Dealing with your less than perfect past can be daunting, but once you start addiction treatment you have taken the first step towards recovery.
Getting clean and sober from an addiction to drugs or alcohol is one of the best things that you can do for yourself and your family. It is no easy task, and you will spend the first weeks and months of recovery working hard to maintain your sobriety and learning to live life differently than before. Navigating emotions, cravings, and whatever life throws at you will consume your time and efforts in early recovery, but there will come a time that you have to start cleaning up the messes your alcohol or drug addiction caused before you entered drug addiction treatment and got sober.
Thinking about clearing up the wreckage of your past is scary. Usually, drug addicts and alcoholics unintentionally create chaos around themselves and the effects are often widespread. Friends, family, finances, legal issues, and poor health are typically some of the areas where people in active addiction cause problems for themselves. And once you are sober, those messes are still there. It’s up to you to work to make them right.
In Alcoholics Anonymous, it is when people reach the ninth step that they begin to make direct amends – personal, financial, or otherwise – to the people who they wronged while in active addiction. Whether you are a part of AA, other 12-step program, or some other type of addiction treatment, there will be things that you have to deal with to further yourself in recovery.
How do you do that? Here are some insights and tips that will help you clear up the wreckage of your past in three areas: health problems, legal problems, and damaged relationships.
Addiction takes a toll on your health. Depending on what your drug of choice was, you may be suffering from various health issues. Most people in active addiction don’t eat in a healthy way, so you may be overweight or underweight. You may have damaged your liver, heart, or other organs. It’s likely that your skin has suffered due to dehydration (in the case of alcohol), picking (methamphetamine use causes drug abusers to pick at their skin), or poor hygiene. Some end up needing a lot of dental work when they get clean, either because of neglect or from smoking drugs. The health effects can be far-reaching.
The key to restoring yourself to good health is self-care. You probably didn’t take care of yourself at all during active drug and alcohol addiction, so now is the time to do it. Here are a few ways that you can improve your health:
- Eat right. Whether you need to lose weight or gain it, you need to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Your doctor will be able to give you an idea of what that looks like for you.
- You probably didn’t get a whole lot of exercise while you were using drugs or alcohol. Now is the time to start. Not only will it give you more energy and increase your physical fitness, it will also relieve depression and anxiety.
- See your doctor and dentist regularly. Don’t skip appointments. Make sure that your medical providers know that you are in recovery.
- Drink enough water. This is one of the biggest ways to improve your skin – but it helps with just about every other health issue as well.
- Practice good hygiene. Take care of your physical self. It will make you feel better and increase your self-esteem and self-image.
- Get enough sleep. Making sure that you sleep enough will improve your immune system and your mood.
Most people with substance abuse problems end up having some type of legal problems. Divorce, child custody cases, DUIs, domestic violence offenses, suspended driver’s license, bankruptcy, and many other types of legal and criminal problems are fairly common in recovery circles. Dealing with those things in recovery is hard, and it may be tempting to try to avoid or ignore them. The thing is, they don’t go away, and having them hanging over your head creates fear and anxiety, which can be precursors to relapse.
Whatever your legal issues are, it’s important that you face them: the sooner, the better. More often than not, it happens that the anticipation of having to deal with them is far worse than the consequences you have to endure. Some things to consider about cleaning up your legal issues are:
- Ask for help. Whether it’s from a sponsor, a friend or family member, an attorney, or a clergy person, don’t try to do it all alone. A little bit of support goes a long way.
- Don’t ignore any legal proceedings. Be sure that you go to all of your court dates. Ignoring them will only make things worse for you in the long run. Be honest with judges and attorneys,; let them know that you have addiction problems and that you are in recovery. They are more likely to help people who are trying to better themselves.
- See if you qualify for drug court. Many cities and counties now offer drug court to people with criminal offenses. If your case is currently in criminal court, see if it can be moved to drug court. Drug court judges are familiar with alcohol and drug addiction and they often offer defendants diversion as an option rather than jail time (depending on the offense).
- Don’t create more legal issues. For example, if your driver’s license is suspended, don’t drive! The key is to clear up the wreckage, not create more.
If you know that taking care of your legal issues means that you will have to be incarcerated, facing them will be very difficult. Enlist the help of your support system to help you through the process. You know that it is the right thing to do, and with support, you will find the strength to make it through.
Relationships that have been damaged by your active addiction might be the hardest thing to restore. You probably have people in your life who are proud of you for getting clean and who support your recovery. However, it’s likely that you also have people in your life who feel you can’t be trusted, who are angry with you, and who want nothing to do with you. It’s in dealing with those people that you will have a challenge. Here are some things to think about as you begin trying to restore damaged or lost relationships:
- Make amends. Whether you need to make amends for your behavior, for money that you owe, or for hurt you have caused, reach out to the people you have wronged and see how you can make it right. Making amends is more than giving an apology or repaying a debt. It requires a conversation and an explanation. It’s alright to come right out and say, “How can I make this right?” Then, if it is within your ability, do it.
- Show, don’t tell. Have you ever thought about how many times you have said you were sorry, but you continued to use or drink? Your loved ones probably don’t want to hear it anymore – they want to see it. The best way to earn back trust is to start being trustworthy. That’s an action, not a statement.
- Clean your side of the street. Some people may not want you in their lives again, even when you attempt to make amends. All you can do is take care of your own mess, try to make things right, and then let it go. You cannot make someone else forgive you.
- Be patient. Restoring relationships after drug or alcohol addiction takes time. You have to be patient with others in your life. You may feel that you have made significant changes, but others have to see progress before they come around.
- Practice acceptance. Whatever the outcome is with your damaged relationships, you have to accept the other person’s decision. It doesn’t mean you have to like it, but you do have to accept it. Remember, it doesn’t mean that they won’t change their mind somewhere down the line.
Getting drug addiction treatment is just a click away. Reach out to Serenity at Summit to take that first step.
For more reading on the subject of recovery check out Changing People, Places, and Things in Addiction Treatment and Recovery