Thursday, December 28, 2006

What to do??

I hope everyone is having a safe and happy holiday season. This is a stressful time of the year even without the intensity of having someone you care about struggling with addiction. We all see things through our owns lense and have a certain perspective about what our responsibilities are or what our moods are. Brain chemistry influences everyone in good way and not so good ways.

Addiction changes the brain chemistry and fools the brain into thinking something very important and meaningful happened when nothing happened. The physical changes that addiction causes in the chemistry of the brain rob the person of having a choice. Addicts don't have a choice but think they do. Family members do have a choice but think they don't.

Addicts can learn to have a choice once they buy into a recovery program and follow that program of recovery over a long period of time. The choice addicts have is how are they going to respond to their addiction, not whether they are addicts or not.

Family members can learn to exercise the choices they have all along but either didn't realize these choices were appropriate or were not emotionally ready to implement some of these choices. The family members must get help. they must get support.

The first step in recovery for the family member is to understand that they cannot be responsible for the recovery program of the addicted person in their lives. They need to learn to give up managing other peoples lives and focus on managing their own. In order to do this we need the support of others who are also dealing with these issues.

What to do: Step one find a support group were you can be yourself with people who won't judge you. The links on this blog can help you find this support in your area.

Have a good new year, take care of yourself.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

What's Going On

Addiction is a disease process. This disease effects every member of your family. Managing this disease can be successful. To manage addiction successfully requires family members to take responsibility for their own recovery process.
The Goal of every addict is to use their drug of choice successfully. They can never succeed at this and their struggle to accomplish this results in the creation of a tremendous level of chaos for both themselves and their loved ones.
Nagging, preaching, threatening, lecturing or pleading is a waste of your time. the addict does not have anymore control over their disease process than you do. Which is none. The process of denial prevents them from knowing the truth.
Back Off !! The more energy you spend on trying to "force" a specific outcome the more helpless you make yourself feel. If you are preventing the addicted person from feeling the consequences of their addiction you must learn to stop this. Addiction does not respond to logic it only responds to experience.
Pain is the addicted person's best friend. Learn to allow the addict to feel the natural consequences of their behavior. When we "rescue" our loved one we are not helping them. We are soothing our own anxiety related to addiction in the family. In order to recover everyone in the family will experience uncomfortable feelings, learn to handle them in ways beside enabling behaviors.
What do I do? Get the facts, develop a support system with others who are "in the same boat." Practice new behaviors, not to try to create an outcome in the addict but to make your life better. Addiction thrives in an environment based on isolation, secrects, lies and shame.
It's a brain disease. Addiction causes distortion in both perception, thinking and behavior. Treatment for the addict is about learning how to think, feel and behave drug free. For the family members it is learning how to think, feel and behave without being dominated by anxiety, fear, and shame.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

More on Roles

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving. The holiday season is always a stressful time but when you add addiction to the mix and it can be heartbreaking. Family members need to be extra careful not to isolate and to seek out support from other family, friends, and/or a 12 step program such as al-anon.

We last talked about the role of enabler in the family. In actuality everyone plays this role from time to time. Remember we talked about taking on roles as a way of coping with the "craziness" in the family. Other behaviors roles that people tend to take on in order to survive emotionally are the overachiever, this person is sometimes called the family hero. Others may display acting out behavior, getting in trouble in school or not going to school, this is the scapegoat. Another behavior is staying out of the way, laying low, spending a lot of time alone, quiet, this person gets lost in the shuffle. Then there is the clown who uses humor to defuse tense situations. All these roles have an aspect of health attached to them. They also have a cost. The problem is that these behaviors become compulsive ways of handling stress in general and lead to serious problems for the person unless they understand what is going on with them. The overachiever uses work and accomplishment to deal with stress and could become a workaholic, the scapegoat faced with stressful situations in their life may compulsively act out as a way of dealing with the stress and never know why. Every time they are on the verge of success they seem to sabotage themselves. The lost one lays low, doesn't stick his neck out. This was one of the roles that I took on when going up in an alcoholic family. I tell people today that I would have made a great Vice President. Not standing out is the goal when stressed. Of course the comedian is not made aware of what they are doing can become depressed has a hard time with relationships as an adult and tends to be emotionally immature.

What can you do? Vern E. Johnson, of the Johnson Institute advises the following; you can become an Intervener. How do you do that? It takes two steps. If you are in the habit of inappropriately confronting the chemically dependent person, STOP. If you are accustomed to protecting the chemically dependent person, STOP.

Easier said than done you say and you are right.
These are learned skills that you will acquire if you come to the family education class at Hina Mauka in Waipahu or Hina Mauka in Kaneohe on Thursday evenings.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What's My Role

When there is a crisis or an on going stressor within the family everyone in the family is effected in some way. This is especially true when a family member or close friend suffers from the disease of addiction. We may not even be aware that we try to maintain control of the situation by taking on new roles. We act in certain ways in an attempt at responding to the addiction in our family. Everyone does this, it is unavoidable. The problem is that many of the typical ways family members react are not healthy for them and do nothing to help their loved one.

