Saturday, November 14, 2020

If I am helping, why are they still using?

You are laying awake at 3am waiting for you 24 year old son to get home. You haven't been able to sleep from worry because he borrowed your car at 8:00 pm to give his girlfriend a ride home from work. He swore he would be back by 10:00pm, but here it is five hours past and he hasn't answered your calls or texts. You are SEETHING because you specifically paid his phone bill so he could look for work properly and keep in touch with you on his whereabouts. Where is he?! It's torturous as you picture all the terrible things that could be happening to him. Was he in a terrible wreck? Did one of the dealers he owes money to catch up to him? Was he arrested for possession again? Or worse yet, another theft charge?  Is he in the hospital or laying in a ditch dead, or in pain?  You think about how you have to work in the morning and how tired  you are going to be. But you know you have to go to work, because you used up all of your PTO taking your son to his PO and counseling appointments. Suddenly, you hear a car pull up and loud voices in the driveway, along with laughing and swearing. There's a car door slamming and your son stumbles through the front door and faceplants onto the couch. You jump out of bed to confront him, really angry now because he was out laughing and having fun and where the hell is your car anyways?! You launch into a line of questioning but he just mumbles incoherently. You think you hear him say something about taking a chill pill.  He reeks of a blend of cigarettes, booze, and weed.

Does this sound familiar? Is this something you have gone through recently with your son, husband, wife, daughter, or another loved one? If so, let me first say, I am so sorry you are going through this. It's terribly scary, lonely, and maddening. Let me also tell you that there is help out there and that you do not have to live in this craziness. You do have choices and options. There are things that you can do to make your life better. Simple things, but not easy things. And because these are not easy things to do you need support while you do them because they will seem so cruel and so hard. Every fiber of your being will tell you to NOT do these simple things. And your loved one will scream at you to not do them as well. But, here's the thing, they are really not cruel things to do. They are lifesaving techniques that are evidenced based at encouraging sobriety and change in your loved one. 

 Let's pretend your loved one is climbing a very tall pine tree. There are several branches for them to use as leverage and "steps" to climb. You are watching from below and you are nervous but the climb seems easy enough and you know they can get down because they have all the branches to use. Here and there, they slip and land on the branch directly below them.  Thank God those branches are there to save them from plunging straight out of the tree and into the ground below! Some slips and falls from the branches are a bit higher and harder than others, which are just short distances.  You wince a bit but your climber gains confidence as they master the branches and their distances. As they climb you begin to notice that some of the branches seem to actually be in their way, making the climb harder to maneuver. As they struggles around them sometimes the branches even scratch , or poke their face, often even drawing blood. They begin to really have a hard time, but they want to continue the climb because they wants to see the view from the treetop, and they are determined. But you hate seeing them get poked and bloody. Suddenly you have a great idea! You remember you have a long handled tree pruner in the garage! You run to get it, and you see that you can prune away some of the branches for your climber,  making the climb easier! Now they won't need to get bloody and poked! The climber see's that yes, actually the climbing is so much easier without so many branches! They can see that all those branches were a pain in the butt to maneuver over and asks you to continue to cut, so you gladly do to help.  But you start to tire, your arms are getting sore from holding that pruner up! You have to grab a ladder and keep having to climb  up higher on the ladder, to reach the branches to cut. You probably shouldn't be up this high, you think, but your climber needs you to make the climb easier, so you suffer through it. As you cut the branches, you get smacked in the face with some of them when they fall. They start to cut your face, and your arms. You get banged up, and you almost get knocked off the ladder. You tell the climber they will have to continue on without the pruner but they say, no! They  says you have to keep helping now because they can't do it without your help. Reluctantly you continue, but now you are getting mad. A large branch comes down and hits your ladder and makes it sway quickly to the side and you have a close call with tumbling off. Your climber says not to worry, they are almost high enough. You tell them, forget it, just take the pruner yourself!! The climber thinks that's a great idea and prunes away and continues to climb to the top. You worry too much is being cut  away and that the wrong branches are being removed and you tell them to stop pruning, but they won't. Your climber clears away all the small and medium size branches as you beg them to stop! You are afraid there's no way to get back down. You yell to tell them to lower the pruner down and to stop climbing. They just laugh at your worry and insistence. You are angry, sore, and a bit bloody. Your heart is pounding hard as you watch. Suddenly, they lose their step. Your climber falls and flails their arms and legs, reaching for branches to save them. But the two of you have cut away so many branches that there is nothing to break the fall or catch them. They plummet to the ground with a sickening and possibly deadly thud. You scream and cry and curse that you ever brought out the pruner or encouraged them to climb. 

