Handling Family During Recovery

Handling Family During Recovery

Drug addiction is an illness that affects a sizeable portion of the adult population, making it no surprise that nearly half of Americans have either a close friend or family member who is or has been addicted to drugs. More than an illness based on choice, addiction is an illness of chance, not something to be blamed on morality (or lack thereof), but something to be attributed to a mixture of environmental stressors, genetic factors, and the availability of drugs (from alcohol to Xanax and illicit opioids).

Yet while addiction continues to be misunderstood and often misattributed to only the vile and the evil, it’s our best friends, our parents, our children, our uncles and our aunts who become addicted to drugs for one reason or another. Some become addicted because of a broken leg. Others become addicted after a broken heart. The reasons are countless, but thankfully, the options for treatment are nearly as plentiful.

Addiction treatment today has evolved into a sizable repertoire of therapies and techniques that can be applied not only to individuals, but to groups as well. Experts and doctors understand that to effectively treat an addiction, two things must be taken into consideration. First, addiction is a chronic illness, and a focus should be placed on managing it, rather than looking for an impossible cure. Second, addiction doesn’t occur within a vacuum, and every case must be evaluated for any and all contributing factors, working to determine a person’s mental and physical health, medical history, family history, relationships, job security, and more. A big part of effectively treating addiction is tackling it as a family.


Addiction as a Family Disease

There are several factors that go towards describing addiction as a ‘family disease’. For one, addiction does run in the family. Inheritability is a factor for addiction, as research shows that individuals with a family history of a certain kind of addiction are more likely to develop said addiction. This may be in part because their genes make them particularly vulnerable to drug use, or because of the environment created by growing up alongside a display of drug use and addiction.

On the other hand, having an addict in the family affects everyone. More so than many other illnesses, addiction can come with a long list of tragedies attached to it. Addiction can wreck a family financially, emotionally, and physically faster than many other crises. And as such, it’s also important to recognize the critical role that a family plays in addressing and treating addiction.

Assigning blame in most cases of addiction is meaningless. There are too many factors to concretely point the finger at any one single cause for all this pain, and the opioid crisis alone has grown into such a massive behemoth that policy changes are not enough to properly quell the issue. It has to be addressed at home, within the community, in schools and town halls, and across the country, with a focus on providing genuinely effective physical and mental healthcare to those affected by the disease, meaning both the addicts and their loved ones.


Considering Family Therapy

One option for helping families better connect with their loved ones in recovery and better contribute to their fight against addiction is to employ family therapy. Family therapy involves the family in the healing process, addressing issues at home through the expertise and guidance of an experienced third party, and helping families develop techniques to deal with the challenges presented by addiction. As per the SAMHSA, one clear goal of family therapy is help families “become aware of their own needs and aid in the goal of keeping substance abuse from moving from one generation to another.”

For family therapy to be effective, a family has to be ready to work together. Not all families are ready to do so. Some families may be split between those ready to help their loved one, and those who feel that the addict should be excluded from the family. There are also cases where a family is little more than blood ties, where relatives hurt one another physically and/or emotionally, and where ‘home’ is a case of ongoing partner abuse.

It’s important to have a more flexible definition of family in these cases. We all need a family, but it need not be our biological one. Addicts who feel endangered by their relatives must seek distance, ideally among friends or other relatives. Toxicity in the family is unfortunately not an uncommon problem and can contribute heavily to an addiction.


Spending More Time Living Together

It’s incredibly easy these days to isolate yourself from family. Regardless of how many family members live, eat, and sleep under the same roof, communication has dropped both in depth and frequency across several generations. For some families, the best way to fight something like an addiction is to incorporate the recovering addict into family life and work together to truly forge family life into something more meaningful.

Begin by planning and making meals together, taking on the daily and weekly tasks of cleaning up as a family, distributing chores but also working on family projects. Nobody likes to be forced to dress up for the annual family photo, but there are other opportunities to come together and genuinely have fun. One option for families with a little more in the yearly budget is to spend time together in an offline vacation. Make it a rule every now and again to keep the phones off.

Being a part of something is important to a recovering addict. It’s important because many struggle to redefine themselves after beginning their recovery, and knowing they are an accepted and meaningful part of their family can help them start somewhere by remembering that no matter what, as a result of having a loving family, and being surrounded by feelings of unconditional love, they will always have a positive identity as a brother, sister, son, daughter, father, or mother.

Having that positive identity to start with can help a recovering addict stay committed to working on themselves, adding to that statement with other things, from worker to passionate artist, athlete, or student.


Know What to Expect

Treating a drug addiction is still a long road. While recovery is effective, it takes time to fully develop the toolset necessary to separate from addiction – and even then, relapses are likely. It’s just as important to learn to overcome relapses and learn from them as it is to choose going into rehab on day one.

As such, there’s some degree of patience needed when helping a loved one going through recovery. Likewise, recovering addicts must understand that their family members will have moments of frustration, and there will be arguments and heated conversations. As long as the core of the family remains intact – the sentiment that everyone is in it together – recovery is survivable in the long-term and may even bring a family further together.


Routines to Help Maintain A Sober Lifestyle

Building Routines In Sober Living

Sobriety needs stability. A steady schedule in recovery gives a recovering addict the framework needed to plot out their sober goals and have a step-by-step path to a better life. To consistently make progress in recovery, it’s important to start establishing routines very early on.

But to have a routine, a recovering addict must cement their goals and figure out the best way to achieve them. What does long-term sobriety entail? What is the bane of addiction, and a boon for recovery? What behavior must be avoided, and what habits are essential to true long-term well being? There are many facets to be considered when designing a routine for a sober lifestyle, and it starts with understanding why stability is so important.


