Monthly Archives: July 2015

Getting over the grief of your child’s addiction or alcoholism

Spiritual Practice Aids RecoveryDiscovering that your child is dependent upon drugs or alcohol is like discovering that your child has cancer. It’s mind-numbing, yet demands action and answers. What are pain pills?Addicted to pot – is that even possible?  Heroin – you’re kidding, right?? What are the treatment options? What the heck is addiction or alcoholism, anyway? So many questions, so few easy answers.

And somewhere along the way, you will find that you need to grieve: for your child’s lost innocence, for the torment and fear you experience, for your collective lost dreams. Grieving, essential to your recovery, can take many forms:

  • Work through your grief with a counselor who will help you understand y our losses and deal with them in a healthy and constructive way.
  • Grief can feel suffocating. A good exercise to release grief is to take a very deep breath, hold it tightly and then release it slowly. You will feel your body calm down.
  • It is also therapeutic to cry in the shower or yell in the car or smash pillows with a tennis racquet – anything physical to vent your sorrow, your anger, your disappointment.
  • You might also want to write a letter to whatever is running your life – addiction, fear, remorse – and tell it that you are taking back your life. You can also write down your sorrows and regrets and burn them in a fireplace or “burning bowl.” The important thing is to symbolically purge your “if only’s” so that you can free yourself to live more in the moment. 
  • There are also some great books that will help support recovery. Check out The Grief Recovery Handbook by John W. James and Russell Friedman or The Precious Present by Spencer Johnson. One day at a time, or even one moment at a time, you will learn to put your pain in its proper place. It will lose its power over you, and you will discover that you can survive your child’s addiction or alcoholism. 

Ask the Expert: Should we continue to pay for our son’s methadone?

301883_8582 mother daughter walking on beachYOUR QUESTION: Our son is not using on the street and goes to a methadone clinic every day for his dose. For years we have spent all our money trying to get him to completely stop and are broke. Are we wrong to stop helping him with money? He works but doesn’t make enough. It’s at least $11.00 a day at the clinic. He feels he is not an addict because he goes to a clinic. I am so messed up on when to help or not to help.

Photo of Christy CrandellEXPERT CHRISTY CRANDELL: Is he getting counseling at the clinic? If so, ask to attend his next session with him so you can get some of your questions answered. Methadone can be a successful replacement therapy when used with counseling and tapered over time. Does your son seem to be moving forward with his life? Do you feel like you are working harder on his recovery than he is? The answers to those questions are a good indicator if you should continue to offer your support. In addition, I would recommend you find an Al-Anon meeting in your area where you can find additional support for yourself.

Best regards – Christy Crandell, Founder of Full Circle Treatment Center

Photo of Ricki TownsendEXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND: Your question is one I get asked often by clients, and my response is usually very simple: this is about you. How do you feel about paying out of your own pocket for Methadone? Have you googled what professionals think about Methadone, what it does and how it works? This information may help you make your own decisions about spending any more money on an addiction.

You may decide that you no longer want to spend your hard-earned money on his Methadone. If so, please communicate to him in a very short letter why you will be discontinuing this payment. Remind him in a respectful way that you have supported this approach so far, but now you are finished paying for it. If your son wants to continue relying on Methadone, then allow him his free will, and he can figure how to get it, such as with another part-time job. Otherwise, he will have to find a way to detox from it. I personally would want to give him two weeks to 30 days to take action and be free of your Methadone support.

Remember, in Al-Anon we learn that we didn’t cause, can’t control and can’t cure this disease. It is up to him.

Blessings – Ricki Townsend, Board Certified Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, NCAC1, CAS, RAS, BRI-1

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

parallel path of recovery from addiction and co-dependency“It is important that we forgive ourselves for making mistakes. We need to learn from our errors and move on.”
- Steve Maraboli

Do you want to be happy? Then go right ahead!

Photo of three women with smiles.Have you ever caught yourself whining and complaining about them…you know who they are – the ones whose drug and alcohol use is bothering you. The friends of your loved one who just don’t understand or will encourage further destructive behavior. Or relatives & friends who contact you to lay down judgment, offer advice or expect you to do something. This can fuel your bad opinion of yourself already, no? Honestly, the list goes on and on and the scenarios are as varied as DNA. But the whining and complaining remains constant. It’s been described as the “his disease” – he won’t do this and he does that and he said this and he said that. If he’d just stop, get a job; get up in the morning…on and on. I too, fall victim to this self-deprecating behavior. Being a member of the Al-Anon Family Groups, obtaining a sponsor and working the steps has helped me see that the effort and energy spent on THEM, to no avail, might better be served helping me. And I hear it in many ways repeatedly:

  • Stay in your hula hoop
  • Mind your own business
  • Keep the focus on yourself
  • Would you rather be happy or right?
  • Are you seeing the disease or the person?
  • Forgive or relive
  • Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.
  • You can be happy or you can be miserable, same work.

And a new one to my favorite collection:

  • Do you want to be happy? Then go right ahead!


Why do addicts and alcoholics want to leave rehab?

