Never a better case for EPIC Trek
Never a better case for EPIC Trek
My Birthday Boy
On my 27th birthday, I was blessed with my second beautiful healthy child and only son. Just as l had a special bond with my first born and only daughter, I now had this amazing connection with my baby boy. My children have always come first and my love for them unconditional...no matter what. This love has been tested throughout my son’s road to recovery with his addiction. His struggle quickly turned into mine and as a divorced, single mother of an addict our story was very similar to others...up until my son found Purple Recovery.
Our journey started as most, displays of odd/defiant/suspicious behavior, job losses, always needing money, insane stories and difficulties, items missing, declining health and eventually the total bottom falling out from my son’s life. Discovering his addiction to Opioids was utterly devastating and as he fell deeper and harder into the grips of this disease, my insane quest to save him and fix his messes only fueled my codependency and enabling (which did not help him either) and in turn led me into total despair and mayhem, saving him was my only concern in life and turned into my addiction. These years of turmoil were now affecting my health, relationships and finances and I could barely function, thinking that if he died I would soon follow from grief.
The numerous rehabs, detox’s, hospitals, jail, living in his car/streets/friends, and health issues left me terrorized with crippling fear and grief. Still, I could not stop “helping” him yet nothing I was doing was working, now resulting in my own life being completely out of control and unmanageable. My unconditional love could not save him from this horrific disease and I didn’t know what to do. It literally took my daughter telling me that she could no longer have a relationship with me if I continued this behavior, so I started to take inventory of my life and found Al-Anon.
Al-Anon saved my life, actually several times it has brought me back from the brink of losing it. I now consider myself a “lifer”, just like my son’s disease of addiction, I know my codependency will always be present and I need Al-Anon. It has helped me to set boundaries and expectations with every aspect of my life. Although I was starting to get my life back on track through Al-Anon, my son was not and was still deep in the darkness of his disease. It was through Al-Anon and my sponsor that I discovered a different program called Purple Recovery in Georgia. My sponsor shared what her son had went through, the program, his recovery and the fact that he actually LOVED the program so much he continues to go back and visit. My thoughts were “Loved rehab...how could that be true”?
Intrigued by this mother’s account, I began researching Purple and contacted Joel, with Purple’s help I got together enough money to send him down to Georgia as my last effort to save his life. While my son was working on his life at Purple I continued to work on mine. I discovered Nar-Anon and FAN (Families against Narcotics) which with Al-Anon and Purple all together became my trifecta to recovery. I learned that as hard as it was I needed to let my son go and I turned his recovery over to his own Higher Power. Miraculously, the more I worked on myself with meetings, readings and learning the Al-Anon tools, the better I felt. My son was also thriving and doing great and for once taking accountability for his own actions and life.
But, just as recovery and addiction goes my son relapsed. This time though, I did not. Eventually he reached back out to Brett from a state-run medical rehab and pleaded to come back. As much as it hurt me inside not to do this for him I knew that he had to want this and had to take accountability for his sobriety. With the last bit of financial help from his father and Purple’s mercy he re-entered Purple for a second time. This time he would not question or fight the Purple way because there were guys at Purple that had the life that he wanted. It became clear to him that if you give the program your heart and soul, work the 12 steps, and truly want to be sober it works…so he followed their path and prayed. Two years later, his legal issues are resolved, my son is now working at Purple and feels that this is his true calling.
What’s different about Purple and their program compared to the other places? Their unique method and plan (YES a plan) has been tested and tried, it’s not perfect (how could it be) and not every guy will get it and stay sober but their statistical success is remarkable. Their program is considered unorthodox but hey...maybe that’s what it takes! The Purple foundation is based on love, trust, the 12 steps, accountability, responsibility, fun, friendly competition, exercise/sports, social/spiritual and community connections with the Purple brotherhood. It’s the “it takes a village” and “paying it back” mantras that make it work along with the supportive and competent staff and past graduates and their families. After completing the live-in program, clients gradually transition out to independent living- which makes total sense! The guys get grounded for the first month or so, then find stable work, then when it’s approved they find sober roommates (Purple graduates) in affordable decent housing. Gradually from here they start to stay over at their new place week by week to make sure it’s a good fit. It’s brilliant in my opinion- transition back to reality has always been where my son struggled in the past.
While Purple helped save my son’s life, the accountability must come from the individual in the program. Purple holds the guys accountable for themselves and for each other, creating this “brotherhood” for life. They rebuild trust and self-confidence in the individual and teach them how to start rebuilding their new sober fun filled loving lives. Each clients plan is different and suited to their specific situation and needs...custom fit you could say. If the program doesn’t speak enough for itself there is the true testament of the annual Thanksgiving celebration. Each year current clients and graduates from years and decades past get together to celebrate life and sobriety. I attended for the first time this past year and it was truly remarkable to see and feel the joy, love and laughter that was felt around the table and campfire.
I am so proud of my son for his incredible courage and dedication in achieving where he is today and how he is now helping others. He continually is doing his own inventory, owning his mistakes, making amends and choosing to do the right thing now. He is loved and happy, healthy, productive and sober. My daughter also deserves so much credit for having the courage to tell me the truth about how it was affecting our family and always being supportive and being open to learning about this disease. Our 2 blended families have slowly begun healing too as we all embrace our shared love and understanding of how close we came to loosing him.
Gratitude is such a big part of my life now, and I am forever grateful to Brett, Joel, Adam and Miss Donna for their wonderful, personal and professional contributions in keeping the Purple power and my son alive. Together with these other 12 step programs, Purple is saving young men’s lives. I just wish there were Purples everywhere.
