Mirror, Mirror on the Wall…Worry doesn’t help after all!

mirror on the wallIt seems that no matter how much time I spend on relieving myself from the chains of co-dependency, I still struggle with worry. Ok, I suppose that means I’m human, that’s good to know! And maybe, just maybe, the biggest gift of all of this self-discovery is the raw awareness of each and every thought and action that I do. Sometimes ‘denial’ does seem like a viable option, yet I know that my life is much better when I live with eyes wide open dealing with the dilemma of the day. Today’s dilemma is that I recognize that I am beginning to worry about future events, also known as ‘future tripping’. For such a fun sounding phrase, it sure does lead to angst.
When my daughter decided to move back to town it was a joyful situation for so many reasons. She was close to 2 years clean and sober, hard-working, and being a responsible young woman. I could go on and on about the positives. Yet in the back of my mind I struggled with all the what ‘ifs’ that could take place. I am a strong believer of ‘what you think about comes about’. So I consciously had to not let my mind wonder and obsess on all the future possibilities. I have developed techniques to ward off those obtrusive thoughts by engaging new thoughts like a song that I find inspirational or quote or prayer. I also discuss my worries and fears with my daughter. I also think about boundaries that need to be respected and discuss them with her so that we are on the same. I also try to remember that things change and I need to look forward. So many blessings and joys have transpired, and I choose to celebrate those along the journey.

Disabling Denial: Reclaiming Life from (and for) an Addicted Child

Perhaps you’ve suspected for some time that something is amiss, but learning the hard truth about a child’s addiction or alcoholism is an absolute sucker punch to the gut.  Maybe that’s why it is so hard to accept that truth.

There are many obstacles to grasping a child’s chemical dependency, with denial in the forefront.  Dictionary.com defines denial as “An assertion that something said, believed, alleged, etc. is false.”  Quite fittingly, the example given is “Despite his denials, we knew he had taken the purse.”   Swap in any number of nouns for purse—pills, money, jewelry—and now you’ve got a story that sounds may sound familiar.

Acknowledging that something was really wrong with my child was too horrific, so I looked the other way, made excuses or simply refused to accept the possibility. Part of me couldn’t understand how my child could be addicted, especially since I had worked hard to be an involved parent, loved each other, had family dinners almost every night, and was very present in my son’s life.  (Maybe too present, come to think).

Once I “got it,” I still couldn’t believe it.  This was my faulty logic: “Drug addicts come from bad families.  We are a good family.  Therefore, my son can’t be an addict.” Toss that logic with a hefty dose of shame and stigma, and you’ve got the perfect storm of denial. But my utter lack of knowledge and information about chemical dependency kept me from understanding that no one is exempt from this common disease that impacts one out of three American  families.

Although I understand that my denial protected me from a horrific realization, I wish that I had been able to break through it much earlier in the game.  Then we would have faced the monster when it was weaker and less entwined in our lives.  If you need help understanding and overriding the coping mechanism that can perpetuate your pain, please check out our Denial Meeting in a Box for some powerful tools.

Denial is the antithesis of knowledge and acceptance

Mental Illness and AddictionSCENARIO: You have received bad news again, either from your son or daughter directly, their employer, landlord, friend, relative, fill-in-the-blanks. This time the emotional roller-coaster is curving through the anger turn. You think, “This is the 6th, 7th, 12th, 100th or another LAST time!” In yet another opportunity to drill into them the PROBLEMS they are creating for themselves, maybe this time you blast them with righteous indignation about the problems they are causing YOU.

ME: “I don’t understand why you do it!”                THEM: “I don’t know why I do it!”

Who’s right? Both! “I just don’t understand why” was often said from my mouth. Yet my actions for many years did not indicate any desire to try and learn about it. Moreover, I did not hear myself when I said the words: I don’t understand – I was preoccupied with WHY. Yet it armed me with ammunition: I don’t understand, therefore I will fight-fight-fight.

In recovery I have learned that understanding is mental action of study which is sometimes measured through aptitude tests and scoring. Acceptance is a spiritual action of study with notable behavioral changes in attitude: serenity, kindness, gratitude and love. The further along I get in my own recovery, the less important “why” becomes. Knowledge has provided me with information – it was the resistance to this information that kept me in denial. Denial is the antithesis of knowledge and acceptance. And the battle of the non-Al-Anon vs. Alcoholic/Addict continues on or maybe, this time, something changes…

 

Avoiding angry irrational outburst with your teen

mom daughter arguing trust distrust angerThe Partnership at DrugFree.Org does an outstanding job promoting resources for parents through various campaigns and there is one in particular I heard on the radio that I just love. It completely represents how I acted with my sons in the beginning. When I first heard it, I thought YES! I had a bunch of awkward moments, feeling the intense desire to confront my sons and accuse! I just didn’t know what to call it back then and I did not know how else to “handle” grave concerns. Of course their own responses were fairly well represented in the ad. What’s astonishing is that the same rhetoric was heard in a business meeting I attended last week; all I have to do is change the names in the script.