Why Routines Matter in Recovery

A routine is a step-by-step program for any given length of time. Typically, routines account for a portion of the day. People have morning routines, evening routines, sleeping routines, or daily routines. While a schedule refers specifically to the sequential order of events within a set timescale, a routine doesn’t need to limit each step to a specific allotted time slot.

Both are important in recovery, because they offer both structure and limitation. Limitation is important in early recovery, as it keeps a recovering addict’s ‘free time’ on the down low. Sleeping schedules, early morning starts, set eating periods, and work shifts help keep you busy during the days and weeks when cravings are at their worst, and the urge to go back to old habits is still at its strongest.

As recovery gets easier, the need for schedules is diminished, but some structure is always healthy. We know for a fact that it’s better to wake up and go to sleep at set times every day, and that the body likes being used to sleeping, eating, and being active during specific points throughout a given 24-hour cycle. However, routines are eternal. Through routines, anybody can bring major improvement into their lives, minimizing time wasted and maximizing personal growth.

This is especially important for early recovering addicts, but it goes equally for everyone. A good routine can do wonders for a person physically, mentally, emotionally, and socially. Good routines aren’t built on total rigidity, though – they incorporate elements of flexibility, and account for problems, slip-ups, and other occasions.


What a Good Routine Looks Like

A good routine will depend highly on your interests, goals, and abilities. There is no such thing as the universally perfect routine. Some people have sleeping problems. Some people are physically disabled and unable to exercise conventionally. Some people fall asleep when they try to meditate. Some people are limited in the time they can take for themselves due to obligations to their work, family, and therapy.

A good routine should be one you can consistently stick to for months at a time. It’s okay to change your routine as your needs and circumstances change, but if you’re aspiring to hold to a routine you can’t manage to stick with for longer than a month or two, then you need a different routine. Don’t start with the bar way above your head – start somewhere accessible and go from there.

A couple of basic goals that should be achieved when designing a daily routine involve:

  • Having a ritual that helps you get energized in the morning.
  • Incorporating some form of movement throughout the day if you spend most of your time seated or standing still.
  • Having an evening routine that gets you ready for bed and has you fall asleep at roughly the same time each night.
  • Learning something each day, regardless of what it might be, or from where.

Addiction can rob a person of the ability to lead a normal and peaceful life and thrives from the chaos. By bringing a stricter order to your life, you can reintroduce some of the most basic needs that a person can have, including a solid night’s rest, healthy eating habits, daily movement, and something stimulating for the mind.


What a Routine Needs to Be Useful

Good routines differentiate themselves from bad routines insofar that they elicit long lasting change but are still doable daily, but there are a few goalposts that you should aim for when designing a structure for your new sober life.

Consider what changes you’re actually striving to make in your own life and think on how you can contribute each day to making those hopeful changes become a reality. It could be spending your commute, time at the laundromat, or time cleaning the house/apartment listening to a language podcast, history podcast, or other forms of informational content. It could be taking ten minutes every few hours to stretch your spine and hips or do a few gentle exercises to ease your knee pain. It could be aspiring to cook at least half or more of your meals in any given week from scratch. Or, it could be anything else.

We all have our own aspirations, but it’s important to start somewhere. Sobriety is often a person’s second chance at seriously tackling their life from the ground up and determining how they want to spend each subsequent waking minute. This is the perfect opportunity to consider what you’ve always wanted to be able to accomplish, and then set out to try and accomplish it. In other words: to be successful, a routine needs not only to help you account for the basics, but it should help you grow as a person, learn new things, and always strive to improve.


Develop a Plan B

Life is far from ideal, and no amount of planning ever prepares a person for what is going to happen. That’s why flexibility is important. We can’t rely on our plans, schedules, and routines to be followed to a T on any and every given day. Things can happen that force us to shift our priorities at the last second and focus on something entirely else. Alternatively, there’s always the risk that a relapse may occur.

Dealing with these changes requires understanding that they’re bound to happen sometimes, and you must be ready to deal with the aftermath. Routines can help you prepare for relapses, by developing if-then solutions. If you relapse, then you start by contacting your therapist or psychiatrist, look for ways to enter a recovery program or get into a sober living environment, and contact your family members and loved ones about what happened. Furthermore, when certain things get in the way of your planned routines, it’s important not to be too upset. Life happens, and we always need to leave room for when it decides to intrude on our plans.


Finding the Light at the End of the Tunnel That Is Addiction

Light At The End of the Tunnel - Addiction

It’s not easy to convince oneself that everything is going to be ‘fine’, especially with addiction. More than just the urge to use drugs, addiction is a complex condition that can be accurately described as a brain disease, a mental disorder, and a treatable yet debilitating problem. For too many, addiction inspires fear and judgment. Addicts are too often seen as worthless to society, leeching off others and providing nothing but problems. However, addicts are still people, and no matter how far gone they might seem, there’s always still hope that they can be helped to live and feel like normal human beings again.

If you or someone you know ever struggled with an addiction, then you’ll know that most of what people think and say about drug addicts is false at best, and deeply hurtful at worst. One of the reasons so few addicts get the help they need is because they’re ashamed of themselves, and are scared of going clean, fearing that treatment just won’t work and they’ll be made to confront all their feelings rather than pursuing the next opportunity to go numb again. There are many other reasons, but stigma and self-stigma are two very powerful factors that come into play again and again.

To help an addict see the light at the end of the tunnel, they must be made to understand that they are not alone in this journey, and that treatment is always an option.


A Whole Community Awaits

You are not alone. Roughly 21 million US adults are estimated to struggle with drug addiction in a given moment. A significant portion of that statistic is in recovery: a survey in 2012 showed that, at the time, a whopping 23.5 million adult Americans – one in ten – went through recovery and were no longer using after struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction.

