Monday, January 10, 2011


"you can take the elevator going down, but you gotta take the steps back up"

The most effective way for your loved one to manage his illness is through engaging in a recovery program.  This includes completion and follow through of all treatment recommendations and attending 12 Step meetings such as AA/NA (Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous.)  It is also necessary the loved one obtain a sponsor in the meetings to help him work the 12 Steps.  These steps are necessary because they are the foundation of the lifestyle change that will need to happen for him to truly be comfortable in maintaining a chemical-free lifestyle. 

Studies indicate that treatment techniques that foster coping skills, problem-solving skills and social support play a pivotal role in successful recovery.  Individualized treatment approaches that emphasize stress management strategies are important in relapse prevention.  HALTS is an acronym used in the addiction field that identifies five major stressors that leave recovering individuals vulnerable to relapse.  HALTS encourages individuals to monitor and modify their behavior when they become too hungry, angry, lonely, tired, sick.
Chemical dependence damages relationships that are supportive and nurturing and pushes the individual to move toward autonomy.  The chemically dependent person tends to distance himself from friends that question his behaviors.  It is important to understand that as long as your loved one is using alcohol/drugs, a normal relationship is impossible.  His connection will be with the drug of choice, not with family members.  Chemical dependence impacts family members as well and creates chaos and inconsistency in daily life patterns.  Family members of recovering addicts have modified their behaviors to accommodate this illness and they need to be active participants in recovery as well.  Family relationships may have been damaged while a family member was using.  Early in recovery an addicted loved one will try to reconnect with the family, but there may be areas of resentment, hurt feelings, fear and mistrust that the family may have to work through.  You, as the family, need support and may need to make some lifestyle changes as well.  Al-Anon offers such support.
Forgiveness is a necessary process for family healing.  Forgiveness is the bridge from the past to the future.  No grievance is ultimately or eternally unpardonable.

A healthy, functioning family offers warmth, support, safety and love to its members.  Each member of the family needs to have a feeling of belonging/togetherness with the family system.  Maintenance functions are survival functions that allow family members to meet basic needs.  Families must develop self-determination, or autonomy~personalities are allowed to grow in unique and separate manners.  Each member of the family develops a sense of self-worth in healthy families.  A spiritual bond is formed within the family based on mutual respect and appreciation.  Mistakes are allowed and forgiven, family members are able to be playful and creative with one another.  This helps develop a sense of fitting into a 'bigger picture' of life. 

AA/NA, Al-Anon and FA are based on the concept of turning one's will and life over to the care of a Higher Power.  The person comes to understand the repairing of his life can be done by developing a value system that helps provide guidance, which is the basis of many faith/belief systems.  This system outlines the expectations for behaviors/actions and determining actions by comparing choices to that value system.  It is important for ongoing recovery efforts that the individual builds this spiritual connection and creates daily rituals through attending AA, church, temple or meditating.

~ to release someone from the obligation of who you want them to be

~ to wish someone well after a long bitter journey with the one who hurt you

~ to call off the dogs of revenge and vendetta

~ to discard the blame game

~ to eliminate guilt and shame-provoking behavior

~ to empty the closet of the skeletons hidden away for future references

~ to open the door to the possibility that trust can begin again
Forgiveness is the root of recovery in the family.  The stages toward forgiveness are denial, self-blame, victim, righteous wrath, survival, integration and finally forgiveness.  To forgive is not to condone, forget, make excuses for the other, necessarily reconcile, eliminate anger, drop the charges.  You know that you have forgiven your loved one when there is no more grind-you-to-the-bone grievance towards the one you love; you love yourself more now than when you lived in your resentment; you stop clenching your fist, grinding your teeth and setting your jaw; you discover yourself wishing them well; your memory is in process of being healed ~ what he did not longer stings; you experience your own forgiveness from your higher power; PEACE.  Forgiveness is a choice you discover you have already made.  There is no magical formula but as the Big Book of AA suggests, we learned to pray for the one who hurt us; talk out, talk through and talk to death your resentment with a mentor; write on paper a letter to the one you resent-not to send-but to absorb; re-vision your perceptions as one who has been forgiven; read/listen to the stories of people who have learned to forgive an enemy.
Friendship is an area where the need to belong or be accepted can be met.  The chemically dependent individual will need to develop new friends that will encourage healthy lifestyle choices and participation in socially appropriate activities and interactions.  Many addicts and family members of addicts struggle with feelings of low self-worth.  Self-esteem is often credited to people feeling validated; however, much of self-worth is connected with the ability to achieve and succeed.  The recovering loved one may struggle initially but by building positive network with schools and work can help the person become successful in academics as they need to hear about their positive qualities from others, too.  Children have counselors, teachers and social workers; employees have supervisors, co-workers and mentors.  Access all your resources.  You deserve the support.

Consider how much time was spent on your loved one's drug use.  If drugs are removed from the picture, how much time would now be available to be utilized?  It is important that the recovering addict develop new and old interests that bring enjoyment, physical activity and constructive use of time.  Unscheduled blocks of time should be avoided initially because it allows time for the recovering individual to reminisce about the old times and to be caught off guard by triggers for old, unsuccessful behaviors.  Before leaving treatment, talk with your loved one to see how they intend to separate themself from dysfunctional behavior and to develop new interests.  It is unrealistic to think your loved one will lock himself at home and only interact with family and people at meetings.  People need the stimulation of other people to challenge views/beliefs and thoughts.
All a recovering addict is asked to do is to do whatever it takes to not use for the next 24 hours in front of him.  The great part of this is that the individual can stop himself and get refocused at any point of the day. 

 slogans used in Families Anonymous (FA):

One Day at a Time

Let Go and Let God

How Important Is It

Keep It Simple

Just For Today

Live and Let Live

The 3 Cs

  I did not cause it
I cannot control it
I cannot cure it

prescription for addicts from Dr. Bob (1937)

Trust God
Clean Up
Help Others

thank you Dr. Bob and Bill, and all those who are friends of Bill and the healing centers that continue your amazing work xo