If your life has been impacted by someone else's addiction, I am sure that at some point, maybe even often someone has told you that you "must go to an Alanon meeting." It is the prevailing prescription for family members of people with addiction. Over and over my therapist told me I should go to these meetings. For 3 years straight, every time we were together she'd say it.
"You really should go to an Alanon meeting." She'd say. I resisted. You might even say I was defiant. Until that one day. The day three people said it to me. Then I knew, I had to go. Its a divine order if three people tell me the same thing in a short period of time.
I was suffering, really suffering and I was mad, really mad. I did not want to be a person who needed to go to an Alanon meeting. I was furious about it actually. I wanted answers. I wanted actions. I wanted help. I did not want to be "child of an alcoholic, mother of an addict." I hate labels. It is agonizing for me to write bio's like the one to the right of this post. Words. Definitions. About me. I most certainly did not want to be defined as or known as "adult child of alcoholic or the addicts mom." But I'd been divinely ordered to go sit in the anonymous circle so I went. Six times.
The first time I went was 2 years ago right around this time of year. I remember it vividly. I drove to the church to arrive at noon. I parked. I sat there fuming a little that I had to make this walk into unknown territory. I had to acknowledge that yes, I was an adult whose childhood was affected by addiction and yes at that moment my child was in active addiction. I walked in the church hoping someone would see me and just tell where to go, where "salvation" from second hand addiction was held. I was alone. I walked hesitantly down the hall to the room on the left, entered the circle where five other people were sitting and took a seat. It was 5 minutes to 12. For five minutes people poured into the room, bringing chairs with them, making the circle larger and larger until I counted thirty people. AT NOON on a WEDNESDAY.
"Wow" I thought, "There are a lot of messed up people out there if there are 30 people here at noon on a Wednesday." They just kept coming, carrying a folding chair, each of us scooching closer and closer together to make room. If you've never been to an Alanon meeting, which is a support group meeting for people who love and care about someone who is in active addiction, treatment or recovery. The purpose is for safe expression of your feelings and healing yourself from the adverse affects of addiction by following the same steps that the people in Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) do. It was founded by the wife of the founder of AA. It is a self help and support group.
I think its important to know that when you go to these meetings the purpose is support, to be with people who are in the same circumstance as you and who might offer wisdom gained by experience and self reflection and by their storytelling and sharing. The meetings are also a safe container for expressing how you feel and gain insight into how using your expression is an important tool in curing addiction.
The rules are that you can express yourself and share your stories but no one can offer feedback on your expression. In this way there is no judgement, shame or blame. You get to say it and feel it and then move on to the next person. You are not permitted to help others by offering feedback. The way my therapist explains it, is it is for you and is supposed to be about you. When in an environment of addiction, the person with the addiction takes up all the space, all the energy and emotion in the household and there is little space allowed for family members to express, to feel, to be themselves because they are on constant high alert, walking on eggshells, avoiding confrontation and being silent.
Five reasons to go to Alanon meetings even if you don't want to:
It took me six meetings to get the validation that I needed to know that yes the disease of addiction has adversely impacted my health, development, overall wellbeing, my relationships, my children, my family, my community.
It took me six meetings to verbally express my anger, my grief, my disappointment, my pain and ultimately my celebration of freedom from addiction. Although at Alanon, I did not find celebration to be very welcome.
It took me six meetings to gain enough understanding that there were a lot of people suffering from the adverse affects of addiction and I didn't have to be alone and that lots of people needed help and they weren't getting it. It took six meetings for me to understand that addiction was real, that my feelings were real, that what was happening in my life was real and that I wasn't wrong to feel the way I felt.
It took one meeting for me to get my own answer to addiction in my family. There was a woman there whose 40ish daughter was using alcohol and xanax and her family was suffering. The mother/grandmother asked for help with the situation. She asked while sharing if anyone knew what to do to get her daughter to stop, if anyone had ever had someone committed before even though she knew no one could answer the question within the rules of engagement in the group. She was desperate and distraught. It was excruciating to bear witness to her grief. I felt the strongest feeling rise up in my body and I knew I had to respond and I knew I was sent there to respond. What I didn't realize until later was that my response was my own answer as well and that feeling I'd felt was my "power."
I waited my turn as each person went around the circle and shared what they wanted to share. When it was my turn, I told a story about my mom and what finally got her to admit herself for detox and stop drinking. I looked the woman in the eye as I told my story of how our family confronted my mom's disease, what we said, what we did, the actions we took and what transpired without giving her "feedback." I just told the story. She hugged me out in the hall, said thank you, I know what to do now.
