Loving someone with an addiction; It's not about being tough

Loving someone with an addiction; It's not about being tough

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.   

Be Courageous!

Connection is the Cure to Addiction

Connection is the Cure to Addiction

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.

Grace Through the 12 Steps

Grace Through the 12 Steps

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. 

Dysfunctional Families versus Nurturing Families

Dysfunctional Families versus Nurturing Families

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! 

"MICHAEL'S CORNER"

"MICHAEL'S CORNER"

In my 9 years of working with addicted people, I have learned that trying to make someone change a behavior is an exercise of futility. I enjoy the challenge of helping people, looking at their behaviors and developing an appropriate path to change. What I try to do when working with clients at Purple is determine where the client is in the stages of change, use conscious raising activities to motivate change, discussing different behaviors/habits that will socially liberate them from temptation, use self-reevaluation that involves cognitive reappraisal of how behavior change is part of one’s identity, and emotional arousal to help maintain the motivation to change. Each client has their own path to recovery and deserves that autonomy with in the structure of the 12 Steps.  


As I interact with clients my primary purpose is to practice empathy, unconditional positive regard, and collaboration rather than confrontation. I have learned that “rolling with resistance” is helpful when working with addicted people. By rolling with resistance, it disrupts any “struggle” that may occur and interactions are less likely to resemble an argument or the client’s playing "devil's advocate" to the counselor's suggestions. The value ofhaving the client define the problem and develop their own solutions- leaves little for the clients to resist.

Michael & Donna's Comprehensive Substance Abuse Assessments

When a family member is using drugs, it affects the entire family making it difficult to confront the drug user. In our assessment process, Donna Gunter meets with family members to assess their readiness to change. Michael Whatley will simultaneously meet with the drug user, assessing their substance use, his/her readiness to change, and obtain a biopsychosocial. Then, everyone will meet together and an appropriate treatment recommendation will be made for the family.

Michael managed the adolescent addiction program at Ridgeview Institute from 2012-2017 where he assessed psychiatric/addicted patients and made appropriate treatment recommendations. He has tuned his ability to help people feel comfortable/trust him with their difficulties in life by being warm, authentic and transparent. Working at Ridgeview Institute He gained a vast knowledge of treatment resources for addicted patients making me confident in helping families find appropriate referrals.

Donna Gunter was educated at The University of Georgia and began a teaching career in the late 70's. When confronted by her own son’s substance abuse problem in the early 2000's she began her personal journey of helping other families. Her final years as a Gwinnett County educator were spent in the counseling office at Brookwood High School. For the last decade, she has been committed to helping families find solutions to their child's substance abuse problem. 

Call Today, Adam will set up your appt. 678-572-6856

Honesty is the Cornerstone of Recovery

Honesty is the Cornerstone of Recovery

Honesty is the guiding principle throughout 12-Step Recovery. It begins with Step One, when one becomes willing to throw open the curtain and shine a light on those roadblocks that are keeping you in denial about the reality of the situation you face. On Saturday, we used the analogy of emptying our pitcher of all these things: guilt, shame, control, enabling, jealousy, anxiety, fear, resentment, frustration, etc. so that we could be honest with ourselves, be open to a power greater than ourselves, and be willing to take certain steps to lay down a solid foundation for recovery. 

Your inability to be honest is usually based on FEAR. The dictionary definition of fear is something likely to be dangerous, painful or threatening. Life may never be completely absent of fear, but recovery gives you the courage to continue in the face of it. How? By looking at what F.E.A.R. usually is- False Evidence Appearing Real or Future Events Already Ruined. These common acronyms remind us to keep our focus on TODAY and avoid busying ourselves with predicting, obsessing, or future tripping. 

Instead, let's look at a new meaning of F.E.A.R.-Face Everything AndRecover. Modeling real honesty opens the door to better communication and builds trust. Having REAL honesty means trusting the process of recovery. Recovery is a long, hard process where rigorous honesty brings about the serenity and peace that you seek. Is is worth it to show up and do the work? Absolutely! 

