A loved one finally getting sober can be an exciting time for a family that has watched them struggle again and again trying to put their life together in early recovery. So much so, that parents can be more eager than their children at times, for everything to get ‘back to normal’.
It can be discouraging to watch a loved one sideline their entire lives due to addiction. So, this sense of urgency to get ‘back to work’ is understandable. It can be useful to take a step back when this thinking comes in though and ask, ‘If someone in active addiction could not handle a car, a job, school or even a phone, why would they all of a sudden be able to with 30 days sober?’.
Drugs Aren’t The Problem
The concept of giving someone with 30 days sober all of these things back so quickly would make a lot of sense if drugs and alcohol were the problem. Then it would just be a case of removing the drugs and alcohol and everything in life going back to normal. If this were true, there would be so much less relapse, and addiction would be easily treatable in a short period of time. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The drugs and alcohol are just a symptom of the bigger problem at hand.
The real problem is the addict themselves. This means that once drugs and alcohol are removed from the picture, there is still a long way to go before getting someone back to a healthy, productive place. This process can take a while. However, very rarely is a young person with 30 days in recovery all of a sudden an emotionally centered person.
Too Much, Too Soon
So what are the dangers of giving someone all of the privileges and responsibilities of life back so quickly? Well for one, these responsibilities are overwhelming. Getting sober is not about sheltering someone or being overprotective. But, if long term recovery is the goal, it is about being realistic. It’s also about giving someone every opportunity to succeed, not set them up for failure. The root causes of someone not being able to hold a job before getting sober have not yet been addressed, uncovered and dealt with yet when they find themselves with a fresh 30 days.
These are the things that need to change if someone is going to experience success. It’s not all about removing alcohol and drugs. Most young people with just 30 days sober still have not been relieved of the obsession to drink and use. Much less, they have developed the coping mechanisms and emotional stability to allow them to effectively hold a position in the workforce. This is not a negative thing, and does not mean that the individual is behind the curve. Rather, it is the consequence of beginning to use drugs and alcohol at an early age. These are the years where those life skills would normally be developed. Instead, they have been hijacked by addiction and as a result, the expectation that once someone gets sober they will magically appear, is unrealistic.
While it is easy to understand why someone would want to take some time getting back into the workforce or a college track, why is it equally important to hold off on other things like vehicles or cell phones? Well, addicts and alcoholics by nature look for things outside of themselves to make them feel good.
Cell phones, in the age of social media offer a variety of distractions that are easy to get lost in. This goes for anyone, but newly sober addicts are especially vulnerable to their allure. Vehicles open the door for a lot of problems in terms of safe and responsible usage. This is also true in terms of managing their upkeep. There is also something to be said for the humility of relying on others for transportation in early recovery. A lesson that is not lost on anyone who has had the experience.
Slow and Steady
Having an understanding of the tremendous amount of change that an individual has to go through in order to grasp long term recovery is important for family members if they are going to be equipped to make decisions that will benefit rather than harm their loved ones. Rather than acting on feelings, it is very helpful to ask questions and get direction from those who have already had the experience. Educating yourself and having patience when it comes to your loved one’s recovery will pay out tremendously in the long run.