Substance abuse has a way of clouding the working space of the mind. While the first drink or hit welcomes that cozy tingle of detachment, you may not realize that the chemicals which silence your anxiety are also hurting you and everything around you. They are silencing the calls of your friends and family, who can only watch your self-sabotage with knitted brows. As you abuse substances, you may not see the subtle ways your decline undermines fundamental family trust. After all, how could you, when the substances are compromising the ability to focus on anything else?
Recovery offers a way back to the truth and to yourself. But as that journey begins, you may realize that a few steps aren’t getting you much closer to your loved ones. And as you start to really look and pay attention to what has happened outside of your own suffering, you may realize family is no longer waiting with an open embrace. They’ve crossed their arms and regarded you with suspicion. Why won’t they reach out to help? Can’t they see how much you’re hurting and how much you want to rejoin them in how things used to be?
At New Start Recovery, we understand the challenges that recovery has in store. We can provide support for you as you reconnect with your family, allowing you to begin the healing process. To learn how our family support program can help, call New Start Recovery today at 833.433.0448.
You’re Not the Only One Who Needs to Heal
Choosing recovery at all is a bigger step than many struggling with chemical dependency are willing or able to make. Starting the journey of recovery is a choice to be proud of. But here’s a reality check: in the midst of your disease, your mind was numbed against processing your hurtful behaviors, but your loved ones’ minds were fully tuned in to everything. Your family has been sitting in that reality for the entire span of your active addiction, just as powerless as you were over how alcohol or drugs seized the decision-making part of your brain. While a few trespasses of a suffering addicted loved one might be overlooked, the behaviors of addiction have been compromising their trust in you for months or years.
Consider that dynamic for a minute. You will need time to rewire your brain to make healthy decisions again. Similarly, they need to heal from the wreckage they experienced in dealing with your addiction. Hopefully loved ones are educated that addiction is, in fact, a disease. They may know that you did not choose to behave in ways contrary to your character. But their acknowledgment of your disease includes a reasonable expectation that relapses may occur. The high prevalence of relapse is a statistical fact. There is no benefit to feeling shame over how families behave with caution around you. However, you may need to accept that trust is earned in recovery, and that process will take time.
Guilt Versus Shame: Which One Moves Us Closer to Family?
Many people in early recovery feel that their loved ones are trying to shame them when trust doesn’t snap back to 100% right away once they get clean and sober. This may come in the form of family questioning the person’s honesty with statements like, “You’re acting weird, have you been using?” These sorts of questions can feel like direct accusations. It’s challenging enough to be in recovery, so why do they need to rub salt in the wound? But it is important to recognize that feeling shame over their reasonable suspicions can be dangerous and lead to relapses.
Guilt, on the other hand, can be a very useful reaction to these sorts of confrontations. The difference between guilt and shame is subtle but crucial.
Guilt is a normal and expected response when you’re confronted with the interpersonal complications of the disease. Without feeling guilt over the ways you’ve hurt others, there is little motivation to make a change. The rooms of AA and NA echo with talk of spiritual awakenings. The transformation from feeling shame to guilt is a big aspect of spiritual awakening. The acceptance of the past paired with the freedom from feeling compelled to repeat those mistakes is a powerful force to be reckoned with. While guilt is uncomfortable, it can be harnessed into contrition. Genuine contrition through works, such as going to meetings, finding a sponsor, working through a treatment program, is a signal to family members that it’s safe to move a little closer to you.
Give Them (and Yourself) A Break
Emotions are exhausting. Both you and the affected family members have legitimate frustrations and hurts that need to be processed. However, there comes a certain point that launching those emotions at the other party within the family is no longer healthy. Then, it only serves to fray exposed nerves rather than heal each other’s wounds.
These encounters can get ugly and involve a lot of tears. While the intent is good, sometimes the most effective way to fix situations is to give each other a break. You can find other safe spaces to process such volatile emotions. This is the basic purpose of AA, NA, Al-Anon, and Nar-Anon. In these meeting spaces, each individual can speak to others who are going through a similar experience. These are the rooms to find and share experience, strength, and hope. Rather than reacting with exasperation and anger, it can be much more useful to bring those feelings to people who are in a place to hear and understand. If AA or Al-Anon is not right for you, a licensed therapist can be an effective resource as well. Anything that helps honor your process while also giving the other person involved a break.
Find Hope at New Start Recovery
Work is required to repair damaged trust. Your friends and family can’t just shrug and pretend the dishonesty never happened, as much as they might want to. But those errant thoughts are wolves in sheep’s clothing. They’re the subtle, lingering parts of addiction that threaten to pull you back down to rock bottom. Withdrawing will not create a bridge back to your loved ones. While the self-pitying and anger may feel righteous, they are nothing more than distractions. There is still hope. It may not happen in the way you expect it, and it certainly won’t happen overnight. Getting to the other side won’t be a grandiose fireworks show. But as long as you keep the faith and continue working an honest program, it does get better.
If you want help with the recovery process, New Start Recovery is here for you. We offer a range of treatment options, such as:
- Alcohol addiction treatment
- Heroin addiction treatment
- Cocaine addiction treatment
- Opioid addiction treatment
- Prescription drug addiction treatment
If you or a loved one is struggling with substance abuse, our addiction counselors are available 24/7 by phone at 833.433.0448.