It's easy for us to see the faults of others - this one isn't being honest or that one isn't letting go. It's not so easy to analyze your own behavior. Getting real with Step Four requires the most rigorous honesty of all. A searching and moral inventory of ourselves leads one to gain insight and strength so that we can grow. So now that we've emptied out our pitcher, what do we want to fill it with? Self-confidence, trust, peace, security, emotional stability, assurance, and hope to name a few from our workshop.  

Being completely honest is a lifelong struggle, but taking the time to look at yourself in regards to honesty, really opens the door to getting real. You have to be honest with yourself, if not, you cannot be honest with anyone else. 

Things Do Not Change; We Change

Things Do Not Change; We Change

How do people change? Over time. With stops and starts, along a crooked line. With practice. With a little help-sometimes a lot of help. With anguish. With effort. With joy. The point is that change is hard for everyone

Over thirty years ago, two psychologists developed the "Stages of Change" model that we use today to help clients and families gain insight into making changes in behaviors. It's important to remember that people do not move between these stages in a straightforward way. Instead, they tend to move back and forth, so it helpful to think of the stages as a spiral rather than a straight line. 
 

Stages of Change

Pre-Contemplation
For you, this stage is sometimes termed "denial". There is a complete focus on trying to change the behavior of the addict and being unaware of any reason to change your own behavior. For the client, they choose to believe that "ignorance is bliss" and aren't aware or even considering their behavior is a problem. The client needs support with self-exploration and personalizing the apparent risks. 


Contemplation
You begin to reflect on your reactions and responses and wondering if they are even helpful. You begin to question your own behavior and begin to explore some alternatives. The client starts considering change and weighing benefits and cost of change; mostly remaining ambivalent by "sitting on the fence". The client receives support with evaluating pros and cons and identifying new, positive outcome expectations. 


Preparation
You decide change is needed upon realizing that nothing else has been helpful.You develop a plan of action while seeking help and support. The client decides to make a change and appears ready to participate. Mostly "testing the waters" and experimenting with small changes. The client receives support with problem solving - overcoming obstacles and small initial steps are encouraged. 


Action
You put your plans into effect. You are evaluating your new behaviors and observing what is working and what is not. You are actively working toward your goals. The client is modifying behaviors and taking action by attending meetings, calling a sponsor, reconnecting with family, getting a job, etc. The focus in on restructuring cues and social support and combating feelings of loss while reiterating long-term benefits. 


Maintenance
Finally, things don't seem so difficult anymore. You see the benefits of changes you've made and are much more intuitive when making decisions. The client has some level of stability and has made a continued commitment to sustaining new behaviors. The old symptoms and behaviors are gone. Establishing a plan for follow-up support, reinforcing internal rewards, and discussing coping with relapse are all part of the support given to clients. 


Relapse and Recycle
Despite best intentions, you slip back into old ways of responding. Don't beat yourself up as this is quite normal. Learn from your mistakes and get back on track. A relapse for a client is not a sign of failure; it is a learning experience and time to evaluate what went wrong in the maintenance plan. A need to evaluate triggers, plan stronger coping strategies, and reassess motivation and barriers are areas the client explores in treatment and aftercare.  

"When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves". 

For the family, a program of recovery challenges us to change ourselves by learning new ways of coping with our own situations. We change our words, feelings, attitudes, actions and reactions, so that serenity can enter our lives despite problems that may remain unresolved. When we change ourselves, we provide an opportunity for our addicted loved one to also choose recovery. 

The Fine Art of Listening

The Fine Art of Listening

A recent meeting of Purple's family group used the following reading to open a discussion on effective communication, not only in relationship to the client or loved one, but in all life situations.Communication can sometimes be awkward and tense, especially in early recovery. Becoming a good listener is important to developing more open and honest communication. 

READING
 “A common pitfall in listening is the temptation to start mentally preparing our own response; to be sure our “words of wisdom” will be properly heard and understood. When we do that, we are really only half listening, getting ready to convey an opinion. This is closely related to domineering or controlling. The person with whom we’re talking can’t fail to notice our less than total receptivity. That’s when communication begins to break down.

