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.

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…

 

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Can you forgive to find peace?

Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.   – Jonathan Lockwood Huie

Mobile Serenity – Detaching from stress to relax

finding serenity while campingI heard someone say, “nothing like Arkansas in the rearview mirror!” to illustrate a point about running away from problems. It’s also been termed a “geographic” – meaning, if I move away to another city, state, country, I will leave the problems behind. This sounded like a good idea – boy was I ready to escape! I had entertained those thoughts myself because addiction and drug abuse was creating havoc in my life and I was at wits end.  I felt cornered where the only way out was to pick up and move!

I have since learned that running away doesn’t solve anything because I still have to live with myself! I can’t run from me – but early on I did not see my part in the equation. I only saw what THEY were doing. Detach with love! Detach with anger! Detach however you can! These were recurring suggestions. Not knowing how to detach, one thing that did work was to take “mini geographics” with my husband in our travel trailer. These little escapades, new to us, in an old used hunting trailer my husband brought home, became my way to detach. For one long weekend I would go to the mountains, the ocean or a lake and have serenity. Eventually I found my higher power. Eventually I learned how to focus on my life again with no outside influences; phone calls, knocks at the door, newspapers, neighbors. We detached, if but for one weekend at a time!

These road trips were my time: to read, paint, take walks, kayak. I could sleep; sleep some more and read my recovery material. I worked on me, and what I gained was health: spiritual, physical and mental. I fondly think of my old trailer as my “mobile serenity” which helped me understand the solution to my problems begin with me.

 

Triggers and Teen Addiction….How Do you Just Say “No?”

I imagine my beloved and chemically-dependent child has triggers that may send him ever so slightly in the direction of relapse.  I have triggers of my own that sometimes push me towards an unhealthy engagement with my son, back to the Neolithic days of enabling, co-dependency, anger, despair and addiction to his addiction.

It’s difficult to convey to others how triggers can launch me with the power of a catapult into a place of anger and heartache.  How could a simple white lie or overlooked obligation raise my blood pressure and my ire so quickly?  Why are things like this—so innocuous and commonplace to others—so upsetting to me?  Its’ because they bring back a dark, contentious past of hand-to-hand, heart-to-heart combat with the Enemy Addiction.  The most powerful triggers have the ability to transport me back to the bad old days almost instantly and unconsciously.

Author Anne Lamott talks about her own triggers in her book, Grace (Eventually)  Thoughts on Faith, “I did not explain or justify my triggers…because trigger implies weapons, weapons imply aim, aim implies combat, combat implies engagement. All I wanted was to feel less engaged, less stuck: I wanted to let it go….I wanted to be a person of peace, who diminishes hurt in the world, instead of perpetuating it.”

Isn’t that what we all want as we walk away from the war zone of chemical dependency?  How to reach that space of peaceful disengagement and serenity is another thing entirely.  Some of us “Let go and let God.”  Others find relief with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.  And I’ve heard about repeating a mantra over and over when contronting a trigger.  How do you neutralize your triggers so they don’t derail your own recovery?

The art of saying NO to your addicted child

teenager contemplating futureMy disease is cunning. Left to my own devices, I will say yes when I want to say no or should say no because it’s a request for rescuing. I will over-commit or resent, either way, somebody is not going to be happy (besides me). Saying no seemed mean or disrespectful. What I learned was saying yes could be all that and more to my own sense of well–being and compromise other commitments I already had made.  I always felt guilty.

My recovery began with learning how to NOT COMMIT until I had reasonable to time to really decipher what was being asked of me. Sometimes I have to make choices, doing it all is not a choice if I want serenity in my life. Stall tactics such as “Don’t respond right away”, go into the “Oh-zone” and “buy time” all helped me learn to pause. I had to do this in the beginning because I was in a foreign land, unable to think or speak the language of recovery.  What was really happening?  I was beginning to form healthy and realistic boundaries.

