Recovery can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but what it means when you are talking about recovery from addiction and mental illness is complete abstinence. You can’t dabble here and there. An alcoholic can’t smoke weed, and a pothead can’t drink; a heroin addict can’t have a drink now and again and an anorexic or bulimic can’t go on juice cleanses every so often. They just can’t. It’s not wise action or safe behavior. It’s also not indicative of abstinence.
Being sober and in recovery means:
- You don’t drink or use drugs. Period.
- You eat mindfully and healthfully if you are recovering from an eating disorder.
- You have a recovery program that you are a part of and that you continue to participate in: 12-step, Refuge Recovery, Al-Anon, et cetera.
- You are of service to others.
- You are seeking mental health care if you need it.
- You are getting help from someone who has been doing this longer than you have and are on a recovery path that you admire.
- You learn to ask for help and accept help when it is offered.
- Your relationships are stable or are becoming more and more stable as your recovery time increases.
- If you are required to take medication, you do so under the care of a physician who is aware of your addiction history. You can’t go rogue here.
Recovery is one of those things where there really is no grey area. You’re either in…or you’re out. When we come across someone on the slippery slope of relapse or in the full swing of addiction, what we may find is a chorus of denial and accusations of judgment. An addict certainly doesn’t want to hear that they are slipping down the rabbit hole.
The delusion of addiction tells them that they are just fine.
What can we as family members and loved ones do?
We have to maintain strong boundaries. If we are in recovery ourselves, it’s a good time to reaffirm our own programs, and ensure we are staying grounded and that our needs our met. Remember that in order to help others, it’s important that we help ourselves first.
We may need to reach out to therapists and arrange an intervention for our loved one, or we may need to make that phone call to a treatment facility to get our son or daughter into treatment.
No matter what the next step is, we must make sure we do it with firm boundaries, compassion, and love in our hearts.
The suffering involved in untreated addiction and mental illness is great. Dysregulation is common, along with anger, resentment, and a feeling of isolation. Family systems often start to show signs of wear, if they weren’t already. Addiction doesn’t magically appear! It’s important that the family is ready and willing to begin the work of recovery as well and come to accept that it’s not just the addict in the “hot seat” of recovery.