Ask the Expert: Acknowledging our powerlessness, we seek words of encouragement

Relapse and Rebound, RepurposeQUESTION: My son started drinking @ age 13. He is now 43 yrs old and has not found sobriety. He has been in & out of rehabs & hospitals for the past 30 yrs. He is dually diagnosed & fails to be compliant with his treatments. He is a chronic relapser. He has a history of harassing, threatening, intimidating, verbally abusing people & destroying other peoples personal or real estate properties.

It has been very difficult to watch his self-destruction. Over the years there is nothing that we haven’t tried to help him get better. We have had to accept our family’s powerlessness over this disease. We had to pursue our own recoveries in order to find some peace & serenity. We needed to let go of him to be happy again.

Many times we thought that he had hit his bottom, but the insidious disease keeps winning & taking him over, again & again.  As much as any parent doesn’t want a child to go to jail, I am hoping that he will be sentenced & kept there. I am hopeful that maybe this is his bottom and he might realize how alcohol has destroyed his life & driven people that love him away. I see this as the last resort for his healing, since nothing else has worked. If jailed for 6 months or more, will he be evaluated & offered rehabilitation? I try to keep up my hope, but if he doesn’t learn from this drastic lesson, what can we expect the next time? This is all very heartbreaking. All I can do is pray. Any words of encouragement, I would appreciate. Who is this stranger, my son?? I read this helpful website every day. I am grateful for it:) Thanks for being there!

prison for addicts Brad DeHavenEXPERT ANSWER: When you get on a plane, the instructions are to put the oxygen mask on yourself before your children. YOU need to survive and at some point if you assess that everything you are doing is too much and not enough at the same time, then you are enabling the continuance of the same behavior.

Your son’s bottom is different than yours. If everything else that you have tried has yielded this result, then perhaps prison will bring his bottom to him. All you can do is love him and pray because at some point he has to understand how destructive his behavior is to not only himself but those who love and care for him. Addiction travels many difficult paths and you are certainly living one.

Best to you and yours!

Bradley DeHaven

Photo of Ricki TownsendEXPERT ANSWER: You hit this on the mark!! Your child is a stranger. This is a brain disease, and eventually our loved ones are no longer available to us. Their entire lives become addiction.

So many of us have loved ones missing to addiction. I am sorry that there is no magic wand; change must come from him.

You are doing well if you have made your boundaries strong and rigid. You will find kinship and wisdom at meetings like Al-Anon or Nar-Anon. please go to a minimum of six meetings, and try different ones until you have found the right one. Celebrate Recovery support meetings are also available to you at most major churches.

I would also encourage working with an addiction therapist who can help you move forward with the pain you are carrying.

It sounds like your son has lost his belief in himself for the time. If you talk to him, let him know you love him and believe in him, but hate this disease and what it has done to him. It is possible to love your child while hating his addiction.

Ricki Townsend, Board Certified Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, NCAC1, CAS, RAS, Bri-1

Doing or Not Doing – Detaching to move forward

detachment - moving forwardI’m  writing about detachment, my favorite topic.  In the family disease, I was completely sure the problem resided with THEM and did not realize how attached I was to THAT.   As we say, “turn the binoculars around!”  A simple concept does not come easy, it takes work.  DOING!   It begins with thinking about detachment in a new way.

The first relatable scenario for me was realizing how attached I became to inanimate objects.  Like the clothes in my closet for example.  I’m attached to them and can’t begin to let them go!  Never mind that they have not been worn or seen the light of day for years!  Never mind that they won’t fit well or even be in style.  Yet my closet is stuffed full, and there I stand with nothing to wear because I can’t see – too much clutter! There is a deep rooted fear (in my mind) that my “letting them go” will result in a definitive, almost instantaneous need for one of these articles I just gave away.  It’s a common misconception that removing something will leave a dark hole which translates to a negative emptiness.   I recall a time when I visualized an old article of clothing was just the right thing.  After digging deep into storage bins under the bed, I found, upon closer inspection; it was not at all appropriate or accurate to my memory of it!  Whatever the source or cause of my attachments, it tends to keep me NOT DOING, or holding on.  Sound familiar?  Doing or not doing.

And my attachment to dated clothing may trump the joy of new possibilities: NOT DOING has consequences!  Oddly, we feel safer there, because there will not be a hole.  Is the fear of missing something I bought years ago, worth holding onto?  If it were, I might be buried alive with STUFF.  So the seeds of  detachment can begin with simple measures of DOING something, maybe different, but nonetheless DOING.  There is a possibility the hole will be filled with light!

‘Act As If’ to regain your life

When my world started falling apart over my drug addiction in my family it became a challenge to get through the day. I realized on reflection that there were many days in a row that I did not smile; the joy had been zapped out of my life. I had the impending dread that I would never be happy until my daughter was safe and whole again. I would go through my days and meet my responsibilities because I knew I had to carry on, but it was hollow and empty. My reprieve came when I found other parents who were suffering and struggling to cope with their children’s wreckage from substance abuse. One thing that struck me with these parents is that I heard laughter which is what I least expected. How can anyone laugh when our children are dying a slow painful death due to their drug abuse?
I found that I needed to pull myself out of the darkness that had become my life and begin living again. It didn’t mean I cared any less nor had fewer concerns, it just meant that I needed to focus on myself and the rest of my family and not just the loved one in addiction. There is a saying, ‘act as if’. This is a very powerful saying, because sometimes you need to ‘act as if’ you are okay before you really are okay. When I began to ‘act as if’ my life could be restored to sanity, and I could enjoy myself even if it were for just brief moments at a time, slowly I began to reclaim my life. It was also a good sign to my other loved ones who needed me, because they needed reassurance that I was there for them. So ‘act as if’ and see how it can help you to move forward in the face of a challenging time.