What Good Are Those Slogans, Anyway? Part 1

diana-urban_what-good-are-those-slogans-anyway-blogIf you’ve spent any time around Al-Anon, Alcoholics Anonymous, or other recovery-oriented groups, you’ve heard at least a few slogans and acronyms. Most of them seem to fall into one of three categories, and they include our relationship with:

  • Our addicted loved one.
  • Ourselves.
  • Our Higher Power.

This month, we’ll look at a few of my favorites that deal with our relationship with our addicted loved one.

You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it.

This was the first slogan I heard at the first Al-Anon meeting I attended. Hearing that began to chip away at my fear and guilt that as a parent, I had somehow caused my son’s alcoholism. What I learned over time is that you can’t “make” someone drink or use, any more than you can “make” them stop drinking or using. Eventually, as I began to understand and believe this slogan, I experienced great freedom and relief from the overwhelming guilt I felt about somehow being a “bad” parent.

Recently, I heard a doctor who works with addicts (and who is in recovery himself) add this to the slogan, “You didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it, but you can contribute to it.” This does not mean that we can “make” someone drink or use, but it does mean that we can contribute to the disease by enabling our loved one so they find it easier to use. We may do that in any number of ways, such as letting them live with us or buying a car for them, ensuring they have more money to spend on drugs and alcohol. Or we may call their boss and make excuses for them when they miss work. There are a myriad of ways that we codependent friends and family members enable our loved ones. The next slogan can help us break away from enabling.

Compassion is letting someone experience the natural consequences of their actions and not fixing it for them.

If you’re a severely codependent person like me, this sounds cruel, not compassionate. I spent a lot of time shielding my son from the consequences of his actions, because I feared he couldn’t handle life experiences on his own. This form of enabling is crippling, because every time I explained away his behavior or helped him work through a problem, I took away the consequences for his actions, which would have provided him with the opportunity to learn from his mistakes. I also removed the satisfaction he would have felt by overcoming adversity and working out problems on his own. The next slogan reminds us of this.

Let them have their own experience.

I didn’t grasp the importance of this slogan until my son moved from rehab to sober living. It was unusually rainy weather for the first month he was there, and he did not have a car, so he had to walk to work. One day, I was worried about him walking from work to the apartment in heavy rain, so I asked his recovery coach if I should contact my son to see if he needed a ride. His recovery coach promptly said I should let my son “have his own experience.” That was great advice, and sure enough, my son worked it out—he found a ride home with someone from work.

While that example is cute and funny to look back on now, it serves as a perfect reminder to me that I need to allow my son room to live his own life, make his own mistakes (and learn from them), and exult in his own victories. I expect to be allowed these freedoms, and allowing my son these same freedoms is one of the best things I can do to show him that I support him and trust him to be a responsible adult who makes good decisions.

When I began attending Al-Anon, I admit I thought some of the slogans were a little hokey. But over time I’ve learned the value of these slogans as I understand them and find ways to apply them. They are now an integral part of my own recovery. I encourage you to find slogans that are meaningful to you and work them into your daily life.

Resources

 Al-Anon Family Groups

XA Speakers

Al-Anon Speakers

Stories of Recovery (Al-Anon Talks)

 

The FACTS vs. The FEELINGS

brc-882When is the last time in the midst of an emotional crisis you stopped to ponder the question, “What are the facts?” I can tell you in all honesty that it has taken years of practice to be able to pause with enough clarity and force myself to answer. Why is that? Perhaps because it is so much more satisfying to concoct the story in accordance with how I feel at any given moment rather than consider how my emotions may be potentially driving the drama.

Feelings are often what we cling to first because they are fueled by our fantasies, by our grandiosities, they are colorful and powerful swirling through our minds. They are propelled by fear and create havoc when left unchecked. Facts are precise and steadfast, not near as fun to entertain nor make decisions based upon. It has become so important to be able to decipher between the two and know what place they each both hold.

I recall telling a story to a woman close to me and being knee deep in the details when she suddenly stopped me short. She asked the show stopping question, “Audrey, what are the facts?” It took me by surprise and I floundered to find the answer. The story was unfolding perfectly with me as the ultimate martyr and the rest of the players as the typical adversaries. This is not an uncommon theme for those of us who have been ruled by emotion most our lives.

