviors and later opioid use.3

The study underscores the connection between early tobacco use and depression in childhood with subsequent opioid and heroin use.

This association emphasizes the long-term impact of early experiences and behaviors on the development of substance use disorders.

Understanding these precursors is vital for developing targeted prevention and intervention strategies that address the root causes of opioid addiction.

Childhood Abuse and Household Dysfunction

The study “Adverse Childhood Experience Effects on opioid use initiation, Injection Drug Use, and Overdose among Persons with opioid use disorder” by Stein et al. (2017) explores another critical aspect of early risk factors.4

It reveals the profound impact of childhood abuse and household dysfunction on the risk of later addiction.

The study finds a significant correlation between adverse childhood experiences and the development of serious addiction issues, including alcoholism, drug abuse, depression, and suicide attempts.

This evidence highlights the need for early interventions that provide support and protection for children in adverse environments, potentially mitigating the risk of addiction in later life.

The Perspective of the Recovering Addict

Challenges and Emotions in Recovery

The journey of recovery from addiction is laden with both challenges and profound emotional upheavals.

Individuals in this phase often grapple with a complex mix of guilt, shame, hope, and fear.

The guilt and shame usually stem from their past actions under the influence of addiction, whereas hope and fear are tied to their prospects of recovery and the potential of relapse.

Navigating through these emotions is an integral part of the healing process.

It requires personal resilience and a supportive network to understand the emotional turmoil.

Recognizing and working through these feelings is important for proper healing and recovery, making it a deeply personal and transformative experience.

Understanding the Recovering Individual’s Perspective

Understanding the perspective of someone in recovery is crucial in the process of rebuilding trust.

Trust, once broken, can be one of the hardest things to regain, and it’s even more challenging in the context of addiction.

The recovering individual’s actions during their addiction can leave deep scars in relationships.

For trust to be rebuilt, loved ones and support networks need to understand the struggles that come with recovery.

This understanding fosters empathy, patience, and the proper support for mending strained relationships.

Recognizing the courage it takes to overcome addiction and the effort involved in staying sober can help in appreciating their journey, thus paving the way for rebuilding trust and restoring relationships.

The Importance of Empathy in Addressing Addiction

Empathy is pivotal in transforming societal attitudes towards addiction, playing a key role in rebuilding trust in recovery.

It’s about looking beyond the addiction to see the person affected, recognizing their struggles, fears, and inherent humanity.

This empathetic approach is essential for understanding addiction in its true complexity.

Offering empathy means providing understanding and support without judgment, fostering a safe space where individuals feel comfortable expressing their struggles and seeking help.

It also involves open communication—engaging in honest dialogues about addiction, actively listening to those affected by it, and validating their experiences and efforts towards recovery.

By nurturing empathy, we not only facilitate the recovery process but also contribute significantly to mending and strengthening damaged relationships.

Doing so creates a more supportive and nurturing environment conducive to healing and personal growth.

Supporting Your Loved One in Recovery

Balancing Support and Avoiding Enabling

Supporting a loved one in recovery from addiction requires a careful balance aimed at providing constructive help while avoiding enabling addictive behaviors.

It’s a pivotal part of the process of rebuilding trust in recovery.

Understanding that well-intentioned enabling can, in fact, prolong or worsen the addiction is crucial.

This often happens when protective actions prevent the individual from facing the consequences of their actions.

Effective support involves encouraging personal responsibility in the recovery journey, such as regular attendance at therapy sessions or support group meetings.

It’s about empowering the individual in their path to recovery rather than inadvertently facilitating a return to addictive behaviors.

Setting and maintaining clear boundaries is also essential.

This approach not only aids in preventing enabling but also reinforces the process of rebuilding trust and supporting the person in a way that genuinely fosters their recovery.

Communication and Patience in Recovery

Communication and patience cannot be overstated in the context of recovery.

Open, honest, and empathetic communication is the foundation of effective support.

It involves actively listening to your loved one, expressing your concerns in a non-judgmental manner, and acknowledging their efforts and struggles.

Patience is equally important, as recovery is a non-linear process with its share of setbacks and triumphs.

It’s vital to understand that rebuilding trust and healing takes time.

Being patient and maintaining open lines of communication can significantly ease the recovery process, making it more manageable and less daunting for your loved one.

setting and maintaining healthy boundaries

Setting and Maintaining Healthy Boundaries

Importance of Healthy Boundaries in Recovery

Setting healthy boundaries is a crucial aspect of the recovery process for both the individual battling addiction and their family members. These boundaries help to define the limits of acceptable behavior and responsibilities, creating a safe and structured environment conducive to recovery. For the person in recovery, boundaries can act as guiding principles that aid in resisting temptations and maintaining focus on their recovery goals. Boundaries are essential for family members to protect their emotional well-being and prevent enabling behaviors. Establishing these limits fosters a sense of respect and understanding within the family dynamic, which is vital for a healthy and supportive recovery environment.

