Category Archives: Parenting

Holidays In Early Recovery

Early recovery brings up a number of new challenges. For a newly sober person the holiday season can be particularly difficult. Not only is it hard for the addict, the rest of the family is in a troublesome position as well. Issues include everything from what to do with alcohol in the home to whether or not going out of town to visit relatives is a good idea. There is no blanket solution because every family’s situation is different. However for a young person in the early stages of recovery there are some suggestions that may help. Let’s start with a few simple questions:

  • How long has the young person been sober?
  • Will there be a lot of alcohol at the family event?
  • Will there be people at the event that the young person has used drugs with?

What Can I Do?

One of the primary objectives in recovery is to get to the point of being able to navigate challenging social situations. It isn’t realistic to believe that one can go through life never being around alcohol or other temptations. However, a young person in early sobriety is particularly vulnerable because there  is little confidence in the sober lifestyle and holidays can bring heightened expectations for everyone. This pressure can be too much for an emotionally unstable newly sober teenager. For a parent of a young person in this situation it is vital to not take temporary for permanent. It will not always be this way. For the first sober holiday season here are some ideas that can help:

  • If a large family event is unavoidable, have a way for the young person to be able to leave
  • Make the family event alcohol free
  • Consider hosting others who may need a sober environment

These are just a couple of ideas and the best suggestion is to seek guidance from others who have been in a similar situation before. The priority is for the person in early recovery to have the best opportunity to stay sober through the holidays and for the entire family to enjoy this special time together. Every emotionally challenging situation a sober young person is able to face, the stronger his or her recovery will be. Have a wonderful holiday season and enjoy your family!

Priorities For Sobriety In Substance Abuse Recovery

No one wants to wake up one day and realize their son or daughter has a serious drug and/or alcohol problem. Most parents would rather be thinking about how to help their child navigate through more “normal” adolescent challenges. Unfortunately many families will run into this problem. An issue some parents struggle with is the recognition that priorities will have to temporarily change. The sooner a parent figures this out the smoother the recovery process will be for everyone.

 

One Size Does Not Fit All

Substance abuse recovery for young people is not “one size fits all.” Problems with drug and alcohol abuse among adolescents and young adults can range from periodic alcohol and marijuana use to severe opiate addiction. Some young people are relatively functional while others have no direction. What all young people have in common is that early sobriety is extremely difficult. The more a young person is able to focus on recovery in the beginning, the better. It is extremely important for parents to recognize that it may be necessary to temporarily shift priorities. The simplest example is with school.

This Is Not Forever

We are all conditioned to believe that if a certain level of education hasn’t been attained by a specified age that somehow the child and the parent have failed. Think about that for a minute. There are many things wrong with that perspective. That is not to say that education isn’t important. Obviously, it is critical to gain a worthwhile education. However, if a young person isn’t functioning emotionally it will be extremely difficult to learn, excel, or care. In fact there are some drug abusers who are able to do well in school primarily to keep people off their back. The point is that while a young person is learning to stay sober, his or her focus will not be on school. Once the newly sober person is stable his or her ability to care about work, school, and other aspects of a healthy life will change. It is vital to trust the recovery process. A couple of points to remember:

  • early recovery is difficult for everyone involved
  • once an addict is thinking clearly his/her priorities will change
  • this is temporary

Patience is difficult but in this case it is vital. Remember that building a strong foundation in early recovery sets the addict up for success in life.

Enabling In Drug and Alcohol Recovery

Enabling is a word that has been used in drug and alcohol recovery circles for decades. It can be a term that is very misunderstood and misused. No loved one of an addict or alcoholic wants to be thought of as an “enabler.” To enable literally means to make something possible or easy. It can also mean to permit.  An enabler is often believed to be complicit in the drug abuser’s self-destruction. The most common forms of enabling include: providing money to an active user, allowing an active addict/alcoholic to remain at home, paying for an addict/alcoholic’s legal costs, and other actions. Sometimes providing help in these ways is not enabling. How can one determine the difference?

Demonstrations of Love

The enabler will say that he or she is “just trying to help” or “what am I supposed to do, let him go broke or die?” It is never a question as to whether or not a parent or significant other loves the addict or alcoholic. The issue is always the demonstration of love. When most people think about “love” they are actually referring to sentiment. Love, as an action, is not always the easiest path to take. Sometimes love is best demonstrated through not accepting behavior that is harmful to one’s self or other people. When an active addict or alcoholic is allowed to avoid consequences of his or her behavior he or she is not being “loved.” This sounds harsh but consider the alternative. Someone actively using is not rational. His or her decisions are not made based on concern for self or others. The addict only wants to be left alone so he or she can continue to use. People are either a means to this end or are in the way. Until he or she is abstinent this way of thinking will not change.