Every day, millions of individuals rally together in group meetings or sober living homes to talk about the challenges they’ve faced, and how they worked to overcome them, or how they failed, and learned from their failures to do better in the future.

Recovery isn’t just possible – it’s necessary. The only way to move past an addiction is to seek and maintain sobriety or succumb to the effects of long-term drug use. Thankfully, this is not a journey you have to venture on alone. Through online recovery resources, local recovery groups, sober living homes, rehab clinics, professional addiction specialists, and therapists, you can have access to as much or as little help as you need for your long-term sobriety.

The hardest part is making that first leap to start your recovery. Rehab clinics are a good place to start, as they are often prepared with the personnel and equipment to lead an addict through withdrawal, early recovery, and the transition into a sober life.


How Addiction Treatment Works

Many addicts struggle to have faith in addiction treatment, especially if they feel overwhelmed by their addiction and don’t quite understand how it functions. While it is true that we haven’t quite found a pill to turn addiction ‘off’, there are various forms of medication, therapy, and treatment techniques to address each and every kind of drug addiction currently imaginable.

For certain types of addiction, medication can be used to wean an addict off their drug of choice and make it easier to transition into recovery, in contrast to going ‘cold turkey’ and experiencing extreme withdrawal symptoms and cravings. Medication also exists to counteract the effects of certain drugs, making it impossible to get high, essentially rendering a substance as useless to an addict. Such medication can also be used to save lives in the case of an overdose, in some cases.

Special forms of therapy and rigorous lifestyle changes are used to help an addict better understand why they became addicted, how to identify and avoid the behaviors and activities that make them want to use drugs again and reinforce better habits that help undermine addiction in the brain. Both one-on-one talk therapy and group therapy can help a recovering addict feel better about their condition and learn to avoid thoughts and situations that further feed the addiction. Outside of rehab, other post-rehab programs are used to help recoverees further develop the mental fortitude needed to succeed in sober life, through sober living homes, outpatient recovery programs, and more.


The Benefits of Paying It Forward

Redemption is a powerful thing, especially in the eyes of oneself, as we’re likely to have more debts to our own conscience than to anyone else. Because of the staying power that stigma commands in a person’s life, it’s important to seek out ways to eradicate that shame and guilt. One effective path is to simply do good. There is no easier way to prove to yourself that you still have the potential to be a positive influence in the lives of others – especially those you love – than to do good. And one way in which all recovering addicts can do good is by helping other addicts take the first steps to recovery.

Through group meetings, through talking about the challenges you faced and overcome, through writing about your experiences and educating addicts and their families about the truth of addiction and how it can be overcome, you can make a slow and steady difference in the world around you and change the lives of countless people for the better. All it takes is to convince just one person that they should consider giving sobriety and recovery treatment an honest try. The positive repercussions of such an act are often immense. And finally, it just feels good to do good. We’re not exactly a species to be morally exalted, but there is some truth to the notion that altruism has its place in human nature. And doing your part to shape your community for the better can leave you feeling reinvigorated with faith in your own capacity to do selfless things, despite a seemingly selfish past.

Motivating Yourself to Continue Your Sobriety

Motivating Yourself To Continue Sobriety

Motivation is important for recovery. No matter how expensive or qualitative your drug addiction treatment ends up being, its effectiveness at least partially depends on your willingness to commit to the changes you’ve made in your life. Other factors matter as well, such as how applicable the treatment is to your issues, and the support you get from friends and loved ones when willpower alone isn’t enough to get you through the day. But if your heart isn’t in it, you’ll be hard-pressed to continue being sober.

For most people going through a recovery program, the motivation to stay sober starts out at an all-time high and only begins to fade as time goes on. This is especially difficult for first-time recoverees, as they start out motivated for the journey ahead yet begin to lose motivation in their own sobriety around the same time that they feel they’re finally ‘through’ with all of their recovery work. This results in finding yourself practically alone and without any set structure to rely on as you begin to struggle with emotions and thoughts surrounding old habits and potential relapses.

That is precisely why so many insist that recovery is a lifelong process. It doesn’t end with getting out of rehab. It doesn’t end after finishing your outpatient recovery program. It’s not over the day you decide to move out of that sober home and back into an apartment or house of your own. Recovery and sobriety are lifelong commitments, and as such, they require a lifetime of work. But that doesn’t have to be a condemnation or a bad thing – working on your recovery can be fulfilling and can be an important step to figuring out how you want to define yourself in sobriety.


Why Did You Go Sober?

When in doubt, it’s important to return to the root cause. What drove you to seek out help to begin with? What was the moment when you realized you need to step up and sober up? What thought fueled the realization that you must make a choice between dying through drug use or making better use of your time on this ball in space?

There are countless potential reasons, and everyone has their own personal reason. Some did it for their children. Some did it for a partner. Some did it for the family. Some did it for friends. Or to keep a dream job. Or because they feared death. Or because they realized how terrible they felt physically. Or because they had to get out the relationship that drove them to that point.

All of these reasons are valid, and it’s critical you find yours and never let go of it. Frame it, in your mind or physically. And consider what else drove you to go sober. Make a list of 3-5 reasons why you had to stop taking drugs, and why you felt the need to completely clean – so that whenever you feel like those reasons are slipping away from you, you’ve got the right reference to look them up again.


Why Being Sober is Better

Just as there are countless reasons to stop using drugs, there are countless reasons being sober is better than being addicted. But to go over just a few of them:

You’ll feel better, physically and mentally. Excessive drug use wrecks the mind and body, with serious long-term consequences. It takes time for those wounds to heal, but the difference will be astounding. Not only will you feel better, but you’ll be able to think clearly, sleep properly, and worry less.

