Monthly Archives: October 2013

Changing the Relationship when Addiction is present in your family

There is a time in the journey of healing from the trauma and drama of a loved one struggling with addiction that you know that the relationship need to change. The old patterns and behaviors that are not healthy need to change to new patterns that serve everyone in the family better. What’s interesting is even if addiction does not exist in your family relationships can sometimes be better in terms of helping your children grow up to be responsible adults. But when there is drug addiction or any addiction I would imagine, it exemplifies all the flaws in your interactions. Many times as a Mom you want to do things for your kids. It starts out when they are young and you do most things because they are infants and they, obviously, need you to thrive. Then as they grow they begin doing things for themselves. There’s a delicate balance of knowing when to let them become self-sufficient and when to continue helping them.

What I know now is that it is not healthy to continue to do things for your child when they can do these things for themselves. By continually stepping in and ‘helping’ you can inadvertently teach them that they are not capable. For me, it was difficult to change this dance, but slowly over time our relationship changed. At times I had to do the opposite of what I wanted to do or what might have been instinctual as a parent. But I began to see the result which was a growing self-esteem for my daughter and less burden on me. It is sometimes in the subtle things we do that we start to see the changes; small but steady shifts will lead to a new positive way of being.

Ask the Expert: How do we respond to an addict/alcoholic daughter who is breaking the terms of our recovery agreement?

QUESTION: Our alcoholic/addict 26 year- old daughter is 3 months sober and drug-free. She met a recovering heroin addict (27) at sober living on the east coast 3 months ago. He became her boyfriend. Recently she has been living with us in California and now has flown him out here to be with her.

One of our boundaries for her to live at our home was that she focus on her recovery plan and not a relationship for a while. (All the literature recommends at least a year). We did allow her to continue phone calls to him with the hope that she would cut off the relationship as she became more solid in her own self-worth and sobriety and clear thinking. THAT DIDN’T HAPPEN. This relationship is very codependent and we are not sure of the boyfriend’s motives or seriousness about his recovery. Our daughter thinks she can save him.

So even though our daughter has been sober and drug free while at home, got a cashier job and is going to meetings and therapy, we are torn with the decision now to make her leave our home because of this relationship. She is not doing what is necessary to focus on herself for now. Her younger 23 year old brother and I are very upset with this latest decision to fly this boyfriend out suddenly without clearing it with us. (As it is his last resort, as his parents have cut him off). Her mother is anguishing over the decision to make her move out, as it may force our daughter into a worse, stressful situation that spells relapse. But it’s almost like our daughter is setting it up so we will be forced to ask her to move out. She has said she needs to figure life out on her own. She doesn’t want to lose her family, yet this relationship is more important to her.  Thank you for this site and your thoughts.


First, I’d like to suggest several questions that will help paint the bigger picture and point to some possible solutions:

You say your daughter is in recovery, which is wonderful.  Is she being drug tested randomly?  This is important to safeguard your home, your relationship with her and to help support her in recovery. Who paid her boyfriend’s way to visit? Who pays her bills and her rent?

If your daughter were living alone, paying her own bills, and working, I would answer that who she sees is really none of your business or “not in your hula hoop.” You could even say, “We love you and don’t feel comfortable with this young man, but understand you can make your own decisions.  We would like to ask that when we are with you for dinners, or coming over to the house, please don’t include him.” You then are giving her a choice.  She may reply, “I am sorry that is out of the question.”  Again, this is her choice. As adults, we cannot protect our children from anyone or anything.  We must trust, and let go. She does need to figure her life out on her own.  That is a very truthful statement she has made.  Let her do this.  Believe me, parent to parent, I know it can be so hard.

Did you come up with a written or verbal agreement about the terms under which you would support her?  If you specified that your support for her is contingent upon her not being in a relationship for a year, then she has broken one of the rules of your contract and you should stick with your agreement.

It is much easier to stick with a written agreement because then the terms are in black and white for all to see, but a verbal agreement should be respected, too. Understanding what is on the line may be the thing that inspires her to really look at the choices she is making, and the consequences of those choices.

Bringing this young man here seems to have been a disrespectful decision on her part. So you may want to ask yourself if this is the person you want to live with. Setting healthy boundaries means taking care of ourselves and not letting others hurt us with their poor or selfish choices.