Purple has been around for just over 16 years. Over the course of those years, we have had the great pleasure to serve men and their families in finding recovery. It is an incredible feeling to be able to bring light back into the lives of these families that have been in the dark for so long. Many of you remember what that felt like and the long journey of recovery.
Families reach out to us everyday looking to find that light. However, some do not have the resources for that dream to come true here at Purple. Every year we strive to give out scholarships to men to be able to come through Purple who would not be able otherwise. Unfortunately, this doesn’t fill the void for the many others. Last year we finally had our first breakthrough when a family approached us looking to give back and made a generous donation to help more men come through Purple. That donation alone helped six men come into treatment that would normally not been able to.
Since having that experience, we set out to find a solution to help more men and their families have that same opportunity. We’re hopeful this vision can become a reality and we are excited to share the news of our collaboration with The Sobriety Resource.
What is The Sobriety Resource? This organization raises and distributes funding to other organizations and individuals involved in the primary and secondary treatment of alcoholism and addiction. They also provide assistance in program development and enhancement and provide needs-based scholarships for individuals.
The Sobriety Resource is a 501c3 charitable organization. Now, donations to Purple can be made out to The Sobriety Resource, which can go towards a cause of your choosing. Whether it is a scholarship to help an individual get into Purple, building for the future, Epic Trek fund, or even general use, it will all go towards bettering the experience for men at Purple.
Purple appreciates that you are generous and understand the importance of giving back. Whether it is a recurring or one-time donation Purple tremendously appreciates your support.
Please visit www.thesobrietyresource.org for more information or Make a Donation
For any further questions email Adam at firstname.lastname@example.org
In my years of being involved in family recovery, I have filled my bucket with the suggested tools needed to unlock the door of happiness, freedom and peace.
Early on, the challenges of daily life seemed so overwhelming and conflicts and disappointments quickly became the norm. Sometimes it seemed to be happening too fast- with new problems surfacing so quickly my head bobbed in the water, barely staying afloat. Having a son addicted to drugs and alcohol was like a hundred-pound anchor pulling me under for good. I simply couldn’t do it anymore…at least not alone.
When I felt so overwhelmed, it was almost impossible for me to see the blessings that shined like iridescent gems beneath those troubles. However, with time, I slowly began to learn of one simple concept or tool that could always get me through the most stressful times – Gratitude. The daily practice of gratitude turned those problems into blessings and unexpected gifts, that I was simply too blind to see before. I actually began to say “thank you” for the problems I was having – seeing them as an opportunity for growth and change that helped me and my son.
Without my son’s addiction, I would have never experienced true gratitude. Today, I’m thankful for the tool of gratitude as it turned my denial into acceptance, my chaotic life into peace, my problems into gifts and my sense of failure into acceptance. For us and our loved ones, addiction thrives in negative thinking. Using the tool of gratitude wards off those negative thoughts and connects us to the blessings in our lives.
If you’re feeling scared or uncertain- practice gratitude. If you feel like you’re beating your head against a wall- practice gratitude. Gratitude works like magic – but not if you leave it unused in your bucket. In the month of November, I invite you to practice the gift of daily gratitude. With gratitude, you can climb the mountain of serenity. Start the process of turning today’s pain, into tomorrow’s joy.
During that first conversation with a counselor about your loved one’s addiction the conversation quickly turned to willingness. How willing is he? to go to treatment? to stop using drugs? to give up old friends? to give up his girlfriend? What you didn’t hear very much was “How willing are you?” How willing are you to examine your own thinking?
One of the easiest places to start examining our thinking is to look at our use of the words “should” “shouldn’t” “must” and “can’t”. These words represent beliefs, beliefs that are often based on ideas that are simply not true. And most of the time these words cause us stress and frustration. Instead of “I should” or I have to”, are you willing to consider “I could” or “I choose to”? “I could bail him out of jail” is much less stressful than “I have to bail him out of jail”. At the very least you begin to realize that you have choices, you are not a helpless victim of your son’s choices. “He has to _______________” can be replaced with “He has a choice to ________________.” Honestly examining our thoughts and our beliefs will unlock the door to peace, freedom and happiness. How willing are you?
We have to acknowledge that any time drugs and alcohol enters the family, it’s usually a recipe for very poor communication. When you’re facing a problem of this magnitude, communication can turn negative in a hurry. Most of us will agree that trying to communicate with our clients may have seemed almost impossible before entering treatment. One thing I struggled with myself and often hear from families, is “What Do I Say”? Typically, the emotion of fear has us worried that we’ll say the wrong thing and the situation will only worsen or jeopardize the client’s recovery.
Thankfully, there are some effective communication tools for creating positive communication that can help alleviate those feelings of being afraid, nervous, helpless, or angry. Let’s look at some ways of communicating that produce better outcomes than you might expect or have experienced. Overall, we want to focus on practicing positive communication. Trust me; it can be the most powerful tool or skill you learn to use!
Listen, just Listen.
Good communication starts with listening, not listening for the purpose of giving advice, but simply listening. Your client is more likely to confide in you about what is really going on, if you listen without interrupting or criticizing. During the early days of my son’s drug treatment I was taught to respond with sounds of response or simple, short responses. Things like – Oh! Wow! Aah, that’s a bummer. Glad to hear it! And if I felt like I really needed to express my disagreement, I was told I could say something like - Really? Humm? This kind of communication takes practice and is very helpful when a discussion with your client is just not working. And yes, of course, there are times when more response is needed. But when we practice listening, really listening, we open the door to real communication. You might be thinking “But I can’t even trust my client anymore. They’re always lying just to get what they want.” We know. We are not suggesting that you become stupid and gullible, believing everything that they say, because most of the time they can be quite manipulative. We’re just suggesting that if you practice listening, in a different way, you open up the door for them to interact with you differently.
