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Courage, Change and Acceptance


We’ve heard that necessity is the mother of invention and that change emerges when you can’t keep doing something the same way.  Mental balance is sometimes that necessity.  Positive change and acceptance are more than just talking and coping.  It’s not necessarily as complicated as it sounds.  Change in context to acceptance is powerful and it takes courage to break through the destructive patterns that are in the way.  Change is born of courage.  Acceptance is what we give something we know we are powerless with.  Wisdom is knowing that difference.  In a nut shell, that’s the serenity prayer.  It has served those impacted by the actions of an addict as much as it has any addict.

In a 2007 film about addiction, Things We Lost in The Fire, Benicio Del Toro plays a heroin addict so convincingly you might think you’re right there feeling acceptance and compassion for his struggle.  It works both ways.  The film shows an innocent side to addiction as a disease and the miracle of compassion that is attracted when courage and acceptance meet.  After years of shooting heroin, Jerry (Del Toro) endures a brutal detox in the home of his best friend’s widow, Audrey (Halle Berry).  What you see, is how much courage and acceptance it takes for an addict and those around him to see life as it is and contrast it to what it can be.  The message flows in all directions.  Acceptance is the key to making a choice to change because, in the face of many of the things we would like to transform, we find that that we are powerless.  It is like the want of a quick cure in context to the difficult struggle to save a young addict or resuming a “normal” life.   Acceptance gets us out of the way of opportunity so a clearing for action is possible.  It is not giving up.  Acceptance is a baseline for clear mindedness in the wake of discovering a family member suffering from drug addiction. Regardless of what our actions were, most of us knew then as we know now, that reactive and destructive patterns made a problem worse.  

Wisdom and introspection can clear up where we have power and where we don’t.   Change becomes a possibility when a clearing is seen through the barriers of our destructive patterns.  Many American families face the long road of living with the impact of addiction.  They know great losses, deaths and tough recoveries.  Yet, we can be resolved with all of it.  No one helps anyone, including themselves, without remaining balanced. For me change is partly acceptance and partly the courage to keep moving away from old patterns.  By sharing the experience of parenting a loved one who fell into the abyss of addiction, I can make a difference to someone struggling to transform coping and anguish into acceptance and action.  Co-dependence and addiction is like quicksand.  Without courage and some outside help it easily sucks you in deeper.  Out of our listening emerges compassion, which is the glue of recovery. Compassion is what comes when one accepts the struggles of another as part of a larger picture in which we all belong.  Compassion is ultimately what will make the biggest difference in addressing America’s dark nightmare with drugs.

12 Responses to this article

  1. Avatar of Alisa
    Alisa / January 18, 2012 at 9:10 pm

    My husband and I started the turmoil in 2010 when we found out that our child was addicted to drugs. He was 20 and had a bright future but thanks to the Oxycontin and Opiana as well as heroin. He has led us down a path that neither one of us ever thought we would have to take. We are both educated have great jobs, live in a nice neighborhood in a new house. He ran with great kids and had a promising future until he went to that ONE PARTY! There was a kid around his age that invited him in on a groups secret and guess what he began his journey as a drug addict! He thought it would be cool to get a bigger fix than just being drunk but little did he know that addiction has ran in previous generations of our family. He had a grandfather whom he never met that was an alcholic and a uncle on his mother’s side of the family that had drug addiction. He just thought he was going to have a little fun and go to work and college the next day. Instead he spiralled out of control. He cannot do drugs and carry on daily life. It turned him into a liar, thief and cheat. We have encouraged him, took him to AA meetings, and sent him to Detox. Then we moved on to rehabiliation and half-way houses. Everytime we thought he was over it……within weeks he was lying, cheating, stealing and doing drugs again! We have finally let him go with love and pray to GOd daily that he will cure our son of this mental illness that has robbed him! We hope that he gets surrounded by people that he can listen to and they will encourage him so that he listens. I find it very hard to like him at this point in my life. I have another child that we do not want her to see what we have had to deal with. We worry that we did something wrong in raising him but after reading statistics I find that we are in the top 5 states for prescription drug use and at least 1 in 3 kids try drugs. If they are not susceptible to addiction they are fine but 1 child is one to many for this to happen too.

    I hope one day I can forgive him for all of the grief he has caused. I realize now he with either end up dead, incarcerated or rehabilated. But him and only him can make that decision!

  2. Patti Herndon / August 27, 2010 at 8:35 pm

    Susan’s shared reflection triggered my own. I recall the conversation as if it were yesterday,(15 years being the actual span, now), since my son came to me to tell me about what his choices in substance use had been.

    He was a freshman in high school. In that, beyond surreal, moment, it felt as if I had floated outside of my body…like I was processing my sons’ words from “some where else”. I saw myself sitting cross legged on the floor in front of his bed in that moment, staring forward, with my eyes becoming more and more fixed with every subsequent word he struggled to utter after the words, “Mom. I need to tell you something”. Simultaneously, this, “hum” crescendoed into a roar that competed with that sweet, frightened kid’s voice –the roar that signaled our lives had, in that very moment, experienced a cataclysmic shift. In that moment, our family, our world ( at least, as I had held it in my mind and heart), had disappeared in a flash and alchemized into “something else”.

