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We can’t completely eliminate stigma – it’s been around too long and is too deeply embedded in the culture – but here are a few practical suggestions folks new to recovery and their families.
- Don’t treat abstinence as a big deal. In social terms, it isn’t. There are plenty of opportunities to have fun without alcohol or drugs. Early recovery is a chance to experiment with them. Plus you’re far more likely to enjoy the experience.
- Don’t feel you must ‘do for’ the recovering person. The alcoholic isn’t helpless.
- Remember nobody is ‘ well’ yet. Real recovery takes a long time. The first year is crucial, but the changes don’t stop there.
- Get to know your alcoholic loved one better. When addiction takes over, communication with loved ones comes to a halt. Once in recovery, it helps to renew your acquaintance. Not through formal conversations, but just getting to know one another again. You may be pleasantly surprised at what you find.
- Your needs and the alcoholic person’s may not be congruent. Example: you want to deal with feelings about the past. The recovering person isn’t ready – may actually find the topic frightening. Better to review your thoughts with a counselor or somebody at a support group than to launch into a painful discussion, unaware of the possible consequences.
- Don’t expect everyone else to understand. They don’t. Recovery is a bit like learning a foreign tongue. Not everybody ‘gets’ the slang.
- Practice patience. Easier said than done, right? We sometimes say there are two types in recovery: those who lack patience and know it, and those who lack patience and don’t.
Somebody once told me that he could be patient so long as knew for sure that eventually he’d get what he wanted. Well, it’s easy to be patient then. The trick is to have patience when you don’t know the outcome.
A lot of what happens in early recovery can’t be forced. Better to let it come to you, over time.
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How does a couple with one person in recovery handle the issue of the alcoholic not being ready to communicate about the past? It is very hard for the person who needs that conversation to wait.