Monthly Archives: August 2012

Choices for a co-dependent who’s loved ones’ lifestyles are troubling

There was a time when my day’s outcome, good or bad, depended on how my sons were doing. As I drove home from work, I’d come around the bend and the voices in my head would shift from obsessive work related issues to my family’s situation. I’d start guessing about the daily drama, possible outcomes, and strategies I must take.  I usually had a feeling of dread and impending doom – if they were doing well, I’d find temporary relief. If they were not doing well, my feelings of resentment and constant worry would take center stage. Then, in preparation for a good nights’ sleep, the gears in my mind would churn great sadness and an overwhelming desire to go back in time and change the course of the future. If only I had done something sooner, if only I had changed schools, if only I had …I was possessed by the loud click-clack-clang in my head!

Today I no longer dwell on would haves or could haves. I have freedom from compulsive thoughts of possible outcomes dreamt up in my head. One thing is certain, all that mindless matter never helped and mostly it hurt. When I accepted that I did not cause the disease of addiction, I could not control it, and I could not cure it – those feelings became false and the thoughts began to dissipate. There is something to be said about embracing each day and staying in the present. Today, I do not have to project about tomorrow or next week. Today, I do not have to re-live days gone by, or wish them different. I work on what’s in front of me today, one day at a time, and it quiets my thoughts.  My day’s outcome, good or bad depends on me. I can choose my attitude - do I want click-clack-clang or a well lubricated mechanism driving my thoughts?

Judgement Day and Your Child’s Addiction/Alcoholism

This is a “re-run” of a post I wrote long ago that holds a timeless message for me.

When my kids were growing up, I took note occasionally of other mothers who weren’t as engaged/occupied/preoccupied/obsessed with their children as I was.  I would observe, in the kindest possible way, “My, she doesn’t seem to spend much time in the classroom, volunteering, baking cookies, sewing on Scout badges, etc. Not that I thought I was better in any sense; it just seemed like caring, responsible moms would be joined at the hip with their children like Siamese twins.  Looking back now, the germinating seeds of unhealthy co-dependency were bursting out in full bloom.  As they say, hindsight is 20/20.

Fast forward to my son’s addiction and the sanity-saving balance I regained at Al-anon.  Now my perspective is radically different, and I’m much more likely to think “Wow, maybe that mom is spending waaaaaay too much time steering her child  Maybe she ought to disengage and take up tennis.”Actually, these days I don’t spend any energy ruminating on others’ involvement or lack thereof with their kids.  For one, I’m trying to regain my life and focus on my own health and balance.  And how can I possibly know what the lives of others might be like?  Who am I to set any yardstick of parental prowess?

By the same token, how can anyone pass judgment on me?  I am sure I’ve been scrutinized for being too strict, or not strict enough; too involved, or not involved enough; too controlling, or not controlling enough. Yet how could anyone else possibly know what makes me and my family tick?  How can any of us judge another without walking in their shoes?

And therein lies yet another gift of addiction:  you learn not to pass judgment on others.  You learn that you don’t have all the answers, and that we are all trying to be the best parents possible in our admittedly imperfect ways.   Addiction is a brutal and blunt teacher of this lesson, but this pearl of wisdom is a treasure to grasp tightly.

Sunday Inspiration

“I am still determined to be cheerful and happy, in whatever situation I may be; for I have also learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends upon our dispositions, and not upon our circumstances.”
- Martha Washington

Grandmother-to-be Takes Charge and Relapses

For a mother in a recovery program for co-dependency, sometimes unconscious triggers for relapse happen by outside influences to close to my heart. The ultimate one for me came when my sons’ girlfriend announced she was going to have his baby. My thinking went immediately to the bleak future. My thinking said I should be involved – they are not capable of raising a child! These projections were a result of my fears and rewarded as “mother knows best” as I took control and became in charge.

Back in my disease, hard lessons were soon to come to my way. I could no more control the “mother” of my future grandchild any more than I could control addiction.  I am powerless!  I had choices: to participate in the agony of involvement – or, to release myself from the crazy behavior emanating from the source and feeding my fears. Choosing option 1, involvement to the max, I became troubled by the deception and lies. And I kept wondering why I dismissed signs that something was amiss.

Thank goodness I was not alone – with the help of my 12-Step program, talking with my sponsor and others, I was able to discern what I had control over and what reality was. And I even got lessons from my Higher Power to help me Let Go of the future and be present in the here and now.

Ultimately, I was able to accept and let her go.  There wasn’t going to be a grandchild and possibly never was – to this day I do not know the truth about that and that’s OK too. All I know is when I detach the better I am. I can accept the disease but I don’t have to participate – in fact, keeping a healthy distance from my loved ones has proven to be the best countermeasure for all my troubles.

The Anonymous People Shed Light on Addiction/Alcohlism

Addiction and alcoholism are joined at the hip with stigma and shame.  What would the neighbors think if they knew our kids were chemically dependent?  What kind of parents must we have been to have raised addicts or alcoholics?  We know:  we are good parents whose children have a bad disease.

If addiction is shameful, shouldn’t recovery be less so?? Quite ironically, there is also a lot of stigma associated with recovery.  I sense that is about to change.  Leading the vanguard of that change is a movie-in-the-making called The Anonymous People.  You can watch the trailer for the movie on Kickstarter, where it’s posted in an effort to raise both awareness and money. (As of this time, The Anonymous People has reached its fundraising goals!)

