Monthly Archives: May 2014

A hike through the looking glass – watching out for clues

parallel path of recovery from addiction and co-dependencyMy kids suffering always pushed my rescue buttons. And with the progressive nature of the Family Disease, my mommy cape became ineffective and was my first defeat in my war on addiction. Too cunning and baffling, the serious trouble drugs and alcohol created for all of us required counter-intuitive measures. What’s right is wrong, what’s up is down; it was as if I had taken a hike through the looking glass. Yet oddly enough, nonsense became logic when looked at differently. I took a new turn and my willingness to try and see things in an unfamiliar way would ultimately be the best thing I could do.

These offensive measures were like being on a hike in the national park called RecoveryLand; sometimes the trail markers are confusing or missing completely. I would have to believe I’m on the right course; use my directional tools and another person to strategize. “No” would become a complete sentence and the kindest word I would say. As hard as it is, as unnatural as it feels, if I wanted to shorten the path to a recovery turnoff, my trail markers would have to change. “I love you so I won’t…” was the treacherous climb out of the canyon. In small increments I could see sane things reappear in my life. The trail head was always there.

An unexpected stillness and peace

photo 2 (5)This is a guest post from Terri Busch, LCSW, who has worked in the mental health field for over 20 years. She has a private practice, supervises other therapists in treatment centers and presently blogs for New Roads Treatment Center

I recently traveled to my family’s ranch to attend a celebration of, and say good-bye to my dear cousin.  It came on the heels of several months of experiencing the downside of emotions that life can bring.

Before my son took me to the airport, he quietly mentioned I had not been myself for some time, and then handed me a book. He said he had recently come upon the book by accident while looking for another one.  But he picked it up, glanced through it and felt it was something he wanted to read. He offered it to me and ask that I read it, and, as I read it, to consider who came to mind.  I was moved.

As I read the book on the plane, I paused now and then to consider anyone coming to mind; I came up with the thought that my son wanted me to get something about his life: so I focused on people who we both knew.

Well, it could be this person or that, but listening to what might ring true yielded silence. So I kept reading.  What I discovered was that the person it reminded me of was me. The book, Success through Stillness, is about compassion and meditation. The words reminded me of someone I used to be: patient, considerate, empathetic with those close to me.  I realized that some of the darkness I had been experiencing was my old pattern of wanting to change things I had absolutely no power over.  Resentment and anger at things beyond my control have been eating away at my peace of mind. It became clear to me that these negative feelings were the old “friend” of codependency.

I continue to be moved by my son’s compassion; in fact, when beginning to write today, the tears came again.

Which tells me I’m onto something here.   When emotions can be felt, and understood and expressed, whether your own or a loved one’s, unexpected stillness and healing takes place.  The kind of healing that the author of the book, Russell Simmons, notes:

“I hope what the Dalai Lama said really sinks in with you: The mind can change through training.  But the truth is, you are not trapped in a certain relationship with your emotions or your thoughts. No matter who you are or what you’ve gone through, you are capable of finding this peace.”

I wanted to share this experience about how codependence can creep up on us and take us down that hard road of resentment and anger.  The point is to notice the feelings and get back to what peaceful practices that help us focus on a life worth living.

Wish me well as I take on the wise words of the author (and many with whom he has worked) to make time to create stillness and peace. Let me know if you are someone who meditates and what it brings to your life’s journey.

For further information about New Roads Treatment Center, contact info@NewRoadsTreatmentCenter.com.

Conflict – Healthy conflict can be constructive in setting boundaries

At a recent meeting I attended there was a very insightful speaker. When it was time for sharing amongst the group the topic chosen was conflict. Specifically, do you avoid conflict or do you engage in conflict? We discussed the effects of each. If you look at the dictionary definition: ‘a disagreement or clash between ideas, principles or people’ then you may realize that this is part of life. Conflict serves a purpose which is to discuss differing views which is necessary in many situations.
When we discussed conflict avoidance there were many examples of how avoiding conflict is very harmful. In the instance of having a loved one struggling with addiction confronting a situation while the person is high on drugs, it can actually become dangerous. Yet in many cases where we are avoiding conflict, we are actually not affectively creating boundaries within our homes or lives. If you have a child who is bringing friends over that are using drugs and you don’t confront the situation, it could get really out of hand. You could become liable for things they are doing, it could create a bad example for other siblings in the house, you could begin to find things missing, and the list is endless. The conflict of confronting the situation could be very uncomfortable but the outcome of having healthy boundaries and rules to be followed is so important.