    I would never be able to plop myself down into the middle of his bedroom floor for a chat, a laugh, a catch up on the days/weeks details in the same unsuspecting frame of mind and spirit that had accompanied our communications and interactions before. Everything changed in that moment, on that day.

    Yes. It all changed. He disburdened his troubled conscience and worried mind…With this plea for help; him having no clue what he had chosen to unleash, the world began wobbling around on it’s axis. He explained his, unimaginably, impulsive decision to follow the urging of a school friend determined to experience a no-cost, short-lived, altered consciousness by way of inhalant -My sons’, his “friends” judgment, and their reasoning skill set, obviously, horrifically underdeveloped. I can still recall that conversations’ full physical essence…the sensations, the color and sound of it all.. exactly as it occured.

    I get the full weight of the “glued to my memory” description. I relate. And, as a parent, it’s hard to push beyond that full-on assault of recall sometimes, especially early on in the process. It’s like, remembering that moment, and other ones like it that come with addiction, can knock us over, keeping us traumatized, anxiety disposed. But, it makes sense that it could have that kind of power –that kind of impact. Why wouldn’t it? It’s traumatizing news to many parents. And just as a side… Contrary to popular belief associated with some of the ill informed, incorrect notions about what “denial” really is; it is, absolutely, possible for a parent not to know there kid is using. And when a parent does not suspect, the realization, in form of a confession, brings with it a red hot lightening bolt of shock.

    In reflecting on that trauma, that shock, we can become vulnerable if we don’t develop a coping mechanism to, somewhat, disconnect the emotion from the event as we reflect on it. That feeling of helplessness and disbelief can remain lurking in our psyches waitng to strike. That sense of recalled despair can slow our pace in the battle for balance and sustainable wellbeing.

    It’s like that activating event is being experienced all over again. It’s important to vent and it’s important to connect with another’s pain as long as we don’t get bogged down in it.

    It’s taken a lot of years to develop my own brand of “solvent” that would free me from the change-stalling anxiety I seemed to get stuck in those times I found myself reflecting on the traumas we’ve experienced at the hands of major depressive disorder and addiction. My sons’ confession was just the first of many traumas I have experienced… endured and grown from as a result of his co-occuring disorder. All the while I’ve worked to maintain balance, my perspective and expectations have changed. I truly realized the power in empowering interactions and communications. I realized that I did have the power to impact my son’s perspective…Not his choice to use…That’s his accountability…But, rather, I could impact his spirit and his sense of self-reliance in reaching further and further for recovery. I could, most definitely, impact, for better or worse, his mindset in the moment. And all those moments matter and add up to the what it is we will, ultimately, decide upon when it comes to recovery.

    By doing a lot of reading about family systems, and the family roles that are established within all families, I learned that it mattered very much how I chose to communicate; and even more critical was the way I chose to listen. The things we choose to say to one another, in the stress of any moment, matters…And the reality is that we all have a choice in that. It’s sometimes feels impossible to locate, in our brains/heart what would be the best response in the chaos. And, many times we just don’t find it until the moment is gone. But, our drug addicted kids don’t make us say the things we do, and usually, immediately, regret…. Anymore than we make them put a needle in their arm or a pill on their tongue.

    From the way we view the process of addiction, to our sense of family unity and balance; Communications impact the spirit of the traveling. Those interactions are the fuel, or lack of,that govern the pace of recovery, to a lare degree.

    Words/interactions will stick like glue in our memories, too. Encouragements, and even appropriate silence, can lift and help calm our hearts and springboard us onto hope…if only for that moment or day. I’ll take what I can get in terms of hope. I save those pennies…they add up. And, there are those words we utter that cut all the way to the soul. I realized, as I learned about family dynamics, that I had uttered a lot of both of those kinds of words. And they all have mattered.

    I realized that I could harness empowerment for recovery purposed communicating, and that I could impact the journey for the better…mine, my sons…my whole family’s. I don’t get it right every day. The challenges are great. I am only human. But, WOW at the difference in the traveling as I learned how to facilitate good vibrations through better consistant healthy communicating. I had to take care of myself to do that, though.

    As I tackled my paralyzing fear about whether my child would survive his choices, his chronic condition; slowly, step by step, I began to notice better coping even in the face of many scary events –the common, and maybe not so common, traumas that exist in dual diagnosis. As I make my way, my communications and my bond with my son, and my family system, all continue to strengthen.

    My family members -my beautiful boys- would, all, agree that we are, as a family and as individuals, being made more resilient with an amplified appreciation for the moments we are blessed to share and live. I can say, that I’ve accepted and embraced that our “continuing” journey was always to be…just as it is.

    Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

  3. Bill Ford / August 26, 2010 at 4:52 pm

    Very Well said Susan. Knowing and understanding what you have went through to get to this point means alot. I also know it doesn’t make the issue go away. It only saves your life. My heart goes out to the many families that are just being exposed to a national horror that suffers a deafening silence and crippling disconnect between those suffering and those who have the ability to intervene in the madness. This is an American issue; an American madness! We do have the knowledge and the tools. We choose to not to use them unless someone is wealthy enough to buy them. The question rippling around the country, is how do we get the attention of legislators who can effect the medical and prison lobbies. We allow millions of addicts to roam the streets bringing turmoil to themselves and others, yet Americans are shocked when someone with cancer is allowed to do the same.

  4. Susan Lea / August 25, 2010 at 3:58 pm

    It’s been one year since my daughter called me and said, “I’ve done something really stupid” followed by painful tears. Since that moment there have been many moments glued to my memory.

    One of the strongest memories is of the mother who said in anguish, “If I give my son money, he will buy drugs. If I don’t give him money, he will buy drugs. If I tell him I love him, he will buy drugs. If I tell him I hate him, he will buy drugs. If I give him a place to stay, he will buy drugs. If I throw him out, he will buy drugs.” She sat there staring out the window and looked so helpless.

    I thought long and hard about what she said. And it was such an important lesson to me. I am truly powerless over the actions of my daughter. If I try to reason, persuade, yell, stonewall, manipulate, cry or remain perfectly calm it will make little difference until she is ready to work on her addiction for herself.

    This freed me! I suddenly realized I could do whatever I felt was right in the moment. I could be loving, or I could take a break from the whole situation if that felt right. I could tell her I was afraid if that felt right. In fact I did tell her I was afraid and she replied, “welcome to my world.” It helped me to understand how frightened she was about her future.

    I no longer feel the helplessness I once felt. And the woman who taught me this lesson is now doing better, too. Voicing her fear and anguish helped her to see another way to live her life. And she eventually found a better way to relate to her son.

  5. Bill Ford / August 24, 2010 at 6:01 am

    Responding to comments from “dad for truth” –

    I went through this with family members over two decades. We all have seen ourselves doing something the same way over again without results. Your right; the family new to an addicted child doesn’t necessarily know what acceptance of that condition is, but I really think a person instinctually knows what acceptance is. What generally happens at first for a parent, is resistance. An addict and a parent will engage a dance of cause, effect and reaction over and over, not owning what they are dealing with. Hindsight is 20-20, but the best options are still intervention in the early stages of substance abuse. Our so called “insanity” is a roadblock. There are many “insane” patterns of denial that parents fall victim to in order to remain and appear “normal”, losing opportunities for intervention. A parent can easily believe a child’s half hearted contrition’s and resume “normalcy” That can be a trap. Maybe doing something differently is looking at behavioral changes in a child and engaging in home drug testing and determining if a positive result equals intervention. If the result is oxy’s, heroin, meth, or anything like that, then, YES! Another way of doing things differently is to accept what is happening and do the work to identify possible solutions. Still another way of doing something different is to take care of yourself. Unfortunately, regarding addiction, our communities offer little outside help and are quick to toss young knucklehead addicts in a worthless jail cell. That is our collective society. Witnessing drug addiction is a big cross to bear. It doesn’t have to take a parent down and if we all don’t despise a young addict’s actions, maybe not them either.

    Acceptance and courage and is not new. If a farmers crops were flooding, he would at first look in dismay! Once the condition is accepted, he would get to work building levees. That is acceptance and courage. Maybe you have heard the story about the farmer furrowing his fields in the middle of a drought, after affirming his faith and hope for rain. It’s a Christian story referring to prayer and faith that God will provide rain. You pray for rain; but what happens if it comes. A parent doing the ground work for a child victimized by his own addiction is based on stepping into a vision that recovery and redemption is entirely possible and working towards that doesn’t mean rejecting the conditions that precede it or the ugliness it presents.

    I appreciate your agony. Agony; I know! I also know that agony is related to denial and resistance of a condition. As a farmers fields flood, the farmer knows he has to transform agony to action. As Patti Herndon said, that action may not be what you want it to be. An addict will only act on their own terms. Intervention can be a part of that. So, action may be a worked out physical plan or simply accepting your child for the time being as he or she is. Even though a parent can “know” that child has ruined his life or both of your lives, that child, young adult, or suffering addict still needs love and acceptance. Addiction is a monster with a mind of its own, and can trump what you do, so be prepared. Have a plan without feeling a need to force it. Look hard into the condition you are faced with. Watch it. Be Intentional, but don’t try and be God. When an opportunity arises, you will be ready to do everything you can for better or worse. Most of us are not wealthy and have to rely on simple human qualities in lieu of experimenting expensive celebrity rehab. Even with all the money in the world, it simply is not a parents sole decision to save a child. Having said that, powerlessness is not giving up; it is a stark recognition of what one does not control. That is what acceptance feels like.

