How to Help a Chronic Relapser

How to Help a Chronic Relapser

What is a Relapse?

Relapse is resuming the use of a drug or a chemical substance after one or more periods of abstinence; a recurrence of symptoms of a disease (addiction) after a period of improvement; to slip or fall back into a former worse state (active addiction).

What is a Chronic Relapser?

Many addicts have a lifetime of drug and alcohol abuse but have never actually attempted to get sober. What makes chronic relapsers distinct is that they have tried and failed at maintaining sobriety many times over.

Profile of the Chronic Relapser

  • Numerous failed attempts at sobriety, or a return to drugs/alcohol after a substantial period of sobriety
  • Unable to maintain sobriety despite having a wealth of knowledge about addiction and recovery
  • Continued substance use despite significant, severe and repeated consequences
  • Chronic relapsers often feel hopeless that they will ever find lasting sobriety
  • Multiple treatment episodes, including psychiatric treatment, detox, residential, outpatient, and halfway houses
  • Significant exposure, attendance and/or participation in 12-Step programs. Chronic relapsers have a history of repeatedly working Steps 1, 2 and 3, but have never completed all 12
  • Treatment-savvy have learned to navigate their way through the treatment industry to meet their own agenda
  • A unique talent to exhaust the financial resources and emotional support of loved ones. Chronic relapsers leave their loved ones depleted of energy and emotional resources
  • As with most addicts, a pervasive cluster of personality characteristics are frequently exaggerated in the chronic relapser; they are very charming, intelligent, manipulative, convincing, deceitful, lovable, talented and passionate; chronic relapsers have mastered the art of survival, in and out of treatment.

How to Help a Chronic Relapser

Below are ways to get involve, support, and encourage successful recovery for a chronic relapser.

Encourage a long-term length of stay. It is a well-established fact that long-term treatment increases the chances of lasting sobriety. It is important to define the term “long-term treatment” as in a length of stay in excess of nine months. It can take a chronic relapser three to six months to wake up out of the fog in which they have been living. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) is very significant in chronic relapsers and frequently interferes considerably with their ability to comprehend recovery principles in early sobriety.

Remove outside distractions. Chronic relapsers are masters at distracting themselves and others from seeing the truth about them. It is essential to remove all things they use to change the way they feel and to force them to sit in their own skin.  It is well within the boundaries the treatment center to limit distractions through therapeutic contracts, clear-cut facility rules and guidelines, and limited family contact. As a loved one or family member of a chronic relapser, be aware that you may be asked not to visit early on or often throughout treatment.

Emphasize the mental and spiritual nature of the disease. It is essential that chronic relapsers understand they have a disease of the mind body and spirit, and that the solution through the 12 Steps is spiritual in nature.

Be active in getting your own treatment. In most cases, the family has participated in the progression of the illness in the chronic relapser through intense enabling behaviors. Therapy for the family cannot just be a suggestion; it must be non-negotiable. Get involved with Al-Anon or Nar-Anon and consider counseling for yourself and other family members.

Put an end to enabling. Family leverage is usually the most significant in keeping a chronic relapser in long-term treatment. Chronic relapsers must recognize in no uncertain terms that they will not receive any emotional or financial support from their family if they do not complete long-term treatment or remain sober.

Stay one step ahead. It has been established that chronic relapsers are treatment-savvy, tricky and highly manipulative. When you, as the family, do get to speak and/or visit the chronic relapser, don’t take what they say at face value. Don’t give them an inch.

Emphasize that they work all 12 Steps with a sponsor. It is important that working the 12 Steps is not just a suggestion, but a requirement. These individuals must be held accountable to obtain a sponsor and work all 12 Steps while they are still in treatment.

Be relentless with accountability. Treatment for the chronic relapser should include a constant emphasis on accountability, responsibility and consistency. It is essential that there be rules, limits, boundaries and consequences with chronic relapsers. Family and friends can support but knowing what is expected of their loved one and reinforcing these policies and practices in their encounters with the chronic relapser.



What is Recovery?

What is Recovery?

