Xander has been through treatment on multiple occasions, and nothing seems to be working. In the past seven years, he has been through 12 treatments, including detox, residential care, partial hospitalization, intensive outpatient care and sober living—all ultimately resulting in relapses. He has struggled to stay positive during the addiction treatment process. Xander has two DUIs, multiple arrests, jail time and mounting court fees.
His family is in crippling debt and their insurance benefits have been maxed out. His family has sacrificed their own needs through their desire to help him. His parents’ marriage is strained and his siblings hold deep resentment towards him for the circumstances the family is in.
Is there hope? What else can he try? How can you stay positive when you’ve been through this many times before and nothing has changed?
Xander and his family are not the only ones who experience this degree of hopelessness and helplessness. However, there are techniques that you and your loved one can utilize to stay positive during the addiction treatment process. These techniques include managing expectations and engaging in community support.
Setting Realistic Expectations
One of the most important things individuals in recovery and their loved ones can do is to keep realistic expectations regarding the addiction treatment and recovery process. We can help create realistic expectations by considering what progress looks like during recovery.
Changing a compulsive behavior during addiction treatment can be extremely difficult. Consider a guilty pleasure that you have tried to cut out of your daily routine. Maybe it’s sweets or not biting your nails. Every single day that you don’t do it is a little win—a success. And that success is considered progress. For most, it is unrealistic that you won’t make a mistake, such as a single piece of cake on your co-worker’s birthday or biting your nails during an intense movie.
Relapse Does Not Mean Failure
When you make a mistake, it doesn’t discount all the progress you’ve made. Perhaps you learn something about your triggers or vulnerabilities that could lead to relapsing into old behaviors. You learn new ways to navigate your work environment and refuse sweets when offered, or you learn other methods to handle anxiety to avoid nail biting.
The same is true for people who relapse during the addiction treatment process—but the difference is that drugs and alcohol are much more reinforcing compared to naturally rewarding behaviors.
Although a mistake can be discouraging and frustrating for individuals with addiction and their families, there is a bright side. Learning from a relapse can help support future recovery efforts. From a neurobiological perspective, changes in the brain need to be prolonged to be successful, and new neural connections take time to develop.
If you are expecting perfection in recovery, you are going to be missing the little markers and wins that signify progress. Viewing every day in recovery as progress primes individuals with addiction and their family to focus on the positive and support recovery efforts.
Reach Out for Support to Stay Positive During the Addiction Treatment Process
Surrounding yourself with support is also a powerful tool to help you stay positive during the addiction treatment process. There are many support groups available to individuals suffering from addiction and their loved ones.
For addiction, 12-step support groups, like Alcoholics Anonymous and Al-Anon—AA’s counterpart for families—are two of the most popular community support groups. A big part of 12-step programs is encouraging members to share their experience, strength, and hope at meetings. It’s important for families to remember they need support too.
For families, participating in community support groups should not be perceived as another obligation to support their addicted love one, but rather as an opportunity to promote their own growth and healing.
Community support groups can help families and people with addiction to obtain the tools, support and encouragement that they need to cope with the effects of addiction. Support for families and individuals with addiction can be found outside the 12-step community in churches, hobbies, charity organizations, group therapy and alternative sober support groups like SMART Recovery. Spending time with individuals and families who have experienced years in recovery can help maintain your focus on hope rather than hopelessness.
Avoid Negative Mindsets
Although it can be challenging to stay positive during the addiction treatment process, a negative attitude can be detrimental to the recovery process. For individuals with addiction, a negative outlook can manifest as feeling of shame and guilt that can contribute to a cycle of chronic relapses. It can be easy for individuals in recovery to develop feelings of failure and dissatisfaction with a relatively slow progress that may lead to a spiral into relapse.
Family members who are not able to reflect on their loved one’s progress in their recovery can contribute to feelings of shame and guilt. Learning healthy boundaries of how to care for individuals with addiction without being consumed with worry and a desire to control them can be challenging for many family members.
It is important for family members to learn how to support their loved one without enabling them, because enabling behaviors will likely perpetuate and escalate their addiction. Many resources are available to families that can teach them the difference between healthy and codependent behaviors through books, online articles, 12-step support group meetings and individual therapy.
Learning the behavioral tools and practicing the skills to stay positive during the addiction treatment process becomes essential for successful treatment outcomes. It can be easy to lose hope, but the truth is that the future can be bright. Individuals with addiction and their families can look to a better future in recovery. It’s helpful to always remember that, “where there is life, there is hope.”