A Common Pitfall
A common pitfall in listening is the temptation to start mentally preparing your own response while your loved one is talking to you. Generally, it’s because you want to be sure that your words of wisdom are being heard and understood.
However, when we do that, we are really only half listening. Your client, and others, will notice that you’re being less receptive and the communication begins to break down. If we want others to listen when we speak, we must learn to listen when they speak. Those face to face conversations are where we can learn much more about what is going on. Remember, real communication is a two-way system. So, this is when active listening can be an important skill to use.
Practice Active Listening
As a teacher and counselor, I became familiar with and often used active listening skills in my work. What I learned when facing my son’s struggles with drugs is that I needed to apply those skills more than ever in our home. By actively listening, you send the message that they are important enough to have your undivided attention.
In simple terms, active listening means that you fully concentrate, understand, and respond to what is being said instead of being distracted. Steven Covey, the author of 7 Habits of People said it very well: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply”. When a family member is an active listener, it pulls out more of the information that you are seeking to find. Then you are better able to guide your loved one to deal with and solve problems for themselves.
Listen to Understand
Genuine understanding helps reduce defensiveness and promotes empathy toward your client’s situation. It doesn’t mean that you agree with him or like what they are doing, but it does show that you at least understand it or some of it.
Another way to listen with understanding is to use open ended questions such as, “How can I help you?’ instead of saying “Do you need help”? This offer of help also lets your client know that you are willing to collaborate on a solution. When you offer help in a non-judgmental way, and with a sense of understanding, you are planting the seed that help is needed in this situation.
Be Direct and Stay Calm
We’ve already mentioned that yelling, screaming or speaking in a critical tone really doesn’t work. Threatening or lecturing typically leads to your client withdrawing, sneaking around or lying. It is so much more important to stay calm, but direct, about your boundaries and what the consequences are.
Keep it Brief and Specific
When you’re angry or nervous, you often end up saying more than is necessary and your client gets very defensive. Instead, think ahead of time about what you want to say and be concise; Less gets you more. Also, be specific, because vague requests are often ignored or misunderstood.
Model Good Communication
Using “I” Statements gives you a model of communication that can be achieved in three parts. First, report your feeling in just three words “I feel sad, angry, hurt, scared, frustrated…Choose the feeling that describes your emotion. Then, fill in with what you think is creating that feeling. Example: “I feel scared when you come home all hours of the night. I can’t stop all those terrible scenarios from running through my head” as opposed to saying “You are so disrespectful when you think you can come in here anytime you want!” Do you have any idea what you’re putting me through?!” Using “I” statements, keeps the focus on YOU and stops you from making accusations. You’re also concentrating on how you feel, instead of your loved one’s behavior.
Be patient with yourself as you are trying to learn and practice new ways of communicating or simply trying to remain calm, amid the chaos. Remember, your tone of voice is actually more important than what you are saying. A gentle, neutral tone increases the chances that your client is actually listening. If your tone is good, sometimes it really won’t matter if you saying the right thing. For some, this is one of the hardest parts of positive communication to master.
Practice, Practice, Practice
Changing the way you communicate will take practice, but these positive communication skills will improve your interactions with everyone. Remember, positive communication comes easier when you are taking care of YOU. Getting rest, exercising, eating well, meditation or prayer, all contribute to your ability to be a good communicator. If you keep on doing what you’ve always done, communication is likely not to get any better. You have to establish some positive communication to open the door to helping your client. Substance abuse is a serious problem, so we hope you are open and willing to trying a different approach to communicating.
"It is not the Mountains we Conquer, but Ourselves" Sir Edmund Hillary
Growing up north of Atlanta allowed my family to reside at the Gateway of the North Georgia Mountains. Countless weekends were spent exploring the sights and beauty of the abundant waterfalls, trails, and forests. Excitement was really heightened at the discovery of a new trail or waterfall that had eluded us before. It was not uncommon to pull off the side of the road, mount up with shoes and gear, and off we'd go on another exploration. However, hiking in the mountains can sometimes be very deceiving - like when you think you've reached the top only to find there are more switchbacks and you're only half way there! That can be so frustrating, especially when you're tired and just want to quit. Other times you're unsure if you're even on the right path. But by pushing on, the real beauty is often revealed and that perseverance feels good. Gradually, you begin to TRUST that you are on the right path and you continue to persevere-seeking more beauty and new discoveries as you strive to reach the top.
Although I typically do not hike alone, I often feel true solitude and find myself reflecting on how my life has been impacted by this journey I'm on. I once read that "addiction teaches us many lessons" and I've found that to be very true. Those life lessons come from a multitude of experiences, and sometimes as I'm walking those mountain trails, I find myself thinking of what I've learned from both my hiking and recovery experiences.
First, I'm grateful for all those that have gone before me, working hard to smooth out a trail so that my walk will be a bit easier. How grateful I felt to walk into that first meeting and find so many new faces welcoming me. I also sense an important obligation to mark a clear path for those who will come after me. As you well know, we are not the first, nor the last, to walk this journey. Today, it is important for me to be present when that new family walks through our door.
I especially love the quiet and stillness of hiking an empty trail as it reminds me how I need to periodically escape the "noise" in life, because it is in that quiet stillness that we find the courage to keep pushing forward. Likewise, I've learned to set aside quiet time each day to pray, meditate, and journal my thoughts.
Climbing a mountain trail leaves us with two choices: reach the destination or turn around. Reaching our destination requires the perseverance of putting one foot in front of the other. Just like when life gets tough, we must try to remember that all we can do is keep pushing forward. Ultimately, we find that we can travel further and accomplish much more than we thought.
Hiking has also taught me to lighten my load because carrying too many physical possessions becomes quite cumbersome. Just like in life, I've learned that I need to detach from or let go of the baggage that is weighing me down.
