Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Tips for YOUR Sanity - Regardless of the Addict's Choices

As we move into the holiday season, here are some coaching questions to ask yourself. If you find it useful in helping you stay sane throughout the festivities, spend some time journaling your answers to these Four Foundations of Family Recovery questions).

  • In what ways are you taking really good care of yourself so that no matter what happens you are feeling sane, happy and relaxed throughout the weekend? (In answer to this question, consider the four aspects of self care: physical, mental, emotional, spiritual.)
  • How could you improve your self care this weekend to increase the peace in your mind and thus, in your home?
  • How have you prepared to be a loving person this holiday season, to yourself and others? (Being a loving person includes treating your loved ones, whether addicted or not, with dignity and respect. It also means being kind to yourself both by taking care of yourself and by not allowing yourself to be treated badly. It also means not doing for others what they can do for themselves. It also includes learning the skills of mirroring. Mirroring is all about learning how to give your addict honest, non-judgmental feedback on what you see (be careful with this one. Tone is crucial.)
  • What boundaries have you set to make YOUR life easier, freer, lighter, saner? Remember, your motives for setting a boundary are just as important, if not more important than the actual boundaries you set. If you are setting a boundary to control your addict, everyone loses. It just doesn't work. But if you are setting a boundary for your own benefit, safety and comfort, THAT is a motive destined to work. Of course, don't set any boundary that you are unwilling to follow through with.
  • What kinds of support do you have in place to make all of this work? Do you have your meetings all lined up? Have you found a family recovery coach to help you learn how to do all of this (while it may be too late for Thanksgiving, Christmas is just around the corner but there is still time)? Do you read recovery literature to help you put it all in perspective and get yourself to cooperate with your best intentions? (There are Alanon phone meetings 4 times a day and sometimes ongoing during holidays. Go to for more information. Also check out and .
If you would like to learn how to put the Four Foundations of Family Recovery into place in YOUR life so you can increase YOUR inner peace and give your addicts a better chance of recovery, send me an email to learn more about the offerings that can help you do just that. I'll send you my brochure, an overview of my Four Foundations of Family Recovery course, and information on my upcoming book The Four Foundations of Family Recovery: Simple Ideas to Transform Chaos to Sanity. You can reach me at or give me a call at 786 859 4050.

Breathe through each moment my friends. Just that one thing: slowly, softly, deeply, breathing will help you calm down regardless of other people's decisions! 
If I can help, let me know!

All the best, 

Coach Bev

Beverly A. Buncher, MA, CEC, CLPF
Family Recovery Coach
Author of the forthcoming book 
The Four Foundations of Family Recovery: Simple Ideas to Transform Chaos to Sanity
786 859 4050website: 

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Check out my other family blog

Wondering where I've been?

Check out my other family blog: .

I write that blog on behalf of In The Rooms, the premier social networking site for people in recovery. You can find me, Coach Bev, on In the Rooms as well at

Looking forward to seeing you in both spots - and when you are ready to take your recovery to the next level, give me a call for a complimentary coaching consult.

All the best,

Coach Bev

Beverly Buncher, MA CEC
Family Recovery Coach
786 859 4050

Thursday, July 22, 2010

How Using The Four Foundations Can Change Your Relationship With Your Addict

"Everything changes" is a truism that is never more true than in a family affected by the disease of addiction. Unfortunately, watching the addict deteriorate is a very sad example of this change. But when you introduce family recovery into the mix, the picture changes yet again.

For instance, let's take a situation where a wife has been drinking for years. She does very little around the house these days as her husband has taken over more and more of her responsibilities over the years. 

Then, someone tells her codependent husband that he is caught up in the family disease of alcoholism. That his wife is not the only one with a problem. That he is sick too. He hires a family recovery coach and starts to work on understanding and practicing The Four Foundations of Family Recovery (self care, being a loving person, setting boundaries, and getting support). 

