Free from Worry – Regain control of yourself in order to help your addicted child

StressSomeone mentioned recently what a big smile I had.  I responded, ‘Yes, I have a lot to smile about…’  Then I thought about how that wasn’t always the case.  There were many days and weeks that would go by with no sign of a smile.  This was during the depths of the dark time with my child’s struggle with addiction.  I was consumed with worry and obsession about her well-being.  I did not find joy in anything, even when there were good things going, because my heart ached with despair.  But as I reflect, over time that changed.  As I got healthier and realized that I was not in control of the outcome of another person’s life, I began to regain my own.  I went from reacting to the day to day crisis to being proactive and in control of my boundaries and my time.  This began to give me peace of mind, serenity and sanity.

It’s hard to imagine that you can be happy if your child is not happy.  But it is possible to disconnect from the sinking ship that is their addiction and swim to shore.  Once I started to get perspective and take care of myself, I realized that if I got stronger and healthier I could be in a better position to help my daughter.  It is like the airlines when the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first then help your child.  It is the best analogy, how can you save them when you are suffocating yourself?  As parents we love our children so much that we would do anything to save them from harm.  But the very act of helping a loved one in addiction can, sometimes, have the opposite effect and help keep them in their addiction.  I am glad that I am smiling today.    I have a lot to smile about…my family is in a good place, my daughter is clean and sober. I am grateful for the happiness that I have and I know that just for today I will enjoy and feel grateful.

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

How can you adjust to keep positive?


Looking at 2017 through a drug-free window…you might be surprised

bright closeup picture of magic twinkles on female handsThis is a guest post from John Perry, co-founder of Clean & Sober Recovery Services in Orangevale, California.

What could 2017 look like without alcohol or other drugs? Let me count the ways…

No more harm to self or others. Fewer fights. No more trips to the pawn shop to retrieve family jewelry. Fewer trips to the ER. Fewer trips to jail, the courthouse or prison. Fewer car accidents, or accidents in general. No more covering up to Grandma, Grandpa and friends. Less self-hatred. Less sorrow and disappointment. Fewer broken marriages. Fewer lost jobs. Fewer disability claims. Less domestic violence.  Less child abuse. Fewer secrets.

More confidence. More joy. Healthier, happier marriages and families. More honesty. More love. More success at work or school. Healthier bodies and better mental health. More energy. More introspection and insight. More patience. More happiness. More serenity. Improved finances. Wiser decisions at work and at home. More opportunities. Stronger marriages. Better parenting. More presence at holidays, birthdays, graduations. More showing up for life. More future to embrace.

Treatment works.  Make 2017 your year, and claim the gifts of recovery.    


Disruptive addiction – keeping sane when things implode

I was reminded recently of how difficult it can be when you have an addict in the house. In this case it is a young adult coming back home for a few days. As parents we want to see our kids even if they are wreaking havoc in our home. We hope that maybe next time will be different. We set boundaries and make our expectations clear. We start to forget how stressful it was the last time and how we will do what we can to keep things even keel. Yet when you have an addict in the family it is always unpredictable as to what may set them off. One moment you are enjoying your family and the next something happens and the anger and verbal abuse comes flying out. Suddenly your happy home becomes a place where you fear for what will happen next.

It’s been a long while since this has happened in my house. But I don’t have to think too hard to remember when it did and how incredibly stressful it was. It was the proverbial walking on eggshells always wanting to make sure that something didn’t get said or done that would set off a negative chain of events. I learned the hard way that I really didn’t need to take the abuse and that when I started setting boundaries and sticking to them (the hard part!) that slowly things started to change. An addict is very much like a two year old throwing a tantrum, if you let them get away with it then it will just keep happening again and again. Stay strong in setting and holding your boundaries to protect yourself and your family. This will help you to reclaim the peace and serenity in your household that you deserve to have every day.

Jane’s Journal: a new baseline for happiness

Jan'es JournalGuest blogger Jane is sharing her experience with us in “Jane’s Journal.” We embrace her insights and offer support to her and to all parents of beloved, chemically-dependent children.

While our son’s brain and body go through his first formal detox and rehab, my husband and I are also going through some fairly painful changes.  Our son’s brain and body miss the opiates.  Ours miss the relative ease and comfort of thinking our child is healthy, strong and productive.  As a previous blogger accurately related, it is a kind of family death, where you mourn the passing of the person you believed your child to be, hoped they would become.  Because the more you read, the more meetings you attend, and the further into this new world you go, the more it truly becomes like a death with not much in the way of statistics to comfort you.  But here’s what happened to us about 6 weeks in.

You come up with ways to keep functioning without constantly thinking, thinking, thinking.  You see the bright side, because your child could be dead, could be unreachable, could be anyplace with anyone and very unsafe.  If you have the resources to throw at the problem, you realize how lucky you are to have them.  If you have other children who have escaped for now, you thank god.

