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What to Expect When a Loved One is in early Recovery

Having a loved one in recovery from a substance use disorder can be an emotional time, and it can be helpful to know what to expect. Recovery does not occur in 30 days, it is a life-long process. In the beginning you might notice that your loved one is more emotional, and feeling their feelings in a way that they haven’t in a long time – or maybe ever.

Even with the substances out of the picture, it doesn’t mean that all problems are solved. Recovery involves much more than “stopping.” Issues that were buried by substances could now rear their head and need to be managed or processed. Not only this, but most people in recovery find that they are dealing with triggers — anything that reminds them of alcohol or substances can bring up cravings or distress.

Managing these is not easy, and your loved one will need support – from family and friends, continued treatment, and community support groups such as SMART Recovery or AA. Just as it can be difficult living with or loving someone with an addiction, your relationship will probably not become perfect or completely “normal” when they first get into recovery. You might notice lingering anger or resentments, grief, anxiety, or other reactions.

This is why AToN strongly recommends attending a group such as SMART Friends and Family or Al-Anon, to get the support that you need in managing whatever comes up for you. Your loved one is not in recovery alone. You are in it with them.

Kirsten Helgager PsyD
Psychologist
AToN Center 888-535-1516