Monthly Archives: September 2013

Sunday Inspiration

“We have not journeyed all this way across the centuries, across the oceans, across the mountains, across the prairies, because we are made of sugar candy.”


-Sir Winston Churchill

The quiet moments – Finding ways to reduce stress and increase serenity

When I hear the word ‘serenity’ I often think of a quiet moment alone preferably somewhere in nature. Yet serenity comes to us in many different ways. The definition of serenity is ‘the state of being calm, peaceful, untroubled.’ As a parent who has been on a journey of having a loved one struggle with addiction and has a quest to gain serenity I am very aware that serenity can be elusive. What looks like serenity to me may not work for someone else. One of the ways that I seek serenity is through outdoor activity. A long run puts me in a place that is very calming. I relax and concentrate on the moment. The farther I run, the more my troubles melt away. While this sometimes may only result in serenity for the moments on my run, it is a welcomed respite when I am struggling to detach from what is bogging me down.
Everyone has their own image of what serenity means to them and how they work to get there. As parents we have a tendency to take our children’s troubles and worry about them. While we may not be able to get to a place where we are free of worrying about our loved ones, we can get to a place where we have longer moments of serenity. It’s important to think of how you can release yourself and enjoy moments of serenity. This may be having a cup of tea with a friend, going for a walk, baking, golfing, the list is very long and all depends on your interests. You might start out with a short activity and then increase over time. Trading your stress for serenity will lead to feeling healthy. We all know that stress causes so many conditions to our physical body, mood and behavior. By working on your serenity it will not only help you cope with difficult challenges in your life, it will also help you feel better and be more present in your life.

Ask the Expert: How can we help our daughter deal with post-traumatic stress syndrome and the addiction it fuels?

Question:  My daughter was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder. after seeing her sister and boyfriend get shot 5 years ago. She cared for them after work, but then her boyfriend’s dad took him out of state. She lost it after that. She couldn’t work anymore, she got caught up with people who gave her drugs to deal with the depression. After 2 years of being on oxycodone, she came to live with me and her stepdad and her 16yr old son.  That was last year. While she was here we got her help and she got off the drug. She has since gone back to Tucson and still can’t find a job. She got help from her old friends, got arrested for drugs, lost her apartment and lost her car. She now is going to a clinic 7 days a week because a doctor there put her on methadone.  She has nowhere to stay but is trying very hard to find her way and get back on track. She is now upset since things are going so wrong for her. I think she would be better to be admitted and to get of the methadone since it’s just another addiction of a different color. She has no insurance and we really don’t know where to go to get her really detoxed and counseling for her p.d.s.d. and her anxiety and to get her to care for herself again.

Photo of Ricki TownsendAnswer:  I am so sorry for the pain you and your family must be going through watching your daughter make such unhealthy decisions. While it is up to her to make healthy decisions to improve her life, she has a brain disease that will need help in healing.

So what can she do? First she has to want to do make the right choices. Of course, you can offer suggestions; after that, she needs to take care of herself, and you need to take care of yourself.

There are typically county treatment programs for mental health and addiction that vary by state and by county.  Your daughter would have to take the steps of going to the county office, filling out the paperwork and asking for help.  I would ask you to find someone—perhaps you — to support her and walk through all of this with her, guiding her through the paper work.

As far as methadone, it may be helping her get through her grief and manage with her addiction in a controlled fashion.  This may stabilize her to the point where she can ultimately let go of the methadone.

Once your daughter is in county programs, I would also have her see an addiction therapist– not a counselor, but a therapist–who can offer many healing options to move her through the pain and loss. Another helpful addition to her routine could be yoga, which will teach her to stay in the moment at any given time, to breathe through the memories and to realize: Yes, it was unfair to suffer through this and Yes, it hurts; and Yes, I have every right to live in a life filled with joy and peace. Yoga may be helpful to you, as well. I would also recommend Al-Anon or whatever else you feel would help you through your own grief and fears.

I hope she does these things.  Please remember, you can only offer. It is up to her to say Yes or No.

Ricki Townsend , Board Certified Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, NCAC1, CAS, RAS, Bri-1

For the parent of an addict/alcoholic, what is normal, anyway?

This is an “Encore” posting from My 3 Sunz

In the normal course of events I suppose every parent will worry about their young adults moving out, moving on and learning to be independent, young contributors in the world.

How’s it look in the abnormal course of events?  Seeing your child make choices that lead to increasing incidents of serious trouble and consequences is unbearable to face. This causes abnormal responses from the people who love them. Having a child with chemical dependency is not the norm. And the lifestyle that comes from chemical dependency goes against every moral fabric of character. Living in fear is not normal. Being disrespected, lied to or taken advantage of is not normal. Living in anguish and worry is not normal. Spending every conscience moment thinking, strategizing or anticipating the next move of your child is not normal. Questioning your own values, questioning your own parenting skills, questioning decisions you made early in their development – or, wising for do-overs is not normal. I did this and it’s just plain crazy!  But I did not know another way. This turmoil is not only frightening, but very isolating and lonely.

