Monthly Archives: February 2015

The Struggle to Say No – Setting healthy boundaries

One of the challenges that I face now that my daughter is in recovery and living responsibly is my desire to help. The problem is that part of her healthy recovery is learning to take full responsibility for her life. It is so easy for me to rationalize in my mind ‘She’s doing so well, she deserves the help’ or ‘If I don’t help and she struggles, won’t that hurt her recovery and possibly drive her back towards her addiction?’ I could go on and on with various examples. The point is that while it’s only natural to help our loved ones, it has to be weighed carefully with how it will actually ‘hurt’ them instead of ‘help’ them. Struggling with this actually makes me sad. I think of growing up in a family where we helped each other, it was just what we did. If I needed a little boost after college and in the working world, my Mom would often be there to help me through a rough patch or to reach a goal I was striving for. It didn’t come with lots of angst about what I might do with the money or if I would take a step back in growing into adulthood.

While I can ruminate all I want about this, the reality of the situation is that I am not my Mom and my daughter is not me. She is in recovery from addiction and I am a struggling co-dependent – our boundaries can go from healthy to dysfunctional in a very short cycle. The positive thing is that I am completely aware of this dynamic. I stop and think about what I am doing and question what is best, not only for my daughter, but also me. Will this help her in her journey to become a self-sufficient adult or will this hinder that very goal? The other positive aspect is that I can openly talk to her about it. Part of our respective recoveries is having the ability to deal with situations as they arise. It is a blessing to be authentic and open in any relationship, and I cherish this with my daughter.

Picking up the Pieces – Taking care of everyone in the family

Sometimes I wonder if setbacks are there to test the resolve of all of those involved. When our loved ones relapse into their addiction, it is an opportunity for us to go through our part in all of this. Overtime I have grown and changed so I respond different now than I would have before. After you go through multiple relapses with your loved one you sometimes start to feel just a little less devastated than you did at the beginning. I believe part of this is sheer exhaustion from the situation, but another part is the personal growth that comes to us as we travel alongside our loved ones on this journey.

Many people think that it’s all about the person with the addiction. And many times entire families become obsessed and focused on the one struggling with the addiction. But there is so much more to look at when you go through a time like this. I had to consider my progress…was I still enabling? Was I letting go of trying to control my daughter and let her live her life on her terms? Was I living my life and moving forward or was I stuck? Was I paying attention to the other important people in my life…my son, my husband? How was I coping and taking care of myself so that I could take care of my family? These are the questions that I needed to ask myself and be critical with my answers. I’ve found that it isn’t all about the loved one with addiction – it’s about the whole family and I need to continually take stock of how we were all doing and how I could best support everyone in our collective journey.

Out of my mind – Back in five minutes

My Mind can be dangerous. All of a sudden, I’m enveloped in doubt and self-centered thinking. A slight comment, no response, snippy, or quiet behavior from a loved one and I immediately think it’s about me. Something I’ve done, something I did not do – a misinterpretation, maybe I said something offensive, rude or worse, I let them down. Before Al-Anon, my mind was often out “ there .”

In recovery, I began to accept my powerlessness over the addict and that transitioned to powerlessness over other people. Powerless, but not helpless, I do have the ability to break through my mental wall! There is a calming sense of relief if I lean into the fear. I say fear because I’m afraid of the unknown, being hurt, hearing truth, embarrassment, humility, or scenes created. To lean into the fear, I face the opposition (my mind) and address my concern with the help of my Al-Anon program and friends in recovery. Taking the offense, I have options and relief. Doing nothing only fuels doubt and self-deprecating behavior. Offense action points 1-5:

  1.  Call my Sponsor
  2. Turn it over to my Higher Power and ask for guidance
  3. Think good thoughts / pray for them
  4. Reach out and be prepared to LISTEN. THINK. WAIT. I’ve been thinking about you and wanted to say helloYou seem quietAre we OK? I sensed a problem when we discussed “x”.
  5. Amends

Rarely am I the cause of the concern I observed, so offense action points 1 – 4 will relieve me of uncertainty. I’m reminded that people have ups and downs. In the past, I took accountability for other people’s emotional well-being and behavior. That did not work so well. Sometimes I was blamed. It’s easy to blame someone else for the lousy way I feel – been there done that!

Whoops! I’m not perfect! In fact, I am quite capable of hurting another person with words or actions. Knowing that I have done this and not addressing it, will only fuel my unease about myself.  In recovery, I’m committed to being the best that I can be.  I can review my inventory, and recognize if I was acting respectfully, kind and loving. If not, my offense action includes point 5: amends.

Another trip over the rainbow – spiritual lessons from the Wizard of Oz

Each day I work on my spiritual health. I do it by quiet meditation (practice practice practice) and daily readings of affirmations. There are immeasurable ways to practice, but these area few examples. Today, I discovered another book of daily reading I’d like to add to my collection: The Tao of Now by Josh Baran. Before I share how I discovered this, I’m compelled to give you a little history.