The lips are moving - watch the behavior!About three weeks into rehab, your loved ones may want to leave.  That’s because the numbness of substance abuse has worn off, and they are looking at their lives through less bleary eyes, relatively speaking. And they don’t like what they see, so they blame it all on the rehab (or on you). But their recovery is a work in progress, and you need to be shooting for the gold standard of a 90-day stay in rehab, where the statistics for sustained sobriety are in their favor. So steel yourself to hear some of these reasons for wanting to leave rehab:

  • The people here are losers.
  • My roommates are much worse off than me.
  • I can fix myself without this place.
  • I wasn’t serious before but now I am.
  • I really wasn’t that bad off.
  • The rehab just wants your money.
  • I’m wasting my time here; I need to get back to school/work/life.
  • I don’t like the people here.
  • The people here don’t like me.
  • We don’t do anything here.
  • The counselors are mean/stupid/don’t understand me.
  • The beds are uncomfortable.
  • It’s too much work.
  • It’s not enough work.
  • I wasn’t that bad off before…Really!
  • I know what I need to do now.
  • I don’t like that God stuff in the 12 steps.
  • AA is for losers.
  • Rehab is for weak people, so I don’t need it.
  • The food sucks.

This is just a sampling of the reasons your loved one may toss your way. Forewarned is fore-armed!  So what should you say when you hear one of these complaints? You could say “Oh” or  “Hmmm.” You could say, “I’m sure you can work it out with your counselor.”  You might say, “We will support you in recovery, and this is the place where we will support you.”  You could say, “I love you, and this is the place where you can get healthy.” You could say “No,” which is a complete sentence all by itself.

Whatever you do, don’t help them leave. Don’t pick them up, drive them to their old home or drive them to your home. Circle the wagons with your family, and agree that you all need to stay the course. Don’t offer any alternatives to rehab, or they’ll be back at Square One.  And so will you.

Baby steps towards recovery for parents of addicts or alcoholics

Man on pier - squareDiscovering you have a chemically-dependent child is overwhelming.  And if he or she is committed to recovery, there are big changes on the horizon for both of you.  But where to begin?  You can start by nibbling away at any co-dependent behaviors that have transformed your child’s problems into your problems. Here are some steps you can take:

  • When you find yourself obsessing about your son or daughter, use that as a cue to switch gears.  Call into action a mantra like the Serenity Prayer. Treat yourself to a coffee, some flowers, a phone call with a friend or a movie.  Read a chapter from an inspirational website or book.
  • Develop and practice a repertoire of expressions that you can use when your child hammers at you for solutions.  In the past, you probably would have leaped into action to fix his or her problems; now, you can simply say, “Hmmm” or “I’ll have to think about that and get back to you” or “Oh” or “I’m sure you can figure that out.” Even “No” is a complete sentence.
  • Start every day with the intention of finding joy, positivity and appreciation.  And every night, write down three things you are grateful for in a gratitude journal.  This will help you switch gears from loss to thankfulness.
  • Finally, Julie “Brain Lady” Anderson writes about the ways that positive thinking can boost your immune system.  If you can change the way you think, then you’ll be healthier inside and out.  And you’ll be fortified for the challenges that a child’s substance use disorder creates for you and your family.

These tiny steps add up, one by one, day by day.  At some point, you’ll be able to look back and see the progress you have made towards reclaiming your equilibrium.  Hopefully, your beloved and chemically-dependent child will be able to do the same.


Ask the Expert: How can I support family members who are dealing with a child’s addiction?

Family DiseaseYOUR QUESTION: I just learned that my 37-year-old niece has been caught using drugs. I would like to know how I can support my sister-in-law, who is devastated. I don’t want to intrude, but I want her to know I am here for her. I don’t want to say the wrong things. Any suggestions for what I should or shouldn’t do or say?

Photo of Ricki TownsendEXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND: Your question reminds me of my own life when my own niece was on drugs a few years ago. I went to my sister and respectfully said, “I am here to support you. How can I support you?” Use the I messages, such as “I am concerned about you and want to support you in whatever way you need,” rather than “You should be doing this or doing that”. Be a good listener. Really try to hear how she is doing, and then respect and honor whatever she says. Maybe she wants phone support a few times a week, or maybe she wants some company at an Al-Anon meeting. Or maybe she just wants to be alone with her feelings. I know it is really tough to just stand by, but sometimes our family and friends need their space. If she says she wants no support, then I would encourage you to respect this, and find some Al-Anon meetings you can attend to learn about the disease of addiction. That way, when she is ready for help, you will have the tools and knowledge to support her. The best way to be a loving sister-in-law is to be with her wherever she is and to be empathetic to the feelings she has, no matter what they might be.

Photo of Christy CrandellEXPERT CHRISTY CRANDEL: “How fortunate for your sister in law to have such a loving and concerned family member. My best advice would be to just walk beside her without judgment and let her know you are there for her whether she wants to talk or just go to a movie and forget about it. It could be just the beginning of a long journey. You can also offer to attend an Al-Anon meeting with her if she feels like that would be something that would help her. She is lucky to have you in her life!”

