Shift the Fo­cus: Re­cov­ery comes in stages for fam­ily

Cecil Whig - - FRONT PAGE -

— The Ac­tion Stage is where the care­giver re­al­izes that the things they tried in the Prepa­ra­tion Stage did not work.

De­tach­ment started here for me. I knew I did not cause my son’s sub­stance use ill­ness. I ac­cepted that I needed to learn how my ac­tions were ei­ther help­ing or hurt­ing him to get well. Ed­u­cat­ing my­self was huge at this stage.

I learned I could not con­trol his sub­stance use, nor could I cure it. I could only con­trol what was in my hula hoop — me! I had to take ac­tion to get life back. Self-care be­came a pri­or­ity. If I was not well, I would not be able to make sound de­ci­sions to di­rect my son to­ward re­cov­ery. I started in­di­vid­ual ther­apy to ad­dress the trauma that sub­stance use was hav­ing on my life. I sought out spir­i­tual guid­ance. I re­con­nected with my friends and fam­ily that I pulled away from.

Af­ter his sec­ond to­taled ve­hi­cle, I got the dreaded call, “Mom, I need help.” I was able to re­main calm. As hard as it was, I re­sponded with, “I will help you but my help means in-pa­tient treat­ment fol­lowed by six to nine months of sober liv­ing. Take some time to think about it and call me back.”

I waited and was grate­ful for the choice he made. He knew he needed to take ac­tion to change. By chang­ing my ac­tions, I was able to in­flu­ence his ac­tions. I did not pay for his at­tor­ney. I made it clear no more money would be spent on wasted col­lege cred­its. I sup­ported him to­ward re­cov­ery ac­tions. I was there for him emo­tion­ally.

He chose the deal and is al­most four and a half years sober. The fourth stage of ac­tion and re­build­ing for a spouse is much dif­fer­ent. The dy­nam­ics in the re­la­tion­ship and the home cause ad­di­tional re­sis­tance. How will your loved one get out of work? Will there be less in­come dur­ing this time to pay house­hold bills? What will we tell our fam­ily and friends? How will you han­dle the in­ner work­ings of your fam­ily if your spouse is away for six to nine months?

These are all valid fears and com­pli­ca­tions. The re­al­ity is their life is at stake. Rarely can a loved one get well with­out the re­search-based meth­ods of re­cov­ery. Rarely will a loved one en­ter into long-term re­cov­ery with­out a strong net­work of peers. Re­gain­ing a spir­i­tual foun­da­tion or set of be­liefs is also an in­te­gral part of this stage. It is chal­leng­ing for the all mem­bers of the fam­ily to up­set the struc­ture within the home.

Wasn’t this al­ready hap­pen­ing though? Was your loved one en­gaged in fam­ily in­ter­ac­tions? Were they emo­tion­ally avail­able? Could you rely on them fi­nan­cially? Do you want to set­tle for this type of life with the added fear that death could rear its ugly head?

Stage five is the stage loved ones have been wait­ing for. The fi­nal stage of Main­te­nance where a state of well-be­ing is reached.

For your loved one, the changes made in the Ac­tion Stage are be­ing main­tained. Their words and their ac­tions be­gin to match. You hear the lan­guage of re­cov­ery be­come a part of their daily con­ver­sa­tion. Re­cover y is the most im­por­tant part of their day. Their de­sire to stay sober out­weighs their de­sire to use. Time is spent at daily sup­port meet­ings and a spon­sor ob­tained. New friends will once again ap­pear, but these are sober friends with a com­mon goal: a life of re­cov­ery.

For most care­givers, this stage of change is a wel­come sight for the fam­ily. For oth­ers, this is not al­ways the case. If you did not start to ed­u­cate your­self and make changes for your­self dur­ing the process, this is an “un­ex­pected” dif­fi­cult time. Why do I feel so un­com­fort­able when they are fi­nally sober? Why am I sus­pi­cious of ev­ery­thing they do? Why am I an­gry?

Your loved one will re­turn home to a fam­ily that is still full of ten­sion, re­sent­ments and mis­trust. In­no­cent ac­tions by your loved one may trig­ger mem­o­ries in your body that you have not let go of. If you do not seek change dur­ing the fourth and fifth stages, your loved one will get well and you will re­main sick. This is a dif­fi­cult place to be.

This Main­te­nance Stage leaves care­givers vul­ner­a­ble. Some leave their guard down and get com­pla­cent. We fall back into trust­ing and be­liev­ing. Our loved one is do­ing the right things and we want to be­lieve they are do­ing bet­ter. The risk is we re­turn to this com­fort zone out of habit of how we used to be. We be­gin to re­gain hope and our loved one knows it.

If they are do­ing the work needed to re­main sober, life be­gins to im­prove be­yond your ex­pec­ta­tions. If they are be­gin­ning to fal­ter, they will cap­i­tal­ize on our hope. They will up­set our com­fort zone.

It is for this rea­son care­givers must re­cover while their loved one re­cov­ers. We, too, must do the work to reach a state of well-be­ing that will help us to re­main on a path of re­cov­ery. No two jour­neys will be alike. You will go back­ward at times. But once you be­gin to rec­og­nize the Stages of Change, you will have a new aware­ness of how to move for­ward.

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