The Family’s Role in Treating Addiction

Often addiction is talked about as a family disease; it affects not only the addicted individual, but also the people who have relationships with the addict. It becomes important for the family to recognize their role in the addiction so that they can make positive changes, offer guidance and support, and begin to heal as a family unit. Frequently healing is done through family therapy, al anon participation, and most of all, education about addiction.

Based on the family dynamic there are a variety of different roles that family members assume in addictive households. In Claudia Black’s book It Will Never Happen to Me: Adult Children of Alcoholic Parents she defines in great detail the role’s that different family members take on. Although her book refers specifically to a family dynamic where the parent is the addict the roles are the same in any family struggling with addiction. There generally is the placater, the responsible one, and the one who acts out. The placater is the peacemaker who wants to keep everyone happy at the cost of his or her own happiness. The responsible one is the person who gets everything done. They may be very organized, controlling, and even productive, however, they can become unaware of their own feelings and rigid. By taking care of everyone else, they don’t learn how to care for their own emotional well-being. The acting out role is one where the person desires attention and usually gets it negatively. This person noticeably struggles as a result of the addiction. All these roles share the suffering and denial associated with having a loved one who is an addict.

When the family identifies the roles in their own household, and is honest about the nature of addiction the healing begins. Family therapy is a great tool; everyone can express himself or herself honestly and openly in a safe environment. In families that are often characterized by denial this honesty is a positive step towards recovery. The family members need to be accountable and admit how their denial may have enabled the addiction. A great way for families to participate in treatment, shed the shame associated with addiction, and get support, is to attend al anon meetings. Al anon is a fellowship of men and women who want support in dealing with their relationship with an addict. Much like Alcoholics Anonymous, al anon has steps and sponsors and plenty of opportunities for families to understand that they are not alone in dealing with addiction.

Education is the final piece to the role of family in treatment. It is important to know the statistics, and understand that addiction is a disease with no cure. Family members sometimes cannot grasp the concept that after treatment, sober living, and AA that the loved one will not be cured. Instead, they are struggling with a progressive illness that requires constant work and maintenance to achieve long-term sobriety. The work for an addict, and for an addict’s family, is never done.

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Solidifying Your Sobriety with Sober Living

Many of us alcoholics and addicts do not know how to function normally with or without our substances in everyday life. The process of changing our destructive lifestyles to healthy and productive ones is not easy. To come out of institutions and go back to where we came from and stay sober can be extremely difficult and sometimes impossible without support. Fortunately Sober Living is an option for those of us who are not ready to go back into the world without a support group to help us. Sober living is like a bubble that shields us from the outside world while integrating us at the same time. We get to live with people who have the same problems as we do and understand our struggle. If you’ve ever had a fish tank, you know you cannot just put a new fish directly into the tank. You have to keep the fish in its bag inside the tank while it adjusts to the temperature before you release it. Sober Living does the same thing. It gives you the support in a safe environment while helping you adjust to being sober and developing the skills and tools you need to go out into the world.

In sober living you are surrounded by alcoholics and addicts like yourself who will support and help you through this process. One of the most important things of sober living is the sense of community, and knowing you are not fighting this disease alone. These people may become your friends or people who will hold you accountable for your actions. You are much less likely to go out if there are people who care about and would be disappointed if you were to relapse. Your peers in sober living need your support as much as you need theirs even it does not seem that way, and your relapse will affect the people around you in negative ways. Thinking and working with others is one of the greatest ways to get you out of your own head and dangerous isolation. When you think only of yourself and are selfish and self-centered it does not help anyone. The first step of AA is to admit you are powerless to your disease. If you are the one in control, in reality it may be your disease that is driving you.

Sober living is a great way to transition into a healthy productive lifestyle without drugs or alcohol. The community of other recovering alcoholics and addicts will keep you from being isolated and give you a good sober network for support and help working your steps. You can learn to have fun without drugs with your fellow sober living friends. You may have chores and a structured schedule but this will help you become more responsible and accountable. You can attend meetings regularly if not every day with your new sober friends and strengthen your sober network. You may not have complete freedom but some of us are not ready for that and sober living is a great way to transition us back to our regular lives.

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The Benefits of Group Therapy

Often patients wonder what the difference between group and individual therapy is, and how they could benefit from group therapy. While both are valid and potentially helpful forms of therapy and can possibly have a similar outcome, the method of treatment involved with each is distinctly different.

During a group therapy session, individuals are able to relate to one another in a way that is different from, for example, the way that a patient would relate to a therapist or counselor; Group therapy is all about the peer to peer dynamic. Each member of the group is attending the session because they have a similar problem, they are able to share their experiences and gain knowledge about how the problems they share affect others in the group. In addition, solutions to these problems (and whether or not they worked) are often discussed. Many therapists, counselors, and patients believe that group therapy is one of the most, if not most, effective ways to treat addiction.