What are these roles? They are ways of trying to adjust to the disease of addiction in the family. In her book "Another Chance; Hope and Health for the Alcoholic Family" Sharon Wegscheider Cruse describes these roles. She has labeled these roles as the "Enabler, the Hero, the Scapegoat, the Lost Child, and the Mascot." Unfortunately these roles have become labels for people and labeling is not healthy either. An example would be the Enabler, everyone does this behavior to some extent. Think of enabling as a behavior rather than a title. When family members attempt to manage the addicted person by doing for the addicted person what that person should be doing for themselves that's enabling behavior, when family members find themselves shielding the addicted person from the consequences of their addiction that's enabling behavior. Family members enable in order to deal with their own anxiety and this way of dealing with the anxiety caused by the disease of addiction in the family is not helpful to the family members or the addicted person.

We get caught up in adjusting to the addiction in our family and Sharon Wegscheider Cruse reminds us that "the only healthy response to would be not to adjust to it but to open it up by voicing honestly your practical problems, your mental confusion and your emotional pain." This cannot be done alone. You need a support system. Al-Anon, Alateen, NA, AA.

More on roles in coming blogs.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Links you may find helpfull

www.al-anon.alateen.org
www.na-hawaii.org

One of the hallmarks of addiction in the family is isolation. It is important for family members to understand that they are not alone. Find resources that can be helpful to you. Each resource probably won't meet all your needs but each one will have something to offer. Keeping secrets is part of the negative consequences of addiction in the family. Remember the three C's. You didn't cause it, you can't control it, and you can't cure it.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Recommended reading

I'm back!!!

Today I want to comment on a wonderful resource. It is a book entitled "Love First" and it is written by Jeff Jay and Debra Jay. This book will give you clear ideas about ways you can approach the problem of addiction in your family that will have the greatest chance of success for the addict and the rest of the family.

One of the early chapters in the book "Love First" is "Eleven Misconceptions about Chemical Dependency" and the first misconception listed is "An alcoholic or addict must be ready for help before he can be helped."

As we discussed in earlier posts, pain is the best friend of the addicted person. When the addict is allowed to feel the consequences of their addiction they have a greater chance of seeking help. Why? Not because they want to stop using their drug of choice but because they want the pain to go away. This pain may be legal, social, economic, such as threatened loss of a job, medical, threatened loss of family, or access to children. The hope is that during treatment they will start to develop the desire and the skills to remain in recovery over the long run.

If you are doing the life tasks for an addicted person that they should be doing for themselves you are buffering the addict from the consequences of their addiction and unintentionally enabling the addiction. There is another chapter in the book "Love First" that is titled "Good intentions can take you down the wrong road" I believe this book is an important resource for people struggling with addiction in their families.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Understand Enabling

There is nothing family members can do that is wrong but there is is a lot they can do that is unproductive.

Isolation, shame, fear, anger and trying to control the wrong things are the biggest hurdles the family must overcome. Family members want to know; How can we help? The first step in helping is to find support reduce the isolation related to the addiction is your family.

It is important to understand that what ever you do to "help" must, first, be motivated by the need to take care of yourself, both, physically and emotionally. Family members tend to put their emotional well being into the hands of an addicted person who has no control over their own well being. They say to themselves, "I can never be happy unless my loved one stops using drugs." By doing this family members make themselves into emotional hostages to their loved one's addiction. When this happens the family winds up feeling the pain and anxiety that the addicted person should be feeling and needs to feel to have a chance of making a decision to get help.

When family members buffer the addict from the consequences of their addiction they rob the addict of an opportunity to struggle with a crisis that may give them the motivation to seek help. Why do family members do this? Because they think they are "suppose" to rescue their loved one and because they are also trying to soothe their own anxiety. If family members reach out and allow themselves to get support they can learn to not do for the addicted person what they should be doing for themselves.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Develop Boundaries

Pain is the best friend of the addicted person. One of the very important skills for family members to learn is to be able to allow the addicted person to feel the consequences of their behavior. The family member may be addicted to trying to make a positive outcome happen for the addicted person. In the process of trying to make things better, walking on egg shells, and of taking care of the addicts responsibilities the family members protect the addicted person from feeling the pain that they need to feel in order to change in some way.

Developing boundaries is so important for the family member. It is important for the family member gradually understand that their loved one's addiction is not their problem. Their loved one's addiction effects them but it is not the issue they have to learn to manage. Families must learn to manage their response to their loved one's addiction in a way that is healthy for them and their whole family.

It is very important for family members to get support and learn the facts about addiction.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Where To Get Help

Focus on what you have control over, not what you do not have control over. We try to have an effect on our loved one's thought process by appealing to their "common sense" and we think, "how can you not see what you are doing to yourself." We don't understand that we are not dealing with "just" bad choices. We are dealing with a disease process, a brain disease that does not respond to logic or argument. The disease is not logical and exists independent of our thought process. The addicted person can only respond to consequences.

