This sticky note has been on my laptop for more than three years. Every day it reminds me of THE TRUTH. I wrote it one day when I was feeling less than powerful, defeated actually, weary, overwhelmed. It is my mantra when things are hard, when I am missing someone or some kind of feeling, and back when I thought things couldn't get worse and they did and when I didn't know if I could keep up the fight and keep shining my light.
It was and is the one thing I know for sure, no matter what happened. It was the thread that I held and still hold every single day.
The most powerful force we have is love.
The most powerful force in getting someone into treatment for addiction is LOVE. Data proves that the strongest motivator for getting someone to willfully enter treatment for addiction and maintaining treatment and the recovery lifestyle is the family. The family can also be the most destructive factor in recovery if they are not in a program of treatment and recovery as well. You can create the environment for addiction to thrive or recovery to thrive, that choice is yours.
The number one action step for a family facing potential, probable or active addiction is to intervene.
Here's what I know about people in active addiction:
1. They WANT help and can't tell you because the drugs/alcohol won't let them.
2. They don't WANT to be "addicts."
3. They don't know how to "just stop" or "just say no"
4. Their brains have been hijacked and have lost the power of rational thinking and choice.
5. Their using has NOTHING to do with how much they love you.
6. They do respond to love.
If you are suffering in someone's active addiction you have a choice. You are actually the most powerful person in the situation if you are educated on the brain science, are well supported and emotionally stable (as emotionally stable as you can possibly be in the situation). You still have the power of choice. You can be the person with addiction's greatest advocate or their worst adversary by your own actions.
You can choose to help or choose not to help. You can choose to stay connected or disconnect.
You can intervene.
How do you intervene?
1. Reach out for help. If someone you know has been through it, ask them what worked and what didn't work for them.
2. Prepare yourself for a marathon, not a sprint. Addiction is a chronic but treatable disease of the brain with potential for reoccurrence if it is left untreated. When you take on addiction you have to stay strong, be well supported, take care of yourself emotionally, physically, spiritually.
3. Circle up and have a family meeting including your loved one with addiction with a neutral facilitator (interventionist, addiction specialist)who is has a deep understanding of addiction, substance use disorder and the impact on the family. This is also known as "an intervention"
4. Get support. Immerse yourself in a positive community of support and understanding.
5. Don't wait for it to get better and don't wait for that mythical "rock bottom" which could in fact be death. It won't get better on its own. It might wax and wane but addiction doesn't fully heal without treatment. Your loved one will suffer and so will you and your family until relationships become irreparable or someone dies.
6. Take Action. Recovery from addiction requires action. Here are some action steps you can take to get your family into recovery.
Recovery is possible. Believe it.
Your love is strong enough. No matter what happens, even if the worst happens, your love and the love of others will see you through. Believe it.
Every other Tuesday night I facilitate a free meeting for people with loved ones with addiction, substance use disorder, a "problem" with drugs and/or alcohol, in treatment and in recovery. It's open to the public, to the whole family and we provide information, education, connection support and applicable solutions. We don't believe in tough love, we don't believe in waiting for the person with addiction to "want it" and we don't wait for "rock bottom."
I believe that love is strong enough. Its the most powerful force we have.
"Withholding your story and what you've learned, what you know is a form of lying," she said.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, lowered my head because I knew. I knew in my heart I was withholding something that could ease the suffering of many. I wanted to be the girl that talked about love and did yoga and was bright and cheery and didn't let the dark take her down. I wanted to be the woman who took people to magical places on retreat and re- introduced them to nature and taught them how to slow it all down and be still and let their spirit rise. I didn't want to really keep talking about it, be about it, even though I really wanted it to stop, to change, to transform.
I was called out for withholding twice! I was called out again for not providing what I knew would fix someone's pain. "you know people are in pain and you know how to fix it, with a program, a book, a retreat or a school. you are withholding. People need more than what you are offering."
I've been rumbling with that truth for a few days now. I've been a withholder before. It's a protective thing I suppose. I don't want to be a withholder anymore. I'd been told I wasn't using my gift for the greater good.
The truth is I haven't been writing enough and I have barely scratched the surface of what I believe, what wisdom I've gained to help families navigate addiction and recovery. I haven't been writing enough and I can feel that in my body like energy boiling around that needs release, like words stuck in my throat, like a volcano ready to erupt.
The things I talk about, the things I share, the thoughts I have, the stories I write are vulnerable sometimes dark and sometimes controversial. I feel moments of guilt around my path that I've been working hard to heal and to make peace with. Sometimes I feel at fault for my child's health. I have regrets about how I handled things with my child, my marriage, my mother. I understand addiction so differently now. I also have strong beliefs that I know need to be shared. I know there needs to be a paradigm shift in the way addiction is treated. There is an evolution happening. I feel called to collaborate in the evolution of addiction and recovery. I am afraid sometimes that I will lose people, friends, people I care about by sharing the way I feel called to share the wisdom gained on this journey through addiction to recovery in my family. Honestly, its already happened. That's the hard part, one of the excuses for keeping my mouth shut, kind of. For treading lightly around what I really think and feel. That's also learned behavior, that egg shell walking thing. You learn that growing up in an environment of addiction.
The thing is, there are 23 million families who are suffering right now, right this minute in the grips of active addiction. I know this. There is a husband who wishes his wife had a relationship with him instead of a bottle of wine every night and everyday he does something to get her attention, her love, her heart and no matter what he does or says, the wine wins. There are kids who want help and can't get it because their parents don't understand what marijuana does to the brain, how addicting pain pills and xanax are, that heroin is really out there and kids are doing it or they don't have the financial means for treatment or they are too ashamed to reach out for help for their child, worried what the neighbors might think. There are 23 million moms & dads, sisters, brothers, lovers, friends on their knees praying for relief from the chaos pain, emotional poverty that living with someone in active addiction creates. There are little kids who are suffering the effects of a drunk or drug addicted mother or father, taking care of their parent instead of being taken care of by their parent or being at the mercy of emotional or physical abuse no one knows because they are afraid to ask for help.