Consider the Motives

There are some simple questions a loved one can ask when confused about whether or not a pattern of enabling is taking place:

  • is this going to help my loved one find sobriety?
  • am I doing this/providing this help because I feel guilty?
  • am I worried about what others will think?
  • am I doing this because it helps my loved one or because it will make me feel better?

These are not the only questions to ask but it is a beginning. Not every situation is the same. What one person does may be enabling while someone else does the exact same thing and it is not. There is no exact formula. Always seek the guidance of someone who is objective and has experience in this area. No loved one ever has to face these difficult decisions alone. 

End The Year With Gratitude

Another year is coming to an end. For many people 2017 was an emotional rollercoaster. If you happened to enter into a recovery program this year you certainly know what I mean. Drug and alcohol abuse tears families apart with unrelenting voracity. The healing process can be unpredictable and painful. However, as sobriety takes hold emotions start to calm and a new perspective takes shape. Finally, those who have experienced tremendous fear, anger, and anxiety can begin to be grateful for a new lease on life.

Gratitude Is An Attitude

In recovery programs it is common to hear people talk about “an attitude of gratitude.” This generally

means that those who are affected by addictions of any kind tend to have a pessimistic and hopeless outlook. A change in thinking can begin to
melt away the negativity that keeps people stuck in destructive patterns. When someone is a
ble to take a step back and be grateful for a new opportunity to change,hope is reinforced. A family in crisis desperately needs to see the possibility for life to improve. There are simple ways to begin to shift into an attitude of gratitude.

A Simple Exercise

One way to begin to shift into gratitude is to start focusing on it. For example, take five minutes every day to write five aspects of life for which to be grateful. This gratitude list can be something to look forward to each day that can have a significant impact on someone’s way of thinking. The person focused on gratitude will seek more situations to build the list. It certainly accomplishes more to think about what is good rather than to obsess over all that is wrong. Granted, we need to be aware of problems in order to find solutions. Denial is never healthy. But think about how much easier it is to remember what is wrong. Coming up with a list of items that elicit a feeling of gratitude may require some effort but it is certainly worth it.

On behalf of the entire staff at Insight I would like to wish you and your family a blessed 2018! Merry Christmas and have a wonderful New Year.

Young People And Substance Abuse Treatment

It has become common for young people with substance abuse problems to go through multiple treatment programs. Sometimes this is due to a parent not knowing what else to do. In other cases it is because another round in treatment may be necessary to save a young person‘s life. A young person’s motivation to enter drug rehabilitation is usually different than an adult’s. In most instances a young person enters rehab because of outside influences; parents, school, or the law. Adults often enter treatment because of similar factors but can usually see more clearly the responsibility they have for the problem’s existence. What adults and young people have in common is that without significant lifestyle and attitudinal change, long term recovery will not take hold.

Addiction Treatment and Approaches

A philosophy that is gaining momentum in treatment is MAT. MAT stands for medication assisted treatment. This approach is in response to the increasing rates of opiate addiction and is built on the premise that addiction is a brain disease. In other words, the addict is a victim of brain dysfunction. His or her behavior is as the result of something being “organically” wrong. Yet again, we are at the place of treating drug issues with more drugs. Although it seems easier to accept that someone is suffering from a brain disease, the fact remains that if an individual is to achieve long term recovery he or she must address all areas of life. Harm reduction methods, MAT, or any other alternative substance abuse treatment may provide temporary relief and may open the door to long term recovery but the addict must change his or her behavior.

Recovery Doesn’t Always Feel Good

Today it is popular to avoid feelings of discomfort. Who likes to feel any kind of pain? Unfortunately this has led to an increased desire to make sure addicts “feel ok” rather than work through issues. Referring to an addict as an addict is not shaming or demeaning. It gives an individual the opportunity to acknowledge and address the problem. Whether there is an issue in the brain or not the door needs to be open to the recovering substance abuser to own his or her behavior. This can be uncomfortable but with the appropriate level of support the person in recovery will not feel lost or alone. Substance abuse affects a person physically, emotionally, and spiritually. For recovery to be effective all areas need to be addressed.

Early Addiction Recovery

Early addiction recovery can be very tricky. Not only is there a presenting problem or crisis related to drugs and alcohol, there are the years of emotions that have been avoided, the fractured family relationships, and feelings of failure. Most addicts and alcoholics have squandered talents, opportunities, and potential. This can be scary and frustrating to loved ones who feel torn between fear and resentment. On one hand, a parent  may want to lock a young drug abuser away until he or she “grows up” enough to understand the ramifications of his or her actions. On the other hand, a parent may feel that any lengths that need to be gone to in order to keep the child alive are worth it. These emotions can be crippling.

What Actually Happens In Early Recovery?

