When an addict or alcoholic enters recovery it may take a few days, or in some cases weeks, for the dust to settle. Once the initial crisis that leads an individual into treatment subsides, the challenge really begins. For the person in recovery, there can be a feeling of hopelessness due to becoming aware of the damage that has been created. For a family member or loved one, it is normal at this stage for anger to come to the surface. This is the point at which recovery tools become a high priority. Without a new manner of coping, an addict may resort to using drugs and/or alcohol again. A loved one is likely to try and control the behavior of the person in need of help. This stage of recovery is scary but with some awareness deep levels of sabotage can be averted.
Ride the Pink Cloud
When a person enters treatment everyone involved breathes a sigh of relief. Even when someone starts their sobriety reluctantly, physical abstinence usually allows for a degree of relief. Early recovery is usually the first time in a long time that a loved one, especially a parent, has had any sense of solace. This period of time is sometimes described as “the pink cloud.” This break from the insanity of addiction should be welcomed. This is also a good time to start implementing aspects of the 12 steps. Once the pink cloud subsides, it is vital to have a safety net of support. This is created by forming relationships with other people on a similar journey and by developing a basic connection with a Higher Power.
It Is a Rollercoaster
There are definitely lots of ups and downs in early sobriety. It is never a smooth ride. There is a lot to learn and many issues of which to become aware. It is not abnormal to feel a bit overwhelmed. Don’t take temporary for permanent. As scary as the journey up the hill can be, it is exhilarating to rush down hill and discover what is around the corner. If everyone involved stays engaged in a personal program there is endless joy that awaits. There will be ups and downs but the adventure will always be rewarding.
In order to stay sober, an addict must identify the ways drugs and alcohol make his or her life unmanageable. Without this admission, progression into the following steps is impossible.The acceptance that drugs and alcohol either created or magnified problems provides the proper foundation for moving forward in the program. For parents there is a similar need to determine how the pattern of addiction has created unmanageability in their lives. An addict creates much destruction in his wake and family members are inevitably affected. With the identification of these issues comes the opportunity to truly change. The beauty of twelve step recovery is that it provides people with coping tools to let go of negative patterns and replace them with more effective ways to cope. The primary theme that runs through the twelve steps is the recognition of the need for a relationship with a Higher Power.
There Is A God and It Ain’t Me!
Most people with drug and alcohol issues suffer from insecurity and low self-worth. This negative self perception is often compensated for by an overblown ego. It can be difficult for an addict or alcoholic to admit there may be any kind of power greater than him or herself, much less a benevolent being who genuinely cares for his or her condition. When this person has either moved away from any religious or spiritual background, or has no familiarity with spirituality at all, believing there is ” a Higher Power, expressed through love that can help restore us to sanity” is a bit of a stretch. Because this concept can be so complicated, finding a simple way to deflate the ego while finding hope is vital. This usually begins with some form of connection with the love and compassion of family and friends.
Life Beyond Addiction
Twelve step recovery is spiritually based. In early recovery everyone affected by addiction, both the abuser and loved ones, are encouraged to develop some sort of understanding of a Higher Power. This isn’t meant to answer deep theological or philosophical questions. The point is for those harmed by this terrible disease to realize they are not alone and that there is a solution. There are many in recovery who choose to deepen their spiritual life in many different ways. This should be encouraged. Some decide that what they identify with in early recovery is enough. Either way, if the person working a program is able to find a way to recover, they are a success. Don’t be afraid of the spiritual part of the program, in fact keep it very simple. Any good spiritual tradition is built on a foundation of Love. That is exactly what to look for because where there is love, there is hope.
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.
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.