Establishing and Upholding Boundaries

Offering practical advice on establishing and maintaining boundaries begins with open communication about the needs and expectations of the recovering individual and their family members. It’s essential to have a clear and honest discussion about what behaviors are acceptable and what consequences will follow if boundaries are crossed. Consistency is key in enforcing these boundaries; they should be applied fairly and regularly to be effective. Family members should also set boundaries to avoid burnout and ensure they are not sacrificing their well-being. These might include setting aside time for self-care or seeking support from external sources like support groups. Maintaining these boundaries requires a continuous effort and may need adjustments as the recovery process evolves. Still, they serve as a foundation for building a stable and supportive environment conducive to long-term recovery.
Here are some examples of healthy boundaries that can be useful for someone in recovery, presented in the table below:
Examples of Healthy Boundaries in Recovery
1. Encourage independence and personal responsibility for recovery activities, like attending meetings or therapy sessions.
2. Respect their need for privacy and personal space while being available for support.
3. Communicate openly and honestly, avoiding enabling behaviors.
4. Establish limits on financial support to avoid dependency.
5. Be clear about your own emotional and physical boundaries to maintain a healthy relationship.
6. Expect and accept that the recovery journey may have ups and downs.
7. Promote and support healthy habits and lifestyles.
8. Refrain from covering up or making excuses for their addictive behaviors.
9. Recognize and respect the boundaries they set for themselves.

Rebuilding Trust Over Time

Strategies for Gradually Rebuilding Trust

Supporting a loved one in recovery from addiction requires a careful balance aimed at providing constructive help while avoiding enabling addictive behaviors.

It’s a pivotal part of the process of rebuilding trust in recovery.

Understanding that well-intentioned enabling can, in fact, prolong or worsen the addiction is crucial.

This often happens when protective actions prevent the individual from facing the consequences of their actions.

Effective support involves encouraging personal responsibility in the recovery journey, such as regular attendance at therapy sessions or support group meetings.

It’s about empowering the individual in their path to recovery rather than inadvertently facilitating a return to addictive behaviors.

Setting and maintaining clear boundaries is also essential.

This approach not only aids in preventing enabling but also reinforces the process of rebuilding trust and supporting the person in a way that genuinely fosters their recovery.

Understanding the Time-Intensive Nature of Trust Recovery

Recognizing that the process of rebuilding trust in recovery inherently demands time and patience is fundamental.

Trust, particularly when fractured by the challenges of addiction, cannot be mended overnight.

This journey of trust recovery is one that typically involves both parties, often supported by counseling or therapy, as they collaboratively work towards healing.

Understanding and accepting potential setbacks is vital; they are a natural part of the recovery and trust-building journey.

During this period, family members and friends need to manage their expectations, practice the art of forgiving an addict, and allow the necessary space and time for the individual in recovery to demonstrate their commitment to change.

This approach of understanding, coupled with ongoing support and open communication, fosters a nurturing environment conducive to recovery.

It acknowledges the intricacies involved in rebuilding trust after addiction.

The journey requires patience, perseverance, and a consistent dedication to trust-building behaviors, all of which are integral to gradually restoring a robust, healthy, and trusting relationship.

The following table outlines a structured approach to rebuilding trust, with each step demonstrating key milestones and actions in the journey of recovery and relationship healing:

Steps to Rebuild Trust: A Timeline Guide

1. Acknowledgment of Past Behaviors:

The recovering individual acknowledges past mistakes and their impact on relationships.

2. Sincere Apology:

A heartfelt apology is given, showing remorse and understanding of the harm caused.

3. Demonstrating Change Through Actions:

Consistent and positive behaviors are shown over time, proving a commitment to change.

4. Transparent Communication:

Maintaining honest and open communication to build trust and transparency.

5. Setting and Respecting Boundaries:

Establishing healthy boundaries mutually agreed upon and respected.

6. Creating Positive New Experiences:

Engaging in activities together that foster positive interactions and memories.

7. Practicing Patience:

Recognizing that rebuilding trust takes time and showing patience throughout the process.

8. Working Towards Forgiveness:

Moving towards forgiving past actions and understanding that this is a key step in healing.

9. Reflecting on Progress:

Regularly reflecting on the progress made in rebuilding trust and learning from the journey.

