Tag Archives: recovery

Families offer addicts support and strength instead of solutions

Any individual working to overcome an addiction knows of the long and challenging path ahead. But addicts aren’t the only ones dealing with the physical and mental roadblocks of substance abuse. Addicts don’t exist in a vacuum. They have coworkers, friends and relatives. They live with others, eat with others, socialize with others and mourn with others. They’re part of a community – whether involved or detached – that often feels the impact of their addictive decisions. For many members of that community, anther person’s addiction can become a burden. Many times, family members find that they too can become as sick and needy as the addict. “Family members fail to take care of themselves because they are so busy trying to fix and control the addict,” says Mary Roufa, community service manager for Rosecrance. “They lose sleep, can’t concentrate at work or school, are drained of their finances, and stop interacting with friends and other family members as their worries take over their lives.”

Families can seek help

Family members suffering from depression, sadness and anger due to someone’s addiction can find helpful substance abuse resources and seek treatment for themselves. They have problems that can be solved. Families can heal, often finding new ways to support their loved ones without constantly shouldering the weight and guilt of a child, sibling or other relative who’s undergoing treatment. In many ways, a family’s healing process can have a positive impact on the recovering addict, but that should never be the reason for seeking treatment, according to Roufa. “Instead, the prompt to get better has to come from the desire to live in the present moment and feel better themselves,” says Roufa.

Still, an addict in treatment can receive positive outcomes from witnessing his or her family’s improved attitude and stability, mainly by seeing humble, peaceful and focused relatives who are intent on managing their approach to addictions and their outlook on life. And if the person in treatment has a relapse, he or she may look to the family for reinforcement, encouragement and stability.

“It can be an example of the long-term approach to treatment,” says Roufa. “An addict or family member needs to recognize that there is no cure and that they need to work to stay on track.”

Eventually, the idea of treating addictive diseases with short-term treatment programs are replaced by the reality that addiction treatment is a lifelong process, one that addicts and family members can eventually learn to live with. “Managing their disease is just a welcome part of their life.” says Roufa. “They are able to play the tape through when faced with a difficult situation, reach out for help and not go back to old ways that did not work before.”



12 Steps offer recovering addicts structure and stability

For those who have never had an addiction, the 12 Steps are often the stuff of movies and novels, a plot device when a character is battling addictive demons. But for the many recovering addicts across the world, the 12 Steps are tangible ideas that require thought and action. For those individuals, the 12 Steps are indeed a pathway to a better life.

In the same way, to the uninitiated, the term “sponsor” may be interchangeable with “coach,” “mentor” or even “friend.” But for people looking to overcome an addiction, a sponsor can be all of those and more. In theory, a sponsor is someone who will guide a newcomer through the 12 Steps, answer questions and share their experiences and hopes.

“When someone enters recovery it’s like moving into a new community. Just adjusting to life without drugs and alcohol is a major challenge,” says Melissa Garrison, alumni coordinator for Rosecrance Health Network.

Sponsors are a key part of the 12-step program, a set of principles that outline an addiction-recovery plan. Although originally created by Alcoholics Anonymous as part of its recovery program, the steps have been adapted by other organizations and individuals as well. Sponsors help participants follow the steps and are often essential to the success of the program. In return, the sponsored recovering addicts often play an important role in keeping the sponsors out in front of their addictive tendencies. “Learning what the program is about, the language, the process and meeting new people in recovery are some of what sponsorship is about,” says Garrison. “Having someone available to answer your questions and being available when you’re struggling not only helps the newcomer, but keeps the sponsor clean and sober as well.”

The 12 Steps

To understand the importance of a sponsor and the recovery process, it’s helpful to take a look at the 12 Steps themselves:

1. We admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.

2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to alcoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

According to Garrison, the 12-step program “works if you work it,” but isn’t without pitfalls. That’s why sponsors are vital to helping recovering addicts get through the rough spots. “Basically, just attending meetings will not keep anyone clean and sober,” Garrison says. “There has to be action. That’s where finding a sponsor, working the steps and helping others come in.”

Rosecrance alumni are a great resource for people currently in the program. “It’s all about support,” Garrison says. “The Alumni Program is a great way to practice Step 12. It’s very clear to someone who is working a 12-step program that you can’t keep your recovery unless you give it away by sharing your experience with others, and that’s what alumni members do.”

