Regaining Broken Trust
. . . That they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. Acts 26:20
One of the most common questions I get when speaking about addiction and recovery, is how my wife handled it and how I regained her trust. The life of addiction is marked by lying, hiding, and shattered trust. In recovery then, one of the monstrous challenges is to try and put the marriage back together when one partner has repeatedly proven himself completely unworthy of being trusted.
I came home from treatment feeling like I’d really figured it this time. Never mind that this was my third treatment. I felt I was truly and finally in recovery and I was convinced of my ongoing transformation. At that time, I foolishly hoped that my wife would feel the same way, but 15 years of addiction and lying though doesn’t just magically go away in a few weeks of sobriety.
What did it take then? How did we get there? My wife, I think, needed to see radical change and she needed to see it for a long time. In my previous attempts at recovery, I stopped using for a while, but not much else changed. I just went back to life as usual, which within a few months, led back to using as usual.
In today’s passage, Paul wasn’t speaking specifically about the broken trust of the addict. His command was to anyone who wanted to follow Christ, insisting that authentic repentance must be accompanied by an obvious change in our behavior. The application to regaining broken trust is obvious.
The addict cannot simply declare that he’s found faith and recovery, expecting that his loved ones will believe that a profound transformation has occurred. If the repentance is real, the addict must radically change his behavior – and he must do it for a long time – in a way that is obvious to anyone watching.
That is how I began to earn back broken trust, by changing my life, not for a week, but for good. It took months, and in fact, years. Unfortunately, there’ve been times where we’ve gone backwards as I’ve acted selfishly again. Even now there are days when she looks at me and worries. On those days, I don’t try and promise perfection. I promise that today I’ll keep working at recovery and that tomorrow, I’ll do the same. That radical change in my behavior has been what she’s needed to see in order to believe in my recovery and to be able to trust again.