Recovery from addiction is a journey not a destination. Addiction does not happen overnight, it takes time, therefore recovery also takes time. Addiction and alcoholism are defined as diseases. Addiction is the physical dependence on any mind or mood altering substance and the continued use regardless of consequences. Addiction is not a moral deficiency but rather a disease of the mind, body and spirit. Most people who become addicted cannot using drugs or drinking simply because they want to or “will” themselves to. Most people who suffer from addiction or alcoholism must seek outside help or an outside solution rather to help them get sober and then remain sober as they journey into recovery.

Sobriety is the cessation of drug use or drinking after an addiction has been formed. In order to remain sober addicts and alcoholics must find help from an outside source because they cannot find sobriety or gain sobriety on their own. Most of the time addicts and alcoholics who want to be in sobriety have tried many times to be sober on their own and have not been capable of it. This is why drug and alcohol treatment centers are available to anyone suffering with disease of alcoholism or addiction. Sobriety and the help to get sober is offered in the form of detox, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment, and support groups at these drug and alcohol treatment centers. Sobriety is not recovery though and in order to truly recover from the disease of alcoholism and addiction something more than just drug and alcohol treatment must be completed. This is where some kind of solution based therapy comes into play in order for the journey to recovery to begin.

Most people who want recovery begin by looking into 12 step programs because the term recovered is used in such self-help groups. Recovery is not only just the cessation of drug use and drinking but also the ability to live life effectively and usefully without the use of drugs and alcohol. This is why recovery is a lifestyle and not so much a destination that people reach once they get sober. Recovery is a way of living. More people than not find recovery in their 12 step fellowship such as AA or NA because it treats all three aspects of the disease of addiction. 12 step fellowships offer recovery because they give the addict or alcoholic not only the chance to stay sober but also steps to live a more effective and useful life. The 12 step programs of recovery offer a spiritual solution to a disease which includes a spiritual malady or maladjustment to life.

Recovery begins as soon as an addict or alcoholic’s behavior, ideals, ideas, thoughts, and actions change for the better. Recovery is not merely living life and battling against wanting to use drugs but finding the solution so they may never thinking of drugs or drinking again. Recovery allows this because it teaches a new way of life.


3 Ways You Are Enabling Newcomers

3 Ways You Are Enabling Newcomers

Most of the time when you think of enabling and enablers, especially when it comes to addicts and alcoholics you think of the family or loved ones. But enabling is something that can happen between any people in any type of relationship, including the relationship between newcomers and people with more clean time.

So what is enabling?

Enabling is “removing the natural consequences to the newcomer of his or her behavior.” People with more clean time will often feel compelled to solve a newcomer’s problems. If they’re involved with them deeply, they usually end up taking on the irresponsible addict’s responsibilities. Their behavior starts as a well-intentioned desire to help, but in later stages of addiction, they act out of desperation. The dynamics between friends, newcomer and person with more clean time or even sponsor and sponsee, become skewed, so that the person with more clean time increasingly over-functions and the newcomer increasingly under-functions. This builds resentment on both sides, along with the newcomer’s expectation that the person with more clean time will continue to make things right when they doesn’t meet his or her responsibilities.

Here are 3 ways you are enabling newcomers:

  • Giving them money: Most newcomers are broke. For the most part this is usually true. They have no job and have been scrounging up money most of their lives to fund their drinking or using habit. It can seem really tempting to give a newcomer money but this is enabling them. A newcomer needs to learn how to stand on their own two feet, especially when it comes to money. They should be finding a job and won’t have the drive or desperation to if they aren’t suffering the consequences of having no money.
  • Fulfilling their commitments to others: If a newcomer has made a commitment to be somewhere and can’t show up you don’t show up for them. You also don’t save them if for some reason they want to flake out on a ride somewhere. A way you are enabling a newcomer is by making excuses for them. Let them handle their own responsibilities and suffer the consequences if they are being accountable. This is how a newcomer will learn.
  • Bailing them out of jail: If for whatever reason a newcomer you know relapses and goes to jail or relapses in a halfway house and has nowhere to go. Enabling is letting them stay in the halfway house and enabling is bailing them out of jail. This is another scenario where letting them suffer the consequences is when they will learn. It is not your job to save them or make sure they don’t have to deal with the pain of their decisions. If a newcomer chooses to relapse they know the rules of the halfway house and the law so if they end up paying for that; they should deal with the consequences.