I once wrote about the metaphor of the Wizard of Oz and my experience in Al-Anon. I had a chance to catch the last part of the movie after many years of not seeing it. When my kids were little, my youngest son would watch this movie over and over and over again. Well 20 years later I’m watching the tail end through Al-Anon eyes. I had shared my sentiments of the Scarecrow who I related to when in my disease of codependency, a result of having addict/alcoholics in my life.  The Scarecrow was pretty miffed at Glinda, the good witch. It was when she came floating in via her bubble and explains to Dorothy that she had the power all along and could always get home. The scarecrow wanted to know why she didn’t divulge this information sooner, like when she landed in Oz. Glinda, the persona of all that is good, explains “she had to learn it herself”.  Al-Anon is teaching me that I can’t do for or advise others, especially my sons, how to get on in life without danger, fear, and adventure. I can’t substitute experience that accompanies learning even when I think it will help. I have to act like Glinda – loving and patient, ready when called on.

Today, I’m riding in my car and listening to a portion of a repeat of Oprah talks “soul series’ with author Josh Baran about his book The Tao of Now. Oprah shares with him her belief that the Wizard of Oz is the most spiritual movie ever made and the most profound statement being the quote from Glinda “you had the power all along”.

I decided this must be a sign; I definitely will be getting this book! To hear the Oprah ‘Soul Series’ interview of Josh Baran, click here.

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 as my daughter worked through her recovery from addiction, 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 with my daughter. 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.
It was easier to work on my part while my daughter was away at a rehab that was not in close proximity to where I lived. It helped that we didn’t talk often. I had my rehabilitation to work on and she had hers. My process in this journey was to become aware of how I was enabling her and others and to see how I could go about changing this. It is difficult to sort out but I was determined. When I did have conversations with my daughter on the phone she would usually ask for various things and typically I would be agreeable even when I didn’t want to. But as I got stronger in my conviction to not be a part of enabling her addiction, I slowly found myself saying ‘no’ or ‘I’ll think about it’. These were small steps but slowly our relationship began to shift.

Prison for Addicts?

This blog post is reprinted with permission from Bradley V. DeHaven, author and activist on the epidemic abuse of prescription drugs. He contributes with heartfelt expertise for Parent Pathway using his personal experience, strength and hope. For more information, this and other posts on addiction issues, visit his website,

As you know, I went undercover to bust a dealer to keep my son from prison. I didn’t believe then, and I still don’t believe now, that prison is the place for addicts. Murderers, yes. Even dealers, yes. Addicts? Addicts do illegal acts to feed their addiction. Like dealing, smuggling drugs into prison, prostitution, robbing liquor stores, etc. but it is all because they are addicts, so it’s a fine line.

Like my son, Michael Douglas’ son Cameron was busted for dealing (Cameron was dealing meth), and is an opiate addict. He just got more time added to his sentence for successfully having drugs smuggled into the minimum security prison where he was serving his term.

It’s not so strange that a drug addict would risk everything to get more drugs. He is an addict! He needs treatment for his addiction, which one source I read said they were holding him until after his testimony against a drug cartel. How does this make sense?

The Huffington Post, which is outwardly pro-drug decriminalization, featured an opinion piece written by a former addict who spent 12 years(of a 15 to life sentence)in a NY Prison for a first time non-violent drug offense. He, not surprisingly, writes that drug addiction is a medical problem, not a criminal offense.

I think addicts need professional treatment or nothing will change.

I have a whole mess of questions, and not a whole lot of definitive answers.

What do you think? Prison for drug addicts? I want to hear persuasive arguments.


To Judge or Not to Judge – when does passing judgment makes sense?

I have made a point of working hard to let go of judgment of other people. It is not easy. And sometimes judgment is good when you have to make certain decisions. For instance, if you are deciding whether to do business with someone, you need to make sure they are ethical and trustworthy. This requires understanding how this person behaves and passing judgment about that behavior. That is a reasonable type of judgment that we all must engage in. So when does judgment become unreasonable? Since my daughter is in recovery and is very mindful about whom she spends her time with, she must make assessments about whether someone is healthy for her to be around.
The other day she was mentioning someone who she connected with that had been someone she partied with a few years back before seeking recovery. I was instantly questioning her, ‘are you sure you should be talking to this person?’, ‘what if you are around them and they decide to use drugs?’  My questions came spewing out. Then I caught myself and realized I was not ‘minding my own business.’ It was still difficult for me to refrain from chiming in with a few words of caution. But I realized that I was projecting all of my fears to her. I then told her that who she connected with, hung out with was her decisions, not mine. Who am I to judge these young people? I have hopes that my daughter is not judged and prejudiced due to her past. I have hopes that she will be given a fair opportunity to show the responsible young woman she has become. I know I will continue to work on my judgment of others and be optimistic that others will not judge when it comes to me and my loved ones.