Webster’s definition of listen is “1. To pay attention to, to give ear, hear, tune in: 2. to hear with thoughtful attention, head: 3. to be alert to catch an unexpected sound”

If we want others to listen when we speak, we must learn to listen when they speak. This is important in a one-to-one conversation. We learn much more when we truly listen. It is then that many answers are revealed.Real communication is a two-way system. Failing to listen can be overcome through hard work; the payoff is definitely worthwhile.”

In summary, to become an effective communicator, you need to listen just as much as you need to learn to speak. Whether in a one-to-one conversation or a group meeting, focusing on what others are saying allows you to present yourself more effectively. Let go of paying attention to what you expect to hear and listen to what your loved one tells you. Listening more and talking less are the foundations of healthy communication.

“God gave me two ears and only one mouth” is a very old saying that helps to remind us to be better listeners. 

Know Your Role

Know Your Role

When a family member is addicted, the rest of the family members tend to slip into roles. These roles are "performed" for the safety of the family and to protect each individual from painful truths and actions. Family roles are often difficult to recognize and exceptionally difficult to break out of. Many people carry these roles all of their lives and live then out in school, work and in relationships. Do you see yourself in any of these descriptions?
 

THE ENABLER is the family member who steps in and protects the addict from consequences of his behavior. The motivation for this may not be just to protect the addict, but to prevent embarrassment, reduce anxiety, avoid conflict or maintain some control over a difficult situation. The enabler may try to clean up the messes caused by the addict, makes excuses for him, thus minimizing the consequences of addiction. 


THE HERO is the family member who attempts to draw attention away from the addict by excelling or overachieving with the hope that his/her behavior will help the addict stop using. No matter how bad things get, the hero thinks that the family can look at them and always feel good.  


THE SCAPEGOAT is the person in the family that gets blamed for everything bad that happens in the family. This person creates other problems in order to distract the family from the real issue and thereby allows the addict to continue using. 


THE LOST CHILD is the family member, most often a child, disappears from the scene and ignores the problem completely. Often perceived as the "good child" because much time is spent alone. The lost child does not get involved in family arguments or family discussions. 


THE MASCOT is the family member who attempts to use humor as a means to escape from the pain of the problems caused by addiction. He/she will is the "cute" one or funny one who clowns around, cracks jokes, or makes light of a serious situation and relieves stress or tension by distracting everyone. 

As a family member dealing with addiction, you likely saw yourself in one or more of these descriptions. Although it may be painful, it's important to be aware of your family role and observe how family members try to pull you back into your role. Refuse to play your role! Involving yourself in recovery from co-dependency and enabling will help you define a new, healthier role to play in your family. 

 

Promises of the Program

Promises of the Program

The Twelve-Step program was originated by AA in 1937 with promises of serenity and recognition of how our experiences can help others. AA recovery offers the promises of new freedom and happiness, with no regret for the past, only a respectful remembrance of its lessons. At the conclusion of most 12-Step meetings, members say "It works if you work it, so work it, you're WORTH it"! By working the 12 Steps and attending meetings, we slowly come to realize the last promise of AA "that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves". 

"Why do we go to meetings?

Family members readily shared that meetings have given them hope and strength. They have a place to share without judgement, and by attending meetings they find themselves less judgmental and more accepting. When a new person comes in, they recognize growth in themselves and are willing to share to help others. Most importantly, they are not alone. 
What to do when you are faced with a tough situation and need guidance and renewed hope?

Go To A Meeting

I am grateful for the pioneers of AA and the program which offers Twelve Promises of Recovery for our clients and family members. 

Honesty, Open-Mindedness and   Willingness

Honesty, Open-Mindedness and Willingness

As we move into the new year, Purple would like to share with you what we believe and the Big Book of AA states are the essentials to recovery. The answer to that ageless question “HOW can I find a solution to this problem?” lies in the acronym of H.O.W(Honesty, Open-Mindedness, and Willingness). These three principles lay down a solid foundation for recovery, both for the addict in your life and for you.


