What Does “Normal” Recovery Look Like?

by Guest Post on August 25, 2010

Thank you author and speaker Lisa Frederiksen of Breaking the Cycles for this regular series sharing her decades long experience of dealing with family alcoholism and alcohol abuse. Click here to see the rest of the series.

Breaking the Cycles at The Discovering Alcoholic

On another site, I responded to a query by a reader concerned about her husband’s behaviors after several weeks of sobriety. She explained that her husband sometimes only gets a few hours of sleep at night, yet he has so much energy that he is doing things around the house non-stop and seems confused and paranoid at times. He also accuses her of things that are not true. Her concern was whether these kinds of behaviors were normal for a person who has stopped drinking.

I thought I’d share my response in the event others are wondering about what’s “normal” in terms of recovery from an addiction (to alcohol or drugs).

Unfortunately, there is no “normal” for how recovery from an addiction will occur, but it sounds like he should see a medical professional and explain to that individual his drinking history, recovery efforts and now these symptoms. If he worked with a treatment center or AA or another treatment support option, he might contact one of those individuals to ask about his symptoms and behaviors.

With regards to you — it is very difficult to live with active alcoholism and with an alcoholic in early recovery, but one thing to know is that alcoholism is one of the diseases of addiction, and addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease. There have been some serious chemical and structural changes in your husband’s brain that have occurred as a result his drinking, which affect areas of the brain responsible for judgment, memory, learning, decision making and pleasure. Since the brain is responsible for everything a person thinks, feels, says and does, the brain changes caused by excessive drinking (or drugs in the case of a drug addict) are what makes an addict/alcoholic act and behave in ways that are NOT NORMAL. It is NOT YOU or anything else that is the cause of their behaviors, accusations, convoluted ‘thinking.’ The cause is the excessive use of a substance (alcohol or drugs) causing brain changes affecting areas of the brain listed above. It can help you to learn more about the disease of addiction (alcoholism) so that you can take steps to take care of yourself. These two websites can help: www.hbo.com/addiction and www.breakingthecycles.com. One last thing… please know the brain can change after the substance use is stopped — that is what effective treatment and recovery are all about — helping the addict/alcoholic change his/her brain.

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