It is estimated that 8.5% of the population struggles with substance abuse and addiction problems according to a 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Mental Health. According to those statistics, it is safe to say that most families have at least one family member (or close friend) who falls into this category.
For those struggling with substance abuse and addiction, when a recovering addict gets out of an inpatient treatment center or detox, the world can be significantly different. For the past 14-90 days (depending on length of detox or inpatient treatment) your loved one has been on a regimented schedule, surrounded by support 24/7 in a closed off setting. Now coming back into real life and society, there will be many emotions that your loved one was to deal with. All of the stresses of the world and real life seem very far away when you are in an inpatient setting. Now coming back to the world sober is going to be a very different and sometimes scary situation for your loved one. people assume that a person can go into an addiction treatment center and can come out and be recovered. This is not the case. Recovery is a lifelong decision and staying in recovery will be a daily battle for the recovering addict. Family and friends are crucial for the recovery process, added love and support are desperately needed for your loved one.
Addiction is a complex disease and is often misunderstood by the general public. Learning about the disease of addiction is important for anyone who is maintaining a relationship with a loved one in early recovery. Addiction education should be one of the first steps of preparation before you begin spending time with the recovering addict.
There have been a number of books written about substance abuse and addiction, 12-Step meetings, you can also find information about the disease of addiction online.
Encourage a Sober Living Environment
In treatment, your loved one has not been exposed to any type of drug or drink for the time they spent in detox or in the treatment center. Not having alcohol or drugs in the house where the recovery addict is staying is crucial in the days and weeks of very early recovery. This is why most treatment programs will suggest that the recovery addict look into a sober living facility for those vulnerable first few weeks and months. Sober living facilities are great because the recovering addict is around those who are on the same mission 24/7. Most of these living facilities have their own home group meetings and close supervision, so staying on track is something that is expected and encouraged.
If your loved one is not staying in a sober living type of housing, make sure that they aren’t exposed to any type of addictive substances because they are still fragile at this time and relapse can happen at any given moment. This is especially important if you are in a relationship with someone who is in early recovery, you may even want to refrain from all substance use as a sign of support. Anytime a recovery addict is exposed to alcohol or drugs, there is going to be that little voice in their head that is promoting a relapse. The only way to be sure this doesn’t happen is to have absolutely no substances in the home. The risk is too great, so the best choice is to avoid having anything that could cause a trigger.
*Triggers are known to the recovery community as anything that would strike a nerve for the recovering addict, causing them to want to use again. Triggers can be people, places, things, images, and of course seeing any sort of alcohol or drug.
Encourage Sober Relationships
If the recovering addict in your life has opted to stay in a sober living facility, chances are he/she will be surrounded by many people with the same mission, to stay clean. It is important that after coming out of treatment your loved one be around people who are trying to do the same. This will ensure that “meeting up” is not going to happen at a nightclub or bar because others in recovery will want to stay away from any places that would be a trigger. In any relationship, the people you surround yourself with will be an influence and will be the people you learn from. Having friends in recovery is just going to make the process for your loved one that much more pleasant.
According to the 12-Steps, a dating relationship is not suggested until the recovering addict is clean for over a year, however this sometimes can be unrealistic. Although we suggest abstinence not only from alcohol and drugs, but also relationships; we know this is a hard task to accomplish. So if the recovery addict is going to date, it is extremely important that the person they are starting a relationship with is 100% on-board with their recovery process.
Encourage Sober Activities and Healthy Habits
Straight out of treatment your loved one probably is not in a place where they are ready to get directly back into the hustle and bustle of normal society. If he/she does have a job, they should continue working, but many people enter treatment at “rock bottom”. So they were without a job, car, or housing and now being sober, they are finally taking the time to see that all these necessities are required to live a normal life.
Besides just employment, encourage your loved one to participate in sober activities. The gym and any kind of recreational league sports are an amazing way to stay sober and healthy at the same time. Exercising is the only known activity that actually combats depression and anxiety naturally, plus, it makes you feel great afterwards- mind, body, and spirit.
Some people do not consider themselves to be athletic or may dislike going to the gym. It is still important to consider the gym or sports as an option because of all the great benefits these activities offer. If exercising is not an option, then here are other activities that can be done in a sober environment. Volunteer work is always needed (homeless shelters, kitchens, pet rescue, etc…) and there are many specialized church programs for those in recovery.
There are also a number of classes available in sober environments. Sobriety gives the recovering addict a chance to find other loves and passions in life. Art, cooking, sewing, dancing, fishing, hiking, book clubs, and baking are all great examples of classes that you can join that promote other hobbies besides those involving partying. These are healthy ways to meet people and to maintain a sober environment.
A New Start, Inc. has an alumni program, with the main focus being interaction with individuals who have been through our program. Regularly, we hold an event that is fun for all of our alumni. It is a great way to reconnect and have a good time in a safe and sober environment. As long as your loved one is doing something in their free time that is productive and far away from using, it will be a successful day in recovery. We have a great time bowling, racing go-carts, and so much more!
Attend Support Groups or Meetings
“A meeting a day, keeps the triggers away.” Temptation is all around us, but going to meetings and being around those in recovery is a great way to fight back against the temptation to use. Attending meetings with your loved one shows that you are on board with their recovery process and that is the best form of support. There are so many different types of meetings to attend and you can always find one that goes with your schedule and personal preferences of location, crowd, etc.
There are a number of different meeting categories as well, there are open meetings which are open to anyone, then there are closed meetings, which are more private. There is AA for alcoholics and NA for narcotic users. There are even meetings specified for gambling, sex addiction, co-dependency, and just for family members or loved ones in recovery. If you go online, you will certainly be able to find a meeting that both you and your loved one can attend together, which would be beneficial to both of you.
Know the Signs of Relapse
Relapse usually does not happen all of the sudden (even though it can in some cases). Usually the first thoughts and temptations happen weeks or months before the actual relapse. Sometimes privacy is one of the ideas that needs to change when you are dealing with someone in early recovery. Holding someone accountable to their treatment plan may not be the most pleasurable thing to do but in the long run it will be more than rewarding.
Signs to look for to see if the recovering addict is possibly looking to relapse would be, hanging out with old friends and places, recent relationship or job troubles, disinterest of everything recovery (not seeing your sponsor anymore, not attending meetings or alumni events), isolation, and just a disconnect in general from family and friends.
As soon as you start noticing your loved one in early recovery may be struggling, it is important to get them the help needed as soon as possible. Relapse is not something to take lightly. Relapse can end tragically for the addict, so when it comes to life and death you should take all and any precautions to make sure your loved one is staying on the right path.
Recovery is a process, a journey, meant to be lived one day at a time. These are common phrases we hear when thinking about those in early recovery. These phrases could not be more true. As previously discussed, a recovering addict does not just come out of a rehab already healed. There is a very long road ahead. So being patient, listening, and constant encouragement are needed as your loved one begins the path of living life sober and clean.
If you ever think your loved one is struggling with relapse or substance abuse in general, we can help, call A New Start, Inc. now at 844-TALK-ANS, we have admissions counselors available 24/7.