At first, it feels awkward. He makes his list of all of the areas of self care that he has been avoiding (the dentist, annual physicals, physical exercise, etc.) in order to have time to take care of his wife. Slowly, he wakes up to the idea that if he goes on like this, his physical health will deteriorate. So, with his coach's encouragement and support, he makes some doctor appointments and begins to take walks everyday.

This takes time out of his day, so he has to let go of some of the things he has been doing for his wife. Not an easy thing to do.

Time goes on, and he decides to try being a loving person. This means no longer judging and nagging his wife about her drinking, but seeing her as the good and loving person he married who just has a wretched disease. Instead of berating her and doing things for her that she could be doing for herself, he is now speaking to her with respect, treating her with dignity, and letting her handle some of her own responsibilities. When he sees her doing things that exemplify her disease, he describes them to her without judgment as if he were sharing with her a movie he saw that he found interesting but didn't  understand and was somewhat worried by. And he doesn't repeat himself forty times. He just shares what he is seeing and lets it go.

She in turn is somewhat shocked every time he opens his mouth. She loses some of her ongoing justification for blaming him for her drinking as he is no longer treating her badly. She begins to see that some of the things she has counted on him for won't get done unless she does them and she starts to see herself through his eyes in a loving compassionate way and begins to wonder how she got herself into this mess in the first place.

At first, she wants to avoid the new reality, so she drinks more, looking for his reaction. He, knowing this might happen, continues to practice the four foundations. He sets some boundaries that work for HIM (not boundaries designed to change her, but boundaries designed to make HIS life better and more livable). Again, this shakes her up and causes some changes to the relationship...

As he is watching all of this, the husband feels some fear and trepidation. He reaches out for more support. His coach recommends that he add an Alanon meeting to his weekly schedule and he does. Now he is out one night a week. His wife is shocked, but she is beginning to see that things have changed.

At this point in the relationship, anything can happen and what does happen is different in every family. In some families, the boundaries the co-addict sets may include treatment. In others, perhaps meetings or therapy or a separation...In this particular family, the wife does decide to pursue treatment and the two of them get to start a new life together, one based on family recovery rather than family disease.

But no matter what happens in any particular family, things do change.

Your addict's best chance at getting well is for YOU to get well. The Four Foundations can help you do that. Meetings can help you do that. Having a coach can help you do that. All of these will help YOU change...and when you change, the people around you are bound to change as well...

Change can be scary but consider the alternative: Allowing things to just deteriorate before your eyes, as you struggle to fix the unfixable as if you are God...

The fact is, nothing changes unless something changes. Often the family members must take the first steps toward change.

Take some time to look at your situation. Are you ready for a new beginning? The only guarantee  if you do the work to recover, is that YOU will get well!!! And the hope is that your addict will choose to recover too.

You are worth it!

Want to learn more about how to bring the Four Foundations into your life?

Call me today for a complimentary consult and get started on the journey of a lifetime!

All the best,


Coach Beverly Buncher, MA, CEC
Family Recovery Coach
Author of the Forthcoming Book: The Four Foundations of Recovery
786 859 4050

Friday, March 19, 2010

Living Life One Breath At A Time

Today I'm breathing through the moments. Sounds funny I know since in fact we breathe through every moment...In fact, breathing provides the proof of life. But how many times are we conscious in our breathing? focused on it? aware of its in and out, its up and down, its expansion and contraction. The breath when simply watched provides a beautiful metaphor for life. Sometimes it is dramatic and deep, others soft and barely perceivable. But always it is there.

What is your breath like today? Is it fast to represent the fearful thoughts you are thinking? or slow,deep and steady to reflect your sense of deep relaxation? Is it shallowly traveling through your upper chest for awhile and then suddenly sharp to catch up with itself? What does it tell you about how your life is going? Where your thoughts are taking you? What your feelings are showing?


We take it for granted, yet, it is our barometer for living and in Alanon, when a newcomer or an oldcomer gets completely consumed by an upsetting thought, we ask them: How important is it? Does it affect your breathing? (Usually, though it may quicken the breath, the thought doesn't end it) When the newcomer says, 'No, I'm still breathing.' We say, "Then it's not that important.

