Addiction and alcoholism: a dark room were negatives are developed

1431793_97522247 resentmentIt’s been said resentments are the dark rooms where negatives are developed. This conjures up a great deal of truth about resentments – all negative. For me, it always came when my sons did not do what I expected and when it really mattered. I usually had a financial or emotional investment in the action I was anticipating. Commonly defined as an emotional feeling resulting from fear or imagined wrong doing, resentments always kept me hostage to negativity; anger, sadness, frustration, contempt, tension.

As I work through the resentments I have harvested with regards to the family disease, I can see where my obsession with the addicts in my life was consuming me and thwarting any possibility of joy and happiness. Depending on other people for things that really mattered to me was the driving force behind my resentments. Since my perspective was disproportionately misdirected, it was as if THEY were held in higher standards than where I held myself.  And my self worth was predicated on them…no wonder I spent so much time trying to control…

It’s been said the amount of time you spend thinking about something should be in this proportion: God first, me second, them 3rd! My understanding of resentments has come full circle, and though I do not find myself having these emotional feelings as much anymore, they are not far surfacing when life happens to throw a curve ball. The difference today is I have a better support system to help me accept what is going on. I have choices in how I react to it.

Try exploring how the expectations we have for our loved ones can set us up for happiness or sorrow in our Meetings in A Box: Expectations.  You may discover your own dark room were negatives are developed.  You may begin to ask what really matters.


Ask the Expert: How do you cope when your child has relapsed yet again?

man worrying sqQuestion:  How do you cope when your addict son has come out of rehab for the fifth time so time and begun using again… i was so hopeful and….it went to shit again , im sooo tired.  His 2nd child is due in 2 weeks …I know he is overwhelmed , having  no means to support his kids, his girlfriend would like to be his wife…he’s getting numb to not feel the pain and frustration—I’m on the outside looking in.. I’m scared nervous…sad and upset…. can someone help me….

 Brad DeHavenAnswer from Expert Bradley DeHaven: One of the most difficult aspects of addiction is relapse. We get this false sense of security when we are so hopeful of recovery. Sometimes relapse is a necessary evil. The proverbial one  step back in hopes of the giant leap forward. Having no idea what treatment you have tried, I would say that 99% of those I have interviewed that had treatment for under a month failed. They need to purge, reveal and regret and better understand the triggers and how to FEEL!!  Feel everything from good to bad, from hot to cold. They have lead a life numb to feeling and I find this is key!!

Addiction is so very individual, and successful treatment for one addict may yield failure in another. Sometimes they just need to get tired of life as an addict. Also, the environment they live in needs to support  treatment and change to facilitate ongoing sobriety. Addiction is a landmine the addict has stepped on, but we family members take the shrapnel hit. The addict needs to understand and feel our pain, not just theirs. I wish you the best in a terrible situation.

Bradley DeHaven

Photo of Ricki TownsendAnswer from Expert Ricki Townsend:  ”I wish I had a magic wand” is what I say so many times to families.  I don’t, and neither do you.  The answer is very simple.  How do we cope???  We must take care of ourselves.

Al-Anon or addiction therapists help you take care of yourself and understand your relationship with the addict.   We must look at our part: Are we giving money? Are we giving a place to sleep?   Yes, your son may be overwhelmed, but he has the choice of coming in from the cold, or from merely looking in from the cold. He —  and only he —  can make this decision.  If he wants help, he must pull himself into the doorway and say. “Help me cross over the threshold.”  Only then can any of us support our beloved addicts.  They need to want recovery more than we do.

I am so sorry there are just no easy answers.  I can see the pain in your last sentence, so please get support for yoselfu.  When a family makes the change, sometimes the addicts do, too.


Fighting An Uphill Battle – Letting Go and Moving On

I’m getting fed up with news magazines and talk show hosts poking fun at people with health concerns and chronic diseases, like addiction. How many more times are we going to be subject to Lindsey Lohan jokes and ridicule? Wasn’t the Charlie Sheen exhibition sad enough? You don’t see anyone laughing at Michael J. Fox’s stuttering or shakes – no! But his disease comes with society compassion and understanding. Addiction is a disease too but the general popular opinion has not been as caring.

