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My Advice Being a Sober Dad to a Recovering Addict

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I've done a lot of mom articles on SubstanceForYou.com. I've gotten some from my mom, other mom's I know who's children are still struggling or even mother's who have lost their son's. But what I know holds truest to this epidemic is that addiction doesn't effect just moms. It effects dads too. And I know my dad is a very smart man, but part of me felt he just didn't get this whole recovery thing, because at first he would say things that didn't quite make sense to me, at all. But as we grew together we recovered together, too. And below is a story from my dad to all the other parents out there on just how much he, and you, can truly get recovery too. Recovery is for the whole family, and this is how...

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"In the beginning of my son’s addiction it was a bit like walking on egg shells while trying to juggle. The egg shells signified the feeling of never really knowing what the next step was to help him in recovery, while being supportive. And then, fearing that every step had the risk of upsetting his recovery was terrifying. For example, there has to be some rules and expectations in place even for a recovering addict, if not more so. Or on the other hand the times of boredom, lack purpose, and lack of motivation could draw him right back into a situation where relapse becomes a higher possibility, simply because he would have too much time on his hands. The old saying goes, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” But then, by the same token, every step, rule, and expectation had to be tempered with the reality that a recovering addict’s physical, cognitive, and emotional limitations need to be factored into the rules and structure. Putting it another way, if the rules and expectations on a recovering addict are too rigid I was afraid that would set him up to fail and it’d increase his probability of relapse. All the while that’s going on you’re juggling work, another child that you’re raising who has needs of his own, a marriage, and all the people around you that rely on you. It’s like trying to fix a car that’s been damaged while it’s still moving down the road. Life goes on, you can’t step off the treadmill of life entirely, but at the same time you have to be there and focus on what you’re doing to support a recovering addict.

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Then things settled down and got somewhat easier. Crises such as physical triggers like cravings, as well as pressure from him trying to reintegrate back into society seemed to settle down and smooth out as he got more clean time. What I remember the most is that when he got involved in school, at first, I feared that all the damage he’d done to his mind and body would hinder him in his classes, frustrate him, and increase the probability that he’d relapse from that frustration. Both me, my son, and my wife, sought professional advice on just how much he could take in terms of classes, subject matter and types, and he eased himself back in. And then to our relief that actually started to speed the pace of recovery. So the message here isn’t that schools for everyone, but it’s to finding a way for them to reintegrate themselves back into the world at a pace that doesn’t create excess frustration, but actually sort of, sparks his interest in being apart of the world again. And that’s where I felt it important to provide a foundation for him. As much as we were afraid of him to get behind a wheel with all of the things that were going on we took calculated risks on letting him drive back and forth to school because it was something he was interested in and it provided purpose in his life! We didn’t really have guide-book. We just kind of went on our gut, took it day by day, and saw how he adapted to it. And he did!

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One of the scariest aspects of essentially being the sober anchor for your recovering addict is having that uneasy feeling that professionals in recovery—such as psychologists, psychiatrists, counselors—at times provide less than ideal guidance to the recovering addict; being my son. Our society looks at medical professionals almost like God’s, and push our intuition, feelings, and common sense aside because of this God Complex that I project onto medical professionals. He had a doctor who was clearly providing bad treatment options and methods but it took me a while to listen to my own inner voice and challenge the doctor. Challenging someone who is looked at as the ultimate professional who can do no wrong may be difficult at times, but you have to be able to trust your intuition and ask tough questions, insist on clear laymen’s explanations, and don’t be afraid to get second and third opinions. The recovery industry is full of professionals who apply textbook methods without considering the needs of the individual under unique circumstances. It’s up to you as the sober anchor for that recovering addict to help you both get the courage to question the unquestionable.

In retrospect, sober parents or companions most important role is to provide a foundation and flexible structure that helps the recovering addict slowly reintegrate into the flow of life, while, keeping a watchful and compassionate eye on the recovering addicts progress, being careful to guide but not dominate. After all it’s the recovering addict’s recovery, not the sober parent’s, and they have to own it.

Always,

-Brian's dad."

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