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Does Relapse Mean Failure?
Wednesday, March 20th, 2013

Does Relapse Mean Failure?

He relapsed, does that mean he failed? HELL YES, over and over the same old crap!!! Won’t he ever GET IT???!!! (Expressed very loudly by a father of an addict: me.)

No, no, no, this isn’t a rant of today. Everything is still good with my son. These are the words that still echo in the walls of our home.

We all evolve and learn in the process of parenting an addict. When I first entered this world, my way of thinking was cut and dried. You either recovered or you didn’t. If you didn’t, you failed.

Well, learning is hard, especially if you happen to be an adult.  And when learning involves first unlearning what you believe to be true, it is particularly difficult.

I struggled a lot. It literally took me years to understand what so many people told me over and over, relapse is a part of recovery. It was hard to accept this idea when I couldn’t relate it to what I’d experienced and believed in my life.

I can remember sending Alex off to his first inpatient rehab. So easy that was. Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Send him away, write a really big check and he comes home cured. Boy was I dumb!

It didn’t take long for the anger to surface. Two weeks, in fact. What the hell, two weeks and it is the same old thing — except my bank account is minus $6000.

Fast forward through a lot of anger, time and way too many more dollars than I want to think about. Relapse is a part of recovery. I don’t know the statistics on how many addicts “get it” the first time, but they aren’t really relevant to our story.

What I have learned is that recovery is a process that involves many things and numerous variables of which relapse is one component. That’s not to mean I accept relapse because it is part of the package it just means I have a better grasp of the process and I am able to live in reality.

Does relapse mean failure?

Failure is the act of not trying. This is how I broke it down in simple terms and concepts for myself. When I was younger I water skied a lot. The first time I ran a slalom course I fell, if I remember right it was on the first ball. When I tried to trick ski I fell on my first 360.

Failure wasn’t me falling. Failure would have been if I climbed into the boat and never skied again. Failure isn’t the result of not succeeding. Failure is the result of not trying or giving up.

No matter how many times it takes.

To learn more, read 5 Things You Need to Know About Relapse.

(proof Darlene and I were young once upon a time)

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Forgiveness, parenting, Recovery & Relapse, relapse, Substance Abuse, Treatment, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



From Party Girl to Plugged In: My Journey Through Addiction to Recovery
Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

As a little girl, Mom and Dad promised I could be anything I wanted — police officer, teacher, journalist — and that no matter what, my life would be a good one if I followed my heart. Hard work, dedication, honest effort and the Golden Rule were required but, according to my folks, a small price to pay for happiness.

Their words, spoken in earnest to their oldest child, fell across my ears and under my radar as the years passed. Conceptually, I referenced the ideas from time to time, but my world was much too complex to be reduced to old-world, Horatio Alger charm.

I did work hard. I did get the coveted college degree from the prestigious undergrad program. I did land the first job in my field two weeks before the commencement ceremony. I did return to my hometown in triumphant victory as the first of my mother’s kin to brandish the sheepskin of higher education.

Beth Wilson, 22 years old

I landed back in my suburban city, however, anything but free. I was a 23-year-old, full-blown alcoholic with a lot to show for my school career but little recollection of how I got it.

Mom and Dad never warned me about following the family lineage into alcoholism. Maybe they didn’t know that because addiction coursed through both sides of my family, my reckless party-girl college life might lead me across a line into alcoholism.

After all, they didn’t know about the college “accidents” that sent me to the hospital emergency room with severe ankle sprains (from falling while drunk) or the night that friends thought I was having a heart attack after a bad combination of alcohol and over-the-counter Sudafed (I was trying to stay awake to study).

They certainly didn’t know about the countless occasions of school parties with booze and sex, times I can’t remember, times I’m lucky to have survived with no pregnancies or STDs.

Now a college grad, I was a “responsible” adult with a job and rent due each month. But my drinking was escalating to the point where nearly every morning I swore to any and all gods that I would not drink “like that” again. I would try harder not to drink so much and I would make sure I ate something that would coat my stomach, something besides beer nuts and pretzels, so I wouldn’t be so sick and hungover the next day.

If I could only control my drinking! I convinced myself that if I concentrated more on things like being more aware of my surroundings and paying more attention to the descriptions of the cars I got into and watched where we drove, then I wouldn’t find myself in the unhealthy situations that seemed to happen with increasing regularity.

If I were more responsible, I would stop waking up in strange places with strange people, or so I told myself.

