Monthly Archives: April 2014

Sunday Inspiration

bird that brings hope to addicts and alcoholics“Happiness is equilibrium.  Shift your weight.”

-Tom Stoppard

Anonymous No More

The Anonymous People  has won the 2014 PRISM Award for best film in the Feature Film Documentary category.

The Anonymous People is a feature doActs of Kindnesscumentary film about the 23.5 million Americans living in long-term recovery from addiction to alcohol and other drugs. Deeply entrenched social stigma and discrimination have kept recovery voices silent and faces hidden for decades. The vacuum created by this silence has been filled by sensational mass media depictions of people in active addiction that continue to perpetuate a lurid public fascination with the dysfunctional side of what is a preventable and treatable health condition. Just like women with breast cancer, or people with HIV/AIDS, courageous addiction recovery advocates are starting to come out of the shadows to tell their true stories. The moving story of The Anonymous People is told through the faces and voices of the leaders, volunteers, corporate executives, and celebrities who are laying it all on the line to save the lives of others just like them. This passionate new public recovery movement is fueling a changing conversation that aims to transform public opinion, and finally shift problematic policy toward lasting recovery solutions.

The PRISM Awards are presented annually by the Entertainment Industries Council, Inc. (EIC), and honor the portrayal of mental health and substance use disorders, in TV shows, movies, music, DVD, and comic book entertainment.

Director Greg Williams and his creative team received the prestigious PRISM amidst the top talent in the entertainment business. The Weinstein Co. and Lionsgate are among two of the well-known production houses represented.

“To think that The Anonymous People was even nominated as a stand-out film with the likes of Harvey Weinstein, Barbara Kopple, Oprah Winfrey, and Mariel Hemingway is nearly beyond comprehension,” Williams said.

“Then to win our category? I think it speaks to the point that society is ready for the Recovery Advocacy Movement. This is a community-created and driven film. I am incredibly grateful to all those who supported this project and shared this independent film far and wide over the last 8 months.”

The other films considered in the Feature Film Documentary category were My Father and the Man in Black, by Writer-Director-Producer Jonathan Holiff; Running from Crazy, by Director Barbara Kopple, and starring Mariel Hemingway, and Salinger, by Director Shane Salerno.

Spread the word about recovery!  You can watch a trailer of The Anonymous People here.  The Anonymous People is now available on VIMEO ON-DEMAND & ON DVD.

Ask the Expert: Do our fears for our son get in the way of him truly seeking recovery?

Question: My 22-year old son has been in and out of various treatment programs for depression and polysubstance use for the last 5 years. He also has a serious medical condition that will eventually require an organ transplant. He was recently denied a return to his extended care program because they deemed him not stable enough. We feel stuck in that we’re not sure he’s committed to getting better but agrees to go to programs because he prefers that to homelessness. We wonder if he is really getting anything more out of treatment other than keeping him safe. Our biggest fear is that if we don’t pay for treatment he is likely to die by overdose or suicide. What recommendations do you have?

Jon DailyAnswer from Expert Jon Daily:  I have had clients whose parents who have spent over $150,000 on treatment programs. The first couple of go-rounds in the great treatment programs are deserved. However, after that, the trick is assessing their motivation for a third go-round.

You have to determine is if spending money on treatment again is actually enabling the problem. It is enabling if the person is now only going to treatment because it is simply better than being on the streets. 

In contrast, when someone has been on the streets and has been going to meetings and showing though behavioral change that they really want recovery, then I say get them into a program, perhaps one that isn’t as sophisticated as the previous ones if you are paying out of pocket ,as the client already knows a lot going in.

The fear of death or more consequences in their life in the absence of wellness is real and sadly, you can’t control people to wellness.  He needs to truly want it for himself in order to change.

Photo of Ricki TownsendAnswer from Expert Ricki Townsend:  It sounds like your son’s fear of facing his addiction illness, and possible homelessness could be overwhelming.  So he is continuing to run from the real issues, using drugs and alcohol to find peace.

You seem to have been a huge support for him, offering him treatment and extended care, but if he has not made up his own mind as how to use this support for good, then you could be just giving him a place to just settle in.  So, it boils down to just this:   each one of us is is responsible for ourselves.  You are responsible for your continued growth in the understanding of the disease of addiction and its impact on the family (via Al-Anon or an addiction therapist).  Your son is responsible for taking care of himself.

The reality is that you could watch your son 24/7, and he could somehow still slip away and overdose.  We cannot keep our loved ones from dying from their addiction, any more than we can keep them from dying from cancer or diabetes that they choose not to manage.