So often, it is not what is happening in our lives that has the potential to kill us, but the way we are thinking about what is happening.

The mind is a funny thing. We think we are tricking it when we multi-task, but truly, the mind can only think about one thing at a time and so mult-tasking is really one-thing-after-another-only-very-quickly-tasking.

If we choose to, we can slow down our brains and the torrent of thoughts flowing through it by paying attention to our breath. Watch it as it moves in and out.Watch its clarity, its zig zags, its wiggle waggles as it moves into and out of our bodies.

And watch how, when you are paying attention to your breath, your mind is consumed by that and has very little energy if any to pay to whatever anxious thoughts or feelings seemed so very important only seconds ago.

Watch your breath, and when you find you have forgotten, bring your mind back to your breath. It's a practice to strengthen your ability to focus, to relax, to simply BE.

Send me a note to let me know your experience with this practice. Taken together with other inner work it can be truly transformative.

Thanks for reading!

Coach Bev

Beverly Buncher, Family Recovery Coach

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Here Are Some Support Options For Family Members!

Hi All!
In my In the Rooms blog tonight, I wrote about different types of support available for families of addicts. Take a look and see if it is helpful for you! .

Visit me at 12StepFamily and on In The Rooms, the recovery social network.
Coach Bev
Family Recovery Coach

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

Recovery is a lifelong journey. As such, sometimes we move straight forward and sometimes, we slide backward for a moment, or hour, or day or two. This past weekend, I had a codependent slip.

I bugged my family members about things I wanted them to do my way and when they asked me to stop, I bugged them some more.

Finally, one of my loved ones said, "I think you are having a codependent slip."

And, because 26 years of Alanon and Naranon and over 30 years of 12 stepping does tend to make one self-aware,  I listened, thought back over my behavior of the past two days, and said, "Wow, you are right!"

Still, it took me another couple of hours to stop pushing my will on the people I love.

This is the nature of recovery. We learn new ways of thinking and being, and as we grow, we use them more and more. But not always and not perfectly. Two steps forward, one step back.

This understanding of my own process is important for me to remember, not only for my own self-acceptance, but also for my ability to live with the addicts in my life in peace. They aren't perfect either. They struggle  with behaviors and feelings related to cravings, substances, abstinence, etc. And I struggle with the behavior of trying to control their struggles with their substances, behaviors, feelings, cravings, etc.

Recently, I read in the book Uppers, Downers and  All Arounders: Physical and Mental Effects of Psychoactive Drugs - 6th Edition -  by Inaba and Cohen (2007. CNS Productions), that the brain of an active codependent reacts similarly to that of a using drug addict. In other words, that Alanon saying "they are addicted to alcohol and we are addicted to them" is more than a slogan. It's a brain thing...

So, what does that mean?

For me today, it's a reminder that my brain needs recovery just as much as the brain of the addict I love. So, one day at a time, it's important that I trust God, clean house, and help others; in other words, work the steps, practice healthy thinking and acting,  and let go of old behaviors and habits!

Have you ever had a codependent slip? Would love to hear about it and how you stepped back into a recovery mode!

Love and All the best,

Recovery Coach Bev

Beverly A. Buncher, MA, CEC
Family Recovery Coach

Would you like to have a complimentary coaching session to see if we would work well together? Drop me an email or contact me on . My name on intherooms is Coach Bev. See you there!

Monday, March 1, 2010

"My Spouse Is Ignoring His Recovery...."

What Do You Do If Your Sober Loved One Seems to Be Losing Their Recovery Bearings?
Sometimes, it's easier to just go along than to notice and observe and comment on what we are seeing. But, when you live with an addict, using or sober, ignoring what you are seeing can prove to be deadly.

It is certainly not effective to nag. But neither is it worthwhile to ignore things the addict in your life may be doing that may be taking them down a dangerous path.