A simple way to understand the beginning stages of sobriety is to look at what parts of a person are truly affected by alcoholism and addiction. The short answer is: all aspects of a person are damaged. There are physical, emotional, and spiritual consequences. All of these areas have to be addressed patiently. Abstinence alone does not fix the problem, this is merely physical. “Finding God” is very difficult for someone who is under foreign management. Going to therapy and “getting to the root of it” does not motivate someone abusing drugs and alcohol to change. He or she is usually aware of many of the issues at hand. It generally takes 2-3 weeks for a recovering addict to begin “feeling.” Early abstinence; once the angst of not using passes, leads the newly sober person to feel better. This good feeling doesn’t last very long. Once the addict begins to experience emotions he or she tends to become filled with anxiety, frustration, and fear.

The Solution Is Spiritual

Twelve step recovery is predicated on an understanding of a Higher Power. Whether this begins as the love of an empathetic group of people, a traditional religious concept of God, or some other form of spirituality it is critical for an addict to begin this process. A person new in recovery needs hope. He or she needs genuine love and concern. He or she relies on the awareness that addiction and alcoholism can be overcome. This spiritual contact provides the motivation to walk through the challenge of facing difficult problems. Once a spiritual foundation is established much of the emotional work can begin. This is when introspection, therapy, and development of more effective coping mechanisms takes place.

How Long Does It Take?

Good recovery never ends. For an alcoholic, addict, or substance abuser the journey is ongoing. This is not depressing. This is an awareness that as long as someone is willing to take an honest look at his or her life, opportunities for growth will always arise. This experience is liberating and filled with joy. The knowledge and life skills developed in sobriety provide a better understanding of success, happiness, and healthy relationships. Rather than put a time frame on “when will it get better”, understand that as soon as someone commits his or her self to recovery, life begins to get better. Everyone involved needs patience and a compassionate perspective. The rewards that come from real sobriety are incalculable.

 

Don’t Take It Personal Parents, It’s Probably Not About You

It is common for parents of kids with substance abuse problems to believe they are somehow at fault. These parents convince themselves that if certain circumstances were different, or if other decisions had been made, that somehow their child would not have a drug problem. It may be true that some parenting techniques or childhood events may have contributed to emotional factors that predispose someone to a drug or alcohol problem. However, when a young person chooses to use for the first time that decision is almost always motivated by peer acceptance and a desire to have fun.

dont-take-it-personal-parents-its-probably-not-about-you

Not What You Think

On a regular basis I challenge parents to think about their motivation to do certain things when they were teenagers. Whether they drank alcohol or used drugs is irrelevant; most young people find ways to rebel. Almost everyone who is asked admits that even though they may have been taking actions that would be construed as defiant, they weren’t thinking about their parents when deciding to cross the line. Not everyone who grows up in a difficult environment develops a substance abuse problem and not everyone with a substance abuse problem has reason to blame his or her family. I grew up with an alcoholic parent. I often explain to people that this was the greatest form of prevention I could have been exposed to. Living with an alcoholic is horrible. However, when a group of kids who I thought were cool gave me the opportunity, I drank. In spite of everything I knew about the consequences of alcohol abuse, I drank. This developed into a serious drug and alcohol problem for which I needed a lot of help.

Get Help For The Right Stuff

I understand why my parents felt guilty. In fact, I manipulated their emotions as a means to do whatever I wanted to do. But once they realized that my actions were my responsibility and let go of their guilt, recovery for me and for my family became possible. Their are certainly issues a parent needs to resolve. Any family scourged by substance abuse knows this. At the same time, there is no way to go back in time and fix past issues. Self-pity and remorse attached to past parenting blocks a person from being able to heal the relationship with the addict. There is no perfect parent and anyone can look back at the past and recognize all kinds of things that could have been done “better.” This awareness cannot change anything if the focus is not on building a better relationship today.

How To Cope With Emotional Turmoil With An Addict Or Alcoholic

When there is an addict or alcoholic in the home all sense of peace is lost. Drugs, alcohol, and the emotional turmoil that comes with substance abuse take center stage. Family members either act as if nothing is happening or fly into irrational rages while desperately searching for something to control. By the time the drug abuser is discovered, in some ways it is already too late. Without intervention the problem will probably get worse. It is rare that an addict or alcoholic wakes up one day and suddenly decides to mend his ways. He may make promises along these lines but that is usually to avoid potential consequences, not because of a sudden change in heart. Loved ones are left confused and scared, having little awareness of where to turn. Parents of addicts need tools after their son or daughter enters recovery. Abstinence does not solve all the problems created by drug abuse. With the right help parents are able to become a part of the solution while healing emotionally.

