How Do I Know If My Loved One Has Really Changed After Rehab?

How Do I Know If My Loved One Has Really Changed After Rehab?

By learning to manage emotions in a healthy manner, friends and family members should be able to observe progress

The National Institute on Drug Abuse classifies addiction to drugs like Xanax as a chronic brain disease. In a publication on addiction science, they note that relapse rates for addiction are similar to those for other common diseases such as asthma, diabetes and hypertension. As with other conditions relapse in addiction is not a sign of ultimate treatment failure, but an indication that treatment needs to be re-instated or modified. Because relapse is not uncommon, it is wise for friends and family members of individuals in recovery to be alert to signs of potential problems after rehab. This is not always easy to do, but there are signs of recovery progress that can be observed.

Stages of Addiction Recovery

A publication by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) describes a developmental model of recovery with six stages as follows:

  • Transition Stage – The transition stage begins with the first experience of a problem related to the use of alcohol or drugs. Individuals in this stage believe, at first, that they are normal drinkers or drug users, but as they begin trying to control their substance use without long-term success, they finally accept that they are not capable of using drugs or alcohol safely.
  • Stabilization Period – There are many goals during the stabilization period including managing withdrawal symptoms and addressing the psychological conditioning contributing to substance cravings. The life events that led to the recognition of an addiction problem must be stabilized, and symptoms of brain dysfunction must be identified and managed.
  • Early Recovery Period – In early recovery individuals learn about addiction and recovery and begin to build a substance-free life. The breaking of relationships with substance abusers and the establishing of healthier friendships is an important goal. Another goal is to develop recovery-based behaviors, thinking, emotions and values.
  • Middle Recovery Period – In the middle recovery stage, individuals work to repair the life damage that substance abuse has caused and to develop a balanced lifestyle. This may involve building or restoration in the area of family relationships, employment and social functioning. People in this stage are learning to apply recovery skills to real-life problems.
  • Late recovery period – In the late recovery period, personality issues that have interfered with life satisfaction are addressed. People identify their values and goals and decide to keep or discard them.
  • Maintenance Stage – Maintenance is a life-long process which involves managing ongoing transitions and problems.

Each stage has its corresponding relapse danger. For people in the transition stage, the danger is the belief that drug or alcohol use can be controlled. In stabilization problems may arise from the lack of stabilization management skills. A lack of social and recovery skills may contribute to relapse back to drugs like Xanax in the early recovery period and the stress of real-life problems to relapse in the middle recovery period. In late recovery unresolved issues from the past may become a problem, and in maintenance, relapse may occur when a recovery program is not maintained and major life transitions are encountered.

Signs of Recovery Progress

Many of the tasks of recovery are internal processes making it difficult for friends and family members to gauge the progress of their loved ones. There are clues, however, to how well recovery is proceeding including the following:

  • Maintaining support – It is important for people in recovery to maintain contact with others who have walked the recovery path and who can offer encouragement and advice. Generally this takes the form of regular attendance at 12-step or similar support group meetings and ongoing contact with a sponsor or mentor. Failing to maintain contact with those who support recovery efforts can make relapse for drugs like Xanax more likely.
  • Avoiding situations associated with substance abuse – It is very easy for people to fall back into old patterns after rehab. Breaking with a peer group and developing a new social support system is challenging but necessary. When people in recovery make an effort to avoid the people, places and activities once associated with the use of drugs and alcohol and begin to replace them with new interests and activities, it is a good indication of commitment to the recovery process.
  • Physical self-care – Recovery from addiction to drugs like Xanax involves physical healing of the brain and body. People who understand this and are committed to the goal of recovery will work to care for themselves physically. This involves eating a healing, nutritious diet, following a regular, healthy sleep schedule, exercising and avoiding environmental toxins.
  • Lack of denial – Substance abuse affects the brain including areas associated with memory and judgment. For this reason people suffering from addiction often deny and fail to understand the reality of their condition. Blame may also be part of denial. People on a healthy recovery path will stop blaming others for their substance use.
  • Emotional stability – People with an addiction history have generally learned to manage negative emotions by consuming drugs or alcohol. Learning to manage emotions in a healthier manner is not an overnight process, but over time, friends and family members should be able to observe progress. People in recovery may use tools to manage emotions such as journaling or deep breathing exercises.

Material produced by Alcoholics Anonymous, the original 12-step recovery program, notes the importance of three attitudes, which are sometimes remembered by the acronym HOW. The attitudes are honesty, open-mindedness and willingness (to make changes). If people observe these characteristics in their loved ones, it is a good sign that recovery is on the right track.

We Can Help

If you or a loved one needs addiction treatment for drugs like Xanax, we can help you find the program that meets your needs. We can even check your health insurance coverage for you if you wish at no cost or obligation. Our helpline is toll-free and available 24 hours a day, so call now, and begin to reclaim your life.

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