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

1267396_90532399 muddy hill“Life seems sometimes like nothing more than a series of losses, from beginning to end. That’s the given. How you respond to those losses, what you make of what’s left, that’s the part you have to make up as you go.”
-Katharine Weber

Ask the Expert: He’s a good kid with a bad criminal record…should I keep him out of college?

making the right decisions in recovery from substance abuseMy son is 20 years old and is in his sophomore year in college and I have come to learn today that he is an addict. He is a study in contradictions…graduated with honors from high school and arrested for felony drug charges. Starting quarterback of the high school football team the in jail for probation violations. When he went off to college 2 years ago he had an academic scholarship, a spot on the college football team, a car, a driver’ license and now he has lost it all. He got 2 DUI’s and is back in jail for smoking marijuana while on probation. As far as I know he does not do any other “hard” drugs but his treatment counselor and his probation officer are recommending long-term residential (12 months!) treatment. My heart would break to have to send him off and be able to see him for months. Do you think this kind of treatment would be best? He has a 3.0 GPA in college and I would hate to see him get off track with his education.

Photo of Christy CrandellEXPERT CHRISTY CRANDELL:

Sounds like a great kid with a very serious problem. My own son was given the same recommendation for inpatient treatment when I had him assessed at age 17 for a drug problem. Unfortunately, I didn’t take the advice and he ended up in prison for 13 years for crimes committed while trying to get more money to get more drugs – something I could never imagine he would do.

I know you are worried about his college completion but he is already off track with the choices he has been making in the last two years. The fact that he continued to use marijuana after having the DUI’s and being on probation is indicative of level of his addiction. Please listen to his treatment counselor as his life could depend on it.

Learn all you can about the disease of addiction and find some support for yourself as you begin this very difficult journey. A local Al-Anon group is a good place to start. Above all, do not despair – many people live an abundant life in recovery!

Photo of Ricki TownsendEXPERT RICKI TOWNSEND:

Thank you for submitting your questions. I know this is a difficult time and the decision you are asked to make seems impossible.

After reading over your question, I agree with exactly what has been recommended for him, and nothing less. He has already shown you he cannot continue in school. Failing more will only be a negative experience for him. His self esteem is already low, with all that he is going through. His whole life is ahead of him. Give him a chance to heal and get back on track, joining so many others who have gone back to school later in life and found great success.

Most importantly, taking a critical year off to get healthy will not derail his academics, but addiction will.

Your son’s accomplishments muddy the water and make it hard to see that he is already in deep trouble. First of all, you mentioned “hard drugs.” With two DUIs, he is already on the drug that is most likely –statistically- to kill him. And he may be on other drugs besides pot and alcohol: as one father said in a meeting, “If you think your child is on one drug, think again, and throw everything else in the mix. If f you think it’s only been a couple of years of substance abuse, then add about four more to that.” I could not have stated this better myself.

Two DUIs by the age of 20? And then you add that he is willing to risk jail for pot? Your son sounds like he is in the throes of addiction. Please remember addiction is a brain disease, a disease that is chemically driven by mood-altering substances including drugs and alcohol. He needs serious help.

For your son to change, you need to change, too. I encourage you to do two things.

1. See an addiction counselor or other therapist to help you work through our own fear, grief and pain.

2. Start going to a “parents” Al-Anon meeting to get ongoing support. There you will learn what other families are doing to help them through this difficult time.

Again, thank you for submitting your question, which will help other families who find themselves in a similar situation.

Recovering from a child’s addiction: it’s an inside job

mirror on the wallOf all the people in the world, I expected that my sister would best understand the hell our family went through during my son’s active addiction. After all, I poured my heart out to her, shared grim news, and cried on her shoulder for years. Of course, she “got it, “ didn’t she??

Yet one day, when I recounted one particularly difficult and terrifying stretch, she asked me, “Why didn’t you…?” Or maybe she asked, “Did you think of…?” I am not exactly sure what she asked because I was so blindsided by the feelings it evoked in me.

I felt judged. I felt like I had done something stupid or overlooked some obvious solution to that pesky little addiction problem. And yes – part of me was jealous that her has been a relative cakewalk while my family ate s**t sandwiches for the longest stretch.  Or so it seemed:  you would think that I learned from addiction that you never know what’s going on in another’s home, but apparently I hadn’t mastered that life lesson yet.  And I was mad that, in spite of the deepest fears that I shared with her, she seemed unable to see the world through my dark lenses.

What I really wanted to hear from her was, “I am sorry. I know that was a terrifying time for you.” But what I “heard” in her question says so much more about me than about her. It’s not her fault that she didn’t have to walk through my hell, one that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.

Clearly, I still need to work on my own recovery.  I need to take care of myself when I am feeling like a victim of life’s unfairness.  I need to let go of the past and learn to live in the moment. And I need to be aware that an innocent question may appear to be harsh and judgmental and can open a Pandora’s Box of sorrow and pain.

Who has time to fix the addict when I need to work on myself?  Mirror, mirror, on the wall…