    Acceptance is an elusive, but exceptionally simple concept. No one moves into action following a catastrophic event without first silencing their resistance and negative emotions like agony. Think it about it that way. Wisdom, introspection, etc…are what follows the silence and what you have at your disposal to cognate from a genuine understanding of the condition you are dealing with. Out of that, can come courage and action. If I scared anyone, I am doing something useful, because the impact of addiction on a family is often “horrifying”. Not only can it turn a family upside down, but a family’s social standings are threatened. That is why resistance is easy. Denial allows us to temporarily resume normalcy. Just understand, drug abuse is serious, even for the “new family”. Addiction is like a cancer cell. I just wish it had the medical attention it deserves. Someday the “outside” help that evades many of us will be there for all of us. If I could provide that outside help, I would save a million young addicts tomorrow. 12 very young addicts died in one Tucson school district last year.

    We all live in the same world and finding that help can also be a form of agony; terrifying and freezing us into inaction. In 12 step programs, a person learns to take on life one day at a time and spiritualizing their place in a condition that has ruled them. Finding outside help in the context we have, is getting to know everything your community has to offer and acting on it one day at time without emotional roadblocks like expectation and disappointment. The first thing to realize is a parents work new to this has just become as illusive and difficult as a young addict struggling to be free. We can’t expect easy answers or something to take care of it all. Maybe later, we can talk about bigger community based ideas for smart outside help, which may be right in the palm of our hands. Check out my site, as well. BILL

  6. patti herndon / August 24, 2010 at 4:20 am

    Dad 4 truth…Below are a couple of links. When you’re rested, or as rested as you can be for your circumstances, take a look at the websites. Pace yourself, though. When you’re feeling exhausted, taking in a lot of printed material will increase stress levels. The initial goal is to help you begin to feel increasingly centered, little by little. You achieve this by compartmentalizing the actions you intend to take.

    One step at a time: Beginning with information you can utilize to make some initial connections/screenings within your desired area and comfort zone…(person(s), place(s), (thing(s)) engage in communication with identified resource personnel via phone, email, or even in person.

    Keep a journal…make brief notes as you make these connections. For me…it has been especially helpful when making phone contacts to make notes regarding contact person’s name(s) and some “shorthand” that reminds me about the details that were discussed. Write down your questions as they come to you and as they are prompted by the conversing. What were the responses to your questions? Your own shorthand will assist you in documentation/detailing that will be the framework in building a personal plan of action.

    I also jot down my general gut/intuitive perceptions about the quality of the clinical expertise/professionalism offered in those conversations, and whether or not I sense from the other end of the phone/email a skill set for offering an adequate amount of goal-driven empathy. There have calls/communications I have politely guided to an end as I began to assess that they were not truly engaged with the goal of helping me problem solve for the current problem/crisis. You don’t have the time, or the energy, for reindeer games. You can tell when you’re communicating with someone who “gets it” …trust your instincts. If they really want to help you but they are just really busy at the particular moment and can’t dig in to the level needed for your circumstances, they will ask for your contact info and you WILL hear back from them in the time frame they commit to. And, if they can’t help you within the scope of their resource pool for your circumstances, they will connect you with another resource by providing contact info.. There is usually a good deal of details that will be important to familiarize yourself with. This is why it is so helpful to have a designated resource journal as you make contacts. You build customized resources in this way and will be amazed at the learning you will do…All of this, so very critical to building a sense of confidence in yourself as a parent/advocate, and maintaining necessary hope.

    Then, take a break…lift a prayer, meditate, go walk, eat something healthy… or not so healthy (every now and then)… and/or even get some sleep if you can…spend quality time with loved ones. Anything that offers a “reset” to maintain healthy perspective and expectation.

    When you’re refueled and feeling ready…”rinse and repeat”. Make more contacts as your work and personal situation allows. But, you’ll need support…You need a shoulder, (if you don’t already have a dependable source).

    Don’t underestimate the strength that comes to you via a friend’s empathy for your particular circumstances, and/or the “doable” strategies provided by a quality, experienced clinician that you have good rapport with, and trust. Vent, then, verbalize the thoughts you have about the hopes you have for yourself as a parent/advocate, for the relationship(s) that are critical to your sense of connection and personal reward, too.

    Arrange, as you can, as is possible,… as is safe for you both physically and emotionally, some time with your child, your son. Just “be” in the moment with him. Avoid telling him that he is ruining his life. He already knows that. Don’t advise unless you are really sure that you’re offering those advisements with an open mind heart spirit based on “his” actual skill set at the time -not what you think it ought to be. Tell him something you believe in that he can absorb, that will, at least for the moment, out shout the voices “in his head” that keep telling him he is a screw-up. Listen to him for as long as he needs to talk, without interrupting. Look into his eyes, with hope in yours. Don’t be defensive. Don’t communicate within a defensive posturing or tone …There has been enough of that to last a lifetime.These encouragements are not generalities. They represent a tangible plan of action.