Addiction creates a breeding ground of miscommunication and hurt feelings. As family members, we begin to grasp for the coping mechanisms and tools that make us feel better and soothe the anger and hurt pride. What is sometimes hard to remember is that experience has taught us that these tools no longer serve us. They are merely the only ones we have in the bag. When we move into a program of recovery and set our intentions to utilize new tools we then begin to experience new results.

This woman went on to teach me about allowing the facts to be the central players in all my affairs. The first exercise she taught me was to pause before reacting or saying anything that I may later regret. In that pause I learned to bring God into the situation which is the ultimate source of Power that I cannot muster within myself. I noticed that the issues in my life began to lessen and more importantly my perspective began to shift. I could see scenarios for what they truly were without the heavy weight of emotion clouding my vision. My level of serenity is always tied to my current experience and my current experience is directly correlated to my relationship with God. He is the ultimate teacher of learning to operate within the facts rather than the feelings today.

audrey-woodfinAudrey Woodfin
BRC Recovery

Manic Mondays and Such

mark-houstonHave you ever heard the expression “Manic Monday“? I swear it must have been coined by someone who works in the field of addiction treatment. Sometimes I walk into Monday morning staffing with what seems like “umpteen” issues coming at me like rapid fire. Bam, bam, bam!

Last week Monday seemed to roll into Tuesday which bled into Wednesday. Problems and issues ranging from easily solved to 911, and in no particular order. A resident wants to leave AMA, a family is upset about a development note web portal glitch, an alumni relapsed and is unwilling to reengage in recovery, I have accidentally double booked myself for calendar engagements and will miss my son’s basketball game, my printer won’t print and is on the fritz … the list went on and on.

By Friday night, as I was driving to a business dinner with several out of town guests in town for the BRC Experiential weekend, I found myself tired, overwhelmed and on the verge of tears.  My mind wandered to  Mark Houston and something he said to me a long time ago…”If you’re going to be in this business and make a difference, grow some thick skin because you’re going to take some arrows!” Ugh.

I picked up the phone and called my good friend who had also known Mark well. I told him about my week and about my frustrations, fears, and failings. He listened to me for a few minutes, allowing me to “vent”, and then slowly and calmly said, “So you know you’re doing a great job right? And you know that you’re helping save people’s lives right? And you know that you’re uniquely qualified for the purpose God designed for you?”

Silence. I had no words.

Because as crazy as it sounds, until that moment I had somehow lost sight of that. And until I heard his words pierce my perception (and delusion), I didn’t know I was doing anything good and I forgot all about the fact that this is a life and death errand. I felt a few tears fall and then I just thanked my brother, pulled into my parking spot at the restaurant, dabbed my eyes and went about my night. I was thankfully buoyed.

When I got home that night from dinner, there was a card for me stuck in my front door. It was from my friend I had spoken to on the way to the restaurant, it was reminding me of my inherent value, my worth and my purpose. When I read the card, I was so touched. I have always believed that God shows up “with skin on”, and this evening I knew once again for sure that  this was true. My corvette driving, cowboy boot wearing, dimpled grin smiling, Texan through and through angel had scooped me up and brushed me off to go and fight another day.

Thank you friend and thank you God. I am so grateful that my 2nd Step conception of God provides endless hope for the hopeless,  endless  encouragement for the downtrodden, and endless love for the brokenhearted. And I am so grateful that Friday night just happened to be my turn.

It’s all good, and just another Manic Monday! 🎼🎤

Peace and light all! xoxo

manic-mondays-and-such-_marsha-stoneMarsha Stone, CEO
BRC Recovery

President Obama Grants Record-Setting Clemencies

seo_president-obama-grants-record-setting-clemenciesDuring the last several decades, one of the largest criticisms of the American criminal justice system has been the excessive sentences handed down to nonviolent drug offenders. Many of those offenders were sentenced under draconian laws that required mandatory minimum sentences, some of which included life sentences, that were enacted during the nation’s “war on drugs”.

In an effort to remedy what is seen by many as an injustice, President Obama reduced the sentences of hundreds of nonviolent drug offenders during his last week in office, which concluded with the commutation of 330 sentences on his last day in office. Those 330 commutations were the most ever in a single day, and brought President Obama’s total number of clemencies to 1,715 – the most by any president ever. Of those commutations, President Obama granted commutations to 568 offenders serving life sentences.

Many of the drug offenders that received the harshest sentences were convicted of crimes that involved crack cocaine. Critics have argued for years that the sentences involving crack cocaine were disproportionate to those involving powdered crack cocaine, and often affected African-Americans the most.