A few weeks later I would take my own story about my mom and enact a plan to save my son. I used that moment to activate my own inner guidance and it worked. I knew what I needed to do, I'd just needed to voice it, then DO it.
The fourth reason I feel like everyone should go at least a few times, the recommendation is six meetings, is that I had moments of epiphany. Listening to other people share, listening to how they were handling addiction in their lives and witnessing their way of being revealed something in me. Sometimes it was clarity, sometimes it triggered an emotion I needed to release or rumble with until I found resolution.
Lastly, addiction loves isolation and disconnection. It thrives on your feelings of shame and aloneness. To combat it you need to be in community and connected to others. If you're trying to fight addiction on your own, you will lose and you will suffer. Meetings provide comfort, solace and fellowship. They are a great resource as fellowship.
The one reason I don't go to alanon meetings anymore....
I got turned off.
I got turned off by the word powerless.
I got turned off by family members who wanted their loved ones to follow a program but didn't feel like they needed to follow the program. Parents who wanted their kids sober and healthy but weren't sober and healthy themselves. Family members who wanted their loved one to devote to what it takes to recover from addiction and do the work to maintain a recovery lifestyle but weren't willing to devote themselves to family recovery by doing the work themselves and blaming their child/mother/father/brother/sister for the problem of addiction.
I got turned off by being required to remain anonymous thus perpetuating shame and stigma.
I got turned off by the fact that you couldn't talk about any other modality of help or healing or share opportunities for connection or information outside of Alanon's stuff.
I got turned off because there weren't actionable solutions for helping my loved one and I didn't feel like some of the leaders were healed or even healing.
I feel like the meetings I went to perpetuated addiction by keeping people in the mindset that they were powerless, by maintaining the belief that the way to treat addiction was not to treat it at all and to let it go. By allowing addiction to have its way in a family system by not confronting it and remaining stuck in the powerlessness.
I couldn't bear the word powerless. I do not believe that we are powerless as humans although I have come to understand by way of a number of healing modalities that feeling powerless about addiction was blocking my own healing and transformation. Alanon meetings were not a resource for reclaiming my power. They did trigger parts of my quest for healing deeper and activating my personal power. I am of the mindset that your beliefs create your reality, therefore I believe in powerful.
It took me six meetings to understand that no one there was going to help me fix, change or end addiction in my family. I could speak my pain, suffering or emotion but the response would be silence. I could listen to someone come back week after week and report on episode after episode and the response would be silence. I couldn't bear to witness disregard for human life disguised as tough love and letting go. I couldn't bear that people were not doing something powerful to end addiction. I wanted actions, answers, resolution. I didn't want to learn to cope with pain, I wanted to end the pain and the deep feeling of loneliness plaguing my soul and I wanted my child treated & healed. STAT.
The meetings didn't serve me the way I needed serving so I sought out something that did. I didn't want to go round and round and round and round and round and round and talk about the problem without ever solving it. That to me is the definition of addiction. An endless loop that repeats itself without ever changing.
I needed community, connection, support, validation, expression, understanding and epiphany but I also needed ACTION and deep healing.
I needed clear actions that disrupted the patterns that perpetuated addiction. Testimony of people in recovery and the actions they used to heal and transform. I needed to know how to create an environment that supported recovery. Actions that healed the pain not just soothed it for an hour.
I needed Positive Powerful Actions and Solutions. Not Silence.
Tomorrow I'll share 5 positive powerful actions and 5 positive powerful solutions to ending addiction in your family. Attending a meeting will be one of them so you might as well check that one off the list today. They are held every hour, every day, everywhere including online.
Have you tried a meeting yet? It might trigger the one thing you need the most, your POWER.
I AM DEVOTED,
#recoveryispossible #wecandohardthings #youarepowerful #source #devote #100days #lovewins
Alanon is not the only provider of family support but is the largest and most easily accessible. Countless people depend on Alanon. I appreciate the intention of Alanon and opinions of others The opinions here are my own.
I wake up each morning, I say my prayers, I meditate, I ask for guidance. I listen. I write. I study. I practice. I answer the calls for help. I wait for the invitations to intervene.
Some days I am a guide. Somedays I shine the light.
Somedays I hold the thread. Some days I hold space for grief.
Some days I am a warrior. Some days I throw my body in the line of fire.
