Carole Bennett M.A.

From Heartache to Hope

Should you monitor the alcoholic/addicts recovery?

Eight reasons why it's taboo to baby sit the alcoholic/addict in their recovery

Posted Feb 18, 2013

The alcoholic/addict in your life has finally decided to head down the path of recovery. They have admitted and come to the realization that their life is in a nose dive due to substance abuse and out of control behavior. Maybe they have "hit their bottom" because of infractions with the law, losing their job or losing their family and home. Whatever the reason, they have decided to get help.

As a loving and supportive family or friend, your first inclination might be to roll up your sleeves and immerse yourself in their recovery program with them. Though difficult to step back, please do so as this is their decision and their program, not yours. It will be mapped out their way not yours. Whether they fail or succeed it is their path not yours. Be their cheering section from the bleachers not running the play book on the field.

Here are eight reasons why your involvement is not constructive or healthy for either you;

1) Unless you are sitting right next to them at a 12-step meeting, out-patient rehabilitation program or counseling session, you have no idea if they have attended the meeting or session. They may stay for 15 minutes or walk in the front door and right out the back. Even if asked, you may not know if they are telling you the truth.

2) Though it sounds harsh, it's none of your business. They may participate in some recovery program or not. Either way it is their decision and doesn't concern you or your daily activities.

3) Monitoring or quizzing could be construed as not trusting or checking up on them. Resentments can form toward you, or from the family or friend toward the alcoholic/addict. These resentments can turn volatile and an engagement could result in a combative discussion.

4) If they are comfortable in their recovery program and starting to find satisfaction in understanding their addiction, they will bring it to you without your prompting. It's important they share this as their special kind of a pride. If you ask, you are taking away their chance to "boast".

5) 12-step meetings (or any other kind of recovery interactions) are personal. The newly recovering alcoholic/addict may be embarrassed or ashamed to have to be "going through this". Your monitoring might be keeping the shame alive.

6) The more you treat the recovery process as "standard operating procedure," the more the alcoholic/addict will take their recovery in stride and hopefully start to accept it as a way of life.

7) Beware of your own co-dependency regarding all of the above. This is usually the toughest concept for my clients to master, as for many years they have been hog-tied to their loved ones substance abuse issues. The family member or friend might actually find comfort in their discomfort with their interactions pertaining to the alcoholic/addict. Rescuing, co-dependency and enabling may have turned into a daily life style as they have intertwined their life so concretely with the alcoholic/addict. I ask my clients if they are really ready to shed the ties that bind them to the alcoholic/addict and if their life can take on a new independence and fulfillment without the dependency of "baby sitting" their loved one.

8) Be mindful of your expectations. If you don't monitor the recovery process, it might help you to stay realistic about your loved ones recovery. Clean and sober days may not necessarily mean forever days. Stay grounded and centered, so if there is a relapse bump in the road you won't be angry, resentful or devastated if they fail. Sure, you can be disappointed and even concerned ... what family member or friend wouldn't be? But, curbing your expectations and not pinning your hopes and desires on things that are not in your control may very well save you a lot of useless grief and hand-wringing. They will either pick themselves up and dust themselves off and start again or not.

If the alcoholic/addict invites you into their recovery, make sure that they lead the conversation. Don't become nosy or intrusive and keep in mind that you are asking not grilling. The words you use are crucial; but tone, inflection and physical gestures can strongly affect your communication and the difference between a positive or negative one. Please don't meet the alcoholic/addict at the door hoping that all has gone well in the land of recovery. If you are anxious, then they will pick up on that and either be anxious as well, or avoid you and your questions all together. A good, solid conversation about recovery could pave the way to more in the future and establish a trust and bond between the two of you.

If the alcoholic/addict terminates the conversation then let it be. The alcoholic/addict knows that you care; that you are worried, love them and only want them to succeed and live a fruitful and productive life. The more they can do on their own, accomplish on their own without you quizzing or monitoring, the better chance they have to succeed. Let them proudly wave the flag of victory while you applaud from the grandstand.

If I can be of service, please visit my website and I invite you to explore my new 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.

About the Author

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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