Recovery From Substance Abuse

I’ve done a little asking around and learning about what to do if someone wants help with alcohol or drug addiction or with an addicted family member.  Important in what I have learned was a tour of a top notch recovery program for teens, attending an Al-Anon and a Nar-Anon meeting with a friend and sending for their literature, knowing those struggling with these issues, and reading the best book I could find on the subject and that is Everything Changes: Help for Families of Recovering Addicts by Beverly Conyers (2009).  Here are the important points I have taken away from my experiences with quotes from Beverly Conyers’ book.

  1. The experts often point addicts and family members to Alcoholics Anonymous and the related groups of Narcotics Anonymous, Al-Anon, Alateen, and Nar-Anon. The first two are for addicts who want help and the other three are for family members of alcoholics and drug addicts.  AA is the go-to group because their structure and literature is sound and accurate for change and they support family members with wisdom and caring.  Meetings and literature can be found online.  If you don’t know where to start, start here.  There are meetings every day of the week in most areas.  Al-Anon suggests that people go to several different meetings until they find the right one for them.  There are meetings for just men or women and meetings with a focus for parents of addicts.“Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, and similar support groups provide a ready-made, positive social network.” P. 52.
  2. There is a helpful book of daily readings for family members of addicts. It is called One Day at a Time in Al-Anon.
  3. When an individual goes into recovery, the longer the stay the better. Thirty days isn’t really enough time for an individual to have a solid base for recovery.  Ninety days is better.
  4. Addicts are sometimes encouraged to change many things about their life in order to remember that they have left their old life behind. Those things can be seemingly small like putting their pants on with the other leg first.  Or if they are returning to the same house they are told to take a different bedroom.
  5. Sometimes a recovering addict is better off going to a halfway house or somewhere else other than home because it is too easy to use when they return to the same environment. They might even be told to never return to the same living situation.
  6. All problems are not solved when a person enters recovery. It is just the beginning and at first it may feel harder than the addiction.  “Some of us may be even unhappier during early recovery than we were during active addiction – for a while.  That is because early recovery is a time of emotional turmoil.” P. 3.
  7. Relapses are common and if it happens it doesn’t mean that treatment was wasted. Any time someone goes into recovery they learn more about themselves and their addiction. “…treatment works, but some patients may need multiple treatment experiences before recovery is stabilized.  The effects of treatment are cumulative, and with every treatment episode and relapse, patients learn something about themselves and their addiction.” P. 9.
  8. The only person you can control is yourself. “Resentment on both sides is the end result of trying to control someone else.” P. 18. “Addiction teaches us many lessons. One of the most profound is that we cannot control anyone except ourselves.” P. 20.
  9. The family’s desire to help while coming from a place of love can be unhealthy and controlling. “When we step in and take on responsibilities that are not our own, we weaken the people we love.” P. 18.
  10. Many addicts have underlying mental health issues that need to be treated along with the addiction. “Because mental health problems and substance abuse problems interact within an individual, research has consistently shown that treatment of either disorder alone is ineffective.” P. 72.
  11. Understanding of recovery from substance abuse puts family and friends in a better place to support their loved one. “Despite the challenges, families who understand the inevitable ups and down of early recovery put themselves in a strong position to offer their loved one meaningful support.” l. xvii.
  12. Help is out there. The beginning is as close as your doctor or a support group or some well-chosen literature.

AA’s slogan is Progress not Perfection.  That’s good for all of us to remember.

Conyers, Beverly. (2009). Everything Changes: Help for Families of Recovering Addicts.  Center City, Minnesota: Hazelden Foundation.



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