Feb 24, 2015 | By Tim Stoddart

7 Step Process To Regaining Trust In Recovery


7-steps tor rebuilding trust

Drug addicts lose things. It’s just what happens.

They lose money, they lose weight, they lose jobs, they lose freedom. From time to time, they will even lose their drugs. We all remember tearing our rooms and our cars apart for that little baggie that was just on our lap. The struggle is real…

At the end of the road, almost every drug addict will lose trust. Losing trust is possibly the most painful loss of all. It’s agonizing, knowing that your family hides their valuables before you come over, or hearing the tone in your mothers voice when you tell her you will do something for her and she just doesn’t believe you. It fills you with guilt and shame.

Trust is never taken, it is always earned. It’s one of the few Universal truths. It will always be this way, and because we are unable to take or steal trust, it makes it even harder to regain. There are no short cuts when rebuilding relationships.

I have spent a long time putting this together in my head. Together, we came up with a 7 step plan in rebuilding trust. If you want to earn someones trust back, and you are willing to earn it, then follow us.

Step One – First You Must Focus On Yourself

focus on yourself
Our natural inclination is to beg for forgiveness. Empty promises like “I’ll do anything,” or “I swear it will never happen again,” they just don’t mean anything. At the very least, during your first year in recovery, you can expect people to be skeptical of everything you do.

People lose trust because of behavior. You lose trust because of something you did. In order to fix your behavior, it must happen from the inside out. There is no other way to do it.

The first step is to turn your focus inward. Don’t worry about apologizing, or buying flowers, or writing someone a heartfelt letter. Forget all that shit. Look inward. The lies and the deceit that came from our addiction is always rooted within, so that is where you must begin.

I wouldn’t advise turning your back on anyone, but you often have to remove yourself from the situation. Healing will come with time.

Step Two – Avoid Victim Mentality

woman in wheelchair enjoying summer vacation on the  beach

Don’t be a victim. Seriously, there is nothing more depressing than a victim.

There is a very real possibility that you may have had some terrible things happen to you. Maybe you dealt with death, or sexual assault. Maybe your Dad left you when you were a kid. The truth is that you can’t Nerf the world. There is no bumper bowling through life. Life is hard – that’s just the reality.

Living with a victim mentally will keep people away from you. People are drawn to strong people who don’t give excuses. As long as you are blaming a circumstance as the reason for why you behaved the way you did, people will never trust you.

The intention is not to come off as callus or cruel, the intent is for you to lose the “woe is me” mentality and take control of your life. No matter what the circumstance, you have something to be grateful for.

If you have a situation you need to grieve over, then that’s okay. Everyone get’s down, but taking the step to deal with a situation is taking control. Therapy or meetings or SMART recovery meetings are a proactive approach. Do not sit and isolate and sulk.

I have a friend. He broke his back in a dirt bike accident when he was 19 and his mother died when he was young. He will never walk. He is in a wheel chair and will be his whole life. He figured out how to drive a car, how to have a girlfriend, how to maintain a job, and how to build long term sobriety. He did it, you can do it too.

You are not a victim, so don’t act like one. Trust worthy people are not victims, they are survivors.

Step Three – Build A Routine And Stick To It

build a routine and stick to it

Addiction makes us undisciplined. Being undisciplined makes us unpredictable.

Being unpredictable is an antonym for being reliable. People don’t trust unpredictability, nor should they.

People can generally handle bad news or being let down, but people get very upset when they are blindsided and caught off guard.

No one is telling you to become a robot or to lose your spontaneity. We are simply saying that being reliable is a learned habit, not a single act. We are not born reliable, we learn to be reliable.

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.”


When you are healing a broken relationship, you have to start with yourself. So start with the important aspects. Be on time for work, get a steady schedule of meetings or therapy or exercise, show up to places when you say you will. Build a healthy lifestyle and stick to it.

No excuses. It’s time to grow up.

Step Four – Just Do The Right Thing

do the right thing

I heard a guy say once – “I can’t always tell you what the right thing is, but I usually know it when I see it.” I always remembered that.

Don’t steal. Don’t lie. Don’t be an asshole and take your anger out on other people. Pick up a peace of trash on the sidewalk. Hold the door for people, tip your waitress and don’t be arrogant.

It’s easy for me to sit here and type some words about doing the right thing, but it’s not always that black and white. If you don’t know what the right thing to do is, then ask someone.

Everyone makes mistakes. There is no such thing as angels and people are fallible, so if you make a mistake that’s okay. But if you are trying, if you are really trying to be a better person, then it will pay off. Most of all, you will feel good about yourself. People who respect themselves also respect others.

