Can you Trust a Recovering Addict with your Kids?

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of repairing a relationship with a recovering addict is rebuilding trust. It can take just one or two incidents to lose trust, but many, many more to regain it. After all your experiences with this person when he was using, whether it is your spouse, a friend, or a sibling, trusting him again may seem impossible. What if that person has access to your children? Maybe your spouse has gone through a recovery program and now gets time with the kids. Maybe your recovering sister needs a place to live while she gets back on her feet. In a situation that involves your children, nothing is more important than trust.

Trust: Once lost, can it be replaced?

The short answer is yes, but it is far from easy. The addict in your life has undoubtedly hurt you. He has probably cheated, lied, stolen, or maybe done even worse, all in the name of his drug of choice. After repeated use and possibly abuse, it may seem like you can never trust this person again. If this is someone you love and someone who is important to your children, you have a very important choice to make. You can either work to rebuild the trust he took from you, or you can cut him out of your life. It is possible to learn to trust this person again, but it will take time, patience, and effort from both you and him.

Tips for Getting There

  • Take it slowly. There does not have to be a timeline for trust recovery. Without the pressure, you can ease into trusting this person again and get it back, little by little. For instance, maybe you can allow him to be around your children, but not alone with them. You may even choose to control the time, duration, and location of those meetings. As time goes on, you will feel more comfortable letting go of some of the control and can eventually work towards unsupervised visits. Just make sure that your recovering addict understands that you need time and patience and that your trust cannot be regained by a set deadline.
  • Be open and be honest. Trust is impossible without good communication. If your recovering addict has certain behaviors or takes actions that make you uncomfortable or suspicious, tell him about it. He needs to understand how you feel and how his actions affect you. Both of you must be committed to communicating your feelings and your needs to each other or face the lingering feelings of distrust.
  • Find out how your kids feel. Rebuilding trust might be easier if your children were not involved. If, however, the recovering addict is someone who should be a part of your children’s lives, trust becomes even more important. You are naturally going to be very protective of them and will want to have only people you can trust around them. Children are very perceptive and their feelings matter in this situation. Talk to them about their feelings towards the recovering addict. Do they feel comfortable being around this person? Would they be happy to be alone with him? Is there anything about this person that makes them nervous?
  • Consider parenting classes. If the recovering addict is your spouse, consider asking him to take a parenting course. The odds are that he has been out of the loop for a while and that his kids have not been a priority for the duration of his addiction. To help you feel more comfortable and to help him refocus his attention and his efforts, a parenting class can be a real benefit. You may even want to take the course together. You may even be able to find classes at a recovery facility that are specifically designed to help recovering addicts.
  • Try counseling. Sometimes you just can’t repair your broken relationship and lost trust without professional help. A couples counselor or a recovery counselor can help the two of you work through your issues with trust. Taking this step together is important and will help you both begin to remember the relationship you used to enjoy.
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