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How To Cope With Emotional Turmoil With An Addict Or Alcoholic

When there is an addict or alcoholic in the home all sense of peace is lost. Drugs, alcohol, and the emotional turmoil that comes with substance abuse take center stage. Family members either act as if nothing is happening or fly into irrational rages while desperately searching for something to control. By the time the drug abuser is discovered, in some ways it is already too late. Without intervention the problem will probably get worse. It is rare that an addict or alcoholic wakes up one day and suddenly decides to mend his ways. He may make promises along these lines but that is usually to avoid potential consequences, not because of a sudden change in heart. Loved ones are left confused and scared, having little awareness of where to turn. Parents of addicts need tools after their son or daughter enters recovery. Abstinence does not solve all the problems created by drug abuse. With the right help parents are able to become a part of the solution while healing

By the time a young person enters treatment his or her parents have tried everything they can think of to stop the problem. It is not unusual for a family to start the recovery process armed with behavioral contracts so complicated that the most educated lawyer would have a difficult time interpreting its details. The failed attempts of behavioral control accomplish nothing more than contempt and alienation. It makes the parent crazy and has zero effect on a young drug abuser. Parents can make their lives much more manageable by taking the time to re-evaluate whatever rules are in place and let go of those that do not support recovery for the family. In Beyond the Yellow Brick Road, Bob Meehan illustrates this idea with the analogy of Six Shots In Your Gun.
Triage Ain’t Forever
A family affected by drug abuse is lost, scared, and desperate. There are a number of issues that need to be addressed. This takes time. Early on, sobriety is priority number one. Healing from the emotional pain and resentment comes next. At some point a “life direction” takes center stage. There has to be a process; no family is healed in 30, 45, 60, or 90 days. Everyone involved needs patience and understanding. Those who are willing to step back and take a longer view are usually rewarded with lasting recovery. People who struggle to let go of the idea that everything must be fixed and back on track within a set time frame will probably stay stuck. There has to be a plan of action. However, if the plan doesn’t involve poise and flexibility it will probably fail. Remember, it took time for the problem to worsen and it will take even more time for it to be repaired.

Youth at Risk In Today’s World

It is not uncommon to hear stories about “at risk youth.” The term is often used but at times misunderstood. There are so many circumstances that put young people in potentially dangerous situations that in some ways young people are “at risk” all the time. Normally, parents compare what teenagers experience today through the lens of their own life but today’s world is a very different place. Every generation has its version of “these young people just don’t get it” but in reality things have changed significantly in the past three decades.

Information Changes Everything
Access to information has radically changed the way young people react to life. In most cases this is a good thing but there are exceptions. For teenagers prone to  drug and alcohol abuse or other forms of self-destructive acting out this can be devastating. People that get high are in constant search of justification. Now it is possible to build an army of support for any behavior without any pushback. This is extremely dangerous for young people who are suffering because if they successfully find others to validate dangerous forms of acting out, they are less likely to find help when it is really needed. A drug or alcohol abuser is an expert at showing the world what he or she wants others to see. The isolation and internal torture a young person lives with is difficult to recognize. Receiving validation from “friends” online only perpetuates the problem. This was not the case in the eighties and nineties.
Same Mindset, Different Circumstances
Teenagers are still teenagers. Anyone can understand that simple fact. Many parents of teenagers today had their own bouts with drug and alcohol abuse in high school or college. However, it is dangerous and naive to think this provides the knowledge needed to help a struggling young person. The drugs of today are different. They are far more powerful and much more available. The social acceptance for drug abuse is rampant. These facts don’t make the situation hopeless. No one needs to accept a loved one abusing drugs or alcohol or convince themselves their child is “going through a phase.” If you are concerned about someone you love, ask for help. If this is an overreaction, so be it. With a problem this serious an exaggerated reaction is better than waiting until it is too late.

Guidance For Parents In Substance Abuse Recovery

The second step in Enthusiastic Sobriety is: We found it necessary to stick with winners in order to grow.  For young people in recovery, the reason for this statement to be an actual step is obvious. Young addicts and alcoholics are very peer driven. If they aren’t around other sober young people they are likely to use again. What isn’t as clear is the degree to which adults are affected by the opinions of other grown-ups. Some of the worst advice parents get on how to deal with a drug abusing child comes from other well intentioned parents.

