Starting out your new life in recovery involves taking chances, making decisions that can be life-altering, trying out healthier behaviors and working the 12-steps to firmly ground yourself in sobriety. It’s an incredible undertaking, a journey that, according to recovery experts, is ongoing. You’re never done with recovery. You are, as they say, in it forever. Do you have what it takes? Can you give it everything you’ve got with any sense of confidence? What about being able to trust yourself to do the right thing? Well, since most individuals in recovery have a difficult time with this, let’s talk about learning how to trust yourself again.
Start With a Clean Slate
First and foremost, there’s no point in carrying a lot of baggage from the past now that you’re in recovery. Having gone through treatment and made the decision to live your life clean and sober, you have a new chapter in front of you. Forget about the mistakes that you made in the past. You are not your past. It doesn’t define you or dictate your future. Only you can do that, and you’ve already decided that you’re going to live to the fullest of your ability and be in effective long-term recovery. Starting off with this clean slate will make it easier to concentrate on healing and growing more self-confident. As your self-confidence increases, you’ll find that making decisions becomes a little easier as well.
Build Upon Your Successes
When you’re just starting recovery, there’s so much to do all at once. The tendency is to either go gung-ho and try to do it all or sink back on the couch in despair because you don’t think you can tackle all that you feel you need to do. The key thing here is to embrace recovery and work it slowly, thoughtfully each day. When you experience a success – such as your first week of sobriety, first month, and so on – think of this as a building block. One successful achievement leads to another and another and so on. Successes can be anything that you deem important. It could be that you’re finally able to have a meaningful conversation about your newly-won sobriety with your spouse or that you’ve worked out a realignment of your workload with your supervisor to accommodate your attendance at 12-step meetings and gradually ramping up you job responsibilities. It could be successfully overcoming cravings by using the coping mechanisms you learned during treatment. Perhaps you find that being able to go to work each day is a success – especially if you had great difficulties with this prior to treatment. However you define success, when you achieve it, build upon it. You will be making it easier to learn how to trust yourself again.
Ask for Help
No one expects you to go it alone. In fact, no one recovers alone. You need the support and encouragement of others. Two of your most important support networks are your family and your 12-step groups. Naturally, you’ll feel raw and confused when you first begin recovery. Go ahead and ask for help from your loved ones as well as your 12-step sponsor. Your loved ones already know about your past problems – they’ve lived with them. Of course they want you to move forward in recovery. If you feel reluctant to discuss your fears with them, that’s understandable. But don’t miss out on the opportunity to open the lines of communication at home. Give it some time and bring up the subject when you feel comfortable. Ask for support from your spouse or loved ones. It may be easier to go first to your 12-step sponsor – once you find one. After all, that’s what the sponsor is there for, to help support and encourage newcomers like you to recovery. The sponsor has been where you are, felt what you’re feeling, and knows all about how difficult it can be to trust yourself again. The advice and counsel you receive from your 12-step sponsor and fellow group members can make all the difference in the world when you’re learning how to trust yourself again.
Regaining Self-Trust Requires Action
It’s important to note here that the ability to trust yourself again requires that you do something. You can’t just sit back and expect or hope that you’ll regain your self-trust. It just doesn’t happen that way. Self-trust never occurs in a vacuum: it results from actions that you undertake. Look at regaining trust as a process of self-discovery or rediscovery, as it more appropriately is. Once you possessed some measure of self-trust. You probably didn’t think much about it until you lost your self-respect, until you sunk so deep in your substance abuse or other addictive behaviors that you and others doubted your word. Your actions then were anything but trustworthy. But back to regaining the trust you lost in yourself, it can be done. But you do have to make conscious decisions in many areas of your new life in recovery in order to learn how to trust yourself again.
Make Lists and Prioritize Goals
Some people are really good at list-making assignments while others are only so-so in their ability to construct meaningful lists. When you’re in recovery, however, lists can be a lifesaver. Here’s how. You know that you should have goals in your new life of sobriety, so one of your first real attempts to spring into action should be to craft a list of goals that mean something to you. For now, it doesn’t much matter if you have this fully thought out or not. The important thing is to begin. Start by listing short-term goals that you can readily agree are important to you. These may include staying sober for one week, getting up on time to go to work each day, attending five 12-step meetings in five days, and so on. If you can think of some goals that you’d like to include that are longer term, by all means add them. Later on, as you progress in recovery, you will find that there are many opportunities that present themselves to you. Many of these may lead to short- or long-term goals. Once you have a good handful of goals, start to prioritize them. See which ones you need to do every day, or once a week, or which ones you deem are absolutely critical to your new life in recovery. Those are the ones that you need to take action on first and foremost. Remember the point about building on successes? This is where that comes in. As you accomplish goals, they are success markers that you can add to your growing sense of trust in yourself and your abilities. It’s all a building-block process. And you can definitely do it. What if you run out of goals? Start brainstorming, perhaps with your spouse or loved one. But always keep in mind that your recovery goals are yours alone. It’s good to include others in the discussions, but this is your recovery and it should be your highest priority.