However, I was a young alcoholic woman with a career and a bucket full of insecurities. I was desperately trying to fit in while setting myself apart from the crowd. I thought myself intellectually superior to the people with whom I interacted, yet I seldom felt worthy of anyone’s attention. In my mind, I was a big shot traveling the country on an expense account, yet on the inside I felt like I deserved none of it. I worked hard at not letting people really see who I was because I was deathly afraid that if they did, they would wouldn’t like me, and I really needed for them to like me. I desperately needed their approval. Years later, I would realize that my insecurities were covering a thick layer of fear, most likely a fear of rejection that stemmed way back into my childhood.

So I continued to cover my intense loneliness with a party-girl persona. I felt a vague sense of irritation, sort of like when you’re walking on the beach and a small pebble gets lodged in your shoe. You try to continue walking but ultimately end up with a big blister and a hurting foot.

I kept drinking, but a growing restlessness gnawed at me. Instinctively, I knew something was wrong, but I didn’t know what until a God-moment on a spring day in 1991. I was driving to a conference for work, through a small town where an old friend lived.

She had been like a surrogate mother to me when I was growing up, but after she and her family moved away from my hometown, we dropped contact for many years. Something made me stop my car on that day and call her.

She was delighted to hear from me, and we had lunch. As we caught up, I listened to her describe her son’s battle with an addiction to drugs and alcohol.

Her son had just been released from a treatment center. I knew him well and wasn’t at all surprised to hear that he was messed up with drugs and alcohol. Because I had partied with him, I figured he would eventually end up with a problem. I had seen him in really bad shape.

My friend — my surrogate mom — planted two seeds in me that day. When she spoke about her son’s behavior and the resulting consequences, I realized with a sudden force that every time I got into trouble, alcohol was involved. That was the mustard seed she planted.

The bigger seed, one more like that inside a peach, was what she said about his spiritual awakening, about how he came to understand that he was powerless over his addiction and that by admitting powerlessness, he was able to embrace a new way of life that included the awareness that God was guiding him to become a better person.

My friend’s son admitted he couldn’t control his life, and with that admission, he gained a new way of living.

I’ll be forever grateful that my old partying buddy connected with a higher power, because his connection led me to mine.

My spiritual connection — what I call being “plugged in” — is my lifeline in this day-to-day crazy world.

Grace led me to sobriety; I haven’t had a drink of alcohol since May 20, 1991.

I’m learning at a turtle’s pace that while I am powerless over my addiction, I can control the thoughts, feelings and attitudes that lead to the decisions I make. And so long as I don’t drink alcohol, I have a much better chance of recognizing the difference between what I can control and what I can’t. Remember all the things I mentioned that my parents failed to warn me about? Turns out I had quite a build-up of resentment toward them. Thankfully, long-term sobriety and an ongoing spiritual connection healed that resentment.

I believe that staying plugged-in to a God current that flows freely and readily whenever I express the willingness to connect has made all the difference to me; it allowed me to heal strained relations with my parents before my mom died in 2010.

Until that time, I think the little girl in me still blamed them for not fully preparing me for adult life. Now I know they did the best they could; family talks about alcoholism and addiction were taboo in the 1970s.

Today’s family culture offers so much more hope for teenagers. While parents still urge their kids to shoot for their dreams, they also season their conversations with realism about the future.

One thing hasn’t changed: Parents still want the best for their children, and kids still want their parents’ approval. Add a good amount of honest conversation about drugs and alcohol, and you have a solid basis for a successful, drug-free future.

To read more stories of recovery or to share your own, please visit the The Hope Share.

Posted by Beth Wilson  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Alcohol, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family History, Family members, Forgiveness, parenting, Recovery, Self-reflection, Taking Care of Yourself, Uncategorized, Warning Signs  /  Comments: more



Detaching With Love: How I Learned to Separate My Son and His Addiction
Wednesday, December 19th, 2012

My son Alex shoplifted to support his addiction. Needless to say he got caught several times. The first few times, when he was a minor, we’d get a call to come pick him up, and he’d get a ticket, and we’d pay a big fine and take him to court services for his probation and take him to a psychologist. This went on for a couple years.

When he turned 18, he was no longer a minor, and with his record they’d take him to jail. He’d make that phone call from jail, “Please come and bail me out. I’m never going to do this again.” Off we’d go. After a while, this was getting expensive. And my wife Darlene and I were not learning our lesson—and, by the way, neither was our son. We were doing the same thing over and over, and our son was doing the same thing over and over. Nothing was changing. He’d make the same promises, we’d take the same action, and we couldn’t understand why he kept using!