You see, we all have to climb. And their are obstacles in the way for good reason. To keep us safe, to keep us from climbing to high to fast, to make us stronger,  and to keep us from falling. So, every time you pay a cell phone bill for, borrow the car to, pay for another rehab, call them in sick for work, or make excuses for them, you are pruning away the life saving measures that are in place for them so they have a better chance of not dying. 

Please call 262-758-3918 if you need support and education about how not to rescue. Family recovery coaching is so important. When the family learns how not to rescue, the addicts odds of getting sober greatly increase. 

Sunday, November 8, 2020

That first drink

I live in the midwest and yesterday was unseasonably warm for the beginning of November. The sun was shining and there was a warm breeze. Most of the leaves have fallen here, but there are still some pops of color here and there. I spent an afternoon hiking with my kids and soaking up every bit of vitamin D that I could get. After hiking I drove home through downtown and noticed a group of people outside of a cafe in town. They were sitting around a table full of drinks, there was laughter and smiling, as music spilled out from the open door of the cafe. All of a sudden I wanted to be sitting there with them. I wanted to be sipping a drink in the sunshine. I wanted to have an afternoon of drinks and funny conversation! I let my mind play back over great times with great friends I have had in the past. So many comical experiences and so many laughs! This ran through my mind for about two minutes. I played with the thought that maybe when my kids are grown and I am in retirement I could start to drink again, and enjoy that freedom once more! 

Suddenly, a phrase came into my head that I have heard thousands of times around the tables. "It's the first drink that gets us drunk." The reality of that statement struck me right in the center of my truth. For people who abuse alcohol, it's that very first drink that gets us in trouble. The ones that follow don't help either, but if I don't take that first drink, I won't get drunk! It's almost too simple. 

So, I had to reframe the picture I had in my mind of the jovial time I could have with friends sitting around the cafe table in the sunshine.  Because the initial vision was not reality. The reality is I would have a good time for a few minutes with my friends. But I wouldn't sip my drink, as they do. I would slam the drink and then at least two more in quick succession to make up for the years of lost time. My focus wouldn't be on the conversation, it would be on how could I order another drink without them thinking poorly of me. I would pretend to have to go in to use the bathroom so I could quickly down a drink inside before anyone missed me. Soon, I would be talking to loudly, getting to emotional, and possible offending people. As my friends would be getting up to go home to their families and responsibilities, I would be blowing mine off and heading to the next place to find companions who drank the same way as me. And God only knows where this would end, or if it ever would end again. Illness would follow, both mental and physical. 

And why would all of this happen? Because I am allergic to alcohol and cannot consume it in ANY level. Not one drink, and not 20 drinks. It's the FIRST drink that gets me in trouble. If I don't pick that drink up, I won't have 20. If I do pick it up, I am toast. 

Monday, February 17, 2020

Can you hear?

Do you trust your Higher Power? Do you hear it? How often do you listen to your inner prompting? When we are using alcohol or other drugs that voice gets drowned out. We either can't hear it because we are practically comatose or because endorphins are rushing through our brain and we are moving along a million miles an hour. I used substances so that I wouldn't have to hear that voice at all. Not only did I not want to hear the voice, but I didn't want to catch a glimpse of an inner knowing by looking in the mirror, into my own eyes. I cannot tell you how many people I have heard in recovery groups say the same thing. It's a common thing, a characteristic of addiction. Eventually though, I would come out of my drunken state, and lay awake in my bed in the deep of the night, and I would feel the terror creep over me, the knowledge that I was ignoring my Higher Power, the fear of what was going to happen if I continued to do so. 

After we put down the substances, and our brain heals, and our heart starts to beat again, the voice is still there. We can hear it again, we can feel it again, the inner promptings. 1 Kings 19:11-13 talks about God's voice being a "still small voice". Elijah was standing in the midst of tornado style winds and an earthquake. But it was not in the storm that God was, but in the silence. God used the storm to get my attention, but I had to get quiet to hear his voice. And I believe that is how it works with our Higher Power. 

I wish I knew that answer as to why we ignore that voice. It has pained me my whole life. I have come to some sort of an understanding that for me, it is a rebellious act. However, why I feel like I have to rebel, I don't know! Rebelling against my creator is futile. It's like a  Honey Bee refusing to pollinate. The bee starves and the flowers don't produce fruit. Same thing happens when I ignore my Higher Power and rebel against his plan for my life. I starve spiritually, financially, physically, emotionally, and socially. My life bears no fruit. 