In a typical session, a ‘facilitator’ (usually a counselor or therapist) will pose questions for the participants and/or create an open a forum on a specific topic. These questions and topics are generally related to the problem at hand, addiction, but can at times extend to issues that in some way affect an individual’s recovery. For example, a common set of questions posed by group facilitators are: “Have you thought about using (your drug of choice) recently? And if so what actions have you taken when this happens?” Or, in an attempt to make those in the group aware of outside factors that may affect their recovery: “What has been on your mind recently? What seems to be stressing you out and how do you plan to resolve the issue.

12-step programs are generally very similar to group therapy. The group forum has proven itself as an effective therapeutic format, as millions of addicts and alcoholics have managed to gain control over the addiction through the use of 12-step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous. Many believe that this is in part due to the way human beings function in a group of like-minded peers; sharing the problems that they have come across and relating to one another in a way that is not possible in a therapist to client relationship.

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S.O.B.E.R. — Son Of a Bitch, Everything’s Real!

When things get too real for us alcoholics and addicts, we turn to drugs. Life is too cruel, people are too unforgiving, work is too demanding, and the voices in our heads are too abusive. Using drugs as a means to cope with our unmanageable lives helped to slow things down, center us, and make us feel “normal”. The big, wide world could judge us all it wanted to, but our drugs would never turn on us, and as long as we had our drugs, we would be alright. Or so we thought.

Somewhere along our paths into addiction we lost sight of what was real, blurring the lines between our perceptions and our true realities. As addicts, we have warped minds; therefore, our thoughts, perceptions and interpretations while in addiction are likewise warped. High or drunk, we could forget our past transgressions or embarrassments, effectively erasing them, and our reactions to them, from the forefronts of our memories. If our drug use could not help us to forget the bad and uncomfortable situations in our lives, they at least got us to a place of callousness, where they, and everything else, ceased to matter at all.

At a certain point in our addiction, however, the only thing that seemed real to us was that we were not okay unless we had our drugs. When we achieve sobriety, we come to understand that our lives, hard as they were, were not unmanageable until we caused them to be so through our excessive and destructive drug abuse. More is revealed to us when we gain the clarity that comes with sobriety, and slowly, we gain acceptance. That night we made a fool of ourselves at a party—that DID happen; being expelled from school—that DID happen; that relationship we lost due to our drug use—it really IS over. Son of a Bitch—Everything’s Real! And, wow, is it overwhelming.

Using drugs to cope with life removed us from everything real, but getting sober means getting real, and coming to terms with our reality is no easy feat; conceding to our inner most selves that we are powerless over our drug abuse is the first step to changing our lives. In the absence of drugs and alcohol, pain and embarrassment may be acute, and sadness may be more present. If this is true, then it is also true that in sobriety joy is ever more vibrant, pride is ever more available, and happiness can be found just about anywhere—we learn to take the good with the bad. Facing our realities can be hard but armed with the clarity of sobriety we can walk through anything and know that we will be alright.

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When we used drugs and alcohol, attention to time became a thing of the past; we forgot plans we’d made with friends and family due to drug-induced memory loss, we neglected obligations because of our excessive intoxication, and we spent all the time we had either buying drugs or consuming them. Some of us even used drugs and alcohol to simply pass the time. Time is a crucial factor in our recovery from drug abuse and alcoholism and takes on a new importance in sobriety; however, the best things in life seem to take so long—in early recovery, and as we detox from drugs and alcohol, we often experience time moving glacially slow. Will we ever reach the finish line? Welcome to slow-briety.

When the initial excitement and discovery of early recovery wears off, time slows down exponentially for many of us. Potential cravings and urges become more acute and pronounced as we anticipate receiving the promised results of sobriety, making recovery a moment-by-moment effort. We are told to keep coming back, that it will get better, and that we can stay sober one day at a time. But as we aspire to the kind of clean time that the old-timers in Alcoholics Anonymous have achieved, we find it extremely difficult to stay in the moment and focus on our daily reprieve. We look to the future and make plans for what we want or don’t want to happen. But as recovery is based on staying sober “just for today” the person with the most sobriety is the person who woke up earliest.

So, how do we combat the complacency that many of us experience, and how do we make our lives meaningful again? Time flies when we’re having fun; therefore, enjoyable and meaningful activities are highly useful, therapeutic and healthy for living in sobriety. Making art or music can ground us and help us to communicate our feelings about our new sobriety; yoga, martial arts and other exercise activities strengthen our bodies, help us fight diseases, and keep us physically and emotionally fit; volunteer work helps to get us out of ourselves and can be extraordinarily beneficial in giving us a respite from our obsessive thoughts, cravings, and craziness. These are all activities that are far better alternatives to drinking and drugging. We’ll be amazed how our relationship with time transforms when we reintroduce meaning and purpose into our lives.

