Why do we love and trust the wrong people? 

Nearly every survivor and person in addiction recovery I’ve served has found it necessary to explain to me, “I have trust issues.” My challenge in response is that I don’t need them to trust me. I need them to trust themselves. It’s the foundation of a manageable life and it’s an inside job that requires a lot of change.

Rationalization, justification, and minimization are the language of unhealthy lifestyles: They’re all just nice words for the ways in which we lie to ourselves

Sobriety and safety create amazing opportunities for change but they do not undo unhealthy habits like self-deception. Recovery provides us tools and experiences that create healthier ways of relating to ourselves and others.

Recovery is uncomfortable, in large part because we don’t readily gravitate toward healthy people. We are stuck in feeling less than and unworthy of their time and company.

We more readily embrace the familiar and stay around folks with whom we feel comfortable. This includes the types of people we tend to seek out romantically and for friendships. For most of us, the folks we find easiest to relate to are often untrustworthy.

There’s an important reason for that: If you were raised by an unhealthy family, you are likely to be most at ease around unhealthy people. Your heart tells you to look for the positive. That’s nice, but it’s better to listen to your gut because it allows you to see a person’s character and intentions.

The practical advice I give to folks in different forms of recovery is counter-intuitive: If you meet someone and immediately feel comfortable, run. If you meet someone and feel awkward, insecure, socially anxious, or self-conscious, stick around.

Being around healthy people is uncomfortable because they just want you to be yourself…which is super hard when you’re not sure who that is…

Recovery is a process of creating an holistic and healthy identity. It takes time and a great deal of ongoing investment to move from being your own worst enemy to being a friend to yourself. I promise folks that this investment will pay off, primarily because:

Whatever we want to be able to do with others, we must be able to do with self.

The process of building trust within ourselves is easy to understand and hard to do. It requires paying attention to our intuitive experiences and inner voice. It requires that we withhold judgment of our thoughts and feelings and instead that we accept them, experience them, and express them.

The literature of AA makes reference to the concept of “rigorous honesty.” This is an ideal and not something we fully arrive at. The starting point is to be painstakingly honest with ourselves about what we feel and sense. This is best achieved through journaling and processing with those who earnestly support us.

As we progress in recovery we crave further growth but often struggle with ensuring sufficient accountability. We fear making commitments (to ourselves) and stating our goals. We attribute this most often to the fear of letting others down. It takes a lot of courage to focus on not disappointing ourselves or settling for less than we can have.

Everything we truly want lies just outside our current comfort zone.

Jim LaPierre

About Jim LaPierre

Jim LaPierre LCSW CCS is the Executive Director of Higher Ground Services in Brewer, Maine. He is a Recovery Ally, mental health therapist and addictions counselor. He specializes in facilitating recovery (whether from addiction, trauma, depression, anxiety, or past abuse) overcome obstacles, and improve their quality of life. Jim offers a limited amount of online therapy to those with very flexible schedules.