I’ve since learned about the family disease – how it slowly permeates your fiber of being. The lifestyle of negativity became my new normal. Hope that there is help seemed unobtainable or just not possible, hopeless and helpless. After repeated attempts to fix the problem, some of us hit a wall. Sometimes the wall is an event that “shakes us up.” For me it was the physical ramifications of living in a state of combat, fighting for what was clearly being taken: my child.  Such experiences included what medical professionals call “stress related disorders.” You need to remove some of the stress in your life! Oh that? OK – how? My only idea was to fix the addiction, that was the problem.  Thus, my life would be stress free! But this wasn’t working out so well.

In Al-Anon I learn my terminal uniqueness is relatable to others with similar circumstances – they shared the same thoughts, actions and responses that I had! We are introduced to a concept that removes our old way of thinking and shown how we can make decisions that change our circumstances. The solution is not what we thought it would be, and another form of normalcy is introduced – One that holds happiness, joy, freedom and serenity. Then again, what is normal anyway?

Learning to Trust Your Instincts

It has taken time and practice but I have learned to trust my instincts. I find that when I don’t trust my instincts it can lead to regret in the end. Sometimes it is very clear when you have an instinct that something is not right other times it’s those subtle, nagging thoughts. There are also times when you hear something that doesn’t add up and typically you should realize it right at that moment, but you sometimes think you should give someone the ‘benefit of the doubt’ or feel you should trust them. I was reminded of this recently in a couple different ways which gave me cause to pause and think about it.
One signal on this topic was an article that I read that gave a series of things to do to help your kids stay away from drugs and alcohol. One of the suggestions was to drug test your teen. The argument was that as parents we want to trust our kids and that even when asked our teen may downplay or deny any drug or alcohol use. My belief is that if someone is contemplating drug testing their teen, they probably have an instinct telling them something is wrong that they need to address. When my child’s drug and alcohol use became a problem there were many signals and instincts that I had, yet, I didn’t want it to be true. In retrospect, I should have been facing all of these signals and instincts with every tool or action that I could find. What the article pointed out is that one small act of drug testing to confirm what you probably already know, and then can openly address, is better than having your child become hurt or killed due to drug and alcohol use. I know now to act on my instincts, even if it is uncomfortable, for those I love.

Sunday Inspiration

“No matter how dire a person’s predicament seems to be, I KNOW that if he or she is WILLING to do the mental work of releasing and forgiving, almost anything can be healed.”

Louise L. Hay from Heal Your Body A-Z

The Importance of Agreements in Recovery

It’s important for us to set limits about how we will support our children in their recovery.  That way, everyone is on the same page about what is acceptable to the family, and what is not.  Agreements should be crafted with love and respect, and they should be simple–with no micro-management.  After all, we are not our children’s policemen.  They need to manage their lives, and we need to manage our own.

An agreement simply details the “terms of engagement.”  For example, “We have a sober home.  Being in our lives requires that you are clean and sober.”  Or “We will support you if you are sober and in school full time.”  Or “We will never bail you out of jail again.”  Agreements let us put our foot down and say “No more” while giving our child the chance to rebuild his or her dignity by successfully managing their lives.  The terms of our agreements give our kids a real incentive to stay sober.

Below is a letter that one dad wrote to his son.  Because their communication had become so strained, he found his voice in his written word.

“To my Son,

I am writing you from my heart and mind.  Writing gives me time to find the right words.  I am working on myself, and it’s been hard to change.  I want to find peace and take care of myself.  I’ve stopped fearing the future and am thinking too much of the past.  It’s time to live in the present, even if it’s one day at a time.

In the recovery meetings, I am learning a lot about myself. I am crippling you.  You can’t learn to grow living with me.

I’ve stopped feeling guilty and blaming myself for your choices, and I am finding peace of mind.  Now I am going to let you be responsible and live with your choices.  I am not going to tell you what to do.  I believe in you.  But we cannot live together.

It’s time you choose your path from now on.  But if you choose the dark path of the past, I can’t help or support you anymore.  If you chose the clean and sober path, I will always try to help you.

No matter what path you choose, you are my son and I will always love you.”

The dad who wrote this passed away this summer, way too young.  He leaves behind a son who has chosen recovery, in great part because his father freed him to find his own way.  What a gift for a child to receive, what a gift for a parent to give.


Be Concerned but not Consumed – How to put worry into perspective

Our love for those we hold dear can sometimes take us to new levels of worry. We often behave like worry is a full time activity worth our undivided attention! Yet when we become consumed with worry and fear, we can become equally paralyzed by this phantom. We can hear many voices in our minds about ‘what will happen if…’ and ‘what will happen when…” It can be a never ending loop of images playing out in our minds eye occupying every waking moment. This is what it was like for me when my loved one was active in addiction. I would lie awake at night playing various scenarios out in my head. I would wake up picking up where I left off when I went to sleep. It was nothing short of exhausting.

