Wednesday, November 11, 2009


What does this 12 slogan mean when it comes to living, loving, and/or working with an addict?

To think is to breathe deeply and to allow first impulses to pass before determining action. This is extremely important when it comes to dealing with a person under the influence or recovering from being under the influence.

It is in fact, the difference between reacting and responding, going off the handle and staying calm, being at effect or being at cause.

Let's take an example: Let's say the person you care about (who happens to be an addict or alcoholic) just made a decision to spend all of your savings on a second honeymoon for the two of you in Hawaii. Naturally, you may be filled with conflicting emotions: romanticism, nostalgia for when you could actually afford such a trip, anger that they would even think of investing your emergency fund in a two week vacation, frustration at their impulsivity, sadness that you cannot afford this wonderful trip plus be able to save for a rainy day, madness that they made such an important decision without consulting you.

So, what do you do?

For many codependents, we are so used to having to react quickly to situations, that we simply freak out, say whatever comes to our minds, impulsively say yes and then no, no and then yes, etc...

But what does THINK guide us to do?

Stop for a moment and breathe slowly, deeply, deliberately. Let it sink in. Watch all of the thoughts of anger, criticism, happiness, sadness, fear, etc., pass.

We may say the Serenity Prayer in order to center ourselves within. (God, grant me the serenity, to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.)

Then, we might just say something, like, "Wow. This is huge. Let me take a moment to think about this one. You made a big decision there. I've got to take this one in."

And if necessary, more breaths and centering.

THINK is like that. It's a STOP sign we put up in front of our mouths, while our hearts and minds take in what we have just heard or seen.

At that point, we may feel calm enough to share how we feel about the situation, calmly and lovingly, or we may say something like, "That is an interesting idea. I need some time to think about it. Do me a favor and don't reserve the tickets until I have some times to gather my thoughts, okay?"

Handling a situation calmly gives you time to respond fully, thoughtfully, and carefully, while allowing you to treat your loved one with dignity and respect. Once you have had that time, whether five minutes, five hours, or five days, you will have a completely different perspective than you had in the heat of the moment. You will be able to use "I" statements and "you" messages in a calm tone of voice that reflects the serenity you have worked to maintain through your prayer and meditation life. You might say, calmly and lovingly, "Honey, when you make a decision for the two of us without consulting me and with our funds so limited, I feel touched that you want to spend time with me in such a special place, and at the same time, extremely worried about our finances, and even angry not to have had a voice in the decision."

For many of us, responding in such a calm, detached way feels like it would be difficult and even fake. But when the alternative is a bunch of expletives and anger spewed out that could damage the relationship even further than it already is damaged, writing down and even rehearsing a loving response to the impulsive irratic behavior our addicts sometimes exhibit, is really not a bad idea. What we are doing is going from reacting (just saying whatever hits us at the time) to responding (hearing, listening deeply, thinking, reflecting, and then giving our ideas and feelings in a thoughtful, loving manner).

But what if the situation demands an immediate response? What if your loved one shows up completely drunk or high and you need to act quickly? Again, THINK can come in handy.

Take that deep breath before you open your mind. Remember the tools you have in your arsenal such as First Things First, How Important Is It?, Easy Does It, The Serenity Prayer.

Even when you must respond quickly, the key is to THINK first, to gather your inner resources and to RESPOND, not react, to the circumstance.

It is possible to be a loving person, even in a difficult situation, but not when you are allowing your impulses to take over.

You may be angry or sad to see your loved one in such bad shape, but that does not give you the right to call them every name in the book or to put them down. Even if it did give you that right, it wouldn't do any good. Remember, talking to someone who is under the influence is like talking to a wall. Rather, you might do anything from showing them the door, to giving them a sofa to sleep on, getting yourself and your children away from them, to calling the cops. Each situation will warrant a different response. And it is your frame of mind, your ability to collect yourself by taking that moment to get spiritually centered and THINKING on your feet, that will allow you to handle the situation with your God-given dignity and grace, rather than returning insanity with insanity. While you are taking that moment, you may take the phone, go into another room, and call your sponsor (12 step guide) or your coach to get another perspective from someone not directly affected by the situation.

Living, loving or working with a person addicted to a harmful substance or behavior can be one of life's greatest challenges. Using the tools of the 12 step programs to develop our inner calm and awareness, can make it one of life's greatest gifts.

So the next time you are confronted with a difficult situation, in your face, try to THINK rather than just react, use your tools to respond with your inner dignity and grace intact.

In the meantime, have a wonderful week and Keep the Focus on You!

All the best!

Beverly Buncher
aka Recovery Coach Bev
786 859 4050

Please note:
These blogs are designed to provide those who love, live and/or work with addicts with food for thought. They are not designed to replace the wonderful support available to co-addicts in programs like naranon, alanon, gamanon, and s-anon. These 12 step programs offer meetings all over the world. You can find their listings on their web sites:

There are people at these meetings who have dealt and continue to deal with the rampage that addiction can bring into the lives of those affected by someone else's using. Feel free to call me to find out more or to check out their websites for more information.

In addition, having a coach can intensify the pace of growth in these areas. If you feel you would benefit, give me a call or send an email and let's have an introductory, no-obligation session.
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