Your Recovery Comes First, No Matter What!
In less than a week, we’ve received a tremendous response to our Stay-At-Home Sober Guide, written to provide comprehensive support for immediate impact for women in early recovery from alcohol use disorder (AUD). The Stay-At-Home Sober guide solidifies and strengthens your recovery journey using seven (7) key strategies to anchor your recovery, as well as additional tips & tools for challenges often faced in early sobriety.
In this article, I wish to focus on the first strategy: Organize Household Around Your Recovery. In my humble opinion, it is the most important of the seven strategies because it creates an environment and foundation conducive to your recovery, and supports a happy, functional family unit. When everyone in the home is working together, like a team, with your recovery as the primary objective, it will not only help you grow stronger and closer to your goal of living an alcohol-free life, but it also improves the quality of life and contributes to healing as a family. So, let’s dive in and make it happen with these six (6) tips.
Tip #1: Set Your Intentions
Setting your intention is both powerful for you, and for your family. First, when you create a desire or intention, it will much more likely manifest itself. This is called the Law of Attraction, which is the ability to attract into our lives what we focus on. Second, in regard to your family, stating your intentions brings a sense of understanding and clarity for them. While we know what recovery means, remember that to others this can be unclear, especially if we’ve had a slow start to our sobriety with some relapses. Stating your plans, as well as how it relates to them is very effective. It leaves nothing to interpretation or translation. So, we might say something like this, “My recovery is essential to every aspect of my well-being. I’ve worked hard to get to this point where alcohol is absolutely no longer a part of my life. Being sober, among other things, helps me be a better wife and mother to you.”
Tip #2: Set Boundaries
Many of us have been people pleasers, and or follow the path of least resistance. We like to be liked, naturally, even if it meant compromising our needs. Often, when we were in active addiction, to avoid conflict, we would just let things slide because our way of dealing with it was just to have a drink. Well, since there were no boundaries then, this might be new territory – especially during this time of having to stay home. So, we need to begin to set boundaries, calmly.
A boundary is deciding what is and is not acceptable behavior to us. Explained another way, not following our own boundary, is when we say “yes” to something when we really want to say “no.” Setting limits or boundaries can be difficult at first, but it becomes easier over time. Of course, stating your boundaries requires a calm and non-emotional approach for better results.
For example, if someone in the household makes themselves a meal but then doesn’t clean up afterwards, in the past you might have cleaned it up yourself without speaking a word. Moving forward, you would emphasize that everyone should clean up after themselves.
Boundary issues, also referred to as codependency issues are extremely common both for the person in recovery and for the spouse or family who likely suffered as a result of that addiction. So, I highly recommend learning more about this excellent topic, and my personal favorite source is anything written by Melody Beattie.
Tip #3: Establish Guidelines/House Rules
All effective organizations have guidelines and rules that are well communicated so everyone can thrive, and have sense of community, security and belonging. A family unit is also an organization, and the need for guidelines and house rules is no different. Naturally, not everybody will appreciate every rule, but it’s our human nature to feel most secure when we know what the rules are. So, how would this work?
Get everyone involved, so each person can contribute regardless of age. In a household, there are many tasks such as cooking, meal clean-up, general cleaning, mowing the lawn, laundry, pet care, tidying bedrooms, trash, etc. It’s a full-time job! However, if it’s divided up among everyone, many hands make for light work – and ultimately bring peace and a sense of contribution.
So, discuss what needs to be done to maintain a clean thriving household. Give everyone time to speak on the issues. Encourage problem-solving and suggestions. See who prefers to handle the various chores. Then, whatever remains, assign them fairly. Explain that this makes it easy on everyone, avoids arguments because each person knows what is his or her responsibility, and will make living together more comfortable. Revisit the list each week, possibly shifting things around if necessary.
Tip #4: Create a Checklist
While this sounds simple, it’s a powerful accountability tool. Create a checklist and post it on the refrigerator. This way it’s a gentle reminder of who needs to do what, and if it’s not checked off, any member of the family can speak up. Try it for a week and see how it goes. Have fun with it! It may surprise you how effective this is, and perhaps it’s a tool that will bring organization and peace well beyond this current time of staying at home.
Tip #5: Request No Drinking Alcohol in the Home
One would think a “no alcohol in the house policy” is obvious, but there may be issues to sort through. If there’s another person in the home, he or she may have consumed alcohol outside the house previously to avoid creating a trigger for you. But now he or she cannot leave the house, so what is the best way to handle this issue?
Ideally, no alcohol should be consumed in the house, period. But if this is not possible, maybe a designated area and time is set aside for anyone drinking alcohol. Alcohol may be kept locked up in a discreet location, or as per your request. Definitely a mutually agreed to time and location helps everyone manage expectations. This way others know when to have a drink, and you know when to be elsewhere, if necessary, to avoid the possible discomfort, such as in your room reading or in the yard doing some gardening.
Tip #6: Practice Equanimity
Equanimity means being calm, levelheaded and composed. Remember, no matter what the discussion, a gentle answer invites collaboration over conflict. The longer this stay-at-home mandate is in force, the shorter our patience may get. Therefore, being conscious of this and taking every opportunity to always speak kindly, calmly and lovingly will help everyone be willing to contribute and do their part.
Bonus Tip: Be Grateful
Last, but definitely not least, lead with an attitude of gratitude. Everyone is having their norm uprooted. Having to adjust further takes more effort, even if it’s helpful to all. Any extra measure of effort is out of love for us, the women in recovery. So, let’s make sure they know we appreciate it. A kind word and/or act here and there will reinforce the support, bring your family closer together, and help your recovery become stronger than ever!