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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



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



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



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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