After years of working in inpatient addiction treatment, I have a learned a few things that have enhanced the success of my clients. As an addiction counselor, I help people navigate the challenges of both early recovery and later stage (stage II) recovery. Here, I will outline some of my best tips for that first week home after a stay in inpatient treatment.
1. Validate Yourself - First things first, you have just gone through weeks of inpatient treatment. If where you went was anything like where I spent half a decade of my life, that means you felt your feelings, you followed strict rules, you did some emotionally grueling work, you sat in a chair and listened for hours a day and you were away from those you loved. I've had clients tell me their families thought they were on a "vacation". Going through treatment is not for the weak! Take a moment to validate your own efforts, regardless of how your loved ones feel about your time in treatment!
2. Go to a Meeting - Inpatient treatment (specifically a 12-step based facility) sets you up to become a member of Alcoholics Anonymous and/or Narcotics Anonymous. We know that being connected is so important, and becomes more important in early recovery. As soon as you leave the doors of your treatment center, getting to a meeting is your first priority. Right now, your only opportunity may be to connect with others on Zoom. Regardless of how, get connected!
If you are in the Greensboro area, check out www.nc23.org for up to date information.
3. Get a Sponsor- This is such a difficult part of the process for many! A sponsor is someone who has walked through the recovery process and is willing to walk with you through yours as well. When we've had painful past experiences, it can be difficult to trust other people. Getting a sponsor is an exercise in surrender. It means you are willing to let someone else show you how to get well. Look for someone who has what you want and ask them if they can show you how to find that for yourself.
4. Gather a List of At Least 10 People in Recovery- Ask other people in recovery for their phone number. They will understand because they have been in your shoes. Practice calling at least two people in recovery daily. When you really need to pick up the phone and get support, you will have enough practice doing so that it doesn't seem so overwhelming. Keep this list in your phone for easy access.
5. Make a To-Do List- You've been away for 28 days. You've got tasks piled up -- bills to pay, chores to do, phone calls to return. You feel overwhelmed just thinking about it. Get out a pen and paper and list everything you can think of that needs to be done. Then, put them in order of importance. Start at the top -- one by one your tasks will start to get done. By organizing like this, your brain can more easily manage the amount of tasks that need to be done. In early recovery, sometimes we need to help ourselves (and our brains) out like this! This can also help you see if there are any tasks you can get some support with !
As an addiction counselor in Greensboro, NC., I work with both alcoholics/addicts as well as with the people who love them.
My partner is currently drinking/using and I'm scared.. I want him/her to seek help, but don't know how to get them to do so. I feel overwhelmed.
An addict will seek treatment/help when they are ready to do so. Humans hate change -- we are programmed to do what we've always done until we have a reason to do something different. In some aspects of life, this can be more simple to accomplish -- for example, if I've worn the same shoes for 10 years and they have a big hole in the sole where my feet touch the pavement, it will likely be quite easy for me to make the decision to buy some new shoes.
When addiction comes into the picture, this gets much more complicated. Imagine that every time you went to make the decision to get new shoes, you got the shakes, started sweating uncontrollably or felt an overwhelming need to hold on to those shoes that you could not control. "Just throw the damn shoes out!" someone might say. "I don't understand why you just can't get rid of them."
Obviously these shoes bear no comparison to chemical dependency, but it is just a silly example to explain how consequences get muddied when addiction enters the picture. For some addicts/alcoholics, significant consequences can motivate change. It is often what folks are talking about when they say they have hit "rock bottom". But for others, seemingly significant consequences (like multiple overdoses for example) are just not enough.
I say all of this to say that whether or not your partner seeks recovery is not up to you. As loved ones, we are just not that powerful. This is often the scariest time as we see our loved ones becoming increasingly more self-destructive.
There are some things we CAN do:
1. Take care of yourself - As codependent loved ones the idea of putting ourselves first is often foreign, but if we are going to be able to support our loved ones, we have to take care of ourself first. This might look like basic self-care.- making sure you shower, get proper nutrition and do some things you love.
2. Connection - A popular view is that the opposite of addiction is connection. This applies for loved ones as well. Connect with others who understand your struggle and can offer experience, strength and hope to you as you navigate the recovery process. Al-Anon family groups are helpful for this. http://www.greensboroalanon.org/index.html
3. Set Boundaries and Allow Your Loved One to Feel Natural Consequences - Going back to what I said before, consequences get people into recovery! If we try to prevent our loved ones from feeling and experiencing consequences, we are enabling their addiction and getting into a sick cycle of codependence. Instead, set and enforce boundaries. This is a difficult part of recovering as a family member -- we have to be willing to stop trying to control the alcoholic/addict. Setting boundaries is often difficult as there have been so few we have been able to set and maintain before. We tend to either "overshoot" by setting too rigid of a boundary and/or withdrawing completely or "undershoot" by setting too lenient of a boundary. Having someone to walk you through this process is helpful! We can't do this alone (no matter how much over-functioning we've done in the past).