The principle of HONESTY is the hub of the wheel when it comes to recovery; everything revolves around it.  Without rigorous honesty, recovery simply cannot take place. In the Big Book it states “only by discussing ourselves, holding back nothing, only by being willing to take advice and accept direction could we set foot on the road to straight thinking, solid honesty and genuine humility”.


Being dishonest serves a purpose in the life of an addict and for the family. If the addict stopped lying, they’d have to quit drinking or using drugs and face a shameful pile of hurt they’ve inflicted on the people they love. That’s quite a load to bear, especially for the addict who is complacent about getting sober or who tries to face their past alone. It’s much easier to hide emotions, keep up the double life and continue using. Just as food fuels the body, lies drive addictive thoughts and behaviors. For some, relief from the need to lie is the most attractive aspect of addiction recovery.


For the family members, dishonesty lies mostly in the form of denial. Denial is a mechanism by which we protect ourselves from some threatening awareness about ourselves, someone else, or a situation. Denial clouds one’s ability to recognize the facts or reality of their lives. Most often, it impairs judgment and increases self-delusion. Without honesty, there is no recovery. It requires a valiant effort, but through rigorous honesty, addicts and family members reap a reward that at one time likely seemed utterly impossible: coming to know and love themselves and others, imperfections and all.


The principle of being OPEN-MINDED means being receptive to new and different opinions and ideas. It is a willingness to at least consider that other people have something of value to say. It also means that the individual has enough humility to admit to themselves that they do not have all the answers. Opening up your mind to new ideas allows you the opportunity to change what you think and how you view the world. Now, this doesn't mean you necessarily will change your beliefs, but you have the option to when you think with an open mind.


Open-mindedness is not just about accepting what other people have to say. It is about questioning what is being said with the understanding that it is possible that this other opinion could be right. By agreeing to an open mind, we admit that we don’t know everything and there are possibilities we may not have considered. Being open-minded allows us to recognize the mistakes we’ve made and also to make new mistakes. We learn that it’s okay to fall and get back up again, experiencing the true benefit from the process of trial and error.


Open-mindedness requires listening, really listening. Being open-minded gives you confidence and strength and helps you to learn and grow. Without an open-mind it’s very hard to build on experiences, and it is through experiences, that you grow.


The principle of WILLINGNESS is a mental attitude that can insure success in recovery. If you are truly willing to escape the impact of addiction, you will do whatever it takes. A willing individual who is serious about recovery, will make it the #1 priority in life. They understand that having a different life requires much effort and these changes don’t occur overnight. A willing individual is prepared to devote however long it takes. You must be a willing participant in your own recovery.
A willing individual will take responsibility for their own recovery and will seek out others to help them. Willingness is participation, action and commitment. Willingness is showing up to recovery and all it entails. Willingness is showing up for ourselves.


With a New Year upon us, these are the questions to ponder as we mover forward in the work of recovery: Are you willing to take this leap of faith? Are you willing to be open-minded; listening and believing that someone else may have an answer you seek? Are you willing to trust the process of recovery? Are you willing to participate, take action and be committed to the process fully understanding that it takes time? 


If you are practicing HONESTY, OPEN-MINDEDNESS and WILLINGNESS each and every day, then your life will begin to transform for the better. It really is that simple. This is HOW recovery is possible.

What is “Tough Love” Really About?

What is “Tough Love” Really About?

Since the month of February is often associated with love, I wanted to share with you what I've learned about loving an addict. Early on, when my son was in active addiction, I was often told that "tough love" was needed and that I just needed to "kick him out of the house!". Since then, I've come to know that "tough love" is not about me being tough. It's about having the strength and courage to make the right decision at the right time.