Alumni offer assistance, information and support those recovering addicts going through the 12 Steps. At times, the necessary support comes in the form of a phone call or visit from a sponsor. Other times, it can come from reference material or different forms of media. In a contemporary twist on the original, it can arrive in the form of 140-character Tweets, which Rosecrance, as @rosecrance12twe, often sends out as “wisdom for recovery and life.” A recent example focuses on owning up to one’s mistakes: “I am flawed. So, I work to further my emotional and spiritual health. When I am wrong, I admit it and try to fix it.”

Battling addiction and beyond

Garrison says that many people continue to use the 12 Steps even after they learn to overcome their addiction. It becomes part of their day-to-day life and an important toolbox when dealing with others. “When you’re standing in line at the grocery store, someone cuts you off in traffic, your daughter shrinks your favorite sweater in the dryer – these are all situations where one is powerless and can cause emotions to flare,” says Garrison. Applying the first three steps can help you handle the situation without a total meltdown. Looking at your part in these events can help you see you have a choice in how you react. If you do overreact you can choose to make amends and grow from the experience.”

Garrison says continued use of the 12 Steps is also a way to strengthen relationships with others throughout a lifetime. “When we find something that helps us feel better, our natural instinct is to share this wonderful plan,” Garrison says. “The more you practice the 12 Steps, the less stress you experience and the closer you become to others in your life.”

Beyond New Year’s resolution, the daily challenge of recovery

A new year presents new challenges, new opportunities and for those addicted to drugs or alcohol, a new chance at recovery. As with all endeavors, that long-term goal has to begin with inches instead of miles.

“An example I use with people in recovery is to think about walking up a huge hill. Where do you put your focus?” asks Melissa Garrison, alumni coordinator for Rosecrance Health Network. “You look at where you are. If you look at the top of the hill, it looks too hard. People who run marathons get that. You can’t look too far ahead at the hill you have to climb.”

Garrison, who coordinates alumni groups and recovery-focused workshops for people who have been through Rosecrance treatment programs, says setting goals is important but the goals must be reachable. “Even if you just start with what your goals are for today, prioritize them and make sure they are attainable,” she says.

Change can affect everyone

Garrison notes that goals can be met and true change can occur once patients decide they want to get clean.

“I never in a million years thought I would have a year clean. Treatment saved my life, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart,” says Jim Smith (not his real name). “I was near death when I walked into detox, but Rosecrance taught me the tools to continue my recovery after I completed the inpatient program.”

Concerning recovery, the top priority is the improved life of the patient, but there is little doubt that family members and friends benefit from their loved one’s rehabilitation as well.

“They not only saved her, they helped two caring parents understand the challenges of addiction,” says a parent whose child entered a Rosecrance recovery program and wishes to remain anonymous. “We are no longer embarrassed to talk about her addiction, largely because we’re so proud of the strides she’s made toward becoming a clean, productive adult.”

Another parent echoed those feelings. “Our daughter is at home, registered for college and has 11 months clean,” says the parent, who also wishes to remain anonymous. It is such a joy to have our daughter back.”

Looking back, looking ahead

Garrison says it’s important for recovering addicts to take stock of the different milestones they achieve along their journey toward recovery.

“It’s good to focus on the last year and think about what we’ve learned,” she says. “One of the things I hear when talking with alumni is the importance of practicing the tenth step of the 12 Step program, which is: ‘Continued to take personal inventory, and when we were wrong, promptly admitted it,’ which asks those in recovery to acknowledge mistakes they make and to work to make them right. That’s good advice for anyone, and it especially resonates with people in recovery.”

While goals are important, Garrison acknowledges that beating an addiction can still be a day-to-day struggle, especially when life deals you a bad hand. “Being in recovery isn’t a magic solution for life’s troubles. When ‘life happens,’ and everything that can go wrong does go wrong, people in recovery have to find ways of coping beyond using substances,” she says. “There’s nothing that using isn’t going to make even worse. The best advice is to follow the suggestions of the 12 Step program and work your recovery program. Bad things will still happen, but you don’t have to drink or use because of them.”

Smith, who says he was a substance abuser for 27 years before entering the Rosecrance program, is grateful for his new life and he is confident that recovery is possible for others. “If I can get clean, I want people to know that they can get clean, too,” he says.

Rosecrance offers support and educational workshops through its Alumni Program. Rosecrance Alumni Café meets the third Monday of every month at the Rosecrance Harrison Campus, 3815 Harrison Ave., Rockford, IL.  Alumni who live in the western suburbs of Chicago are preparing to launch a Rosecrance Alumni Café in Naperville in the near future. For more information, call Melissa Garrison, alumni coordinator, at 815-387-2537 or email her at mgarrison@rosecrance.org.