You’ll have much more time. Addiction is incredibly time-consuming and expensive, and can rob a person of weeks, months, and years. Many teens who start off getting addicted at a young age find themselves stalling both physically and emotionally, skipping forward in time. Recovering from that loss of time can be brutal, but there is also something very liberating about knowing you now have much more time on your hands. It’s also something you’re more likely to appreciate and use wisely.

Relationships will have meaning again. It’s tough to be in a meaningful and honest relationship with someone when you’re addicted. A big part of addiction is the inability to truly control your urges and cravings, and that often leads to a complete lack of trust both in yourself, and on your partner’s end, feeling that you’ve lost trustworthiness. But with the ability to be honest and remain true to your commitments, you have the potential to develop beautiful relationships and friendships with those you love and care about.

You can give back and help others heal. The recovery process is different for everybody, but there’s something to learn from each and every story. As unlikely as you might think it, there’s potential for your story to be the one to help someone else make the right choice and commit to sobriety. You can give back to the community and people who helped you heal by continuing to help them stop addiction in other people’s lives.


Staying Motivated

As your recovery programs draw to a close, it’s important to remember that you will have to begin relying on yourself to stay motivated. Not all the time – there will be days or weeks when you just need help, and that’s perfectly okay – but there’s no question about the fact that you do have to continue putting the work into your recovery, even years after going sober.

Work is not a dirty word, and it’s time to embrace the fact that work can feel good, even when it’s objectively hard. As humans, we don’t necessarily thrive in setting that requires us to be on vacation 100% of the time. Neither do we thrive under the pressure of constant crunch time. But when we’re working, day in and day out, for something we believe in, we feel that we’re pursuing and fulfilling a purpose in life, and that every hour spent awake has meaning.

Believe in your recovery. Pursue a better life for yourself and those around you knowing that it’s through your efforts that you’ve come this far, away from the bad old days. And know that even when you stumble or fall, it won’t be as difficult to get back on your feet.

Everyone Can Recover from Addiction – It’s Never Too Late

It's never too late for recovery

The only moment in time when an addiction is truly too much to recover from is when it causes a person to lose their life. But until that moment comes, every second is another opportunity to start the recovery process. No life is too far gone to heal, no matter what others might think.

Addiction stories are highly individual and each one is unique, but they always have a few things in common. Chief among them is the fact that addiction spirals out of control. One day, a teen might pop a tab of molly after a few weeks of drinking. Five years later, they might be in an ER for their second heroin overdose, with no place to stay and no friends or partners to speak of.

The extent to which addiction can lead to tragedy and total devastation is well known. Yet for many of those people who find themselves recounting such life-threatening experiences at the hands of an uncontrollable addiction and constant state of depression, life also eventually changed. They found a purpose, reason, or moment wherein things pivoted, and they finally embraced sobriety. And years after the fact, they can look upon those memories and see them as teaching moments on a long path of struggles and challenges.

No matter how bad things get, sobriety is always an option. Recovery is always an option. But the journey is going to be different for each person. The why and how will be different for everyone. And in many cases, it’s important to show a resilience to failure and expect many setbacks.


It’s Never Too Late

Drug addiction develops as a progressive disorder, feeding on a person’s unwillingness to seek help by pushing them into isolation and profiting off the subsequent despair. It’s in our worst moments that we seek comfort, and for an addict, that comfort is often the contents of a pill, needle, or pipe. And when that comfort wears off and leaves nothing but a gaping hole and even more pain, the most attractive way to cope ends up being more drug use.

This self-destructive and nigh-perpetual cycle doesn’t have to go on forever, though. By seeking professional help, any addict can seize the opportunity to get better, regardless of how far they feel they’ve fallen, and regardless of how far away the light might seem.

Rather than giving up on the possibility of recovery, it’s important not to lose sight of the fact that it is possible for anyone to recover, given the right support and compassion.


You Don’t Have to Wait

For some, there’s a misconception about addiction that the best time to seek help is once you’ve hit ‘rock bottom’, and that until then, it isn’t effective to either get help for yourself or engage in an intervention for a loved one. While it’s true that different people come to different conclusions during ‘moments of clarity’, the real best time to get help for an addiction is as soon as possible. Waiting for the rock bottom does no one any favors and is more likely to end in tragedy.

Any story of addiction can end in a triumphant recovery. It’s never a pretty story, and there are always elements of regret and guilt to every addict’s journey, but no matter how far one has fallen, recovery is possible at every single junction. Sometimes, it takes certain events for a person to finally learn the lessons they need to learn in order to successfully commit to recovery and stay sober. Sometimes, recovery begins and ends in relapse, several times over, before long-term sobriety eventually becomes realized.

Nevertheless, no matter what kind of journey any given individual in recovery is going to experience, the single most important thing is to never give up on the goal of completely overcoming the past and living a healthy and successful drug-free life. No matter how many years it takes, no matter how many attempts one goes through, the hope recovery only dies when the recovering addict gives up.


The First Weeks

The first few weeks are often the hardest, and they’re critical in the sense that they can make or break a person’s recovery, either propelling them into months and years of sobriety, or leading them slowly into a total breakdown and return to old habits.

It’s important to stick to strictly structured forms of recovery in those first few weeks, as it becomes increasingly difficult to rely on your will when you’re bombarded by drastic mood shifts, overwhelming cravings and deeply uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms as a result of your decision to go live drug-free and get clean. A sober living home or rehab clinic can put you in touch with the medical attention you need to make it through the worst of withdrawal, before relocating you to a facility where you get to live with others who have gone through similar journeys of addiction in their lives, with unique perspectives and circumstances.

For many, that’s a big wake up call. Knowing you’re not alone can make a big difference in recovery, but it’s also interesting and helpful to hear other people speak about addiction and further explain how they were able to deal with challenges similar to those that you have faced, are facing, or likely will face. There is much to be learned from the experiences of others in recovery, despite the differences you might find.


