Thirty, sixty, ninety days. Clean and sober. They're in recovery, fixed, and all's right with the world, right? No, no, and no. The process of long-term recovery is just beginning. Careful planning is necessary to transition back to what you might call a normal life. And when your child comes home from treatment, things have to be different. If nothing changes in the family and your child's environment, then not much changes for your child. What does all this look like?
If your child is over 18, he can go to an Intensive Outpatient Program (IOP) for several months. A sober living house or college with a student recovery program is a great option. These are critical programs to help him transition from treatment back to the 'real world'. Why are they necessary?
Think about how difficult it is to change a habit on a good day. Now imagine giving up the substances that have controlled your life and helped you cope (even though they were a life-threatening coping strategy). This is a disease of the brain, and your loved one needs a great deal of support, understanding, sense of purpose, self-awareness, tools and new habits. This is not '21 days to change a habit'. Information ("Here's why this is bad for me") is not enough.
If your child is under 18, she must be in an educational setting. It's the law. A sober living home is not an option. Unless you can afford a private or therapeutic boarding school, or there is a recovery high school nearby, she comes right back to the home, school and community where it all started. In 12-step programs they talk about changing people, places and things. That's difficult to do when your child comes back home from treatment.
Now they're home. How do you support them?
Learn all you can about the disease of addiction and recovery. It will change how you see the effort your child is making to change his life.
Let go of some expectations. Did you know that for someone in early recovery it takes 80% of their energy just to get up in the morning and start the day... and resist the urge to use? Be patient. This is a process.
Let go of the expectation that they're going to jump right into family life, chores, and a schedule. It will take time, as long as a year to get their footing in this new, substance-free life.
Now consider this: life is full of stress and uncertainty. You know because you're living it. Some days it takes all your energy and focus to handle it all. Imagine what it's like for your child.
Remember that the teenage/young adult brain is still developing, especially in the area of decision-making. Now add to it that the emotional age of your child is stuck at the age when he first began to use drugs and alcohol. Catching up will take time.
Work on your own recovery. "My what?" I can hear you saying. "I don't have a problem. My child/parent/spouse is the one with the problem." I learned a long time ago that we are all addicts of a sort. We are addicted to control, of people and outcomes. We have a vision of how our child's life is supposed to go. When it doesn't, many of us jump in to fix, manage and protect.
Sadly, with the best of intentions, you may have eaten away at your child's ability to take care of his own life. Learn to determine when your intervention or help is necessary or wanted, or not.
And finally, learn a new way of relating to, and communicating with, your child. What you say and do, and how you say and do it, can have a great impact on your relationship and your child's recovery. There are ways to see your child through the lens of love, rather than the fear of relapse.
And where there is love, everything is possible.
Fern Weis is a Parent Coach and Family Recovery Life Coach. She works with parents of teens and young adults who are going through difficult situations, from the homework wars to addiction recovery, and all points in between. Fern helps parents release guilt, end enabling, and confidently prepare their children to thrive and be successful through life's challenges. FernWeis.com | 201-747-9642