It can be hard—perhaps even impossible—not to worry when a Loved One who struggles with SUD exhibits changes in behavior. Even when many of those changes are positive, the very fact that things are shifting can generate anxiety. When MRPR’s husband started vaping, she worried that it might lead him back to other substance use. Laurie MacDougall advises her to focus on what’s in her power to control—and to support the good changes that are happening with positive responses of her own.
My husband is an addict in recovery. I recently found vaping products in my house. Turns out that during my husband’s last visit to rehab three months ago he discovered that vaping with a cup of coffee is relaxing. So now he has picked up a vaping habit which he has kept secret from me.
The lying is one thing, but my question is, is it OK for an addict to be vaping while struggling with sobriety? Should I be upset about this? He says it’s no big deal and that it’s better than using. I see it as an addictive drug that will act as a gateway to other drugs. Once the newness and feeling of calmness from vaping wear off, he will need something stronger. Am I overreacting?
The short answer to your question is that it is incredibly common for people who are working on their recovery from substance use disorder (SUD) to turn to drinking coffee, smoking cigarettes, eating a lot of sugary foods, playing video games, etc. And more recently, to vaping. If you ever have the opportunity to attend an AA or NA meeting, or to visit a residential treatment facility, you’ll witness most people engaging in one or more of these behaviors.
This behavior may reduce over time. But for now, it should not be your focus. In fact, I would suggest reframing the story to see this in a more positive light. Can you start to use your internal voice and tell yourself, He is drinking coffee and vaping to manage his recovery process right now, and that means he is working on it!?
Just when we thought we knew how this worked
It can be quite a struggle when our Loved Ones (LOs) begin treatment and all the chaos and crises we are used to changes. The troubling substance use may end or wane, but that can just leave us with anxiety and worry from having been on high alert for such a long time. We are left so unsure of things. With every little trigger, suspicion and the unknown can hurl us back into angst and worrisome, ruminating thoughts. But it’s important to recognize that as difficult as it is for us, it’s incredibly difficult for our LOs. Arrrgh, it’s so hard!
Clearly, our LOs’ behaviors can raise challenging emotions in us, just as our behaviors can produce such feelings in them. As a result, both parties react in unhelpful ways. It’s a cycle, and the only way to stop the cycle is to change some things up.
Keep your eye on the good things that are happening…
The only way one person can change things is to focus on what they have control over and do something different. So what about taking control over what you can and working on things you do have power over? What about starting to look to the positives and focusing on all of the good in your situation? Your situation has some wonderful things happening that you could direct your attention to:
- Your husband went to treatment!
- He’s working on his recovery
- He’s found some coping skills that he believes is helping him stay away from use (coffee and vaping)
I know this may not seem like much of a list, but honestly it’s HUGE! These are not simple feats!
Have you had the chance to go through Module 5 (My Loved One is Not Using. Now What?)? What about writing out a list of all of the positive behaviors your husband is engaging in and finding ways to encourage him? Turn your attention to doing things together that both of you enjoy. Or to kind words of praise that show you notice all the effort he’s putting into his recovery.
Directing your thoughts and actions to the positive will help change the story line in your mind, and each positive action you take will make you and your husband feel better. Who doesn’t feel better when we practice small acts of kindness?
… without ever neglecting yourself
Then head over to Module 7 (How do I Care for Myself When Negative Feelings Get in the Way?). Now is the time to turn your attention to all of those challenging emotions and feelings you’re experiencing, and to find ways of calming them. I know how frustrating it can sound when others tell you, “You need to take care of yourself” when there’s fear of looking away from your husband’s behavior. But in order to be most effective in any situation, you need to bring your best self. This requires working to calm your mental, physical, and emotional system down. For both your own sake and your husband’s, it’s time to take care of you!
What I have outlined here are just two ways to bring a little positivity into your life and situation. There is so much more that can be done to change perspectives and lighten the burden you’re carrying. It is a slow process, so be patient with yourself and your husband.
For added support, consider attending one of our groups. The people you will meet are in similar situations to yourself. They can share their own strategies and experiences, and help you brainstorm new approaches to help you on your journey. Those groups are truly a great resource.
And remember that we’re always here to help. Wishing all the best to you and your husband. Please keep us updated on your progress.