Monthly Archives: July 2014

Be Concerned but not Consumed

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 we all recognized that it is unproductive and unhealthy. It causes stress and clouds our thinking when we need to have clarity and focus. We also recognized that we are parents who love our children very much.  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 and realize that we are concerned with the situation. We can continue to seek help for ourselves, support our children in healthy ways, 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.

Ask the Expert: I am my son’s biggest enabler. How can I change?

chainsYour question: Our son has a real problem and he’s physically deteriorating. He’s 24 and is currently staying with me, his biggest enabler. We have tried so many approaches, I’m exhausted and depressed.

He’s so addicted to opiates. Finally he  has a job which will be his excuse of not getting sober. He thinks he can be a working addict. I am his biggest enabler; he’s currently living with me. His mother and I have talked about an intervention ????  He needs to get out of town.

Photo of Ricki TownsendAnswer from Expert Ricki Townsend:  You and I have spoken by phone, and I hope your son has received the help he so clearly needs and deserves.  But that won’t fully solve your problem because we cannot ever want recovery more than our loved ones want it.  When we want it more than they do, it consumes us. When we pursue their recovery more than they do, it cripples us and it cripples them.

Our beloved addicts and alcoholics are in fear whenever recovery is mentioned.  Even when their lives are falling apart, they just cannot seem to see a life without drugs/alcohol.  As we see so often, yes they can keep work going, and family life keeps moving ahead, often painfully.  BUT, eventually it all falls away.  We cannot save them or keep this from happening.  What we can do is take care of ourselves.

It is healthy that you recognize you are an enabler.  What you can do is take care of yourself and learn how to stop making it possible for your son to remain an addict.  There are therapeutic centers that can help you change.  One that I recommend is The Bridge in Kentucky, an excellent facility that helps clients learn how to let go of the unhealthy you  so they can let go of someone — anyone– who does not want to help themselves.

I wish you well and hope you take the steps to be present in your life for you, as much as you have been for your son.


Finding the quiet moments – trading stress for 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 an elusive foe. 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 as if I am leaving them behind. While this sometimes may only result in serenity while 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 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, our mood and our 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.

Sunday Inspiration

heart tree“One word
Frees us of all the weight and pain of life:
That word is love.”


Powerless and yet, empowered as the parent of an addict or alcoholic

A Dad’s Road to Recovery

The month’s Guest Blogger, A Dad’s Road to Recovery, features a 3-part  series.  This is Part 3.

Each time my son was arrested, jailed, and released, I had to remember what the rooms of Al-Anon had taught me. I had to hold my son accountable for his actions and not try to rescue him for that was the only way he could learn what addiction was doing to him. It was difficult but not impossible to file a police report each time and watch the felonies stack up. I knew my actions were going to alter his life and take his freedom away but I knew in my own heart it was what had to be done. I learned to accept the concept of letting go after about 6 months in the program. As a father it was difficult to accept the fact I could not fix him and when that acceptance occurred – the doors of my recovery began for the first time to swing open. It was this event that provided me with the motivation to seek out a sponsor and work the steps. When you work the steps it puts you in a whole new dimension and you begin to develop a new thought process. You realize that the only real power you have is over yourself. When I truly understood that I was able to get out of my son’s way and allow him the honor and dignity to determine his own destiny, I knew the hope I had in my heart might lead my son down a different path someday and into his own recovery. But I must stay out of his way – which I continue to do to this day.

Will this ever end? I don’t really know. Only my higher power knows and only my son’s higher power can get him clean. I do know that as long as I have this program, show up to as many meetings as I can, continue to work the steps, and give back via service, I have a shot at not letting all the insanity of the past make me an inferior person. I use the Alanon program to keep my head on straight and get the most I can out of life so that I may enjoy the future.


Trust Your Instincts to Help your Loved Ones

teenager contemplating futureIt has taken time and practice but I have learned to trust my instincts. I find that when I don’t trust my instincts, I can find myself regretful in the end. Sometimes it is very clear when you have an instinct that something is not right and then sometimes 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 cloud your thinking by wanting to 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 drug and alcohol use becomes a problem there were many signals and instincts that we have yet we don’t want it to be true. In retrospect, we find we should be facing all of these signals and instincts with every tool or action that we have. 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.

