A Hard Truth About Recovery

June 6, 2024

This is a bit of a good news, bad news situation. The good news is that the path of recovery is a beautiful journey that will leave you stronger, grounded, and more at peace with yourself and your surroundings than you’ve ever been before.

The bad news is it probably won’t start out feeling that way.

In fact, the very start of your recovery journey, much like your loved one’s, may not feel good at all. That was the case for one of the fathers in our group program:

“It’s tough when you’re in the beginning, going to family meetings and seeing other people at a different point. They’re more calm because their loved one is doing better, and we’re sitting there in the beginning in a bucket of crap. And we’re like, ‘Yeah, well, good for you.’

“Some days it seems unattainable,” his wife added. “That it is something that’s possibly no longer in reach because our son is struggling so much.”

I know they’re not alone in this feeling. For starters, I felt similarly when I first attended AA. I went in drunk, and there were really healthy, happy people there. And I thought to myself, What’s up with you people?

Maybe you’ve tried attending fellowship meetings and felt the same way. The gap between where you are and where you want to be seems so huge when it’s laid out in front of you that it can be painful to face. Hopeless, even.

The same is true for your loved one when they first go to treatment and are having to learn to function without the one thing they’ve relied on to cope. They don’t know how to live without their substance. You don’t know how to live without your chaos.

Both possibilities seem foreign. So much so that it’s easy to think, that’s not going to happen for us. 

But it is possible. Those other families who are grounded and calm are proof of it, just like those other people in recovery at AA were proof for me.

It’s why we have guest speakers share their recovery stories in our group membership, because they all had hugely messy situations, and they still managed to recover. It’s why I continue to go to AA meetings more than ten years into my recovery. To show those starting out what is possible.

Recovery is always possible.

The most important thing to remember when faced with this overwhelming doubt is that none of it happens all at once. As amazing as it would be for a box to show up at your house with all of the knowledge and resources that you could just swallow down and integrate instantly, it doesn’t work that way. 

I didn’t get sober by going to a few AA meetings; I got sober one day at a time, and it takes a while.

The shifts are often so tiny, you may not recognize them at first, but they will happen. Take it from that same couple a few months later:

“This definitely makes us feel better and gives us hope and skills to help our son and help ourselves. It has given us tangible things to do that are helpful, and I see they’re helpful because, when faced with those new responses, our son is not happy with it. But we’re more interested in his recovery than with his feelings.”

“We weren’t always on the same page. Now, I finally feel like we’re coming onto the same page in order to help our son. [My husband] can’t say one thing while I do something different. We need to be together.”

More good news I can offer is that the more you recover, the easier it gets. The longer you practice recovery skills, the easier they become to use in moments of crisis. The more you let yourself believe that recovery is possible, the easier it becomes to accept that it is possible for you and your loved one.

A great resource, whether you’re just beginning on your recovery journey or are far along on your path, is my book Dear Family, Why Your Loved One Won’t Accept Help and How to Help Them Anyway. Not only does it offer practical tools and resources to help you reach that grounded, calm place and offer more effective support for your loved one, but it meets you wherever you’re at in finding hope that recovery is possible. 

Get the book here.

And share with me below, where are you at in your recovery journey? Was the start of the journey a struggle or did you feel immediate relief? Maybe it was a mix? I’m curious to hear.

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  1. Shelton Dobson

    “ unCOVER , discover , reCOVER “ . Not an Easy Journey …But the DESTINATION is PARIDISE !


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