Perhaps he will choose the streets for a while, and that will help him realize he really wants treatment and support. I have worked for several years with the homeless addicts, and they do live, survive and even thrive.  And many of them ultimately seek a life of recovery after a stint on the streets.  I encourage you to let go with love and respect, take care of your own pain, and let your son see what he is capable of doing. You are welcome to contact me for further ideas.

How to let go of the chains of co-dependency and move forward

chainsIt seems that no matter how much time I spend on relieving myself from the chains of co-dependency, I still struggle with worry.  And maybe, the biggest gift of all of this self-discovery is the raw awareness of each and every thought and action that I do.   Sometimes ‘denial’ does seem like a viable option, yet I know that my life is much better when I consciously deal with issues that arise.    Today’s dilemma is that I recognize that I am beginning to worry about future events, also known as ‘future tripping’.  For such a fun sounding phrase, it sure does lead to angst.

When my daughter decided to move back to town it was a joyful situation for so many reasons.  She was close to 2 years clean and sober, hard-working, and being a responsible young woman.  Yet in the back of my mind I struggled with all the ‘what ifs’ that could take place.  I am a strong believer of ‘what you think about comes about’.  So I consciously had to stay positive and not obsess on all the future possibilities.  I have developed techniques to ward off those obtrusive thoughts by engaging new thoughts like a song that I find inspirational or quote or prayer.  I also discuss my worries and fears with my daughter.  Also, boundaries need to be respected and discussed so that we are on the same page.  I also try to remember that things change and I need to look forward.  So many blessings and joys have transpired, and I choose to celebrate those along the journey.

Sunday Inspiration

558914_broken_heart[1]Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned.


Managing our worst fears for our addicted and alcoholic children

My 3 SunzThis is an encore post from My3Sunz

She reached out in desperation – “my son’s been arrested and may go to prison!” When I met up with her I recognized the anguish and sleepless, ringed-worried-eyes, once worn myself. This is the look of a parent whose love for their drug addict child and powerlessness leaves them broken.

First there was the guilt – she missed the phone call from him. She had decided to go to the class she signed up for and, then there was regret – she should have stayed home! Martydom mixed with obsessive spurts of energy focused on detective work; late night internet research for arrest records and prisons. Soon she self-consumed into fearful isolation – projecting the worst outcomes. Driven to fuel the fears, news articles: “Life in solitary, Inmates Hunger Strike; Violent, predatory offenders” to name a few. Undeniably a drug addict turned to criminal activity to support his disease, but NOT this and NOT THERE! He is her child, her son – my son, your child, and our hearts break open – we want to rescue. I know this well, I have the T-shirt.

How could I help? What could I do? My co-dependent nature is to rescue and smooth over the fear and sadness because I feel unease in these situations…I wanted to say “it will all be OK!” But that’s not the truth, it might not be OK, so instead, I listened. How does one go from helplessness to powerlessness, the latter being a state of surrender & acceptance, fueled by trust versus fear? Was she ready? Would I be of help or further complicate matters? For me, it took hard work in my 12-Step Program of Al-Anon.

I shared my own experience of being frightened for my sons’ fate. Like when I read about the prison riot which made front page news. I immediately went to that scary place visualizing my son’s vulnerability in what I conjured up. A mother’s worst nightmare – my imagination ran wild! How I then turned it over to my God Box, realizing no amount of worry or fret was going to influence the outcome of this! I later learned he missed the riot because he “skipped” breakfast – all validating why I have to let go and let God! This was a change in the way I reacted to fears about the future and I was given positive feedback – projecting would no longer serve me, reaching out would.

How being productive helps those in recovery grow into responsible adults

mother daughterMany times I think about what has been instrumental to my daughter’s recovery.  When have I seen the most growth?  There are many dynamics that contribute.   Early in her struggle to overcome her addiction it was a moment by moment, day by day battle to piece together sobriety.  But now that she has many months and now years she is not in crisis mode – she is ‘doing life’ as they say.  She is working and taking responsibility for herself.  My expectations during the early days of recovery were basic; stay clean, move forward.  But as time went on, I knew that part of recovery entails getting a job and learning life skills and responsibilities.

Getting a job definitely propelled her forward in a positive direction.  She had to get up and show up.  She had to work hard and follow directions.  I watched her go from an attitude of ‘it’s all about me and what others do for me’ to ‘I worked hard for that paycheck!’  She began to understand the value of money and how much it cost to live on her own.  It was a real sign of growth when we were shopping one day and I was about to buy something at the grocery store and she said, ‘that’s way too expensive!  You can get that somewhere else for a lot less.’  This was never a consideration when she didn’t have to buy things on her own.  Now she was able to understand the cost and making tradeoffs.  I watched her self-esteem rise over time.  It is one of the most fundamental jobs we have as parents, to help our children grow into responsible adults.  When they take a detour into addiction, it becomes an even more difficult task, but there is hope for recovery.

