rehab

How Do I Deal With Old Relationships In Recovery?

The question of dealing with old friends, drinking buddies and family once we’re in recovery is one of the most vexing (and sometimes complicated) things about getting clean and sober.  How we handle it can be critical to our ability to avoid relapse.

Until we have learned new ways of dealing with pressure and old feelings, we need to keep them minimized.  That’s why professionals recommend treatment and halfway houses that are well away from our home turf.  Too many times they have seen what happens when people in early recovery try to deal with old relationships too soon.  Our continued sobriety is essential to our being able to deal with those issues and get our lives straightened out.  If we relapse, we will only make things worse and we’ll still have to deal with the mess when we get sober again, if we don’t die first.  So it comes down to common sense.

Old buddies who still use or booze — we just stay away from them.  Chances are we no longer have much in common anyway.  Later on — much, much later — maybe we can hang out if they aren’t drinking or using while they’re with us.  Otherwise, it needs to be sayonara.

Family members must understand that recovery comes first.  If they can’t understand that, get a little knowledge about recovery under their belts, and support our program, then we need to stay away until we have the skills to cope with them.

This is especially true of those people we perceive as having the most  power over us: parents, siblings, wives and children.  When it comes to family, we’re with the people who hard-wired our buttons and who can push them without even intending to.  These are the people who can arouse the old feelings, resentments, insecurities and emotions with a word or a look.  Those are powerful triggers, until we’ve learned to handle our own emotions and impulses.

Because we’re addicts, accustomed to short-term solutions to our difficulties (oblivion, after all, was always just a few minutes or drinks away), it’s hard for us to realize that the solution for some of our problems is time.  In the case of relationships, that sometimes includes time away from the problem.

This is not only hard for us to swallow, but often goes against the plans and expectations of the others involved.  Nonetheless, our recovery is paramount.  We have no chance of resolving old issues and improving relationships if we can’t stay clean and sober.  Getting back on the horse too soon, in this case, makes getting bucked off again a pretty sure thing.

Exercise helps strengthen addiction treatment recovery — Addiction Treatment Magazine

Research suggests that adding exercise in with addiction treatment might be a good way to increase and strengthen the effects on the path to recovery. When addicts are trying to recover from their addiction, their body and mind crave the endorphins that cause that “high” feeling. According to a recent Huffington Post article, exercise causes endorphins to be released into the body along with endocannabinoids, which both produce a natural high and therefore can help the individual cope better in their recovery. Read More…

How long am I required to stay in rehab?

Q. How long am I required to stay in rehab?

Assuming that you have not been court-mandated into treatment, you are usually free to leave rehab at any time — against professional advice.  Assuming that you use good sense and stay, the answer varies depending on a variety of factors.

Getting the alcohol and/or other drugs out of our system is only the first of many things that need to happen in order for us to have a decent shot at long-term sobriety. Getting clean and sober (and staying that way) requires time.

I’ve written here often about the physical changes in our brains that cause us to be unable to function without drugs. Until our brains have had time to heal themselves, we are at great danger of relapse, because cravings can return at any time. Along with that danger goes the issue of how we feel physically and emotionally while the repairs are taking place. Post-acute withdrawal can be a bear, and it can last for quite a while. Without a plan and good support, that alone can make us uncomfortable enough to want to use again.

Psychological and emotional damage from our period of active addiction — and perhaps even before we first used, need to be addressed. Getting clean does nothing to deal with those issues, and ignoring them puts us at great risk of using simply to make the bad feelings go away again.

There are social and legal issues to be considered. Getting clean does not prepare us to go back to work immediately, repair damaged relationships with family, friends and perhaps employers, clear up financial and legal problems, and deal with the other situations surrounding our addictions. Only time, along with some support and work on our part, can prepare us to deal adequately with those things.  One of the prime targets of rehab is to help clients develop a plan, a support system, and learn how to use them.

Some help and support for family members and significant others is needed. Therapy, or at least a support group, is highly desirable for them because living with an addict is traumatizing. This is easier to arrange if we are under the guidance of people who know how to help our families and friends begin to heal too, because us telling our family that we think they need help is pretty much a non-starter.

Finally, we get to the addict behavior that we need to change. When we used, we developed behavior that protected our addictions.  Over time it became ingrained. (I like to use the example of putting Kobe Bryant in a basketball game, but telling him he can do anything he would normally do except try to score. How long would it take Kobe to blow that assignment, after spending most of his life working to do nothing but score? His instinct to shoot when the opportunity arises would trip him up, sure as taxes.) The point is, until we develop habits of thinking and responding to the world like a sober person, we are likely to respond to stressful situations just as we did in the past. More than one addict has come back saying, “I don’t know what happened — one day it seemed like a good idea and I just picked up!”

So there’s no way, really, to give a simple answer to this question. A safe one would be “Stay in rehab as long as possible.” Of course we all know that other factors can stymie a plan like that. Best answer: consult with the experts who are handling your rehab, and take their advice if possible. More rehab can’t hurt.  There are very few problems that can be solved if we don't have the skills to tackle them, and if we relapse — well, let’s just say that’s not the best way to remain out of rehab.