The decision to listen to your inner  prompting can be scary. But truly, the SAFEST place to be is in God's will. This is why, in my opinion, step three of the 12 steps is a turning point. If you do step three in earnest things will change for you. Suddenly you have tapped into the power supply and you can do things that you haven't been able to do before. 

Listen, trust, have faith, take action. Life is too short and too beautiful to not be living your purpose. 

Thursday, August 29, 2019

Let's talk about NOW

Nowcovery is a term that I use instead of "recovery"  because it's NOW focused. The word "recovery" is great, and it's a relevant term in that everyone knows what it means to be recovering. We can be recovering from a lot of different things such as  surgery, addiction, healing from a bad relationship etc. But what does recovery entail? If you really look at it closely, and break it down to the simplest of actions, it entails the choice you make in the moment, in the right NOW. If I am trying to overcome something, how do I do it? By making a choice NOW.

So,  let's take this theory of NOW and put it into the context of recovering from an addiction through actively choosing positive behavior. How am I going to Nowcover? Consider how I begin my day when I wake up. The alarm goes off, and I already have a choice. Hit snooze and sleep a little longer? Or, don't hit snooze and wake up so I have time to do a morning reading and reflection? Honestly, the best option will change from day to day. In other words, the NOW will be different today than it is  tomorrow. If I didn't sleep well,  the best positive behavior may be to hit the snooze and catch a few more moments of rest. Or, maybe I slept great and the urge to be lazy needs to be pushed aside so that reading and reflection can take place.

We can only make choices one moment at a time. That's the only place where we actually are, the only thing we have any control over is THIS moment of NOW. Where we run into trouble is continuity and endurance to make the best choice in each moment of now. We make a few good choices in the now, and somehow for whatever reason, we stop and we revert back to the old choices for too long and we get way off track. This is why we need support! We need someone to say "Hey! Have you noticed your making old choices again?!".  DENIAL is sneaky in that we don't always know we are in it. We need people to help us with our blind spot.  Counselors can do this for us, good friends can do this for us, and so can a recovery coach. Preferably all three should be utilized for a healthy Nowcovery program. Please don't continue to live in your blind spot, call today for coaching.

Monday, March 13, 2017

Action not words

If you want to make a change in  your life you have got to make a change in your life. Lingering in the contemplation or preparation stages of change will not do you any good. If I could have back the time that I spent in contemplating change I would have years. It's really important to do the work that you can do at the time. Reading about solutions, researching resources, and planning are essential components of change. But at some point, you have to step out onto the water. This takes faith. Faith in the solutions, faith in the resources, faith in your plan, and faith in your endurance. I hate it when people say the opposite of faith is fear. That's ridiculous. Faith and fear are often times partners while your go through challenges. "There's no way to do this unafraid" were words I heard frequently from my counselor when I was making huge changes in my life. I wanted to wait until my fear was gone, thinking that there was some crucial step in the planning that I was missing, that once I figured it out fear would go away. I waited for two years while I twisted and turned over my choices and wrestled with my fear. In the end, I did it afraid. Terrified is more like it, but I had faith that it would get better, and it DID.

If you are miserable and clinging to a behavior that you are somehow unwilling to let go off because somewhere in the back of your mind you are terrified to live without it? Take action. Struggling with an addiction to alcohol? Make an appointment to go to a counselor, go to an open AA meeting, make an appointment to see your doctor, tell a trusted friend, research what alcohol does TO you instead of FOR you at  . Pick one of these and do it today.  Are you in a bad habit of eating ice cream every night and you are sad because it's showing on your waistline? Take action. Throw away what's in your freezer, join weight watchers, switch to low-fat yogurt, go for a walk, dance to your favorite music for 10 minutes, tell a trusted friend, Pick one of these and do it today! Are you stuck in a relationship that is draining you? Make an appointment to go see a counselor (with or without that person), take an honest inventory of your behaviors, read a book about boundaries, pray for that person. Pick one of these actions and do it! 

Taking bits of action at a time add up to change. Changes may happen slowly or quickly. If you are tired of being stuck, the only way out is through action. And when you take action, you show yourself that you aren't powerless. And that is going to make you feel a whole lot better. God bless!

 Photo by Minervastock, used with permission

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Nowcovery and safe places

I use the term “nowcovery” instead of “Recovery”. I am not “REcovering anything. And most of the women I work with aren’t interested in “Recovering” much either. What they are interested in is building a new life. Building new relationships with the people that they have broken relationships with. For so many of them, their life in the past was not ever in a good place. So many come from a past that is filled with poverty and abuse. They may have never had a healthy relationship with their parents or children. Why would they want to recover any of it? They don’t. They want a new life. They want to focus on NOW.

