Tag Archives: substance abuse

Early Addiction Recovery

Early addiction recovery can be very tricky. Not only is there a presenting problem or crisis related to drugs and alcohol, there are the years of emotions that have been avoided, the fractured family relationships, and feelings of failure. Most addicts and alcoholics have squandered talents, opportunities, and potential. This can be scary and frustrating to loved ones who feel torn between fear and resentment. On one hand, a parent  may want to lock a young drug abuser away until he or she “grows up” enough to understand the ramifications of his or her actions. On the other hand, a parent may feel that any lengths that need to be gone to in order to keep the child alive are worth it. These emotions can be crippling.

What Actually Happens In Early Recovery?

A simple way to understand the beginning stages of sobriety is to look at what parts of a person are truly affected by alcoholism and addiction. The short answer is: all aspects of a person are damaged. There are physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences. All of these areas have to be addressed patiently. Abstinence alone does not fix the problem, this is merely physical. “Finding God” is very difficult for someone who is under foreign management. Going to therapy and “getting to the root of it” does not motivate someone abusing drugs and alcohol to change. He or she is usually aware of many of the issues at hand. It generally takes 2-3 weeks for a recovering addict to begin “feeling.” Early abstinence; once the angst of not using passes, leads the newly sober person to feel better. This good feeling doesn’t last very long. Once the addict begins to experience emotions he or she tends to become filled with anxiety, frustration, and fear.

The Solution Is Spiritual

Twelve step recovery is predicated on an understanding of a Higher Power. Whether this begins as the love of an empathetic group of people, a traditional religious concept of God, or some other form of spirituality it is critical for an addict to begin this process. A person new in recovery needs hope. He or she needs genuine love and concern. He or she relies on the awareness that addiction and alcoholism can be overcome. This spiritual contact provides the motivation to walk through the challenge of facing difficult problems. Once a spiritual foundation is established much of the emotional work can begin. This is when introspection, therapy, and development of more effective coping mechanisms takes place.

How Long Does It Take?

Good recovery never ends. For an alcoholic, addict, or substance abuser the journey is ongoing. This is not depressing. This is an awareness that as long as someone is willing to take an honest look at his or her life, opportunities for growth will always arise. This experience is liberating and filled with joy. The knowledge and life skills developed in sobriety provide a better understanding of success, happiness, and healthy relationships. Rather than put a time frame on “when will it get better”, understand that as soon as someone commits his or her self to recovery, life begins to get better. Everyone involved needs patience and a compassionate perspective. The rewards that come from real sobriety are incalculable.

 

Healing Relationships In Substance Abuse Recovery With C.R.A.P.

Drug addiction and alcoholism destroy innumerable areas of an abuser’s life. An addict will suffer physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Despondency, anxiety, anger, and guilt are emotions regularly experienced by a drug abuser. Many substance abusers feel alone and that no one else understands what he or she is going through. Most connections with other people, especially family and friends, have been severely damaged. The idea of “sharing” with someone else or asking for help is rarely considered. However, in order to achieve recovery the suffering addict must form real and meaningful relationships with those who can help.healing-relationships-in-substance-abuse-recovery-with-c-r-a-p

C.R.A.P.

One of the main effects of drug and alcohol abuse is disconnection from empathy and concern for others. A person with a substance abuse problem is primarily concerned with figuring out how to feel good right now. It can be discouraging to watch an addict or alcoholic lose the motivation to participate in normal life activities. A tool that can be useful for  parents and the recovering addict is effective communication. In Enthusiastic Sobriety, the term used to explain this vital skill is C.R.A.P., communication resolves all problems. Beyond The Yellow Brick Road provides an entire section on this idea.
C.R.A.P. Provides Relief
If a family is unable to talk effectively to each other it will remain fractured and wounded. Sometimes the solution is as simple as learning how and when to talk. For example, trying to work out a disagreement in the heat of the moment is generally a bad idea. When two parties are able to separate for a period of time in order to cool off, they can usually come together later and find a solution to whatever the disagreement is. The need “to be right” is one of the greatest destroyers of relationships. An addict has to learn the value of restraint, especially with words, but so do parents. When people learn to pause, seek counsel from an objective party, and let go of the need to be right the situation usually gets C.R.A.P.ed out.