President Obama’s actions have been applauded by many including activists, politicians, and the thousands of attorneys who have offered assistance to the administration on a pro bono basis.  As Julie Stewart, founder and chairman of the board of Families Against Mandatory Minimums, stated “It’s fantastic that the president is using his last days in office to continue to grant clemency to deserving prisoners.”

The former President’s actions underscore several important points. First, the current sentencing guidelines can result in unjust and disparate sentences for crimes involving nonviolent drug offenders. More importantly, it recognizes that oftentimes drug users are not acting in a rational manner when they commit crimes involving drug use. As the prevalence of drug use continues to rise, as evidenced by the recent spike of opioid-related overdoses and deaths, the number of drug users also continues to rise.

However, many of those users engaged in the use of drugs are not committing other crimes, but instead are suffering from a disease which is best addressed through a treatment program – not incarceration. Mr. Obama certainly recognized this though his commutation actions, which granted hundreds of former nonviolent drug offenders a new lease on life.

If you or a loved one is suffering from the disease of addiction, know that treatment options are available — and treatment does work. Take the important first step towards recovery today, call our Admissions team at (866) 905-4550 for a confidential consultation.

Take Off the Training Wheels

brc-510One of the most nerve-wracking times for a family during the recovery journey is when your loved one moves from the treatment center to sober living and then to an apartment or house. At this time, managing your own recovery becomes critical, because doing so will help you take the training wheels off your loved one and allow them to begin riding their recovery journey without your interference.

One thing that will help you let go of managing your loved one’s life is working to improve communication, because many families suffer from dysfunctional communication. As your loved one makes the transition to sober living and then to an apartment, seek help from a therapist and attend Al-Anon, if you aren’t already doing so. The key to good communication is speaking the truth and being honest about your feelings. Feelings are neither good nor bad; they just are. Sometimes they hurt, and sometimes they are good. Developing the ability to express feelings to each other and accept each other’s feelings is crucial. When you learn to communicate more clearly and honestly, the entire family will benefit. Set the example for your family by being truthful and not continuing to hide or couch your words.

Another thing that will help you let go is to realize that while your loved one is immersed in addiction, it is easy to fall into the trap of trying to protect them from real life. We fear saying or doing the wrong thing and causing our loved one to drink or use again. But the truth is that we are not helping them by protecting them. The things we hide and are afraid will send them over the edge may make things worse, because we are not being honest. During the recovery process, your loved one is learning to be honest, and they will appreciate you meeting them on the journey toward more healthy communication.

For parents especially, part of better communication means not offering unsolicited advice, which can be taken as criticism. As an amusing reminder of this, one speaker said “mom” means “masking tape over mouth.” Remember that everyone wants to peel their own banana, and your son or daughter wants to know you trust them to handle life and make good decisions, and that you believe they are capable adults. In fact, the only way they will become competent adults is by living their own lives and learning from their experiences. In the past, your inclination may have been to step in and help whether they asked for help or not. If they ask for help, it is fine to offer it if you are comfortable doing so. But if you interfere every time your adult child seems to be struggling, the lesson they might have learned from that experience will be lost, and they may have go through that experience again.

I learned this first hand when my son moved to sober living. It was unusually rainy weather for the first month he was there, and he did not have a car, so he had to walk to work. One day, I was worried about him walking from work to the apartment in heavy rain, so I asked his recovery coach if I should contact my son to see if he needed a ride. His recovery coach promptly said I should let my son have his own experience. That was great advice, and sure enough, my son worked it out.

Another reason to allow your loved one to experience the normal ups and downs of life without your interference is to take pressure off them. One woman’s daughter told her, “Mom, it’s really hard on me when you want to have only good things happen to me, because not only do I have to be happy for me, I have to be happy for you and make you happy too.” Your happiness and fulfillment depends on how consistently you work on your own recovery, not on how well your loved one’s recovery is going. Your loved one is only responsible for his or her own recovery. Whether your loved one stays sober or not, you can live a happy, fulfilling life by managing your own recovery.

As your loved one transitions from a treatment center to other living arrangements, take off the training wheels and allow them to ride on their own. Will they look shaky? Will they make mistakes and fall? Maybe. But that also gives them an opportunity to apply the recovery principles they have learned, so give them room to do that. Be supportive without hovering. Be honest about your feelings, including your fears and your joy at seeing them living on their own, and your confidence that they can learn to competently deal with life’s ups and downs. The biggest reward of taking off the training wheels is developing a more healthy, adult relationship with your loved one.

