How to Stop Relying on Your Family for Everything in Early Recovery
When you are a child, you depend on your parents, guardians, and/or older siblings to pick you up when you fall down. It is healthy to trust your loved ones with your welfare, wellness, and well being when you are vulnerable, but the key to sobriety is overcoming that sense of vulnerability.
Recovery is productive, but victimhood is quite the opposite. If you continually see yourself as weak or broken, it will be difficult to maintain a strong, resilient outlook moving forward. Changing your self-awareness isn’t easy, but it is vital to your success in a sober living scenario.
Perception is indelibly tied to your surroundings. You do not exist in a vacuum. To change the way you perceive yourself, you must project your ideal qualities to those around you. As others begin to see you as an independent, responsible individual, they will treat you as such. This dynamic triggers an upward spiral of improvement; the more you are taken seriously, the more you believe in yourself. Hence, the more you believe in yourself, the more you are taken seriously.
The first step in bolstering self-esteem is to focus on the first part of the phrase: self. You may have formed your personality while in the nurturing confines of family life, but now you are an adult. It is your job to define yourself now. Mom and dad won’t be there to kiss your skinned knee every time you tumble.
In essence, recovery is like a second adolescence. It may be awkward at times, but you are evolving and maturing with every day that you make progress. The growing pains may seem insurmountable, but the enlightenment that awaits you on the other side of recovery is well worth the struggle.
Breaking Patterns, Building Bonds
Addiction is not merely a physical craving for alcohol or narcotics. It is a pattern of behavior that deepens and mutates the longer it persists. When you are caught in the vice-like grip of substance use, you contort your entire life, wrapping it around your preferred drug of choice.
Patterns themselves can be addictive. Humans are creatures of habit, and these tendencies become ingrained in our schedules, our expectations, and our actions. Familial patterns are the toughest to break because we do not want to shun our loved ones just to create a new collection of behaviors. For example, if you are accustomed to attending Sunday dinner with your family, you may share wine as part of the celebration. Even if you are abstaining from wine to foster a healthy lifestyle, you may be surrounded by family members who continue to imbibe alcoholic beverages. You are essentially immersing yourself in a tempting – and potentially destructive – situation.
Sometimes, it is necessary to avoid pitfalls like the family dinner described above. Your loved ones should understand that sober living requires discipline and commitment. They should support your recovery by offering companionship that doesn’t revolve around harmful habits.
When you are embarking on a sober lifestyle, you and your family may need to create strict boundaries with one another. But tough love works both ways. Not only do your family members need to assert their desire for you to get sober; you need to demand it of yourself. Break free of patterns that detract from your new direction. You will forge healthier connections with your family as you rebuild yourself. Loved ones should always be there for you, no matter how long it takes to re-discover yourself.
Finding Strength in Self
One of the great life skills you will attain in our recovery community is perspective. As you grow and thrive, you can look back on past relationships and behavior, seeing it more lucidly than you could when you were using. With your mind clear, you can honestly assess your bonds to family members and decide how you can repair or rebuild those bonds moving forward.
Compassion and coddling are two very different sides of the family crest. If your family rushed to your aid every time you relapsed, you may have learned to expect them to rescue you. But now, you are your only savior. Teach your family how they can support you without smothering you. Give yourself space and let your loved ones know where that space begins and ends. They want to help, so give them some parameters to do so.
For example, you can discuss the concept of forgiveness and how to navigate its complexities. You want to make amends for any mistakes you made in the past, but you need to earn forgiveness. If your family simply shrugs and pretends that everything is OK, then they are sweeping your issues under the rug too soon. Create an open dialogue with your family and explain how they can bolster your sobriety without ignoring your addiction.
Embrace Your New Fam
Your family will always be your family, but there’s no reason why you can’t expand your network of support. As you progress through the world with a renewed sense of maturity and independence, you will form relationships with thousands of people. Some of these souls may come and go, but some will become part of your new family. This is the family you choose, not the one chosen for you. You are now living a life of intention rather than haphazardness.
It is important to welcome like-minded individuals into your inner circle. By acknowledging past struggles in the presence of others who have dealt with similar obstacles, you can confront them openly and honestly. Together, you and your new brood may be able to overcome the shadows of the past to emerge into a brighter tomorrow. Contact Ethos at your earliest convenience and get ready to meet your new fam!
Author – Chris Howard
Chris Howard is the Founder and Director of Ethos Recovery. He has a B.A. in Psychology from UCLA and has served as a community advocate/mentor for men and women in recovery since 2010.