Updated: Mar 11
I’ve watched thousands of people come in and out of recovery, go in and out of rehabs, and there are characteristics that I look for in a person give me an idea if I think that someone is ready to start the journey of long term recovery. These are not absolute truths. These are based on what I have seen. These are my opinions; it just gives me a start to determine if this is someone that I feel like I could either be friends with or sponsor without feeling like I am wasting my time.
There are three main things:
1. Level of responsibility
2. Level of fear,
3. Level of honesty
Level of responsibility,
When someone comes into recovery and is willing to own their actions and start taking responsibility for the mistrust that people have around them, that’s a great start. When they can acknowledge that it's going to take a long time for their family to trust them again, we are heading in the right direction.
If a person feels like the slate should be wiped clean because they've been doing the right things for all a day, that’s not a great sign. If they can’t understand why their family still doesn’t trust them after just a couple of months, that’s not a great sign. It's been years of mistrust of lying and manipulation.
I know with my mom, she did not trust me for a long time. Nor should she have. I hadn't earned trust. I feel pretty confident that she trusts me now. It's been a long time. It's been many years, and I've continued to show up and continue to be honest. Continue to accept my responsibilities in situations that arise. It's not a blame game.
Level of Fear
The level of fear is a big one for me. If they're not afraid when they get out of rehab and are excited to be out of rehab, that's a concern. Of course, people may want to be out of rehab. It's not a place you want to hang out in because it's fun.
BUT there should also be a good level of healthy fear to go along with that. Someone that questions themselves and may be saying to themselves, “I don't know if I can do this out in the real world. I don't know if I'm ready. I don't know. I'm scared.” They should be scared. They should question their ability to stay clean. If they don’t, that’s concerning for me.
Level of Honesty
In this context, when I am talking about levels of honesty, I'm not referring to the BS they spew out of their mouths. The truth is lying is such a pattern, it can take a while for people to start telling the truth even when they are really committed to their recovery.
What I mean in this context is owning that level of fear I just previously mentioned. If someone is willing to be honest about the fear, about how they are scared to try, about how they are unsure if they are going to be able to stay clean, I feel like those are who stand a fighting chance of actually doing the recovery journey of healing.
Recovery is work. When someone is continuing to talk about how great and wonderful their life is and is not willing to be honest about the pain too, that’s a concern. There needs to be that balance. It can't be all great, and it can't be all bad.
I've witnessed these patterns thousands and thousands of times. These are not absolute truths. But these are the three things to pay attention to. If you have a loved one getting out of rehab and are super excited and ready to come home with no fear, I would not get your hopes up. And I only say that because I also know how blinding hope can be.
In situations like this, hope will have us ignoring the red flags that we need to be paying attention to because we NEED them to be ok. This need can cloud our decisions when we're ignoring the red flags that are right in front of our faces.
A person who continues to have the blame game, someone making you feel terrible for not trusting them after just the little bit of time doing “the right things," is still manipulative.
We don't always end those behaviors right out the gate, but someone unwilling to accept that responsibility for their part in the mistrust is not a good sign. Someone who's not being honest and is still lying and manipulating, that’s not a good sign.
Over time, we learn how to be more honest and take even more responsibility. We learn how to trust ourselves and not fear getting high anymore. That's why I look at the level of fear and responsibility they have. It may not be where it needs to be to start, but they have to have a certain level of responsibility, honesty, and fear.