Trust is earned, not bestowed

by Michael Walsh

“Trust is earned, not bestowed” - article by Michael Walsh

Yesterday a client told me that he asked his parents if he could stay with them temporarily to bridge a gap prior to the next stage of his recovery plan. They said no.

He was not ok with the answer, but he understood why and accepted their decision.

Recently my sister and her partner asked me if I would look after their house and dog while they went away for five weeks. There was a time that they would never have considered asking me to do it, because they did not trust me.

As I write this blog post I am reminded of how far I have come, but more importantly what I needed to do to get here. It started with creating and nurturing trust within myself before I could ever expect people to believe in me.

I was then reminded of an excellent acronym that Carole Bennett, M.A., developed called C.A.R.D. Carole works with families who are affected by a loved-one's substance use. I have shared an article below she wrote in 2011 for Psychology Today.

One of the first steps the recovering individual should commit to is starting to earn back the trust that was lost due to their addiction. Not only the family’s trust, but the personal challenges in rebuilding their own trust for themselves.


  • Credibility = trustworthy
  • Accountability = answerable for
  • Responsibility = fulfilled obligation
  • Dependability = reliable

These character traits are obviously interchangeable and jointly represent that the recovering person is starting to become grounded and focused in recovery as well as life. These are actions of determination; impossible to carry out on a regular or continued basis if one is in their addiction.

Through the addiction process, an enormous amount of trust is broken. The collective “C.A.R.D.” acronym means trust and when the credibility, accountability, responsibility and dependability become everyday occurrences, than trust can start to be restored again.

In working with the recovering person, Carole adds, “I’ve never encountered a client who has said “yes” when asked if they deserved to be trusted while in their addiction or in the first few months of recovery”. They too, realize that restoring trust takes time and if they are working on a solid, grounded recovery program, as well as enveloping life on life’s terms that trust will slowly, but surely start to be restored among family members, friends, employers, and mates.

In their sober state, the recovering person can be reflective of what their irresponsible and out of control behaviour was like and what they put others through because of their addiction.

In an odd way, they look forward to re-building that trust, for they want to prove to their loved ones as well as themselves that they are capable of being trusted once again. They genuinely want to be a good son, daughter, friend or spouse to the ones they love and are desirous of mending the past where their family and friends were once so tormented by their addiction.

It’s important for family and friends to give this process a substantial amount of time; at least six months of responsible, accountable, behaviour.

No excuses for anything other than normal, minor infractions. If there is a legitimate issue where the bond of trust might be somewhat compromised then fine; but if not, start your own clock of trust over again and your loved one should do the same. There is nothing wrong with family or friends asking themselves periodically if their loved one is fulfilling the “C.A.R.D.” program today.

In time, your loved one will hopefully find their stride, reconnect with society, and prove to everyone around them, but most importantly to themselves that they are restoring credible, accountable, responsible and dependable behaviour through their clean and sober life style.

The recovering individual will revel in re-establishing that their word and actions is now their bond; that like respect, trust is earned…and today, on an accomplished path of recovery, trust is a shining crown worn proudly atop their head.

Thanks to Carole Bennett.

Michael Walsh

About the Author

Michael Walsh

When I say I’ve been there, I mean it. I am a different person now, and I am fired up about helping other people get to the place where they, too, are living better, healthier, and bigger lives.

Contact Michael