Are 12-step programs the only way to recover from drugs and alcohol (part 2)

I wanted to start Part 2 with a clarification.  Sometimes, readers assume that I am not a fan of 12-step programs. That is not true, I am actually huge fan of 12-step programs; however, I also believe that if someone is not a fan of 12-step programs or won’t go to them, that there needs to be support options for them too. Refusing 12-step attendance is not necessarily a one-way ticket to death, jail or institutions.

In fact, there is little data about addicts and alcoholics who have recovered by other means. Or about people who attended 12-step programs for a time then stopped but continued to maintain abstinence and a successful life. Certainly treatment centers aren’t going to pay for these kinds of studies. I suspect it would be a challenge to find the subjects to participate. The data available is soft anyhow, as it’s all self-report. They can be tested for actual abstinence via blood, urine, breath and hair, but how to we measure “recovery?”  Is it living a life abstinent from substances? Is the quality of that life and where does the criteria for quality of life come from? [Read more…]

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You must read this if your child is addicted to pills!

I don’t need to recreate the wheel: this is a scary, but well written article, and there is no way I could have written it myself or better. But you need to read it. http://tinyurl.com/7mjsodg

Read how much these family’s loved their children, and didn’t know what to do to help.  How a counselor finally pointed out to Emily’s parents that they were babying her and trying to protect her and not letting her feel the consequences of her actions. How they tried everything. How they had to pay the ultimate price with Emily.

[Read more…]

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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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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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