Good Intention Is Not Necessarily Good Advice

Most people are very willing to give advice to parents who are struggling with a troubled child. This is especially true if the kid in question has a drug or alcohol problem. It seems that everyone has either experienced substance abuse issues or at least knows someone who has. These experiences can be helpful but are often a hindrance. When a family is in the midst of a crisis centered on drug abuse what they need most is sound guidance. Where counsel comes from is important. Emotionally driven anecdotal tips do little good. For a plan of action a parent should consult an expert. The combination of professional counsel and empathetic support from parents who have been in a similar situation lay the foundation for a solid program of recovery.

You Are Not Alone

Having a child struggling with drug and alcohol problems does not make a parent a failure. Asking for help can be extremely difficult. The fear of judgment or the idea that somehow you have caused the problem leads to despair and isolation. There are people who understand exactly how it feels to be in this situation. Those who have found recovery have a responsibility to share what they have done to get better. Parents in need of help don’t know where to turn. There is an endless supply of irrational recommendations available. Most people in search of help have been misguided at some point. Not everyone can be expected to understand what it is like to deal with a substance abuse issue. “Sticking with winners” is a powerful tool parents can use to find help and to not feel so crazy.

Respond To Family Crisis: How To Avoid Drama At Home

When does a situation at home become a true family crisis? Is there a distinction between a disagreement and a fundamental problem? There are some circumstances that may be simple differences of opinion that escalate into full-blown catastrophes. Some situations that need attention get swept under the rug that lead to deeper troubles. A challenge within any family is learning how to curtail drama in order to handle conditions as they arise.

Where To Start?

One of the primary causes of family crisis is a lack of cohesion within the unit. Regardless of the make-up of a family, it is important that every individual involved be aware of the wants and needs of other members. Without clarity in this area everyone is left guessing, which only increases insecurity. This emotional instability can fracture relationships and cause long-term damage to trust. For example, when parents aren’t on the same page in terms of what is acceptable behavior, children will take advantage of this split in opinion. This isn’t because kids are naturally manipulative. It is due to the fact that human beings draw security from consistency. There are several ways to demonstrate love. One important method is clear and steady communication of values. When combined with flexibility this creates an environment of assurance and sanctuary.

Now What?

There are no relationships more important than those most immediate. One of the keys to maintaing peace and cohesion at home is having a collective awareness. Everyone may not agree on every issue but if conversations are open and honest it will be possible to resolve most problems. Begin by following a few simple steps:

  • Be clear about which issues are truly important to you
  • Don’t leave others guessing about how you feel
  • Be willing to admit when your are wrong
  • Avoid the temptation to jump to conclusions

Being able to face challenges is difficult when those you love are involved. Because of this fact it is imperative to try to think before reacting. When this is accomplished the chances for a situation to escalate are diminished. As a result, relationships grow closer and harmony is achieved.

The Connected Family: Three Simple Tips To Create Unity At Home

Do you wish your family was closer? Is there a certain feeling you want to create at home? Follow three simple steps to get closer to creating the connections you want.

Most people grow up with a vision of what they want their family to look or feel like. This can be especially true for those who come from dysfunctional backgrounds. In order for someone to create relationships grounded in a healthy ideal, it is vital to have a definition based on a personal definition of happiness and success .

Ideally, a person’s closest relatives provide his safest relationships. Unfortunately this is not the case for many. Due to faulty scripting, behaviors influenced by culture or relatives, many people accept negative or toxic relationship patterns because they are familiar. This lack of connection or unity at home becomes expected. It is critical to not assume that a relationship is healthy simply due to being related. Sometimes, people take for granted those to whom they are related to will accept any behavior.

“Call it a clan, call it a network, call it a tribe, call it a family. Whatever you call it, whoever you are, you need one.” ~ Jane Howard

Three Tips To Improve Family Relationships

  1. Write down a brief description of the ideal family. Focus on the emotional characteristics.
  2. Write down a couple of positive characteristics developed from your upbringing (even if this consists of what not to do).
  3. Write a brief description of how you want to be in the context of your family relationships, what kind of partner, parent, child, sibling, etc. Choose the relationship roles that apply to you.