I guess we humans have a universal way of not communicating how we really feel – especially when the topic is backed by fear, ignorance, or any strong emotional attachment based on…experience, beliefs, judgment.

There really is a better way to have a more productive conversation and it begins with me. Left to my own devices, I come out of the shoot with the finish line in sight and ultimately say something I’m going to regret – it sounds just like this:

Mom: “Awkward, confrontational accusation!”

Daughter: “automatic denial!”

Mom: “Angry irrational statement I’ll regret later…”

Daughter: “Fake, emotional whimper”

To see the “typical conversation” advertisement click here!

The Power of Denial – How taking action can begin the process of taking charge

Denial is a very powerful thing. Often as outsiders to another families situation it seems so clear, ‘why don’t they see their kid is on drugs and do something?’, ‘why don’t they know that their kid is doing bad things in the neighborhood?’, ‘why don’t they….’ The list could go on and on. Denial keeps us from feeling and dealing with a pain that can be so severe it is debilitating. I know how this works because I went through it when my daughter struggled with serious substance abuse and addiction. Saying out loud what was actually happening meant it was real and if it was real then the consequences of what that truly meant were frightening.
Yet crossing from denial to openly seeing what is truly happening right in front of us begins the process of taking charge. While it is challenging, it is better than letting the house burn down while we sit on the porch and think it’s a bit hot, but it’ll cool down soon. It’s an analogy that may seem extreme but works well. Denial keeps you from taking action to correct the situation. Sometimes denial is a way to cope until we have the strength or resources to take action. I’ve seen people be in denial for long periods of time and I know that it is not my place to judge. No one can tell each of us how to handle something, only we can determine what’s best for ourselves and our families. What we need to realize is that when we are in denial of a teenager who has a serious issue with drugs or alcohol, we may delay getting them the help they need to keep them safe. It is important to look at things with eyes wide open. Get help from family, friends and professionals. I know when I began to take action and get out of denial I then truly began to get help for my daughter.

Consciousness: That annoying time between naps

Having a family member afflicted with addiction has repercussions with other family members – it’s why we say it’s a family disease. I speak from my experience as a parent whose sons’ addiction progressed fully. I remember when life around me was becoming too much to handle. That’s big trouble for a control freak like me who once believed I had complete control of family matters (and members), business and all affairs in my sphere of influence. In fact, I’d still believe this today if addiction had not shown up in my house. Denial became my way of coping. It wasn’t that I denied the reality of the situation; I just did not know what else to do, so I either normalized intolerable behavior or I fought it. Either way I got very tired. I just wanted to sleep. Looking back these feelings of lethargy, isolation, depression and helplessness were all pointing to an eventual state of desperation. Desperation, it turns out, was a gift! Why?

I had to become desperate enough in order to gain humility to admit I needed help – that I did not know what to do and if I continued relying on myself, things were not going to get better. The gift of desperation helped me find recovery through the Al-Anon family groups because I wanted it, not because someone told me I should do it. The gift of desperation helped me become willing to hear other people speak and to listen without opening my mouth. This was difficult at first, because I came with an attitude of necessary justification of my unique situation; it had become my defense mechanism. In the early days of my own recovery, I did not always like what I was hearing in the group meetings – there were no black and white rules of conduct that would fix my kids. However, I was willing to listen because I saw others with similar stories that were living with serenity in their lives. Desperation helped me recognize my own co-dependent behavior which often stemmed from fear. I could not trust in letting go of outcomes, I somehow believed I could control it; intuitively I knew this to be false. The gift of desperation opened doors of opportunity for spiritual growth, friendship and fellowship. When I stopped talking, stopped pretending to know everything and started listening and learning, I gained a new perspective on life. I saw a possibility that I too could have hope, joy and serenity in my life. Desperation helped me discover why I’m worth waking up for. I found me again. Who has time for naps?

 

How I went from “not me!” to “me too!” while attending Al-Anon

water flowingWhen my life got desperately bad from the progression of their drinking and drugging, reality was starting to show itself in ways I could not deny: collection calls, unknown callers, unknown visitors, lost jobs, stealing, lying, and arrests to name a few. It was a low point for me – to admit that I was not able to correct, fix or keep up with the increasingly bizarre daily dose of drama!

I came to Al-Anon reluctantly. In fact, I was very annoyed at having to take time out of my busy week to even attend. I was headstrong and stubborn! I would hear others talk about their stories and I would think, “not me.” They would do readings about drinking and alcoholism, and I’d think about my kids’ prescription drugs abuse. With that alone I could not relate, “Not me!” They’d read the steps and when they got to step 5, “Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs” I’d think, my sons have done wrong doing ….but…not me! And then I’d hear about the parent who visited their loved one in the “orange jump suit” and I would adamantly say “not me!” Fortunately, a miracle happened. I heard someone tell my story. I slowly went from “not me” to “me too!” Maybe that’s why we say, keep coming back or stick around for the miracles or try to attend at least 6 meetings before you make up your mind if the program is right for you. The people before me KNEW the “not me syndrome” is part of the family disease.

