Everyone goes through phases of absolutely intolerable behavior. Toddlers go through a disobedient, dramatic phase. Teenagers turn rebellious. Throughout our lives we find ways of going against the grain, living ignorant of rules and norms, or disrespecting others. Self-centered and consumed by our objectives, we wreak havoc in the lives of others to serve our own agenda. From large scale behaviors to small scale behaviors, we act in such an atrocious ways that we challenge the limitations of loved ones around us.
No such predicament could be more true than that which is presented through addiction. Loved ones of addicts and alcoholics are pushed beyond their means when it comes to tolerating intolerable behaviors. Stealing, cheating, lying, manipulating, upheaving family get togethers, causing scandal, causing drama, causing grief- these are common experiences in addiction. Recovery is often thought by family members to be the answer to all of the behavioral problems. Once the chemical part of the equation is taken away, the behaviors should change.
Addiction is a chemical process more than a behavioral process, though it is also behavioral. Recovery, likewise, is a chemical and behavioral process. The chemical part of the problem, drugs and alcohol, is removed once someone decides to become sober and takes the first step. Twofold, the first step is in part getting honest about having a problem with drugs and alcohol and then committing to not picking up drugs and alcohol again. Behaviorally, however, change takes time. Chemical detox from drugs and alcohol takes a few weeks, though some symptoms can be recurring for up to eighteen months as a result of post acute withdrawal syndrome. Change of any kind is difficult for people of any kind. Habits, for example, are incredibly difficult to change. The behavioral changes which need to take place during recovery are essential changes of habit. Each behavior has become a habit as part of life and as part of active addiction. Active recovery requires new habits.
As those habits build, behavior can still be challenging. Family members often become exhausted, wondering why the behaviors haven’t changed yet. Early recovery can be compared to a phase of life like infancy, being a toddler, and teenagehood. Addicts and alcoholics in recovery are learning how to be in a new phase of life. Their body is changing, their brain is changing, and they are doing their best everyday through treatment to keep up with the changes while coping with the process of change. Don’t let the behaviors of early recovery push you away from your loved one, no matter how hard they might try or how intolerable their behaviors might become. Continue to exude empathy and compassion, understanding that living without a substance which the body and the brain have become chemically dependent upon is a difficult experience.