Every parent wants to know two things when they have a child or loved one just getting clean or into recovery for the first time. They want to know, “What could I have done differently?” and the next most asked question is, “Where do I go next to help prevent this from happening again?” It's important to know the issues surrounding key aspects of early recovery as you may have someone you love just now getting clean for the first time and not know where to go.
Below is a list of safety precautions one may implement in early recovery for their loved one to help guide the situations surrounding going back to addiction or relapsing. None of us want that to happen to someone we love, but we might be stuck in this very situation and not know where to go. With this comprehensive list of precautions to take in early recovery, you can now easily set guidelines, rules, and stipulations that both the loved one and lover(s) can be held accountable for in guiding them to a new found wonderful path of recovery. With this list it will make it easier to understand the dangers surrounding things like money, responsibilities, and making relapse completely inaccessible to the addict, to the very best of your ability.
How do I know these tips will work? Well, this is almost word for word the conversation that my parents and I had when I first decided to come home from rehab after a year-long stint with heroin and a previous than that, a year-long stint with opiate pills like Vicodin and Oxycontin along with benzodiazapem and muscle relaxant abuse. Not to mention I was a chronic alcoholic I'd always been spending my money illegally in all of these aspects, considering I got clean by the time I was twenty years of age. This list is one of the key factors into how I kept my triggers and opportunities extremely low for relapse. With this list of precautions to take in early recovery, I could guide myself in reteaching myself the rights and wrongs, the social contract we all live and abide by, and the social norms that were considered to be good instead of my deviant life I was living. This was a pivotal turning point in my recovery and I have one thing to say to the people that implanted it.
1. Give Access to Your Money to Someone Trusted- In the first thirty or ninety days or even my first six months I always had a rule: “No Cash.” This meant that I wouldn’t carry any cash on me or have any credit or debit cards that could act as cash for me. If I was going somewhere I knew I would take the specific amounted needed to get the job done, say filling up the gas tank. The reason being for all of this precaution was my urge to splurge. I always wanted to find some new fixation to spend my money on, and it always ended up being something so negative or not appropriate for a clean and healthy lifestyle. If my urge to splurge wasn’t fixated on something negative that you could buy at any convenient shop, I might go to the extreme. If there was nothing to satisfy my urge to splurge with any legal means—although still feeding my reward center in my brain—I would tell myself: “Well you have the money, it’s here and it’s now or never.” My thinking mind would always say to itself that if you have the money and it’s not gone when you get home, and you really don’t want what you intended, why not get some dope? This was a constant battle because in early recovery I always wanted dope more than I wanted something of material possession from say a “JC Penny” or gas from a “Speedway.” This is just something my brain was so accustomed to spending my own money on. It is safer to be on no money and have the urge not there at all than it is to have “Extra spending cash.” Then, if I didn’t come home with all the money spent that was given to me my parents would ask, “Where did the money really go? Show me proof?” And this brings me to my next point: “Receipts.”
2. Parents: Require Receipts from Your Children in Early Recovery- In my early recovery, I know I said only take what you know you will spend. So, what if you do spend all of the money you are given, but you still spend it on dope? How are you held accountable? Well here is how it worked in my family. My parents would give me a certain amount of money—say $20 for gas—and would write down the amount in a “little black book” they kept handy. Then when I got home from getting the gas I would always be required to immediately hand my father the receipt that said $20 on it, and sometimes check my pockets and gas tank (not always for the second two but you can). If the receipt did not say $20 on it and it said $16.84, I would be required to produce $3.16 to them, write it down for reference, and the reason there was change. I know this seems tedious, but it most certainly worked. For starters there was no fooling anyone. Secondly keeping me accountable in my daily actions showed me the way the world really worked, and it wasn’t the way I thought it did when living in my addiction. Everyone is held accountable for his or her actions, good or bad. And thirdly, if I broke the rules and couldn’t produce a receipt, whether it was accidental or not, there were always consequences that were written out in an agreement signed by my parents and me. As my dad always said, “You sign this, it is legally binding. You break my rules then you break the law. You do dope, you won’t have me to answer to this time.” This didn’t just keep me accountable with my parents for my actions, but it put things into perspective if I was to get dope with the money and that is, I’d be going to jail for a felony case. Why would my own parent do this? “Well, son I do this because this is my house and if anyone brings felony drugs and paraphernalia into my house who do you think they will be taking to prison? Me or you? The house owner or tenant?” Now you understand what this written contract does, it doesn’t only protect me from screwing up, it protects my family if I was to actually go and screw up. I would never purposefully hurt my family, but addiction can play crazy tricks on your mind. So for the safety of the household, my mom, dad, and little brother I signed the contract willingly and was on my way to the next part of acceptance.
3. Keep a contract/written rules signed by both parties of actions versus consequences- This is the ultimate ending to parts one and two. With keeping this you know that the money that is being trusted by someone else is being respected. Then, you also know the money they do give you to do responsible things with is being spent within your and their—well thought out—boundaries. Without having an actions versus consequence list, guideline, or rulebook there would be no reason to abide by these rules and this would increase the chance of relapse in early recovery ten fold. We as the addicts have not been able to keep good inventory of ourselves in our addiction and our behavior in early recovery isn’t going to be too much changed to where we would know the differences of our actions. So in consequence of this we trust someone like a parent or mentor with our funds and give them a peace of mind and our own habits safety to their enforced contract. Parents/mentors you must be willing to enforce this contract, and leave enabling to the drugs themselves. Playing into the disease will do no one any good so make sure when you both sign this you are both ready for the consequences. Without keeping that little black book you may lose track and get confused and then make assumptions that could cause the addict to use just because you miscalculated totals, also. So when doing this be tedious and be careful, as it is well deserved and earned at this point once both parties are wanting to help to better not just one person but each other. Be cautious, be safe, but don’t forget it is the love that binds us together in all of these. We don’t do it because we have to; we do it because we don’t want to see the other fail. Simply, we do it because we love them! It’s not a contract of “What ifs” and “Well he/she said.” It’s a contract bonded by love and care for the betterment of each other in early recovery, positive lifestyle living, and beating addictions.
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