It is often said that recovery is not an event, but a process. So, just because your loved one finally wants into recovery does not mean that your nightmare or their nightmare is over. No, this is not the end of a long hard journey. Instead, this is the start of one that may well be more difficult for you than watching them sink lower and lower into the heartbreaking world of addiction. This is a journey that will test you as much as them.
I believe the message herein is so important that I edited a chapter from my book to present it here
If you know of anybody who might benefit from it, I urge you to share it. In fact, even if you do not directly know of somebody or do not wish to pointedly copy somebody on it, simply share it on social media. You might just touch someone’s life.
So, your loved one finally wants into recovery, what is next? I’ll tell you what’s next. Back up, shut up and listen; that is what is next.
Sadly, often times what lays between the recovering son or daughter and a successful recovery are the parents. Afraid of another failure by their loved one, they would rather shame the loved one than take the necessary self-inventory and determine what is the best thing they can do now.
I have seen this far too often and have lost the friendship of many a parent because I called them out on it. I am happy to report though that many of their loved ones are now clean and sober.
If you are not willing to honestly take that inventory, then just get the hell out of the way
I have watched dozens of individuals and their families struggle with the recovery process as parents sit in staunch denial of the part they played in their loved one’s addiction. It is a very distressing thing to watch somebody who wants recovery reach out to a parent and see that parent react as he/she had always reacted, thereby driving their loved one away and back toward their addiction.
Do not allow yourself to go into self-denial. The fact is that unresolved emotional conflicts within your loved one are at least partially responsible for their addiction. First, these are emotional conflicts of which you were a part. Secondly, these are emotional conflicts which started him/her down the road to addiction in the first place. Own it.
This is where you are at.
Here is the situation in a nutshell. This loved one of yours has hurt you and disappointed you so many times in the past that you don’t want to set yourself up to be heartbroken again. Therefore, you are afraid to believe. However deep down you really want to believe because you long for the love or trust that was there when he or she was ten years old. Hello! Welcome to your loved one’s head space. He or she is feeling the exact same thing. He or she is going through the same angst and has the same hopes as you.
It is time for you to take stock of your life, not his life or her life. No, you need to take stock of your own life. You need to look at your spouse’s life and the environment you both provided. It is that environment which assisted in leading your loved one down the path to addiction. I’m not saying that he or she necessarily turned to drugs or alcohol as a direct result of your actions. Although I’m not outlawing that possibility either.
Your loved one doesn’t need your counsel and advice. Those things did not save them from addiction in the first place. They will not help them on their journey out.
If you or your spouse were not overtly abusive, it is more than likely that you missed a clue (or one hundred of them) somewhere or that some behaviors coming from your home were somehow, perhaps innocently and/or ignorantly, at least contributory. If you cannot do an absolutely self-honest assessment of the home you provided and of who you are and what your behaviors and the stresses from those behaviors may have done to your loved one’s psyche, then you are more worried and protective of yourself than you are of your loved one. If that is the case, the best thing you can do now is just step away. That’s because you are part of the problem and not part of the solution.
If on the other hand, you determine that perhaps you assisted in the addiction of your loved one, nobody is interested in why you did so. It doesn’t matter now. Whether you did so it because it was cultural or because it was religious. Or whether you did so because that was what you learned from your parents treatment of you or from their relationship with one another makes no difference.
Stop the excuses.
Frankly I detest any “it wasn’t my fault” excuses. You must have known how bad it felt coming from your parents, and then you repeated it? Shame on you. Then you just went ahead and did the same thing to a child who only wanted to feel loved and accepted by you.
So, do you have what it takes to man up or woman up for your own actions?
If you can get past your own ego and swallow your pride, here is what must happen now.
Treat this as a new relationship.
You and your loved one are each renewing a relationship that was painful to you both. You are each trying to get past old hurts and old betrayals. Think of how you would each react to one another if those memories did not exist for either of you. How would you react if you had never met before? Your job, as would your loved one’s job, would be far easier.
Neither of you would want to rush into each others arms, nor be willing to give trust that had not been earned. Neither of you would be trying to control the others life, nor talking to the other of the hurts each had caused the other.
Each of you must now put the past behind you. Each of you must look at this as a relationship that is fresh. In so doing, each of you must do what you would do if you had never met before.
This means that each of you must refuse to bring your baggage to a stranger’s home or put your burden on a stranger’s heart. If the recovery is successful, the time might come for dealing with those hurts, but it will be many months or even years down the line.
If you are unselfish now and un-controlling, each of you will recognize when you have actually built an entirely new relationship. Each of you will recognize when that new relationship has bonded into a relationship of mutual trust. [Be very careful here, trust is built over time, but can be lost in an instant.]
When you each allow that to happen by steadfastly refusing to allow the past to enter the present, the bad times will then be looked upon as a period that occurred between the joys of childhood and the now new joys of this wonderful new relationship. Then you can become part of the solution instead of remaining part of the problem.
Most recoveries are abandoned in the first seven to sixty days. A large percentage of them are abandoned because the parent(s) refused to alter their own behaviors.
This is a psychologically fragile time for you and your loved one. Your hopes will be so high for him/her that any controlling instincts you may have had will rise to top. Those instincts will be to overpower and try to direct this recovery that excites you so much. Remember, this is your loved one’s recovery, not yours. You must allow him/her to walk his/her chosen road to sobriety without any interference from you. This will be difficult, but it is critical that you do so.
Instead, you need to focus on you because you have your own recovery to deal with.
It is not just your loved one who is addicted. You are also addicted. You are addicted to your behaviors.
This is what must happen now
Now it is time for self control. This is where your self-inventory enters the picture. If you created too many expectations in the past, forget the expectations. You have no room for expectations now. Instead, you only have room for hope and for prayer.
If you were a yeller, stop yelling; talk softly now. If you were a controller, yield that control with words such as, “that is up to you honey.” If you were a criticizer, stop criticizing. Instead, learn to lightly encourage with empowering words. “It’s your recovery sweetie. As much as I would like to help, I think the best thing for you is to work with professionals and walk the road you need to walk. I’ve always loved you and always will and can hardly wait until I have you completely back.”
Encourage without criticism and without guidance and do not create any pressure.
Instead, tell that loved one that as much as you hope his/her recovery is successful this time, that it is, indeed, his/her recovery and that you don’t want to mess it up in any manner. Tell your loved one that you will try to be there when he/she reaches out to you, but that you will not be volunteering or offering advice as your doing so might be misinterpreted as interfering (Hell, it might actually be your instinct to interfere) and that you do not want to get in the way of what he/she wants and needs to accomplish.
Tell your loved one how much you care and encourage him/her to call you for moral support. Make it clear to him/her, that as much as you would like to, you will NOT give him/her money. You can offer food or pay a bill yourself, but you cannot give cash or anything that can be converted to cash. [Hint: Gift cards can be traded on the street for dope.]
Get help for yourself.
Get in touch with AL-ANON and allow it to help guide you. There are also other organizations. Then pray everyday for self control and wisdom for you and for strength for your loved one. As you pray, realize that you need healing as much as your loved one and understand that, paradoxically, the only way that you heal together is to each heal separately.
In closing, remember this. “The deeper the hole in which your loved one finds himself/herself, the more he/she probably wants out of it, but the less hope they see. Your non-critical love might just be their only hope and the only thing that stands between them and death.”