Spiritual relief – accepting I am not in control is not enough

The family affected by alcoholism and addiction have trauma beyond measure. It’s the bleak outcome we know could happen. Unnatural obsession with strategy to fix the lives of my sons was 24/7. And if I wasn’t future tripping, I was playing reruns of “should haves.” I became overly involved in their lives, and this drive and conviction in the end nearly killed me.

Now, if I notice behavior that I believe is harmful, concerning, in opposition to what I’d expected, my reaction is much different. I may be deeply saddened and concerned. I may be frightened of perceived outcomes. But I accept I have no control over what they do. That’s not enough to help me through the fear or grief, though! I need a Power greater than myself that can keep me sane and give me confidence to do the next indicated thing.

By turning it over to the care of my Higher Power, my fears, worries or inability to stop fretting are released. I get relief and I’m able to give myself love and tolerance to accept that this is stressful and I need to take it easy.

I ask for His will for me and His help for me to do the next right thing.  I ask for His help for me to be the mother that He would have me be.  I ask for His spiritual relief.  I say the Serenity Prayer as I dial up my Sponsor! I am reminded that it is His will not mine. I’m no longer by myself and alone in life’s daily challenges that once seemed insurmountable.

Once a Co-Dependent Always a Codependent?

I have to ponder this question – will I always be a co-dependent? What prompted this you might ask.  My kids are now grown and on their own. Even my daughter who struggled with addiction is living responsibly which is very gratifying. I have worked hard along this journey to examine my co-dependent behaviors. It has been an intense learning process since in the beginning when she went to her first rehab I didn’t even know what it meant to be co-dependent. Lo and behold I later found out I was the poster child for co-dependent behaviors.  And that my enabling ways were not only hurting my daughter’s ability to move out of her addiction, it was stunting my ability to live an unburdened life. What is Co-dependency and what does it look like? Co-dependency is defined by wikipedia as ‘..unhealthy love and a tendency to behave in overly passive or excessively caretaking ways that negatively impact one’s relationships and quality of life.’ What it looked like for me was that I was so busy compensating for anyone having a bad feeling or experience that I was not minding my own life and well-being. It has been an incredible time of personal self discovery where I have been learning and growing through the understanding of codependency and what part it plays in my life. Awareness was the first leg of the journey and I am making progress along the way.
Yet I had an interesting experience. Recently it was a lazy Sunday at home with my husband and our two dogs. It’s rainy and cold, unusual for May but welcomed nonetheless. I happened to notice our chocolate Labrador was sleeping on his designated spot. Usually in the morning she is rambunctious bringing toys and wanting to play. So I asked my husband, ‘do you think the dog is okay? She seems sad.’ He commented that maybe even she is enjoying the rain and lazy day. I then had this thought about how it troubled me to think the dog was sad and how co-dependent that was. Have I transferred my co-dependent behaviors from my kids to, dare I say, my dogs? Yikes! Just when I thought I was cured, I have that uneasy feeling of wanting to make sure everyone is okay even when there is really nothing to worry about in the first place. The good news is that I recognized this instantly – awareness is a big part of keeping in check with unwanted behaviors. It’s only natural to love our pets and to want what’s best for them – I’m not minimizing this. And not too long after that moment she was up and playing. But I did feel compelled to share this interesting observation and to realize that keeping vigilant about our actions, intentions and then progress is half the battle to free ourselves from our co-dependent ways!

Bullying, trauma, teen addiction and alcoholism

1179314_28920035 angry boyA recent study conducted at The Ohio State Universitey examined over 78,000 middle and high school students from 16 school districts in a large metropolitan area and found a clear link between involvement in bullying and substance abuse.. The study showed that anyone who was involved in bullying – either as the bully or the bullied – showed a higher rate of alcohol abuse, marijuana use and cigarettes.

Bullying hurts a kid’s self esteem. So does divorce, zits, being shorter, fatter, slower, dumber or more of an egghead than the other kids, particularly in middle high school.  Kids who have the genetic predisposition to chemical dependency are in the cross hairs of addiction when they experience the relief that a drink or pill can deliver.  “For the first time in my life, I felt like I always wanted to feel” is a common refrain among kids who became addicts. Their brains – deficient in specific neurotransmitters – found a physiological completion in drugs or alcohol while it relieved their emotional pain and trauma. That state of reward and relief, in one out of ten kids who try drugs or alcohol, lays the foundation for addiction or alcoholism.

As ParentPathway Expert Ricki Townsend points out, chemical dependency is a complex disease resulting from environment plus genetics: “I see a genetic element 80% of the time, and the environmental element of trauma 100% of the time,” she reports. Understanding the precursers to addiction gives parents more tools to prevent it from developing in the first place.  As we know, it’s easier to prevent a fire than to put one out.