Enabling a newcomer can be very dangerous because they are teetering a fine line of trying to stay sober but not sure if they want to be sober. Enabling can make it easy for them to do what they want and stay in sick behavior. They will begin getting well when they have to suffer their own consequences and learn from their mistakes instead of being saved from them.



Ways To Have Fun in Recovery

Ways to have fun in recovery

Most people before they get sober think that recovery is going to be boring. They have no idea how to live life or really do anything without getting drunk or high; in fact getting drunk or high was half, if not all of the fun they would experience. So it really is an incomprehensible thought to be having fun in recovery without drugs and alcohol. Luckily, this is just a thought and there are many ways to have fun in recovery. When it really comes down to it having fun in recovery is less about what an individual doing and more about the way they feel inside and their attitude. The perception of an alcoholic or addict can really alter an experience so if you are having fun in recovery it is probably because of your perception and less about what you are doing, although, it is still good to have great ideas of what to do for fun in recovery.

Here are some ways to have fun in recovery:

Ways to have fun in recovery: Play!

Whether it is laser tag, paint ball, or a pickup game of basketball; playing is a great way to stay youthful, have fun and be sober all at the same time. Not to mention playing is a really great way to get exercise. You will be amazed at how much you laugh and how competitive you get when you play games sober and you will probably wonder why you hadn’t thought of it before.

Ways to have fun in recovery: Go downtown.

There are lots of things to do in your hometown besides drink or use drugs believe it or not. If you think there isn’t go and try to find all the spots there are that don’t involve alcohol at all. Another thing you could do is go get frozen yogurt or coffee with a friend and then find a bench and people watch. This is especially entertaining at night and can really give you some good laughs. Another great way to have fun in recovery people watching is to try and guess everyone’s story as they walk by based on who they are with, what they are wearing and the way they talk etc. You will be surprised at how it’s the little things that become the most fun in recovery.

Ways to have fun in recovery: Movie nights

This one is an obvious one. Whenever you are looking for a night of fun, invite all your friends over pick some movies. For instance you could do a scary movie theme, pop tons of popcorn, go buy some candy and scare each other silly. This could even turn into a sleep over or game night too if movies aren’t your thing. Once again you will be surprised at how much fun you have and how much you laugh.

When it comes to having fun in recovery it really is all about your attitude. A small and simple appreciation for the little things in life can make all the difference. Plus you don’t have to worry about waking up in the morning with a hangover or in withdrawal if you are having fun in sober. And that’s way more fun.

What the non-addict needs to know about recovery

Internet Addict

What the non-addict needs to know about recovery

Many people don’t truly understand addiction. Unless they have had some compelling reason to learn about it, like a friend or family member that is addicted, most don’t give it a second thought. Even those with addicted love ones may not know very much about the disease.

What the non-addict needs to know about recovery: Rehab is not a cure

Rehab is by no means a cure, and it should not be treated as such. An addict cannot attend a thirty day treatment program and then expect to be back to “normal” when they get out.  Addiction is a chronic, progressive, and relapsing disease. And while rehab is certainly a good start to recovery, it takes continuous action on the part of the addict to achieve sobriety in the long term. For most people, it is what they do after treatment that makes or breaks recovery. Quitting drinking and drugging is just the first step.

What the non-addict needs to know about recovery: The substance doesn’t matter

When addicts and alcoholics first come into treatment, they tend to identify themselves by their “drug of choice.” Some used heroin, some drank, and some took pills. What non-addicts and even some addicts don’t understand is that the substance doesn’t matter. A true addict who used cocaine cannot one day be a social drinker, even if “alcohol was never their problem.” For most people, true recovery means staying away from ALL mood and mind altering substances, not just whatever substance landed them in rehab. Thinking of alcohol or prescription narcotics or marijuana as different from other drugs can be very dangerous.

