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The Three S’s – Crucial for the Family During Early Recovery

Addiction Recovery for Families, Early Sobriety, Family Recovery | May 8, 2013

When my husband was in early sobriety, he no longer did dishes or washed clothes, or contributed to the upkeep of our home. I felt single again, but not only in that way. He was going to a meeting every day and spent time on the phone with his sponsor and people who needed his help.He refused to go to family events and when he did go, he hardly participated. I felt alone.

“Why even be married?” I thought. “This is for the birds! It’s worse than in the using days! At least then he was drugged up enough to do whatever I wanted to do.” One evening, I went to an Alanon meeting where I ran into an old AA friend Frank. I told him my dilemma.

His answer? The 3 S’s: Sit down, shut up, and smile!

He then went on to say that if I wanted clean dishes or clothes I should wash them myself and that if I didn’t care either way, I should simply let them pile up, and if I wanted to go to a family event and have fun, I should, but that I should not, under any circumstances, nag my husband about taking care of the previous responsibilities he was taking care of so much more compliantly during his using days.

Though I wasn’t happy about it, I followed Frank’s advice.

Soon after the start of my husband’s second year, I began to notice a change in him. He was still going to meetings, but he started to want to be around the house more too. He also started to notice when things needed to be done and to contribute to household chores more. When we went out with family and friends, he even seemed to be having a good time!

Years later, we were talking about those early days and how Frank had set me straight! It was then that my husband told me why he had been so interested in helping out during his using days and so disinterested during his first year of sobriety: “I did drugs in the laundry room and at family parties,” he said.

Turns out the first year of sobriety is a time of unlearning the connections or triggers previously associated with old behaviors. Once the old behaviors were out of his system, he was more open to joining in again.

For me, this proved to be just another example of how things are not always as they seem. By requiring people to behave as we want them to, especially in early sobriety, we may be pushing them toward behaviors they are not yet able to handle in a sober fashion, thus, contributing to their addiction, rather than to their sobriety.

So, my friends, as my friend Frank taught me, during year one: Sit down. Shut up. And Smile!