No one has to accept the status quo.If you have found yourself dissatisfied with the condition of your relationships at home their are steps you can take. For anyone to believe they are unable to initiate a significant change in the way relationships are formed is tremendous self-deception. It is possible to create the family relationships you want. This process begins by focusing on who you can actually change. The one person you can change is you.

Learn From TIger-Power Equals Responsibility


Certainly there have been plenty of pundits weighing in on the indiscretions of  Tiger Woods. Now, it’s my turn. It seems people are shocked whenever someone in the public eye is found to be less than perfect, particularly when the person in question is viewed as being super-human. Time and time again those who are lifted to the pedestal of greatness come crashing down. Hard.

This year alone Tiger Woods, the Georgia House Speaker Glenn Richardson, South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, and former quarterback Steve McNair have faced unimaginable consequences for extra-marital affairs. All of these men have children: Tiger Woods has two children, Glenn Richardson has three children, Mark Sanford has four children, and Steve McNair is survived by four children.


There will be plenty of people who defend the actions of these men with statements illustrating the “unreasonable” expectations the public places on those in prominent positions. I disagree with this notion. I believe it is an honor to excel at something to the degree that others wish to reach the level of the example you set. I write and speak about relationships. I spend my time coaching and counseling people on the importance of making deep and meaningful connections with others. I believe that there is nothing more sacred than the trust built between people based on shared convictions, definitions of happiness, and love. In my experience there are few things more destructive than the breach of this trust.

3659871328_71d300cb2e_mHuman beings are fallible. “Let he who has not sinned cast the first stone” is a quote that speaks volumes. So is: “power = responsibility.” For anyone hoping to someday be elevated to a position of great authority or influence, remember people rely on you. They don’t necessarily depend on you being perfect but they certainly should expect honesty, humility, and responsibility. Oh, by the way, be honest before you are caught.

Steve McNair was murdered by his mistress. He left behind a wife and four kids. Glenn Richardson was so petrified by  potential backlash that he attempted to take his own life. He is the father of three children. There is no viable excuse for infidelity. It is time for people to realize that in any relationship, particularly in relationships with your family, there are responsibilities to those with whom you are involved. No one is bullet proof.

Maybe Tiger Woods will work out his relationship with his wife. Perhaps Glenn Richardson will seek help. Mark Sanford may find his way. Steve McNair is dead. The reality these men share is that their children are forever affected by their actions. These situations have permanently altered how they as men and as fathers will be viewed. Not by us, the public, but by their families. They are who matter.

2318516430_838ba96cab_mTake this opportunity to express to anyone in your life how much you love them. Let them know that despite your imperfections they can trust you. Convey with clarity and conviction that you will attempt to better yourself when you become aware of your shortcomings.

Three Options to Have the Best Holiday of Your Life!


It usually begins around the end of September. School has started, the beach trip is over and the air has started to chill ever so slightly. You try to avoid the subject all together, but inevitably thoughts and conversations begin to turn toward… plans for the holidays.

Yes, some may very well have visions of sugar plums dancing through their heads, but your only visions are of potential escape routes out of Aunt Edna’s holiday house of horrors. All across the country, and possibly the world, people just like you are desperately seeking asylum from the antiquated traditions of days gone by. But fear not my weary reveler! Here are 3 options to help you:

Option # 1: Don’t Go! Yes, this option could lead to potential exile from the family, but if your situation is desperate enough, would this really be such a bad thing? Would one less conversation (or argument) you loathe, fruit cake you won’t eat and pointless gifts you can only hope to return be something you miss? It is okay to stand confident in the fact you have better things to do with your time and have other people in your life you want to spend your time with.  So plan something else to do that day and report, “I will be unable to make it this year due to another event,” and enjoy every moment of your positive choices!

Option # 2: Be Entertained! Let’s face it, the family circus can be far more entertaining than whatever collection of musically-challenged pop culture icons the networks choose to prop up with “holiday specials.” Does it really get any better than show and tell with the kid fresh from rehab or the story of the second cousin twice removed, who not only survived his fourth heart attack, but was miraculously saved by the aortic valve salvaged from a pig’s heart?  Go ahead, show up and enjoy the drama, while you stay grateful that you only see them once a year.