You mentioned the high stress level in the family, which is completely understandable since chemical dependency takes a toll on everyone. I invite you to take a look at how you are you reducing  your stress  Are you going to parent Al-Anon meetings or seeing your own addiction therapist? Chemical dependency impacts the entire family, and you need to claim the resources and the time to heal, too.

I am sorry that sometimes there are not any easy answers. Please get support for yourselves, and don’t shame or guilt yourselves for the decisions you make in response to your daughter’s choices.

Ricki Townsend,

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

Sunday Inspiration

“‘People can be more forgiving than you can imagine. But you have to forgive yourself. Let go of what’s bitter and move on.”

Bill Cosby

The Shame of Being the Parent of An Addict or Alcoholic

When I suspected that my son was involved with mind-altering substances, I called a local drug hotline for help. I hung up the phone when someone asked me the age of my child.  I had no idea that a professional’s guidance would vary, depending upon whether he was a minor or not.  Instead, that question felt like a confirmation of my awful, worst suspicions, and I was terrified and ashamed to admit to myself or to others that, “Houston, we have a problem.”  So I hung up on them and sat on the sidelines of an unspiraling teenager for several more years.

When I finally realized and admitted to myself that our son and our family were all sick from his addiction, I sucked it up and found a local Al-Anon meeting.  At the beginning of the meeting, we went around the room and everyone said their first name.  I was too horrified and ashamed to stake my claim as someone who loved an addict (which is the only “qualification” you need to attend Al-Anon), so I bolted out of the meeting.  It took more months of fear and heartache before I could pull myself together and seek out another meeting for another try. But that meeting stuck, maybe because I had hit my own rock bottom of fear and despair.

I’ve written before that my hopes and dreams for my child didn’t include the Chemically Dependent Club.  I wanted the water polo team, Eagle Scouts, or the Wildlife Club….anything other than what we got.  I would have settled with the bumper sticker proclaiming that my child was a middling student in a middling school.  It wasn’t a matter of pride; it was a matter of shame.

That shame was as destructive to our family as the disease of addiction itself.  That shame kept me from grasping the helping hands reaching out to me. That shame prolonged our days, lost in the Dark Woods of Addiction. Chemical dependency is a disease; there is no more shame in having a chemically dependent child than a child with cancer or asthma.  Don’t let shame hinder you from seeking the help that can restore your family to health.


Stepping Back to Examine my own Co-Dependent Behavior

As a parent of a child who has struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, I knew I had to take the time to step back from focusing on my loved one and examine my own behaviors and afflictions. My co-dependency spanned much farther than just that of my interactions with my daughter. When I took a close look at how I was interacting with all aspects of my life, I realized that it was deeper than mother/daughter. I had some very profound realizations during this time. One example of what I discovered was how I interacted at work. One trait of a ‘good’ co-dependent is that we don’t like others that we care about to feel bad or suffer any discomfort.
I was a manager where I worked over the years. I enjoyed mentoring and coaching to help develop people to their fullest potential. But one phenomenon occurred to me. There were times when I had employees that worked for me that I considered to be high performing. Sometimes when these employees would change jobs, I would later talk to their new manager and they would ask me some questions and tell me that the employee was struggling. This was very perplexing feedback at times, but in understanding co-dependency, I had one of those moments of clarity where it all made sense. When someone worked for me that had a particular weakness, I would sometimes compensate for it, fill in the gaps if you will. I would do this for a variety of reasons, but the consequence was the same – it did not allow the person to learn and grow and overcome their deficiency. When they would change jobs, they were not always successful and they struggled. They, I’m sure, were perplexed too.
This helped me to understand how co-dependency was affecting myself and others. I began changing these behaviors and watched how much more effective I could be at coaching and developing my employees. It is truly remarkable how changing your behaviors can affect such a large sphere of influence that you have. I often repeat the following prayer, ‘God, Change nothing in my life, change me’. Whether you are spiritual, religious, or none of the above, the meditation ‘Change nothing in my life, change me’ is extremely empowering.

How does hope show up if your child is an addict or alcoholic?