The AA Big Book discusses the way newly sober alcoholics either immerse themselves in their recovery or immerse themselves in their work. Likewise, veterans in recovery can be seen continuing to immerse themselves in taking sponsees through the steps, speaking at meetings and doing service, or just barely making it to a meeting a week as they watch their life in sobriety take off around them, offering them so  many interesting options at work and in the community that they barely seem to have time to deal with recovery activities and service anymore. Others may simply immerse themselves in work and TV watching and leave it at that. At first, these options may seem harmless. But they are not, and the earlier it is addressed the better. So what is a spouse or significant other to do when they see their loved one pulling away from their recovery roots as their life in recovery evolves?

Say what you see, say what you mean, but don't say it mean. In other words, no nagging, bugging, hassling, or harrassing. Instead, mirror what you see. Describe it, noticing the good as well as the troubling, and being aware all the while, that you are not the judge or the police officer in the relationship. Rather, you are the concerned person who loves the addict and is willing to tell them what you see and then LET GO and LET GOD work with them on what all of it means to them, while you then turn back to minding YOUR OWN business.

Should you not be their mirror, or should they ignore or spurn your input, as time goes by, you may notice some of the old behaviors coming back, then some of the old friends, and, before you know it...Well, you know the routine, and it's not pretty. So, it is not your job to be their watchdog, just their mirror, in a detached, loving way. And in case they don't get it, if you have taken care of yourself you will be okay regardless. So don't forget your recovery; spiritually, emotionally, and physically.

Speaking with a sober and clean addict about their recovery has a lot in common with speaking with a using addict in that it is CRUCIAL to drop all judgment, harshness and lack of respect during the conversation. In fact, these types of behaviors will be showing up less and less in your life in general, if you yourself are working a recovery program.

Of course there is one HUGE difference between speaking with a using addict and speaking with a sober one: You now have someone who, if you speak  respectfully and non-judgmentally will likely be able to hear you, may appreciate your concern, and may decide to engage in a civil conversation about this sensitive topic. In addition, they will remember that the conversation happened and may even choose to continue the talk without resentment the next day...

Here's how the conversation might go...
Start with what you are seeing such as...
* lots of fun activities, friends, sporting events, etc (whatever they are engaged in that you notice that is positive
* not so many meetings, phone calls, sponsees, talks with sponsor, etc. (whatever appears to be missing in their life in terms of their program)
* their temper flaring more than it does when they go to meetings regularly
*their paranoia or irritation growing more than it has in all of their years of sobriety
* they are eating more or gambling more (or whatever switched addictive behavior you are noticing)
* some of their old sick friends are beginning to call the house again

Tell them about your concerns such as...
*From what I know about recovery, it is a lifelong journey and those who neglect it can have problems build up and end up in what looks like a sudden relapse that has actually building for years
* when an addict doesn't work some type of recovery program (whether through 12 steps or other venues, including therapy, recovery coaching, smart recovery, spiritual pursuits, or whatever allows them to focus on enhancing recovery in their lives), they might be more liable to switching addictions and/or get slowly lulled into a life that is less than the promises promise them
*or whatever your concerns are (remember, the key is respect and concern and non-judgment. you are two adults discussing a concern rationally)

Let them know that you love them regardless of their choices,  AND that you have boundaries (which they probably are already aware of) such as...
* a sober lifestyle as a prerequisite for the two of you to be together
* the need for addicts who you live with to go to meetings, therapy or a recovery coach (or 2 of the three or all three)
* you put your own recovery first and if you find that the way they are behaving begins to impact negatively on your recovery, you will always share it and if necessary take action to protect your own recovery.
Of course, the key to boundary setting is to NOT say things you don't mean and to be sure not to threaten, only to state facts and to say whatever you say in a loving way that gets your point across in as few words as possible.