Ask the Expert: I am angry and questioning my son’s methadone treatment….What should I do?

how to care for yourself Dr. JantzQUESTION: My son is 19 and in a methadone treatment program for 7 months now and doing group several times a week. I am glad he is off drugs and participating in group but do not like my son’s behaviors on the methadone at all.  I have to drive and pick him up every morning to and from the bus; this is in addition to driving him to work (because he doesn’t drive). He smokes cigarettes. I also have another child who is 7 and has epilepsy.

I am having a really difficult time with his addiction because I am a fitness trainer and my whole example is one of health and holistic approaches to well-being. Since I deal with another type of addiction (food) and other negative lifestyle choices, I know that the person must want to change or be at that point where they have no alternative but to take control of their health. I don’t see that here. I see just a temporary fix that is starting to erode my peace of mind and the peace of my family. I have a very busy schedule with work and do not have time for parent groups and therapy, nor do I really want to be in them.

I am finding myself more and more angry and don’t want to be supporting what I don’t believe is a positive solution and could ultimately be dangerous to his health. I’m really not sure what to do next and have told him this morning I don’t want to support him being on methadone any longer for the reasons that I’m giving you. Any advice would be appreciated.

Jon DailyANSWER FROM EXPERT JON DAILY.  You have to do what you don’t want to hear. On a daily basis, you deal with people who struggle to trust your advice. You can see their new body that will emerge if they follow your plan. You know you will get positive outcomes, but they don’t see it. They also will struggle without your support, as “their way” is what created their fitness and wellness issues in the first place.

You have to heal yourself by going to the parent groups and parent-specific Al-Anon meetings. It is a blind spot that is annoying you, but that discomfort is where you need to” lean.”  You have clients who you are asking to “lean into” their discomfort and do what they have to do for outcomes Not doing so is “bargaining” with the treatment plan, a form of personal denial.

I certainly don’t like it when doctors stick needles in me to take my blood or ask me to get MRIs, but this is what I do to stay healthy.  With that said, I hope this discussion on opiate addiction will help you understand opiate addiction and the treatment approaches.

Understanding the roots of your relationship with your son can help you break the chain of co-dependency.  This in-depth article about co-dependency and addiction, which  will be published by the SVC-CAMFT, CAADAC and Counseling Magazine , may also be helpful to you.

The New York Times has an answer for parents of addicts and alcoholics

Choices in RelationshipsI’d like to give a HUGE shout out to Philip Galanes, who responds to reader-submitted etiquette questions every week in The New York Times “Social Q’s” column.  Last Sunday he tackled an issue that haunts so many parents of addicts and alcoholics.  With praise and credit to The New York Times and Mr. Galanes, I’d like to thank him for giving us a road map out of the Land of Stigma and Shame where we so often lose ourselves.  Here is the reader’s question he fielded and his wise, sensitive and medically-based response:

Question:  My husband and I will soon be reunited with a couple we spent a lot time with in the ’80s, but haven’t seen much of since. Our sons, now both 34, used to play together, so I know the subject of children will come up. But our son has suffered from addiction for years, and lives on the edge of poverty because of the unfortunate choices he’s made. How do we deal with their questions without infringing on his privacy?

K. F.

Answer:  I may be off-base here, but are you sure it’s your son’s privacy you’re worried about — and not losing face with these (irrelevant-sounding) friends from days gone by? I’ve sat through enough dinners with parents who sounded like press agents to know that bragging about our heirs has become de rigueur these days. But your son’s addiction is no more his fault (or yours) than a tumor or any more-easily-sympathized-with illness.

There’s no shame in it.

Don’t linger over the gory details of his difficulties; that would be an invasion of his privacy. But don’t beat around the bush, either. Say: “Danny is struggling with addiction. We’re proud of the fight he’s shown. But it’s a daily battle.” Then move on. (Just one more plug before I do: Stay in his corner, if you can. Addiction can be a grinding hell for families, but your son needs your support.) Another upside to honesty is that it creates an opening for your friends to get real with you about the Pulitzer-winning, MacArthur genius-granted children of their own.”

Thank you, Mr. Galanes, for helping your readers understand addiction/alcoholism as a brain disease that bears no finger-pointing, fault or shame.  And for giving parents of addicts and alcoholics an opportunity to tell others that we are proud of our kids when they fight to get and stay sober.

P.S.  If you liked Mr. Galanes’ advice, you might want to check out  Social Q’s:  How to Navigate the Quirks, Quandaries and Quagmires of Today.

Sunday Inspiration

awakening“The beauty is that through disappointment you can gain clarity, and with clarity comes conviction and true originality.”

Conan O’Brien