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I Want to Trust Him Again, But…

Flower in hands - trust

An Allies member’s son is returning from rehab. Mom wonders how she will manage to get past all of the distrust that has built up from his stealing, lying, hiding… Will she be able to trust again?

This post originally appeared on our Member Site blog, where experts respond to members’ questions and concerns. Take advantage of our current special offer today and get full access to Allies in Recovery’s eLearning program. Details here.


“Our almost 18-year-old son is about to be discharged from a rehab after a little more than 5 weeks. He has been working hard and his relapse prevention plan looks good. I know this “re-entry” period is critical. I want to give him credit for the work he has done and show faith in his ability to succeed.

My stumbling block is in my (in)ability to trust him, specifically because he clearly engaged in illegal activities while actively using. He also broke into lock boxes at home and took our car/using my credit card without permission. Things began to appear around our home that he has no good explanation for (multiple watches, various electronics, an xbox, as well as stray pieces of silver, etc). He may even have stolen from friends.

I’m also very nervous about the temptation for him to re-engage with whatever crowd he was mixed up with. Do you have any advice to help us move forward? “

Dominique Simon-Levine encourages this mother to be patient, as difficult as this may be

There is no other disease, with the exception of some mental illnesses, that have such a large and negative lifestyle component. We often hear how a substance disorder is like diabetes, a chronic disease that demands a lifetime of attention. Well, it’s not exactly like diabetes. Diabetes wouldn’t have you stealing from your parents or others, joining a network of people who get along by doing harm, lying, and/or tricking well-meaning family members into meeting their drug needs.

The behaviors of someone who has come to exist for a substance can be terribly hard to accept. Imagine water were illegal and scarce. What wouldn’t you do to satisfy your thirst? The line over which you would step is remarkably thin. Once crossed, and once you’ve found what you were so desperately seeking, the action taken to get that water to satisfy your thirst becomes deeply reinforced.


To trust again is a process

When someone has broken your trust, that process of completely trusting again will take time to build back, perhaps years.

You can love someone and not fully trust them. This has got to be okay for now.

Ask your son to be honest and open with you if/when something happens that makes you feel mistrustful. Explain that this is for you as much as it is for him. Describe what it feels like to not trust him and how you want trust to be restored between you.

Your son has spent time being dishonest in his actions and his interactions. He will falter going forward. Can you let the little things slide? Let him stumble some. Walk away when you see it? Be sparing in the incidents that you choose to bring up with him. Make addressing them with him count. Be calm, loving, and curious….here’s an example:

“I need to ask you about last night. Every bone in my body tells me you weren’t where you claim to have been. I want you to know we are working on recovery together, both yours and mine. Help me to understand what happened last night because my distrust of you right now is physically hurting me. Honesty right now is what I need.”

If you find yourself unable to exist within these shifts in trust, perhaps a little family counseling will help.


He’ll need to gradually change his old usual and gain back your trust

You also speak about your fear that your son will be led back out towards active addiction and bad behaviors by his old friends. This is indeed a concern going forward. People in AA talk about the need to change people, places, and things (that’s all). Peer supports like NA can provide a replacement community for those friends. You can’t take away old friends without replacing that vital human need for friendship and companionship. The groups at the partial hospitalization program and self-help meetings can be a lifeline for friendship, as well as a source of positive new recovery messages and ideas.

Is there a young peoples’ NA meeting? Is there a young peoples’ AA meeting? Lots of people with drug problems are sitting in AA. AA can be more established in some communities and have more people in meetings who have longer periods of recovery. Opening yourself to AA as well can provide your son more options for meeting young people.

I spent some time a couple years back introducing my niece to AA. We found this huge young peoples’ meeting in a church basement in Boston that became her home group. I had never experienced that kind of energy. Young men from south Boston, with their shaved heads and tattoos, speaking of love and the message of recovery. The strength and maturity of those young people was truly amazing. Don’t get me wrong, I was a little concerned about leaving her there, the energy felt like a cross between a cruise bar and church…it took your breath away to walk in. She did well and got up the courage to go back, again and again and she stayed sober. Her drug of choice was opiates and benzodiazepines.


Adopting the CRAFT stance cultivates rebuilding trust

It is so good to hear your son chose to enter treatment and completed it. Not many 18-year-olds do that. He has his aftercare plan and a family who loves and supports him. The road will likely still be a little bumpy. The eLearning modules on our member site describe a stance by the family that is loving, supportive, flexible, patient, and educated about addiction. You get off their coat tails and let them twist and turn some, feeling the responsibility of their own actions; you don’t hover. Focus on yourself and your needs as much as you can and find the things you enjoy doing.

Thank you for writing in. Regaining trust and the importance of friendship are important topics. We really are going to find an audio of thundering applause that you can click on to play ….


Yes, the family DOES have a role to play. Your stance, behavior, and choices DO make a difference. At Allies in Recovery we are absolutely convinced of this. “Tough love” is not a successful technique. Our learning platform is set up to help family members learn the techniques that will reduce conflict, build that bridge of communication, and be effective in guiding your loved one into treatment. Together we will move your loved one towards recovery. Learn more here.


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