Surviving Relapses

Even among the more diligent, it’s fairly common to relapse within the first twelve months. Rather than a sign of weakness, relapses are part of the recovery process. They highlight the point that physical dependence and addiction are progressive, chronic illnesses, requiring intensive and ongoing treatment.

Because addiction also affects people so individually, a relapse is a good opportunity to discover what may be lacking in your addiction treatment. With the help of a therapist, a relapse can be turned into a learning experience, a lesson to further improve and solidify your commitment to sobriety.


Why Ongoing Support Is Critical

Even after all the programs, sober living experiences, and rehab therapy sessions are over, ongoing support matters. Whether just through friends and family, or through group meetings, local recovery organizations, or continued help from a professional, ongoing support is what keeps every recoveree on track for years to come.

It’s easy to eventually lose sight of what you’ve learned during recovery and fall back onto old ways when the going gets really tough, which is why it’s important to have safeguards in place to help keep you from that path whenever you might feel tempted. While it does get easier to resist the temptation of addiction the longer you stay sober, especially if you’ve been building a sober life for yourself, we all need support to make it through the bad weeks, addiction or no.


Being Goal Oriented in Your Recovery

Being goal Oriented In Recovery

The recovery process has no clear end and lasts a lifetime. While there are ways to define what might be the end of an addiction, and there are plenty of recovery programs with a well-defined beginning and ending, recovery itself – the process of recovering from an addiction – doesn’t strictly have a final end goal besides not succumbing to addiction again, which is a lifelong restriction rather than a goal.

And as it turns out, being goal oriented as we are, restrictions are much harder for humans to stick to, without the proper motivation.


Why Goals Matter

Goals are important for every man and woman, and without them, we would be aimless. Our day-to-day lives are made up of schedules and objectives, with weekly goals and monthly aims, and lifetime dreams. Without goals, we lose sight of not only who we want to be, but who we are as well. Many people define themselves by what they pursue, and it makes them happy to pursue it.

But there’s an additional quality to having a goal that makes being goal oriented so important in drug recovery. And that is our need to keep ourselves focused. Without a task at hand, our mind drifts, and strays, and in early sobriety, it tends to drift and stray into places we don’t want it to. One of the best ways to deal with the incessant cravings and negativity surrounding early recovery is to seek out and pursue sources of happiness and accomplishment – feelings we hold dear and greatly need after a harrowing period of addiction.

Many addicts feel guilt and shame for what they did, and struggle with a self-esteem that is most likely at an all-time low when they first decide to seek out help. Goals are not just there to give us something to aim for, but they’re there to give us a sense of pride once we’ve overcome them. We take pause after accomplishing a goal to relish and celebrate, before moving on.

In recovery, you need successes. You need to understand that no matter how you feel about the mistakes you’ve made in the past, you still have the capacity to do things right, and to get where you want to be. The worst thing to imagine as a recovering addict is the idea that the damage you’ve done to yourself and your life is irreversible – by being goal oriented, you have a chance to prove to yourself that this recovery process is the best thing that every happened to you, and that you can not only get to where you once were, but deftly surpass who you once were in terms of wisdom, health, opportunity, and more. But to do so, you must start with at least one well-defined goal.


What is a Goal?

You would think defining your goals is the easy part, but it’s likely not as straightforward as you might think. A goal has to be achievable, concrete, and laid out in a fashion that the path to said goal is visible – not necessarily within your immediate grasp, but visible enough that you know you can reach it. A bad goal is vague, idealistic, totally uncompromising, and out of touch with reality.

Take goals related to weight loss. For an obese man, it would be unrealistic to start with a goal of 5 percent bodyfat, a level at which the body is on the verge of approaching the absolute minimum amount of bodyfat needed to function. On the other hand, a noncommittal goal to simply ‘lose a few pounds’ would be equally ineffective.

Instead, consider a healthy amount of monthly weight loss for an obese man at a 500-calorie deficit, and set a six-month goal. The deficit, alongside a small list of food restrictions and a daily exercise plan – beginning with brisk walks, and eventually graduating to more challenging workouts – will lead to realistic and appreciable weight loss, provided that a disciplined attempt is made alongside emotional and physical help from friends and family.

The differences between the first, second, and third examples lie in the details and planning of each goal. Figure out what it is you care about the most, formulate an achievable end-result you’re happy with within a realistic timeframe, and have a plan for how you can begin making daily changes to reach your goal in time.


Why Do These Goals Matter to You?

Goals should be something you’re passionate about. Weight loss is a common New Year’s Resolution kind of goal, but if that’s not the first thing you care about, it shouldn’t be your primary goal. A few good goals to consider would be:

  • Getting a promotion/raise.
  • Saving up X amount each month to invest.
  • Dropping down to Z pounds.
  • Beating a personal record in a sport or activity after being out of shape.
  • Matching your old physical feats.
  • Saving up/planning for a quick trip abroad within the next year.
  • Gaining a certification/passing an important career-relevant examination.
  • Read a new book every week.

These goals are not recovery-oriented, but that is because recovery is best seen as a process that happens alongside life. Endeavor to make changes to your lifestyle, make new friends, and make strides in your professional career – and you’ll have your hands full, too full to worry about relapsing before you hit your one-year mark. In other words, to achieve your addiction-related goals, simply pursue what you love and care about, make progress by working on yourself and your aspirations, and let the healing happen.


Small Steps First

Big strides are admirable, but goals are only effective when they’re realistic and achievable. Take whatever goal you deem most important and consider what you need to start doing on a daily basis to make this goal happen. Inquire with a superior at your company to see what is expected of an employee aiming for a better position. Do the math on how much of what you’re earning you’ll have to stow away to start saving money. Figure out where in your schedule you can best fit in a workout session to help you regain your lost fitness.