10. Continuous Support and Encouragement:

Providing ongoing support and encouragement, acknowledging that recovery is a continuous journey.

forgiving and moving forward

Forgiving an Addict and Moving Forward

The Process of Forgiveness in Recovery

Forgiving an addict is a critical element in the journey of recovery, both for individuals overcoming addiction and for their loved ones.

This process entails a deliberate choice to release resentment and anger, a step that can be challenging, especially in light of the deep wounds caused by past actions.

Despite its difficulty, forgiveness is crucial for emotional healing in the context of recovery.

Forgiveness is the act of letting go of negative emotions that could hinder the recovery process.

It’s vital to understand that forgiving an addict does not equate to forgetting or excusing their harmful behaviors.

Instead, it represents a significant step in liberating oneself from the burden of past hurts and moving forward.

By embracing forgiveness, both the individuals in recovery and their loved ones can alleviate the emotional turmoil that often accompanies addiction.

This act of forgiveness lays a critical foundation for the process of rebuilding trust, an essential component in healing and restoring relationships affected by addiction.

Rebuilding Relationships Through Forgiveness

Forgiveness plays a pivotal role in repairing and fortifying relationships impacted by addiction.

It is an integral component of rebuilding trust in recovery, symbolizing the readiness to begin afresh and move beyond past transgressions.

Extending forgiveness to someone who has repeatedly broken trust is undoubtedly a profound challenge, necessitating considerable strength and deep empathy.

However, this act of forgiving can be transformative, opening the door to relationships that are more honest, open, and infused with compassion.

In creating a space for forgiveness, we facilitate an environment where healing is possible.

It allows the individual in recovery to feel genuinely supported and understood, an essential aspect of their journey towards wellness.

Ultimately, forgiveness is not just a personal gesture but a fundamental element of collective healing.

It lays the groundwork for building healthier, more resilient relationships, pivotal in the shared journey of rebuilding trust after the trials of addiction.

Embracing a Future of Understanding and Healing

The journey of rebuilding trust and nurturing relationships post-addiction is replete with challenges, yet it also presents numerous opportunities for growth.

This path casts light on understanding addiction not merely as a behavioral issue but as a complex brain disorder deeply influenced by childhood experiences and environmental factors.

In the recovery process, it’s crucial to establish healthy boundaries, practice patience, engage in effective communication, and embrace the act of forgiving an addict.

Extending empathy and consistent support to those grappling with the intricacies of recovery is essential.

This path, though demanding, is invaluable for profound healing and personal development.

By continually offering understanding and support, we play a significant role in the wellness journey of our loved ones in recovery, thereby strengthening the bonds we share.

Let this journey be a testament to hope, resilience, and the indomitable strength of the human spirit, especially in the face of addiction’s challenges.

It’s a process that underscores the importance of rebuilding trust in recovery and forging stronger, more meaningful relationships in the wake of adversity.


Cornerstone Healing Center, located in Arizona, focuses on holistic healing as a key approach in addiction treatment, aiming for lasting recovery.

Our center specializes in treating various types of drug addictions, offering a range of programs and levels of care tailored to individual needs.

If you’re seeking a path to wellness that’s customized to your unique journey, reach out to us today to start your transformative journey!

Share this Article


Author & Reviewers

julie miller recovery writer and author
Julie is a recovery advocate, with over two years sober. She is a recovery speaker who believes people can change for the better. Her mission is to write factual, helpful information about addiction, treatment, and recovery. She believes that no one should be left in the dark about the process at any stage of their recovery.
lionel estrada lisac clinical director

Lionel is the Clinical Director of Cornerstone’s treatment facilities in Arizona. He has had over 4 years at Cornerstone. He is personally in recovery and passionate about helping others overcome substance abuse and mental health challenges, he is trained as an EMDR, adopting a trauma-informed approach to treat the underlying issues of conditions.

More From Our Resources

Virtual Intensive Outpatient for Neurodivergent People

Virtual Intensive Outpatient for Neurodivergent People

Virtual intensive outpatient is a new way to get the treatment you need without leaving the house! It can even…
The Benefits of Online Drug Rehab

The Benefits of Online Drug Rehab

When you’re in the grips of addiction, it can feel like there’s no way out. The guilt, the secrecy, the…
Does Having a DUI Affect a Nursing License?

Does Having a DUI Affect a Nursing License?

Does a DUI affect a nursing license? A DUI, or driving under the influence, can have serious consequences for your…
Is a DUI and DWI the same thing?

Is a DUI and DWI the same thing?

Is a DUI and DWI the same thing? While these acronyms are frequently used together, they can have distinctly different legal…