Knowing these facts I can not withhold what I know, understand, have learned, felt, discerned any longer. I need to share what I've learned consistently. You deserve it. I need to focus on you. I hear you calling.
I hear you little sister/brother with the drug addicted brother/sister and the alcohol abusing mother/father calling for help and wondering if your life is anything near normal or will it ever be. I hear you son and daughter of the over drinking mom & dad wondering if anyone knows how bad it really feels to live the way you do even though on the outside it appears that everything is totally perfect. I hear you calling for guidance and for relief. I hear you teenager, college student, young adult who doesn't want to feel the way you do and needs help to stop the vicious cycle you are in under the influence but don't know how to tell your parents and get the help you need to feel solid good again. I hear you husband/wife with the spouse that appears to love substances more than they will ever love you and you feel empty. I hear you, people in active addiction wishing someone would see, would understand, would offer or get you the help you need, wishing someone would hear the call for help that every chaotic episode truly is and see through the dark to your light. I hear you calling for understanding, compassion, ferocity and strength. I hear your pain. I hear your suffering, I hear your calls for help.
I promise to show up for you. I'll be here every day. Writing something to you, for you, for all of us to heal, to get what we need, to battle addiction, to get back to normal/natural, to feel solid good, to recover, to connect, to find guidance, to love each other through.
Because I know what its like to be that kid, that teen, that young adult, that wife, that mother. I know. I'm leaving withholding behind. What other people think about what I have to share doesn't matter as much as YOU MATTER.
Getting you the healing, the information, the support, the love, the connection you need to live a life that feels solid good, sweet, gentle, loving, connected whatever feels you are dying to feel matters more than what other people think of what I do or say.
I knew when I changed my lifestyle and rebelled against societal norms that I would lose somethings and some relationships. I am willing to lose things to gain a life that feels true. The way I feel in my body, the purpose I feel with my soul and the love I feel in my heart is worth the process of transformation from someone under the influence, unhealed, in the grips of someone else's active addiction to a peaceful happy being.
I am devoting to you. All of you affected by addiction and in recovery.
You are my people and I love you and when you're ready for transformation in your family, I will help you intervene.
The light, the love, the truth in me honors the light, the love and the truth in all of you.
Namaste In Love,
Nineteen months ago after one of the most excruciating, emotional, powerful days of my life as a mother I decided to give up alcohol.
I felt like if my child had to live a life free of drugs and alcohol in order live a healthy life, our family should too. I felt like if I was going to break the cycle of addiction in my family, it had to start with me.
How could I ask him to do something I wasn't willing to do myself, how could I ask my daughters to choose clean/sober, if I wasn't?
I couldn't see any circumstance where alcohol (or drugs) should take a precedent over our lives, my happiness and peace or my children's safety, happiness and peace. After all that had happened, drugs and alcohol didn't deserve to be in my life.
It wasn't enhancing it, bringing more joy, creating more love. In fact substances were doing the opposite, for a long time. Ruining it.
Substances were responsible for deaths of people I loved and the deaths of relationships I cherished, for illness in my family, chaos, pain and ultimately the greatest barrier to pure love.
It skewed my perception, it made situations that I should not have tolerated, tolerable. It was the great numb out. I couldn't feel what was really real under the influence, I couldn't tell who was being true or real under the influence and I couldn't trust that someone I loved wasn't going to hurt me with their behavior under the influence. I realized that alcohol was not my friend and never had been.
I'd started leaving alcohol behind little by little after my son was born, and then my daughters. Giving birth makes you feel, with your whole body. It's very sobering. This year I took a really hard look at alcohol and how it's used, how I used it, what I gained in the name of connection and what I lost by connecting through cocktails.
My body was numb from years of protecting my heart and I really wanted to feel into things all the way. All the things. Joy, Intimacy, Connection, Love, Spirituality. I didn't want to be at all numb, not the tiniest bit. I wanted to feel with every fiber of my being. The more open and aware I was the more I wanted to stay aware and open. I wanted true connection, with my mind, my body, my spirit and my heart. I realized that sober was the only way for me to go and the only way for me to stay present in the face of the disease of addiction, to be present in all areas of my life. So I chose clean that day, that excruciating, emotional, powerful day, nineteen months ago.
All the way.
At first, I thought it would be hard to live a life without the drinking culture. It's not as hard as I thought it would be, as long as you stay connected with people, find the things that charge you up, thrill you, calm you, bliss you out and do those things.
In fact I have found it to be a richer life, deeper, more connected, joyful and loving without the lens of alcohol.
For people suffering with addiction, it is hard at the beginning. Their brains are healing, their bodies are healing, their is less understanding, compassion and a lack of education and more stigma associated with the disease. Without deep connection, a loving, accepting community, things that charge and thrill, calm and bliss it's really hard. I understand from the recovery community that it gets easier. I understand from science that our brains create new pathways and it takes two years for a brain to fully recover. It takes time, love, and healing of the mind, body and spirit. Sober/Clean is very possible. Recovery is possible.
Every time my son celebrates a milestone in recovery, I realize that he gave us the greatest gift.
What a beautiful life we have begun to feel, to live. I didn't know it could be this way. I didn't realize I always had this choice. There is not a day I wish to for any other way than this sober, lovely, sweet life.
Passionate Storyteller, Enthusiastic Mother, Facilitator of Magical
Family Recovery Activist,
Founder of Buddy's Family Foundation aka, The BFF.
High Priestess of Love
on The Path of Devotion