    Don’t provide cash. If your, well thought out, decision (it’s no one else’s) is some form of financial support that you believe will fuel his resources for strategizing/facilitating, within his own accessible skill set to define a reason(s) to stop using/reduce useage of substances for coping, then go to the source with the financial assistance. Worth repeating: Don’t provide cash. And, allow legal consequences..but consider those consequences in context of the potential danger of an unrecoverable mental health crisis that could go un-addressed do to a lack of trained, clinical support within the detention facility.Know what the facility is “made of”. How? By paying close attention. Make notes and then phone calls, if necessary.

    Stick to your boundaries, but also be aware of how dependent “successful/healthy/maintainable” boundary development is on reasonable/realistic expectations (expectations born of a mindset that is not making its determinations while in “anxiety mode”). Also, be open to the reality that your determinations should be subject to adjustments that are appropriate/necessary as circumstances change.

    In my own experience in advocacy,we found, through repeated searches (and action fueled by determination and necessity), a clinician that was well matched to “our” family system -it’s strengths, it’s weaknesses/areas of vulnerability. This particular clinician served as a powerful/pivotal force for change that has occurred in my sons’ journey, and ours as a family. But,this awesome clinician didn’t come to us…We had to find him. Along the search there were plenty that didn’t sync-up. But, every time something didn’t match up, didn’t create momentum…we learned. We moved on. We grew…Still are.

    We know that unpredictability abounds in the process of addiction and addiction recovery, for the addiction challenged individual, as well as the family members –especially in the early stages of recovery work. So, protect yourself and your resources while also sending a sincere message to your son that you believe he can do the same for himself, little by little; and that this really is the only method for making change, and healing and growing his life, his spirit and your relationship. That is power in the moment. Yes. Maybe it’s just for that brief moment. The idea is to collect as many of those moments as is possible and watch them add up to a life time (each one varies) of well being and acceptance and peace.

    Forget about “control”.It’s a liar. Think “empowerment”…Yours, then his. In that order…

    Little by little, (“little by little” for which the conversion on the addiction recovery progress meter is “gargantuan”) is the only way to facilitate a working reserve regarding your sense of well being, peace and encourage your son’s health. You can’t ask more of yourself than that…No one can.

    I’m pulling for you…and anyone else out there that is benefitted in this moment by knowing there is someone (lots of someone’s on the Intervene site and at The Partnership) who really wants you to exist, in your particular journey, empowered. And, desiring, too, that you are more and more able to gain momentum by feeling understood and supported, even if we don’t all implement the exact same strategies in the journey.

    Wishing for you a growing sense of confidence in the process…self-reliant, strengthened, connected and informed, to increase your menu of options -Options that will impact all your resources…emotional, logistical, physical, and financial. These resources combine to form the surface of the road we are traveling as loved ones of an addiction challenged son or daughter…we want it to be as smooth and predictable “as it can be”.

    Wishing you enhanced vision for the road ahead…

    Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.



    The Partnership for a Drugfree America’s downloadle E- treatment book

  7. Patti Herndon / August 23, 2010 at 11:12 pm

    Dad for truth,

    I hear you. Email me. Let’s communicate about your specifics….your circumstances. We can proceed as you desire. You love him…he’s very fortunate to have a dad with such passion about his health and life…that persevering heart of yours is going to serve the journey ….yours and his.

    Patti.Herndon@ (lower case)

    Susan…wow…beautiful…You made me really think about “patience”‘
    in my own circumstances and how important it is to “pacing”. When I don’t consciously remind myself to take breath and affirm what my goal is , and that it’s enough that I am doing all I can; it’s makes me more vulnerable to feeling anxious instead of empowered. Thanks for your reminder ;0)

  8. Dad 4 Truth / August 23, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    The author, Patti and Susan all made excellent points. I respect each one of you. All I am asking is we not talk in generalities. If I am a parent who is concerned about my child “problems” due to his/her abuse of alcohol or other drugs and I read these “generalities”, I will leave not having any better idea of what to do than when I got here.

    “…… can’t keep doing something the same way.”

    I understand that! It’s the definition of insanity but the family new to addiction does not. My question is what are the best known successful strategies that other parents have found to be the most useful doing the “positives?” List some ideas please.

    “……….it takes courage to break through the destructive patterns that are in the way. Change is born of courage. Acceptance is what we give something we know we are powerless with. Wisdom is knowing that difference.”

    Of course it does but how does a family get to the point of finding the courage that creates the change? Please give the reader some ideas. Give the reader a stating point, perhaps one that “many” parents found beneficial.

    “What you see, is how much courage and acceptance it takes for an addict and those around him to see life as it is and contrast it to what it can be.”

    I agonized when I read that. Do you know how many times I told my son that he was ruining his life. All his hopes and dreams being destroyed. Did I not know he/we need “courage” and “acceptance?” Of course but the secret is where do I start? Give me a place to look. Please don’t hide the possibilities from me!

    “Acceptance is the key to making a choice to change because, in the face of many of the things we would like to transform, we find that we are powerless.”

