In 2017, the Pew Research Center found that 46% of Americans had a loved one with a drug addiction. That means that millions of Americans felt the pain of substance abuse disorder secondhand. This statistic doesn’t even include those who suffer from alcoholism

A substance abuse disorder hurts everyone. This includes the people who have to witness someone fall victim to addiction. Rebuilding relationships after addiction is hard, but not impossible. Those hurt by substance abusers still love them. All they want is to not be hurt again. 

Rebuilding trust after addiction is possible with the right kind of support. The right treatment is the first step. 

Why Rebuilding Relationships After Addiction Is Necessary

The reason why rebuilding relationships after addiction is so important is having a circle of support. Above all, when a person is recovering from addiction they need a helping hand. For instance, a loved one can remind them why they want to recover. It’s harder to evoke the same feeling for a doctor. 

Addiction Is So Much More Than Substance Abuse  

In the 1970s a psychologist, Dr. Bruce Alexander, created an experiment known as Rat Park. The rats were grouped into separate groups. Some rats were isolated one per cage with a water bottle filled with drugs. Another group was left in a cage together with a drug-infused water bottle. In other words, they were left in a group. 

Consequently, both groups drank out of said water bottles. The isolated rats were addicted to their water bottles. They drank to excess. Many of them faced untimely deaths from overdose. 

On the other hand, the rats that were all left together had a different fate. While they drank from the water bottle like the other rats, not a single one overdosed. Furthermore, they took breaks in between. They would spend their time with the other rats in the cage. Likewise, people need to form bonds with those around them to beat substance abuse. 

When Is It Time To Consider Rebuilding Relationships After Addiction? 

Rebuilding trust after addiction is an important step in the recovery process. But it’s just that: a process. Someone who deals with addiction may wish to mend broken bonds before anything. They need to deal with their own health before they can establish healthy relationships. 

This is what someone must consider before rebuilding trust after addiction: 

  • They must accept substance abuse controls their lives 
  • That they must do everything in their power to recover 
  • People with a substance addiction must seek professional help 
  • They need to be along their road to recovery, not at the very start
  • They must hold themselves accountable, but exercise relentless self-love
  • Substance abusers must be fully aware of what steps they must take to recover 
  • Substance abusers must understand how their actions affect those around them 

Rebuilding relationships after addiction is not the same as maintaining the ones that were fine before. Their own physical and mental health must be a priority. Self-awareness and accountability come as they work on their health. 

Who Might Need an Apology When Rebuilding Relationships After Addiction 

Addiction affects anyone who cares about the person who suffers from it. That is to say, substance abuse withers the body and mind. To watch someone become a shell of who they once were is painful. 

Further, individuals who have a substance use disorder have loyalty to their addiction. It’s not their fault. In 2015, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) found that 10% of all American adults have dealt with a substance abuse disorder. That’s over 23 million adults. Despite this, their disorder might make them lie or steal from loved ones.

rebuilding relationships after addiction

People To Keep in Mind When Recovering Addicts Think of Who They’ve Hurt


The kids of substance abusers take a heavy blow. They might feel like they’ve had to step up and be the parent. It wouldn’t be a surprise if they are resentful. A stolen childhood deserves a true apology to work on rebuilding relationships after addiction. 


Usually, parents want what is best for their children. It hurts them to see who they worked so hard to raise, fall into the clutches of addiction. Parents might be angry and not understand the kind of power the substance has over someone who is addicted. It hurts them either way to watch.


Friends are chosen family. They want the best for their friend, even when they deal with a substance abuse disorder. Yet, they can’t maintain a friendship with someone who has lied to them multiple times. Rebuilding trust after addictions is a path of truth and sincere apology.  


Those who deal with addiction may forget they’ve hurt mentors. At the end of the day, mentors care about the professional development of mentees. They’ve put time and effort into seeing their mentee succeed. 

Family In General 

Recovering addicts have sisters, brothers, uncles, and aunts. Their entire family is a potential support circle for them to rely on. Rebuilding relationships after addiction means an apology to everyone they’ve hurt. Once substance abusers show sincere remorse for their actions, their family might want to help them recover. 

When Is It Not Worth Rebuilding Relationships After Addiction? 

Not every relationship is worth rebuilding. As said before, those who suffer from substance abuse need to focus on their physical and mental health. Certain relationships might do more harm than good. 

If the base of the bond is substance abuse, it’s not worth repairing. There is a serious risk of falling back into reckless habits. The wrong support circle will end up in the same, wrong habits. 

Additionally, a relationship that puts an individual in physical peril doesn’t need an apology. This goes for mental abuse too. Rebuilding relationships after addiction involves only repairing the worthwhile bonds. 

7 Steps for Rebuilding Trust After Addiction as a Recovering Addict

Everyone’s path to recovery from addiction is different. What may work for one, might result in disaster for another. The same can be said for what steps it might take when rebuilding relationships after addiction. Below is a good place to start. 

  1. Recovering individuals must ask a medical professional at their treatment center if they think it’s time to start rebuilding trust after addiction. A clinician may feel they need more time to focus on recovery. 
  2. An individual who deals with an addiction must weigh in if they are ready to rebuild bonds. They should take ample time to fully assess if they are ready for it. If not, a relationship could end up in worse shape. 
  3. They should make a list of everyone they have hurt. It’s time for them to take personal accountability even though it’s hard to feel in the wrong. 
  4. Then, they should come up with a sincere apology and plan of action. Words don’t mean anything if there’s no intention to change. Recovering addicts need to tell the person they hurt how they will change their ways. That is an important part of rebuilding trust after addiction. 
  5. Afterward, they need to ask hurt loved ones if and when they could meet up. At this step, it’s essential to be transparent. They need to know the conversation is to apologize, not to cause more pain. It’s better to make a phone call, but a text or email works too. 
  6. Meet up in person. A true apology face-to-face holds more weight than through the phone or computer. 
  7. Finally, they have to express remorse and a plan of action for positive change. Rebuilding trust after addiction is not a smooth path. Hurting individuals may not accept an apology. They might need longer to process how they feel.

How to Accept Someone Back When They’re Rebuilding Trust After Addiction

Dating a recovering addict is different than most relationships. So is rebuilding trust after addiction from the side of a family member, employer, friend, or mentor. Patience is the key to a healthy relationship. They might lie about their habits out of embarrassment. A serious withdrawal could lead them to lash out. 

Those who want to let a recovering addict back into their lives must understand that bad behavior may still happen. The difference is that it will happen to a lesser extent. For example, a person who isn’t on the path to recovery might lie to get more money for drugs and alcohol. They may even steal to feed a bad habit. This won’t be an option if they’re recovering. 

Relapses may happen. Unfortunately, this is normal. Anywhere from 40%-60% of recovering individuals slip up once they are sober. If they are under professional treatment this will get better with time and patience. 

Get Help Rebuilding Relationships After Addiction

At Coastal Detox we know that addiction recovery means more than substance abuse. Rebuilding relationships after addiction is a crucial part of sobriety. Every person needs a support system. Here are treatments we provide to get back on the right path. 

We offer multiple programs to help with rebuilding trust after addiction. Contact us now to restore a life worth living.