Your family has spent what feels like a lifetime battling addiction to drugs and alcohol.
It seems as though your life, as of late, has been consumed with your loved one and the disease. You’ve begged, you’ve argued, you’ve cried – and you’ve begged some more. You’ve felt the betrayal, you’ve kept secrets in shame, felt lost, carried guilt and you’ve seen financial devastation. You’ve lost sleep, sanity, peace of mind, relationships and friendships. All because you’ve tried to save your loved one from addiction.
You’ve seen, felt and lived with addiction. And now, your loved one is home again – and this time, he’s healthy. He’s detoxed the heroin, he’s stopped drinking and he’s gone through addiction counseling in residential and outpatient programs. He’s in recovery.
But you? You’re still adjusting. You’re having trouble truly trusting your loved one again.
You may find yourself in one of the four stages of trust after addiction.
Stage 1: Paranoia.
The nightmares of addiction still play on repeat in your head. You’ve seen her high on Oxycontin too many times to count and you’re bound and determined to never see it again. Even if it means giving her weekly drug tests, snooping through her car, placing GPS on her phone or constantly checking her bank account. You’re overly invested in your loved one’s daily schedule.
Of course, you want her to connect with other people in recovery at meetings and you want her to work a program. But what if she’s not really going to the meetings? What if she’s connecting with her dealer instead of her sponsor? What if she’s using again?
Hitting Stage 1 after addiction treatment involves a lot of “what ifs?” But the “what ifs” won’t get your loved one better. Those paranoid thoughts and actions aren’t healthy for anyone.
Remember, addiction is a disease of the entire family – and the fact is, your loved one IS getting better. He’s the one who developed new tools while in treatment, tools to build a new and sober life. He’s grown stronger, and knows what he needs to do to stay strong. He’s getting healthy, but you’re still sick.
If you’re stuck in Stage 1, it’s time to get help for yourself. If the drug rehab your loved one attended didn’t provide family care and counseling, find your own help or therapist. And find like minded people in support groups like Al-Anon. Work on yourself.
Stage 2: Cautious Optimism.
You want to trust. Really, you do. But right now, you’re faking it ‘til you make it. You’re starting to leave your jewelry out on the dresser again – only, maybe not the expensive pieces. You’ve left your purse in the kitchen while he was home – even if you only had a few dollars in it. You’re letting him go to meetings without too many questions – just a strict deadline on when he must return. And you’re even letting him bring a few sober friends over to the house after the meetings. You’re watching him rebuild his life, and you’re biting your tongue when you try to control it.
In Stage 2, worry still fills your head, but you’re also willing to give a little bit. You know that if you don’t give your loved one in addiction recovery a chance to be trusted, you never will trust them. It’s just not natural. Yet.
If you’re stuck in Stage 2, make a conscious effort give your loved one the benefit of the doubt. Continue to meet with support groups. Call people from your support groups when you’re nervous about trusting. And keep the lines of communication open with your loved one.
Stage 3: Optimism.
You’re seeing the signs. Your loved one is improving. Her eyes are brighter; she’s happy. You trust that she’s going to meetings and stopping for coffee with a sober friend afterwards. She’s answering the phone when you call, showing up when you invite her to lunch, going to work everyday. She has new friends and isn’t hanging out at bars or parties anymore.
You can finally see the changes.
You’re not panicking when he shows up 15 minutes late to dinner because of bad traffic. You don’t feel the need to check your wallet after he leaves. You’re no longer snooping, checking up with his friends or driving by his office to make sure he’s at work. You’re optimistic that he’s doing those things because you’re seeing his accountability each and everyday. You no longer feel like a prisoner in your own home.
But you’re still hesitant when people ask how he’s doing. You’re hopeful that he’ll stay on this path, but you don’t want to get ahead of yourself. You still examine him closely when you see him. You still wonder if he’ll stay sober and healthy.
If you’re stuck in Stage 3, focus on yourself and continue working on your recovery. You have a lot of extra time on your hands, now that you’re not constantly checking in or worrying. Join a book club, get a gym membership, visit with old friends. Find out what makes you happy again – and rebuild your own life.
Stage 4: Confidence.
You know your loved one is healthy. You know she has the tools and the resources to continue in her recovery. And you know she knows how to use them. You have no doubts that she’s taking her long term recovery seriously, and holds herself accountable.
This is the stage that you can finally move forward and help other families dealing with addiction. You are confident in all that you’ve seen and experienced through the healing process.
In Stage 4 and beyond – you still have the knowledge that your loved one used to be in active addiction. Even though relapse doesn’t happen for everyone, you’ll live with the awareness that relapse does happen in this disease. You know your loved one’s warning signs – and you will always watch for them.
This stage is about accepting the reality that your loved one will always have this disease – even if they are not in active addiction – and recognizing that this new reality is the permanent reality. You will never like this reality or make it OK, but eventually you’ll be able to accept it. You learn to live with it. It is the new norm with which you must learn to live.
Healing after active addiction is a long process for all involved, not just the individual who was using drugs or alcohol. Just like the 5 stages of grief, going through the 4 stages of trust when your addict comes home – may take time.. The goal is to keep moving forward. Recovery is an ongoing process for your loved one, as well as yourself.
The four stages: paranoia, cautious optimism, optimism, and confidence are a part of the framework that makes up our healing process. They are not stops or on some linear timeline. Not everyone goes through all of them or in a specific order.
Our hope at Vertava Health is that with these stages comes knowledge of addiction and recovery, making you better equipped to heal yourself and your family.