Your Part in Your Son or Daughter's Recovery

The importance of continuing care

It's important that support continues after your son or daughter completes residential treatment. You play an important role in supporting the continuing care plan and encouraging your child to begin this continuing care program as soon as possible after discharge - and then to help him or her stay with it.

Here's why

We've studied thousands of people just like your son or daughter after they have completed residential treatment. What we've learned is that those who follow their continuing care plans, starting in the very first month following discharge, have a better chance of staying sober than those who don't. In fact, our research tells us that if your son or daughter starts his or her continuing care plan right away, he or she will have a higher chance of being abstinent 6 months later and even 12 months later than people who don't.

We have been conducting outcome studies for years, and the results always tell us the same thing: Continuing care is an essential part of lifelong recovery. And the sooner it is started, the more successful it is.

The recovery process

It is normal that the recovery process is uncomfortable for different reasons, withdrawal, homesickness, and lack of coping skills. People with addiction have trained themselves to run away from problems by using substances and have a low tolerance for frustration or hardship. Without access to substances, they may want to leave treatment when problems arise because they lack coping skills and frustration tolerance.

We approach addiction as a disease that can be treated and arrested but not cured. Any disease has universal signs and symptoms; addiction's signs and symptoms are lying, stealing, manipulating, preoccupation, denial, isolation, and violating values, among others. Your son or daughter is not doing these things to insult you, punish you or to get back at you. They are so compelled to use substances that everything else becomes secondary. It is important that you do not take these behaviors personally. Some family members say that addiction has robbed their son or daughter from them; it is like your son or daughter is walking into the horizon and gradually disappearing. The real person is replaced by the "evil twin", i.e., the addict. They have lost their true being. Sometimes parents feel that only an empty shell is left. The hope in recovery is that your son or daughter will come back and you will be able to re-establish your relationship. The process can take a long time and it is not a miracle cure or a smooth, even process. Sometimes the parent gets a glimpse of the "old person" emerging but the next moment the addict is back. This is normal. You may experience also that you have not been yourself lately; you also feel diminished, less than your true self.

Addiction and secrets go hand in hand. The addict's main strategies to keep the secrets are avoidance and anger, to keep the people who might confront them at bay. Other addicts keep a good facade and only say things you want to hear.

Your role in your son or daughter's recovery is to get healthy and start your own recovery process. Learn how to set healthy boundaries and expectations so that you, your son or daughter and the family system can start to heal. Join a local Al-Anon group ( or set up an appointment with a mental health professional that can make recommendations for individual, family or even group therapy. The Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation offers family support groups and recovery coaching.
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