In our last article we looked at the Dynamics Impacting Families in Early Recovery. In this article, and the next one, we will look at what these dynamics mean to your own recovery plan. We will address the family’s “stages of change” and focus on the “preparation” and “action” stages.
Self-Care and Support
Simply stated, we will focus on developing good self-care and support, as well as how to obtain ongoing education about addiction. Self-care and seeking support are the behaviors we tell family members about at every family education group. Self-care, support and education are needed if you want to be helpful to your family recovery process. This article will focus on selfcare and support, and our next article will focus on education and skills for your own recovery plan. So, here we go!
Developing good self-care and support – why is it important to family recovery?
To start with, self-care means committing to one’s own wellbeing. It also means taking steps to keep yourself balanced and in good physical and mental health. Self-care means focusing on your own thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. Likewise, to act consistently and acknowledge that others are impacted by your behaviors.
Why should self-care be a part of your recovery plan? Because you have been living the exact opposite for an extended period of time. You have been living with active addiction in someone close to you. Of course, your life focus has been filled with self-doubt, chaos, defensiveness, distrust and a general sense of anxiety. Your life lost focus and structure and you lived moment to moment due to ongoing crisis.
I am confident you are getting the picture. In order to focus on your true and deepest thoughts and feelings, you must take time to stop and listen to yourself, develop self-awareness. This is not possible living with active addiction in your life.
After living with these overwhelming, problematic feelings it is not possible to anchor yourself without support. It is also not possible to do it alone. Quite honestly, you are too vulnerable. And now, with early recovery present in your loved one, there is a new vulnerability surrounding you too. This why you need support, someone to listen, mirror back, and help you identify your true thoughts and feelings.
Recovery is based on knowing oneself and acting consistently. It is also about acknowledging the impact of our behaviors on others That is what personal accountability and responsibility is all about! As I stated in the Dynamics article, your loved one has spent hours and days focused on being accountable and responsible to themselves, managing their disease, and understanding the impact of their behavior on others. For most family members, time while the person with an SUD has been in addiction treatment, has been spent keeping things together at home.
More On Support
Your entire family is now in a huge situation of change. The rules of engagement have made a 100% turnaround. Your loved one has new focus for their life: SOBRIETY. That person is no longer living to obtain access to their substance at all costs. The focus is accountability and responsibility. What an enormous behavior change – and what a shock to the family system! Everyone involved will require changes at the same level to move recovery forward.
Support for your own behavior changes will be necessary, too. What I have discussed so far in this article, are some elements of the “preparation” stage and applying support in your life is an element of the “action” stage. Action is when you seek support as part of your own recovery plan.
The types and kinds of recovery program support will likely change over time. Family members usually start by opening up to someone they trust to talk about their loved one and troubles in the family. It often moves to Al-Anon or Smart Recovery or a small group of folks with similar life experiences.
Sometimes individual mental health counseling is sought, and afterwards a professional who focuses on addictive disease and the family. After individual services, family or marriage counseling may in order. Usually in early recovery, group support where family members can talk about thoughts and feelings can be the starting point.
A family member will receive validation and acceptance for sharing their experiences. From there, a family chooses what they need to heal and keep working their recovery programs. Support needs will change over time and that is natural. At first, the frequency and intensity of support might be stronger and as recovery plans are put into action, intensity reduced. Most recovering families find they want some sort of outside support for a couple of years. As addiction is a chronic brain disease, there should always be some sort of plan, support, or monitoring, to keep recovery moving forward.
Areas of Growth for Family Members in Early Recovery
As you seek support to anchor yourself and build awareness, here are some challenges or issues many family members have realized:
“I miss being in charge of things, I didn’t like the stress, but at least I knew what was next!”
“My dad had SUD, now my boyfriend/husband/ partner too! What’s with me, anyway?”
“I didn’t know I was controlling or enabling, I just wanted things to be better.”
“What do you mean when you say I ‘personalized’ their disease?”
“I never knew I offended them, I thought they weren’t paying attention!”
Later, some family members talk about these challenges:
“I just can’t seem to change some of these old behavior patterns I have!”
“I think I need to learn more about the impact of addiction on the family.”
“This situation has caused us more trouble than I thought.”
“I’m feeling stuck when it comes to trust/enabling/ controlling.”
The good news? The beauty of all this self-analysis is that the more you learn, the more you want to know and understand! Please seek support for yourself and your family. You will be so glad you did! Remember, if nothing changes, nothing changes!”
Reference and Stages of Change Chart:
Dynamics of Early Recovery: Family Education Series