Viewing entries tagged
active sobriety

A Spiritual Experience

A Spiritual Experience

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.  


Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

Nothing Changes if Nothing Changes

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. 

"Tag You're It"

"Tag You're It"

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"

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! 



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

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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. 

"YOU alone cannot; WE together can"

"YOU alone cannot; WE together can"


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!

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.