And then you stop waking up and wishing the nightmare was over.  You stop crying 3 or more times a day and instead cry only once. You learn who you can talk to, share with, and trust.  And you are eternally grateful for each and every one.  You also learn mind games and tricks to keep you focused on the positive.  When I feel my dark thoughts starting to spiral downward, I yank them back up by forcing my eyes to focus on the farthest thing in line of sight while aiming my most thoughts at that object.  Silly, but it works.  Brain re-wiring is not just for addicts.

Eventually you appreciate the days and moments with no bad news.  You become more resilient and learn that you must sleep, eat and exercise to keep healthy, if for no other reason than to set a good example to your child for what’s possible.  Even if he can’t see you and know of your efforts, you imagine he can feel them.  And you make lists of things you can do that prove that you’re actually still part of the human race, the good stuff– like going to movies (comedies, please), and gardening.  And you try to actually do them when you feel able.  But if you’re older parents like us, you also try to nap and recover the sleep lost at night.

Sure, you well up when you see that photo from their pre-addiction days, but now you can almost imagine your child going forward– a survivor—with a new sense of wonder, happiness and health.  All it takes is a lot of personalized practice and a day or two without bad news.  And this becomes your new baseline for happiness.

It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year — Maybe

It’s holiday time, a season of both promise and peril.  For a while there, we never knew who would show up at our holiday dinner table. The good son or his evil twin?  And how do you react to, and prepare for, your child, sober or not?

You can ignore your child’s bizarre or irresponsible behavior, rather than poke a stick in the hornet’s nest.  Quite simply, it is so much easier to walk away than provoke their anger or cause a scene.  In the meantime, the rest of the family bears the burden of their irresponsibility, especially the “good” siblings who often have to clean up the addict’s mess.  I remember getting angry at my sober son for not intervening when his sibling was veering out of control.  How fair was that??  So the “good” kid is bears the blame for a sibling’s irresponsible behavior, while the addict skates off scot-free.

Your family events may hang in limbo because you never know who will show up for the holiday dinner or other celebration.  Will it be the delightful daughter or the snarling son?  The success of the gathering hangs in the balance, hinging on a single person’s ability to throw everything out of whack.

You might remain vigilant and keep an explanation in your back pocket to explain your child’s absence or foul mood.  “He’s got the flu” or “She got called into work at the last minute.”  Saving face requires a Herculean effort. We all pay a price for these exhausting balancing acts and charades. They deplete us while protecting the addict from the consequence of their poor choices.

There is no easy answer.  Maintaining your balance while walking on eggshells (and becoming crazy along the way) or revealing to others that you are struggling with a serious problem can throw the entire family out of whack, if not destroy the day entirely.  But there are some preemptive strikes you can take.  Check out Carole Bennett’s great advice at “It’s the Holidays- Are Your Boundaries with the Alcoholic/Addict Wrapped Up Tight?” And here’s hoping you’re your holidays are happy and healthy for all.

Spiritual Relief from the Anguish of loving an addict/alcoholic son or daughter

I attended a 2 day taping of Echart Tolle TV in Mill Valley. It was like a spiritual injection and renewal of positive inner thinking very similar to my Al-Anon Program of recovery. Interestingly, someone asked Eckart how to reconcile a perceived conflict they had from his spiritual teachings (the power within us) to the concept of a “Higher Power.” That God, which they came to understand through their own 12-Step Program recovery of Alcoholics Anonymous, seemed to be something bigger, higher and outside of them – “up there somewhere.” His response was perfect: the term “Higher Power” is just a language pointer. We have no language that adequately defines this. “Try using INNER POWER instead,” he suggested.

It got me to thinking about my own attempt to get my mind around the Higher Power concept. Al-Anon’s 12- Steps, adapted from Alcoholics Anonymous, were simply something on poster boards to alert me that my sons would need to pay attention to that so they could get better. I never considered that it would have anything to do with me. Once I realized my part in the illness – the family disease of drug and alcohol addiction, I wanted relief from the anguish and worry. I slowly realized it would take work. I made the decision to obtain a sponsor and I had to work my own 12-Step program of recovery. Until I accepted where I was, I disregarded the concept of turning anything over to a power greater than myself. Why do I need to bother with any of this? I’m not the one with the problem!

The 12-step recovery program through Al-Anon family groups was exactly what I needed. I slowly became willing and embraced the necessary steps for a spiritual awakening. I was using “pointers” in the language of recovery. I heard and casually picked up the term, Higher Power, which came from the people in the program, not the program itself. There are several references in the steps that point to a Power, greater than ourselves and to a God, as we understood Him, the latter was up to me to figure out. There is no wrong way. It was evident Echart made no judgment. He simply offered an alternative language to the term “Higher Power” which to him is “Inner Power.” It is faith that this Power, whatever words you use to describe, that restores us to sanity.