 

On the other hand, there are some people who welcome conflict, even search out or create conflict. This can create a combustible situation with rippling effects. Many times when a situation gets out of hand, it isn’t that something does not need to be addressed, but how it is addressed. Coming together in a level headed way when both parties are able to listen and discuss is obviously critical.
I know from my own experience that when I put off standing up for something that I know needs to be addressed for fear of conflict, I always found that once I took action it worked out one way or another. I find that I am more aware of when I am hesitant and realize that it is disrespectful to me and others if I don’t take care of something that needs to be said. Conflict can be healthy when approached in a positive, open manner.

Transforming the heartache of being the parent of an addict or alcoholic

Spiritual Practice Aids RecoverySeveral years ago, I read a book called Sacred Moments, Daily Meditations on the Virtues.  The back of the book describes it better than I can:  “The virtues such as honesty, generosity, love, discernment and trust dwell inside all of us.  They are our link with the Divine, the best parts of our character and the highest qualities of our humanity….The virtues help us to know who we are and what we can be.”

This book was given to me by a mom student in the anatomy class I took recently.  She mentioned to the class that her young son had been killed several years ago by a drunk driver riding his bike home from a Little League game.

This ethereal mom walked a walk of tremendous grace, compassion and humanity.  There was not a bitter bone in her body over her son’s loss; instead, she continues to dedicate her energy to transforming sorrow into strength, pain into growth, and fear into trust.  She teaches a Virtues class every six months to introduce the concepts to our community, but she lives and breathes the virtues with every step.

When I am tempted to throw a Pity Party for the missteps and damage done along the way (courtesy of drugs and alcohol), I will reflect on this brave mom, do my best to follow in her footsteps, and spin straw into gold.

My Way or the ‘High’ Way – Understanding many paths along your journey

I sometimes forget that not everyone has had the challenges of a loved one struggling with addiction. At times I have the experience of hearing or reading about a parent who let their kids do something – like drink alcohol at home or drink while on vacation because they were in a country where that is acceptable. I quickly throw out judgment about this – ‘How could they do this? Isn’t it obvious that this is a bad decision for their child?’ and a lot of other opinions. While I may have a different perspective based on my journey, it does not make my way the only way. And not every teen that drinks before they are of legal age is going to become addicted. Yet knowing what I know now, I feel compelled to share the statistics and warnings just as if it were a pack of cigarette with the surgeon general’s warning. When I feel compelled to impart knowledge and information in an attempt to educate, I need to realize that this needs to be done in a way that is not passing judgment. I also need to realize that once I impart the knowledge, it may not make a difference. At that point, I need to let it go.
This is not always easy to do. While thinking of this post, I was reflecting on how my initial reactions can be harsh and judgmental. Yet when I take a moment and think about another person’s perspective and realize that I am just one perspective that may or may not relate to the other person, I then have to step back. I was discussing a situation like this with a friend and she mentioned that while it’s not good for teens to drink alcohol, many of them do and not everyone will become alcohol dependent. While I still have this drive to keep every teen safe from the potential of addiction, I cannot judge others and think that my way is the only way. For today I will continue compassionately and lovingly educating teens and their parents when an opportunity arises but I will do so without judgment.

Another Form of Letting Go – Grieving for lhe loss of life as I thought it should be

man worrying sqWhen my son went into his first rehab, he seemed very humbled, open and honest about his drug addiction. I was having a hard time accepting any of it and was puzzled as to how this happened. Though I knew he needed help, and I got him to the rehab facility, I was very ignorant about the disease.
Every Saturday, for 7 weeks, my husband and I would drive 3 hours one way to attend “family day”. This is where the rehab facility invited loved ones in for an open session to impart stories of hope and recognition of recovery. It was maybe the 3rd session and a speaker shared how his glands under his tongue would water and his mouth would quiver just looking at a liquor store sign. All other mental faculties were hijacked to the thoughts of pulling into the parking lot of the liquor store. It’s hard to imagine. But I somehow knew he spoke the truth.
Towards the end of that session I began to sob. I could not stop. In fact, my will to not make a “scene” made my uncontrollable tears flow faster! If the guest speaker had such trouble with involuntary thoughts and physical changes, how would my son stay clean? I did not know and could not articulate why I was so overwhelmed with grief that one Saturday.
After finding Al-Anon and learning as much as I could, I came to understand that I was probably sobbing for the loss of how I thought life was supposed to be. By grieving, I was beginning to let go and surrender to new ideas of how to live life when alcoholism/addiction is in the family.

Staking your claim as the parent of an addict or alcoholic

Reflections on Motherhood and a child with AddictionMy friend’s brother is an alcoholic but he doesn’t want to “prove it” by going to an AA meeting.  That tacit admission would be too hard for him to bear even thought he admits that he has lost his job and his home and his driver’s license because of repeated DUIs and jail stints.  I am not judging him.  I cannot say that I would do better or differently under the circumstances.  I just don’t see how you can get better if you don’t admit you are ill. That would be like fighting cancer without chemo or fixing a broken bone without a splint.

