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Early Recovery Teaches Recovery Must Come First

answered 06:18 PM EST, Sun March 04, 2012
I am about to finish a 60 day residential alcohol addiction treatment program. My counselors are recommending that I move into a sober living house after my graduation from here. They have arranged for one that will accept me to be there with my son. Right now he is staying with my sister.

I am kind of torn about what to do. I miss him like crazy. He is 7. And I also cannot really ask my sister to take him for any longer than she already has since it is hard for her to get him to school everyday since she has to drive him there herself. But I am very worried that the sober living home will not be a great environment for my son to be exposed to. I know that everyone is supposed to be sober but at the end of the day it is just a bunch of strangers. On the other hand if I go back to my old place there is a lot of temptation around me and I am not sure if I am ready for that, and I have to admit that I was not a very good mom to him when I was drinking, so the most important thing is that I stay sober.

He is 7 so he is old enough to see what is going on. Is he going to be OK staying with me in a sober living home or is it going to be harmful to him in some way? I want to be a better mom to him from now on so I don’t want to put him in a bad situation, but if I start drinking again that will be even a worse situation for him. I am not sure what to do.

Delisted Expert Says...

Congratulations on completing your 60 days of residential alcohol addiction treatment program. To remain in treatment indicates that you are willing to do whatever you need to do to become clean and sober, have accepted the support of the treatment staff and other recovering residents. In my professional opinion, I have rarely seen clinical people recommend a certain level of treatment unless it meets the standards of the American Society of Addiction Medicine: http://www.asam.org/publications/patient-placement-criteria/ppc-2r

I would recommend that you ask the counselors “what relapse concerns do they have for you?” if you were to go home or to a lower level of treatment. You may also want to ask other residents what they think you need to do to continue in early recovery and about relapse concerns that they may have. I would ask you to ask your sponsor, temporary or not, what her recommendation would be for you. Remember, in recovery, we don’t make decisions for ourselves. We use the fellowship and those we are paying to help us.

If your 7 year old son staying with your sister is posing a problem, you may want to explore other options for your son. Again, this is an issue which can be covered with your treatment staff; particularly the facility’s family therapists. Your sister taking care of your son, until you are able to, is her contribution to your recovery and your family staying intact. As a family therapist, who has worked with small children and their recovering parents, I have found that the children prefer that the parent continue treatment, get “well,” and then return home. So many of the children have been exposed to the parent’s alcohol abuse, which often has scared them, which makes them strong proponents for change/recovery in the family. If your son has been exposed to your drinking or the others’ drinking, it could be a positive benefit to see you with others who have made a conscious decision to stop drinking. I have not seen harm perpetuated upon children when they understood that the parent has been successful in residential treatment, graduates to a sober house for a while, and then if successful again, graduates again and returns home. Children want to see their parents “sober” and like other kids’ parents; i.e., at home, loving and taking care of them. I do think your home environment being a trigger for you must be addressed sooner than later.

The research shows that for sustained abstinence, the recovering alcoholic needs to stay in some form of treatment for at least 180 days. This would be mean that you have would need to stay in some level of treatment for another 120 days. This can be a sober house, outpatient, aftercare, etc. Returning directly home without some level of treatment, in place, is usually not recommended.

I would like to ask you if you can afford to relapse. What would this do to your child? How would this affect your other relationships? Could a relapse threaten your position as your son’s primary caregiver? Can your relationship with your son assume more damage from your alcoholism?

My final recommendation is for you to understand and accept what your professional counseling staff is recommending. Remember the three rules of an alcoholic family are: “Don’t talk, don’t trust, and don’t feel.” To recover, we must learn to talk or ask, trust, own and express our feelings appropriately

I hope you find this helpful or reaffirming in some way. Your son is a lucky boy to have a mother like you who is willing to face down the demon of alcoholism. Best of luck to you, your family and recovery! If you need any other assistance from me, please let me know as soon as you are able.

Remember….hang with the winners,

John W. O’Neal, Ed.S, MSW, MA, LPC, NCC

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Page last updated Mar 05, 2012

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