When a young person enters drug and alcohol treatment most parents have (what seem to be) thousands of questions.
- What about school?
- How long will this take?
- What about vacation?
- Do I have to stop drinking?
- Is it my fault?
- What if he/she relapses?
- What will happen after treatment?
This list is by no means exhaustive but it provides some examples of what people want to know. The first piece of advice for anyone is…….breathe. Once the problem is uncovered most loved ones want immediate resolution. Unfortunately this is an issue that has been a long time in the making and the recovery process isn’t quick.
Commit to the Solution
Drug and alcohol treatment usually requires a serious financial and time commitment. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind to not take temporary for permanent. It won’t always be like this. The longer an individual stays sober, the more capable he or she becomes of taking on more responsibilities. In early recovery it is vital that sobriety be the top priority. This means before school, work, and Sunday family dinner. It’s not that these parts of life aren’t important, it’s that none of them will matter if an addict doesn’t stay sober. The objective of treatment is to help an individual navigate life without the use of drugs and alcohol. At a program like Insight that means abstinence. Throughout the course of treatment the newly sober person gains coping tools that will be used in aftercare. Taking the time to to internalize these tools as much as possible is vital.
The Big Picture
One of the primary goals of treatment for a young addict or alcoholic is family recovery. Once a young person is sober he or she is better prepared to participate in the family. It is extremely difficult to overcome the guilt and shame created by an addict’s lifestyle. Eventually the recovering addict wants to repair damaged relationships. It is a challenge for loved ones to wait for this transformation to take place. However, those who are able to maintain patience are usually rewarded.
“Relapse is a part of recovery.” This is a term that has circulated around drug and alcohol treatmentfor decades. It is meant to help people to not become discouraged when an addict or alcoholic experiences a slip. However, this way of thinking can also be used as a way to rationalize a conscious decision to go back to active drug or alcohol abuse. Because the terminology can be somewhat ambiguous, what should someone do when a “relapse” occurs? What is the appropriate way to react? There can be a fine line between support and enabling consequently any loved one of an addict or alcoholic needs a lot of support.
So, Define Relapse
A simple way to understand relapse is to remember that a person who is new to recovery has depended on a chemical fix for an extended period of time. Abusing drugs or alcohol has become the normal way to live. It is the default response to any aspect of life, positive or negative. An addict uses drugs and alcohol to enhance good feelings as much as attempting to escape emotions that are uncomfortable. It is a major shock to the system to approach day to day life abstinent from all mind changing chemicals. In early recovery when emotions start to rise to the surface the newly sober drug abuser can become overwhelmed. His first thought will be to get high. Obviously it is best to avoid the temptation and work through his feelings. But when the opportunity to use comes up and is acted upon a drug abuser will either admit the mistake and move forward or become discouraged and continue to use. Whether or not this is considered a relapse depends on the reaction of the user. When a person relapses and is able to continue his program of recovery this can be very positive. After a short period of sobriety the positive payoffs of drugs and alcohol tend to fade. This contrast between using and recovery becomes dramatic. In this sense relapse is a part of recovery.
What Can I Do?
One person’s relapse is another person’s manipulation. One of the reasons it is so important for family members to be involved in an addict’s recovery is because of the need for accountability on all levels. No one can “keep” another person sober. However, when everyone is engaged in the recovery process the addict is less likely to see getting high as a viable option. The family has to make the decision that the rollercoaster ride of active drug and alcohol abuse is over. When an addict knows this wall exists and everyone involved is committed to recovery the decision to use again becomes much more difficult. Just like an addict in sobriety needs a sober peer group, parents and other family members thrive with support of an empathizing circle. Family members need counseling, guidance, and support. With the right kind of encouragement the recovery process will continue for all involved.