Remember the siblings of the addict

I got a note today from a client who’s son is unfortunately now on his own journey doing the addiction dance. He’s actually too young to be labeled an addict yet, or right now in his journey in my opinion. However, early intervention is an important step. The family is being referred to a very reputable program; I mean, the son and his parents.

He has 2 siblings, one older and one younger who are not going to be included in the program.  They are all teens in middle and high school, and I think that this is a pretty big flaw in most adolescent treatment programs. Uhmmm,wait, that is a pretty big flaw in most drug and alcohol treatment programs.

Family programs, at least the ones I know about, and I’ve been in the business almost 25 years, focus on education about addiction and continue to put the focus on the addict and how everyone dances around the addict. Oh , they are told to go to Al-Anon or Nar-anon and take care of themselves ,but most families need more than self-help to learn to do this. The resources are limited for the adult members of the family and even sparser for the child members. Good intentions ,but not so great in practice.

Family and friends may not understand exactly what the addict is going through, but they are an integral part of the recovery process. Addicts do need a sober support network, but they also need to be a functioning part of their family, if they still have one. Yes, there are folks to do not have a family, and create a family in self-help and that’s really important.  This message isn’t for them, it’s for the families and friends who are still connected with and addict and want to be supportive and have the person back in their lives and a healthy and functioning way.

I am putting the finishing touches on just such a program.

What would YOU want to see included in a program to help your family, especially the siblings?

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Don’t forget a gift for yourself!

This is the time of year when most of us are running around getting ready for the holiday season. We are thinking of everyone else, looking for the perfect gifts, baking the best cookies, attending parties, throwing parties and affected by the time of year, whether or not we celebrate. Some of us literally run ourselves ragged doing for others. Shoppers aren’t always at their best, and traffic patterns change.

What are you doing for yourself? What gifts are you giving yourself?

This is the time of year when doctor and therapy appointments get rescheduled until after New Year’s; when we skip the massage and yoga and other relaxing activities. Yet it really is just the time of year when we need these the most, to balance out the stress, running and anxiety of getting ready for the holidays.

On airplanes, we are told to put our own oxygen masks on first so that we CAN help others.      What is you oxygen mask this time of year? What gift will you give yourself so that you can really enjoy the holidays, not just check off the list of what you give and do for others?  What will do for yourself so that you Thrive during the holidays, not just Survive them?

Here are some ideas:

  • Make and get to your therapy appointment. Talk about what is stressing you out, and make a plan to deal with the stressors.
  • Take a yoga or meditation class
  • Get a foot massage
  • Sleep late one day
  • Avoid or minimize alcohol consumption at parties
  • Learn a quick relaxation exercise such as TAT (Tapas AcupressureTechnique) or EFT
    (Emotional Freedom Technique)
  • Read a few chapters of a novel with a mug of hot chocolate

My secret treat? A green smoothie.

Celebrate you, your friends, your family!

I wish you a happy, stress-free, joyous holiday season.

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They can’t do it alone

OK, if you have someone in your life who is addicted to “Oxy” here’s a sad truth: They cannot stop on their own!  The addict will tell you they will just stop when you confront them/him/her.  I’m not saying s/he can’t, but I haven’t seen anyone yet in my practice who has been able to just stop, or wean him/herself off. That’s why it’s called an addiction, and that’s why there are detoxes to help.

Addicts, if they will accept the help, not only need to clean their systems of the drug, but need to break the cycle of using and all the associations to/with it.  Especially if they accept help under duress. Even if they accept help gratefully, they have been hoping for some time that someone would notice and care enough to ignore the wheedling and pleading and manipulation and present them with an option to get help, to stop, to have another chance.

So while you are trying to figure out how to help the loved one in your life, do the most important thing first: take care of you. Get support for you; get help for you.  Get enough sleep; eat right, and talk. Talk to someone who can help you work out the plan to confront, with love and compassion, and cope whether your loved one accepts help right away, or later, or never.

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Happy Veterans Day to me!

Yup, I’m a veteran. Not just a veteran, but a Viet Nam Era veteran. No, I did not go to Viet Nam, I joined in 1974, but the Viet Nam Era, and certain benefits extended until 1976.  The draft was long over, and my High School  graduating class, 1973, was the first class since the draft started not to have to register. The men, that is. The draft ended in 1972.