This is where the idea of “detaching” and setting boundaries started with us. We decided we weren’t going to pay bail next time.

But it wasn’t easy. As a mom and dad it is very hard to think of your child sitting in jail. In Jackson County, MO, jail he witnessed a person getting stabbed. The food is universally bad at jails, and without money on your books, you can’t even get a toothbrush to brush your teeth. He had food stolen from him and at times had to fight to keep it. He spent two days in solitary confinement for defending himself against an inmate who attacked him. Some jails put the mentally ill in with criminals such as rapists and murderers, and then put them all in together with the drug addicts. It makes no sense to me.

It’s hard to think of yourself as a loving parent when you know that for just a few hundred dollars you could get your child out of those situations. You wonder: if I don’t pay the bail, am I really a loving parent? But eventually, the day comes when you don’t pay. We once let our son sit in the “Johnson County, KS, Resort” for 11 days because we wouldn’t post a $50 bond. Sounds mean doesn’t it?

This is about detaching with love and not enabling. Your boundaries must match your values. It works for us this way. Overriding all is the value that we love our son. When you sit down to think about and discuss boundaries, this goes at the top of the page. Every single boundary is tested against that value.

Another value we hold close and taught our kids is that stealing is wrong. Stealing carries consequences, and it should. Bailing him out removes or minimizes the consequences. Contrary to our values, we were bailing him out. We hated what he was exposed to in jail; however, we had established a pattern: he got caught, he called, we jumped with cash in hand.

Darlene and I sat down and determined where we would go and where we would no longer go. This began to help us establish our boundaries. You can’t cover all of the possible situations; you just cover what you can and know that once you learn how to judge behaviors and fight the instinct to enable by rescuing, the exercise becomes easier and more natural.

Once boundaries are determined, you must sit down with your child, an addict that may or may not be high at the time, and explain where you will no longer go with him. In fact you can even start each sentence with, “Because we love you…” and then, for instance, “we can no longer bail you out of jail. All of your life we taught you that stealing was wrong and you know that in your heart, so we cannot support your actions by bailing you out of jail when you do something you have been taught all your life is wrong. I hope you understand this and can accept our decision.”

For each boundary we had discussed, the conversation went like that. Our son hated it when we turned off the TV and asked him to sit down at the table to talk. This satisfied our need to tell him of our expectations, and it told him what to expect from us. Yes, he still called, begged, pleaded and cried from jail, but what we had been doing in the past didn’t work and was bad for us and him. We had to change the rules, but that didn’t mean we loved him less. It meant we loved him more because it hurt us terribly to let him sit in jail.

Even with his begging and pleading we were still able to sleep at night and have a moment of down time. He was in jail and we knew jail was safer than being on the street scoring and shooting more heroin. We then began to see jail as “protective custody.”

We detached from Alex’s crimes and actions; we did not detach from him. We still loved him, took some of the $10-for-10-minute collect calls from jail. On those calls we always ended by saying that we loved him and asking him to please help himself. We were doing all we could and all we knew to do. Detach from the actions, crimes, drug use, lying and every other terrible thing a drug addict does to himself and others. Love and support the person inside, not the addiction controlling the life.

Today, Alex is two-and-a-half years sober.

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Codependency, Confronting Teens, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Enabling, Family members, parenting, Patience, Substance Abuse, tough love, Uncategorized  /  Comments: more



8 Personal Conclusions I’ve Reached as the Parent of an Addict in Recovery
Wednesday, December 12th, 2012

My son stopped using over two years ago. For seven years he was addicted to drugs and, by the end, was a heroin addict. Today he is drug-free and working to put his life back together.

There are countless books and websites about addiction, rehab and recovery. Most of them are filled with valuable information that helps both the addict and the parent. I won’t discredit anything on these sites or in these books, but I want to share what I have learned about being the parent of an addict in recovery, not from reading but from experience — no long-drawn processes or lengthy explanations. These are just some realizations that seem to help me.
father and son talking outside1. Recovery is hard. Sometimes your child needs a hand. Make sure your hand is out for them to grasp when needed. But don’t hold on too long.

2. Addicts dig deep holes for themselves. Contrary to what you may think, filling the hole is faster when only one person has a shovel. If you help to shovel, it will take longer to fill the hole.