How To Cope With Emotional Turmoil With An Addict Or Alcoholic

Simplify

By the time a young person enters treatment his or her parents have tried everything they can think of to stop the problem. It is not unusual for a family to start the recovery process armed with behavioral contracts so complicated that the most educated lawyer would have a difficult time interpreting its details. The failed attempts of behavioral control accomplish nothing more than contempt and alienation. It makes the parent crazy and has zero effect on a young drug abuser. Parents can make their lives much more manageable by taking the time to re-evaluate whatever rules are in place and let go of those that do not support recovery for the family. In Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, Bob Meehan illustrates this idea with the analogy of Six Shots In Your Gun.

Triage Ain’t Forever

A family affected by drug abuse is lost, scared, and desperate. There are a number of issues that need to be addressed. This takes time. Early on, sobriety is priority number one. Healing from the emotional pain and resentment comes next. At some point a “life direction” takes center stage. There has to be a process; no family is healed in 30, 45, 60, or 90 days. Everyone involved needs patience and understanding. Those who are willing to step back and take a longer view are usually rewarded with lasting recovery. People who struggle to let go of the idea that everything must be fixed and back on track within a set time frame will probably stay stuck. There has to be a plan of action. However, if the plan doesn’t involve poise and flexibility it will probably fail. Remember, it took time for the problem to worsen and it will take even more time for it to be repaired.

Guidance For Parents In Substance Abuse Recovery

The second step in Enthusiastic Sobriety is: We found it necessary to stick with winners in order to grow.  For young people in recovery, the reason for this statement to be an actual step is obvious. Young addicts and alcoholics are very peer driven. If they aren’t around other sober young people they are likely to use again. What isn’t as clear is the degree to which adults are affected by the opinions of other grown-ups. Some of the worst advice parents get on how to deal with a drug abusing child comes from other well intentioned parents.Guidance For Parents In Substance Abuse Recovery

Good Intention Is Not Necessarily Good Advice

Most people are very willing to give advice to parents who are struggling with a troubled child. This is especially true if the kid in question has a drug or alcohol problem. It seems that everyone has either experienced substance abuse issues or at least knows someone who has. These experiences can be helpful but are often a hindrance. When a family is in the midst of a crisis centered on drug abuse what they need most is sound guidance. Where counsel comes from is important. Emotionally driven anecdotal tips do little good. For a plan of action a parent should consult an expert. The combination of professional counsel and empathetic support from parents who have been in a similar situation lay the foundation for a solid program of recovery.

You Are Not Alone

Having a child struggling with drug and alcohol problems does not make a parent a failure. Asking for help can be extremely difficult. The fear of judgment or the idea that somehow you have caused the problem leads to despair and isolation. There are people who understand exactly how it feels to be in this situation. Those who have found recovery have a responsibility to share what they have done to get better. Parents in need of help don’t know where to turn. There is an endless supply of irrational recommendations available. Most people in search of help have been misguided at some point. Not everyone can be expected to understand what it is like to deal with a substance abuse issue. “Sticking with winners” is a powerful tool parents can use to find help and to not feel so crazy. 

Drug And Alcohol Abuse And 12 Step Recovery For Parents

In 12 step recovery from drug and alcohol abuse the first step  involves a willingness to admit powerlessness  and unmanageability. The addict or alcoholic must understand that when abusing drugs and alcohol he loses control of the ability to make sound decisions and move in a positive direction in life. He must also accept that the major problems he is experiencing come as the result of getting high and drinking. No matter how much counseling or therapy an addict or alcoholic receives, he will not change until his drug or alcohol abuse is addressed and he is abstinent. Most parents or spouses of addicts and alcoholics understand this. What can be confusing is when someone says, “Now you need to work a program too!” Why would a parent or spouse need 12 step recovery?

Drug And Alcohol Abuse And 12 Step Recovery For Parents

What? I’m Not The One With The Problem

As soon as the chemical abusing a**hole gets sober the family becomes eternally blissful and all problems just melt away. Oh, if it could be that simple. Unfortunately, as anyone who loves an addict or alcoholic knows, this is literally never the case. Undoubtedly, sobriety provides the first opportunity to repair the family. But just as the addict’s recovery really starts post abstinence, the family’s issues come into the spotlight as well. When approached with the idea of working a 12 step recovery program most parents respond with a version of “I’m not the one with the problem.” Upon further investigation a loved one of an addict will inevitably come to the conclusion that  fear, anger, and guilt have created a fair amount of insanity. With this awareness comes the opportunity to create real healing for wounds caused by years of living in distress.

Family Recovery

Families enter 12 step recovery beaten, battered, and scarred. It is difficult to find hope that life will really ever get better. As soon as a parent or loved one of an addict is able to surrender to the idea that continuing along the path they have been on will only result in more pain, recovery begins. From this point the family member of the addict is able to change course and focus on her own happiness and peace of mind. Through the discovery of a Higher Power and an honest and thorough look at patterns that have caused disruption, transformation begins. The process isn’t complicated. It simply requires the courage to ask for help.