I was actually in the Air Force with a few guys who opted to join the Air Force as opposed to be drafted into the Army, so the day the draft ended, they had to complete their service while their drafted buddies got to leave the induction center and go home. They were not happy.

My adolescence and young adulthood was colored by the Viet Nam “conflict.”   I dated guys who were there. I dated guys were didn’t have to go. I talked with my feminist friends about why women were just as competent. In those days, women didn’t go into combat zones, except nurses. Not even as support.

When I was in basic training, we, the women, were never even trained to use guns, and I didn’t get my actual fatigue uniforms until I got to my duty station.  We wore light blue shirts with peter pan colors and dark blue work slacks or wrap around work skirts. I think the dress uniforms haven’t changed much since then, at least not for women, except for, oh, maternity uniforms, which also didn’t exist then.

I don’t know exactly how things are different for the men and women in the Armed Services today, but I know they are.  One thing that isn’t different is that they deserve a salute and a thank you, and much, much more.

They deserve the physical and emotional support that enables them to return to civilian life proud, healing, and then healthy. Transitioning from war and the physical and emotional wounds can be an arduous process. It takes time for the vets and their families. Remember them, support them, especially when it comes to voting for administrations that will keep the financial support flowing to transition them back.

HAPPY VETERANS DAY TO THOSE WHO HAVE SERVED AND THOSE SERVING NOW!

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Addiction is like Poison Ivy

You may know that you are allergic to poison ivy, and avoid it. Yet, you still end up with the telltale uncomfortable rash that let’s you know you were not as successfully avoiding it as you thought.

Or you may not know you are sensitive to poison ivy, and suddenly, after a lifetime of recklessly dancing through poison ivy patches that have your friends and family cringing, you end up with a wicked case of itchy, painful poison ivy and didn’t even remember coming in contact with it. (OK, yes, that was me)

Addiction is a lot like that; other people’s addictions: those of your family members, close friends or loved ones. Ouch, ouch, ouch!

The person in your life may have an addiction that is obvious and the toll it takes on everyone around them is obvious. If all of you are lucky, then the addicted person gets treatment and into recovery. They bloom, grow and change.  And if all of you are very lucky, then those affected by the addict bloom and grow and change as well.

If no one educates the family on what to expect, sometimes they get left behind. They remain confused, hurt, angry, stuck. There’s a lot of support out there for addicts who want help; not so much for the family and friends.

Sometimes the family and friends think they have not been affected by the addict’s behaviors. The addiction is not so obvious, or the family and friends have found support groups or therapy. The addict may have found abstinence but not “recovery.”  Or the addict relapses. Or…well, the list goes on.  They notice this little itch, so they scratch it. Then they look, and see that it’s not just an irritation or a bug bite, but a blistered, spreading rash. YIKES! Where the heck did that come from? I didn’t see any poison ivy..I don’t think I did anyhow. What does poison ivy look like again?

The solution is simple, although the process may not be: Family and friends of addicts must learn to take care of themselves FIRST. When they are emotionally and physically healthy, they can learn what to do next to keep their own balance and deal with the addicted person in their lives, whether the person is using or not.

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Like trying to look away from a bad accident…

We just can’t seem to help ourselves. So as I was downloading my Sunday crossword puzzle from the LA Times website, I noticed that Charlie Sheen was on the “In the News” line. I just couldn’t help myself, I had to look. He seems to think he is doing well, I guess, that he has an upcoming roast. Good for him. I’m thinking of his family. I wonder how they feel about it,what are they thinking; are they still hoping he will get help or are they just resigned to watching him continue his downward spiral.

And I wonder who is offering them support? Who is offering them help to process how they are affected by all this, and helping them take care of themselves while continuing to love him but not enable?

When I came back from my reverie, I noticed another sad but happier story, at least for now. Daniel Radcliffe, aka Harry Potter, has admitted he had a serious drinking problem, and has been committed to a sober life. for almost a year. He like it, he feels better about himself. Bravo! As a celebrity and a young person, it’s a huge step to make the commitment  to care about himself enough to get sober.  He managed to keep his drinking a secret, and his sobriety has been a private experience as well.

I hope that his family supported his transition; I hope someone has offered them support also. Even when someone we love takes the important step to get clean and sober, we still need to learn how to adjust to this. Often family members don’t know what to say; what not to say; how to be supportive with enabling or helping by doing what the recovering person should be doing for themselves. They don’t know how to express their relief, or their leftover anger and resentment.