Entering the New Year Sober

The first year of substance abuse recovery is a challenge for both the addict and the entire family. Not only is the recovering drug abuser trying to stay sober, there is also the challenge of mending relationships and cleaning up other areas of life. An addict’s first holiday season can also bring about new emotional demands.  In particular New Year’s is known for its parties and alcohol fueled revelry. It is important to find ways to replace all that is being “missed” at this time of the year.

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What To Do?

Enthusiastic sobriety programs hold a major event on New Year’s Eve that includes meetings, games, a dance, and tons of fellowship for the entire family. It is a great opportunity for everyone who attends to start changing some of the associations with the holidays that center on drug and alcohol abuse. For a lot of families it has been a while since the new year provided hope and optimism. Having something to do that everyone can enjoy helps the process of healing for the family. Plus, it is an opportunity to make more connections with people on a similar path.

What To Think

Ending the old year and beginning the new year with an attitude of gratitude goes a long way. For a newly sober addict it is easy to look back on the year with a lot of remorse and regret. This is dangerous because if an addict is caught in self-pity the tendency is to fall into a pattern of depression. Reflection doesn’t have to be morbid. It can be an honest assessment of past events with an awareness of new emotional tools to improve one’s life. Starting the year sober gives a clear perspective on how much possibility exists. Recovery from substance abuse is truly a great opportunity for a new lease on life.

Don’t Take It Personal Parents, It’s Probably Not About You

It is common for parents of kids with substance abuse problems to believe they are somehow at fault. These parents convince themselves that if certain circumstances were different, or if other decisions had been made, that somehow their child would not have a drug problem. It may be true that some parenting techniques or childhood events may have contributed to emotional factors that predispose someone to a drug or alcohol problem. However, when a young person chooses to use for the first time that decision is almost always motivated by peer acceptance and a desire to have fun.

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Not What You Think

On a regular basis I challenge parents to think about their motivation to do certain things when they were teenagers. Whether they drank alcohol or used drugs is irrelevant; most young people find ways to rebel. Almost everyone who is asked admits that even though they may have been taking actions that would be construed as defiant, they weren’t thinking about their parents when deciding to cross the line. Not everyone who grows up in a difficult environment develops a substance abuse problem and not everyone with a substance abuse problem has reason to blame his or her family. I grew up with an alcoholic parent. I often explain to people that this was the greatest form of prevention I could have been exposed to. Living with an alcoholic is horrible. However, when a group of kids who I thought were cool gave me the opportunity, I drank. In spite of everything I knew about the consequences of alcohol abuse, I drank. This developed into a serious drug and alcohol problem for which I needed a lot of help.

Get Help For The Right Stuff

I understand why my parents felt guilty. In fact, I manipulated their emotions as a means to do whatever I wanted to do. But once they realized that my actions were my responsibility and let go of their guilt, recovery for me and for my family became possible. Their are certainly issues a parent needs to resolve. Any family scourged by substance abuse knows this. At the same time, there is no way to go back in time and fix past issues. Self-pity and remorse attached to past parenting blocks a person from being able to heal the relationship with the addict. There is no perfect parent and anyone can look back at the past and recognize all kinds of things that could have been done “better.” This awareness cannot change anything if the focus is not on building a better relationship today.

Youth at Risk In Today’s World

It is not uncommon to hear stories about “at risk youth.” The term is often used but at times misunderstood. There are so many circumstances that put young people in potentially dangerous situations that in some ways young people are “at risk” all the time. Normally, parents compare what teenagers experience today through the lens of their own life but today’s world is a very different place. Every generation has its version of “these young people just don’t get it” but in reality things have changed significantly in the past three decades.youth-at-risk-in-todays-world

Information Changes Everything

Access to information has radically changed the way young people react to life. In most cases this is a good thing but there are exceptions. For teenagers prone to  drug and alcohol abuse or other forms of self-destructive acting out this can be devastating. People that get high are in constant search of justification. Now it is possible to build an army of support for any behavior without any pushback. This is extremely dangerous for young people who are suffering because if they successfully find others to validate dangerous forms of acting out, they are less likely to find help when it is really needed. A drug or alcohol abuser is an expert at showing the world what he or she wants others to see. The isolation and internal torture a young person lives with is difficult to recognize. Receiving validation from “friends” online only perpetuates the problem. This was not the case in the eighties and nineties.