What the non-addict needs to know about recovery: Time takes time

Once a person quits using drugs or drinking, there are some people that will expect his or her life to come together, just like that. What the non-addict needs to know about recovery is that the drugs and alcohol WERE NOT THE PROBLEM. Rather, drugs and alcohol were the solution to the problem. And the problem was internal. It is the inability to cope with day to day life. It is trying to find peace or happiness by getting high. When you take alcohol and drugs away from a true drug addict or alcoholic, their lives get worse, not better. Until they have another solution, there life will likely be chaotic. It takes time. Many alcoholics and addicts make mistakes in early sobriety. They are learning how to live in a new way, learning how to cope with emotions they have numbed for years, and trying to fix all the wreckage that was caused when they were using drugs and/or drinking. They must learn how to balance their lives again, learn how to connect with others again, and learn how to enjoy life without drugs and alcohol. Recovery is not a destination, it is a journey, and the early days are usually the most chaotic. The good news is, if an addict and alcohol works a program consistently, things will get better.

5 Hard Choices Everyone Has to Make in Their Recovery

5 Hard Choices Everyone Has to Make in Their Recovery

There are a lot of hard choices I’ve had to make in my recovery. I was given a lot of suggestions in the beginning, and some of the things I was asked to do weren’t necessarily things I wanted to do. I did realize, however, that my own choices had landed me in rehab. Doing what I wanted to do wasn’t working out very well for me.

5 Hard Choices Everyone Has to Make in Their Recovery: Should I get help?

The first hard choice everyone has to make in their recovery is to decide to recover; to get help. I was miserable when I was using drugs and drinking, but it was familiar and comfortable. I didn’t know what to expect from sobriety. What’s that old saying?  Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. It’s scary to make a change, even if you are very unhappy. I had kind of accepted the way my life was. In my mind, it was normal to be miserable or at least normal for me. It was scary to make a change.

5 Hard Choices Everyone Has to Make in Their Recovery: Should I go to a sober house?

One of the first hard choices I had to make after treatment was whether to go to a sober house or move back home. I knew I would have a better chance at recovery at a sober house, but I wasn’t looking forward to rules and a curfew. I did end up going to a sober house, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I made a lot of friends, had a lot of fun, and it kept me accountable during those early days of sobriety.

5 Hard Choices Everyone Has to Make in Their Recovery: Who should I ask to be my sponsor?

This is one of those hard choices everyone has to make in their recovery that isn’t actually that hard. I’ve seen people stress over who to ask, then they end up not having a sponsor for weeks on end. That can be dangerous. I think it’s important to ask someone who is working a good program, but beyond that it doesn’t really matter. Remember that your choice isn’t permanent. If you decide later on that you connect with someone else, you can always switch sponsors.

5 Hard Choices Everyone Has to Make in Their Recovery: Who do I hang out with?

When I first got into the rooms, people would always say “stick with the winners.” Not everyone I went to treatment with or lived with in the sober house stayed sober. In fact, most didn’t. It’s the sad reality of this disease: many relapse, few recover. The thing was, I really liked some of the people that relapsed. They were fun, and funny. But they weren’t doing the right things, and I knew it. I chose to surround myself with people who were doing the deal and working a program, because in the end, you are who you hang out with.

5 Hard Choices Everyone Has to Make in Their Recovery: When do I move out of the sober house?

If you make the choice to live in a sober house, eventually one of the hard choices everyone has to make in their recovery is when to move out. My advice? Don’t make this choice on your own. Ask your sponsor, ask your therapist, and ask the sober house manager.

Effective Communication in Recovery

Effective Communication in Recovery

Effective communication in recovery is the key to living a healthy lifestyle and having healthy relationships. Communication plays an important role in everyone’s day to day life regardless if they are in recovery or not. So it is important for those who are in recovery to know who to effectively communicate especially because those people in recovery can sometimes be hindered by certain past experiences, character defects, and fear that keep them from communicating the right way.

In order to have effective communication in recovery you want to avoid leaving discussions about heavy issues and topics such as your money, weekly plans, things that are really bothering you until the end of the day. Most people are not willing to deal with major issues at the end of the day when they are most tired. Either leave the heavier topics for morning or make sure to talk about them in the morning. Whoever you are talking to about these issues will most likely be able to respond better this way.

For effective communication in recovery you also want to make sure you have the right conversations at the right times. For intimate conversations you want to choose the right places. If you need to tell someone new that isn’t going to be taken well, don’t do it in public, near friends, colleagues or near other people. Be mindful of the person who is receiving the news and communicate with them privately. This will also allow them and you to have open communication about whatever the intimate conversation is discussing.

