Recovery 101 for Family Members
Your loved one has finally agreed to attend treatment for their addiction and you probably feel relieved that they are finally sober. Maybe you are thinking “when they finish treatment we can finally get back to having a normal life!”
As your loved one progresses in treatment your life will begin to change also and you may find that you still feel anxious and worried. “Why are they spending so much time in those support meetings with other addicts instead of spending more time at home with us?” you may ask. You may lie awake at night waiting for your loved one to come home from those support meetings they are going to, feeling that their recovery does not include you. Your loved one is sober, but life is not what you had hoped it would become. These recovery support meetings are important way for your loved one to interact with other people in recovery and to learn what has helped other people become and remain sober.
In early recovery you may notice your loved one has a bounce in their step again, and that they are thinking more clearly. Addiction is a brain illness during which the substance use has altered how the brain cells work. After withdrawal, the brain begins to “reboot” itself by producing large amounts of neurotransmitters such as Dopamine resulting in more energy and pleasure. This phase is temporary because at some point the brain will need to change gears in its healing resulting in irritability, mood swings, depression, fatigue, confusion and other symptoms. You might worry that your loved one is backsliding in recovery, but they probably are not. The brain is readjusting itself to find a more stable level of functioning. The Matrix Institute of California calls this the Wall phase of recovery. If your loved one is committed to recovery, they will find that if they continue to use good recovery skills, in time they will begin to feel the mood swings and energy shifts begin to subside. They will progress and eventually will begin to feel like they have a better handle on their moods and decision making. Some recovering people will say that it can take 2 years of solid recovery to begin to feel stable. CAUTION: This does not mean they are done with recovery and can go on with their lives. Recovery is a LIFELONG process!
When your loved one is working a good recovery program, you can be supportive by listening without judgment when they need to talk. When your loved one talks about having thoughts about using, remind them to go to their support meetings and to talk to other recovering people.
Even when your loved one is working a recovery program, do NOT try to shield them from struggles or try to make life easier for them. Recovery is a maturing process that includes learning from their struggles. You would gladly tie your child’s shoelaces when they are 5, but would you continue doing it when they are 10, 15, 20 or 35?
Above all, let your recovering love one know how proud you are of them!!
Recovery is a road best travelled one day at a time!
Matrix Institute – The Stages of Recovery by Terry Gorski. Retrieved from Terry Gorki’s Blog (www.relapse.org.)
Gruenewald, B. (2018). Recovery 101 for Family Members. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 27, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/recovery-101-for-family-members/