When I heard my son announce in an AA meeting, “I am an alcoholic and an addict,” it took my breath away.  At first, it saddened me immensely:  I wanted him to be on the debate team, to crew a racing scull, to help build homes with Habitat for Humanity.  AA was not the club I wanted him to join.

But at the same time, I was immensely proud that he claimed membership in this group that I know to be committed and brave and march on while the siren song of addiction calls out to them. This is a fellowship of people who dig deep to understand their powerlessness and to seek the help they need.  There is tremendous empathy and mutual support within the walls of an AA meeting.

My son’s proclamation also compelled me to admit, “I am the mother of an alcoholic and an addict.”  I never imagined that I would claim membership in this club.  But there is strength and honesty in this proclamation that helps me get better, too.

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff – Letting go to move forward

How often have we heard the saying ‘don’t sweat the small stuff?’ It reminds me that there is a follow on saying ‘…and it’s all small stuff.’ I know I can get wrapped up on either stressing or obsessing on things that are truly not worth the energy that I give it. I have to catch myself at times and reel myself back in to get perspective. I realize that what is important to me may not be important to others. I also know that I need to voice my concerns or expectations to those important to me because they certainly can’t read my mind.  And it’s probably just as well that they can’t, by the way…boy would that get me into trouble on some days. In this journey of examining my co-dependent behavior I’ve learned that not only did I sweat the small stuff but I also stewed about it in a very quiet and covert way.
I must choose how I want to approach situations that may frustrate me and realize that I have a choice. Do I want to stew and obsess? Or do I want to either deal with it or let it go? I know the healthy answer is to either deal with what is bothering me by addressing it with those involved or simply let it go. Many times when I really look at it, I realize it is not worth the extra effort, that it truly is the ‘small stuff.’ In these cases learning to let go is such a powerful act that can alleviate me of further angst. Letting go can give me back time to live in peace and joy rather than frustration. For today I chose to let go of the small stuff and move forward in healthy and productive ways.

Vehicles of destruction – Drinking and driving don’t mix

748020_22613557 car wreckI am grateful that we did not experience our sons having a car accident that included serious injury or death to them or others. Against all odds! An alcohol-related motor vehicle crash kills someone every 33 minutes and injures someone every 2 minutes.  (Source: California Dept of Alcohol and Drug Programs)

During the high school years, one car was completely totaled. The deer ran across the road story.  Later, cars became the vehicle of their progressive usage. The automobile made it easier for drug purchases and independence to pursue illegal activity. No, they were not going on that job interview like they said! Of course, the car can become the place of residence for some. The convenience of it, and ALL provided for them.

Car Insurance costs were very expensive and it took a while for us to focus on that, THEN realize we could control some of it, at least our part in it. There is a lot of information about the true implications of the law regarding driving and underage children and what you can do.

I don’t know what got me thinking about this, maybe hearing others share their horror stories.  Although I, my husband and our sons have thus far made it unscathed, we have personally seen the results of vehicle destruction in our family. My nephew was killed in a single car accident; my sister was hit head-on and suffered greatly from broken femurs and amputations – there are no winners in this. Alcohol, drugs and vehicles — a collision course, indeed!

The Attitude of Gratitude – Finding peace and contentment

How will I chose to live today? Looking at the glass half full or half empty? Seeing the possibilities or the roadblocks? Finding the joy or the sorrow? I have a tendency to be an eternal optimist, but sometimes I find myself slipping into a mode that is all too easy to be critical. At these times it seems I find fault in others whether I know them or not. Why is this person driving so slowly? Only to find out they are about to turn.  Or a more drastic situation – why is that person taking so long to stand up and get moving only to find they recently had a hip replacement.  Wow – do these circumstances humble me. I realize so many things about myself. First, why can’t I just go with the flow? I have worked hard on this over the years and find myself in the flow more often than not. But when I’m not I seem to be taking a sharp detour to a place of negativity that drags me down.
I know that when I am in an attitude of gratitude, no matter how big or how small, that is when life is good. I feel happy, joyous and free to live in the moment with all that it has to offer. When I am open to the flow, I have a tendency to see things I may not even have noticed before. I have realized on certain occasions that I drive by the same streets and then one day I see that a whole new building has sprung up. Why didn’t I recognize this before? It is most likely because I was thinking about all the things that were going to happen instead of enjoying the surroundings. Lately I have tried to look around while I’m out on a walk, and just soak in the amazing place where I live. When I chose to live in an attitude of gratitude I feel peaceful and content and life is good.