I’ve thought a lot about hope because it is such an essential part of recovery for all. I first felt a stirring of hope when our son cried out for rehab. Finally, a glimmer of light leading out of the madness.  I began to tally up the days of his sobriety, mistakenly believing that we’d reach a magic number at some point and our son would be miraculously and permanently healed.  The nightmare would be over.

I don’t know if that was hope or ignorance, but it kept me going through some very dark days. The truth is that relapses– which may be a part of this disease—tends to occur further and further apart as time goes by. One year without relapse, then three years without relapse.  But there are no guarantees.  Still, each day of recovery gave me a larger sliver of hope.

At the same time, misplaced hope can impede recovery because it drives us to take unreasonable action. Because we hope against hope that our children are “cured,” we write the check for the apartment instead of Sober Living. We hope they have seen the error of their ways and will resolve to change course this time, once and for all.  This time they really really really mean it, so we lend them money again, or lend them the car. We hope, above all, that the sheer force of our love for them will give them the strength and conviction to resist drugs or alcohol. If only it were that simple.

Our hope for their recovery leads us to make mistakes– to rent that apartment for them, to pay their bills “until they get back on their feet.” Misplaced hope can make it easier for our kids to stay sick than to get healthy.

Most of all, our children need hope for brighter days. We give them that gift when we honestly and realistically take action that support their recovery instead of their substance abuse. When believe in them and give them the reigns to their lives and let them know that we won’t be dragged through the mud again. Only then can they believe in themselves.

Ask the Expert: How can I help my parents understand the risk my sister’s addiction poses to their grandchildren?

QUESTION:  My sister has been a substance abuser for well over 18 years. Ironically, she has managed to have and raise four sons (albeit through two failed marriages.)  She now finds herself unemployed, living with a stranger who is involved with methamphetamines and exposing her four children to very substandard conditions. As a result, my family started the CPS process, contacted the older boys’ schools and logged a police report. Needless to say, this has generated a reaction from my sister who blames my parents for all of this and ruining her life.  How can I explain to my parents that what they have done is right (CPS process, etc?) when they are so distraught over the fact that their grandkids are in limbo and are being used as pawns in my sister’s charade? Any thoughts here would be great. –Frustrated Brother


I have two suggestions – that your parents get educated about the disease of addiction and get support.  The best way to do this would be to find  a local Al-Anon meeting.  In fact, this is recommended for the whole family.  In addition, if the family can afford it, they should seek counseling for the grandkids with a counselor experienced in family systems and addiction.

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


This is a hard time for you as well, I would think, seeing your family go through this public element of shame. While watching your parents’ sadness and your sister’s anger, families often forget the grieving piece.

It is very hard for fathers and mothers to let go of their children. Then add grandchildren and the pain can be unbearable.  This time of year is especially difficult, with holiday commercials depicting happy families.

So when I say families forget the grief piece, what does this mean?  In my experience with addiction, I see grief show up in the family. Your parents may be feeling grief for what “was supposed to be” for your sister.  They had dreams and visions at some point about the life she would live. Well, that life (for now) died when her addiction became her priority. The family may not even realize any of this. So what you may say to your parents is this:

“Mom/Dad this must be really hard for you as parents. I understand the hurt you may be feeling, and it is OK to express it. I know this is painful, but I believe you have done the right thing for her and for the grandchildren.”

It is also important for you and your parents to understand that chemical dependency is a brain disease that short-circuits the executive functioning of the brain, reducing addicts to survival behaviors.  Experts in the field of recovery speak about the brain disease here and explain how the misconceptions about addiction hinder recovery.

I believe that Al-Anon is a great place to show our grief and get support for it.  The Al-Anon family groups provide support by members who share their experience, strength and hope, having gone through what you are experiencing now.  They learn how to overcome the grief and shame. You can find Al-Anon meetings here. I hope that you might consider Al-Anon for yourself.  Chemical dependency is a family disease that hurts all of us.