Once you have the goal in mind, figure out what it takes to get from A to Z, and make yourself a list of B, C, D, etc.


Your Goals Are Your Priorities

It’s important not to forget that living ‘goal oriented’ means not only pursuing goals because they’re something you’d like to imagine you could do, but because the subject of your goal is an absolute priority in your life. If you feel your health is genuinely a concern or if you feel that your mood and mental well-being are affected by poor lifestyle choices, then making changes to the way you treat your body becomes a priority worthy of serious planning. If you feel your life requires more attention put towards your career and financial future, prioritize such goals. Be clear with what you feel your priorities are, and plan accordingly.

Understanding the Needs of Someone in Recovery

Support of Friends and Family In Recovery

The recovery process can be arduous and draining, and while recovery is the journey of an individual, it’s often only possible through the combined efforts of an addict’s family and friends.

Supporting a loved one through the process of addiction recovery requires an understanding of their emotional needs as a recovering addict. Without the right support, the recovery process can be wrought with periods of pain and uncertainty. But with your help, your loved one’s journey through recovery can be made much smoother.


Emotional Support

Addiction and addiction recovery both affect a person’s mental health. Whether through fading feelings of self-worth, thoughts of guilt and shame, or anger and frustration at past mistakes and current challenges, the process of recovery can often be an overwhelming rollercoaster of moods and emotions, especially early on. Aside from the social consequences of addiction and the stigma attached to being an addict, addicts also face a very confusing and difficult brain chemistry that seeks to undermine their recovery at every step of the way. Only time can heal that wound, and it takes a lot of time. Any ounce of emotional support offered by close friends and loved ones, especially in the early days of recovery, can take a serious weight off a recovering addict’s shoulders.

Effective forms of emotional support include affirming a loved one’s positive qualities, supporting their efforts in recovery (whether it’s the decision to seek individual therapy or an attempt to start investing time and effort into a new hobby), or taking the time to help them separate their anxious and fear-related thoughts and statements from reality.


Availability and Listening Skills

Just being there can make a significant difference in some cases. Addiction is very lonely business, and it’s the fear and feeling of loneliness that often fuels relapses and drives recovering addicts to seek out old habits. Understanding that they have a purpose in life and mean something to someone else can often help a recovering addict make a proper commitment to sobriety.

You don’t have to be constantly available to make a difference. While having a support system can greatly help a recovering addict sidestep relapses and prevent major setbacks during recovery brought on by temporary emotional upheaval, it can be very demanding and emotionally overwhelming to be a person’s singular outlet. Work with your loved one’s relatives, best friends, and mental health care providers to figure out the best way to help them always have somewhere to turn, without putting all the burden on yourself.


An Understanding of Recovery

The recovery process is often misunderstood, and addiction itself is not always very clearly defined in the minds of many people trying to help their loved one. Addiction is a chronic illness, in the sense that it is recurring and can has a high chance of relapse within the first few years of recovery. Continued long-term sobriety lessens the chance of relapse over time, but an addiction is never really “cured”. It takes a continuous commitment to thoroughly place it in the past and keep it there.

That is why the recovery process is not a matter of weeks or months, but a journey that will span a recovering addict’s entire lifetime. The first few phases of recovery often involve recovery programs because these help recovering addicts organize themselves and prepare themselves for the changes they have to make in the wake of their addiction. Being sober is easy for most people, but after an addiction, staying continuously sober is very difficult. Recovering addicts struggle with pent-up emotions left hidden for years, cravings that come and go, temptations and sudden urges triggered by smells, sounds, and memories, as well as a rollercoaster of emotions as the brain continues to struggle to right itself, with a host of accompanying and highly uncomfortable withdrawal issues.

For most addictions, there is no pharmacological cure to speed up this entire process. Addiction recovery is still a branch of medicine centered mostly around helping patients abstain from drug use and helping them psychologically and physically cope with the transition into a sober life. It’s not always a successful process, and it can take several tries before the changes really begin to stick. Being aware of all this can be the difference between losing hope in your loved one and knowing that it’s all just part of the process.


Encouragement Vs. Enabling

A recovering addict needs someone around them to bring out the best of them and help them overcome the worst. Whereas encouragement would mean doing your best to convince your friend or loved one to make small changes every day to further bring them closer to their ideal sober living conditions, enabling would be giving their old habits even just an inch on which to grow and fester again.

Enabling behavior includes lying to others about your loved one’s condition, keeping secrets for them in order to keep the peace and keep things quiet, or protecting your loved one from the consequences that should follow a slip-up or a relapse. Yes, relapses are quite common, but the only way to reduce their likelihood is to immediately address them when they happen, rather than sweeping it under the rug as a “last mistake”.

Be an encouraging force for positive change and a form of accountability that your loved one can rely on, rather than helping them find ways to escape the consequences of their actions, thus undermining the help they could be getting.


Making Healthier Choices Together

One last need that many addicts struggle to fulfill is working towards a healthier and stronger body. Exercise and diet are two very beneficial and effective ways to work on sobriety, as they both help the body and mind recover from the effects of long-term addiction, while making the mind more resilient to falling back into old habits. But it’s much harder to make an effective healthy change in your life when you’re the only one bothering to make it. Join your loved one and observe new dietary changes and exercise regimens together.

A lot of recovery is a joint process, rather than a journey for an individual. Once you find the best way to accompany and help your loved one make the progress they need to make, you will begin to see major changes happen.

Building Community

Building Community - Transcend Recovery Community

I spent this past weekend with someone very near and dear to me at what I can only describe as a summer camp for adults. And I want to share my learnings from this incredible experience.

