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What You Shouldn’t Expect When Your Child is in Recovery from Addiction
by Molly Smith, Young Person in Recovery
I can’t imagine what it’s like to be a parent of a child with a substance use disorder, witnessing the unknown from a front-row seat. The hope of seeing your child enter recovery is quickly followed by a whole new set of uncertainties. After treatment, the main question is usually, “What now?”
As a young person in recovery myself, I might not be able to tell you what to expect — but I feel I can at least tell you what not to expect.
Myth #1: Our lives will return to normal after treatment.
REALITY: Everything — from routines to relationships — will shift.
It’s going to be awkward. Your relationship with your loved one will not return to the exact way it was before they used drugs and/or alcohol. Try to have lightness with them, and don’t take yourself too seriously. There’s no right way to support a child in recovery, so you’ll probably feel weird and self-conscious sometimes.
My mom and dad entered totally unfamiliar territory when I began recovery. On my 30th day sobriety anniversary, my mom had to Google: What kind of gift to buy someone for a sobriety milestone? After brainstorming, she decided to send me a little ceramic bird, which was inspired by an inside joke and my childhood nickname, “Mollybird.” She and my dad have been gifting me bird trinkets and cards for every sobriety anniversary since. They figured out how to support me in their own way that’s unique, sweet — and most importantly to me — a little silly.
Our family ate at a nice restaurant on the night I celebrated one year of sobriety, right before heading over to my regular support group together. Everybody froze when the server asked if we’d like anything to drink. My sister whispered loudly to my dad, “IS IT MESSED UP IF WE ORDER WINE BEFORE GOING TO A MEETING?” They looked at my mom, my mom looked at me, I looked at the menu pretending to study the appetizers, and the server looked at the other tables she should’ve been able to attend to if this family could just get it together and answer the simple question already. Three years later, I still don’t know the “right” answer. My guess, and what I said that night was, “Uh, it’s fine, I guess? Right?” We all fumble through moments like these daily and sometimes all we can do is shrug our shoulders and laugh.