So, all of this is just to say that when someone you love is an addict, you have a role to play in their recovery, but it is not the leading role. That is theirs and God's. Your role is to take care of yourself, work your own program and when you see things that concern you, say them lovingly and clearly and then let them go.

There are options for people who say they are burnt out on the steps or the program or are looking for a new way of getting help or renewing themselves. Recovery coaching offers a path of goal setting and action planning that can guide an addict or family member to develop a plan for their life in recovery and have a built in accountability partner to walk the walk with them. It's not an 'instead of' the 12 steps path, but it could be an alternative or a steppingstone for those who feel alienated or alone or bored or complacent on the path they have been following.

As always, the key to our sharing our truth with another person is to share the things we are observing, without judgment and then to let go and live our truth ourselves. Being, not doing, as they say in Naranon, is the most effective way to help another person...and ourselves.

Coming up in future blogs:
  • Detachment: How It Works
  • Life Purpose: The Next Step on the Recovery Path

Friday, February 26, 2010

when life happens, how do you respond?

Day by day, hour by hour, moment by moment, life appears in all of its many guises...One day we make a sale at work; the next day we don't. One day our son or daughter is on the honor roll; the next day we are making arrangements to take them into treatment. One day we win the lottery; the next, our home is in foreclosure. Extreme examples perhaps, but you get the picture. So my question for you today remains: When Life Happens, How Do You Respond?

This is a particularly important question for families of addicts and alcoholics since for us, the extremes of life can too often show up as reality.

Recently, Gloria Ramirez (, a teacher of mine, talked about this issue of how to respond when life shows up. "It's a matter of managing our energy," she explained, meaning, not being thrown by the good or the bad, but staying centered, present, and calm regardless of what comes our way.

This management of energy, whether we are celebrating getting a promotion or being given a foreclosure summons, provides us with a rule of thumb that can serve us well when dealing with the situations that addiction brings into our lives. For instance, let's say your spouse doesn't come home one evening, and when he does come he reeks of alcohol and has lipstick on his shirt.

You might stay up waiting for him, expecting the worst, scream and yell at him and call him every name in the book when he does get home. How would that work for you? How will YOU feel if you do this (beyond the value of venting)? Will he even remember it happened in the morning? What will it accomplish?

Or, you could put him in God's hands and keep the focus on yourself. What is best for you right now? An early night's sleep? Being fresh for work and your children in the morning? Keeping yourself in a positive frame of mind so that no matter he is doing you are able to live your life well?

These questions could take you to sanity or you could reject them as absurd. But the fact is, the day by day decisions we make as family members of addicts can have a HUGE impact on our emotional health and sanity, as well as on the addict's potential recovery...

The next day, if you stayed up and screamed the night before, chances are you are in no mood to talk to or even be civil to your spouse.

But, if you took care of yourself, you can wake up and be pleasant, say good morning, and move forward with your day, letting him deal with the uncertainties of his life without your judgment of him clouding his own judgments of himself.

And if he asks you any questions about the night before, you can describe what you did and saw without judgment, sarcasm, anger or criticism, "Honey, you weren't home by the time I needed to go to sleep, so I did so.When I woke up this morning, I noticed your shirt had lipstick on it." (It is so important not to have any anger or judgment in your voice as you describe this! You are an observer. A mirror. NOT a judge! In this moment, you are not even a jealous wife. You are a mirror!)

Remember: when we let them experience their behavior without getting in the way by judging and criticizing them, they get to face themselves, they get a mirror of their behavior without any distortion that would keep them from seeing their behavior for what it is. And even if they don't choose to use the opportunity to grow, we haven't ruined another day of our lives with fruitless rage.

If this approach brings up questions, confusion, even anger in you, take some deep breaths. Take a look at the classic Alanon book The Dilemma of the Alcoholic Marriage and let's keep talking.

Being married to an alcoholic or addict who is still in their addiction is one of life's great challenges. And it can be one of life's great opportunities for inner growth! Learning to manage our energy is one of the tools which will really help! Write and tell me some of your experiences along the journey!