In recovery, time is neither a thing of the past nor of the future—it is a thing of the present. As we embark on the journey of sobriety, time takes on a completely different role in our lives: we start paying attention to how many days and months we have lived without using drugs or alcohol, we start accumulating clean time, and we look forward to receiving sobriety chips and even cakes for every year of continuous sobriety we achieve. Now that we have adopted a new relationship with the passing of time, we surrender to the fact that there is no finish line, graduation, or commencement in recovery: the journey is the destination.

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The Importance of Aftercare

Inpatient rehab is typically an important step for people who are trying to get clean and sober. Usually the initial stay at an inpatient treatment facility is 30 days. However, judging by statistics, 30 days is many times not enough to build a proper foundation in recovery. Thirty days is a good amount of time for clearing your head, getting physically better and more emotionally stable, but the statistics show that most people who enter residential treatment and do not follow up with a strong aftercare plan, relapse. Aftercare (also known as extended care or continued care) is any form of treatment after a stay in inpatient rehab. Sober living, recovery houses, halfway houses, and outpatient rehabilitation all qualify as suitable aftercare options. The longer you stay in treatment the better their chances are of achieving long term sobriety.

Entering a sober living is one of the best aftercare options. It is a period of time dedicated to transitioning you back into the normal flow of life while giving you extra help to stay sober. Not only does aftercare provide you with structure and a reminder of what your goals are but it assists in introducing you to new people who are going through similar struggles. It allows you to build a sober network and build bonds with those who are working the same type of program you are. Meeting new people and building a solid group of sober friends is an important part of recovery.

Most aftercare programs will also integrate you into the 12 step fellowships. 12 step meetings are a great place to meet others in recovery who are there to help and support the newly sober individual. Many people feel that twelve step programs and fellowship are the most important part of their recovery. Aftercare programs help you to get involved in these fellowships and make it a regular part of your life. Having a strong aftercare plan and strong sober network is the best way to help ensure a solid road to recovery.

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Your Worst Day of Sobriety For Your Best Day of Intoxication?

Using drugs and alcohol used to be practical. We had found a new way to live without having to face uncomfortable situations or feelings. But once the initial success of our drug use subsided and we found that problems and trouble began to come into our lives as a result of our unhealthy and reckless behaviors, we no longer used drugs to live—we used them to survive.

In our addiction, we strove for meager goals. If we were able to buy our drugs quickly, and effectively use them without interference, that was considered a good day. Getting high was an accomplishment; getting more drunk, more stoned, more strung out than we already were, well, we considered that going above and beyond—a day for the books: this achievement is what set apart the “good” days from the “best” days of our intoxication.

What we considered to be our “best” days of using quickly became our “everydays”. We became increasingly unreliable, isolated, distant, dishonest and untrustworthy. Our thinking became ever more clouded, our perceptions progressively warped. We were unprepared to cope with life as it presented itself to us, and sought assistance in drugs and alcohol.

It wasn’t until we came to recovery that we began to recognize the limits we placed on our every thought and action through our drinking and drugging. Once we attained a length of sobriety and clarity of mind, we were able to see that our solution to fear, insecurity, and discomfort was the very thing impeding us emotionally and keeping us physically and spiritually ill. Life started making more sense and, through the practice and application of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous, became easier to face and to handle.

Life changes drastically when we get sober. We trade in our solution of using drugs and alcohol for a new, spiritual approach to living. We learn coping skills that we lacked in our addiction and apply them when addressing our fears, insecurities and character defects. Now that we have begun to grow, we find that we have far fewer lows in our lives than we had while we were using. Each day in our sobriety may not be smooth sailing, but once we have left our addictions behind, we can agree that the “worst” days of our sobriety are far better than the “best” days of our intoxication.

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The Importance of Working the Steps

One of the most influential parts of recovery that really promotes change is when someone works the 12 steps. Working the steps allows us to let go of past resentments and feelings that may bring us back into the cycle of addiction. It helps us to realize what our part was in past relationships we had. Without step work many of us would not be as spiritually free or stable as we have become as a result of working the steps. We start to become better people as a result of step work. It helps to show us how some of our actions and behaviors can negatively affect others. We then start to be more conscious of the things we do and say. This process happens gradually, and most people don’t even realize that the steps are actively working in their lives.

Sometimes it may be hard for us to notice a change in ourselves, but those around us will surely notice a difference when we are working and have worked all of the 12 steps. Working these steps gives us an opportunity to become more comfortable and familiar with ourselves. We build real confidence, instead of the artificial confidence we got from drugs and alcohol. We start to believe in ourselves and function day-to-day in a more positive manner. They not only help us to remain sober but they help us to grow mentally, emotionally, and spiritually. We spent so much time emotionally stagnant when we were using drugs or alcohol that we may not have developed in certain areas as fully as we could have.

