Drugs and alcohol are often the symptom of a greater underlying problem which could include a co-occurring mental health disorder. Once the drugs and alcohol are taken away, there is still the underlying problem. Drugs and alcohol are anesthetics- they numb physical and emotional pain. Once the anesthesia wears off, the pain returns. Once an addict or alcoholic has their drugs and alcohol taken away, their pain becomes multilayered. First, they have to endure the pain of now living without drugs and alcohol. Part of that pain is caused by the second layer, which is confronting the emotional pain which has been anesthetized for so many years. Sobriety, or abstinence is not the solution to the underlying problems. Often, the problematic behavior comes to the surface after the problematic behaviors of drug and alcohol addiction are taken away.
Abstinence Doesn’t Equal Progress
There is getting sober, staying sober, and recovering. Sobriety is one part of the program of living in recovery because sobriety is abstaining from drugs and alcohol. Recovery, however, is about more than the abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Recovery is about going to treatment, engaging in therapy, and developing as an individual. People may take the twelve steps, for example, and integrate that program of living into their life. When they do they will grow tremendously and reconnect with others in their lives. There is no requirement to grow and change in recovery. There is no requirement to go to treatment, work with a therapist, attend 12 step meetings, or take the 12 steps.
Though evidence proves otherwise, some people recover this way. Research has found that clinical support or social support in 12 step programs has the greatest benefit in producing long term abstinence. Some people are not interested in working on themselves, discussing underlying issues, or creating behavioral changes. They are content with simply staying sober- which is good enough for them.
Unfortunately, that isn’t always good enough for you, the family member. You had higher expectations for what their quitting drugs and alcohol would mean for you and your life. No matter your relationship with them, they do not have to change beyond what they want to. If they are content with simply quitting drinking, that is their choice. As the family member, you have a choice as well.
It’s typically at this point that the loved one of someone choosing sobriety feels that they have finally reached their breaking point. Seek out your own therapist and treatment process. Groups like Al-Anon offer twelve step support for the friends and family members of alcoholics and addicts.
You can call Cottonwood Tucson to find out about our integrative approach to the treatment of co-occurring disorders. Our treatment programs include one of the strongest family programs in the industry, inviting family members to a five day intensive program for healing. We see our clients and their families heal every day. For information, call us today: (800) 877-4520