    I really need an explanation of this “powerless” term. I am a new parent and all I can think of is how wrong that is. Me, powerless? Do you mean for me to “give up?” To abandon my child? Goodbye, I am out of hear never to return.

    “Acceptance gets us out of the way of opportunity so a clearing for action is possible. It is not giving up. Acceptance is a baseline for clear mindedness in the wake of discovering a family member suffering from drug addiction. Regardless of what our actions were, most of us knew then as we know now, that reactive and destructive patterns made a problem worse.”

    Again, that “acceptance” term. How am I to begin to accept my child’s addiction. I am in great fear my child is killing himself and I must take “control.” I don’t want to make things worse, I don’t want anymore destruction. Give me a hint, just a small hint that will open my mind to a path of recovery for me and my family. Please help me, the parent cries out.

    “Wisdom and introspection can clear up where we have power and where we don’t. Change becomes a possibility when a clearing is seen through the barriers of our destructive patterns. Many American families face the long road of living with the impact of addiction. They know great losses, relapses, incarcerations, hospitalizations, deaths and tough recoveries.”

    If I wasn’t scared, confused and horrified before, I certainly am now. Yes, I know I need more wisdom than I now have. That is why I came to this site. I want the change that creates new understanding but if you don’t give me any ideas which in turn creates hope and understanding how am I supposed to benefit from this post?

    “Without courage and some outside help it easily sucks you in deeper.”

    Finally a clue, “outside help” but what outside help are you speaking of? Don’t leave me hanging in the dark.

    “Compassion is what comes when one accepts the struggles of another as part of a larger picture in which we all belong. Compassion is ultimately what will make the biggest difference in addressing America’s dark nightmare with drugs.”

    All I am seeing is the frame of the “picture.” I see nothing on the canvass. Nothing!

  9. Susan Lea / August 21, 2010 at 12:31 am

    “Wisdom and introspection can clear up where we have power and where we don’t. Change becomes a possibility when a clearing is seen through the barriers of our destructive patterns.”

    These two sentences resonated with me. There is no magic remedy. There is no quick cure. Each human being is so complex and unique. And this doesn’t change when they are addicts.

    The further I reach inside to understand myself, the more I’m able to be there for family members who are in pain. My “wisdom” will only be gained by introspection and patience with myself and the people I love.

  10. Patti Herndon / August 20, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    “What is needed is a proven plan of action that has proved successful for the greastest good for the greatest number of families”.

    As the strategies in the post “Courage, Change, Acceptance” are embraced and consistently implemented, the best plan possible for the circumstances (whatever they may be, at the time) will emerge -”The plan”, that is, that will best serve each individual circumstance toward the goal of developing, maintaining and increasing our coping skill set in support of recovery, as well as that of building healthier, more rewarding relationships with our loved ones who are addiction challenged.

    Does this implemented strategy guarantee recovery or an addiction-free existence? Will it prevent relapse, illness, death? Does it ensure against disappointments and the often, unpredictable, long term challenges associated with addiction? No.

    As parents…relapse, harm reduction and abstinence is not in our scope of control. It’s the addiction-challenged loved ones’ accountability to choose, (or not), recovery purposed strategies. The strategies Bill mentions above, consistently applied, provide for increased coping ability “for us”. And, chances are with time, our increased coping skill set, modeled/shared, will impact/influence, for the better, the choices of our sons and daughters… who are fighting the biggest battle of their lives.

    With that increased coping gained, we become present and accounted for in the details of our own lives, while also being an effective, consistent advocate/supporter of a son/daughter who is addiction challenged. Being a healthy supporter should be the identified goal, otherwise our resources and parenting energy is slated to be sucked up in the swirling vortex of chaos that addiction often delivers…our precious energy wasted on fear, anxiety, resentments and anger.

    Once these strategies are identified, an individual has the option to choose to act on them by way of any and all resources available -Resources we must identify for ourselves. Does this mean we are alone in the pursuit of this kind of peace? No. We have the comfort of knowing that we are not alone in our journey. That helps. Connecting ourselves with resources as effectively as we can along the way, i.e., people, places, things: friends/family members who have walked, or who are walking, the road of recovery as an advocate or as an addict…support groups, clinicians, recovery organizations, faith-based supports, family intervention courses/training, reading/learning on the subject of the biological, psychological, sociological impact of addiction….Any and all of the above as it helps.

    As coping skill set increases it’s likely that the menu of options, in terms of resources, will follow suit. That doesn’t mean you’re going to implement everything you encounter in terms of recommendations and resources…There will be more to research and try…That’s a good thing. Have faith in your ability to determine what the best/healthiest approach is for the moment/circumstance. Because, if your goal is increased coping on behalf of supporting recovery for a loved one, and the decisions regarding your choices are consistently guided by this desire; then, your decisions will not be subject to self-inflicted doubt, or criticisms from others..Whether that criticism be perceived or actual. Rather, you will, increasingly, become more peace-filled, hope-filled, accepting, determined. “BALANCED” -The best possible version of yourself considering the beyond difficult circumstances that challenge your life. No one, not even yourself, has the right, or meritable reason, to ask you to do or be more than that.