I kept it simple: If my motive was to be liked, or I hoped I could manipulate an outcome, then I’d be in trouble. If my motive was to control, I was in trouble. If my motive was fear, I was in trouble. I picked up new language that progressed:

  • That won’t work for me.
  • I don’t do well in those settings.
  • I’m not able to devote the time you need.
  • Not at this time.
  • Perhaps another time.
  • I’m out on this one.
  • I will do this (something but not all) “meet halfway”
  • I have to think about it, can you contact me in x days?
  • I love you so I won’t.
  • No thanks.
  • No.

 

Spiritual relief – accepting I am not in control is not enough

The family affected by alcoholism and addiction have trauma beyond measure. It’s the bleak outcome we know could happen. Unnatural obsession with strategy to fix the lives of my sons was 24/7. And if I wasn’t future tripping, I was playing reruns of “should haves.” I became overly involved in their lives, and this drive and conviction in the end nearly killed me.

Now, if I notice behavior that I believe is harmful, concerning, in opposition to what I’d expected, my reaction is much different. I may be deeply saddened and concerned. I may be frightened of perceived outcomes. But I accept I have no control over what they do. That’s not enough to help me through the fear or grief, though! I need a Power greater than myself that can keep me sane and give me confidence to do the next indicated thing.

By turning it over to the care of my Higher Power, my fears, worries or inability to stop fretting are released. I get relief and I’m able to give myself love and tolerance to accept that this is stressful and I need to take it easy.

I ask for His will for me and His help for me to do the next right thing.  I ask for His help for me to be the mother that He would have me be.  I ask for His spiritual relief.  I say the Serenity Prayer as I dial up my Sponsor! I am reminded that it is His will not mine. I’m no longer by myself and alone in life’s daily challenges that once seemed insurmountable.

Meditate for Your Recovery from Addiction

Guest Blogger Cathy Taughinbaugh is the mother of a former crystal meth addict who has been in recovery for over 6 years. She writes on addiction, recovery and treatment at cathytaughinbaugh.com.  

You will notice that the inner space is clear, quiet and undisturbed. It is peace itself. ~ Gail Brenner

Have you tried meditation?

Meditation is an amazing tool for anyone to connect with their inner selves and a way to find some quiet moments each day to renew and allow their mind to rest. In my post on How Running Promotes Long Term Recovery, William Glasser talks about three powerful ways to help you obtain long term recovery.

Running, as we all know is physical, although it is helpful for our minds, it works our body and helps to keep us fit. Meditation is for the mind. According to Glasser, running is the easiest way to physically find a positive addiction, meditation is the most popular way.

Do you remember the Transcendental Meditation or TM movement from the 60’s? Maharishi Mahesh Yogi started the movement and brought it to the masses. Jump start to 2011, and meditation is more mainstream, a respected practice and accessible to everyone.

In his book, Positive Addiction, Glasser interviews and shares how people feel after they meditate, and how it has changed their life. They begin to see things more clearly, their connections with others became easier and they developed closer relationships. Their confidence in themselves begins to grow.

With meditation, we have a regular time each day to notice our breath as we accept what goes on in our head in a non-critical way. Many people meditate in the morning right after they get up. Some prefer to meditate after a physical activity, or later in the day.

The meditator gains more access to his brain, which is not usually achieved if you are not a meditator, and don’t take the time to be non self-critical.

Physical relaxation occurs, because as Glasser points out any mental strength we have is reflected in physical relaxation. One person describes her meditation practice as a “typical relaxed, non-self-critical flow of ideas which come and go effortlessly…”

Other descriptions of meditation are that it is a tremendously unique and very personal experience. It’s almost sacred, but not religious at all. More energy, more determination, and enjoyment of every moment are other words to describe the experience.

Large and clear thinking was mentioned. The experience felt large. The meditator felt he was without his body, knowing that he was inside it, but just not feeling it. It was a glimpse of total limitlessness.

Others mentioned that they get the same relaxed feeling as when they are in a beautiful natural setting, which Glass calls the pleasant, relaxing, non-self-critical pre-PA state.

