One of the most important concepts I have written and lectured about is the importance of a family recovery contract. For those readers that are not familiar with what I’m talking about, it is a contract between the family and their loved one whom may or may not be in recovery outlining expectations, goals, time frames and consequences.

Why is it so important? Well, most family members and their loved one have every good intention of meeting verbal commitments when they are in a recovery program. Like keeping clean and sober, going to 12 step recovery meetings, getting a job, returning to school or whatever. But as time passes and everyone gets busy, many of these well intended objectives dissolve, or excuses are made for a better effort next time around and let’s forget the infraction and move on.

I believe this makes the whole contract null and void and amendments are futile, but starting from scratch is a more formidable way to go with all on board with its importance.

But what about the “normie”…one that is not in an alcohol or substance abuse recovery, but just plain life. We are all in some kind of recovery, but it’s not mind altering, but maybe emotional altering. So, why not put a plan together for us? Our own emotional, psychological or whatever we need recovery contract.

I will use myself as an example and break it down into steps or columns so you can visualize what I’m talking about.

• Column one in our agreement with ourselves is headed by the title:

What do we want to see happen?—What expectations are we seeking to accomplish?

Usually it’s a good idea to list two or three. With that said, mine would be the following:

1) Do the footwork and then let the game come to you.

I am a very active person and thrive on being busy, busy, and busy. Because I work hard on both my personal and professional life, I expect results. I was always told that if I work hard then I will see results; but I have found that that’s not necessarily true. So I have learned to stop expecting results (especially hard since I am a control freak) and do the foot work, step back and let the game unfold as it may.

2) Turn my “fear into faith”.

Though confident in many areas of my life, I can go into a tail spin if something doesn’t work out the way I had hoped or wanted. I have been known to go into panic mode (especially financially) and would spend days thinking that I need to sell my house. Ultimately things naturally work themselves out, but yikes…how much time did I spend wringing out my hands?

• Column two in our agreement with ourselves is headed by the title:

How do I see these accomplishments or expectations becoming healthy?

1) Hitting the pause button when I find myself wanting to be push the results faster than they may unfold, is a good way to start accomplishing a more patient way for the future to unfold as it may. Also, to focus on something else that I wish to accomplish is a good way to take my mind off the narrow path of trying to control outcomes that well…I just can’t control.

2) Turning my thoughts from fear to faith is much more of a quiet, self reflective discipline. I like to remind myself that all the fears from the past have never materialized and I should understand that I’m right where I should be, experiencing whatever I should be at this moment. In the last decade I have become a very spiritual person and turning my will and care over to my higher power helps with this malady.

• Column three in our agreement with ourselves is headed by the title:

What is my time frame for change?

When dealing with the alcoholic/addict in this contract I strongly recommend a check-in after 90 days to reevaluate what is working, what needs some augmentation, etc…But, with this column is up the individual. It can be at the end of a week, month or several months. There is nothing wrong with a before the lights are out on a Sunday night to reflect on the week and see what kind of progress if any was made.

• Column four in our agreement with ourselves is headed by the title:

What are the consequences if the other columns are not adhered to?

Again, when using this contract with the alcoholic/addict (whether in recovery or not) the consequences column is vital! Expulsion from home, cancelled cell phone, computer use or car privileges taken away or whatever, if the penalty is not enforced for broken commitments than don’t use a recovery contract at all.

However, what kind of consequences can we impose upon ourselves or doing poorly on our contract? I’m certainly not going to punish myself for being more fearful than I would like or being too controlling. No, I suggest that we do just the opposite of “lowering the boom,” but be kinder and gentler and maybe breakdown where we went astray or what might we do a bit better next time around.

I think if we are aware of our foibles, our character defects and want to work on them a little bit at a time, even if it changes at the same pace as stalagmite growing, we are doing a heck of a good job!!

If I can be of service, please visit my website and I invite you to explore my book Reclaim Your Life—You and the Alcoholic/Addict. It can be purchased through PayPal or at Amazon. In addition, my book is available as an audio through PayPal only.

From Heartache to Hope

Life with the Alcoholic/Addict
Carole Bennett M.A.

Carole Bennett, M.A., is a family substance abuse counselor, lecturer, columnist and author based at her Family Recovery Solutions Counseling Center in Santa Barbara, CA.

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