The next best step to effective communication in recovery is to remove all the distractions. It is rude to pick up your phone in the middle of a conversation. Turn off your phone if you have to. Do not allow external distractions to sidetrack your concentration. It will distract both you and the person you are talking to.

If you have something important to talk about, the main task to effectively communicate is to organize and clarify the ideas in your head. Organizing and clarifying ideas in your head should be done before you attempt to communicate something important especially if you are passionate about whatever it is you are trying to communicate to the other person. Find some key points and stick them.

Communicating isn’t just about what you say either it is also about body language. During drug use and drinking, addicts and alcoholics can become unaware of their body language. It is good to remember while you are talking to recognize people, avoid negative facial expressions, and to keep eye contact.

If you are dealing with conflict and want to effectively communicate especially in recovery make sure to listen to the other party, speak in a calm voice, don’t try to finish the argument at all costs, not to try and get the last word in, and most importantly; only use “I” statements. When communicating during conflict try to keep the focus on how you feel. Start your sentences with “I…” and this will make the person more receptive. It also makes it sound like you are not accusing by saying “You did this. . .” etc.

Effective communication in recovery can be easy and it takes time to get comfortable with it just as it would for someone who isn’t in recovery. The point is to make sure the focus is always on the other person not on you.

Anonymity in Recovery

Anonymity in Recovery

The 12th tradition of 12-step programs states “Anonymity is the spiritual foundation of all our traditions, ever reminding us to place principles before personalities.”

Anonymity in Recovery – Personal Privacy

The simplest meaning of anonymity is privacy. People come into a twelve step meeting and give their first names only. There are no membership rolls and no records kept of any kind. On a personal level, anonymity in recovery protects all members from identification as alcoholics. Society still stigmatizes those that suffer from the disease of addiction. Stigma is one of the meanest and most difficult aspects of addiction because it makes it harder for individuals and families to deal with their problems and get the help they need. People who are victims of stigma internalize the hate it carries, transforming it to shame and hiding from its effects. Newcomers especially are ashamed of being “ousted” as alcoholics. Anonymity allows those people to come to AA without the fear that people will find out about it. It allows members to be more honest and open in meetings.

Anonymity in Recovery – Protection for the Program

Another aspect of anonymity in recovery is that it protects 12-step programs as a whole. Anonymity is often referred to as the single greatest protection the fellowship has. It is credited as the principle that has allowed AA to thrive and grow for all these years. Anonymity in recovery ensures that no one person can tarnish AA’s reputation. If a high profile member relapses and has a widely observed disgrace, which is possible for any alcoholic or addict, they would disgrace themselves. AA remains untouched, because that member never spoke for Alcoholics Anonymous. AA maintains its anonymity as a group.

Anonymity in Recovery –  Spiritual Principles

Anonymity in recovery serves two spiritual principles. First, it reminds us that we are all equal. Anonymity in recovery means that I am not better than you or worse than you, in any way. It means that the person who has twenty years of sobriety is no more important than the person who has twenty days. When we treat someone differently because of our perception of who they are, we are violating their anonymity in recovery-not because we are telling their secrets, but because we are not treating them the same way we would treat anyone else. We should be just as willing to help any person in the group as we are any other person.

The second spiritual principle of anonymity in recovery is that we are letting go of our own sense of uniqueness. In the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it states that “Selfishness — self-centeredness! That we think is the root of our trouble.” Anonymity in recovery is about letting go of that individuality and the things that make us different and embracing the things we have in common.

Anonymity in recovery gives us the opportunity to let go of old ideas. Everywhere else in the world, we are judged by who the world thinks we are. Anonymity in recovery allows us to let go of this identity and really see that we are all equal and that every person is a child of God.

Recovery and the Workplace

Recovery and the workplaceRecovery and the Workplace

Addiction recovery in the workplace is a tricky subject. For many addicts, having a job is crucial to recovery, but there is often a negative stigma attached to addiction, even when the addict is in recovery. We know that almost seventy percent of people who are struggling with addiction are employed, but when recovering addicts return to work after treatment, they aren’t always embraced.