Some days I rage & I weep. Those are usually the days that I visit the wailing wall, otherwise known as The Addict's Mom on Facebook. The wailing wall is the private group, close to 30,000 mothers with hundreds joining daily who grieve their children who have died due to addiction to opioids, prescription and heroin, benzodiazapines aka xanax, other drugs, alcohol and suicide. The wailing wall is where mothers of children in active addiction, lost, incarcerated, struggling go for comfort and to express their pain, to "share without shame." Only mothers of children with addiction or in recovery are allowed there. Some days I have to force myself to look away because the pain there is too intense, overwhelming, heartbreaking and there are rules of engagement that I have to honor. I have to honor that its purpose is for wailing.
The helper in me wants to save those mothers from their pain but I am not allowed. The kind of help I have to offer is not allowed there, only prayers, comfort, space holding for the wailing. There is not a day that goes by where there aren't several photos posted of children, young and old whose lives were taken by heroin, opioids, xanax, other drugs, alcohol, suicide. All day, everyday, mothers openly grieve the losses and virtually writhe in pain. Mothers beg for answers, for help, for relief, for someone, something to ease the intensity of their pain. It is hard to witness.
I go there because it reminds me to stay in the battle when I get weary. It reminds me that my quest is to end the suffering. It reminds me that it is still happening even though in our family we are walking the recovery path. I reminds that families are being taken down by addiction, by suicide, overdoses, legal and illegal drugs. The wailing reminds me that I've been called to the fight. It reminds me that I made a promise to do what I can when I can with what I have. It reminds me that everything that I've done, seen, experienced, lived through has brought me here to end the suffering of others by shining a light and guiding others. At the wailing wall if someone asks, I offer wisdom from the other side, prayers, love, comfort, support and sometimes just to bear witness.
All days I am ever vigilant of the enemy. I am watchful. Observant. I see.
What I see right now looks like a genocide.
Not a crisis. Not an epidemic. Not a choice nor a personal failing. I see something darker, deeper more insidious, more dangerous, more catastrophic.
I see a genocide. The American Genocide.
That might sound alarmist, but from my perspective it looks like terrorism, chemical warfare, psychological warfare. It looks like a holocaust in the making. Slowly creeping in and torturing then killing people from the inside.
How do you destroy a nation without an act of war or a blatant terrorist attack:
Make the people sick. Destroy their minds and their bodies so it looks like they killed themselves.
Poison them. Poison their children. Make it look normal, give them marijuana, alcohol, adderall, xanax, pain killers which is the legal form of heroin, while their brains are still developing. Addict them then, let them overdose and die, commit suicide or go insane while their families suffer from the trauma & terrorism of active addiction, from grief, from excruciating pain. It's torture.
Dump millions of highly addictive pills into the communities through the people we trust, our doctors. Then make heroin readily available or allow other countries to ship drugs like carfentanyl in the mail. Instant death delivered to your door from China.
Create mental and emotional suffering by killing the children. Create mental and emotional suffering by addicting and killing parents.
How do you destroy a nation without an act of war or a blatant terrorist attack?
Create the conditions where is appears the nation killed itself.
Train the communities to allow it to continue. Condition the families to look away, to disconnect, to detach. To "Let Go" of the people they love. Condition societies to lock up the addicted people in jails and not treat the disorder. Condition society to treat addiction with shame, guilt and blame.
Render people powerless by making them believe they are powerless. Teach them to believe they must accept that they cannot change this situation, that it is out of their control. That there is no cure so you may as well just wait for rock bottom, for the other shoe to drop, for the addicted person to change their disordered brain and head over to the wailing wall or the anonymous circle and give voice to your pain.
Weaken the military. Addict the veterans and then don't treat addiction, PTSD or mental illness. Target the generation that would serve in the military should we face a conflict where we needed to protect America and kill them with opioids, xanax, adderall, etc.
When they find a way to get well, REFUSE HEALTHCARE and Deny insurance coverage.
Poison the people and then withdraw help and healing. That's how.
When 90% of the world's opioid prescriptions are being given to Americans by people they trust, in settings they trust, that should be alarming. The ENITRE rest of the world takes only 10% of the world's pain killers. THAT IS NOT NORMAL.
When 60,000 people die in one year from an overdose, that's not normal. That is more lives lost than in the entire Viet Nam conflict just to put it into some perspective. It is anticipated that 500,000 people will die from the direct effect of addiction over the next 10 years. THAT IS NOT NORMAL.
Last year an estimated 60,000 people died of an overdose. That doesn't include accidents due to being under the influence of drugs or alcohol or suicides due to psychosis caused by drugs. That doesn't include alcohol or drug induced illnesses. THAT IS NOT NORMAL.