3. Forgiveness is for me. The sooner I understand, the faster I heal.

4. “Believe” or “doubt?” I choose to believe. Have you ever had someone tell you that they believe in you?

5. Normal is right. “Fragile. Handle with Care” is not stamped in big red letters on a child in recovery. To stop using drugs or alcohol means he or she wants a normal life again.

6. Nagging, suspicious looks and reminders of past mistakes really irritate me. Addicts in recovery probably don’t need them either.

7. His recovery is his to manage. I know that for the last seven years, he hasn’t been able to manage ANYTHING. But we all have to learn and begin someplace.

8. I love you. That is a reassurance we ALL need.

Posted by Ron Grover  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Forgiveness, Hope, parenting, Patience, Recovery, Self-reflection, Substance Abuse, Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: more



12-Step Programs: Working Toward Freedom from Addiction
Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Our libraries and book stores are filled with books on addiction and treatment centers have materialized in cities across the globe; addiction has touched the lives of most people.

Therapists’ phones are ringing off the hook because addiction is causing incredible pain in many families across the nation.  Books, treatment centers and doctors all have a role to play in the process of recovery. The disheartening truth is that all the education in the world will not eliminate the obsession of the user. Self knowledge alone will not keep us clean nor will it help the family member to find solace in their quest for healing.

However, most these avenues of treatment will introduce the client to the 12-Step programs. In my first blog I talked about the programs of Alanon and Naranon. These programs are essential for family members and friends of the addict. I want to emphasize to parents the importance of embracing the 12-Steps into your own lives.

Intervention and rehab centers are important components in the treatment of addiction and can be important stepping stones in the pursuit of finding freedom from addiction, but they do not equal recovery. They are external support systems; the steps will be the channel to internalize this important information. There is a saying in the 12-Step arena that the therapeutic value of one addict helping another is without parallel.

Today, there are hundreds of 12-Step programs based on the original 12-Step concept launched by Alcoholics Anonymous in 1935. The steps are basically the same for each of these programs, except for the first step, which begins with, “We are powerless over….”

You can fill in the blank with “drugs,” “alcohol,” “food,” “gambling,” etc. I use the word “addiction” when referring to this step, because it encompasses all unhealthy obsessions.

The experience of working and living the steps can be as varied as those seeking recovery, and belief in a theistic god or God Itself is not a requirement. Spiritual principles work for the agnostic as well as atheist. The process simply asks us to believe in something, some Higher Power that we will be willing to let guide us on this journey of healing.

Sponsorship is highly suggested in all 12-Step programs. When asking someone to be your sponsor, you look for someone who reflects in life what you are seeking. This person will guide you through the step process—someone you can call in a time of confusion, someone who you trust spiritually.

Each of the steps contains certain spiritual principles. Some 12-Step literature emphasizes the HOW of the program. This acronym refers to three basic principles: Honesty, Open-mindedness, and Willingness. There is a deliberate order and harmony in the way that each principle is placed, practiced, and ultimately lived within the 12-Step process. As we work these steps, our lives begin to change. We are transformed by these principles from the “inside out,” and as our spirits heal and grow our material lives are positively changed.

The serenity that is spoken of so highly in 12-Step fellowships flows outward, attracting others who seek it out. We write out each step, identifying what the step means to us and how it applies to our lives today. This process is like when a Zen master gives his student a Koan to figure out, and solve in their life. The most famous example of these playful, mystical riddles would surely be, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” The student then meditates on this phrase (or step) to come up with what this means personally and spiritually in their present life.

Since our spiritual journey involves constant change, we continue to grow by working the steps over and over again, each time on a different issue and at a deeper level. The journey of the steps mirrors our lives, and their meanings change with us over time. The principles that occur as we work and live the steps are quite simply directions. Like points on a compass, they tell us where to go, directing our lives into a place of wholeness and fulfillment. I believe this profound personality change has to be ongoing. To assure our transformation continues, I suggest to the people I sponsor to keep their practice of the steps ongoing. The steps save our lives, and then they change our lives. We, in turn, show the next person how we did it. Ideally, this process of spiritual growth never ends.

When addiction enters our lives, either through our own use or that of a family member, it can cause enormous confusion and pain and turn life as we know it upside down. The spiritual path of the 12-Steps is not always easy, but the willingness to practice the steps will begin to soften our attitude toward addiction.  Compassion and understanding will begin to fill the void that anger and resentment used to occupy.