Before coming face to face with my own son's addiction, I was not a  stranger to the family disease of addiction. Although I was away at college and then later married and working during my brother's active addiction, I was often called to my parents’ home for yet another “intervention”. Basically, these interventions consisted of what I called the three T’s: Talk, Tears, and Threats. You see, my family was very much like yours. We all loved an addict and we were trapped on a roller-coaster of painful emotions until each of us had to make an independent decision as to whether or not we were getting off. I remember very well the night I told my parents that I was not to be called to another one of these family meetings. I was done and I wanted off that roller coaster. Of course, I couldn’t understand at the time how tough it was for my parents to do the same.


However, in time, I too found myself in that exact situation and came to fully understand just how tough it is to love an addict.


I’m sure that you’ve also heard the phrase “tough love” and how it may be necessary for you to take action that requires you getting tough, especially as it relates to loving someone with an addiction. Loving an addict is extremely tough, but it’s still love. And when drugs and and alcohol become more important to them than anything else, the love between family members becomes very strained often resulting in broken, fragmented relationships.  In an attempt to deal with this, family members typically turn to a love that actually enables the person to continue bad behavior. Or attempt to protect them or rescue them from the consequences of their choices because it is just too painful to see someone you love in so much pain. You may also have feelings of guilt or confusion. But when you attempt to protect them from their own behavior, you are actually getting in the way to finding a solution to the problem.


We begin to learn that taking on the responsibility of someone else’s problems only weakens them. When someone we love isn’t given the opportunity to suffer the consequences of their actions and learn from his mistakes, they become emotionally crippled and lack the ability to solve or overcome problems on their own. When we can clearly see that enabling, rescuing and denying doesn’t work, we become open to a solution of loving differently.


The toughest part of this kind of love is taking the necessary action to draw a line in the sand and set some firm boundaries or limits on bad behaviors. Obviously, this is a process that gets easier with time. We learn to be firm, but loving in communicating a need for change – now. Also, we gain the tools needed to make some tough decisions when the time comes. I'll never forget the night that I did indeed tell my son that he could no longer live in our house. No yelling or screaming, just a calm, but firm request for him to leave. I'll always look back and be thankful for my courage then as it was a catalyst for getting him into a treatment program.  
Several years later, that same strength and courage surfaced when he was incarcerated with multiple felony charges, all stemming from his choices as he had not yet surrendered the drugs and alcohol. Deep down, he knew he needed help when he became a client at Purple. Like you, I wasn’t about to give up hope that we could find a solution to the problems we were facing.


Thankfully, support group meetings, education, and listening to others had taught me to communicate in a calm, supportive but direct way. Learning to listen, listen, listen was important part of this process. Instead of trying to find what I thought was the solution, I started listening to those who knew much more than I. Ironically, this included learning to give my son my undivided attention, which allowed him to open up and share.


So, it’s not really about getting tough. It’s actually about having the courage to make the right decision at the right time. It’s also about having the courage to change your reactions.

Maintaining the courage to allow natural consequences to occur without intervening is the kind of love that I am talking about. When we understand the true nature of addiction, we can face the truth even when we don’t want to. We open ourselves up to see our own behavior more clearly. With time, we set boundaries with the addict when they ask for something that will only hurt them-or you- further. A phrase I’ve repeated numerous times in my own journey of recovery – Don’t Stand in the Way of his Recovery.


The last thing about this kind of love is actually about loving yourself. It’s so important not to neglect your own needs and emotions. Love yourself enough to talk to someone and get support or help when needed. We say this to our clients all the time. Ask for help. They do not recover alone and neither do we.    

Expectations Are Premeditated Resentments

Expectations Are Premeditated Resentments

Last week, our family group discussed the topic of Letting Go of Expectations. In the Big Book of AA we find where it says: Expectations are Premeditated Resentments. When you find yourself feeling resentment, you can almost always trace it back to your expectations. Usually it indicates that you tried once again to control or manipulate a situation or outcome and was resentful when it didn't turn out the way you expected.
Why is that? First, unrealistic expectations often lead to disappointment and frustration because most people resent any attempts at control or manipulation.