    But, whatever the resource situation currently is, or what it becomes in terms of our discovery/research; If we are not prepared in spirit/attitude to apply what we learn from those insights, recommendations, and encouragements to our own situation (our own “personal” truth) then, those resources are destined to remain the trees in the forest we can’t see.

    Our process for becoming the best advocates and support persons we can be, on any given day of the journey that is addiction, is not so unlike the process that the addiction- challenged person is faced with in terms of defining a reason and then developing a plan for discontinuing/reducing drug and alcohol use. The process, in either case, will resolve change-stalling ambivalence, fear, self-doubt and worry little by little. Making change a reality comes only by healthier choices, one decision at a time…one step at a time.

    As we consistently implement strategies for supporting recovery with an open mind and heart, and with an identified goal of increasing our own skill set for coping, we will accomplish just that… and more. As we dig in, the plan “for us”, for today, for the week or the month, emerges. Better balance comes to us as we navigate the long term challenges often associated with addiction.

    Where disjointed, contentious communications reinforce the wall between loved ones, and present an obstacle to recovery; responsible empathy is developed and applied when stategies are identified and implements. As an added bonus, our expectations regarding the choices and behaviors of our addiction challenged loved one, as well as ourselves, begin to fall better in line with the reality of our individual circumstances, one day at a time… because that’s the only quantity our future comes to us in. It doesn’t come in bulk. Where addiction is concerned, it doesn’t pay off to make determinations in bulk.

    In the process of recovery, accomplishments of all varieties, big and small, (subjective and personal those measurements are, indeed), team up to create change-making, balance-giving momentum and sense of empowerment. Example: Two hours, two days, two weeks of abstinence in the wake of months/years of life-suffocating, life-threatening self medicating should never be couched in minimalyzing terms. “Yeh…She only has two weeks (two days…whatever the case) of not using; which I know may not sound like much…Plus, she probably only has that clean and sober time under her belt because she went to jail(and/or was hospitalized) . *sigh* But, I guess, that’s better than nothing, right?”.

    Statements like that send a clear message to your loved one, and others who are struggling to free themselves from addiction, that their efforts don’t rate or account for anything unless their efforts meet the par you set or that perceived moral code implies. Being that “we” are not “them”, it’s not a good idea to convince ourselves that we know what constitutes as accomplishment for them. Rather, our best effort would be tuning in to what it is that appears to increase their resolve, desire and strategizing for recovery… and jumping on and staying on that band wagon.

    Our job as advocates is to support a growing sense of accomplishment by affirming those accomplishments in responsible, healthy ways. Does this necessary encouragement equate to a disregard of healthy boudaries. No, of course not.

    Accomplishments of all varieties, big and small (worth repeat: When it comes to recovery, anything that improves the individuals’ sense of control and hope for recovery is a “big” one), team up to create momentum and sense of empowerment for our addicted loved one and for us. This helps us all to maintain reasonable expectations. These better-centered expectations can’t help but fuel positive interactions and sense of accomplishment thereby helping us to avoid the energy-robbing stall of disappointment, exasperation and disconnect…all of which can increase stress. Stress that can, in turn, increase the risk that our addicted son or daughter will choose to cope with that stress via self-medicating. For the record: reasonable expectations are not to be confused with, and are not judge-able, as “denial” and “enabling”. It’s important to know the difference between reasonable, recovery-supporting expectation and denial. Also, “empathy” should never be confused with enabling. Enabling is enabling. However, “empathy” is a requirement for developing recovery-improving communications –the kinds of communications that become the cornerstone for healthy perspectives and choices, and the energies that maintains them for the long haul.

    I’ve made the personal decision to exclude the word “enabling” from my vocabulary (present communication not applicable to that resolution, obviously) due to the terms’, mostly, overused, often, misunderstood meaning/context when it comes to communicating on the subject of recovery and addiction. “For me”, the term enabling has, in more recent years, become a buzz word that can confuse and clip folks off at the knees just as they are beginning to believe they have the power to stabilize their circumstances, increase their tools for recovery, and build confidence in their ability to strategize. I have seen the terms “enabling” and “co-dependent” used willy nilly, more and more. I will leave that particular terminology in the hands of others and pray that is used with good, responsible intent for the sake of the spirit of the parent in the trenches, as well as those addiction-challenged sons and daughters they love so much.

    Besides, as parents, we know when we are enabling and we know we have a choice to make, or not make in our participation commensurate with our personal circumstances -Circumstances, that are, by the way, not “judg-able” by anyone other than ourselves. To add, it really becomes counterproductive for us to zero in on the subject of all the things we may have done, did do, didn’t do, could’ve done, or might do “wrong” to the exclusion of absorbing, implementing and sharing the self-realized, hope-building, positive strategies that have resulted from life-improving change.