As we begin to witness our lives and those around us change, we come to see that our greatest challenges are often the introduction to a deeper compassion, engendering our view of life with a new sense of vision.

Posted by Tom Catton  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Finding Treatment, Hope, Recovery, Self-reflection, Taking Care of Yourself, Treatment  /  Comments: more



Addiction as a Gift: Our Call to a Deep Spiritual Practice
Monday, March 26th, 2012

“I’m Tom, a grateful recovering addict.”

I have identified myself in this way in meetings and conventions for over 40 years. My intention is to put a new interpretation on the insidious disease of addiction. We all know the nightmares that accompany addiction. I invite you to move beyond the traditional ways addiction is looked upon, revealing the seemingly hopeless disease of addiction as an enlightening dilemma. I hope to introduce you to the revolutionary belief that for some individuals a life fraught with sickening addiction can quite possibly become a misunderstood gift and a blessing in disguise.

Currently there are countless studies and books written on the field of addiction and the vast and growing research on what is now termed “addictionology.” Though it is a fascinating area of contemporary and compassion-based health care, it is also encompassed within the realm of clinical rehabilitation centers, some of which are rife with discouraging statistics and sterile data. I speak from my heart and own experience.  I was once a hopeless addict whose life has been interrupted by a Higher Power.  My life was transformed by surrendering to the principles of The 12-Steps, which has led to a life that is devoted to the practice of meditation and service to others.

Addiction touches everyone. When an individual, his or her family member, or a close friend struggles with the malady, it eventually affects the lives of every member of society. In every country around the world, people have found a way out of their addiction. On a daily basis there are millions of people attending 12-Step meetings in almost every country on this planet. Be assured you are not alone.

The idea that the disease of addiction can only be treated by a spiritual transformation has been the motivating idea from the beginning. In the early 1930s, a hopeless alcoholic sought help from Carl Jung, a well known psychiatrist. The patient had resigned himself to the tormented reality that he suffered from the chronic inability to stop drinking. In those days, such people often ended up in jail or a mental institution and many lost everything that had been dear to them, including family, friends, careers and ultimately life itself. Addiction was viewed as a lapse in morality and had not yet been recognized as a medical disease.

This man came to Dr. Jung and asked for help. The psychiatrist frankly told him that although he was unable to help him, he had—on a few rare occasions—seen someone in the grips of alcoholism go through a profound personality change brought on by an intense spiritual experience. This visit to Dr. Jung set the foundation for other drunks to stay sober by helping each other and in turn practicing the spiritually-driven 12-Steps of recovery. The steps were designed to achieve the ongoing spiritual experiences that brought on the deep personality changes in our lives. One could argue that the steps were “given” to addicts by a higher spiritual realm, and Jung was as much a conduit as a cornerstone for the recovery movement. In his later years, Jung would be asked if he believed in God. Without hesitation Jung answered, “I know there is a God.” Yet the experience of working and living the steps can be as varied as those seeking recovery, and belief in a theistic god or God Itself is not a requirement. Spiritual principles work for the agnostic as well as atheist. The process simply asks us to believe in something, some Higher Power that we will be willing to let guide us on this journey of healing.

I would not dismiss anyone’s pain caused by the disease of addiction.  If you are a family member or a close friend, let the experience be a calling card for your own spiritual practice. The programs of Alanon and Naranon can be your refuge, a sanctuary where you find understanding.  You may suddenly realize you’re not alone in this pain. This can be the beginning of a great adventure within, bringing to your attention that addiction is just one of many countless challenges we are called upon to face in life.

Kahil Gibran put it so eloquently in his book, “The Prophet”:  “Your Children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

Gibran was speaking the language of Alanon and Naranon long before their inception.  We must learn to detach and to love unconditionally. Once we start practicing spiritual principles we learn we can’t manipulate life to fit the conditions we believe will ensure our happiness. Instead we tend to each moment without judgment or criticism; acceptance of what is becomes our offering.

The 12-Step programs have been proclaimed as one of the most powerful spiritual movements of the twentieth century.  These programs provide support and guidance to offer hope where all hope was lost.  May loving kindness fill your hearts.

Posted by Tom Catton  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Finding Treatment, Forgiveness, Recovery, Self-reflection, Taking Care of Yourself, Treatment  /  Comments: more



The Mindful Addict: Tom Catton’s Spiritual Road to Long-Term Drug Recovery
Friday, March 9th, 2012

The Partnership is excited to introduce our new blogger, Tom Catton. Tom has been in long-term recovery since October 20, 1971 is the author of The Mindful Addict: A Memoir of the Awakening of a Spirit, which highlights Tom’s relationship with meditation in combating his addictions. Tom is on the advisory board at the Buddhist Recovery Network and is trained in Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction.