When the meditators missed their practice, they felt a mild discomfort, a feeling of missing something valuable, a little tension or guilt. Sometimes it’s the same sort of feeling as not brushing your teeth, or bathing, a habit that you are used to.

Some of the meditators that Glasser questioned were heavy to moderate drug users. They explained that the drug experience wears off, the more they used, they less effect the drug had. The difference with meditation is that the experiences were cumulative and carried over into their daily life, even after they had forgotten about their practice.

The group, in general reported that they had a greatly diminished use of alcohol; many have stopped drinking, smoking and using drugs of any kind.

Meditation helps you to gain strength, and has health benefits such as lowering blood pressure and pulse rate, strengthening the immune system, as well as lifting your mood.

I’m fairly new to meditation, having started praticing after taking yoga for several years. What I love about meditation is the calm, relaxed feeling I have. Letting everything just be for a period of time, and as Glasser points out enjoying some non-self-critical moments.

The idea is to let your thoughts just float by and not attach yourself to any of them. There is no judgement, about anything, just sit and notice your breath. Of course, on occasion, I get antsy. I think everyone does from time to time.

The key is to keep at it and persist. You will then develop your practice and it will become part of your life. I believe meditation is helpful to all of us. It allows us to access those inner thoughts that we may not give ourselves time to get to during a busy day.

Here are some quotes sharing the benefit of meditation.

When you learn to immerse yourself in the present moment – whatever it is like – you will experience a deep joy and peacefulness.” ~ Mary Jaksch

The practice comes with a myriad of well-publicized health benefits including increased concentration, decreased anxiety, and a general feeling of happiness. ~ Todd Goldfarb

Meditation is a simple but life-transforming skill that can help you to relax, enhance understanding about yourself and develop your inherent potential. ~ The Conscious Life

One of the coolest things about meditation is you learn so much about yourself, and start experiencing yourself and the world in such a different way. ~ Kathryn Goetze

When we discover that this haven of calm is always available within us, we realize that a moment of stopping and dropping in brings sanity and perspective.” ~ Gail Brenner

Try meditation. You may find that the strength you feel will bring you the peace and serenity you are seeking.

Be Well,

Cathy

Cathy Taughinbaugh is the mother of a former crystal meth addict who has been in recovery for over 6 years. She writes on addiction, recovery and treatment at cathytaughinbaugh.com.

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.

Can I stop being a parent now?

This thought popped into my head the other day – can I just stop being a parent now? I realized I was tired of the worry, anticipation, preoccupation, projection, I could go on. But the bottom line is that I just felt a bit exhausted.  I started to contemplate, is there a time when I can just say ‘I’m done’ or ‘I don’t want the job anymore.’ Then the more I thought about it I realized that what was troubling me wasn’t my kids or their actions it was all my rampant expectations that they were either not meeting or may never meet. I think as parents when our kids were young or in their teens we all had this daydream that when they became adults we could quit fretting over their every move. Ha! That is so far from the truth. It seems to me my fretting is about much bigger things – will they be able to get a decent job and earn a living? Will they meet someone who is a good partner in life and be happy? I could list many of these thoughts.
My conclusion is that I don’t need to stop being a parent; I just need to stop fretting. Wow, what a relief when I came to this conclusion. It isn’t being a parent or what my kids do or do not do, it’s me and how I move through life. This falls into the category of ‘there is good news and bad news…’ The good news is that it’s not my kids, the bad news is, it’s me! So what do I do with this? I need to turn my expectations and projections about what is going on with my kids off, completely. Certainly I still have the role of support and coach with my adult children and I realize that will most likely always be the case. That is if I’m lucky and they want my advice of course. What I don’t need to do is spend my energy stressing or obsessing about what they are doing or what might happen in the future. This as we know is easier said than done.  My obsessing lately is not as desperate as it was in the past, but still robbing me of my serenity. It is helpful to have a mantra handy in your mind and draw on it to distract yourself from unnecessary worry. It may not solve problems but it will help to restore your serenity and peace of mind, if even just for the moment.