So, what do we have control over? We have control over our environment and we have control over our response to the addiction in our family. What have we been doing? We have been trying to control the addicted person's attitude, behavior, friends, habits, and becoming more and more frustrated and feeling more and more powerless. While we are doing these things our environment is falling apart and how we react to the situation becomes based more on fear and anxiety than understanding.

How do I begin to control my environment and my response? In order to do this we need to begin to develop boundaries between ourselves and the addicted person. we have to begin to understand what our problems are and what their problems are. For example, your loved one's addiction is not your problem. It effects you and is painful for you, but, your problem is how well you respond to the addicted person's issues. No matter how hard you try you will never be able to solve their problem, only they can do that. This does not mean that you don't love them, want the best for them, nor does it mean you abandon them. It mean that you are developing a clear understanding on what the issues are and who is responsible for solving what problems. Remember the three C's; You didn't Cause it, You can't Control it, and You can't Cure it.

Family members need support to deal with these issues. It is very important to find an Alanon or Alateen group so you can be around other going through similar experience. In Hawaii there are also family education classes for the family members of the addicted person. These classes are held at Hina Mauka and are on Thursday nights. One is held at the Waipahu office and the other is held at the Kaneohe facility. Call 236-2600 for information.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's Not Your Fault

It's not your fault. Family members want to know what they can do to help their loved one. What is the one thing they haven't found out yet that is the answer for creating a positive outcome for their son, daughter, husband, wife, brother, sister. In the struggle to help their loved one family members gradually put more and more of their own emotional wellbeing into the hands of the addicted person. who has no control over their own wellbeing. The family members world begins to shrink and is more and more focused on the addict. This situation causes tremendous levels of pain and anxiety for the family members.
The answer to the question of how can they help lies in what the family members think is going on. What the family members think is true about addiction, what they perceive their responsibilities are, and what family members are emotionally willing and able to do in response ti the addiction in their family.

For example the idea that addiction is a disease process that neither the addict nor the family member have any control over may be very confusing to the family member. Many family members do not understand what that means or are not really convinced that it is true. Every major health organization in the world agrees that addiction is a disease but, unless the family member is able to understand this and act on it the information doesn't help them. Family members will say things like, "how can it be a disease, they do it to themselves?" What the family members are seeing is actually the compusive behavior and drug seeking of the addict that is the result of changes in the brain caused by the disease process of addiction.

You would think that people with lung cancer or emphyzema would stop smoking but many do not because of their addiction to nicotine. The brain is altered because of the chronic drug use and fools the addict is thinking that their drug of choice, whether it is Ice, Alcohol, Nicotine, Cocaine is what makes life worth living, not family, friends, job. This is why the addict will endure all type of hardship, create chaos, lose everything around them because they are chasing the thing that they think is good for them. I never met an addict that wanted the pain that they caused for themselves but they can't stop.

Friday, August 25, 2006

What Addicted People Do

Of course, that's what addicts do! Addicts lie, manipulate, steal, make bad, impulsive decisions. We scratch our heads and wonder, how could they do that? Don't they see what a mess they are making of their lives? Family members are thinking logically but addiction is not logical. We want to help so we take care of the addict in ways that shield them from the consequences of their addiction. We take on the pain they should be feeling. Family members eventually must learn that nagging, preaching, threatening, or lecturing the addict is a waste of their time. The addict does not have anymore control over their disease process than you do, which is none. Neither the addict nor their family member wants to accept this reality and it causes a tremendous level of pain and chaos. When the family member begins to accept this reality then healing can begin for them. The same way that the addict must accept that they are powerless over their addiction the family member do the same. the family members addiction is trying to control the addicts disease.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Addiction the Brain Disease

What's going on? Why is it important to the family members to begin to truely understand that their loved one is caught in a disease process? It is important for family members to learn that the addict has no control over what is going on with him/her and that this condition is a brain disease that the addict can't simply decide not to have. It isn't personal, even though it effects those close to the addict. Addiction is a brain disease that alters the way addicts think and feel about their world and those in their world.
Why is addiction a brain disease? Because it changes the way the brain functions. The part on the brain that is most effected by addiction is the part of the brain that controls our drive for survival. With addiction the brain is fooled by the drugs and the addict begins to think that their drug of choice is needed for their own emotional survival. They start to believe that their drug of choice is what makes life worth living. The disease of addiction replaces the normal types of experiences such as positive relationships with families, jobs, physical activity, good nutrition as markers of wellbeing with the ability to access and use their drug of choice. It is not personal. the goal of every addict is to use their drug of choice successfully. They can never succeed at this and their struggle to accomplish this results in the creation of a tremendous level of chaos for both themselves and their loved ones.
As the family members begin to see addiction as a disease process that neither they nor the addict have any control over they can begin to learn and implement the three C's. The three C's for family members are: They didn't Cause it, They can't Control it, and they can't Cure it.
How does an addict get help if they can't control their disease process? The addicts best friend is pain. It is very important for people with the disease of addiction to be allowed to feel the consequences of their addiction. Of course many times family members make every effort to shield the addict from the consequences of their addiction. All this does is create a situation where the family members feel the pain that the addict should be feeling. The addict needs the painful experience to know they have a problem.