Recovery and the Workplace: Getting Help

Many think that all addicts and alcoholics are living under a bridge somewhere, unemployed and doing whatever it takes to get drugs. This may be true for some addicts and alcoholics, but the vast majority are employed. Studies show, however, that many Human Resources departments don’t know how to handle an employee with an addiction. 92% of the ones surveyed say that there are resources available for employees with an addiction, but 38% said that no employees used that help.

There is a lot of evidence that recovery could start in the workplace, when people are educated on how to handle addiction in a work environment. The workplace can be an excellent place for interventions. While people suffering from addiction may be willing to sacrifice their home, friendships and even their family, many are not ready to risk their primary source of income. Often if their employer is involved in an intervention, they are much more likely to seek help.

Recovery and the Workplace: Should you tell your employer you are in recovery?

So what if your workplace doesn’t know you are in recovery. Should you tell them? My first sponsor had very strong opinions about recovery and the workplace. She said that it was important to keep your recovery and your work separate. She had nearly 25 years of sobriety and none of her colleagues knew she was an active member of Alcoholics Anonymous. She firmly believed that letting an employer know that you were recovering was detrimental to your career.

She may be right. Studies show that 25% of employers say they would be less likely to hire or promote someone in recovery. Ignorance and prejudice can make it hard for a person in recovery to land that first job after treatment. This is why some experts advise not talking about your addiction during an interview.

Recovery and the Workplace: The bottom line

There is a reason that many employers are hesitant to hire people in recovery. Obviously, drugs and the workplace do not mix, and those who abuse drugs and alcohol, take more sick days, are less productive, and are far more likely to jump from job to job. Even if someone is in recovery, it doesn’t mean they will stay sober. On the flipside, there are some studies that suggest that recovery and the workplace can be very positive. If someone is working a good recovery program they are likely to be more accountable, take fewer sick days, and work harder than there “normal” counterparts.

Recovery and the Workplace: Addiction as a disease

Ideally, every employer would be educated about addiction and would treat addiction just like any other disease. Unfortunately, this is not yet the case. The negative stigma surrounding recovery and the workplace is still very strong.

Letting Go of Anger

Letting Go of Anger

Letting go of anger can be as hard or as easy as you want to make it. Holding onto anger is a personal choice that we make for ourselves. Anger can be a poisonous thread that shoots through our lives and makes everything much more negative and harder than it needs to be. This is why it is so important to be able to let go of anger. But how do you do it? A lot of the times when we are angry we justify it by the actions done upon us by others. So the question is how do we begin letting go of anger?

Well, first we have to look at what anger is. What is anger?

Anger’s exact definition is a strong feeling of annoyance, displeasure, or hostility. Anger is an emotion. Anger is an emotional reaction to a person, place or thing that causes any of the three things mentioned in the definition. Sometimes anger is a defense mechanism and sometimes anger is a cover for fear. So here is how you begin letting go of anger.

First, recognize your anger. Realize your anger for what it is, an emotion and that it passes. If you really want to let go of anger this is the first step. Realizing and recognizing your anger is not totally letting go of anger though. You have to take action in order to begin letting go of your anger.

Look at the person, place, or thing that has made you angry and see why it has made you angry. Is it because of fear? Did you play any part in why this person, place, or thing could have made you angry? For example, did you have high expectations and were let down? Looking for what YOU could have done differently in the situation that has made you angry can quickly relieve some of that pent fury.

Next, you can put yourself in the shoes of the other person, place or thing. This is something that has worked since the beginning of time. Being empathetic to someone else’s situation is a great way to let go of anger. A lot of the time we have a hard time letting go of anger because we misunderstand someone, something, or some place. And in that case anger is a fear based defense mechanism.

So say for instance if you are angry that your cab driver is taking the long way around to get you to your destination-instead of staying angry try to picture his life. This cab driver may be trying to take you the long way around, and while it’s wrong, he is a cab driver, and may have a family at home to feed. That extra five dollars he will make because you had to take the long way to your destination may pay for his little girl’s new shoes etc. See how quickly letting go of anger can happen as soon as you try to picture why you might do something that makes you angry.

Letting go of anger is one of the biggest tools to have in your recovery tool belt. Once you learn how to let go of anger you will find total peace and contentedness. Being content doesn’t mean that your life is perfect it means that total chaos could be going on around you and you are still peaceful inside.

Ultimately things can anger you or you could let them go. It’s your choice. Find peace.