Option # 3: Start a New Tradition! Regardless of your family’s traditions, you are at a place in life where you can steer your own proverbial ship. There is no script that can’t be re-written. Commit to yourself and your closest loved ones to plan a holiday in which you can all relax, have fun, and be grateful. If the family traditions you have been practicing in the past don’t fit this definition, powerfully choose not to do it this year.

The holidays represent a fantastic opportunity to celebrate your deepest relationships. Duty and obligation are commendable attributes, but not at the expense of your sanity and happiness. With a little confidence, planning and creativity, you really can make this your most memorable holiday season ever.

Secrets Breed Sickness


Secret keeping always breeds sickness. No matter what lengths a person may go to in order to protect himself or someone else, if he is keeping secrets, he will create harm. Often people make the decision to keep secrets be­cause of a fear of embarrassment. No one wants his own reputation, or his family’s reputation, to be tarnished.

This fear is un­derstandable, because embarrassment can be painful. However, when we allow ourselves to operate from a foundation that en­courages pathological dishonesty, we shouldn’t be surprised when someone spends his or her life lying or cheating. I’m not saying it is always a parent’s fault when a child grows up and becomes a dishonest person, but when someone grows up in an environ­ment that allows dishonesty to flourish, he may have a difficult time breaking that pattern.

Family relationships are the most criti­cal aspect of anyone’s early psychological and emotional development. Patterns of behavior are established at a very early age. These pat­terns are rooted in the perceptions formed from our relationships with our fami­lies of origin. If we are unwilling to investigate these parts of our lives, we will severely limit our ability to break the patterns of dysfunc­tion with which we have become accus­tomed. This can have a life-long effect on our ability to form healthy relationships.

Everyone doesn’t come from a dysfunctional family. In fact, there are many people who choose to abuse the term in order to justify negative or antisocial behavior. For those of you who do come from dysfunctional family backgrounds, it is imperative you realize your own power to break the cycle of dysfunction and let it go forever. It all begins with a willingness to change.

· A dysfunctional family is one in which abuse, neglect, closed- mindedness, and absence of affection are characteristics which create the atmosphere at home.

· Relationships built on a foundation of honesty, understanding, and love will flourish.

· The cycle of dysfunction is broken when an individual recognizes he possesses the power to let go of his negative patterns.

Do you continue to excuse negative behavior today because of family situations from the past? Do you want to let go of the pattern of victimization? Start by making the decision to change now.

The Security and (Sometime) Dysfunction of Family

184665954_6e032f5ac8In any situation involving relationships, we are in pursuit of security. Security is neither positive nor negative. If we are comfortable with conflict, we will be secure in situations that are contentious and chaotic. If we operate well when our surroundings are calm, we will be secure in an environment that is calm and peaceful.
An outside observer may see someone in a violent situation and not understand why the person doesn’t simply leave. However, the person in the violent situation is familiar with these surroundings and has learned to adapt to them. As a result of this adaptation, he survives in this environment while any other situation is unfathomable and unrealistic. He simply accepts the fact his life is violent. By his own definition, he may seek out relationships where he will find conflict. Unless he directly confronts this belief system, he will continue to find security in violence.
The good news is he can shift his security. It is entirely possible for him to realize he doesn’t have to accept the violence as his reality. If he experiences enough discomfort, or sees a more attractive lifestyle, he can find the motivation to change his belief systems and his life.
In the media, we hear stories about people who have gone down a path of crime and self-destruction. We describe them as “victims of their environment”.

Although it is undeniable many people in our society are born with some severe disadvantages, to describe them as victims would not be completely accurate.

Your family background plays a major role in these scenarios. Your earliest definitions about life are formed at home. For some, these definitions are very positive. These individuals learn and understand the positive expressions of love, which form a solid foundation for them to build on for the rest of their lives. Their ability to make decisions from a stable and secure mind-set is evident. However, for many others, there are usually some flawed perceptions that develop from dysfunctional family situations.