    No one has ever been badgered, condemned or criticized into authentic, sustainable, positive change. Plus, there is the undeniable complication/distraction created by the fact that not everyone would agree with every strategy/decision we make as parents as we trudge the personal battlefield that is addiction.

    We need to define through education, trial and error + change (experience), compassion, acceptance, and well-contemplated, researched advisements, what works to improve the odds for recovery, and what will in tandem reinforce/restore family relationships via those resources that best serve our personal goals for recovery and the circumstances we are dealing with. That’s a plan…

    So… make the calls, check out the websites geared for prevention intervention and recovery…go to the meetings…read the books…and vent, too. Venting is very important, but be choosy about who you vent to and how long you allow yourself for healthy venting. Steer clear of venting that tends to result in being delivered to a current that drags energies under and away, and just tends to increase a sense of despair and hopelessness. We need as much effective, change-producing energy as we can conserve and protect for ourselves in the journey. It’s worth every precious ounce of effort.

    It’s a process that takes as long as it takes. A process, a plan, where “one size fits all” has not and does not, (to date), exist…And where “one size fits most” leaves too much to risk. If we, the family members, (parents of an addicted son or daughter, specifically), have made the conscious decision to dig in for the long haul,(there is that potential that it will be a long, long road, but also a life enhancing one), depending on the individuals diagnosis);So then,the best we are going to do for ourselves in advocating in our particular circumstances will come by way of consciously working toward maintaining a balance. We do this on behalf of ourselves in support of our childs recovery.

    We must define the best approach/plan for ourselves, our circumstances, based on our own determinations supported by resources that “we” seek out and engage. Those approaches that offer us the most useable strategies, tailored to our specific circumstances. We utilize those available resources first by discovering/recognizing them… by any means necessary. How do we begin to do that? Answer: See Bill’s post above.

    Yes. It’s the hardest work in the human scope…Or, at least, I believe there is no challenge greater than the ones faced by the parent, (or dedicated, acting guardian), of an addicted and/or mental health-challenged individual. The strategies we implement guarantee only that we will build “our” coping mechanism, not that we will live separate from the impact of addiction. Health, relationships…”Life” can and does improve in this process.

    “We have been dealing with this disease since the dawn of time. We already have all the information, all the research, all the history we need. It is all so predictable”.

    The depth of passion in the above statement is evident. I can empathize with the angst that belies it. But, if the statement were true, we’d be at “cure”. I do believe we will get there…to cure, that is. I believe it will come in the not terribly distant future via the advances of neuroscience and improved family systems. But until then, read Bills post as many times as it takes to build the bridge of epiphany to the plan of action.

    Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination…with the most efficient, comforting vehicle for the travel being the open and determined mind and heart.

    Rewarding travels to us all.

  11. dad 4 truth / August 19, 2010 at 2:53 am

    Yes, a well-written post full of truth and hope.

    However, when parents are in deep despair and confused, locked into the insanity of the disease how do they manage to get to the stage of change?

    We need more clues here, more directions and more details. That is why I started writing my blog which outlines the process of change in my “Five Parent Truths.”

    We have been dealing with this disease since the dawn of time. We already have all the information, all the research, all the history we need. It is all so predictable.

    What is needed is a proven plan of action that has proved successful for the greastest good for the greatest number of families.

  12. Patti Herndon / August 17, 2010 at 8:14 pm

    “…addiction as a disease and the miracle of compassion that is attracted when courage and acceptance meet”.

    “Out of our listening emerges compassion, which is the glue of recovery”.

    Excellant Post! Bullseye! Inspiring!

    Compassion for others …(and self, too)…helps us identify doors to recovery. And, “change” is the key that will open them wider and wider.

    As we keep trying to implement healthier and healthier choices in action and communication (“change”) in support of, on behalf of, our addiction-challenged loved one and the family dynamic; we are, in tandem, strengthening and building the frame that will have the best odds for protecting the family system against crumble -Choices that will model healthy coping and problem solving skills no matter the challenge on any given day. The momentum gained prevents the stall of hopelessness and the hopelessness of stall. The outgrowth and spread of this “compassion, courage and acceptance” (change) can’t help but amplify in a societal scope, as well…Door by door.

    We can, and do, become more and more fortified, connected, “glued” in a spirit of compassion, courage and acceptance that will result in increasingly effective persistance as we identify, open, and walk through the doors that will best serve our individual family circumstances regarding addiction. We learn in a collective as well as individuals individuals what works best for fostering recovery. We share our experiences-turned-insights with one another thereby building faith and hope that more doors are destined to be identified…as we keep trying and changing.

    In reading this great perspective, Bill, it frames out, for me, that the process of “trial and error” minus “change” is destined to remain as error. But, error in the presence of change = opportunity for increasing peace and health -“Well being” no matter the challenge or circumstances.

    It’s a process that takes as long as it takes…and worth every try along the way.

    The courage we need to keep going comes in our continuing to try, identify, and change. A cycle well worth getting caught up in.

    Addiction is the journey. Recovery is the destination.

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