This is a guest post from John Perry, Co-Founder, Clean & Sober Recovery Services, Inc.
Residents – or their families – have given me lots of reasons why they or their loved ones don’t really need treatment for problem drinking or drug use. Often, these “reasons” arise from a simple lack of information about the brain disease of addiction or alcoholism. Equally often, these reasons stem from denial that there really is a problem. Interventionist/Family Counselor Ricki Townsend dispels many of these misconceptions in her FREE Recovery 101 eBook.
I'd like to set the record straight on one of the most common myths about treatment for alcohol or drug abuse: my loved one (or I) will be all better in 28 days. NOT! Substance Use Disorder is a brain disease that does not develop overnight. By the same token, it cannot be fixed in just 28 days. Recovery is a journey, and everyone’s path is different, but people typically need three months to go through the following stages in early recovery.
In the first month, the body and brain begin to detoxify and repair. Your loved ones may be deeply ashamed of their behavior, be very angry or blaming, or be mentally “checked out” in the first month. They may be very resistant to treatment and give you a million reasons why they need to leave.
During the second month, you may start seeing signs of the “old” person as the brain begins to operate more normally. There may be flashes of anger, blaming, resentment or sadness. The family tends to walk on eggshells during this time because you don’t know what to expect.
In the third month, humility may return to your loved one, which is an important indicator that the recovering brain is no longer operating solely in the limbic system's survival mode. You may see optimism about the future, a strong connection to colleagues in recovery, self-insight, remorse, willingness to do the work of recovery, support for others, or interest in planning for the future. Or you may see discouragement about putting the pieces of life back together. This is where “One day at a time” is an especially important mantra.
Other diseases aren’t “fixable” in 28 days, and we need to have that same mindset about recovery. Three months of treatment is just the beginning of the work that needs to be done – physically, mentally and socially. The brain and body take time to repair. People in recovery need to forge social networks with like-minded friends. And life’s challenges call for a new repertoire of sober problem-solving, such as learning how to manage stress without alcohol or drugs.