Vallarta Tribune Nov 19-26, 2006, issue # 502, pg 26

Many people realize that they have a problem somehow related to addiction whether they grew up in an alcoholic or abusive home and now have problems with relationships or have developed an addiction. The problems manifest themselves differently in various members of the family. Your siblings may have an alcohol or drug problem or may have married someone with this problem, or maybe grossly overweight, for example. A common term for those who grow up in an alcoholic home is “adult child of alcoholic” and those who actually end up intimately involved with an addict are known as “codependent”.

Recovery must come first

If you are serious about wanting to change yourself and your life, then recovery must truly come first. As difficult of an adjustment as it may be, your job, children, and other obligations that have probably received most of your attention, time and energy, must now come second to your recovery. The important thing to grasp is that if you don’t make this switch, you risk losing your job, money, family, marriage, etc. Basically,saturate yourself in recovery. It needs to fill all of the gaps of time that you used to devote to your drugs, alcohol, boyfriend, spouse. The more focused you are on you, the less time you have to devote to the other.

12-step program

The 12-step programs originated with “Alcoholics Anonymous” (AA) and were followed by Al-Anon, Narcotics Anonymous (NA), Codependency Anonymous (CoDA), Adult Child of Alcoholics (ACoA), Cocaine Anonymous (CA) and more. I recommend that you   look for 12-step meetings that pertain to your problem or issues. If possible, attend several different meetings (places and times) in order to meet different people and find a group that feels like a good fit. Stay open-minded. It probably will not feel right at first and most people report that everyone seems “worse off” or “sicker” than they are.  Many people do not feel comfortable or that the meetings could be helpful until they have attended at least 6 meetings. It takes a while to lower your defenses and begin to really listen to what is being said.

Getting a sponsor is the next important thing in order to begin to feel supported, accepted, and not judged. Learning to turn to someone and ask for help is an essential part of recovery. You can not do it alone. The next thing to learn is how to trust and a good place to start is with your relationship with your sponsor and to begin to share in the meetings. Then 12-step work must begin. “Working the steps” is an essential and substantial part of the program; it is not just about attending meetings.

Daily recovery activities

It is very important to develop a daily routine that includes recovery activities such as daily readings, journaling, and meditation. This is true no matter which program you are attending and problem you are trying to recover from. I recommend you use several different daily meditation books and turn to the index in the back and read by topic (not just by the date) according to whatever is going on with you at the time; whatever you are struggling with, such as anger, acceptance, gratitude, etc.

Journaling is a private expression of your personal thoughts, desires, and feelings that are privately kept for your own review and therefore should be honest and open. Journaling serves many purposes including releasing emotions from your body and letting them go, expression of thoughts that you may not have been aware of or that you find clarity from “just writing”, and it serves as review and point of chronological reference as you look back on your recovery process. It can be very revealing.

Include therapy in your recovery program

Therapy is a wonderful opportunity to work individually on your issues in a confidential safe environment where you can explore your feelings, receive validation, guidance, and feedback. Therapy can be a beautiful compliment to 12-step and other recovery work.

Group therapy is the treatment of choice in the addiction field. In general, groups; self-help/12-step/therapy, provide people who share similar experiences, problems, pain, loss, suffering the opportunity to connect and receive validation, support, and the sense of belonging. Group therapy in particular is the chance to be confronted and to confront others as well as challenge new thinking and new behaviors.

Changes must occur

In order for things to change, thoughtsbehaviors, and habits must change. Addicts must “change playgrounds” or stop hanging around the same people and places. Begin to think in terms of prevention. It is very important to make a list of triggers and ways of managing them or avoiding them. Also, make a list of activities and ways of thinking and beliefs which are not conducive to recovery and change and begin to think in terms of “not an option”. Eventually, as some things change other things will naturally follow and change as well. You will slowly feel the transformation as you adapt to your new ways.

There are many promises of recovery. Find the courage to begin the journey today.

Written by: Giselle Belanger, RN, LCSW, CADC