Little Fish In A Big Pond

Pics 2Growing up as a little southern girl in South Georgia, I sure never dreamed I would be traveling so far away to the land of kangaroos, koalas, and crocodiles. Oh, and of course Crocodile Dundee!

Before we left for Australia, Linda Alcantara, the sweet lady that helps me take care of my home and family remarked to my husband, “Take care of Marsha down there, she is so little!”

On the first leg of the journey we landed at LAX airport for our layover. It was about midnight. Groggy and disoriented, we stumbled out of the plane and began looking for our connecting flight. No signage was apparent so we asked a worker. All he offered was a grunt and a point. I thought, “Is this the way they do it in Los Angeles?” Walk, walk, walk. Still nothing. Rinse and repeat the asking, pointing, and grunting a few times and you will find yourself staring at a line filled with hundreds of people from all walks of life. Oh boy…

Over the loud speaker- “Paging Marsha Stone and Jonathan Stone. Your flight to Sydney has boarded and the door will be closing in five minutes!” Oh double boy!

Racing up to the front of a long line, we encountered a Chinese family with luggage and boxes covered with electrical tape for days. I began asking could we PLEASE go in front of them so we wouldn’t miss our flight. After several strange looks, words in several different languages, hand gestures, nods, waves, and prayer hands signaling signs of gratitude – they agreed. Running down the hallway with flight attendants waiting and looking at their watches and clipboards, we finally made it! Whew! Now we can breathe. And breathe we did for a 14 hour and 10 minute flight.

When we got to Byron Bay, we had an opportunity to do a 12 Step workshop for a community of about 150 Australian men and women. What an amazing gift. As we got ready to go my husband pulled out the shirt he brought to wear and it was so wrinkled it looked like he had worn it on the plane! “Will you iron this shirt for me?” he asked. I looked around the hotel room and found an ironing board and iron. As I got ready to use it, the clasp hung in the middle and the board would not extend to its full height.

As I pulled up a chair to sit and iron his shirt, childhood memories came flooding back to me. I remember my mama having “wash day” every Thursday. She would wash and iron clothes all day long. With her coffee cup filled with Maxwell House coffee and her ashtray filled with her Marlboro Reds propped at the end of her ironing board, she worked, laughed, and talked on the phone all day. I remember Days of Our Lives on the TV in the background–the music of my youth. How I wish I had just one picture or recording of those times.

If she was feeling especially lighthearted, at the end of the day she would make the ironing board “little” or my size so I could practice ironing like she did. I felt so grown up standing there working hard on some shirt or pair of pants. She would praise my work and I remember vividly she would tell me thousands of times, “You can be anything you want to be and go anywhere you want to go when you get big. All you have to do is work hard and trust God.”

I can almost smell the coffee and see the smoke that was the hope of her future – my future. She was a prickly pear of a woman but she loved me like crazy and taught me so well. So, here I am in Australia, smiling and laughing, and ironing a shirt on a “little” ironing board. My mama was always right, in the end.

G’day mate and TYG

Little Fish in a Big Pond _Marsha StoneMarsha Stone, CEO
BRC Recovery

For the Family: Harmony…

BRC-Bluebonnets-032017The word itself reminds me of an orchestra and the way each person, instrument and note is important to the overall sound. Each tiny piece plays a great part in the whole and without the cooperation of them all the masterpiece would be lost. The synchronicity is vital to the result and no matter what genre of music we all listen to, we can agree that the result is powerful. Music can speak words we otherwise could not find, create emotion we didn’t realize was within us and change the entire dynamic of any setting.

The way we individually show up in life creates the same effect on the world around us. Often when dealing with addiction in our families it seems as if time stands still momentarily and then without warning races by us at uncontrollable speeds. We find it hard to live in the moment and be present for the people around us. Living this way creates a disharmony in our spirit that will not allow us to be in sync with those around us and most importantly with God’s design for our lives.

Recovery teaches us that we are in the world to play the role God assigns. That means we are all dependent on one another in the sense that without each key person the master design is not fulfilled. The Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous tells us that, “Just to the extent that we do as we think He would have us, and humbly rely on Him, does He enable us to match calamity with serenity.” This is great news for those of us who have been waiting on our loves one to be happy for us to be happy. It means that we suit up and show up every day to carry out the vision of God’s will for us asking only for the power to carry that out. There is freedom when we find that we can be free regardless of what anyone else in our lives does with their own recovery.

The harmony in family recovery comes when we submit not only our own lives to a Power greater than ourselves but the lives of those we hold closest to our hearts. When we can fully understand that those we care about most are not only our husbands, wives, parents or children but ultimately, they are children of God. They have a part to play as well and the realization of this part is their journey. The heartbreaks and triumphs are the notes in to their own song. Without that journey the music would not come together with the same depth, pain and love. The harmony is created when we love them enough to lay down the baton and allow the Conductor to orchestrate the performance.

Audrey-Woodfin_Harmony.Audrey Woodfin
BRC Recovery

In Sickness and In Health

farmhouse-1Ten days in now, and the Great Flu of 2017 is finally releasing me from it gnarly grips. I have never experienced this type of bodily sickness before in my life. The typical flu symptoms  of course- coughing, sneezing, congestion were aplenty. But, the part that really dug in was the pure, unadulterated exhaustion. The “I cannot get out of bed” kind. And so in the bed I stayed. And stayed, and stayed.

For people that know me, I am an action girl. Constantly on the go, excited about work and life, always looking for new ideas and challenges both personally and professionally. But for the last ten days plus, all of that energy came to a screeching halt and it was just me, Kleenex, Netflix and lots of water. Oh and my thoughts, many, many thoughts…and this is where it got scary.

I have often heard in 12 Step meetings about the “alcoholic mind.” The Big Book tells us that the sick alcoholic “cannot differentiate the truth from the false“. And, I’m sure that prior to recovery, and since, I have had many, many moments of unclear or even insane thinking. Yet, me, myself and I, mostly alone for 10 days gave me a real opportunity to examine how my thought life can become so skewed.

Here are a few humdingers

I have no friends, I am fat, I am lazy, I am not wanted or needed at my office, I am never going to recover from this illness, I probably have cancer, I won’t be able to go to Australia– the list goes on and on…

I wonder- Why is it that the mind is such a terrible foe? Why is it that the ego turned inward is bent on destruction? Why do I suffer from such extreme self-centeredness? And is why even the right question to ponder here?

One thing I know for sure. Shining light on the darkness, any darkness, is the only way out. So I picked up that 10,000 lb telephone and began to do what I have been taught, and have seen through my own experience, is the only way out. I called some trusted folks in my recovery network and got real honest and real vulnerable, real quick. Once my thoughts were straightened out (thanks friends!) with the voice(s) of truth, I then did what my spiritual muscle memory reflexively instructed. I called still others, but this time seeing how I could be helpful to them instead. Why? Because others-centeredness is ALWAYS the antidote to self-centeredness after all. As my amazing spiritual mentor tells me, it’s not that we think too much or too little of ourselves, it’s that we think too often of ourselves. Simple, yet so powerful and so true.

Here is my experience- If you want to recover from alcoholism, you must be willing to follow direction. If you want to recover from the flu, you must be willing to follow direction. But while you recover from the flu, don’t forget you’re still an alcoholic. And, act accordingly.

Be well all! And for goodness sakes, wash your hands and take your vitamins!

As for me, I was back to work on Monday! TYG!

Peace and Light 💖🙏

in-sickness-and-in-health_marsha-stoneMarsha Stone, CEO
BRC Recovery

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