Monthly Archives: January 2017

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Are you traveling in the wrong direction? Turn around.

Time to claim victory over addiction? Not so fast…

It is such an interesting time when certain recovery milestones begin to occur.  In the early days of my daughter’s recovery, I would put on such a celebration at the 30 day chip, the 60 day chip, the 90 day chip, the.…Well, you get the picture.  I would put such fanfare on these early recoveries because I wanted all the hope that came with it – you would have thought I was the one getting the chip.  It is easy to look back on this and, while I think it’s great to celebrate the milestones of recovery, we also need to keep it in perspective.  Nevertheless, as the years accumulate in her recovery I’m not sure I would be any less proud if she’d just gotten her college diploma!  It’s been a long journey, and it did not come easily.

Is it time to claim victory over addiction?  I hardly think so, but it is time to celebrate and sit back and relish the healing and recovery.  She has become responsible: performing well in her job, paying her bills, making good choices.  These are all wonderful things to celebrate.  Yet I know how illusive addiction can be – it’s like cancer, it’s in remission, healing has taken place and a clean bill of health is declared.  Yet, it can reoccur when unmanaged, turning life upside down in a moment.  I do not dwell on this possibility, for today I will rejoice in my daughter’s recovery and the healing that has taken place in our family.

Parents of addicts/alcoholics: Fix yourself first

We learn how to parent from the way we were parented, for better and for worse.  If you grew up in a family where alcohol or other mood-altering substances played a starring role, you might have learned to keep the boat on an even keel by patching things up or smoothing things over.  Or maybe you looked the other way or simply retreated from the family drama and trauma.  Either way, those methods of coping can spill over from one generation to the next and influence the way we raise our own children.

How do you approach your child’s drinking and drugging?  If you are a “fixer,” you probably shelter the rest of the family from the errant child.  You carry the burden of his or her mistakes.   You enlist the siblings to clean up the messes, or you might even displace the blame onto the “good” siblings.  You keep your spouse in the dark about the missing money or jewelry.  You devote all your time and energy to making things right.

As you soldier on, you are inadvertently keeping the chemically-dependent child from assuming responsibility for poor choices.  As the Al-Anon “Open Letter from the Alcoholic” says,  “Don’t let your love and anxiety for me lead you into doing what I ought to do for myself. If you assume my responsibilities, you make my failure to assume them permanent. My sense of guilt will be increased, and you will feel resentful.” You will also be completely exhausted because you are singlehandedly trying to fix the unfixable:  only the addict/alcoholic can fix himself or herself.

Your job, then, is to fix yourself. To acknowledge that you cannot make your loved one better.  To work on understanding what compels you to keep trying to fix your child.  That quest will bring you wisdom and self-awareness that enriches your life in untold ways.  Your job is to take care of yourself. To treat yourself—to a moment of quiet contemplation in a park, to a meal with your spouse uninterrupted by crisis phone calls, to an evening of laughter with friends. To treat yourself well and, at the same time, give your child a reason to change.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Can you be happy when things aren’t perfect?

Truth be Told, Parent of Addict to Parent of Addict, Self to Self

A friend introduced me to someone whose teenagers turned into addicts but now older, are doing well. “His story has great hope for others”, my friend said.   Well, I thought, I’m always open to talking to others who share a language close to my own.

What I found was a man still deeply moved by the turmoil and anguish he experienced as if it were yesterday. In actuality it was 6 years ago.  I was not surprised by this.  I don’t believe you ever get over the events of having a child struggle with addiction; you learn to live with it. 

We immediately related to each other’s experience: the missing checks, the bank statement confirming the dreaded truth; the full blown lying, arrests, rehabs and relapses.  How college funds were replaced with otherworldly things:  pawn shops, psychological counseling, sober living, wilderness programs and such.  What I found was a man not unlike myself.  We both learned that survival would take a change in how we parent.  He did this with counseling and outside help.  I related to that too.  I don’t believe you can do this alone.

It’s true, his kids, now in their mid twenties, are doing better today.  He even sees mental maturing and critical thinking skills that drugs took away from their developing brains.  I sensed his recent financial support for both had left some doubt in his mind.  Though it felt different this time, he expressed concern in certain “behaviors” and our eyes said “possible co-dependent thinking.” 

Here we both shared an unspoken truth – their future lies in their ability and desire to fight for sobriety, not our wanting them to be sober.  We have little to no influence in this.  If they are OK today, well that’s nice.

We have grown an outer layer of defense about how one day can change to the next.  We won’t allow obsessive thoughts to ponder the “what ifs.”  And we always need to moderate our urges to help:  Will it hurt our new relationship?  Do I have expectations?  Am I trying to control or manipulate?  Did they ask for help, or am I jumping in where I don’t belong?

Mad Libs revisited for parents of addicts and alcoholics

I’ve heard yet again that a friend’s child is in jail for burglary.  She had been stealing from the neighbors to pay for her heroin. The story is so painfully familiar that it reminds me of the fill-in-the-blanks booklets called “Mad Libs” that my kids used to love when young.