Slips and Relapses
What happens to your gradually growing sense of self-trust if you have a minor slip or suffer a major relapse? The good news is that you’re not starting back at square one. Minor slips mean that you just pick up where you left off and resume your recovery efforts that have proved successful. You just do more of them. If, however, you have a major relapse, it may mean that you need more treatment, more time with professionals to help you better incorporate the strategies and techniques that can assist in your recovery. Neither slips nor relapses are reasons to lose trust in yourself. While it is natural to feel badly that they occur, it’s important to realize that addiction is a disease. It’s not reason for blame or guilt. Neither of those emotions are helpful to recovery. In fact, they have no place in effective recovery. So, if you do have a slip or a relapse, do what you need to do to get back into the routine of what works to keep you clean and sober. Rely on the support and encouragement of your family and 12-step sponsor and fellow group members. Work the steps. Be involved, be optimistic, and be perseverant.
How Do You Know You Trust Yourself Again?
When you’re going along in recovery, doing the things on your daily schedule, crossing off goals on your list, taking care of yourself in the best way you can, how do you know if you really trust yourself again? That’s a good question. The truth of the matter is that you probably won’t think about self-trust as a general rule. It’s not a subjec that springs automatically to mind on a daily basis. It’s not like getting up, eating breakfast, getting ready for work, going to work, attending 12-step meetings, spending time with the family, or going to bed. It’s not on your daily schedule. Trust isn’t a topic you sit around analyzing for hours on end. Trust, especially trust in yourself, is something that develops over time and results from self-accomplishment of goals and belief in your own abilities to do what you need to do in recovery. You might go for several months without ever thinking about whether you trust yourself or not. However, the fact that you’ll be able to weigh and balance different options and make a decision as to what is right for you in various situations will be evidence that you have begun to trust yourself again. You look at what’s available to you, sift through the pros and cons of each course of action, and make a determination as to your course of action. And trust, remember, requires action. When you are actively involved in decision-making regarding your recovery, you’re building your reservoir of self-trust.
What About Others Trusting You Again?
Often it’s not self-trust that bothers many in recovery but whether others will ever trust them again. Actually, these are two sides of the same coin. While self-trust is internal to you, no one else will be able to trust you if you don’t first trust yourself. That’s because others can see your indifference, fear, inability to commit to and follow through on a decision. It’s this type of waffling, as well as history with your past behavior, that keeps others from trusting you again. Concentrate on working your recovery first. Take things one day at a time. Strive to see the positive side of every situation instead of automatically picturing the negative. Talk over your lingering concerns over not being able to trust yourself or others not yet being able to trust you with your therapist. This, of course, implies that you still have a therapist or counselor that you can talk with as part of your continuing care or aftercare from your treatment program. If you don’t have this benefit, see about low-cost, free, or sliding-scale fee counseling that’s available in your community. Ask your 12-step sponsor for a recommendation or call the treatment facility you attended and request a referral.
Other Tips to Learning How To Trust Yourself Again
There are many ways to learn how to trust yourself again. For each individual in recovery, there may be hundreds of things that work or just a significant few. Experiment. Be bold. Take what works and do more of it. Try some things that are new. Buy or download literature, brochures, pamphlets, FAQs and other resources from the various 12-step groups. Take out books on recovery from the local library. Watch programs that deal with overcoming substance abuse or process addictions. Become as knowledgeable as you can about recovery and realize that there’s always something new in the field that can prove helpful to you in your journey. One day, when you’re ready – when you’ve been in effective recovery for at least a year – you may wish to consider becoming a 12-step sponsor to another newcomer. When you reach the point where you are able to handle with confidence the challenges and opportunities that come your way with confidence, you’ll know that you’ve learned how to trust yourself again. Being in recovery doesn’t mean that you’ll always have all the answers. It does mean that you’ll be armed with the tools you need to be able to make the determination about the right thing to do – and then do it. Recovery is an exciting journey. It’s all about discovering – and rediscovering – who you are, who you intend to be, and what you’re willing to do to get there. Learning how to trust yourself again is part of the evolotion of the brand-new you.