Your loved one can learn to handle daily life events, such as a flat tire or being late for work, without freaking out. And the best thing you can do is to allow them to learn to deal with adverse situations. You and your loved one will be much happier when you remove the training wheels from your loved one’s life and manage just one life – your own.

diana-urban_take-off-the-training-wheels

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources

Al-Anon Family Groups

Setting Boundaries with Your Adult Children, by Allison Bottke and Carol Kent

Codependent No More, by Melody Beattie

Bradshaw On: The Family: A New Way of Creating Solid Self-Esteem, by John Bradshaw

 

It’s Kindergarten Every Day

mark-houston-hallA couple of years ago I was approached about joining a Steel on Steel group, and exchanging Evening Reviews with two women in my recovery group. I knew these women casually, and liked them, but we weren’t super close. I was a tad hesitant; however, something in me felt drawn to them and intuitively I trusted them immediately so I agreed. My oh my, would that decision have impact on my life!

And, so we began. We would meet every other Sunday night at a local church and go through the process of self-examination through others-examination. We took turns answering a series of questions about our lives and recoveries, and then the other members challenged our perceptions with the soul stirring propositions of … is it possible? And … would you consider?

Meeting after meeting, and night after night, we began to grow closer. We gave one another spiritual consent and became rigorously honest. Tears were shed, laughter rang out, feelings were felt and hugs were exchanged. I can honestly say I have never known women and relationships quite like these. Even though we didn’t talk day in and day out, and rarely saw each other socially , when the pen and paper came out to review our day, we bared our souls. And when the door closed and Steel on Steel began, we cut right to the heart of the matter. Our recoveries began to grow, and I can honestly say that mine was transformed. In short, it was magic.

And then one day something subtly began to shift. One of the members began to pull away ever so slightly. The nightly texts were sporadic, and the Steel on Steels were rescheduled. Something was changing but I couldn’t put my finger on it. Perhaps I didn’t want to know. And then came the news- she was moving away. She was moving because of her husband’s job.

I felt sad. I felt afraid. I felt somehow oddly betrayed. The self-centeredness rose up within me and I was angry! Somehow it seemed like all this was happening “at me”… such is the nature of us spiritual beings struggling with our human experience. Ugh!

Finally, we decided to meet and discuss our options. Do we disband or do we modify our format and continue? Do we walk through the fear and change or do we – as one of the ladies put it- make a conscience decision not to trust each other? Wow. That’s a zinger.

Alcoholism – cunning, baffling and powerful. Alcoholism wants me isolated and offended. It wants me full of distrust and disdain. It wants me disconnected from God and my fellows. It turns a blessing into a burden.

The aching simplicity of this situation became clear- we are in relationship with one another. We love and trust one another. Relationships evolve and change. Spiritual principles do not. So we did what we were taught as children- we told the truth, we brushed off our proverbial skinned knees, we said our apologies and we ran back onto the (spiritual) playground, hand in hand, to face another adventure.

I love these women. And I love the fact that when my mind begins to wander and conjur up conspiracies, I have a spiritual program of action to bring me back to center. These days it includes (and will continue to include for hopefully a long, long time) these two beautiful, inspiring spiritual warriors who I am blessed to call friends.

Life really is kindergarten every day.

its-kindergarten-every-day-_marsha-stoneMarsha Stone, CEO
BRC Recovery

Kind of Courageous

kind-of-courage-blogLast week I had the privilege to travel to Sundance, Utah, to visit the world renowned Cirque Lodge. What a glorious place of beauty and healing, all rolled up into snow covered majesty. Among the offerings of cozy lodge sleeps, delicious fireside meals, and an exhilarating helicopter ride, was nestled an opportunity to work with the horses and the legendary Dave the Horse Whisperer.

My long time friend and co-worker Caitlin Stowell traveled with me. When we were asked about doing some “horse work” we both immediately thought- equine therapy. We eagerly agreed! But we soon discovered it wasn’t equine therapy…. it was much more.

