What should you expect if your loved one is in early recovery, as in they're recently sober, they're working on their recovery? The angle we're looking at is trying to help family members have a realistic understanding and expectation about those early days and weeks of the recovery process.
I know you've waited for a long time for your loved one to address this problem. Probably years, right? You've been through the mud and the muck, and you're probably 10 miles past your limit, and so once they finally do decide to get sober, you are way past the point of being ready.
I want you to hold your fire.
Even when someone decides to get sober, it's not an overnight transformation.
Subconsciously we're thinking, "if they could realize they have a problem and decide to stop, it's going to solve all of our problems. Everything is going to be better, and it's just going to be wonderful and rainbows!" Sometimes you have a brief period that is kind of like that.
When people get clean and sober, we call that the pink cloud phase because sometimes people, especially if it's their first time trying to do this, they'll go through this phase of being excited about it and thinking, why didn't I do this before? Not everyone has that phase, but a lot of people do. However, the pink cloud can't last forever.
There's an old recovery saying, "You better have a pink parachute. After all, you're coming down from the pink cloud,"
I want you to have a more realistic understanding of how the recovery process works because it is not an overnight switch.
First and foremost, there's a lot of brain chemical changes going on. Their mood will fluctuate, they're going to be irritable, and they're going to be emotional. That's going to last for quite some time, but it will get better. Just because you take the substance out, it doesn't mean everything is fixed.
You can expect your loved one to be more irritable, cranky, sensitive, and probably a little defensive about the issue. I know you're thinking, "Okay, they get it. They know it's a problem. They're going to be ready to admit it and talk about it." The truth is, even when they get it and know it's a problem, they might not be ready to talk about it.
They feel physically crappy because they're not using or drinking anymore, but they also feel emotionally crappy about everything that happened and feel ashamed. Don't expect that it's going to be easy for them to talk about right out the gate.
Family members usually want to talk about it nonstop because it's all we can think about. Family members replay, "What are they doing? Are they still good? Are they in a good mindset?"
If you are going to ask a question, make it a well-timed question that seems like it works at the moment. Do it from curiosity, love, and concern. Not from a probation officer's standpoint.
"Did you go to your meeting today? Did you call your sponsor? Did you see your probation officer? Did you take your drug test?"
One acceptable, easy way to do that is to say, "Hey, what do you think about your probation officer? What are they like? What are those meetings like? Are there people in there that seem cool? Are there annoying people?"
Have a genuine interest in what they're going through. They may not want to talk about it at all, but I can promise you if you come at it from a curiosity stance, they're more likely to engage with you.
If you get the impression that they don't want to talk about it at all, it's not necessarily a bad thing. It could just mean that they're sensitive about it. If you see that their behavior looks like they're in the right direction, they're doing the right things, but they don't want to talk about it, that's still an overall good sign. If you see their behavior is not in a good direction and they don't want to talk about it, that might not be a good sign. Overall, I don't want you to expect everything to change at once.
I know as a family member, you're probably frustrated because you feel like you have been holding up all the responsibilities for yourself, for that person, possibly for the whole family. You are ready for them to step in and do what they're supposed to do, right? Whether it's getting a job or helping with the kids or going back to school or getting up early in the morning. Whatever it is, you're ready for them to get to it.
These things will come back into play if the person is working on their recovery, but it's not likely to come back all at once. I strongly suggest to families who have a loved one in these early sober days, don't push them on everything at once.
I'm not saying it's fair. I'm here to tell you what works.
Another big thing that I see come up with family members is they expect the amends and apologies right out the gate. If your loved one is working a 12-step program, there is an amends step in there, but it's not until the later steps. It's purposely designed that way to give it some time, and even if they're not saying it, look at their behaviors. Even if they're not directly verbalizing it to you, are they being kind to you? Are they understanding, and are they trying to do better? Maybe that's their way of trying to acknowledge the problem and make amends.
Have a realistic expectation. Believe it or not, most people don't have this spiritual experience where they change overnight. It's slow progress over time. You will see a change in them little by little, and before you know it, they're a different person. Give it some time.
If you're watching this video and you're wondering, is my loved one ever going to change, or do they mean it? Are they trying to change? Download my list of statements that people make when they're trying to change, or they're at least thinking about changing. Signs That Someone Is Thinking About Change
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