Same Mindset, Different Circumstances

Teenagers are still teenagers. Anyone can understand that simple fact. Many parents of teenagers today had their own bouts with drug and alcohol abuse in high school or college. However, it is dangerous and naive to think this provides the knowledge needed to help a struggling young person. The drugs of today are different. They are far more powerful and much more available. The social acceptance for drug abuse is rampant. These facts don’t make the situation hopeless. No one needs to accept a loved one abusing drugs or alcohol or convince themselves their child is “going through a phase.” If you are concerned about someone you love, ask for help. If this is an overreaction, so be it. With a problem this serious an exaggerated reaction is better than waiting until it is too late.

Adolescent Substance Abuse Treatment And Its Emotional Challenges

Recovery from any addiction is a difficult process. It involves an individual’s willingness to take responsibility for his or her actions, a concrete decision to make significant lifestyle changes, and the courage to repair damaged relationships. The level of emotional maturity involved in taking these steps is usually somewhat foreign to an addict. What about a person who is an addict and, developmentally speaking, a child? How does this person muster the emotional maturity needed to begin the recovery process?

 

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For decades the adolescent substance abuse problem has gotten progressively worse. There have been prevention programs which have had some success, but adolescents continue to abuse drugs and alcohol at an alarming rate. Because of this, it is important for anyone who works with adolescents to understand this unique population.

  •       The conscious motivation for most adolescents to abuse drugs and alcohol is different than that of an adult. The adolescent abuser is seeking fun and peer acceptance,whereas the adult is seeking pain relief.
  •       In most cases adolescents have yet to face the same level of physical or emotional consequences most adult addicts have faced
  •       The adult addict is responsible for all aspects of his or her life, the adolescent isn’t

These are just a few of the differences between adults and adolescents with substance abuse issues. Some of the challenges in treatment include:

  • Creating an environment in which the adolescent has fun and gains peer acceptance. Developmentally these are needs which must be addressed
  • Helping an emotionally immature child take enough internal responsibility for his or her actions to be motivated to change
  • Showing an adolescent how to maintain healthy balance in his or her emotional life, in other words, limiting the emotional extremes

The biggest mistake clinicians make in treating adolescent substance abuse is assuming the adolescent is capable of dealing with life like an adult. In most cases, an adolescent must be able to see recovery as an attractive lifestyle. An adolescent substance abuser already has a general lack of trust with adults or any other “authority” figures. It is critical to maintain patience in order to gain the trust of an adolescent. Once trust is established, it is possible to reach an adolescent at their level.

Guidance For Parents In Substance Abuse Recovery

The second step in Enthusiastic Sobriety is: We found it necessary to stick with winners in order to grow.  For young people in recovery, the reason for this statement to be an actual step is obvious. Young addicts and alcoholics are very peer driven. If they aren’t around other sober young people they are likely to use again. What isn’t as clear is the degree to which adults are affected by the opinions of other grown-ups. Some of the worst advice parents get on how to deal with a drug abusing child comes from other well intentioned parents.Guidance For Parents In Substance Abuse Recovery

Good Intention Is Not Necessarily Good Advice

Most people are very willing to give advice to parents who are struggling with a troubled child. This is especially true if the kid in question has a drug or alcohol problem. It seems that everyone has either experienced substance abuse issues or at least knows someone who has. These experiences can be helpful but are often a hindrance. When a family is in the midst of a crisis centered on drug abuse what they need most is sound guidance. Where counsel comes from is important. Emotionally driven anecdotal tips do little good. For a plan of action a parent should consult an expert. The combination of professional counsel and empathetic support from parents who have been in a similar situation lay the foundation for a solid program of recovery.

You Are Not Alone

Having a child struggling with drug and alcohol problems does not make a parent a failure. Asking for help can be extremely difficult. The fear of judgment or the idea that somehow you have caused the problem leads to despair and isolation. There are people who understand exactly how it feels to be in this situation. Those who have found recovery have a responsibility to share what they have done to get better. Parents in need of help don’t know where to turn. There is an endless supply of irrational recommendations available. Most people in search of help have been misguided at some point. Not everyone can be expected to understand what it is like to deal with a substance abuse issue. “Sticking with winners” is a powerful tool parents can use to find help and to not feel so crazy. 

Is Relapse A Part Of Recovery?

“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.

Is Relapse A Part Of Recovery?

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.