Substance use disorder can beat us all down, whether we’re the person abusing alcohol/drugs or the abuser’s loved one. And the holidays can come down especially hard on all of us. We may be sad to find ourselves arm-wrestling with this mystifying brain disease at what should be a joyful time of year. We may be angry about past holiday disruptions and disappointments. And we’re most likely apprehensive about what the New Year holds. So, this is a good time to look at the miracle of recovery and meet several people who can be beacons of hope for us all.
The Professional’s Perspectiveis written by interventionist and family counselorRicki Townsend
People oftentellme about a loved one’s drinking or drug use, and then they want me totell themif their loved one is an addict or alcoholic. I would respectfully suggest they cananswer that question themselves by asking several other questions:
How is drinking or drug use impacting the loved one’s life? How is it impacting others?
How is their health? Their job? Their schoolwork? Their family relationships?
Have they developed new friendships and left old friendships behind? How’s that working?
Do they have legal problems associated with drug or alcohol use?
What is their attitude about their lives? Angry? Sad? Argumentative?
To help the holidaysbe healthydays, we offer these time-tested tips for those in recovery:
• Take good care of yourself. The holidays can be extra stressful, so be sure to create time and space for daily relaxation, meditation and mindfulness. Exercise, get some sunshine every day, and make sure you get plenty of sleep.
• View each day through a lens of gratitude. Write down your blessings each and every day.
• Spend time with your recovery community. The holidays can be lonely, so reach out to others – for them and for you.
Author Ricki Townsend is a Registered Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, Ncac1, CADC-CAS, Bri-1, Chaplain and Grief Recovery Specialist
Substance Use Disorder is a brain disease that does not distinguish between drugs or alcohol. Any mood or mind-altering substance can re-trigger that chemical-dependency, so the answer is “No.” In fact, people who became dependent on pain pills, for example, need to avoid the wine sauce at the fancy restaurant. People in recovery for alcoholism need to be extremely watchful and vigilant when prescribed pain pills for a surgery. This is a life-long disease that can be kept in remission, but that requires avoiding any and all substances that could trigger a relapse.
At some State Fairs or game arcades, you might find a game called “Whack a Mole” which features little stuffed animals that pop up all over the game board. The goal is to push as many of them as possible back into their "dens," using a big paddle. They pop up quickly and are hard to whack.
Well, you are playing “Whack a Mole” when you think that alcohol wasn’t your problem or that drugs weren’t your problem. If you are chemically-dependent on one mood and mind-altering substance, you are vulnerable to all.
Those in recovery must always be on the lookout for mood-altering substances. If you are addicted to alcohol, then pot or pain pills or cough medicine are no better or safer. Playing "Whack a Mole" with your life can land you back in treatment – or worse.
So, here’s the difficult and honest truth: your loved ones are in a fight for their lives, and there are only two possible endings to the story. People find recovery and reclaim their lives, or they continue abusing alcohol or drugs, and their lives slip away. Your behavior will have a tremendous impact on the direction they choose. Here are six powerful ways for you to partner in – rather than sabotage - their recovery:
1. Trust the process. We realize that substance use disorder is unfamiliar to many people, and we’re here to help you navigate through some murky waters while we assist your loved ones in residential treatment. Please take advantage of our experience and trust the process. Don’t become an accomplice to your addicted loved one if they seek to end treatment prematurely.