Detachment – forgiveness – hope for the future as parents of an addict

A Dad’s Road to Recovery

Guest Blogger, A Dad’s Road to Recovery, features a 3-part Series: Part 2:

My wife and I asked our son to leave our house over a year and a half ago and while being homeless he figured out a way to break into my house – overriding the alarm system to get what he wanted. Addicts can be very resourceful in finding ways to get what they want. After each episode of being violated I would pray to my higher power and turn over my situation over to him as the only thing I could do was file that police report [again] and continue on with my life. I learned over time not to be angry or resentful towards my son and in fact I learned how to forgive him. Why? Because that’s what addicts do – they steal, lie, and use drugs. I acknowledge my sponsors effort to show me the true value of forgiveness. When I learned how to forgive, the expectations went away and I began to have hope for the future and a recovering son. To this day I still have hope for the future, I am not angry nor am I frustrated or sad about the past.

Lessons in the cunning, baffling and progressive nature of my sons’ addiction

A Dad’s Road to Recovery

The month’s Guest Blogger, A Dad’s Road to Recovery, features a 3-part series.   This is Part 1.

My journey through Al-Anon has taught me ways to deal with the repetitive actions of my 23 year-old son’s insistence to use heroin and commit crimes in order to get high and support his habit. I learned in step one that I was indeed powerless and that no action I could produce could turn my son into a normal person. Recently I completed all twelve steps with my sponsor and I became more knowledgeable on what it took to take care of me. My son got arrested four times in the past five weeks only to be released from jail a few days later as the jails are overcrowded. The cycle consisted of him getting released on his own recognizance and then a few days later he would get arrested again for similar crimes. His crimes ranged from possession of drugs, theft, burglary, and forgery. About a year ago while being homeless he went through a similar episode of drug use, theft, and forgery and spent 7 months in the County jail. I will say the jail time gave him time to think about his situation, attend 12 step meetings while in jail, and when he got out accumulated an additional 3 months of clean time. He attended about 90 Narcotics Anonymous meetings in 90 days. His road to recovery was beginning and then was shattered as quick as it began. It was after that the relapse of drug use and the crimes stated above occurred again.  Part 2 of this series will be posted on December 23.

The 4 M’s of Relapse – Keeping ourselves focused under duress

Choices in RelationshipsToday I learned something that is a very handy tool during the trials and tribulations of a relapse of a loved one struggling with addiction. My friend told me about the ‘4 M’s of Relapse’. When your child relapses you don’t do the following; mother, manipulate, martyr or money. This is excellent advice yet not at all easy to do. Let’s look at the first M – mother. When my daughter would relapse the first thing I would want to do is ‘mother’ her by jumping in to take care of her, ease the pain, work on solutions and try to ‘make it all better’. But mothering is hurtful because it alleviates the loved one from feeling the consequences of their action which inadvertently keeps them in their addiction. Next is manipulate. Even with the best of intentions, manipulation is a way of trying to control our loved one. We take on the behaviors of the very ones we are trying to save through our manipulation. Next is martyr. When a relapse occurs many of us go into the ‘woe is me’ syndrome – how could she do this to me? Doesn’t she understand how stressed I am and how hard this is on the family? The list goes on, but being a martyr does nothing but turn us into a helpless victim. And the last, money. It is a natural response for us as parents to want to reach for our wallets and solve problems. We need to think about any money we are considering to bail out our loved one and what message it is sending and how it may dis-empower them to take responsibility for their actions.

The 4 M’s are a great tool to consider under duress. When we get the crisis call that our kid has relapsed and we begin to hear the wreckage that has ensued we can use the 4 M’s as a way to keep focused on being supportive but not begin problem solving or taking on the responsibilities. I know that when I’m concerned or worried I don’t always think clearly, but keeping this simple thought in the forefront will help to keep my actions in check.

Sunday Inspiration

Letting Go“Forgiveness has nothing to do with absolving a criminal of his crime. It has everything to do with relieving oneself of the burden of being a victim–letting go of the pain and transforming oneself from victim to survivor.”

C.R. Strahan