Friday, January 15, 2016

A Woodworker Who I ADMIRE and RESPECT

Tommy MacDonald is a woodworker with a tremendous set of skills, plus his own TV show. Take a few minutes to listen to Tommy's story. It will inspire you and make you a stronger person inside.

My day of reflection.

I wrote about Tommy's story before and you can jump to read it here:

Breaking The Stigma, Thomas J. MacDonald

What If They Stop Using???

Annette on her blog wrote a good piece about patience on her blog. It's worth reading here, A Gift of Time.

It reminds me of my experience when our son entered recovery. Based on my learning through our experience change is not something reserved for our addicted children.

I've ask people before this rhetorical question, "If your son/daughter walked in one day and this was the day that they never used drugs again in their life are you ready? Do you know what to do to support them or are you going to be the same person you are today?"

What does it take to be a parent to a child entering recovery?

I'm not sure there is a laundry list I can write and then you check off the boxes as DONE. However. I can write about a few things I learned when my son entered recovery.

Patience is not one of my strengths. Patience is a critical virtue when dealing with a person in recovery. Many of them have been living a life of addiction for many years, this ship does not turn on a dime. They may stop using drugs on a single day but LIFE doesn't change that day just because they stop using drugs. We must learn a different type of patience. We must ALLOW them to learn.

Being a control freak has been a part of me for decades and I have lived six of them. We don't get to control their recovery because we know best. It's OK to exercise our own control issues but they have to be directed in the right direction, our self. I understand the urge, no the need we have to make things better. Better is support, not control.

Perfection is the goal of all us control freaks. We hate to admit it but personally we are not perfect. It's not fair to put perfection on someone in recovery.

Temper our expectations. True story, I once had a manager write on my performance appraisal at work, "Not everyone performs at Ron's level, not everyone has the ability perform at Ron's level. Ron needs to learn to set realistic expectations for his subordinates and himself." We must ALLOW them to learn about this new life at a pace they can accept and handle.

Support is very different for someone in recovery than it is for someone that is using. I often observed that our son began using as a teenager. When he stopped using he was a young adult. When he stopped using I often observed his decision making and maturity level more closely resembled a young teenager. Recognize what life is and do not try to live the life we believe should be. Support can be as basic a food, clothes and shelter. It can be as complicated as therapy, counseling or health and medical support.

Advice is best accepted when it is ask for. Open ended questions work better than statements. "It looks like you are struggling, how can I help?" "What are the things I can do that I don't know to know to do?" "How can we work on _______ together?" Most important, accept their answers.

There are a million other things that can come up day to day. Every one of them you argue with yourself. Should I or shouldn't I? Is this right or the wrong thing to do? Go back to the perfection paragraph and read it again. We will not be perfect. The goal is to be supportive.

This a journey both of you are taking. Both of you are now walking in the same direction, but do not forget that you are on different paths.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

Grow In Our Knowledge, Grow In Our Life

When I look back to when we first discovered that drug addiction had entered our family we were dumbfounded and practically frozen in fear.

"What's the big deal, it's just a little pot. Boys will be boys", whispered by naive parents.

Suddenly a wake up call louder than any alarm clock on your nightstand. The phone rings, a strangers voice, someone from a local hospital, "Your son is in the emergency room, he was delivered to us unconsciousness and not breathing. You should come as soon as possible."

This was over 10 years ago but for me it seems like yesterday. Even writing this causes a tightness in my chest.

Back then we didn't know what to do. We got him into a rehab and we got ourselves into meetings. That's what you did, you searched out a NA meeting and you made sure your child went to meetings and we counted days. Terms like "enabling" "rock bottom" and "tough love" became common phrases in our vocabulary.  We lived the life but nothing changes. That's another one, "nothing changes if nothing changes."

Life got worse and worse no matter the number of meetings, rehabs, jail stints or anything else. And the meetings were not working for mom and dad either. At that time that was the only prescribed treatment by counselors, therapists and rehabs.

Mom and dad took a vacation. Before leaving dad bought another 4 books to read while laying on the beach while our son was at home shooting heroin into his veins. On the flight home I opened the fourth book to read. "Get Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading and Threatening" by Robert Meyers and Brenda Wolfe. On a 2.5 hour flight I did nothing but devour that book as if I was a starving man at a banquet.

Eureka, light bulbs began coming on for me. Addiction began to make sense. It was my problem, I am not saying NA and 12 steps were bad. I'm saying they didn't work for me. But, at the time that was the prevailing methodology and alternatives were not accepted. NA and AA had helped millions of people but it wasn't helping me or my family including my son.

After reading that book I began to try using the CRAFT (community re-inforcement and family training) methodology. My life got better but my son continued to remain an active addict.

Since that time so long ago CRAFT has become an accepted and in many areas a preferred methodology for the treatment of addiction particularly with young adults.

Dr. Jeff Foote and Carrie Wilkens further studied and scientifically tested the CRAFT methodologies. From their studies they wrote a book entitled, "Beyond Addiction."

I highly recommend both of these books for parents or loved ones of addicts.

The Partnership for Drugfree Kids endorses the CRAFT methodology. A few years ago I was ask along with 10 other parents from across the nation to come to New York and work with Jeff Foote to begin a charter program of parents helping other parents with CRAFT, the Parent Support Network. Due to the success of this program The Partnership has expanded the program and there are now parents trained in these methods located all over the nation. To contact someone about this call the Parent Helpline at The Partnership, 1-855-DRUGFREE.

As we all grow in our knowledge of addiction and treatments we grow in our own life. Just like in other areas of our life, if it works keep working it. If it's not working for you find something different that works for you. We are not all the same. The same thing will not work for every one of us.