I read a post awhile ago that mentioned someone feeling doubtful about their loved one’s attempt at recovery. They said they went to a facility for help, which was good, only to then have their loved one continue to use without the help “sticking”. They seemed hopeful enough to question if it was possible for another option to work, but mentioned their family being against it as the first time wasn’t successful.
Weeeeeeeeeeell, let me tell you some personal experience on that one.
Not my actual personal experience, but I am an observer so that counts enough, right?
I met my husband when he was already familiar with rehabs and drugs. He began his addiction journey when he was 17 I believe (I’m pretty sure, but to be honest if I’m wrong I’m close enough to where it wouldn’t impact this story at all), and already was quite familiar with facilities, programs, hospital stays, and near-overdoses by the time I met him at the age of 21.
After we began our friendship and all the way until the most recent time, there was...I honestly lost track. There were inpatient rehabs only, inpatient detoxes only, inpatient detoxes followed by an inpatient rehab stay, transfers from one detox to a different facility for rehab, outpatient classes through one provider and outpatient classes through another, and that’s not even counting the times he tried to detox at home (either with my knowledge or not), the therapy either alone or just with me or both of us together, the times on suboxone, the times on methadone, the times he used kratom to detox or stay sober, the other near-overdoses and ER visits, or any of the other things that come along with this topic.
And you don't even want to get into what his addiction actually entailed. If you've heard about it, or it's possible to abuse it, he's probably used it, through one route or another.
Needless to say, both his family and I were pretty unsure of if he would ever be able to get and stay clean, and we really had not encountered anything that actually worked and continued to stick.
And it got me asking, year after year:
Seriously, how long does this whole addiction/recovery thing take?
And it’s hard to truly answer that, or say what will do it for any one person.
A lot of people go by the rule that you can’t/shouldn't enable them, and if you start with that point then you are at least going in the right direction. I feel that this is true for my case as well, since whenever I "helped" him too much it would just make things harder for both of us in the long and short run, as I was just trying to create a certain outcome that never really did anything close to what I actually wanted.
But after that, I’m not sure of what else is a hard and fast rule besides what I usually talk about, which has less to do with them and more with us, because I feel it depends on the person, the situation, and it can always change. And plus, that part is up to the addict, and we shouldn't concern ourselves too much with those details.
In my situation, I had tried everything under the sun. Enabling, controlling, emotional manipulation, ultimatums, kicking him out, cutting off contact, begging, supporting, personally detoxing at home, dropping him off at rehabs, finding rehabs, making him do everything himself, etc.
And let me tell you, trying to talk to, let alone reason, with someone who has been binging for 3 days and hasn’t slept goes absolutely nowhere (at least in this case), but it does bring lots of tears and also causes quite the depressing scene, as those onlookers in their cars could tell you.
It wasn’t until the very end of the last episode that I ended with trying the one thing I never did (at least for very long), which was shifting my focus completely from him to me.
And that’s what really helped.
The reason nothing ever worked from the get-go was because I never had the guidance system I needed in order to figure out what exactly it was I needed to do.
I mean, of course I could have everyone I knew give me advice or tell me what to do, or what they would do in their shoes, or what they thought was best for me, or I could read it in a book, or hear it from a talk, any source really.
But if I didn’t have the inner compass to actually feel and determine myself if it was right for me, I would easily be swayed to the next option or one I frantically and emotionally thought might be better. And honestly, I lost myself in that process and blamed everyone and everything I thought was the cause of the craziness as a result.
But when you shift the focus to yourself first, find what works for you, and what makes you feel comfortable and confident, then you can go from there and will be much better able to stick with or change what you decide to do. And along with that, you will be much better prepared for the future bumps and difficulties that you might encounter on the way.
I knew that for me, despite the fact that he had tried so many things and yet was still having episodes of active addiction and couldn’t stay sober for long, I still deep down had hope. I knew I still loved him, I knew that he loved me and our daughter, and I knew that he still had a chance and I would continue to stay around for that, even if it wasn’t as close as usual.
I didn’t want to give up and move on, even if that is what works for other people or it was what other people wanted me to do (but if I eventually got to that point, I knew I would be in a good place and the right state of mind to make that decision once I started and continued that inward focus.)
But just like with everything else, it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution. Some people find that leaving is the best, and that’s fine. Some people find the tough love/no contact approach to be what’s best, and that’s also fine. And some people choose to stay and support their partners, even if that looks different as things change and from person-to-person, and that’s fine, too.
My point is, there is no one path that either us or the ones with addiction have to follow in order to be successful, and we shouldn’t just take what is happening right now as a deciding factor in how their life will go. We have many ways of getting to where we want to be, and just because one person’s path doesn’t look like someone else’s doesn’t mean it’s going wrong, and just because it takes one person a few (hundred) more tries than someone else doesn’t mean that they aren’t going to succeed either.
The main thing we should be focusing on is that as long as they are still here, they have a chance. And how much or as little as you want to be involved in their journey is completely up to you.
At the end of the day, our loved ones will have their own obstacles and challenges that they will need to face in order to enter recovery, and we can’t truly influence or change that. Instead, we have to acknowledge that we are on our own journey forward as well, and in order to give both them and ourselves the best chance of success, growth, and healing, we must turn the focus on ourselves and give them the chance to do the same. However you go about that is your choice and can be as hands-on and comfortable as you want, regardless of how others have done it in their own lives.
But what should always be remembered too is that no matter what, no person is too far gone, and no story is completely without hope.
And that applies to both your loved one, and you.