Step Five – Don’t Ask For Praise Or Expect An Award

dont expect an award

You don’t deserve a cookie or a trophy for doing what your supposed to do.

Now, there is nothing wrong with being recognized for doing well. That’s what employee of the month plaques are for. But if you are trying to gain someones trust back, there is no room for you to expect an award for doing what you need to do.

Addiction can make people do awful things. I myself have done things that I think about today and I still feel ashamed and my face gets all warm and embarrassed when I think about it. That’s life, and we hopefully grow from those experiences. But instead of using our disease as an excuse, we have to own up to our actions.

If you do the right thing, then the feeling of being a good person should be the reward within itself. If you are doing something with the intentions of “appearing” to be trust worthy, then you are just being manipulative.

Trust has to be earned. If you stay consistent and humble, then you can regain the trust that you’ve lost. You must lose the idea that you are now deserving of trust or deserving of praise. Remember, you are “earning” someones trust back. It’s up to them if and when they want to give it to you.

No matter what, keep your head up and keep moving forward.

Step Six – Be Impeccable With Your Word

be impeccable with your word

This is straight out of the book “The Four Agreements.” It’s a great book, you should read it.

Once you are at this step, you have come a long way. Yet, you probably aren’t over the hill yet. At this point you have worked really hard to build discipline and a routine to take control of your life and start to gaining some trust. Now you have to protect what you have worked so hard for.

Think of your word as if it were money. Your word may be even more valuable than money, so you have to protect it. You have to nurture it and you have to keep it in good condition. Respect yourself enough to take yourself seriously.

Now, on the flip side, it is important not to over commit. Sometimes we get in the habit of trying to please everyone. I do this myself. There is nothing wrong with saying no. If you can’t commit to something, then say no. Saying no is better than saying yes and letting someone down.

My Dad made this very simple for me…

“If you say you will do something then do it. If you can’t do something, then don’t say that you can.” – Thanks Pop

Step Seven – Be Consistent

consisency in sobriety

Sometimes, even after we have tried as hard as we can, people still don’t feel comfortable giving us their trust back.

Can you blame them? Sometimes years of lies, drug use, drunken bar fights and arrests can really hurt another person. Those scars can cut very deep. This may be especially true in romantic relationships.

Unfortunately, as we have said over and over again, it is not up to us when someone decides to trust us. It is usually a slow process, and you have to be consistent.

Everything worth having in life is usually hard to get. The harder you work to earn someones trust back, the more valuable that relationship will be. How bad do you want it?

Now For The Cherry On Top

None of this is a guarantee. If your actions have made it so you will never be able to gain trust back, well you will just have to live with that.

It does happen. Sometimes no matter how hard we try, how honest and reliable we become, some people will just never forgive us. That’s okay.

Truth is, if you know in your heart that you have done everything you could do, then you have nothing to worry about. In fact, you have come out on top. All of this work you put in was not for nothing. Now every relationship you make from this point forward will be built on a sober, honest and trustworthy foundation.

If you are a good person, and you do the right thing, then good things will happen to you.

We really hope you enjoyed this article. If there are any other suggestions you may have for building back trust, please leave them in the comments section below. 🙂

22 responses to “7 Step Process To Regaining Trust In Recovery

  • Be your word. Good advice. Please learn the difference between ‘then’ and ‘than’ when writing. Poor grammar is distracting when reading a good article. Thanks.

    • Brendan(Grateful Recovering Alcoholic)

      8 years ago

      Well, judgemental people are distracting when their holier than thou comments aim to devalue the positive message of an article by placing focus on minor grammatical errors within it’s text. (I know the original comment is almost two years old but I couldn’t resist responding.) Thank you for writing this article Tim! I love your message and perspective!

  • Thank you..great read..now I have to take the action to make it happen.

  • i have battled this demon for 18 years. the most painful part is that my oldest son battles diabetes. for 22 years now, and my youngest son is schizophrenic. my repeated failures have pushed the oldest away. the stress of having children with special needs has certainly added to my compulsions, but you can’t say that to anyone without feeling like a shithead. i have to let go of my need to control things in my life. i have had periods of sobriety for 2 years at a time more than once and there is no guarantee i won’t do it again. i just gotta start over and keep getting up…ie the hard part

    • Sherada Marie Collins

      9 years ago

      You are not a shit head. You are not a victim.

  • This article really helped me because it showed me how to really look and appreciate myself.