The steps help us to retrain our brain. For most people, it changes the way you see things. In your active addiction you might have looked at someone and saw the negative qualities about them that you didn’t like, where as now you can look at them and notice the positive qualities. It helps us to totally change our once warped perception. We mature and grow even faster now and those around us will take notice. Some people think that step work is going to be hard and grueling. When in all actuality most individuals enjoy the steps and look forward to working them or taking another person through them. Working these steps helps us to stay sober and change our old ways. We then help another addict or alcoholic through the steps in order to give back what we have received. This is the cycle that keeps the 12 step fellowship strong. Start your step work and see how it goes. It has the

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The Importance of a Strong Sober Network

One of the best ways to remain sober is to build a strong sober network through your 12 step fellowship. Sobriety is not meant to be something that is endured alone. When people isolate and don’t reach out their chances for continuous sobriety are less likely. Connecting with others who share the same common problem and have come to understand the solution is the basis of every 12 step fellowship.

Building relationships with people who can relate to exactly what you are going through will help immensely when times get tough. Meeting people with more time than you will allow you to feed off of their experience, strength, and hope. They will be able to relay to you how they got through the situation that you are experiencing at that moment. Not only does it provide examples of how the program works and that it can be done, but it provides us with support that we can turn to whenever we run into a problem.

Being involved and acquiring sober friends will also help us to branch out and have fun in sobriety. Having a good time and enjoying your life is necessary in sobriety. With people surrounding you who have time in the program you can start to do things that you may not be comfortable doing by yourself or with individuals not in the program. You will come to realize that there is more fun and excitement to be had in sobriety then there ever was when you were using. You will be able to accomplish and do things that may never have been possible if you were still stuck in your addiction.

Once you have built a strong support group your life will start to become bigger and full of opportunity. It will all start to make more sense and you will come to understand how people stay in recovery. Nothing is impossible when you are sober, the world opens up and you will start to see things in a different and more positive light. The friends you make in the program often become some of the best friends you have ever had in your life. They will be there for you when times get tough or when you just need someone to talk to. There are many gifts of sobriety and having strong, long lasting relationships is one of them. These relationships will get you through the tough times, and before you know it you will be one of those people connecting with someone new and showing them how you have done it.

The fellowships are all about being of service and helping others who have less time or experience than you do. The sense of community and love is certainly one of the best aspects of any 12 step fellowship. So build relationships with people you can relate to who have gone through, or are going through the same things as you. Make sure you have a group of friends that you can turn to when you may be doubting yourself. With a strong support group in tact you will give yourself the chance to blossom and grow, and ultimately help out someone in the future who was in the same position that you were in.

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Having Fun in Early Sobriety

The most prevalent question, and or fear, that newcomers in sobriety worry about is the thought of “how will I ever be able to have fun again without using drugs or alcohol?” For many of us, we spent a lot of time using substances in social atmospheres in order to feel more outgoing and fun. We unknowingly shaped our thinking to associate fun and pleasure with drug and alcohol use. Who can imagine a party in college without having a few drinks to loosen up? This is exactly where the problem lies. We spent so much time associating fun and being social with our drug use that it may seem like it’s the only way people have fun and let loose. While this may seem to prove true when you are in early sobriety it is simply not true at all.

It is fairly normal in early sobriety to feel that you are never going to have a good time again, or life is now going to be boring and awkward. This is a big reason why many people relapse and go back to their old ways. What you must realize is that it takes time for our brain to change. For a lot of us, we lived a lifestyle which eventually was engrained in our brain and became second nature. Once we become sober we need to change our lifestyle in order to re-learn a new one. Lifestyle changes do not happen overnight, it takes time. The longer we stay sober the clearer we will think, the more positive we will become, and the healthier our thinking will be. We will start to appreciate the little things more and experience genuine laughter. We can make strong connections with others in similar situations and develop real meaningful relationships. We learn what it actually means to have fun, instead of what it means to be artificially and momentarily “happy.” If you give recovery a chance you will start to experience the joy of life again without drugs or alcohol, but like mentioned earlier it takes time.

It may be a struggle at first but every day gets better, and before you know it you are slowly changing and developing different ways of thinking. You will come to realize that you will actually have way more fun when you are sober than you ever did when you were using. You can only get to this point if you give yourself time. We must all deal with emotions early in sobriety. Build your support network and have people to lean on when times get tough. Not only will you become stronger through this experience but you will come out on the other side experiencing true fun and happiness. Give yourself time to re-learn simple behaviors and patterns of thinking that will help you change your life for the better. If you are still asking yourself “How do I have fun in sobriety?” I assure you, there is a lot more fun to be had in recovery than their ever even seemed to be in addiction.

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