Climbing a mountain trail requires us to choose our steps carefully to avoid any unnecessary harm or injuries. I've learned that decisions in life need to be made with the same precision and care and the focus needs to be on keeping "me" safe and healthy.
In 2018, I invite you to climb a mountain to serenity as there are always new paths to be found in life and new lessons to be learned. Be grateful for those who have gone before you and be willing to shine a light on the path for others to follow.
In what way am I maladjusted to life? Have I always been this way? Was I born this way? Or did I become this way because of the world around me? Was it something that happened to me or how I reacted to it? Was it external or internal?
Is not the nature of my problems being maladjusted to this life, disconnected from The Spirit, with only my vices to cope with the wreckage. I have a GOD sized hole in me, and every time the wind blows thru me, I feel alone, afraid and confused. My only objective in life so far has been getting what I want or not losing what I have. Driven by fear, selfishness, anger and self-pity I have stumbled through this world making a mess.
What do I do? I ask for help. I accept on blind faith what others are telling me. I find other happy people and do what they are doing. I seek to be connected to The Spirit.
Happiness is an inside job, I must do the hard work necessary for change. My change is my responsibility but happens with the help of others. How far down the rabbit hole will you go? If your heart can take it, come fly with me! A lifetime of change, happiness and serving others.
Initially, family members are often divided in accepting the reality of the situation when faced with a loved one's addiction and share differences of opinion as to what the solution is to the problem. Some family members can be more objective and they clearly see the reality of a serious problem. Others are way too emotionally involved to be able to see the problem as clearly. However, division among the family blocks unity, so you must learn to stand united.
And guess what, this division is your client's secret weapon. As long as you are distracted by arguing, they can usually figure out how to get what they want. Sometimes the arguing is so tiring that you just give up and give in. Game over!
No doubt, active addiction loves a chaotic and divisive environment where family relationships are typically fragmented or broken. Characteristically, parents take on different roles, especially early on. One parent may have a strong need to take action as they sense a serious problem that needs to be dealt with immediately. Thus, they become angry with the other parent or partner who isn't seeing the situation in the same way. Another parent may enable the situation without meaning to in an attempt to rescue the addict or to keep a balance in the household by not upsetting the other parent or partner. One or both parents or partners may be in denial where they hold on to the idea that "it's just a phase", experiencing a loss of dreams in the fear that their son will not have the life they dreamed of. It's important to know that the underlying powerful emotion of FEAR is driving all of these reactions.
Working together is key to becoming an ally to your client's recovery. At this time, it's better to be wrong together, than right separately. Conflict only adds much more stress and exacerbates the problem. This is one time that teamwork is absolutely essential is all family situations.
Solving differences of opinion is certainly not easy. However, if you approach it in a simple way, you have two options to finding unity. One party has to be willing to take a step back or a step forward. In other words, someone has to be willing to shift. For example, the angry parent may say to the enabling one "It's obvious the approach we are taking is not working. I know I'm really angry, but I'm frustrated with your enabling". Be willing to stop the blame game, stay calm, and work together.
It is much more effective when you handle difficult situations as a united team. You learn to communicate directly, be firm, but yet loving, as you deal with this very tough situation.
Having a united front is the surest path to healing and recovery for your family. Over the years, I’ve seen very few families initially approach this problem as a united team. But over time, they all realized that they had to figure out how to work together. Through working together, families find solutions, so that they can come together, not grow more and more apart.
And there is a deeper lesson to be learned here as well. When we become willing to work together with our support system we will suddenly realize that we don’t have to have all the answers. We don’t have to be right. We discover that we are not alone. And we suddenly realize that together we can do what we could not do by ourselves.
The single most important message is that a UNITED FRONT saves lives! So, we encourage you to work together in this process. Be a part of the Recovery Team!
My spiritual journey began 8 months before this photo was taken. I had reached a point in my life where drugs and alcohol had become the driving force behind my existence. I was lost and had no power over the decision to drink and use. It had been engrained into my very being that I was to live the rest of my life, intoxicated and miserable. What happened next was the most important moment in my life. I checked into Purple. I was a retread, that is, I had been through the Purple program once before. Humbled by my addiction and embarrassed that I had relapsed I came back with the expectation that I was less than everyone at the facility. The moment I walked through the doors I was greeted with smiles and hugs. People were happy to see me. This was something I wasn’t used to, something new. New experiences began to flood my day to day life. I began calling a sponsor every day. Conversations with him and the guys in treatment gave me a new feeling of connection. I started building friendships. I started building goals. I started looking toward the future with a new feeling of hope. The promises were coming true. I had no idea the journey God had in store for me. A few months after I had graduated I was invited to join something called Epic Trek. I didn’t know much about this experience other than it was going to be an adventure. Over the course of my treatment I had learned to welcome adventure whenever it was thrown my way, so I decided to go on Epic trek. On our trip we were to summit a mountain with an elevation above 14,000 feet. I had never done anything this hard before. The staff at purple began training me to endure such a feat. We met in the woods once a week and ran trails for hours. There is something spiritual about this, and like my experience in treatment it was a new experience to find spirituality in something like running. I hated running, but I grew to enjoy the fellowship and mental state a long trail run put me in. I began to learn to run through the pain. I learned that running is a form of moving meditation and gave me the ability to seek a higher power for strength when I felt I had nothing left to give. This was a powerful experience for me. These training sessions went on for two months. The time had come to fly out to Colorado. When we landed we, all gathered our things and set off for our lodge. The next few days were spent acclimating to the elevation and jumping off cliffs to alleviate our anxieties about our summit. One of the days we spent on four wheelers in the Colorado wilderness. The mountains, the trees, the trails, and my friends all reflected the great beauty that God had offered to me. I found myself surrounded by God and final the day came to summit La Plata Peak. My friend and I had decided to take the harder route, against the wishes of staff. We had trained hard and knew that we could make it. That’s the funny thing about spiritual growth; when you put in the work you have faith that can move mountains, literally. The ascent began at 3:30 am. We set off into the woods and began climbing a massive boulder field. This took about 2 hours. Once we were through the boulders we reached a grassy plain littered with wild flowers. The sun began to rise and I began to feel the heat radiating onto my skin. The next four hours were a treacherous climb along the spine of Ellingwood ridge. Huge towers of rock jutted out towards the sky and going around them meant we would not summit in time so we climbed to the top and began the careful navigation, jumping from one rock to the next. As I came near the summit I looked back at the ridge I had just climbed and something came over me. It was like I was looking back on the past 8 months of my life. From the beginning when I got sober to this exact moment right where I was standing. I remembered working the steps with my sponsor and how hard it was to face the person I had become in my addiction. I became overwhelmed with gratitude. I had built friendships stronger than ever before and I had learned to love myself, flaws and all. I began to have trouble breathing and tears swelled my eyes. I looked at my friend and we both hugged each other. God taught me a lesson that day. That with hard work, I can do anything.