Second, pushing unrealistic expectations can really be a stumbling block to your own personal recovery and therefore, to the client's. 
We have also learned that placing high expectations on someone with a drug/alcohol addiction, may create added pressure and fuel a downward spiral.

There is no "quick fix" in the recovery process - it takes TIME. When all the focus is on the client and not yourself, then resentment sets in when progress is not made in the way you had hoped or expected. 

So, what’s important is to keep all expectations at a realistic level. Keeping expectations realistic and appropriate helps family members to focus on the good things that are happening, instead of having expectations about a future that has not yet arrived.

It’s obvious that most of us have goals for ourselves, and spend a great deal of time trying to get our family members to work toward and achieve goals for themselves. Often times, parents can get really involved in trying to direct their son's goals, instead of allowing him to set his own personal goals.

As family members, the idea is to allow others to grow and change in their own way instead of being caught up in how things “should be”. We learn to accept things as they are and be open to the future rather than trying to create it with expectations.
The issue of expectations goes back to knowing that we are responsible for identifying our needs, believing they deserve to get met, and discover an appropriate way to do that in our life.

Letting Go and Letting God allows each of us the freedom to set our own goals and plans, while allowing our family members to do the same. By allowing them to make their own decisions and experience the consequences of their actions, you are releasing them with love. You are actually saying that you have confidence in them and respect their ability to make decisions. 

Another one of my favorite slogans to keep my expectations in check is:

Happiness = Reality Minus Expectations 

Simply put, when we align our expectations with reality, we are never disappointed. We can't blame people for disappointing us; we can blame ourselves for expecting too much. When you release expectations, you are free to enjoy things for what they are, instead of what you think they should be.

Through recovery, we learn to accept our powerlessness over trying to control another person's behavior by our expectations. In
the 12-Step recovery process, we learn more about ourselves and the nature of acceptance. As Step 3 says, "made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand him". Today, we invite you to find true happiness by letting go, letting God. By letting go, we come to realize that God is doing for us what we could not do for ourselves. 

The Power of Good Communication

The Power of Good Communication

"Those Who Are Free of Resentment Thoughts, Surely Find Peace" Buddha

 Last week, the Purple Family Group continued the discussion of practicing effective communication. Good communication starts with listening, not listening for the purpose of giving advice, but simply listening. Harboring resentments can also negatively impact effective communication. Resentment is perhaps the most significant emotion in addiction and recovery. The families of addicts often feel resentment toward the addict for causing them to have so many bad experiences and emotions. Several family members shared some of their own personal resentments that are common to most family situations- anger, being lied to, manipulation, stealing, and financial strain were some examples.

 What is the effect of harboring these resentments? Resentment can block a healthy relationship, swallow up our efforts to grow, and rob us of the freedom from blame and guilt that is necessary for recovery. In fact, AA considers resentment “the number one offender” and working the 12 steps is a means of overcoming it.
 
So how do we overcome resentments? You must learn to let go of resentments- not for the person who hurt you or anyone else, but for yourself. Holding on to resentment gives the power to another person. With resentment, doors remain closed. Letting go of them, opens the door for acceptance, better communication, and for a more positive future. By giving up resentments, you can create a new way to live and allow yourself to reclaim responsibility for your own fate.
 
What tool do those in recovery use to let go of resentment? One tool used to let go of resentment is to pray for the person, for their health, happiness and prosperity.  Pray that they may have all in their life that you wish for in your own. Pray this for two weeks or until you can see the person without having that feeling in your gut. 


 Today,strive to let go of a resentment that is holding you back. 

Willingness to Change

Willingness to Change

Through the 12 Steps and Principles Behind Them  

Often in the midst of the chaos of drug use, the dreams you have for your loved one can seem far away. Sometimes, it's difficult to find hope that life will really ever get better. By incorporating the Principles of the 12 Steps into our daily lives and "walk the walk" of recovery, we can rebuild our lives as we recover from the impact of addiction. 

These principles give us a spiritual program with one major focus - human transformation. Through the discovery of a higher power and an honest and thorough look at patterns that have caused disruption, transformation begins. 

