The Addict and Treatment
It may be natural to assume that once the addict (and I’m including alcohol addiction here) has finished treatment that he should be home free. He should have learned enough about his malady to know what is needed to stay sober, but in spite of all the time and effort invested, you find it’s not working the way you expected. He was so gun-ho at first – going to meetings, sharing what he’s learned with you and others, trying to make amends for all the damage he’s created and passing that cheerfulness around like he’s on a holiday! It seemed too good to be true after all the misery that came before!
Then slowly, insidiously, things began to change. You notice he’s not going to meetings as often. He’s beginning to reminisce about the good times he had with the guys. He starts thinking of all he’s lost and begins to feel sorry for himself. He may even begin to wonder if he really had a problem to begin with! Maybe he was just responding to all the stress in his life – wouldn’t you drink, too, if you had his problems? You see it’s not heading in a good direction and all those fears began to creep in. You may become hyper-vigilant watching for signs he’s using again. You don’t want to accuse him, but you can’t stand the idea it may go back to how it was before.
One Day at a Time
Those in recovery will recognize what’s up with him. He’s lost that ‘sober euphoria’ some call the “pink cloud.” All the resolve and happiness that came with finally doing the right thing has buoyed his mood for the last three months, but now that seems to be waning. It may be disconcerting and even frightening. You may feel like you need to get in there and do something but the truth is, there is nothing you can do to prevent a slip if that’s what’s coming. You may feel helpless and confused.
Your loved one is going through something that is normal in that first phase of recovery. The newness has worn off and all the issues that were swept under the carpet are now quite apparent. Compound that with the physiological and psychological changes he will undergo while his body is normalizing and you now see the reason pursuing recovery is so very important. Your assessment that there are difficult times ahead may be more correct than you know! The business of changing so much about himself and how he views his life is a lot of work, and it’s work you can’t do for the addict. He may even have a slip while going through this process – it happens.
How Can I Help?
But there are things you can do. First of all, realize that the addict’s recovery program is his and his alone. When addiction invades a household, everyone is affected. Family members have been making excuses, adapting, care-taking, and cleaning up messes (of the physical, criminal and social variety) for probably longer than they even know. Those roles become so entrenched that you may not even realize how much they have, and still are, a part of the family dynamics. It doesn’t matter if you are the parent, spouse or child of the addict, his disease has greatly affected who you are. It is often recommended that family members get some kind of treatment themselves, be it counseling, family therapy or participation in a group like Al-Anon – a 12-step program designed for the family members of those in recovery, or even for those who’s loved one is still out there using.
This can help you understand what the addict in your life is going through during that tough first year and beyond, but more importantly, it may help you see how you can detach from the codependent behaviors that are often the by-product of living with the craziness addiction brings. For example, there is something called Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (P.A.W.S.) that makes an addict particularly vulnerable to relapsing at certain times – usually around three months, six months, a year, 18 months, five years etc. You may detect something different during that time, and can then remind him of what it is he might be experiencing. You may want to urge him to be extra vigilant about his recovery program. You may want to utilize your own support group to get you through those times. Ultimately, informing yourself may be of great help in alleviating your own anxiety. He has his peers in recovery, and you need someone to turn to who might offer you some insight. The beauty of Al-Anon is that you are turning to those who have either already been through what you are experiencing, or are also going through the same thing you are. The complexities of addiction are tough to maneuver through alone.
Recovery is Work
So how hard can recovery be for the addict? That depends on many things – what substance he was addicted to, how long he was addicted and what phase of recovery he’s in among other things. If he has to work with the same people he used with, it can be pretty tough for him. Maybe his wife won’t stop using but he’s determined to stick to his guns. If he has co-occurring mental health issues to contend with he has an added challenge. He may be physically ill. These factors don’t mean he can’t stay sober if he is committed to his sobriety, but he may need all the extra help he can find. Support him in seeing his physicians and taking his medicines as prescribed. Encourage him to be truthful to his doctors about being in recovery so they may be sensitive as to his treatment path. Encourage healthy eating habits and exercise. If he suffers from depression, steer him towards treatment from someone who is versed in addiction and recovery.
Relapse doesn’t have to be part of the recovery process, but it does happen, especially if the addict has no recompense when the different stages of recovery pose new challenges. Sometimes an addict will relapse many times before he makes any headway. Sometimes an addict gets it the first time and never relapses. It’s such an individual process that it would be impossible to predict who will relapse and how many times it will happen. It is during these times it’s especially important to understand that your own anger, resentment, frustration and fears need to be kept out of the equation (when possible). An addict can never be forced to make changes, but if you are armed with the proper mindset, he may be enticed into wanting to change. Again, the support of those who have been where you are is invaluable. People only change when they want to, so positive encouragement is what works best. If the slip has happened, resist the urge to be right and instead try and be understanding while pushing him to get right back on the recovery bandwagon. Without recovery at all, no one would really know what to do or where to turn, so it might be game over. It does happen that sometimes more than one treatment becomes necessary, although connecting the right treatment method to each individual will greatly improve his chance of success. Know your bottom line, and stick to it. Encouraging someone to help themselves is much different than doing things that will allow the addict to continue using. Enabling just makes everything worse.
Since our staff of professionals is comprised of those well-versed in all that recovery entails (many are recovering addicts or alcoholics themselves) they know what you’re up against. That first-hand knowledge is invaluable in assessing what type of treatment is best and addressing what pitfalls may lie ahead. Almost always, the best treatments include aftercare follow up, which is absolutely encouraged, plus help for the whole family. Addiction is like an emotionally charged tornado ripping through the lives of all who surround the addict. The best defense is education, support and above all, patience.
Whatever path to recovery you choose, our staff has access to hundreds of treatment centers to assure the best personalized treatment for you, then with continued follow up to help you make the transition to sober living as seamless as possible.
Our trained staff of professionals are qualified to help you assess what type of treatment will be the best fit to ensure you or your loved one gets the help you need.
But how does one go about finding the right program?
If this all looks very overwhelming....it is! But that's what we are here for. Call us at 888-205-8608 and we can help make this process much easier. We will narrow down all of these aspects and find the best program for you or your loved one with all your concerns considered. It's as simple as making that first call. And the best part is that we are a free service. The road to recovery starts here!
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