Addiction to drugs and alcohol is considered by many to be a family disease. One family member’s addiction leads to codependency, enmeshment, trust issues, and other unhealthy dynamics within the family system. This is why drug and alcohol rehab centers offer family therapy and focus on preparing the recovering addict for reentering the system.
But what happens when a recovering addict is ready to move out of their family home? In theory, independence will provide the person with the freedom to build a life outside of the family. However, there are bound to be roadblocks along the way.
If you are planning on moving out of home – or see it as the best long-term solution – you need to prepare for the challenges specific to recovering addicts. Here is what you need to know.
Moving out is not an escape
For recovering addicts who are still struggling with family issues, moving out of home can seem like a necessary escape. You’ve been grappling with the same family dynamics for years, but once you are away from your family you can live life on your own terms. Right?
There is truth to this. Sometimes, progress requires physical separation. Even when it is not strictly necessary, your newfound independence can give you the impetus you need to make the best choices for yourself.
However, leaving the family home does not remove you from the family system. You are still going to have to work on disentangling from your habitual role in the family. Other family members may unknowingly try to drag you back into that role, whether through physical visits, phone calls, or the silent treatment. If your plan is to cut contact with your family, that in itself is playing a role and being reactive.
Moving out can make it easier to implement boundaries. But you need to continue doing the work.
Living without oversight
One of the challenges recovering addicts face upon moving out of home is the sudden lack of oversight in their day-to-day life. If you have gone from rehab to living with your parents, you have always had third parties to keep you in check during your recovery.
No longer having that oversight can lift a huge weight off your back. For some recovering addicts, the lack of pressure makes it easier to stay away from drugs and alcohol. But many recovering addicts find this independence intimidating.
Being responsible for your own needs, as well as your own sobriety, requires a learning curve. Before you move out, speak to your therapist about this. They can help you learn to create your own schedule and set goals to achieve each day, so that you can take an active role in keeping on track in your recovery.
As a recovering addict trying to live independently, you will face some discrimination from potential landlords, employers, and even educators. They may know nothing about your addiction, but your credit score might be recovering from some bad decisions and your CV probably has gaps. You may have a criminal record. Unfortunately, our society is set up in a way that benefits people who have had it easy over those who have had to work for everything they have.
Getting rejected when trying to live an independent life can rattle your self-esteem. Suddenly, you are being judged not on the mistakes you have made, rather than the strength it took to overcome them.
Checking in with your support system is important, whether this is a group from rehab or from 12 Step meetings. It is also worthwhile asking your rehab or an addiction recovery foundation for resources to help you overcome common issues. You are not the first recovering addict to have issues with your credit score, a criminal record, or gaps in your CV. They will be able to advise you, and may be able to provide you with references and other resources.
Consistency is a challenge for former addicts at all stages of their recovery. There are still forces that sometimes make getting out of bed a bit more difficult. When living at home, it is easier to get away with inconsistency, as you know that you will have a roof over your head whether or not you hold down a job.
You may feel uncertain about whether you will be capable of finding the consistency you need. Remember that many former addicts have asked themselves the same question, and only discovered that they had it in them once they took the leap.
You will need to put checks in place to ensure you stay on the right track. You will need to get support from your loved ones and the professionals who have helped you get this far. With this help, you will be best placed to find that consistency when you need it most.