Family Recovery Coach Bev

Thursday, February 11, 2010

how is moving similar to being in relationship with an addict?

My husband and I moved on Sunday from the four bedroom home (2400 square feet) we had lived in for the last 12 years to a two bedroom apartment. (1200 square feet). In preparation for that move, we threw, sold, or gave away about half of all we had amassed over the past 24 1/2 years of marriage.

As I watched a second bedroom set, a wrap-around desk, 40 boxes of books, countless knick knacks, dishes, serving platters, utensils, linens, and bags of clothing make their way into the arms of friends, family and strangers, I observed a parade of memories and feelings move through me. Some I allowed to pass quite easily. Others I clung to and cried over as they made their way out of my life.

And then there were all of the books, knick knacks, files, notebooks, blankets, etc., that I just couldn't let go of, that are sitting in my new home, taking up more space than I have, piled high in boxes that hug the walls and cover corners of my new four room home. When I decided before the move not to buy storage space, I made a commitment to get rid of whatever doesn't fit. Many of these, I stacked in the den closet, with a plan to take them out, one by one, and reassess their contents, only keeping them if I could find something else in the apartment to give away.

So now that we are all here, my husband, our stuff and I, I am working with those parts of myself that simply don't want to let go, in order to get brave and strong enough to let the past and much of its material evidence, go. And there is the rub: if I let go of the stuff, does that mean the past never happened?

On some level, the part of me doesn't want to let go says yes. Without the evidence, it truly never did.

In this way, moving is much like being involved with an addict. Over the course of the years of relating to an addict, there are invariably some events, situations and interactions that come and go, leaving memories in the form of scars, wounds, sadness, anger, and resentment. If we choose, at a certain point, to let go of the bad old days, and to simply live in each new moment that presents itself, are we denying the very real pain we felt, the negative actions of someone we loved?

Sometimes it feels like we must remember all of the many ways we were wronged in order to keep them from happening again. But, much like extra shoes, books, sweaters, and knick knacks that we no longer need, these old hurtful feelings, when nurtured beyond their time, end up owning us, overwhelming us, boxing us in  to days gone by, and drowning us in a sea of sadness and resentment, keeping us blind to the potential  'open spaces' we could be enjoying without them in our life.

My answer to the part that says it never happened if I don't hold on to it is "I disagree. It did happen, but it's over and it is time to let it go in order to make room for new memories to be made." What is your answer to the part that is demanding you hold on to all of your things or all of the bad feelings you have accumulated over the years? I'd love to hear from you! Write your comments below or send them to me at

Next week, we will look at how to decide what to let go of and what to hold on to and how to actually let go of things, feelings, places, ideas, etc., that no longer serve us.

Coaching Thought:
This day offers possibilities of spacious freedom, both in our hearts and in the environments we occupy. All we have to do is ground ourselves in each moment, in each precious in-breath and out-breath and we can begin to enjoy the possibilities.

Coaching Question:
What are you holding onto beyond its time? What are you feeling and refeeling over and over again that is keeping you tied to the past and out of the peace of the present moment?

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Is your loved one recovered in body but not in spirit? Are you?

"What? Are you describing me?" is what the last person I asked this question to answered.

If this applies to you, you'll know. You'll feel it in your bones.

For others, the question is, "huh?"

Recovered in body but not in spirit is more common than we'd like to think. It's about a dry drunk - the alcoholic who no longer drinks, but hasn't done any inner work to change her state of mind. Though the alcohol bills have gone down, and there aren't any bottles hidden around the house anymore, her mind is still caught up in anger, resentment and fear, often unexamined, hidden, and bursting at the seams.

It's about the codependent husband who no longer yells at his wife for using, but isn't thinking, speaking or behaving in a loving manner from deep within. The anger is still there; the resentment for all of the pain caused by his wife's addiction; the fear of what the future will bring. But it isn't expressed or focused on outwardly anymore. Instead, he is seething underneath the surface, under a plastic smile of tolerance.