•    The word family connotes relationships to which we are indelibly bound.
•    Being related provides the opportunity to have a strong connection but doesn’t guarantee this connection.
•    A dysfunctional family is one in which abuse, neglect, closed- mindedness, and absence of affection are characteristics which create the atmosphere at home.

Here are some simple things you can do to determine how your definition of family affects your life today:

1.    Write a brief (two or three sentences) description of an ideal family. Focus on the emotional characteristics.
2.    Compare this description to the environment in which you grew up; again focus on the emotional characteristics.
3.    Write down three positive characteristics you developed as a result of growing up in this environment.
4.    Write down three negative characteristics you have used to justify any negative patterns in your life.

You were not in control of the environment you were born into. However, you do possess the ability to alter the direction of your life today. Your awareness is a major key to taking control of the direction of your happiness. Although you may have been victimized in the past, you don’t have to remain in that state today.

Rewrite Your Scripts

Dealing with the past gives us some answers to the question of “why”. To create change, we must recognize the pattern and take action.

As a child, our interactions with our families teach us how to relate to other people and establish patterns that appear later in life. If Dad always complains about Mom and launches into lengthy diatribes about the “craziness of women,” this will have an effect on how we relate to women. If Mom waxes poetic about the sad state of chauvinistic cavemen in her life, this will influence our relationships with men. Interests of parents, brothers and sisters all sway our perceptions. However, we are not slaves to these perceptions, and we must learn how to identify, and subsequently change, our negative scripts.

There are several ways to identify scripts:

Preferences or tastes
Often, the preferences we have are developed as a result of who we spend a significant amount of time with. Children will often take on the likes and dislikes of their parents or siblings. When we explore why we like or dislike certain people, places, or things, we often find our families feel the same way.
Forms of self-sabotage
Many forms of self-sabotage or self-destructive behavior are described as “hereditary.” A more accurate description would be scripting. I’ll use alcoholism, a common scripting pattern, as an example. Although there is an age-old debate about whether or not there is a genetic predisposition to alcoholism, I am going to focus on the behavioral aspect. When a child is raised in a home where alcohol abuse is prevalent, there is a strong likelihood he will react to his environment by abusing alcohol himself. Growing up in an alcoholic environment doesn’t guarantee the child will abuse alcohol, but it certainly increases the odds. When this person discovers he is abusing alcohol as a reaction to a scary or negative environment, he has begun the process of script identification. This reaction is a comfortable, familiar behavior, but comfortable and familiar do not necessarily mean positive.

Relationship choices
Most people are familiar with the saying, “We marry our mothers (or fathers).” What this means is we seek a partner who exhibits certain character traits with which we are comfortable. Remember, comfortable doesn’t necessarily mean positive. Many people find themselves involved in relationships with people who provide a sense of security, even when the relationship is very destructive. The flip-side to this example is seeking character traits in a partner that are familiar, secure, and very positive.

Career choices
Some tasks seem to come naturally to certain people. This often has a lot to do with scripting. When we are exposed to something regularly, we will understand it much better. This includes acquiring skills that seem extremely difficult to develop. Being exposed to something isn’t a guarantee we will prefer it, but it certainly predisposes someone to develop this preference.

In scripting, our actions stem from an emotional reaction. When there is a negative scripting pattern in our lives, we have emotions connected to it. For example, if someone grew up in a home where there was a lot of yelling, the same person may react emotionally to loud voices or shouting. The emotional reaction may never change, but the response certainly can. Changing our responses is how we can make powerful changes in our lives.
People become victims to their scripting when they allow their feelings to control what they do. Emotional reactions are often irrational and create many problems in relationships. Once an emotional reaction takes place, the people we are interacting with will generally react emotionally as well. As a result of an emotional exchange, we wind up saying things we don’t necessarily mean, and everyone involved walks away with hurt feelings. If we are emotional, it is best to pause and think about our response.

When we are able to separate our emotions from our actions, we take back our personal power.

Once we take back our personal power, we start to form more joyful definitions of success and happiness because these definitions will no longer be based solely on familiarity. When we form joyful definitions of success and happiness, we begin to choose more positive relationships.

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