Also, consider these books, as well as many other books that we recommend:

Healing the Addicted Brain, by Harold C. Urschel, III, MD

Tear Soup, a Recipe for Healing after Loss by Pat Schwiebert/ Chuck Deklyen (For children and grandparents)

Sad Isn’t Bad: A Good-Grief Guidebook for Kids Dealing with Loss by Mundy, Michaelene and Alley

The Grief Recovery Handbook:  the Action Program for Moving Beyond Death, Divorce and Other Losses by Russell Friedman

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

My Road to Recovery from Co-Dependency

 As parents of children struggling with addiction, we often put all of our focus on what our addict loved one is doing. At one point I realized that I also had my recovery from co-dependency to work through. Co-dependency is a very difficult condition to overcome. Yet when you begin to get a grip on what it is and how it is affecting your life, you begin to realize that there is a better way to live. I did not even realize my co-dependent behaviors until I started this journey. What is essential about becoming aware of this is that there is a very big tie between my behavior and how it affects my children, other family members, people I work with, just about everyone I come in contact with. I realized that my co-dependent net was cast very wide.

My process in this journey was to become aware of how I was enabling my loved ones and others and see how I could go about changing. It is difficult to sort out but I was determined. What I realized is that I had to change my behaviors and how I interacted. But as I got stronger in my conviction to not be a part of enabling others behaviors, I slowly found myself saying ‘no’ or ‘I’ll think about it’ when I previously may have been very reluctant and give in even when I knew I shouldn’t. Over time as I focused on what needed to change, I slowly began to undo my enabling patterns. This has been a benefit to my family and many others in my life.

Sunday Inspiration

Dandelion blowing in the wind.“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Dalai Lama

Treatment Options to Addiction

The devastating path to addiction begins when an individual tries an addictive substance for the first time. Over time, after continuous intake of the addictive substance, the individual looses the ability to choose whether or not to abuse the substance; this is known as substance addiction. Substance addiction is a traumatizing, complex brain illness characterized by an uncontrollable drug craving and a compulsive need to use drugs to function normally every day, despite the consequences. With more than 22 million people in the U.S. abusing addictive substances, only 2.6 million people actually receive the addiction treatments they need. That leaves 19.4 million people vulnerable for the catastrophic results of substance addiction.

No single addiction treatment works for everyone, but various effective treatment options are available that attend to an individual’s substance addiction, as well as other needs of the individual. Such treatments include:

1. Standard treatment programs:
• provide educational and therapy sessions generally focused on getting/staying sober and preventing relapse
• may include family and group sessions
• depending on the individual’s level of addiction, these programs may include residential or outpatient settings
2. Self-help groups:
• Patients can meet other individuals with the same or similar problems which often helps increase motivation
3. Counseling/Psychotherapy:
• One-on-one therapy sessions with a specialist
• Family therapy sessions with a specialist: provide higher chances of a positive outcome by having a strong support system
• Discussing topics such as coping with cravings, avoiding the substance and relapse, and dealing with possible relapses
• Counseling may also incorporate discussions about legal problems, relationships with family and/or friends, work, school and more
4. Withdrawal therapy:
• Detoxification: stop taking the addictive substance as quickly as possible
• Withdrawal therapy may involve gradually reducing the dose of the drug or temporarily substituting the substance with other substances that have less serious side effects
• May include inpatient or outpatient residential settings
5. Behavioral therapy:
• Gives patients the opportunity to change their attitudes and behaviors that relate to their substance abuse
• Helps patients further engage in their treatment process by recognizing situations in which they are most likely to abuse the addictive substance, and how to avoid and cope with those situations
• Addresses the variety of influences on their substance abuse
• Motivational incentives are used for positive reinforcement to promote abstinence from addictive substances
6. Medications:
• used to help restore normal brain function, prevent relapse and eliminate cravings for an addictive substance
• For example, methadone and buprenorphine are used to act on the same part of the brain that opiates such as heroin and morphine effect, in order to minimize withdrawal symptoms and relieve cravings
• Other medications such as Naltrexone are also used to relieve cravings as well as the effects of the addictive substance

A Place of Hope’s Center for Counseling and Health Resources provides help for those who seek addiction treatments for alcohol addiction, illicit substance abuse addiction, prescription drug addiction or issues relating to gambling, sedatives, steroids and more. Dr. Gregory Jantz and his team of addiction medical professionals, psychologists, nutritionists and fitness trainers help to address the physical, psychological and spiritual problems that are behind the symptoms. Please visit us online at A Place Of Hope For Addiction or call us on 1-888-379-3372.