I get frustrated with people whose ignorance about addiction and recovery causes them to judge, jury and sentence others who struggle. People who don’t believe in the power of recovery and the ability to overcome and change are often the loudest opponent for any support or reform. People who are so stringent in their own beliefs, they are unwilling to change themselves.

Then I remember my humble beginnings. I once held beliefs and opinions that had no sound basis. I judged others too. The difference between then and now is my own experience with adversity and a desire to stop being fed up. I made a decision to change – and if the people around me had tried to force solutions and answers down my throat I would have resisted to the end. I’m reminded that I can only share my experience, and let people have a right to their own opinion. I have to stop taking it personally and Let Go and Let God.

Will he get treatment and recovery because I want him to?

A strange thing happened when my sons became teenagers.  My influence and power over them was weak and I did not know it.  There were incidences that woke me from my ignorance and denial.  For example, the time I wanted so badly for him to get into a drug rehabilitation facility and get fixed.  Not 30 days had past when the relapse call came from the facility owner.  He attempted to explain the complexity of addiction, and suggested my son would need additional time – to me the translation was more dollars and the amount was shocking.  I was frustrated because “relapse” was as simple as breaking the house rules at my expense!  Didn’t he get it?  I needed my son to take this seriously and he wasn’t.  There was much resentment in this dance.  The 2nd incident was… and the third incident was…and so it went over and over.  Me?  I was expecting a different result.

An odd thing happened when I surrendered and accepted that I had little influence and no power over my sons or anyone else for that matter.  A New Year rang in with some serious consequences from the actions taken by my loved ones to support their addiction.  By now I had learned a great deal about disease, the family disease and my relation in it.   I embraced the year with an open mind.  I felt fear and sadness and a true sense of powerlessness.  Powerless but not helpless, I was able to face whatever adversity that presented itself and there were plenty yet to be revealed.  My old thinking and actions were of little use to me anymore.  The fear was not paralyzing.  This time I had faith and belief in a Power, greater than me.

I do not know where life will lead my son, but one thing is certain: his recovery is something he will have to want with an urge and desire all of his own making, independent of me.  And each New Year reminds me that I have choices in my actions of loving someone whose disease is powerful, terrible, deadly and progressive.  This disease also has another side:  Recovery, growth, spirituality, human-kindness, vulnerability, love, gratitude and honesty – will he chose it?  Not because I want him to.

My Love Can Not Save My Loved Ones

In desperation about my inability to stop my young son’s substance abuse, my efforts to stop them were intensified. I was doing the same things but now with a blind urgency. If I was laying down consequences, this time I would yell at them in frustration. If I suspected they were lying, now I would investigate and carry on surveillance. My further concerns about my own health prompted me to contact the rehabilitation department of Kaiser Permanente. I had actually visited their rehab center months before. Back then I was “interviewing them” to determine if their 12 Step Recovery program was “good enough” for my son. He never went, but in a moment of clarity I remembered being there and I called them back and desperately asked “do you have anything for the parents of addicts?” In fact they did – a 6 month Co-dependent (CODA) program. I soon learned that their program had been nationally recognized. One of their requirements of enrollment was to attend a 12-step program such as Al-Anon or Nar-Anon, twice a week. This gave credibility to the 12 step programs which I had heard about before and completely dismissed as something the “addicts” needed, not me. It took a while to realize my love could not save the ones I love. There were other hard lessons such as financial ruin as these young adults chasing their next fix would put us at risk for lawsuits and such. I had to admit that what I’d been doing over and over, each time expecting different results, was insanity. I had to let go of my notion that I could control it! My love for them was making my life unmanageable as I tried to save them, hanging on tightly. I was also learning about codependency and why people said alcoholism and drug addiction is a family disease. This was a milestone – a big changing point for me. Today I do things and think about things differently. A complete change in my life direction, one that I am very fortunate to have found.  Finding people who work in addiction and related fields and being embraced by those who give service to help others find a better way to live whether the addict is using or not continues to work in my life today.