Steps 1-3 leads us to powerlessness and acceptance of our problem, hope in a higher power for a solution, and faith in that higher power that comes with persistence and application of recovery tools. 

Steps 4-9 with courage and willingness allows the higher power to operate in our lives once we remove the obstacles that block the recovery process. With humility and forgiveness, we forgive ourselves and let go of the shame and guilt.

Steps 11-12 is where we maintain or strengthen our spirituality. We practice new ways of thinking and acting that opens us up to the higher power with gratitude and a willingness to be of service to others. 

These simple actions you can practice each and every day to improve the quality of your life. The process isn't complicated. It simply requires the willingness to change and the courage to ask for help. 

Daily Gratitude For Sober Living

Daily Gratitude For Sober Living

 

By Bo Howell

In sobriety and recovery, we often refer to the spiritual “tool kit” when we refer to all of the suggested actions and practices that we have found effective in helping us to live and face life and its challenges successfully.  In the spiritual tool kit, I would have to say that Gratitude is perhaps the Phillips head screwdriver. It’s simple, effective, and required often.

 In my first 12 step meeting, I remember the leader sharing something that sticks with me to this day. He said, “the enemy of sobriety is negative thinking.” As a matter of fact, the root of addiction itself is in negative, fear-based obsessive thinking. If not challenged and actively addressed using the tool kit, this untreated thinking will undoubtedly lead the sufferer to seek relief via substances.

 One of the best definitions of gratitude is “an acknowledgement of a benefit that an individual has received.” However, the addict or alcoholic, whose perspective is often entirely negative and discontented, is only able to perceive circumstances in their lives negatively, and without constant daily efforts to connect with the truth of the benefits they have received, they will stay in the painful place of taking good things for granted and keeping tally of all of the perceived wrongs. If out of a 1000 things, 999 are positive blessings, the unwell addict will only be able to focus on the 1 thing that didn’t go as they thought it should. In the active addict’s world, nothing is ever good enough. This is only worsened when he inaccurately compares himself to those whom he is certain have been more fortunate, which triggers a deep sense of self-pity and shame.

The best medicine for this self-centered lack of perspective is the daily practice of gratitude. Some of the best advice most of us ever got was when we were very young. “Count your blessings,” they told us. And for his very survival and ultimately happiness, the addict needs to practice this diligently. Thankfulness is a muscle. The more it is exercised, the stronger it becomes. When connecting with the positive benefits we have received, we are automatically practicing positive thinking. The negative thinking an addict engages in is never accurate. Daily gratitude is the connecting with the truth of the blessings in our lives. Whether it’s a daily gratitude journal or list, or an action of service based upon the awareness of our fortune, or a deep mindful meditation of gratitude, we’ve found a little often goes a long way. Connecting with the truth and its underlying power is the beginning of hope, sanity and healing from the pernicious disease of addiction.

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"YOU alone cannot; WE together can"

"YOU alone cannot; WE together can"

A FEW MOMENTS WITH BO:  

Addiction is a disease that thrives on isolation. Be it physical, emotional, mental, or spiritual (and typically it’s a combination of all of these forms) this isolation- if not interrupted- is crippling and ultimately lethal for an addict or alcoholic. One of, if not the most outstanding qualities of someone who has crossed the point of no return in addiction, is the inability to remain sober without some supportive network of people to aid in the ongoing recovery process. What we’ve seen work best at keeping addicted people sober is when recovering people form a tight knit community amongst themselves, interacting regularly, intensively, honestly and lovingly. Even if addicts aren’t perhaps sold on recovery or ambivalent about sobriety, they tend to improve and get better when surrounded by and connected to other active, sober individuals.