The Anonymous People touched my heart because it gave legitimacy to chemical dependency that derails good people, smart people, people like us and people like our children. In my dreams, soon recovery will be popular and we will find the overt camaraderie that embraces those with “The Big C” (Remember when that’s what we used to call cancer before it was called cancer?). One day soon, recovery will be out of the closet and embraced, which will set the stage for proper recognition of addiction as an avoidable and treatable disease.

The Hula Hoop – A Co-Dependency Antidote

Patty Ingram is an Addiction Counselor whose early career began in pharmaceutical sales. Her clinical background and degree in Psychology formed her unique ability to relate with compassion in helping others.  From narcotic addiction, pain management to education on how drugs affect our minds, bodies and lives, Patty also serves as a Parent Pathway Expert.  Please feel free to ask Patty or our other experts any question you might have about chemical dependency or your role in relation to someone with a drug abuse problem.


Ever find yourself stressing about a friend’s bad relationship…or your parent’s finances? How about if your college-age son is eating enough, or a co-worker’s ability to juggle her schedule? These are Hula-Hoop moments.

Your own personal area of responsibility is your Hula Hoop. It contains your goals, actions, emotions, obligations and commitments. One of the best tools to learn in life is the ability to determine what belongs in your Hula Hoop, and what actually belongs in someone else’s! This mental picture of a Hoop is useful for ourselves, and for setting boundaries with others. When worries like those listed above enter our minds, we need to remember, “that’s not my Hula Hoop” and be able to put those worries and dramas aside. Pray for those individuals, hope for the best, but let it go.

Perhaps you have a mother-in-law calling you with parenting advice; or a spouse telling you the best way to fold the laundry. Guess what?…That’s not their Hula Hoop! It becomes very clear when we use this image that we must protect what is ours, and give to others what is theirs. There are opportunities all the time to politely advise others to get out of our Hoop, and simply re-focus their attention on their own.

Imagine the ways to use this tool. We have so many people trying to manage us- in relationships, at work, and in families. Our ability to set appropriate boundaries provides peace of mind for all involved.

The Hula Hoop is a very simple way to put the brakes on co-dependency- our own, or someone else’s. We cannot solve everyone’s problems, and most of the time, the energy we expend trying is wasted. Analyze those swirling thoughts in your head as you try to fall asleep at night: how many are REALLY in your Hula Hoop? If not, mentally place them in the right hoop, and focus on what is yours.

When that intrusive advice or criticism comes your way, remind yourself (and if possible, the advisor) that this is an attempt to get in your Hoop. Protect your Hoop at all costs! It’s yours, and only yours.

We all have plenty to fill our Hoops. By remembering that our focus belongs there and there only- and that no one else is allowed, we give ourselves a gift: Peace.


Sunday Inspiration


“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

- Anais Nin

Foot Soldiers in the War Against Addiction

My friend’s beautiful young daughter died from a heroin overdose last year.  Their world was forever changed by that loss.

No kid pops a pill or smokes a joint thinking that they will become addicted to heroin. So Mom Tish started the Angel Foundation to create awareness about the high stakes and high incidence of innocent drug abuse. In her own back yard of Orange County, California, over 200 young people have died from overdose since 2007.  This is just the tip of the iceberg that is sinking communities nationwide.

Can you help spread the message about the high stakes of innocent “experimentation?” The Angel Foundation gives us Suburban Junkies, a 12-minute video that can  help tell parents, educators and doctors understand that drug abuse is all around us:  the athletes, the A students, the kid next door. You can watch Suburban Junkies here, and then share  the link broadly.

Another weapon in  the educational arsenal is Collision Course – Teen Addiction Epidemic—which won an Emmy in June.  That 27-minute documentary is available to PBS stations everywhere to show on their networks for free.  Please pick up the phone, call your local PBS station and tell them about Collision Course.  Then leave me a comment with the name and address of any PBS station that expressed interest, and I will mail them (or you) a copy.

People working together can do miraculous things, whether it’s raising a barn or raising awareness. Together, we can re-write the story of addiction in our communities and in our homes. And if we don’t do it, who will?

Sunday Inspiration

“I know now that we never get over great losses; we absorb them, and they carve us into different, often kinder, creatures.”

- Gail Caldwell, Let’s Take the Long Way Home: A Memoir of Friendship

Taking Action Against the Tide of Teen Addiction


Last year, I caught the tail end of a NPR program last week about violence in a town somewhere….Anytown, USA, or actually anywhere in the world with too many guns and too little hope. Of course, the connection between drugs and violence was noted in the story.

The people in the town have taken to memorializing the children lost to violence by painting their names in yellow paint on a brick wall in the town center.  Every time a child dies, his or her name is added to the wall.  Each yellow brick marks another life lost. The looming brick wall is almost solid yellow these days.

The most recent addition to the wall was not a name; instead, some young person had scrawled on a brick, “I may be the next one.”  That hopeless resignation, the sense that “It’s everyone I know, it’s just a matter of time before it’s my turn” struck a nerve.  As I learn about another family torn apart by teen substance abuse, it feels like it is just a matter of time before every family becomes embroiled in the madness.

Maybe we should start scribing names of our addicted children on the brick walls in our town centers.  How about in red paint to signify the hemorrhage of young life, the screaming pain that addiction brings home, the death of dreams?  Maybe if we paint our walls red, people will take note of this epidemic in our towns.  Maybe then people will begin to ask questions and perhaps even look for some answers.

One radio show host is breaking the silence and talking about the rampant deaths caused by Oxycontin, in particular. Take a look at his web page and consider signing the petition he has posted there. It’s one way to get some attention for the national epidemic that is killing our kids.