The New Normal – One that holds happiness, joy, freedom and serenity

In the normal course of events I suppose every parent will worry about their young adults moving out, moving on and learning to be independent, young contributors in the world.

How’s it look in the abnormal course of events?  Seeing your child make choices that lead to increasing incidents of serious trouble and consequences is unbearable to face. This causes abnormal responses from the people who love them. Having a child with chemical dependency is not the norm. And the lifestyle that comes from chemical dependency goes against every moral fabric of character. Living in fear is not normal. Being disrespected, lied to or taken advantage of is not normal. Living in anguish and worry is not normal. Spending every conscience moment thinking, strategizing or anticipating the next move of your child is not normal. Questioning your own values, questioning your own parenting skills, questioning decisions you made early in their development – or, wising for do-overs is not normal. I did this and it’s just plain crazy!  But I did not know another way. This turmoil is not only frightening, but very isolating and lonely.

I’ve since learned about the family disease – how it slowly permeates your fiber of being. The lifestyle of negativity became my new normal. Hope that there is help seemed unobtainable or just not possible, hopeless and helpless. After repeated attempts to fix the problem, some of us hit a wall. Sometimes the wall is an event that “shakes us up.” For me it was the physical ramifications of living in a state of combat, fighting for what was clearly being taken: my child.  Such experiences included what medical professionals call “stress related disorders.” You need to remove some of the stress in your life! Oh that? OK – how? My only idea was to fix the addiction, that was the problem.  Thus, my life would be stress free! But this wasn’t working out so well.

In Al-Anon I learn my terminal uniqueness is relatable to others with similar circumstances – they shared the same thoughts, actions and responses that I had! We are introduced to a concept that removes our old way of thinking and shown how we can make decisions that change our circumstances. The solution is not what we thought it would be, and another form of normalcy is introduced – Photo of three women with smiles.. Then again, what is normal anyway?

The Quest for Serenity

It seems in life that we all want to find serenity at some level. Whether it is for a moment or whether we are striving for a day of serenity or a life of serenity. I think I took the feeling of serenity for granted before I found myself trapped in the craziness of the disease of addiction with my loved one. It was almost like waking up one day and feeling like I was in some sort of crazy dream nothing short of a nightmare. Where do I turn? How do I get out? Will this dizzy feeling ever stop? It reminded me of the kids program from when I was growing up where they suddenly exasperated ‘Help Mr. Wizard!!’ Only in my dream there was no Mr. Wizard it was my reality.

How did I regain my serenity or even pieces of it at first? I began by citing the serenity prayer in my mind to try to replace the obsessive thoughts of my daughter – ‘God, Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can and the wisdom to know the difference.’ This helped to calm my mind and my nerves during stressful times. Then I moved on to creating boundaries around my day and activities. I made sure I took care of my priorities and didn’t let someone else’s crisis become my own. I lovingly let my daughter know that she was responsible for the consequences of her actions, not me. Eventually, little by little, I regained the sanity that then lead to serenity. I don’t take my serenity for granted anymore and I know when I am getting off track that I need to stay centered on what’s important and how I take care of myself.

Having a united front when your child is an addict or alcoholic

My 3 SunzThis is an “encore” post from My3Sunz

I doubt my husband and I carried a united front when problems started escalating in our family unit as a result of the drug use, abuse and addiction.    I can relate to stories of families that split apart due to strong opposing opinions, broken dreams, anger and frustration in the relationships.   Blame starts to take on a life of its own.

It seemed in my home, I was at times hesitant to bring attention, make a scene or confront the problem head on.  Then again, I was the one who was in the home, seeing the problems, finding the paraphernalia, answering the calls from teachers, neighbors or other parents.   It was if I was either in denial or tackling the issues head on.   But I don’t recall a shared vision of the seriousness of the problems in the beginning.  My husband would discipline if necessary (wait till your father gets home syndrome), go pick up the pieces of a totaled car, post bail or “man-handle” the recalcitrant teenager.  But he was also sensitive to my reactions and had growing concerns about his family.  At other times he would begin to lecture me on my parenting skills (in round about ways) and I would begin to resent his absence in the daily trauma-drama.  Those were the most difficult times in our relationship and it was a miracle we made it through.   But we did.  And it wasn’t because we are so clever or lucky.  We sought counseling and committed ourselves to get the help we needed and learn how to support our children whether in recovery or not.

Today we are united in what we will and will not allow (boundaries) when it comes to our own serenity and livelihood as a husband and wife, parents and as individuals.  We can discuss our feelings and concerns with issues that continue to challenge us and we are able to find a mutual ground before making a decision.  We have respect and accept each other’s opinions, even though we may not agree.   In a sense, we are now acting in a loving and kind way and we no longer have to lecture blame or scold. We have been through some troubling times like all the parents whose children fall prey to addiction.  We have also had amazing joy and happiness.  Not knowing what the future will bring, we can appreciate our life today and find solace that we may not have been united: we did the best we could with what we knew at the time.