The following excerpt from my book “The Mindful Addict” gives a hint of the adventures that occurred during forty years of placing recovery above all else and learning to follow my heart through the practice of meditation each morning. If “The Mindful Addict” were summed up in a few words, I would say it is a miraculous adventure story about what can occur when meditation is coupled with service to others.

I used alcohol and drugs from 1959 until October 20,1971. I always say that I’m a blessed addict because I did all my using in the 60’s.

Growing up in Southern California and traveling to Hawaii as a teenager in 1962 to further my surfing endeavors seemed like that natural movement of the times. I lived the lifestyle that invited the use of drugs and alcohol. We were summoned by Tim Leary to turn on, tune in and drop out.

I went from drinking alcohol to sniffing glue, experimenting with LSD and other mind expanding drugs. Soon I was using needles to inject any substance for a quicker response. If a drug could be dissolved in a spoon, I used it.  

I went to my first 12- Step recovery programs meeting on the North Shore of Oahu in 1968.   I proceeded to bounce in and out of recovery for three years until I was sick of being “sick and tired.” The gift of recovery often waits for this opportune time to enter our lives when we see our own best thinking brought us to a veritable skid row in our mind, body and soul.

Excerpt from The Mindful Addict:
3:45 a.m., February 10, 1968, Kaneohe, Hawaii. A tall, thin woman looking much older than her fifty-two years sits up in bed meditating. A cup of coffee rests on her nightstand, and a cigarette glows in the dark. She listens, in silence, to the small voice within, her shadow standing guard as she sits in the stillness, becoming one with the calm. Flobird meditates for several hours every morning, a habit she picked up in 1960 while getting into recovery in twelve-step programs.

She lives each day by the spiritual guidance she receives during meditation and diligently records the messages in her journal. Writing becomes automatic, a prayer in ink, and the spirit guiding her pen to identify her next assignment. At times her dialogue with God is intense, and at times she questions the assignment; but, she always steps into the unknown and does exactly as spirit guides her.

On this particular early morning, Flobird’s meditation leads her to the North Shore of Oahu, about 40 miles from Kaneohe. She hops into “Redbird,” her Fiat, and drives to the Sunset Beach area, just as she has been directed in meditation. Here, she finds a four-bedroom, completely furnished; wood-framed home nestled under the trees right on the oceanfront. Guided by an inner direction, she reaches above the doorjamb, locates the key, unlocks the door, and enters. Coincidentally, I lived next door to this house.

During the winter months, the waves on the North Shore are huge. This is the only time they break with gigantic force and must be at least twenty feet high before they are considered surfable by the locals. The energy from just one such a large wave, as it comes crashing down, is breathtaking, and the salt spray can be seen in the air for miles.

At night, the roaring waves sound like thunder, or an enormous gong echoing across the oceans from some unknown temple. Often they become so enormous they wash over the highway. Sometimes these monster waves can even level houses in their wake.
The North Shore community is relatively small, and everyone knows one another. Back in the 1960s, Haleiwa, the main village, had only two grocery stores and a bank. Today, it is a bustling town sought out by tourists from all over the world to watch or surf the killer waves.

This time and place was magical for those of us fortunate enough to live there. The community was dominated by surfers from around the world who competed in riding the giant waves at the world’s most famous surf spots dotting this five-mile stretch of coastline. There were also many so-called hippies searching for enlightenment through the use of drugs, including LSD and hashish, which were believed to lead to spiritual illumination. Some of these drug-using hippies were in both categories: they surfed, took a lot of drugs, but were ultimately looking for something greater. That was me.

In the early morning hours of this day, I was startled awake by the sound of a car on our street. With a new clarity entirely unfamiliar to me in the breaking dawn, I gazed out the window and saw a tiny red Fiat pull up to the vacant house next door. I watched curiously as a strange woman got out and walked calmly up to the house as if she indisputably belonged, as if placed there by mystical entitlement. I had no idea that this event would change my life forever.