Nowcovery is a lot of work and a lengthy process. While we are talking about what’s happening in our lives NOW and making each day the most positive and healthy it can be, we still have to go back into our past. We HAVE to make the connection between what has happened to us, to how that is driving our current behavior. Being able to go and look at the past requires that we get to a safe place to do it. Where that safe place is, will be different for everyone. Some people find a safe place in church. They make the necessary human connections there, perhaps with the church leaders, or small groups. There are different recovery groups in churches too, Celebrate Recovery and Freedom Seekers to name a few. Millions of people find that safe place “in the rooms” of Alcoholics Anonymous or other 12 step programs. Smart Recovery has had great success for people who relate best to the world of psychology.  Women for Sobriety also has a large following (Men for Sobriety is starting to gain ground). Other people seem to be able to find the necessary safe place in one on one counseling. The point is, there are plenty of opportunities to find that space.

No person, no group owns the market of sobriety or recovery. Finding YOUR path is critical. I started my recovery “in the rooms”. That is what worked for me. From there I found I couldn’t do anything without Jesus Christ. Jesus showed me that he gave me the gift of a love of psychology, so Smart Recovery concepts help me to learn a new way of interpreting my thoughts. And my desire to learn how to be a strong, healthy woman brought me to Women for Sobriety. It worked for me, and my road of NOWCOVERY keeps leading me into new lessons. TO THINE OWN SELF BE TRUE… we are all our OWN selves. Jump into your NOWCOVERY and keep an open mind. Start searching for your safe places.

Friday, July 22, 2016

"practice these principles in all our affairs". ie, walk your talk

Have you ever spent so much time with someone that you think you know them and their reactions really well? For example, a co-worker. We spend many hours a week with our coworkers and we see them perform under some very stressful situations. We see the best of their behavior when a project comes together smoothly, or the team is really cooperating well, or the day is flowing along without any chaos. And we also see the worst of their behavior, when none of the above is happening, and road blocks are popping up in all of the days activities. Seeing so much of our coworkers really leads us to believe that we know them quite well. The same can be said for people we spend time with in recovery meetings. Perhaps we have spent years sitting at the tables with the same core group of people and have seen these people go through all of the ups and downs of life. Sometimes, we have spent tens or hundreds of hours with these people, and we can practically know what they are going to say about a topic before they even speak. We KNOW them. Or do we?

How well can we ever really know another person? All we can go with is what they present to us. WE aren't in their heads, we can't read their thoughts, and we don't see their behavior when they are alone. Its safe to say we don't know everything there is to know even about the people that we are involved in intimate relationships with. So, really knowing someone we work with, or go to meetings with is an even further stretch. We all play roles, it's a part of being human, it's a part of having a personality. Roles of wives, husbands, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers. And we all have professional roles we play. Managers, accountants, waitresses, nurses, doctors, counselors, custodians etc. My idea of the role of a wife, may be completely different than your idea of that role. We will play our roles differently. Based upon our life experience, and our wants and needs, everyone chooses how to play their roles. 

But there is a big difference between playing a role, and lying about who we are and what we do. Most professional roles don't mix well with swearing like a sailor. So, at work, we don't swear a lot, or out loud, or in meetings. But outside of work, maybe we swear like crazy! Loudly! Not swearing at work doesn't make us fake or a liar. We just know that to be successful in our work role, swearing is not appropriate. 

However, sitting at the tables and talking about how honest we are, while outside of the meetings we sell stolen merchandise out of the trunk of our car, is lying. Talking in meetings about how much we have learned to respect others, while outside of meetings we talk about everyone behind their backs and spread gossip, is lying. Claiming to be responsible people now, but aren't even opening the bills up when they come, is lying. If I am sitting in a meeting, talking about how I behave now that I am in recovery, you should be able to recognize me outside of the meetings. My words should be matching my behavior outside of the meeting. In other words, I should be walking my talk. And if I am not, that means I am not trustworthy. And that is unacceptable for us if we want to stay sober. 

Getting real with ourselves, and listening to what we say we do and comparing it to what we actually do, is part of our daily inventory. When we catch those inconsistencies, we need to either adjust our behavior, or we need to get real with our speech and stop pretending we are recovered where we are not. I know how my disease works. It grows off of shame, and I really work hard to not give myself things to be shameful about. Walking my talk, and practicing these principles in ALL of my affairs is the tool I use for that.