  • Thank you Tim for this article. I came outside and Googled “how to earn your family’s trust back after suffering from addiction”, and your article was one of the first. Each step makes sense whether we want to hear it or like how it sounds. It is what it is. I’ve been sober from prescription pain meds now going on 2 years. Having said that I have had points where I want to use, but so far have not. My family moved away and took my 3 children with them. I’m grateful that I’m allowed to see them, although being out of state makes that more difficult. I struggle with several issues regarding my children. The most painful is that custody was taken from me, and I had never ever done anything to harm them in any form or fashion. My addiction started as a result from a spinal defect that I was born with that requires many surgeries and chronic pain. Eventually, it went from helping my pain to numbing the feelings of bad things happening in my life to just wanting and needing to get up and feel normal. Both of my parents, sister, and brother have and do experience problems with alcohol and prescription meds themselves. However, I was the only one who decided that mine had gone to far and that I needed helped. After asking my parents on multiple occasions to help me find the help I needed without their suppirt, they eventually decided to take the kids. They perceived my cries for help as me saying that I couldn’t care for them, and felt that I’d be “better” without them. It is obviously a long story, and I no well that I’m not the only one with horror stories from this disease. However, I do have one question. How or will my parents and siblings ever believe or trust me again. I am still being blamed for taking other’s medications when I honestly haven’t. They never give me a chance to work toward earning their trust back. Just tonight I was blamed for taking pain medication, and the reason for their assumption is that I’m the only one in the house with a “problem”. When that is not the truth. The truth is that it could have been any of one of 4 of us here tonight, including myself, and all who have been known to take medicine etc. from each other. Will this ever end? Of they continue to live the way they have and I change, how will I ever be able to prove that I’m not the one taking it anymore? It hurts to not be trusted, but it also hurts to know that I can’t come visit my children without being accused of wrong doing. If I have done wrong I’ve learned to admit it, and learn from it. I’m not perfect and I’m not trying to make out that I am. I just wish there was a way that I can prove that it is not always me in the wrong. And yes these things happen even when I’m 12 hours away, and no one is blamed. It is only complained about, but when I’m here it is a whole other story.

    • Tim Stoddart

      7 years ago


      This sounds like a very long and painful situation. I think you already know that these things take a lot of time. It was probably years of pain for your family, so you could expect that it may take years to repair.

      As far as what you should do. I heard a lot of blame in your story. A lot of it had to do with “them and their actions.” It is quite possible that your family has their own issues going on, but the only way to truly gain someone’s trust back (especially trust for yourself) is to continue to focus on you. If you stay centered, stay in the moment and do the best you can every day then eventually the truth and the serenity wil just find you.

      You can’t force these things.

      Hope that helps.

    • Unasked suggestion: Try a 12 step program. The solutions are within the in the steps. And the cool part is you will have guidance along the way. You will be among people like you and not judged. A 12 step program is a guide to living life on life’s terms.

  • Sashka Samarawickrama

    7 years ago

    thank you for this article
    i am only 16 but i am struggling hard. the first step is regaining my parents trust, and this article has helped me a lot
    i am trying my best- and that is all anyone can really do
    best wishes to all x

  • Like the ideas. I have a relative that wants to put the past behind and me to earn trust again after 10 yrs. . Of course it seems as though after my 4th Step announcement that regaining trust is now a huge issue. I can’t remember what I did but I know I was cruel.. I don’t really trust her. I prefer past in the past. The 4th Step was more damaging than privately improving self for me.

  • Thank you for this very helpful information. I was seeking this information for myself and my daughters as I try my best to regain some sort of trust for my husband. I think he’s trying his best but I’m having trouble with trust all around. After reading this I think it might be helpful for counseling for the whole family before it breaks us apart completely and for good.

  • Thanks for this great piece. I’m in a place where my past has been nothing but lies, stealing and over use of drugs and alcohol. If I went a week without drinking anything, most people thought I was lying. I am coming at cross roads in my life, where I’m starting to see the consequences of all my actions.
    Once I stopped using, I kind of expected trust back from everyone and thought WTF! I have stopped drinking + drugging. But after reading this, I was reminded that trust is something you earn, and after 16, years of me using, people just give up on you.
    A friend said the other day, “Your actions must show people that you are honest with your word”. I honestly don’t know where to begin in order for that to happen, but this article will sort of be a guide plan for me to check back on and remind myself all this information again and again.

    • P.S. I have been to rehab about 3x. Only once (Insurance reasons), I completed the full 29 days. I am at a place where I’m no longer using substances, just drinking sometimes. I feel I’m able to get sober and I feel pretty confident that I don’t need rehab THAT bad. I’m just wondering if anyone else feels that since I’m not using substances anymore, and took on a harmful reduction approach to drinking, but can totally stop it, If I should still consider rehab or just work on myself outside. I also attend a methadone clinic, So I do have a drug counselor who I speak to at least once a week.

  • Great article… very realistic and true. Thank you I needed to hear this today.