Our first born of three sons is introverted, caring, personable, sweet and smart. He was a compliant child who wanted to please. He was physically active in sports and involved in our church. He ran Varsity Cross Country and Track, where he was captain of the team one year, won several awards, and qualified for State. In High School, he was on the Youth Council at church, where he led retreats and even gave a sermon to the congregation during Youth Sunday. He is an Eagle Scout and a National Merit Scholar. He received a full four- year tuition academic scholarship for college, where he began studying mechanical engineering. He is also an addict. Addiction does not discriminate. It doesn’t see educational or socioeconomic status, race, religion or gender. Our family’s seemingly perfect life was shattered, but thanks my commitment to Al-Anon and other support, our family has found hope, acceptance, and peace.
My gut ached during my son’s sophomore year in college. Our son had become distant. I couldn’t put my finger on it, but I knew something was wrong. He “lost” countless phones, was always out of money, and wouldn’t tell us about his grades. Sounds like a typical immature sophomore boy in college, right? My gut knew differently. And, there were the car wrecks- 3 in a year. He should have received a DUI for the first. He would have run into a house at 2am had it not been for a metal fence. Since I couldn’t ever reach him and he wouldn’t respond to my calls or texts, I simply showed up on his door one morning at 10am. He was in bed and high as a kite. In his stupor, he handed me a cell phone, explaining that he had a phone. I took that phone home and read a year’s worth of texts about drug deals, blackouts, run-ins with the police, bar fights, and random sex. The language was vulgar. Who was this person? I didn’t recognize him. His semester exams were in two weeks, so my husband and I decided not to discuss any of this with him until after exams. Within the week, I received a phone call from him asking for bond money, as he had been arrested on felony charges. We bailed him out and brought him home. He came home and lived with us, began seeing an addiction professional, and got a job. However, we all walked on eggshells. Everyone was miserable because of his mood swings. The physician administered weekly drug tests. He soon became disenchanted with the sessions with the addiction specialist and thought he wouldn’t have to go any longer. Soon, he was stealing and consumed hidden narcotics in our home. My gut just knew it, and my husband thought I had gone mad. I threw a fit. Truly, I was acting like a crazy lady. Our other sons were in shock and retreated. I was uncontrollable, threatening to leave our marriage of 22 years stating that I refused to go to our son’s funeral. Finally, my husband went to the local drug store, bought an at home test, and my suspicions were correct. On Mother’s Day, we took him to his first inpatient rehab facility 3 hours away from home. A tear rolled down my husband’s cheek, and he said he could not leave our boy there. We drove home. That night was the first I mentioned anything to my parents. Chest heaving, sobbing, I explained how I had spent my Mother’s Day. Over the next several weeks I remained isolated, lost and feeling alone as to what to do (with a husband still in denial) for our son. I stayed home and cried most of the time. This did not go unnoticed by our 17 –year- old son. I did not want to drive this bus. I felt like our family was on a roller coaster, but we were each in a different car.
These are all just facts from the beginning of our family journey with addiction. What other emotions have there been along the way? To say I was devastated sounds just like what one would say, but I was. There was disbelief, anger, frustration and overwhelming grief. As our journey progressed, it was this deep sadness that was the most difficult to overcome. I grieved the loss of the dreams I had for this beloved son. It broke my heart at the waste of such potential and talent. Then, there was the fear! Would he die tonight? Tomorrow? Would someone else be killed in his path through his negligence? I got my first night of rest the night I took him to an inpatient facility two hours away from home, without my husband, and left him. He was safe. My incessant worries subsided. He spent three months at this facility, and the financial stress was ever-present. He relapsed within a few weeks of “graduating”. His relapse began with alcohol, then progressed back into his drugs of choice. He is a poly substance abuser. Four months passed before he would agree to go back to rehab. He had been stealing from us and lying more and more. He was not living at home. It wouldn’t have been healthy for the other members of the family to have him home. I learned that he had not shown up for work in a week and called his boss. He too had not heard from him, was confused and concerned for his well- being. I got in the car and drove two hours to see if I could find him. He was at his house and in his bed, knowing he was supposed to be at work, three days before a court date. He just put his head on my shoulder and said, “Mom, I’m not doing very well.” There was no way he could pass a drug screen by the court, so it was either rehab or jail. My marriage was hanging on by a thread and so was my heart. This time, my husband and I were in the same car on the roller-coaster; he agreed that our son needed help. The three of us researched which program would be best for our son. Although reluctant, he agreed to go to a six-month program the day before his court hearing. This time, I did not take him alone.