When 23 million people are suffering from the same disorder, that should be alarming. That also means 23 million families are suffering the effects of living with someone in active addiction. Children are being born addicted, growing up in addicted environments and often losing their parents to addiction thus perpetuating and increasing the odds that addiction will overcome the family. THAT IS NOT NORMAL.
When the largest population in treatment for addiction are our young people, 18-26 year olds that should be alarming. A generation of smart, creative, bright, intelligent young people is being lost right before our eyes. THAT IS NOT NORMAL.
When our children are committing suicide at all time high, that should alarming. We have to ask ourselves what is driving this rise in suicide. Is it societal pressure or is it the drugs? Why are we giving children drugs like xanax, adderall, oxy-contin when their brains are still not fully formed. THAT IS NOT NORMAL OR NATURAL.
The disintegration of healthcare should be alarming.
Other things that should be alarming:
Not forcing a total recall of drugs like xanax, oxy-contin, oxy-codon and adderall, known addictive and life threatening drugs.
Allowing trade with countries that ship drugs directly to your mailbox on your nice suburban street.
This is not a crisis or an epidemic. This is a genocide. The American Genocide.
And its happening right in front us.
No one has to build a gas chamber or line people up for mass execution, the drugs are given out by doctors and the killing happens in your own home. Or they are sold on the street to the people who've succumbed to the physician ordered addiction and are now looking for heroin. Or they've arrived via fed ex from China or Columbia or Mexico. Or they've been legalized like marijuana and alcohol and made to seem like a normal lifestyle and slowly, slowly they kill a person from the inside first the brain, then the body, then the spirit and take the family down with them in an emotional torture chamber.
The concentration camps look like jails overflowing with people with addiction or the fraudulent treatment centers over running Florida and other states. Treatment centers where people profit from addiction but don't heal the people and families lose their loved ones and their livelihoods trying to pay for inadequate care.
It's not a religious group, its not a particular race, its not a certain sex, or identifiable group that is being killed. It is non-discriminatory. It's America. It's us.
Dying at home, dying in the basement, dying on the street, dying in their cars, dying and leaving grieving families behind, leaving traumatized children behind. Bodies are beginning to pile up daily in places like West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Massachusetts.
It looks like a genocide to me.
"Generally speaking, genocide does not necessarily mean the immediate destruction of a nation, except when accomplished by mass killings of all members of a nation. It is intended rather to signify a coordinated plan of different actions aiming at the destruction of essential foundations of the life of national groups, with the aim of annihilating the groups themselves. The objectives of such a plan would be the disintegration of the political and social institutions, of culture, language, national feelings, religion, and the economic existence of national groups, and the destruction of the personal security, liberty, health, dignity, and even the lives of the individuals belonging to such groups."- Raphael Lempkin, author who coined the word genocide.
The "Group," the "nation" this time is us. The Americans.
The good news is there is an Alliance, warriors fighting against the darkness, the evil. People with the courage to change the things they cannot accept. Brave, bold people raising their voices, raising awareness, doing what they can to confront what is happening and offer hope, healing and transformation. They are people in recovery and their allies. We are rising up. The sober people and their families. The Unconditional Lovers, Sobriety Evangelists, Recovery Advocates and Activists, the Helpers, the Healers, and the Guides.
Follow them. Believe them. Listen.
Do what they are doing to stop the genocide, to face addiction, to tell the truth, to be free of addiction, to heal and live free. Be one of them. Rise Up.
Learn to recognize the enemy and don't allow it to begin. Its coming for our children. We must do what we can to prevent early substance use. No longer should it be viewed as experimentation or a rite of passage or normal. It works best with young brains, don't allow it to manifest, don't allow it in your home.
Understand that the enemy is addiction and addiction is separate from your loved one. Love your person and help them heal from the addiction and don't succumb to the notion that you are powerless.
Do Not drink the powerlessness kool-aid. People may be powerless at points in their lives, but you and your loved one DO NOT remain powerless over addiction. Power can be restored, Power can be reclaimed. There is a source of power within you that is stronger than you can imagine. We are powerful beyond measure and together we are unstoppable.
Understand that your family is not immune to this.
Do Not think it won't happen to you or your family because it might and if it hasn't, its happening to someone very close to you and its happening in your neighborhood. 1 in 3 is the statistic. 1 in 3 people affected by addiction.
Do educate yourself.