As we walked into the indoor, albeit still chilly, arena, the sights and sounds and smells of hay and of horses greeted us  right away. Dave strode in and welcomed us with a warm handshake and an assured smile. We sat down to talk and after some pleasantries and general exchange of information about our respective programs, Dave launched right in…

“Tell me what one word you would like to be associated with your personal legacy”, he instructed, “and then say your first name and then your word.” Wow! Big stuff- big instruction! After a few minutes my friend replied, “Caitlin… kind.” And after some digging into her choice, Dave turned to me. I answered, “Marsha… courageous.” And again, after some digging into my choice, he ended the talking portion of our process and led us into the ring with “the two year old horse who still has no name.” Hmmm … blank canvas I thought…

For the next 90 minutes Dave and the two year old led Caitlin and me through a series of exercise which included running in circles, creating energy and movement with our bodies and our own intrinsic power, and learning to communicate with one another and with this gorgeous animal in a safe and trusting way. So very interesting and challenging, yet so mundane and simple. I can say for sure that through throughout the exercise, time stood still and I was present to the moment.

At the beginning, Caitlin was timid and I was overbearing. In the middle we  learned to lean on each other to accomplish the tasks at hand. And, by the end, Caitlin was bold and I was humble. We both began to naturally, and without any real thought or effort on our parts, draw from the very essence of our surroundings and our partners. Truly, almost magically, Caitlin became more courageous and I became more kind.

The entire experience reminded me very much of my own experience in recovery. At the beginning of my journey, I heavily relied on my own instincts (read- defects of character) to attempt to produce the relationships, self-esteem and security I so desperately craved. Somewhere I knew I needed these God given attributes; my human mistake was attempting to produce them from within myself, and through self-will and self-reliance.

Quickly, I learned through the recovery process that unity, service and recovery would ultimately produce the only true and lasting forms of these and other attributes that I needed in order to live with freedom, joy and happiness. Just as in the horse ring, in life, I needed direction from trusted authority, communion with others, and lots of willingness and action on my part for the desired result to be produced.

With gratitude, I can honestly say- It works, if you work it! So to the kind folks at Cirque, and to the horse whisperer Dave- thank you for reminding me once again of the truth of my experience! And thank you for reminding me that recovery is possible and that I and ALL of my fellow travelers are YES- kind of courageous!

Happy Holidays, and love and joy to all –

kind-of-courageous-_marsha-stoneMarsha Stone
BRC Recovery

The Gift of Presence

The Woodfin Family

Pictured Above: The Woodfin Family

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to not live in fear of the future or regret of the past? Where would your mind wander and where would your focus land if not in front of you or behind you? The answer is simple. You would live in the here and now which is the ultimate goal of the awakened spirit. It sounds so simple anyway.

Everywhere we look are beautifully written poems hung with fancy frames in the hallways of homes or inspiring sayings sewn into throw pillows on the couches. They encourage me to stay present and live in each moment as if it were my last. I usually internalize that warm fuzzy feeling and then immediately turn my attention to the next thought that crosses my path. They are ideals to strive towards but unattainable ones at best. “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass, it’s about dancing in the rain.” “Don’t look back you aren’t going that way.” Or one of my favorites, “We are not human beings on a spiritual journey, we are spiritual beings on a human journey.” Powerful aren’t they?

In the hustle of life I can assure you that not one time do the images of these sayings cross my mind. When the days get long and the pressure of life sits heavily on my heart there is only one thing that will bring my spirit back to the present moment. That thing is often the last tool in the box we reach for and the yet the simplest one to utilize. Time. Time spent alone with our Creator. Time spent aligning our will with His. Time offered as a demonstration of gratitude. Time connecting in the quietest of moments with the only sustainable source of Power.

The holiday season is upon us. We are all busy shopping in stores, ordering online, making wish lists, setting tables, organizing dinner menus, making travel preparations and coordinating with families. There is one gift that cannot be wrapped but serves everyone on our journey. That is the gift of our presence. The ability to show up for those around us and be fully engaged in each moment. This is not only an experience for ourselves but to serve those we love. Rather than fretting over the perfect family photo, the best gift each child wants, or the drama free family get together, let’s give the gift that God calls us to give.

When we live in the future or our past we go there alone. Our Creator resides in this moment waiting to connect with us at every opportunity. Could we all commit to the quiet moments in time alone with our Higher Power? Let’s be awake to the chance to let that Power flow through us and give the most beautiful gift we have to offer, the gift of our presence.

audrey-woodfin_the-gift-of-presenceAudrey Woodfin
BRC Recovery