Some treatment centers offer family programs for patients in their programs. Some even offer treatment for families who need to get a family member into treatment.  Al-anon and Nar-anon are good resources also. There are some great books on co-dependency.

When you are ready, find a therapist or a recovery coach who focuses on you, teaching you how to take care of yourself so you know what to do next. Many family members feel like they are surviving or have survived their loved one’s addiction.

You CAN learn to THRIVE not just SURVIVE a loved one’s addiction. Let’s develop your recovery plan.

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Vacations that heal

Summertime. Vacation time. Rest and relaxation? Sometimes.

I had the best vacation last August! It was short, budget and all, but it was so energizing and relaxing and healing, that I was just floating when I came back.  Little things didn’t bother me, I had energy, yet I slept well. I came back ready to face the things I had been avoiding and take action. I realized that I was more mindful. No multi-tasking, but one thing at a time, with my full energy and concentration. Amazing how much more I got done!

So what did I do? I went to the Newport Jazz Festival for the first time. OMG!  The music was amazing! I haven’t seen many superstars live, but on the stage were Dave Brubeck with Wynton Marsales; Herbie Hancock and Amal Jamar. I am totally enchanted with Jamie Cullum and Amina Figerova’s music spoke to me, I felt it in my body.

I was with a great friend, and got to meet two wonderful women I had only heard about for many years. I felt like I knew them, and meeting them face to face was so easy and natural, like we had been talking every day for years. I met some new folks too, and can’t wait to see them next year. Oh, wait, the magic of the internet will connect us, and we are in close enough proximity to keep the energy going with some visits in between.

I know I was stuck, I could feel it in my body before my vacation. After I got back, I made commitments and followed through on some nutritional changes, took care of the yearly medical appointments, cleared out some clutter, and noticed how differently my mind felt when my body felt better and vise-versa.

It reminded me and continues to remind me that balance is so important to creating a life worth living. Balance between work and play, making time for self-care, eating well, sleeping well, time with friends and time alone to create, renew and rejuvenate.

What kind of activities do you like?  What kind of vacations or get-aways are in your budget, and leave you refreshed when you get home.

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Running to distraction

Running too, running away, whatever. I feel a bit sheepish to admit that I would rather focus on something physical than the emotion roller-coaster I have been on this week.  Does that ever happen to you? Dang, and here I thought I was perfect, enlightened and cured! Process not event, process not event! Sometimes we trip over that wrinkle in the carpet, and get smacked back to reality and the next part of the personal journey.

So, the chimney on my fixer-upper house needs some serious attention. Waaaay serious. Way, way more serious than we originally thought. Fixable though. But one of those things that are easy to ignore, was easy to ignore til I saw that big hunk  missing. And admitted that the damp fiery smell was not normal.

Lou the chimney guy was up on the roof today, and got a good look at what you can’t see from the ground, even from a ladder.  The pitch of my roof is so steep that organic matter has been building up between the roof and the chimney so long that a little tree was growing there. There was actually some awesome compost up there, a few large flowerpots full. And there’s a fix for that, so it won’t happen after the chimney is repaired.

There is also a second flue that goes to nowhere, maybe a wood stove sometime in the long past, or the hopes of adding one downstairs that never got added. So we can seal that one up. And extend the chimney because it is way too short for the size of the fireplace. Since the chimney is at the back of the house isn’t a show piece anyhow, it can be done more economically with stainless steel. Yippee, something is going my way!

One of the things I did learn, if I allow myself to focus again, since the chimney is clearly well in the hands of the experts and on the mend, is that facing emotional issues is so unappealing.  But so necessary. I took out my coping tool bag, and started using the tools  I encourage my clients to use, the ones I teach them to fill their emotional emergency healing kits with.

  • I cried
  • I cried on my friends and my sister’s shoulders and got hugs and pats and encouraging words
  • I admitted I was human
  • I admitted that I needed help
  • I walked the dog
  • I talked
  • I journaled
  • I did something I loved: I sat down at my loom and wove, which leaves me peaceful
  • Every time the hurt started welling up into anger, I stopped and got quiet
  • I focused on doing something that was not self-destructive
  • I made myself eat, and sleep and took special care dressing
  •  I talked some more
  • I used Reiki on myself, and some visioning and hypnosis
  • I did allow myself to get angry, to admit it. Not rageful, but angry, ouch, it hurt. And I thought the anger wouldn’t go away, and I’ll be darned if it didn’t start ebbing away when I admitted it, gave it voice, honored it. I did not need to act out in a vicious way. Ok, maybe a few snarky remarks to the offenders, but even that has melted away.
  • I had to do many of those things over and over again, when I really wanted to do one and be cured. One time walking the dog, one journal entry and magically gone. Nope, reality is I sometimes had to use a tool only 15 minutes after getting some relief from that tool or another.