Posted by Tom Catton  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Alcohol, Books about addiction, getting help, Recovery, Self-reflection, Substance Abuse, Uncategorized, Writing About Addiction  /  Comments: more



Part II: An Overview of Relapse
Thursday, November 17th, 2011

=An Overview of Relapse

This is a guest blog post by Michael V. Pantalon, PhD, Yale Psychologist, Addiction & Motivation Expert, Speaker, Coach and author of INSTANT INFLUENCE: How to Get Anyone to Do Anything—Fast! (Little, Brown & Co., May, 2011).

Many people who enter into recovery (i.e., abstinence from their drug of abuse/dependence & engaged in treatment) will relapse at one point or another.  Though this seems like bad news, the flip side is that relapse can be a manageable part of recovery – some have even said that it has helped them solidify what they need to do in order for it to never happen again.  How did these people benefit from the pain of relapse?  What kernels of wisdom and insight might they have gleaned from it?  And how did their family and significant others help them through that process?

Well, while everyone’s relapse is different to some extent, there are some fairly predictable dynamics that family members should be aware of if they would like to help steer the affected individual through it as easily as possible and in a way that important lessons can be learned and applied in the future.

This is the opposite of the “One-drink-One-drunk” adage that says that the moment an alcoholic who has been in recovery for a period of time (even a long period of time, say 15 years) has a single drink or even sip, they return immediately back to the drunk they were 15 years ago.

While relapses can often set in motion a series of events both environmentally and biochemically that can eventually lead someone back to their worst point or lower, there is no scientific evidence that it happens immediately or that it is inevitable.  In fact, the scientific literature more clearly states that the manner in which the affected person, as well as significant other around him, HANDLES the relapse is much more predictive of how things will go in the future.

So, it’s not simply the relapse that causes problems, but how it’s handled.  That said, the reverse is also true (and much more positive and hopeful)…”The better the affected person and his significant others handle the relapse, the better he will do in the future (e.g., the shorter the relapse, the quicker the time back to treatment).”

How have you and your family members handled relapse in the past?  Did it work?  Please share with us in the comments section.

Related Links:
Part I: Dealing With Your Teen’s Relapse from Drug and Alcohol Addiction
My Own Daughter’s Relapse
Addiction is a Chronic Medical Disease

Posted by Michael Pantalon, PhD  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Dealing with an Addicted Child, Family members, Recovery, Recovery & Relapse, relapse  /  Comments: more



Part II: How I Learned to Forgive: Lessons for Family and Friends of an Addict
Thursday, October 6th, 2011

ForgivenessMaybe you have spent countless hours blaming yourself for what you did or did not do to help your loved one. Maybe you feel that you gave up on them. You will drive yourself crazy if you constantly question yourself when any attempt you make really won’t change the situation.

It is very painful to have drug addiction take over the life of someone you love. Being angry is understandable, but be angry at the disease not your loved one. Learn to separate the person from the affliction and trust that forgiveness will benefit you in many ways.

I have compiled a list of things that have served as lessons for me in the art of forgiveness. I hope that they will help you in your journey.

  1. Keep in mind that forgiveness is a journey.  As we grow older we learn more about ourselves and our ability to heal. Growing up in an addiction-tainted household does not always provide one with the necessary skills to forgive in a healthy way. These skills will need to be learned by educating yourself through counseling, positive peer relationships, and/or self-help books. A great start would be reading, “The Art of Forgiving” by Lewis Smedes. He wrote other books on forgiveness but for me, this one taught me the true meaning of it and how it would set my spirit free.
  2. Let go of resentments, they will eat you alive. This was a huge roadblock for me. No matter how hard I thought I was trying to let go of my anger toward my family the more it would rise from the shadows and influence everything going on around me. The deeper the hurt, the harder to let go. Anger is so detrimental to our emotional well-being. It leaves our past unresolved and prevents us from moving forward. We must work through the pain and anger because there is nothing powerful enough to erase it forever. You will be amazed by the way you feel when you have finally released the negativity. Be patient.
  3. Send them on their way with a smile. I have had friends who seriously screwed up at great moments because they repeatedly drank too much or used drugs. At first it may seem funny or cool, but it gets old real fast. Watching your friend ruin his life is quite painful and you will usually catch some of the blow back from their behavior which only adds to an already tragic situation. When you reach that moment of needing to put yourself first, don’t feel bad about it! You owe it to yourself to be surrounded by positive influences. There is a saying I live by that goes like this: “An addict will take you down way faster than you can pull them up!” It’s sad but true. Cut the ties that bind you and wish your buddy all the best. There is no harm in loving yourself more than their disease. Oh yeah, remember that just because you forgive the person, it does not mean you have to bring the relationship back into your life. Some things are better left alone. Please do not mistake this step as uncaring. Loyalty is important, but you first have to be loyal to yourself.
  4. Don’t play the waiting game. If you’re waiting for your loved one to feel bad about hurting you, you may be setting yourself up for disappointment. “Waiting for someone to repent before we forgive is to surrender our future to the person who wronged us,” writes Smedes. The disease of addiction erases a person’s conscience. Most of the time they will never realize what they did wrong and will go on leaving your broken heart in the dust. You would be amazed at what addiction justifies in a person’s mind. This person you no longer recognize will quite literally do whatever it takes to protect their disease. Realize that how and when they heal is entirely up to them. There is no threat, promise, material item, or amount of time you allot them that will save them. Ultimately, they have to save themselves when they are ready.
  5. Forgiveness breeds happiness. Aside from the physical benefits of learning to forgive, the positive emotions that forgiveness brings are some of the greatest feelings I have experienced. Once I felt that I had succeeded in letting go of my past, many people wondered what I had done to myself because I had a new glow about me. I noticed that I smiled as I passed strangers and they smiled back. I no longer felt like an outcast and it was so nice to be positive about life. These positives were new and frightening for me in the beginning, but I had faith in the process. Nothing else I had tried before seemed to work and repeating the same tired steps and expecting new results is the definition of insanity. I definitely had enough insanity in life; it was time to let it go once and for all.