While talking with some parents about this very real phenomenon that rears its head from time to time we all recognized that it is unproductive and unhealthy. It causes stress and clouds your thinking when you need to have clarity and focus. We also recognized that we are parents who love our children. So how do you put this in perspective? The comment was made that we should strive to ‘be concerned but not consumed.’ I thought, wow, that really makes sense. None of us are going to stop thinking about our loved ones and wanting what is best for them. But we can reign in the runaway thoughts. We can think positive and pray for them. We can be concerned but not let the situation be all consuming. We know that letting it consume us does not help our loved one, it just causes stress and discomfort for ourselves. We can make an effort to keep things in perspective, seek help and support from others and continue to have hope for our loved ones.

Fifty Shades of Gray for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

The space between active addiction and recovery is neither black nor white—it’s a gray, vague area fraught with both peril and possibility.  Is my child sober or is he relapsing?  Is her mental health improving or declining?  Does his behavior speak of recovery or relapse?

It’s so hard to navigate this “No (Wo)man’s Land” because  there is no guide book to help us know if we are helping or hurting, supporting recovery or inadvertently enabling addiction.  If we have suspicions about a child’s possible relapse, is it OK to ask them? Or is that making their problem our problem?  If we support them financially, how does that change the picture? Is it ever helpful to be suspicious or to act on our suspicions; or does that suspicion only gnaw away at our serenity? These ruminations shove the marauding squirrel in my brain into high gear.

I’ve found that I can best navigate through The Land of Addiction if I stay in the moment.  That means neither resurrecting past events (the car accidents, for example), nor fabricating future disasters. I have learned to turn off the road of past pain or future fear by silently yelling to myself “Stop!” when I start to imagine the worst. There are infinite other tools you can pull from the bag of tricks, such as chanting the Serenity Prayer when needed.  Whatever works for you works for you. Staying in the moment also means owning my feelings and using “I” messages when I talk with my beloved child.

“I get upset when I think you are using” is fair game. “You make me crazy when I think you are using” puts the burden of our emotions on the addict, which isn’t fair to them or healthy for us.  We need to take responsibility for how we feel because that is how we reclaim our power. And we need to hand them the responsibility of managing their lives.  Reliving past or anticipated pain doesn’t help anyone get healthy. Being in the here and now does.

For help staying in the present, consider our “Boundaries Meeting in a Box” or Eckhert Tolle’s The Power of Now.

Ask the Expert: How do I handle the Grandparents’ Questions and Blame?

Photo of two women talking.QUESTION:  How do I handle the stresses of my own parents continual quizzing me of how my 18-year old son is doing in treatment?  Their common question, “When will Jeffrey get his act together?” They have pushed the blame onto my husband and myself for allowing him many opportunities in life that neither of our parents could afford; basically, their feelings are we raised a “spoiled brat.” I am finding it difficult to help them understand that his addiction is a disease and often find ways to avoid their phone calls so I don’t have to deal with these relentless comments. Does this topic dealing with teen grandparents come up often?  - Frustrated Mother, Daughter and Wife

Photo of Christy CrandellEXPERT CHRISTY CRANDELL:  I believe it will help to educate your parents about the disease of addiction if you include your parents in any family education sessions that your son’s treatment program provides. If this is not possible, perhaps go on to the internet and print out some articles for them about this topic.  Al-Anon meetings would be beneficial as well.

- Christy Crandell, Administrative Director and Founder of Full Circle Treatment Center


Photo of Ricki TownsendEXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND:  We call this a family disease because it impacts every  family member, including Grandparents. In my profession, I hear your concerns often. Usually it is because the grandparents don’t have much education around this disease. Sometimes, there is so much fear of losing the grandchild they must assign blame to someone.  This is a typical blame strategy to justify the unthinkable.

Here are a couple of ideas to deal with your situation:

1. Invite an interventionist, drug and alcohol counselor, or someone experienced about addiction into your home for “informal education.” I often do this myself in my line of work. I will come over for coffee, sit around the table with power points and explain the disease and answer questions. We talk about boundaries, and what can be done, moving forward. The grandparents can express what they are feeling, and I can answer their questions. Parents can also express what they are feeling and their questions get answered, too.  The family learns together. I then offer my availability for them to mediate situations that may come up in the future.

2. You and your husband might have a family meeting where you can share your feelings with them in a calm way. Let the grandparents know that you understand how hard this is on them, too. Invite them to go with you to a parents meeting such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. Some support group, including these, will enable you to connect with like-minded families. At the meetings, everyone can learn that you didn’t cause this, and you cannot control or cure this disease.

I hope this helps in some way. Please contact me for any further questions or support. Maybe I can refer you to someone in your area. - Ricki Townsend, Board Certified Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, NCAC1, CAS, RAS, Bri-1