For one of the activities, each of us was required to climb a 40-foot pole and walk across a tight rope. We held onto nothing but ropes spaced approximately 10 feet apart. And, no, overcoming any fear of heights was not the most incredible part of this event. There were four other people in our group- women who neither of us had ever met. The most incredible part was the degree of camaraderie between us and our investment in each other.

We cheered with such sincerity and hope as, one by one, we took that uncertain walk. As though we were watching our kid ride a bike for the first time. Nobody was here for competition, all we gave was support and encouragement. What mattered was our collective success.

Building Community - Transcend Recovery CommunityMy recent travels and this weekend experience have led me to reflect deeply on community. And the need to make our bonds real, tangible, and felt.

So often we become consumed with the “self” – our own wants, needs, and concerns – that our lives become a single player game. At best, we suffer from a bit more anxiety. At worst, we pit the world against us when times get hard, believing that our suffering is due to the neglect and wrong-doing of others. Trapping ourselves in a cycle of despair.

Though the rejection of community or connection is the worst thing we can do for ourselves, I admit my own tendency to do this. When things go wrong, it’s easier for me to be the victim and count the obstacles I’m up against. It keeps me from admitting any personal error.

But whatever fleeting comfort being alone gives me is nothing compared to the sense of love and security a community provides. When I recognize all those who support and accept me, when I admit my fears, faults, and flaws to them, I emerge from the hard times stronger. And, more importantly, I am better able to love and support them.

This week, I want you to build the bonds of your community in a real way. It doesn’t matter how old we are or whether we’re spending a weekend at camp or a getting through a tough day. We all need someone to cheer us on when we feel like we’re barely holding on, 40 feet above the ground. Verbalize your goals to someone else and ask them to do the same. And affirm that by working together, we are far greater than when we work alone.

Unconditional Love, Accountability, Community

-Asher Gottesman, CEO & Founder of Transcend Recovery Community

How To Make New Friends During And After Recovery

Making Friends After Recovery

Making friends can either be very daunting or it may come naturally to a person, but because we are generally out of our element when dealing with the early days of recovery, it’s unlikely for most recovering addicts that the thought of making friends will come ‘easy’. As transformative as it can be, early recovery is still often mired with a rollercoaster of severe emotions and challenging thoughts. Some addicts struggle with trusting themselves, let alone someone else. They may still feel a sense of guilt about their past that keeps them from truly opening to others, let alone creating lasting bonds of friendship.

Like any relationship, it takes a committed effort from both parties for a friendship to blossom and truly flourish. Making a commitment to sobriety is often effort enough, so the thought of opening to someone and creating a window for the potential of emotional pain can be overwhelming to say the least. But learning to overcome that be open to the idea of starting brand new friendships in recovery is a sign of big progress. It may take some time and some patience, but you can create lifelong bonds during and after early recovery. It’s all about your approach and your intentions.


Do You Remember What It’s Like to Make Friends?

The numbers seem to show that we make friends more easily the younger we are, out of combination of a greater amount of free time and a greater sense of honesty. Children can be quite blunt and upfront and are not very prone to subtle maneuvering or manipulation. It’s only with age that we become jaded, or manipulative, or both.

Compound that with the fact that adults have responsibilities, schedules, financial restrictions, and no longer spend a significant portion of their waking day among peers that are likely to share similar interests with them, and it seems obvious that it’s much harder to make friends later in life. Over time, we also sort of lose the practice we once had.

But it’s by no means impossible. You’ll just have to dust off old habits and approach or be approachable.


Don’t Stick to the Sobriety Crowd

The first mistake many are prone to make is trying to make a friend solely from the sober community. While it’s obvious that you shouldn’t be on the lookout for a drinking buddy or someone who is likely to enable your behavior, the primary objective shouldn’t be to find a sober friend, but to find a friend. Friends either compliment or contrast us and share a social dynamic with us – a form of chemistry – that makes them fun to be around, and vice versa.

That often begins with shared interests and passionate discourse. Begin looking for friends in places you go to for fun. It might be a local sports club, the gym, an online art club, or any number of different places where people gather both physically and virtually to discuss and engage in their favorite topics and hobbies. These aren’t the only places you can make friends, of course.


Go for the Friends, Stay for the Healing

Going to sober meetings is one way to meet new sober people, if you’re looking to guarantee finding someone who is as engaged and committed as you are to long-term sobriety. Picking a friend solely for their sobriety is a poor way to go but picking among sober people is effective as well. The key is to go to several meetings, and not just hang around one of them.

More than just a spot to meet new people, however, it’s also important to point out that there is a lot to be gained from spending time at different recovery meetups. Hearing people speak about their experiences with addiction might not necessarily sound like the most effective way to make progress in your own unique journey, but you would be surprised how much knowledge and wisdom you can take away from someone else’s mistakes and successes, and how entirely different lives can genuinely speak to you on a level that no one else can, outside of addiction treatment and recovery community circles.


Head Online

The internet is a remarkable place, not least because of its capacity to connect individuals from all over the planet. Not all friends have to be people you can meet with for a drink – sometimes, having a pen pal over the internet works too.

You don’t have to meet people in this day and age to form a bond of friendship with them. All it takes is a stable internet connection and regular contact, through instant messaging, online forums, webcam, or smartphone calls, and much more.

Alternatively, make use of the internet’s ability to act as an endless directory, and get yourself a bigger and more accurate picture of the sober scene in your town or city. You may be amazed to discover how many people in your city are recovering addicts, working together or on their own to maintain their commitment to sobriety.


Focus on Nurturing Habits

You don’t really have to put the onus on finding friends. Early recovery is as much about learning to reconnect with others in new and meaningful ways as it is about learning to rediscover your own interests and figure out what exactly it is that you feel passionate about, and what motivates you to do more in life than just survive to live to the next day.

