Last night, I took my lovely daughters with me to visit Eli for the Tuesday evening visit. Tuesdays include a 30-minute family education session, which is required to get to the visiting hour.
Although the young speaker overused the phrase, “Does that make sense?” by adding it in at the end of most every sentence, he shared some information that is very helpful.
The four stages of recovery. Why have I not heard this before??
First stage is withdrawal which lasts a couple weeks tops as the addict stops using and experiences intense cravings and some depression.
The second stage is the honeymoon stage where the addict experiences increased energy, enthusiasm, optimism. Eli’s post on Sunday was definitely written from a honeymoon stage point of view. Yet, that phase is not the end of the process.
The third stage is known as The Wall. This is when the realities of recovery become known in the initial harsh glare of sobriety. Emotional realizations of what it might be like to deal with an urge to use without the drug available to satisfy the desire. Realizations that pain which was dealt with through drug or alcohol use is now going to be felt rather than avoided. Robert Frost said, “The best way out is always through,” but the through way is often very hard to stick with.
Finally, the fourth stage is readjustment when the individual begins to adjust to on ongoing state of abstinence.
Most of the men in the treatment program are released while they are in the third stage, The Wall. I questioned that, and even as I spoke the question, it occurred to me that I am underestimating the capabilities of Eli and all the other men in the program. Wanting things to be easy for my son has definitely not served him in his life, and I think this is another example of trying to make sure he’s all topped off and feeling strong and capable before he has to come back out to the cold, cruel world. It’s as though I think that if he can get through the wall stage while in treatment, he’ll be good to go. Ah, but that’s not necessarily the case, is it? Each person has his own journey, and that includes discovering his own strengths and strategies for dealing with urges, triggers, patterns, and habits.
I asked about resources for families and the speaker mentioned al-anon, among others. He also suggested family counseling. I’ve thought all along that Eli’s recovery chariot has to be driven by him, and not by us. But rather than being passengers in his chariot, I see us as walking or running alongside, tightening up the bolts that hold on the wheels, being available for questions about something that is coming up in the road ahead, watering the horses to keep them fresh, and cheering him on at what a fantastic job he is doing driving the chariot.
I’m not sure that’s our role, though. I simplified the concepts of enabling and supporting enough to think I understood them, but they just really aren’t black and white. Maybe our role is to ride alongside in our own chariots, and let him know we are there to support him. Maybe he’d like to tighten his own bolts. Maybe he’d like to care for the horses himself. Maybe he has other resources to draw on to ask about what’s in the road ahead. Maybe our only role is to let him know we believe in him, that we trust him, that we care about him, that we will be here for him.
How to do those things while still being wise about being observant and requiring proof for statements that are made is something I do not know yet how to do. Addicts tell so many lies that trust must be rebuilt from the very basic foundation. Addicts are manipulative and good at it. Loved ones must learn how not to be manipulated. I know this is particularly an issue for me as I often would rather keep the peace than take a stand.
As is all of life, this is a journey. Each step seems to make itself known as I take one step at a time.
Oh yeah, it’s all about me. That’s a little bit tongue in cheek, but I continue to discover aspects of Eli’s recovery that are instructive for me. When I have changed my eating habits before, I’ve gone through the withdrawal of not having sugar, which obviously ends. Since it’s often accompanied by an eating plan that makes me feel much better, I get into the honeymoon phase but I stay there for a long time. Somehow I missed the lesson about The Wall. Looks like that is at least part of my next step as I would have to say I have relapsed when it comes to food.
Thanks for reading and for the feedback that you give me privately and on the blog. Blogging this year has been a tremendous experience and I’m glad you’re along for the journey.