Music To My Ears – Parents taking action by drug testing their teen

Many of my posts focus on the aftermath of addiction, chronicling the devastation that is inevitable due to severe drug and alcohol abuse. Today I am focusing on the hope for this generation of teenagers. While at my morning workout there was a conversation among the wonderful women in the group. The conversation was about ‘pre-testing’. ‘Hmmmm… ,’ I thought,’ I need to listen to this…’ The Mom’s in the group were talking about how they drug test their teens in order to keep them accountable and give them a reason to tell their friends they can’t try drugs and alcohol.  ‘My parents drug test me and I’ll get grounded or in trouble’. This was music to my ears, a full symphony no less!
One of the ways we can help our teens is to do this act of love. While I am an activist for prevention of teen drug and alcohol addiction and I often talk about the effectiveness of randomly drug testing your kids, it isn’t always clear what parents think of this. It was truly a joy to hear the positive conversation about parent’s drug testing and telling other parents why they do it and having such a constructive conversation amongst the group. The thought of drug testing my kids never even entered my mind when they were in high school. Even when the trouble started with my daughter I didn’t consider drug testing. Thinking back now I realize it could have done several things. It would have forced me to see clearly what was going on – I was in denial and that is a dangerous place to be. It would have validated the seriousness of the drug abuse that was taking place. I would have no longer been able to hope it was nothing serious, I would have known it was very serious. All of this is hind sight, I realize, but worth sharing for others to gain insight. I applaud parents willing to drug test their teens – it is a very loving act that can possibly be the difference between a sober teen or a teen traveling down a road that can lead to eventual addiction.

How to let go of the chains of co-dependency and move forward

chainsIt seems that no matter how much time I spend on relieving myself from the chains of co-dependency, I still struggle with worry.  And maybe, the biggest gift of all of this self-discovery is the raw awareness of each and every thought and action that I do.   Sometimes ‘denial’ does seem like a viable option, yet I know that my life is much better when I consciously deal with issues that arise.    Today’s dilemma is that I recognize that I am beginning to worry about future events, also known as ‘future tripping’.  For such a fun sounding phrase, it sure does lead to angst.

When my daughter decided to move back to town it was a joyful situation for so many reasons.  She was close to 2 years clean and sober, hard-working, and being a responsible young woman.  Yet in the back of my mind I struggled with all the ‘what ifs’ that could take place.  I am a strong believer of ‘what you think about comes about’.  So I consciously had to stay positive and not obsess on all the future possibilities.  I have developed techniques to ward off those obtrusive thoughts by engaging new thoughts like a song that I find inspirational or quote or prayer.  I also discuss my worries and fears with my daughter.  Also, boundaries need to be respected and discussed so that we are on the same page.  I also try to remember that things change and I need to look forward.  So many blessings and joys have transpired, and I choose to celebrate those along the journey.

Hoping against hope

One of my friends is dating a guy whose daughter is addicted to opiates. I’ve spoken with them about my journey and the steps they might consider taking to help her turn the tide. For the moment, they are merely hoping against hope that things will change, now that they have confronted her and said, “No more!”

I understand their reluctance to intervene because I’ve been there myself. Why is it so hard acknowledge and confront our children’s substance abuse? I’ve asked myself that question so many times, looking back on my own reluctance to face the truth, to intervene, to take action with my son. These are some of the reasons I sat on the sidelines:

• It was almost as if taking action really confirmed that there was a problem; and conversely, if I didn’t act, then there wasn’t a problem. Denial 101 at its best.

• Drug addicts don ‘t come from good families. My family is a good family. Therefore, my son cannot be a drug addict, or so I reasoned. I have since learned that addiction does not discriminate, and having a good family or being a good mom is irrelevant to the disease of addiction.

• At times, I was afraid to “awaken the dragon” by making demands for change. Things were bad, but they could get a whole lot worse if I shook things up

• I was afraid of doing the wrong thing, saying the wrong thing, making a mistake.

• I was utterly exhausted and could barely crawl through each day.

• I couldn’t locate resources. Even though I knew things were terribly wrong, I didn’t know where to get help.

• Hope springs eternal: in spite of evidence to the contrary, I continued to interpret my son’s behavior optimistically and inaccurately, believing that I was glimpsing recovery instead of a downward spiral.

Understanding these forces at play helps me forgive myself for tolerating an intolerable situation. And should my friend ask for advice, I will compassionately draw upon memories of my own paralysis and inaction as I support her, wherever she happens to be.