Whether you’re a parent of someone who has struggled with drug or alcohol addiction, a sibling, spouse, friend or even a close coworker who has seen and felt the pains of active addiction in your relationship, home, or workplace – it’s important to understand what an individual is going to experience in early recovery.
This list is meant to serve as a starting point for understanding addiction recovery; but we suggest that if you’re truly interested in being there for your loved one as he or she begins a new, healthy and sober journey in life – that you read these suggestions, and continue your research.
- Simply going to an addiction treatment facility is not a cure. Going to rehab for alcoholism treatment in California, is however, the best first step for an individual struggling with drug or alcohol addiction. A good addiction treatment center will get to the underlying issues that led to addiction, provide your loved one the tools he or she needs to work through those issues, and help him or her to develop necessary skills to living a life of long term recovery. Notice that much of this goes beyond a 30, 60, or 90 day treatment program. Recovery is a commitment that can start with rehab, but must continue into daily life after graduation for a program.
- Pain will still occur. In general, people in active addiction chose to change their lives and enter treatment programs when they face consequences. The same goes for early recovery: most people in early recovery will continue to face challenges and even pain as they continue to repair the damage done in their lives. As you’ve likely learned, enabling your loved one and picking up the pieces for him will allow him to continue addictive patterns without having to change. Same goes for recovery – be there for support, but don’t put band-aids on their problems.
- Big changes = big time payoff. Watching your loved one make big changes in his or her life is a sign of success. Look for signs such as your loved one living in a long term rehab or sober living home, building a savings account, even simple things.
- Sobriety isn’t the same as recovery. There’s a big difference between getting sober and living sober. It’s one thing for your loved one to eliminate the drugs and alcohol from his or her life, and another thing to change the patterns, behavior, and lifestyle that led to using. Hanging on to stay sober can only go so far. Instead, look for progress, like the examples in #3, in growing as a person to live a healthy life of recovery.
- Fellowship is important. Even if it is your son or daughter, spouse or parent who is in early recovery – if you haven’t been on the path to recovery yourself, there are things that you may not be able to understand. Your loved one truly will need fellowship with others who have lived in active addiction and now live on the road to recovery. For many people, fellowship in a recovery program becomes a crucial part of their long-term health and well-being.
- Forgiveness is huge. Extending grace and forgiving can help build a solid foundation for recovery – for both you and your loved one. In cases where addiction has been fueled by massive resentments against parents, siblings or spouses – it’s hard to find peace until those feelings are addressed. No matter how much you have been hurt by your loved one’s actions or behaviors in active addiction, it’s important for your health and his – that you also work to move forward and work to find forgiveness.
- Reduce the chaos. Before getting to an addiction treatment facility and on the road to recovery, you and your loved one likely lived in a state of chaos – whether it be physically, emotionally, or mentally. Reducing the chaos can involve physically cleaning and eliminating clutter, detaching from toxic relationships, and even taking a step back and reducing overall obligations in order to manage the stress in your lives. Doing so will help bring a sense of peace within your home and your relationships.
- Complacency can hurt. One of the number one things people site in maintaining their recovery, is maintaining a sense of purpose. Personal growth and accomplishment is important because moving forward is the only way to prevent regressing back into addiction. Encourage your loved one through his or her actions, and support him or her in setting and attaining goals.
- Continue learning. In most cases, drug and alcohol addiction significantly change the lives of all of those close to the person using – especially the immediate family. For this reason, family members and close friends often need help, too. It’s crucial for the family to learn the best ways to support their recovering loved one once the treatment program is completed. One of the best ways to do so is by participating in family education through support groups.
- Stigma still exists. Remember the stigma of addiction that you faced when your loved one was actively using? Unfortunately, the stigma will still be alive and breathing – regardless of whether your loved one is using or healthy. However, it takes people like you and your family to become advocates for those still suffering from addiction.
- Switching from one drug to another is still addiction. There are many people out there who rationalize that their real drug of choice may be heroin or Oxycontin or benzos, so they can get away with having a drink of alcohol, or occasionally do some cocaine or smoke marijuana. And while they may get away with this behavior for a short while – the process of addiction will begin all over again. So, just because your loved one got help for a painkiller addiction – don’t accept the notion that he or she can’t become addicted to another substance.
- Relapse isn’t necessarily a part of recovery – but it does happen. You may have heard people justify that, “Relapse is a part of recovery.” And, for some it is. However, not everyone in recovery will relapse. It doesn’t have to be a part of the process. Be aware of the signs of relapse, but don’t obsess over the possibility of it. If relapse does happen, take confidence in knowing that for some – it takes more than one shot at rehab to get it right, and that hope can still be found. (Take a look at Joel’s and Kelli’s stories – who each went to rehab between 25 and 40 times before finding long-term recovery.)
- Positivity. Period. Success will build itself upon recovery. Think about the expression, “When it rains it pours.” Negativity will drag a person down. But on the contrary, those who experience good things within their recovery tend to experience more good things. The key is to stay positive and stable for your loved one. Success builds slowly with time and doesn’t happen overnight. Keep moving forward, and progress will be made.