Each Mad Lib involves a story that you customize to make “yours.”  I’ve given you some options so you can create your own version of the young person’s substance abuse saga.  Or feel free to improvise; God knows there is certainly enough raw material out there to claim. Here we go:

”My son/daughter is now in rehab/jail/prison/the hospital/the morgue for shoplifting/burglary/armed robbery/an overdose/drunk driving.  This is the first/second/third/felony/overdose/car accident.

I can’t believe that this is happening to me/my family/our child.  He/she was a great kid/much loved child/honest, joyous person/good student. I had no idea that marijuana was addictive/teens are shooting heroin//alcohol kills kids.  How can this happen to us!? Drug addiction/alcoholism only happens to negligent parents/bad kids/sociopaths/anyone but my child.”

At the end of the day,  millions of American families can tell the same sad story. It’s ironic how the stories sound pretty much the same, with only some minor variations. And  it’s not funny at all that more Americans died last year from drugs or alcohol than from car accidents.

Wouldn’t it be great if we could close the book on those sad tales by helping our children understand what is at stake with that first drug or drink??

Treatment for addiction or alcoholism? Things to consider

5820 Chestnut Ave Orangevale-small-003-21-003-666x444-72dpiWhat do  you look for in a rehab?  One treatment center we like is Clean & Sober Recovery Services, a co-ed cognitive behavioral residential residential treatment center near Sacramento, California.  Clean & Sober Recovery Service’s recovery model is based on the “bio psycho social” system of care.  “The biological element is the physical healing of brain and body through detox and nutrition,“  explains co-owner John Perry.  “The psychological element focuses on understanding the self—what drives one to use and abuse. The social element of recovery involves developing the skills to maintain sobriety while returning to the outside world.”

Residents of the treatment center attend 12-step meetings in the local community, which means they have a broad base of sober support after graduation.

Clean & Sober Recovery Services offers more than 40 hours per week of one-on-one and group counseling with certified drug and alcohol counselors, education and structured activities. Residents wake up at 7 AM for morning meditation, followed by exercise, proper hygiene and housekeeping responsibilities like making their beds and keeping the home tidy.  “These are important life skills that can be lost along the way,” explains co-owner Chris Wright.  

A focus on recovery for the family is essential.  Chris explains, “The family often thinks, ‘If my loved one just quits drinking, we will all be fine.’ But the entire family needs help with the disease of addiction.  If we don’t give the family tools and guidance about how to act and react, we are sending the addict/alcoholic back into an environment that doesn’t support recovery. Family support is an important part of our solution.  We start the communication to repair the family unit. We help families develop a family contract to prepare everyone for reunification.  Our family groups meet twice a week, offering education and support. And families can take advantage of 12 weeks of free aftercare after their loved ones ‘graduate’ from the program.”

Clean & Sober Recovery Services is a co-ed facility that can serve up to 8 women and 16 men ages 18 and up. The facility is staffed 24 by 7.  Clients sign a contract at intake stating that they will not pursue relationships in rehab. As John explains, “If we are looking to remove drugs and alcohol from our lives, we cannot replace that with another person. Focusing on the immediate gratification of a relationship distracts clients from working on their chemical dependency issues.  At the same time, life is co-ed, and we need to learn to get back into the mainstream of life. And since addicts and alcoholics tend to become reclusive, having a co-ed facility helps people reintegrate back into society.”

Clean and Sober Recovery Service’s  program includes 12 weeks of aftercare for both client and family, and they accept insurance. Prospective clients and their families are always welcome to tour the facility. Call co-owners John Perry and Chris Wright at 916 990-0190.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

How do you express gratitude, the greatest of virtues?

Where should a child live after yet another relapse?

Community coming togetherThese words of wisdom are inspired by Christy Crandall, author of Lost and Found

If your daughter (or son) relapses and asks to come home, it might seems like you are helping her if you say “Yes.” But you may really be enabling her to continue a destructive lifestyle. If she is serious about working a program of recovery, then she will find a sober living center and abide by the rules of that sober community.

While I know this sounds harsh and it is hard to think of your daughter as being possibly homeless, she has to take responsibility for her choices to continue drinking and using drugs. She needs to be more committed to her recovery than you are.

Every county has an access number to get help to those who are suffering from mental illness, substance abuse, homelessness.  Give this number to her, and tell her you will support her as long as she is actively involved in a program. What that support looks like should be up to you, not to her.  If you make it contingent upon her seeking recovery (i.e., going to treatment, living in sober living, etc.) , then you are supporting her in a healthy way.

And consider going to an Al-Anon meeting, specifically one for parents who have kids  struggling with chemical dependency. This will help you make good decisions for yourself and your daughter as you travel on this difficult journey.  Most of all, do not despair. There are 23 million Americans in long-term recovery, and your daughter can be one of them.

Transforming addiction and alcoholism into spiritual growth

This is an “encore” post from Eliza

I’ve been reading 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.  She mentioned to her classmates that her young son had been killed several years ago by a drunk driver while 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, I will reflect on this brave mom, do my best to follow in her footsteps, and spin straw into gold.