It was there where I was first introduced to a 12-Step Support Group for families. I drove the 2 hours there and back once a week for three months and learned more and more about the disease and the fact that I needed recovery just as much as my son. My life was unmanageable. I was a mess. I listened – a lot. I bought Courage to Change and began reading it. Soon after I bought One Day at a Time. Then I visited groups in my hometown and began going to meetings. I sobbed and released endless tears in my first meeting with a group of complete strangers. I couldn’t speak, but I could listen to the laughter and the hope. I could relate to the stories. Every time I attended a meeting, someone would share an experience or incident similar to mine with my son. I was not alone. Finally, I allowed myself to be vulnerable and started sharing. There was no judgment, just nodding heads and empathetic smiles.
One of the first principles that I learned was that of the 3 Cs. I didn’t cause this; I can’t control this; and I cannot cure this. His illness is not my fault. Nothing that I did or did not do as his parent caused his cravings to abuse alcohol and drugs. Nothing I do or do not do can keep him from following his own choices and actions. I cannot cure him and this awful disease. There is no cure. I can offer help in the form of treatment, but he has to want sobriety and do the work for himself. He is on his own, with his Higher Power. Someone close actually said to me, “I would never have imagined that ____ would have the weakest of souls.”!! Fortunately, knowledge is power, and I had learned enough already to know that my son has an illness, not a weak soul.
I needed to lay this-all of it- at my Higher Power’s feet. Fortunately for me, spirituality was not a new concept. I had a strong personal relationship with my Higher Power. I prayed. I asked for close friends to pray over me. I still struggled, as a mother, to “let go and let God.” I desperately wanted to help my son. I continue to work on it daily, and when I can let go, I find rest. My Higher Power has plans for my son, and they are not to harm him but for good. Those plans may not be what I had envisioned and dreamed about, but He is greater than I. How dare I raise my level to believe that I can ruin or change my Higher Power’s plans?
When I am able to detach with love from my son, we are both healthier for it. Detaching with love does not necessarily mean cutting the ties of your relationship. It doesn’t mean not communicating or cutting him off financially. It simply means setting healthy boundaries. I will not deprive my son of the dignity he deserves in making his own decisions and allowing the positive, or negative, consequences of his actions to follow. I do not do things for him that he can do on his own. I do not tell him how he should live his life. He has to figure this out on his own, working his own program with his own Higher Power, support group and sponsor. My life has to continue, as do the lives of my other boys and my husband. My marriage needs work. I need to focus on my own recovery because addiction is a family disease, and if the family doesn’t change with the addict, progress is not made. If nothing changes, then nothing changes. I have to be okay even if my son is not.
Our son has now graduated from his second six-month rehab program, Purple. He is a bit scared and nervous to enter the “real world”, and I am cautiously optimistic. He had an interview recently to work as a bug man, and we are thrilled. A reaction I would have never had had if it had not been for the help I’ve received.
One day he hopes to be ready to continue his engineering degree, but we will wait until he initiates the process. I acknowledge to myself and others that this is a life -long journey. I will continue to work my steps daily, attend my meetings, and help other parents who are just becoming members of this club that none of us signed up for. But, it is a club where we support each other and find strength and hope and serenity. I have found joy again in my everyday life!
Community is defined as a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common; a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.
At Purple, there is a group of men; all of whom are unique. Varying environments, cultures, experiences, and situations have shaped who they are, how they behave, and their specific attitudes towards themselves and their surroundings. Under normal circumstances, most of them would not choose to be around one another. However, these men come to treatment and find themselves in a situation which contradicts their lifestyles and belief systems. It is a situation that would be extremely difficult to navigate alone, but together it is possible.
I am enthralled when I see guys from all walks of life form a bond and accomplish something as powerful as sobriety. Community is a basic principle behind 12 step programs and the aggregate of Purple. Through community our clients learn about service, communication, trust, honesty, team work, and how to use one another’s strengths to solve difficult issues that arise in treatment.
An old acquaintance of mine, who was s sometimes a constant companion, used to show up in my life quite often. Without failure, he was there every time my phone rang late at night, when I couldn't get a hold of my son, when I'd hear the ambulance racing down the road near me, when I got a call from the police, or when my neighbor showed up asking about some stolen money. My old companion's name is F.E. A. R. For a very long time, I could not manage FEAR, although I tried many times. When FEAR was around, I tried relentlessly to control outcomes. Could I have controlled my son's escalation of drug use? Could I control his leaving the house late in the evening to ransack our neighbors' cars and garages? Could I have controlled his use of drugs the night before his probation visit? No, I could not.
Most recently, I couldn't help but notice that FEAR had showed up at our workshop, although I had not invited him. I could sense that our community of family members were trying to manage him, just like I had. However, a very important message was conveyed by our staff, but most especially, by the three alumni who shared their experience, strength and hope. We were reminded that we are powerless over addiction and all of our attempts to manage our son's recovery had only left our lives more unmanageable. We were told to rethink our approach and accept that "normal thinking doesn't apply".
So, how can we stop FEAR from showing up so frequently? By attending meetings, getting a sponsor, working the steps, and building a community of support around us. We heard from these three young men how important it is to build a life that is attractive to us, not to our loved ones. That's not our responsibility.
Over the years, I have learned that it's a daily process, where some days will be better than others. Now, I don't see much of my old companion any more. I use my new tools to keep him away. I don't miss him, either.
Time and again, family members come into Purple seeking help for a client whose life has spiraled out of control and has put tremendous stress and pressure on the family. These tired, weary and scared families typically convey the same general message, "We've tried everything and nothing has worked, so it's time for something to change". Without knowing anything different, the family refers to the client as that "something" that needs changing; not realizing that they too need to change.