Raise your own awareness. Raise your voice. Learn the signs.
Do what it takes to protect your family and your community from the destruction of addiction.
This situation needs our vigilance, our community awareness, our action and our attention. Have the courage to change the things you can no longer accept in your own life, your own family, your community and in our nation.
A genocide is not acceptable. The only way it can happen is if we let it.
I'm not going to let it happen here.
I AM DEVOTED
#lovewins #wecandohardthings #recovery #riseup
There is a popular TED talk that I've watched and its been sent to me many times by friends who know our family story and know I am on a mission to help families impacted by addiction. It's by Johann Hari. It's titled, "Everything You Think You Know About Addiction Is Wrong." It is thought provoking, there is research, data and compelling storytelling. Watching the TED talk shifted my perception a great deal and that shift served my family very well but I think he missed the mark on one very critical point.
The opposite of addiction is not connection. It's this.....
The opposite of addiction is innovation.
Connection is actually the medicine to treat addiction not the opposite of it.
In the TED talk, Johan uses the example of the rat park experiment (3:25) to explain how connection is the opposite of addiction. It sounds possible in theory except for one thing. We have "rat parks" here in this country. For a lot of people our whole country is like the rat park described in the TED talk but for my example lets use college campuses. Substance misuse and addiction is rampant on college campuses. There is plenty of comfort, primal needs are met, loads of people to be friends with, plenty of food and sex but the kids are binge drinking, misusing xanax, adderall and oxy-contin and walking the path that leads straight to addiction or substance use disorder. So the rat park thing just doesn't hold up here. Why?
Because people have been conditioned to seek connection & comfort in substances not people.
And some, not all, will become full blown addicts and alcoholics. Here's where Johan's the morphine experiment example (2:33) doesn't hold up. Some, not all people will become full blown addicts and alcoholics, because not all people have the same brain wiring and some, not all have a higher propensity for addiction and Drugs are designed to addict people. Designed to make a profit to create customers. The more addictive the more money can be made.
People with addiction and their families do these predictable things that perpetuate the disease.
1. Disconnect - losing touch with loved ones, passions, dreams, experiencing hopelessness.
2. Isolate - being alone, cut off from natural bonds.
3. Freeze - lack of energy, emotional depression, narrow mindedness, inaction, numbing with drugs or alcohol to escape.
4. Panic - translating fear into manic activity or workaholism.
To innovate, to change, to transform you have to do the opposite of those four things.
1. Connect- reach out to others for support, for guidance and love. Seek help and seek comfort.
2. Be in Community - stay connected to people who love you and understand and live the way you seek to live, people with your same core values
3. Act - Respond to the situation or episodes with calm, with understanding, with a plan and execute the plan all the way through.
4. Calm - recognize the "hooks" and how you are reacting the same over and over and do something different. Unhooking means not reacting. Being still and looking at how you can respond with calm assurance, help, support, love and connection. Maintain the calm in the chaos.
For me, I began a transformation process before my child, during that time I started to recognize the hooks of addiction, the patterns and where I was reacting not responding and then I came up with a one sentence responses that unhook me from the patterns. I wouldn't interact with addiction. I wouldn't interact with someone under the influence. It was futile. "I am not talking with you while you're under the influence." I'd say and then I'd wait and respond under the conditions that served getting help. I'd offer compassion and a form of treatment. It was like a series of mini loving interventions leading up to a final intervention where we poured gallons of love over our child and influenced treatment by having a plan and executing it all the way through and we are still innovating, changing, transforming in recovery almost 2 years later. Hand over my heart, we are well, happy and peaceful and our son is healthy no longer being beaten down by addiction.
To treat addiction, substance use disorder, substance misuse you have break the bond with the substance and create an environment for healthy bonding. There has to be change. There has to be transformation not just for the addicted loved one but within the whole family as well, which then ripples out in to the community, which then ripples out into our nation.
It's the butterfly effect and the transformation process of a butterfly combined.
I've said it before and I'll say it again. It has to begin with us. If you need more innovative solutions to addiction in your family, reach out. I am devoted to helping families get to the other side. I can offer you connection, community, action, calm and guidance and resources. All you have to do is reach out.
You can watch the TED talk here. I admire Johan Hari, his work and his devotion to ending addiction and the stigma so that families don't suffer and people get the treatment, love and compassion they need. He's INNOVATING and that's what works.
I AM DEVOTED TO INNOVATION,
Family Recovery Advocate
I serve women seeking healing and transformation.
I serve people who have been impacted by addiction recover their lives.