It worked, it does work, and I am humbler and stronger for it. As someone who means a great deal to me once said: “Another f-king opportunity for growth.”

I wish you gift of knowing that if you use the tools when you need to, then you will grow.

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Are You Codependent?

I sure am! Ouch! Here I thought I had mastered my codependency years ago. What a rude surprise, it’s a lifelong process not an event.

So, in listening to this spiritual message, in my continuing quest for balance in my life, I am using the tool of Mindfulness to observe my behaviors. Without judgement, without expectation, without needing to change it in a knee jerk response. Yes, it’s a tall order, but I know what’s on the other side of that: healthy behaviors, no built up resentments for not being noticed or appreciated, no unrealistic expectations of myself and others, and gradual changes that are more likely to last. Did I mention boundaries, not walls? Did I mention a reminder that life is a process, not an event; that not all “nice” behaviors are codependent.

What makes a “nice” behavior into a codependent behavior? Holding on to an expectation that you will get something back for being nice. Love, appreciation, changes in someone else’s behavior, martyrdom…get the picture?

So does that mean I cut everyone off and become angry and closed and never do anything for anyone ever again. No, just that I observe my behaviors, not every moment, but trigger behaviors. When I start to do something for someone without first asking would they like me to do it. That’s one of my weaknesses, fixing, doing magic if I see someone in pain or imagine they are in pain.  That I take on some else’s issue, like not asking for money that is owed to me, or overpaying my 1/3 of the office bills, since I don’t have the same expenses as the other 2.

And number one, to remember that I don’t have to do this alone. Yes, I need to take the action, but I can talk about the process, I can ask for feedback, I can let some support me, cheer me on and celebrate my progress and successes with me.

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Great excuse

Maybe not. I always end up reading a few stories when I go to download the LA Times crossword puzzle on Sunday. Today I was gobsmacked. I can’t think of another word to describe the story about Charlie Sheen and morals.

Basically, the story says that there was a time when stars would be dropped by the studios if they did not abide by morals clauses, that in the day, included out of control drug use. OK, I can understand the need for balance between the studios owning a person, and good judgement.  Alcoholism and drug addiction are now classified as diseases, but there is treatment. Although there are many ways to get there, the treatment, the cure is abstinence. And that starts with mindset. Oh, and consequences.

Many recovering, abstinent and sober folks might admit that if there no consequences, they might pick up their drug of choice again. Consequences is a whole other post, an article, an e-book even.  Maybe I don’t know the whole story with Charlie Sheen, but I’ve been working with addicts and alcoholics for over 25 years, so I have an idea of the patterns and excuses.  I just heard (read) a new one: he says he was sober 5 years and bored out of his mind. He’s a partying kind of guy (paraphrasing here), so sobriety isn’t authentic.

After I picked my jaw up off the ground, I busted out laughing. I guess the public displays of the legal consequences of his drinking and drugging are authentic. Hmmm, might just be me, but I don’t think I’d want to admit that kind of spectacular behavior is my authentic self.  Just saying.

and returning to the scene of the crime several weeks later……

So it got even more spectacular, as I, and I’m guessing many of you, watched the Charlie Sheen train hurdling out of control. Really, it was like passing a bad accident: I didn’t want to look, but I just couldn’t help myself.

Then I saw a wonderful and compassionate commentary about the whole thing.  I wish I could remember the bloggers name, I’d share it in a minute. He even posted a clip from Craig Ferguson’s show about not getting on the bandwagon with Charlie Sheen jokes. The blogger also reminded readers that Charlie has a family that is suffering.  And I’m paraphrasing, but he asked readers to think how much it would mean to them to have helping, compassionate hands reaching out to them if they were in trouble.  Kind of like holding the healing space when the addict or mentally ill person is ready to accept it.

May compassion and healing guide you to be strong when you need to be and loving always.

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