While it is true that the client will need to work hard to change his life, the reality is family members need to work also to embrace the process of change. Why? You
see, an old adage, "Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes" is often used to describe families that can't seem to get off the roller coaster ride that the addictive behavior of someone they love has put them on. They plunge forward with the false belief that "one more try and I'll get control of this situation", eventually leaving them more exhausted, frustrated, hopeless and angry. They know they need to get off the roller coaster, but simply do not know how.
"As you know, I almost did not attend Purple Family Weekend. My son seemed to be progressing well in his transition from Purple, so I didn’t “need” to go to any kind of family rehab workshop. But you called me to follow up and just your personal invitation made me change my mind and I decided Wednesday night before the weekend to attend.
Then the following day, I was told that my son had relapsed and that things were not good. So I attended the Family Workshop and it was a great day. I learned more that day of how to work on ME, and reminders that I need to do all I can do to help me so that I can better help my son in his addiction. The support of everyone there understanding what I was dealing with in his relapse was comforting, supportive, and helpful. I heard parents talking about how they literally acted out lifting their child to God during the middle of the night, how they repeated the Serenity Prayer over-and-over in the middle of the night in order to deal with the worry of not knowing if your loved one was going to live thru this addiction. One of the leaders made a point about going to meetings to “add to the bank” so when times do get tough you have that to pull from.
Little did I know that I would need ALL of this and more in a few short hours. I headed to see my son after the meeting hoping to get him to agree to go to Detox as I heard he was doing heroin. When I got to his house, he would not come out and see me because he was so messed up and said he would go to detox on Sunday. I chose to wait in a nearby hotel and that night was filled with chaos and phone calls as I received hourly updates to all the crazy crap they were doing at the house. They were getting high, fighting, just all kinds of stuff I was hearing that was intensifying the anxiety and worry. I wasn’t asking for the updates, I was just getting pulled into the chaos. Upon hearing that they were leaving to acquire more drugs, I called the police and gave a description of his car hoping to have them arrested so they can’t hurt someone else or themselves. After the call to the police, you sit and wait. That is when your brain goes crazy and sure all the parents know this feeling.
SO I thought about our family workshop meeting and I used some of the things I had heard that day. I literally acted out on holding him up to God and giving him to God, I said the Serenity prayer over and over and these things did help me calm down. I couldn’t go to sleep, but I wasn’t going crazy. At about 3 AM, I get a call from my son had overdosed on heroin and he was in an ambulance- not breathing. I asked his roommate if I came to the house, would he please drive me to the hospital because I couldn’t go down there by myself if he was dead? On the way, I got a call from a girl that said he was breathing and was alive. My son had received 3 units of Narcan from the paramedics to save his life. He had stopped breathing and they did CPR on him until the ambulance arrived. After being released from the hospital, he entered a detox facility and eventually entered a 30 -day program before returning to Purple.
I just wanted to share how much the Family Weekend helped me, how much the Purple staff, clients, parents and alumni helped me during all this. One of the clients who has only been at Purple for a month helped me drive my son’s car back from downtown Atlanta and was so helpful and supportive. Thank you for all that you do and I know we don’t understand all the work that goes on to host a Family Workshop. I can only tell you that it made a huge difference in my life to help me cope with something that I hope no one ever has to go through.
And for parents like me that not sure if you should attend or if you “need” to attend, you make a huge difference as well. You may say something like you did on that day that can really help someone in need. SO I encourage all parents to continue taking time to attend these workshops because you not only bank health for yourself, but you help others at the same time! We continue to need your prayers and thoughts and support and I am here for anyone that I might can help in any way!!”
Last May, Campbell Manning of Hope for Families, shared her own personal story of dealing with her sons' addictions and she introduced the phrase "Tag You're It!" as the premise for the way parents or other family members approach the shifting of responsibility to others, especially children. Just like the childhood game, one person is "it" and he or she does his or her best to tag another participant, who then becomes the new "it." As you know, no one wants to be "it" for long, so they quickly seek to tag someone else to release the responsibility.
Often times, the parent or loved one of an addict become the "IT" and soon find their hands tied behind their backs, accepting all responsibility for the addictive behavior, mostly in an effort to fix it or control it.
In Campbell's experience as mother and addiction counselor, declaring "Tag You're It" is crucial to stopping the cycle of enabling, rescuing, blaming, and codependency. Symbolically, it's time to "tag you're it" by passing on the responsibility to the addict.
Instead of reacting, take action. Are you one who says your phone is always ringing with requests, complaints, or blaming? "Tag You're It!" by setting limits and boundaries. Are you still on the emotional roller coaster of codependency? "Tag You're It" by helping the addict move toward recovery. Remember,it gets better ONLY when the addict wants it, regardless of how much the family may long for the changes. Look at your role - Are you standing in the way? Do you find it extremely painful to watch the addict struggle even though progress is being made? "Tag You're It" by refusing to relieve the pain by enabling.
Recovery begins when the addict takes responsibility for their situation and decides to improve things. For family members, recovery begins when you make the choice to accept the powerlessness over the disease of addiction.
"Tag You're It" simply means releasing someone else's responsibility, which is essential to allowing that person to grow and change.
What are you MORE of or LESS of after being on this journey of recovery?
In recovery, we seek more meaningful relationships and spend less time with those who are stuck on frivolous things of little importance. We become much more accepting and less judgmental. We become more willing to ask for help and listen to what others are saying and less likely to try to fix or control. On our journeys, we seek to find serenity and happiness even though someone we love may be suffering. We become more focused on our recovery and Less focused on someone else's.
