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The “OMG” Phase, and the Traps We Fall Into

woman at table, exhausted

An AiR member shares his thoughts with us on the process of addiction/recovery, as experienced by the family of an addicted loved one.

I would like to address the subject of what seem to be the "constants" or "themes" that run through the phases of this addiction/recovery process. I think now of the families I see in our weekly support group meetings.

Phase 1, "OMG" or Recognition:

This is the time when the problem has reached a critical mass of recognition. It’s generally characterized by an intense desire to know what, why and how; maybe even who, as in "Who's responsible?".

WHAT – is my Loved One using because it might "only" be alcohol or pot and not heroin, so in our minds it is easier to get a handle on.

WHY – a desire to get to the root "cause" of the problem because once that is found a solution will be evident, or so it seems to the family.

HOW – the guilt of "How could we have missed this? How could it have gotten to this point?" Again, the quest for an answer: ever elusive and always evasive.

And then the WHO – because, of course, it is most likely there was a prompting WHO. Someone who introduced the stuff, encouraged its use or otherwise influenced our Loved One to take up the substance in the first place. Someone to blame.

These themes seem to consistently wave through this phase, twisting over and over, vying for importance, deceiving us into thinking we can provide  "the answer." Instead, they engender fear, anger, doubt, guilt, etc. They’re all extreme responses to an extreme problem. They leave us swirling, twisting, drifting,  grasping, as our attempts at finding an answer prove futile and often counter-productive. As is to be expected, some struggle with this more than others.

It seems, though, that a key to breaking out of this phase is to bring some structure to the surrounding chaos; even if just a bit, even if it is a psuedo-structure at first. I see that establishing boundaries  –  a clear delineation of behaviors that will be or won't be tolerated – is the cornerstone, the essential first step, in building a path out of this phase.



In your comments, please show respect for each other and do not give advice. Please consider that your choice of words has the power to reduce stigma and change opinions (ie, "person struggling with substance use" vs. "addict", "use" vs. "abuse"...)