On this week of the Hope Dealer Ed McDonough, GateHouse CEO has Sean Mattos on the show. Sean is Gatehouse’s Director of Operations and has 6 years of sobriety. Sean wasn’t always an example of recovery; he struggled with relapse and white knuckling his sobriety. As with many in recovery Ed and Sean have both had their struggles with stopping use and either promptly returning to it or white knuckling sobriety for a short amount of time.
Sean was able to white-knuckle around 6 months of sobriety before he relapsed. He was going to IOP and working, but still acting out in other poor behaviors because he wasn’t treating his disease. Sean said that he always tried to get around real recovery by doing things his way. He would work 80-90 hours a week and would go to IOP. He was constantly trying to find other ways to get out of himself through work and relationships with women; both things took the focus off himself.
White Knuckling Sobriety and Relapse
White knuckling sobriety is doing absolutely nothing to treat the disease of addiction but using all the willpower in the world to not pick up a drink or a drug. Sean said, “I felt even worse (than using) white knuckling because there wasn’t anything to numb all of my emotions.” It’s hard for the family to recognize what’s going on when a loved one is lying saying that they’re attending meetings and IOP, but they’re lying about meetings and not participating in IOP. (Intensive Outpatient) They’re just thankful that their loved one is getting high or drinking. Sean and Ed both point out that relapse doesn’t have to be part of your story, some people have done all aspects of recovery the first time and done it the right way.
Once Sean’s mom started attending Al-Anon she learned how to stop enabling him and began to tell him no. Sean’s mom was working on herself, and it began to change a lot of their interactions and Sean’s path to recovery. Ed brought up the fact of free time, what was Sean doing when he wasn’t at work, was Sean still hanging out with old friends. Ed says, “There’s only so much laundry and running errands that one person can do.” Free time when you don’t have a program of recovery can be a downfall.
Sean talked about how he was still hanging out with old friends, those that could use socially and drink normally. Sean was still going to the bars to try to have fun when he didn’t know how to have fun sober. It didn’t take long before he talked himself into having “one drink,” Sean said it took about until the next day until he was using other substances again.
The Obsession of the Mind
Ed and Sean both talked about how the mental obsession and craving takes off after that first one. Sean said that his craving and obsession was always there, but it was kept in a box, and once he took that first drink the lid came off and everything came back. Ed said that many people would get on some form of medication-assisted treatment, do no other work on themselves and wonder why they end up picking back up.
Sean just tried to keep himself busy and away from home to avoid facing the consequences and his family. He made sure to try to keep it together enough to maintain his job; he needed the financial safety of having a job to take care of his habit. He was being drug tested and work and faking the tests so that he could continue his using. His mom was also drug testing him at home, and he was trying to simulate the drug tests and even went as far as to try to use lemon-lime Gatorade to fake a test.
After his mom had finally had enough and he wasn’t allowed at the house anymore. Sean had crashed a forklift into a wall at work and didn’t lose his job over it. His boss was in recovery at the time and tried to give him his experience strength and hope to get Sean to seek help for himself.
Entering Treatment and Long-Term Recovery
Sean’s family continued to push him to seek help, and he finally did, he came to Florida from New Jersey and went to treatment. He said the difference this time was that he finally got honest and gave recovery a chance. He felt guilt and shame for what he put his family through again but didn’t feel any for the “clean time” he lost because he didn’t change at all. The biggest game-changer for Sean was being honest with himself. He got a sponsor, formed relationships with other men in the fellowship and found balance in his life between work, recovery and having a life.
Trust that is broken takes time to mend, especially from the family. There are times when the family takes years to trust again fully. There are other times when the family doesn’t understand why their loved one is not better 4 months later and living a great fulfilling life. Ed points out that it’s a disease of the mind and just like with any other disease healing can take some time. Ed made the analogy of if he broke his leg, in 4 months nobody would be pushing him into a hockey rink saying go for it.
We must allow time for the family and the person suffering from substance use disorders to heal. Recovery isn’t an overnight process, and that has to be recognized. It’s a process that both parties have to participate in. If you or a loved one is suffering from a substance use disorder and is seeking help, contact us today at 855-844-3588. If you want to help heal your family and educate yourself on addiction, learn more about our family program here.