Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Threats Don't Work! Try this instead... - Part Two

So, since our last get together, you made your list of all the delightful and horrible traits, behaviors and memories you remember and have of your active addict. And, if you're really serious about your family's recovery from the family disease of addiction you've attended or are planning to attend a meeting or two of one of the family support groups (naranon, alanon, or s-anon to name a few). So, now that you're consciously aware of the many wrongs your addict has committed over the years, and of the fact that you may have been making empty threats with no teeth, what do you do now?

The first thing is to look at that list, the one with all of the uncomfortable stuff on it and then  look at the list of the good memories. Next, take a deep breath and make a commitment to do something really difficult: Be a mirror to your addict. Being a mirror to your addict is another way of saying, sit down, with him or her and tell them what you know, what you see, what you are aware of about his or her behavior, without judgment, without spite, without anger, without bitterness. In other words, like a mirror, just reflect back the behaviors and attitudes you are seeing your addict exhibit and how you feel about it. If you have never done this before in a non-judgmental way, it may be the most difficult thing you have ever done. But, once you learn how to do it, you will be able to stay current with your addict and with other people in your life and just tell it like you see it, describing what you see, like a mirror.

For instance, "Gerry, you know I really love you and I've been thinking a lot about what I've been seeing in you lately and I want to share it with you.  I'm not doing this for arguments' sake, but rather, just to let you know what I'm seeing, so you will be able to see your behavior through someone else's eyes. So, there is no need for you to defend yourself. Just listen and then do with the information what you will. I decided it would not be honest or loving for me to see all of these things and not let you know, so I'm letting you know what I see because I really care about you."

Then, just list them. Tell him about the times he came in at 4 am with lipstick on his shirt and a body that reaked of alcohol. Tell her about the way she looks lately, the bags under her eyes and the torn up clothing. Let him know that you are aware of all of his lies about where his money is going and be as specific as possible. Tell her that you know about the drug addicts she has been hanging around with at school and that you found that marijuana in the car the other day. If possible, show it to her. Tell him about the calls from work asking where he was and how when you asked him about it, he told youhe was there, they just couldn't find him and that when he told you that lie, the twitch he always gets when he lies showed up.  Tell her about the calls that have been coming to the house and how whoever was on the other end hung up as soon as you answered. Tell him how many days he has slept in and missed work. Tell her how many times you've seen her running to the bathroom right after dinner and heard her throwing up through the bathroom door. Tell him how much money is missing from the account, how many necklaces or other jewels are missing from your collection. Be clear, concise, concrete, dispassionate, objective. You are not judging or looking down on your friend or relative. You are simply describing behaviors and consequences as if you were describing something you had noticed and found interesting, but did not particularly affect you either way.

The value of doing this confronting objectively, without emotion, is that by doing so, you are allowing the addict to experience the effect of hearing the actual behaviors as if seeing them for him or herself, without your bias or judgement. This allows it to sink in better and to not be deflected back to you. If he or she interrupts or tries to justify or tell you that things are really like that, remind them that you are not accusing or judging, rather, you are simply describing what you are seeing. If they see something different, so be it. But right now, it is your turn to share your perspective with them and you are not really interested in hearing their thoughts on the incidents at this time. Instead, you just want to ask them to sit and listen.

At the end, you might thank them for listening and let them know how much you care about them and are concerned for their wellbeing and that you really want your husband, wife, son, or daughter back. Then, if you feel so inclined, give them a kiss on the cheek or forehead, stand up and walk away.

It is crucial that you do this without judgment, anger or cynicism or they will not be able to hear you. It will be difficult to do so, so you may want to rehearse a few times or have a copy of the list in front of you when you share it. Keep breathing deeply as you share it in order to keep yourself calm.

Interestingly enough, you may not get through all of it in one sitting. You may have several opportunities to share parts of it...These could come on the tail end of other behaviors that come up along the way (after the addict has sobered up or come down from a high of course).  Each will provide you with an opportunity to simply tell the addict what you see as it is happening, again, without judgment or anger. And, if you are calm enough, you can add, 'this concerns me because it reminds of the time you..." and there you have another opportunity to feed back some of what you are seeing with some of what you have seen in the past, again, dispassionately, so the addict can hear what you are saying rather than get caught up in HOW you are saying it.

For some addicts/alcoholics, etc., it will be necessary to hear these things several times, each time a little differently, always in a thoughtful tone, as if you are simply reflecting on their behavior, and willing to be a mirror, not a judge of what is going on with them. Always remember, in the back of your mind, all of the things you love about your family member (remember list one?). If you can keep that list in mind as you speak of their challenging behaviors, it will help you to stay calm.

If you find they will not let you do this sharing, for whatever reason, or that, even after repeating things several times it does not seem to be sinking in, or that you are not able to share this information quietly and calmly, as the process requires, you may want to put it into a letter instead. If you choose at some point to write a letter, the sandwich method often works well:
Part one (bread): write about why you are writing the letter: I love you so much and I have concerns about how you are living your life these days and I want my husband/wife/daughter/son back. In this part, talk about all the things you love about him/her and how much they mean to you.
Part two (the meat): write your list of all the things you have seen them doing/saying/being over the last several weeks/months/years that are of concern to you. Again describe these factually, without judgment, anger or condemnation.
Part three (bread): reiterate how much you care and how you want your family member back and what needs to happen in order for that to happen (whether it is them going into treatment or getting some other form of help).

While there are no guarantees that this will turn the corner, it has done so for some addicts who say that seeing all of their behaviors in writing broke through their denial enough for them to see that they needed help.

Of course, it is crucial that you actually intend to and are willing to and strong enough to follow up on any boundaries or ultimatums you set up in your letter. This is easier said than done, and it is often helpful to have a support group, sponsor, and/or coach to help you do so. You do not have to go it alone. Many have gone before you and support abounds. You just have to be willing to ask. It can be a long road to family healing, but when family members start working the support programs of alanon, naranon, s-anon, gamanon, etc., they are giving their addicts a greater chance of recovery. This is because they are learning skills for being in relationship with an addict while no longer contributing to the disease. Having a coach, therapist, or spiritual director who understands addiction, codependency and recovery can also be extremely helpful and for many co-addicts, is essential.

These tips are just the 'tip' of the iceberg of what you will learn as you walk your recovery journey. And their effective implementation will be much easier, the more you have worked on yourself, kept the focus on your own recovery and gotten to know your own strengths and limitations in terms of what you will and won't live with in your relationships. A life of sanity for YOU is STILL possible whether the alcoholic/addict is still behaving insanely or not. Just KEEP THE FOCUS ON YOU!, get to a meeting on the phone or in person, and join me again next week for another entry of Focus on You!

Have a great week!

With love and recovery,

Recovery Coach Bev
786 859 4050

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