I think the person we tend to be hardest on is ourselves.  Sp remember to forgive yourself because you have the ability to and you are worthy of it.

Read Part I of my journey to forgiveness.

Related Links:
Part I: Forgiveness: My Struggles to Make Amends with Myself and My Addict
Addiction is a Chronic Medical Disease
Dealing with Feelings: 5 Ways I Cope with My Young Adult’s Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Online Community and Support Group for Parents of an Addict

Posted by Michelle A. Woycitzky  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Family members, Forgiveness, getting help  /  Comments: more



Part I: Forgiveness: My Struggles to Make Amends with Myself and My Addict
Thursday, September 29th, 2011

ForgivenessDealing with the aftermath of my stepfather’s drunken escapades in my childhood became as common as getting out of bed in the morning. My family thought it was “normal” to scream at each other, to throw dishes across the room, and to pretend it didn’t hurt when these type of things happened. My mother seemed as if she had forgiven my stepfather’s behavior every single day only to have it occur again the very same day. My middle brother was a drug addict at this time also. He would bully my grandmother into giving him every last dime of her life savings, would rob our home — the home he lived in — and scream at all of us when we refused to let him in the house. He even stole from my piggy bank when I was 10-years-old.  Addicts have one purpose — to get more drugs, period. In this case too, my mother seemed to want to forget and continue to enable him.   It was an endless cycle.

When you are a small child growing up in a home plagued with addiction you get a very distorted picture of what it means to forgive. We do whatever is necessary to survive the emotional rollercoaster we are on, while resentment builds inside of us. When we are old enough to understand the addiction we just want to forget everything that ever happened. It would be great if I could wave a magic wand and erase all those terrible memories. But I have had to live with them.

They have altered my ability to trust, to believe in others, to feel worthy of love, and to forgive. I was so angry at the people I should have loved the most. I hated my stepfather for his embarrassing and painful displays of drunkenness. I hated my brother for being so weak and conniving. I hated my mother for not being strong enough to protect me from them. As an adult, I was isolated and angry. I ran away from my family because I wanted to be the complete opposite of them. I wanted to attract good.

Let me tell you that you can run to the ends of the earth and it will never be far enough to avoid yourself. The only true way to heal from your loved one’s addiction is to forgive — forgive the person, forgive those affected by the person, but most of all you have to forgive yourself. It took me over thirty-five years to truly begin forgiving. Sure I had said hundreds of times before that I was over all of the negativity, but I hadn’t really learned how.

Have you forgiven yourself and your loved one with a drug addiction?  Share your story of forgiveness below.

Read Part II of my blog post next week to learn to how I forgave myself and those around me.

Related Links:
Acceptance: Regaining Trust and Rebuilding the Family Unit
Dealing with Feelings: 5 Ways I Cope with My Young Adult’s Drug and Alcohol Addiction
Moving Away From Enabling
Time to Get Help

Posted by Michelle A. Woycitzky  /  Filed under Acceptance, Addiction, Alcohol, Enabling, Family History, Forgiveness  /  Comments: more






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