By spending time on your hobbies and passions, you’re bound to stretch out and look for others with similar interests and come across groups dedicated to the thing you love.


Try Out New Things

Aside from rediscovery, it’s also important to discover new things. Never stop trying new things out – who knows, maybe you’re yet to discover the thing that really drives you and makes you tick. Recovery should be a time of self-discovery, spending time to try and understand who you are without the addiction, who you want to be without the addiction, and how to reconcile the two in the best way possible.

The Trick to Staying Committed to Your Recovery Goals

Comitting To Sobriety Goals

Commitment to recovery is crucial for long-term sobriety. As part of a lifelong journey, it’s important to be regularly reminded of what that commitment entails. If the plan is to never drink or use again, an addict should be prepared for the fact that as time wears on, the motivation to stay sober can wear off. It wears off particularly fast in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges and inordinate stress.

Recovery programs and the encouraging words of addiction specialists help us confront our demons and deal with the challenges of early, short-term recovery. But what about a year after going clean? Two years? Five? Goal setting is an important part of long-term recovery because it keeps recovering addicts focused on the goal – maintaining a lifelong commitment to sobriety and avoiding not just relapses themselves, but the factors that lead up to a relapse.

But goal setting is much more than an arbitrary practice. More than simply writing out a yearly resolution, it’s crucial to engage the goal-setting process with a clear plan and structure in mind – one that applies solely to you, your aspirations, and your interests. Before we get into the specifics, it’s important to observe a single tenet. Be specific. Vagueness makes goals irrelevant – try and specify what exactly you need to do to fulfill a goal.

Instead of striving to do more for your body over the year, set a goal of losing a small amount of weight (2-5lbs) within the next month (or gaining said weight, if you struggle with a smaller frame). Instead of hoping for a raise or promotion, set a goal related to factors you can control, such as improving your skills, learning a new language, picking up an activity related to your line or work, or something entirely different. Specificity is important, because it gives you a clear indication of where to go, rather than a vague cardinal direction.


Don’t Make Goals Purely Recovery-Related

There aren’t many goals related to drug addiction recovery past “maintain sobriety for a month/half a year/a year”. But besides that, one of the biggest mistakes you can make is to center your goals around not using drugs.

Recovery goals should largely be goals of self-improvement, because these are reliant on factors you are more likely to be in control of, and because making progress while working on yourself is critical to improving your self-worth and feeling better after an arduous addiction period. Many addicts feel shame about what they did and how they struggled with drugs – having reasons to be proud of the progress they’ve made since those days is important.

You can also create goals built around doing something for others. You could make it a goal to interact positively with a different stranger each day, make new friends outside of sober circles, or do something nice and thoughtful for your friends and/or family once a week.


Make Smaller Goals

Smaller goals are far more digestible, achievable, and most importantly, they are much less intimidating. Many people set goals for themselves with a vague idea of who they want to be in the future, rather than focusing on who they are now, and how they might improve on themselves in smaller, yet much more realistic ways. It’s not a good idea to challenge yourself to read a hundred books in a single year when you’re not much of a reader to begin with.

Smaller goals can often be more challenging that we might realize, but because they’re more achievable, we are more likely to fulfill them. Fulfilling a goal also makes you more likely to pick up a new goal, as the feeling of fulfilling a goal is often enough motivation to keep going and set your sights on higher aspirations. Larger, more vague plans are more likely to lead to incompletion and frustration. But by stringing together shorter goals, you’re making consistent progress and you’re feeling excited by it – even months after recovery has begun.


Create a Long-Term Plan

Bigger goals are harder to fulfill, describe, and stay motivated for, but having an overarching plan is still important. You should strive to learn a new language or be well-read – but that plan should come in the form of many smaller goals related to it.

Pick a long-term, 1-5-year goal that excites you, and then create much smaller, month-to-month goals you can fulfill on the road to achieving that first overarching dream. Examples may include: reading 100 books, or finishing your first written book, learning to speak a foreign language, traveling once around the globe, mastering a series of dishes, finishing school, and competing at a sporting event or pageant.


Account for Mistakes & Delays

Life rarely goes according to plan – and we should plan accordingly. While sticking to your goals is important, you also have to recognize when a goal can’t be completed because you were putting it off for too long, and when it can’t be completed due to uncontrollable circumstances. Sometimes, life throws a curveball at us and many of our plans and aspirations are put on hold. It’s moments like that when you should remember to pick up where you left off, however, and keep trying.

This goes for relapses too. One of the central goals to recovery is to stay sober forever – or at least, beat the addiction and never relapse. But it’s important to remember that the majority of recovering addicts relapse at least once in the year after completing their first recovery program. That rate drops year after year, the longer a person stays sober, but the first year is the hardest.

Many addicts feel that relapses are signs that an attempt at recovery has failed, either due to personal weakness or unexpected challenges faced during recovery. However, relapses are simply part of the chronic nature of addiction. Overcoming them is an important step in treating addiction in the long-term – and that means recognizing them as part of the process, and finding ways to turn them into learning experiences, rather than examples of failure.


Track Your Progress

It cannot be understated how important it is to keep track of your progress in recovery. The trick to staying committed – the reason why goal-setting is so important – is consistently finding new ways to motivate yourself to stay sober. Seeking that motivation out consistently over many years can be exhausting, and difficult.

At some point, sobriety does become the norm – but it’s crucial to never take it for granted, lest you lose it. By tracking your progress, you’re keeping a record of the progress you’ve made over the years to reflect on, as a way to realize how far you’ve come and how much has changed in little time. As time goes on, this becomes your main motivator – to continuously strive to improve and lead a better life and move onwards in spite of your past.