If you are feeling stressed, you are not alone. Here are some tips to help you navigate these trying times.
Please remember that you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336.405.8583 if you are struggling!
LCMHC, LCASA, NCC, MA
“Be a priority, not an option!” This is something you’ve probably heard before. When you are in a relationship with another person and you are being placed on the backburner you may start to question your relationship, your needs or even your worth. Here are some questions to ask yourself to help guide you in moments like this:
How do I feel and what do I need?
Most of the time, what we are feeling is a mix of abandonment and rejection. There might be some sadness involved as we grieve the loss of what our relationship once was. There could also be fear involved as you grapple with questions such as “does this mean he/she wants to leave me?” If you can ground yourself in your feelings, you can then start to piece together what you need. For example, if you feel fear you may need reassurance. If you feel abandonment, you may need to feel supported.
Are my expectations realistic?
Expectations can create major disappointment. I cannot expect my partner to meet all of my needs. If I state to my partner, “I feel abandoned and I need to feel supported”, I can’t expect them to know how to make me feel that way. I have to be able to articulate my needs and expect that I they will not always be able to meet them. It is not fair (to you or to others) to put your emotional wellbeing in your partner’s hands.
Am I taking care of my own priorities?
I can’t tell you how many times I have worked with women who found themselves in the following cycle: have needs, try to get needs met by partner, get clingy, push partner away, blame partner for not meeting needs. It is our responsibility to give ourselves what we are most looking for. If you feel abandoned, how can you stop abandoning yourself? If you feel scared, how can you tend to those fears? Taking some responsibility for your own needs can drastically help your relationships.
Do I need to set boundaries or be in this relationship?
In some cases, your partner might be acting in a disrespectful way. This is where you have to make a decision about what you are willing to put up with. If you tried everything above and things are still not working for you, you get to decide if you want the relationship to end. If you stay in a relationship hoping it will change, you are just going to hurt yourself more. A boundary might sound like, “When you spend time with everyone else before me, I feel hurt, confused and sad. I need to know that you value your time with me. If you continue to put me last, I cannot continue to be in a relationship with you.”
as featured in Deep Soulful Love
Enabling and caregiving both involve a strong desire to love, help and nurture another person. These desires are amplified, often with a sense urgency and desperation, for those with loved ones in active addiction. The reality, however, is that many of the behaviors that seem “helpful” are actually quite the opposite. We can literally love others to death. Here we will differentiate between caregiving and enabling (which we can also refer to as “caretaking” or codependency), offering a more helpful approach to supporting your loved one in active addiction.
Caregiving is the act of giving care to another person who is incapable of giving it to themselves. For example, it is developmentally appropriate to tie a two-year old’s shoes (if they cannot). Enabling or caretaking, on the other hand is taking away another person’s ability to do something for themselves. When we get into a dynamic of enabling, we rob the other person of any opportunity to learn and experience the growth necessary to function on their own. This creates a mutual dependence that leads to more frustration and resentment for both parties.
When it comes to addiction, enabling adds fuel to the disease’s fire. If you enable your loved one in active addiction, these behaviors prevents them from experiencing the natural consequences of their own behaviors. Examples of enabling in relation to the addiction process include: giving money to an addict; repairing common property the addict broke; lying to the addict’s employer to cover up absenteeism; fulfilling the addict’s commitments to others; screening phone calls and making excuses for the addict; speaking for the addict or bailing him or her out of jail. It isn’t that these behaviors are “bad” or “wrong”, but it is clear they aren’t working to keep your loved one safe and sober.
To stop enabling isn’t easy. For many, the fear of a loved one losing his or her job, going to jail or overdosing is too much to create any lasting behavioral change. You may have to weigh consequences of short-term pain versus long-term misery in each case. However, the most important thing to know is that you do not have to make any of these decisions alone. Like Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon and Nar-Anon provide space for those affected by the disease of addiction. Sponsors and other members of the community can help you navigate these challenging decisions, set boundaries that you are comfortable with and learn to enable your loved ones’ recovery instead of their addiction.