    • I recently got clean from heroin, meth and weed. 3 months now, and I’m going to my weekly meetings and taking my suboxone as prescribed. I start a new job on Monday, I work out most days and am looking about as good as I ever have. I have a 11 month old son and a 6 year old daughter. With their mom. We met almost 2 years ago, and up until our son was born she didn’t know about my addiction. That’s when I moved in and that’s when it particularly got harder for her. Sure, I was clean 5 days when he arrived and I stayed that way for 3 weeks. Then we had an argument and I fell back into the addiction again and I continued to lie to her until it was too obvious then I’d admit, cry for help get clean for 3 weeks then fall back, until I lost my job, this last November, then I tried again and made it 4 days after which she kicked me out. And then I disappeared for 2 wks. No contact. At the end I broke down and called distant family, my uncle in Oakland and my sis in Wyoming. (I’m in Vegas) and asked for help being honest as to with what. Left for 2 months. Got a therapist and prescription drugs. And flew back home with my lil family. (They flew out the last week I was there). Now it’s been over a month of being back and my girl wont even start to forgive me. Sleep in separate rooms, no love yous, honestly its worse now then before I got clean. She makes every move as to separate herself from me. She doesn’t talk to me unless its become an issue of us staying together. She attends all my meetings with me. And gets what she needs to out. But I feel like her dealing with this, is not in a healthy way and won’t let her move past it. Granted it’s only been 3 months after being around addiction 8 months. But she hasn’t said one nice thing to me for a month. And I consistently tell her I care, have a good day at work, can I help or cook. I tend the kids, do dishes, clean up. Everything I can to show her I love her. But our relationship is only declining. Can anyone tell me how long they’ve had to go before any signs of forgiveness? Sex? I love you’s? Or is this too much for her to forgive? It’s like she cant stand me. And I’m doing all I can. How long will it take before it gets better? Or am I holding on to something that isn’t?

  • Btw, Great article Tim! I will hopefully remember to read this tomorrow morning and be patient. I hopefully I get some advice or examples of what I can expect.

  • I recently got clean from heroin, meth and weed. 3 months now. I go to my weekly therapy sessions, take my suboxone as prescribed, and I work out as much as possible, I look as good as I ever have, and I start a new job on Monday. I have an 11 month old son and a 6year old daughter with their mother. We met 2 years ago almost but she didn’t know about my addiction until my son was born. I was 5 days clean at the time but I told her everything, begged for forgiveness and wanted to move forward as a family. I moved in and stayed clean for 3wks until we had an argument and I slipped back. I kept it from her until it was obvious 3 months later. Then I did the same, asked for help, got clean for 3 wks then f’d up. The whole time working making (IMO) good money. I didn’t last that long after that then in November I Lost my job, and got help for 4 days until I was kicked out and disappeared for 2 wks, at the end of that I called desperately for help to distant family, sis in Wyoming and an uncle in Oakland. I flew out to Wyoming for 7wks, got prescription meds, a therapist and prepared for coming home (vegas). My girl and kids flew out last wk I was there and came back with me. Now I’ve been back over a month, I’ve been clean for 3 months, I watch the kids, cook, clean, dishes, take the lil 6yr old to school. Laundry, everything I can to show my girl I love her, since I’ve been back she has gotten more distant with me. She attends all my therapy meetings. Gets what she needs to out, but every move she makes is to separate herself from me, like she despises me. Sleep in separate rooms, no intimacy (sex), no I love you’s, nothing unless I force it. And its getting worse. It’s even worse than before I got clean. I know she needs her time, but after 3 months and its declining. How long will it take before I see any improvement or forgiveness? Or is she never going to and I’m holding on to something that isn’t? I know 3 months is short but she only saw it for 8 months. And yes, I lied and lost money, and was gone a lot. But I’m honestly doing everything I can. I tell her everyday that I care and I hope work goes good and she looks nice and can I cook for you. I try to show her by doing all the chores, and helping with anything I can. But I get nothing, it’s just getting more distant and hurtful. Does anyone have an example of how long it took their significant other to forgive or vice versa? How long without sex? I love you’s? I know I need to be patient. I’m just curious if anyone has gone through something similar and the outcome?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

24/7 Rehab Help (866) 207-7436 Sponsored | Who Answers

Contact Sober Nation's Sponsored Hotline

If you are seeking drug and alcohol related addiction rehab for yourself or a loved one, the SoberNation.com hotline is a confidential and convenient solution.

Calls to any general hotline (non-facility) will be answered by Treatment Addiction Solutions

Alternatives to finding addiction treatment or learning about substance:

If you wish to contact a specific rehab facility then find a specific rehab facility using our treatment locator page or visit SAMHSA.gov.

To learn more about how Sober Nation operates, please contact us