Applying the slogan "Let it begin with ME" is about being responsible for our own actions and stop focusing so intently on what those around us say, do, feel, and instead put the focus on ourselves. In your own quiet time, what would you say that you are MORE of or LESS of? Take some time to reflect on that and write it down to look back on later in your own journey.
3 questions about gratitude:
What surprised you today? What inspired you today? What touched your heart today? We encourage you to take time to reflect on questions to bring the focus back on those things YOU can control. Lastly, Campbell recited these words from a Cat Stevens' song :
"But take your time, think a lot
Why think of everything you got
For you will be here tomorrow, but your dreams may not"
What is tough love? Is tough love really about being tough? When is a time that you felt that tough love was needed ? These are the questions our family group discussed to explore the topic of "tough love".
Loving someone with an addiction can sometimes be tough, but it's still love. It requires taking action to avoid protecting or rescuing them from consequences of their choices. The toughest part of this kind of love is be courageous enough to set limits and boundaries on bad behaviors that have put a strain on the family relationships.
The goal is to bring about change in a firm, but loving way, while focusing on providing yourself, and all family members, with a healthy, safe environment that promotes responsible behavior.
"Tough Love" is really about courage. As the Serenity Prayer says:
God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;
the courage to change the things I can;
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Amber Hollingworth, a Master Addiction Counselor from Hope for Families, presented an engaging lecture which addressed some of the underlying conditions that make a person more vulnerable to developing an addiction. From the brain perspective, there is the down regulation of several important brain chemicals(endorphins, dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin) and people often use substances to make up for these deficits in neurochemicals, especially when they experience some sudden loss, like death, divorce, major injury, loss of dream, etc. The substance abuse often progresses to addiction, where disconnections with others often follow. Without connection, the disease will continue to progress as all humans are made to connect with each other.
In treatment, the best way to help heal these deficits is to help clients reconnect with others. With new, positive connections, the brain chemicals naturally begin to rebalance making it easier for the individual to address their depression, anxiety, trauma, ADD, or grief. Addressing these things helps to jump start and strengthen the recovery process and maintain sobriety. Luckily, when people engage in recovery programs, support groups, and treatment, this natural process almost immediately begins to help heal the brain. The connection to others is a major change factor! Thus the reason that addiction treatment centers around group therapy and 12-step meeting attendance. It is the process of engaging in these groups that is healing the client.
Amber also provided a different perspective on “tough love.” Instead of pushing the person out of their lives until they “learn their lesson,” she showed how healthy connection is more effective in supporting change. It is true that sometimes family and friends need to distance themselves for their own emotional safety, but the idea of instituting a withdrawal of love as a technique that would make the addict get clean simply doesn’t work.
The disease of addiction eases into lives and eventually extinguishes the light of spirituality. As the light slowly fades away, anger, resentment, disappointment, grief, and shame leave everyone in total darkness.
In recovery, our journey slowly moves us back toward the light making it possible to feel its warmth and flourish in it. Then, and only then, is when we receive God's grace.
Although the following was written from the perspective of an addict, our family members could easily relate to the unveiling of God's grace through the 12 Step Recovery Process.
Through the process of accepting powerlessness and need for spiritual help, we are awakened to GRACE.
Step One: I received the gift of desperation. God helped me realize that I was powerless over a deadly disease and that I could not manage my life any longer.
Step Two: He gave me the gift of powerlessness over my addictive thinking and behavior. I came to believe that I needed his help to overcome my insanity.
Step Three: I embedded God's gift of grace into my heart, and saw that without his grace and love, I could never get better. Accepting his will was a big step in my recovery which allowed me to grow my faith.
Step Four: God gave me the gift of courage and forgiveness.And his gifts gave me the strength to forgive those that caused me harm.
Step Five: He gave me the gift of humility when I admitted to him and another human my resentments and my part in them.
Step Six: He gave me the gift of discovery which allowed me to see the traits of my addictive thinking and to accept that I needed to change these defects of character.
Step Seven: I received the gift of a desire to change. I admitted that I could not change my addictive thinking on my own and I needed his help thru this process.
Steps Eight and Nine: I used his gift of humility. He provided me the strength to ask for forgiveness to those I have wronged. I was scared, but though his grace, I was forgiven.
Step Ten: I received the gift of awareness, honesty and growth. I started doing a daily inventory to see what I needed to work on and what I was doing well. I realized I had the desire to become a better person.
Step Eleven: I received the gift of spirituality. As I continued to receive God's gifts, I continued to pray and meditate daily and continued to accept that there are things in my life that I cannot control or do on my own.
Step Twelve: He provided me the gift of spiritual awakening and a desire to serve. I began to see God's grace working in other recovering alcoholics and addicts. I truly found a desire to volunteer and serve others. In return, I found my purpose in life.
As the program teaches us, the way to keep the blessings of recovery is to give away the experience to others following along our path.
Today, may God's grace shine in your life giving you the desire and strength to continue to grow in recovery.
Our last family group took at look at what defines a "dysfunctional" family as compared to a healthy, nurturing one. Active addiction takes a toil on all families and often the family unit becomes fragmented, characterized by dishonesty, denial, and a general lack of respect and trust placing the family into turmoil.
In recovery, we seek to gain back a nurturing family where positive communication is the hub of the wheel. Families are free to talk about feelings, or any subject, in a relaxed atmosphere that promotes growth and encourages individual differences.
The reality is that most families face addiction without the knowledge and understanding that we gain through recovery. Therefore, reactions are generally from a place of misunderstanding, but most are out of concern, love, and usually desperation, which can easily be viewed as dysfunctional. Dysfunctional can have a negative connotation, so our group consensus is that generally speaking, families do the best they can at the time, on the information they have.
In recovery, we can let go of that label of dysfunctional, and give credit for the many things that we all try to constantly improve in order to be healthier, whole, and nurturing families again!