In fact, the main of reason I joined the staff at Purple, as a certified Addiction Counselor, a few months ago, is that I believe, at its best, Purple provides as good a recovery environment for young men as I have seen in my eight years in the addiction treatment world. Addiction and alcoholism are dire afflictions that tend to consume many lives. Some cases are too severe and all treatment efforts end up being unsuccessful, but as we have experienced up to this point the most effective medicine for this disease is what we practice and believe here in our work with the men of Purple. Isolation and loneliness can be supplanted by fellowship, brotherhood, and union. Furthermore a sense of belonging can replace the addict’s long-held belief that they were doomed to be misunderstood and alone. Unfortunately, not every case goes this way, but we see dramatic returns to health and vitality occurring on a regular basis.

So the suffering addict or alcoholic gets support, but what about the family members and loved ones who have been deeply afflicted by this ruinous and dark malady as well? They are typically no less isolated, lonely, confused, and hurt than the addicted person themselves, but what can be done to help in these situations? Again, what we have overwhelmingly found works best is a shift from isolation to connection. The good news is that the possibilities for family members of recovering folks to find support and community have grown in recent years, be it AlAnon, Families Anonymous, religious or faith-based support groups, on-line groups, etc. In the same way the drug- addicted person gets better when regularly connecting with peers, the same is also true for suffering family members. Families ravaged by years of attempting to deal with a growing forest fire of addiction are well aware of the many unique problems, fears, pains, and embarrassing situations these devastating issues can bring about. Nothing we’ve found imparts precious hope in these situations like listening and relating to other people’s similar struggles and solutions.

This is why I love what Donna, Adam, Brett and Joel do here at Purple with the family workshops and programs. If you have not attended one of these sessions, I would encourage you to give it a try. We find them to be very helpful and positive and would love to see you there!

Michael & Donna's Comprehensive Substance Abuse Assessments

Michael & Donna's Comprehensive Substance Abuse Assessments

When a family member is using drugs, it affects the entire family making it difficult to confront the drug user. In our assessment process Donna Gunter meets with family members to assess the their readiness to change. Michael Whatley will simultaneously meet with the drug user, assessing their substance use, his/her readiness to change, and obtain a biopsychosocial. Then, everyone will meet together and an appropriate treatment recommendation will be made for the family.

Michael managed the adolescent addiction program at Ridgeview Institute from 2012-2017 where he assessed psychiatric/addicted patients and made appropriate treatment recommendations. He has tuned his ability to help people feel comfortable/trust him with their difficulties in life by being warm, authentic and transparent. Working at Ridgeview Institute He gained a vast knowledge of treatment resources for addicted patients making me confident in helping families find appropriate referrals.

Donna Gunter was educated at The University of Georgia and began a teaching career in the late 70's. When confronted by her own sons's substance abuse problem in the early 2000's she began her personal journey of helping other families. Her final years as a Gwinnett County educator were spent in the counseling office at Brookwood High School. For the last decade she has been committed to helping families find solutions to their child's substance abuse problem. 

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Family and 12 Step Recovery

Family and 12 Step Recovery

One of the biggest challenges to family recovery is the belief that everything will be okay if they can just "fix" the addict. After all, "he's the one who needs help, not me!" In 12 step recovery, the first step involves a willingness to admit powerlessness and unmanageability. Most family members understand that the addict must accept that the major problems in his life come from the result of getting high and drinking. They also understand that he will not change until his addiction is addressed and treated. What they don’t always understand is that they need to work a program of recovery too. However, the bottom line is - recovery from addiction is a family affair. 

Addiction is called a family disease because it stresses the entire family unit to the breaking point, impacts the stability of the home, and the overall family dynamics. Addiction in the family strains relationships and people become anxious, mistrustful, tired and often times, left feeling hopeless. But, with help and support, family recovery has become a reality for millions!! 

So, why do YOU need a 12 Step recovery program? When you also are willing to surrender to the idea that continuing along the path you’ve been on will only result in more pain, recovery begins. Through recovery, the family member is able to change course and focus on his/her own happiness and peace of mind. Through the discovery of a Higher Power and an honest and thorough examination of patterns that have caused disruption, transformation begins. It isn’t a complicated process. It simply requires willingness, the courage to ask for help, and a commitment to the process. The reality is: We must ask the same of ourselves, as we do the addict.