Of course, these are just examples. Fill in the details of someone you know to get a better understanding of what recovered in body but not in spirit looks like to you.

So, what does recovery in both body and spirit look like?

It too, is highly individual in its manifestation. Generally speaking, it feels like a cool summer breeze, refreshing and relaxing.

It's the codependent spouse who detaches from the alcoholic's behavior with love, the alcoholic who no longer drinks or the addict who no longer uses and their minds are at ease. They have turned away from lying and cheating and stealing; manipulating, controlling, and resenting. They have a calm about them. They remember their past both as a tool to help others and to remind themselves not to return to it; not as a tool for self-loathing, shame, resentment, or guilt. They live in the present serenely, facing each of life's challenges peacefully, with wonder and acceptance. They face the future with curiousity and courage. It's not that nothing bad or challenging happens to them; it's just that they have access to Inner Resources that they know will get them through whatever they are facing. And as for the mistakes they've made, the people they've hurt? They've taken inventory of their failures, made amends when appropriate, and have a way of monitoring their behaviors to keep them moving on a positive path.

For some, it's 12 steps. For others, a WRAP (wellness recovery action plan). For others still, a strong sense of their own life purpose and how to go about manifesting it. Just as there is no one drug or drink that suits all, there is no one recovery path that fits everyone.

But being recovered in body and spirit is possible for everyone, each in their own time, each in their own way.

What would being recovered in body and spirit look like for you or for your loved one? How might you go about making it happen beginning today?

Friday, January 15, 2010

What is the difference between giving up and letting go?

Giving up signals hopelessness. When we give up without letting go, we are often embittered, angry and frustrated.

And that anger and frustration is understandable since, at times, loving a person who is abusing alcohol or other drugs can be exasperating. Just when you think things are getting better, it becomes clear that they aren't. Just when you think that your loved one is getting recovery, you find that they aren't.

After awhile, the ups and downs of the cycles of relapse and recovery can wear away even the most patient co-addict's nerves.

So, what's a person to do? Put up with it? Run away? Kick them out? Yell and scream?   For each person, the decision of how to deal with a loved one's repeated relapses is a personal one. Yet, some actions can be more effective than others...and so the key word is decision.

Many of us feel responsible for the addicts in our life, as if we should be able to make it all better for them. But, the fact is, another person's behavior is their responsibility, not ours, just as our own behavior is our own responsibility. And that is where letting go comes in.

The Serenity Prayer clarifies the importance and difficulty of letting go of others' behaviors. In it, we ask God for the serenity to accept the things we cannot change, the courage to change the things we can, and the wisdom to know the difference.

While it is almost impossible to change someone else, trying to do so feels more important (and is in some ways easier) than putting our focus on that which we can change, namely, ourselves. Yet, when we keep trying to do something we cannot do instead of doing that which we can do, we just get crazier and crazier often without making any headway at all.

Letting go is hopeful, yet realistic. In doing so, we admit our own powerlessness to change the addict, while putting faith in a Higher Power who can do so. Though we know there are no guarantees, in letting go we gain serenity and courage to put our change mechanism into place where it needs to be: on ourselves.

The phrase Let Go and Let God says it all. Yet, letting go and letting God is probably one of the most difficult things a co-addict can do. When we truly let go and let God, we put our loved ones in the hands of a Power that can help them, while relieving ourselves of the burden of having to singlehandedly change other people.

This does not mean we give up on the addict. It simply means we let go of the results of our efforts. We love our addict and give them our honest, loving feedback without needing them to listen to us or do what we say. We accept them exactly as they are and put outcomes in the hands of God as we understand God. Then, we work on ourselves.

When we do this, we  become models of recovery for the people we love. They get to look at themselves without our constantly guilting them, and their chances of recovery increase as they get the chance to see themselves without having our yelling or nagging (which we have stopped doing)  to blame for their problems.

For more information on how to help a co-addict get sober, sign up for my free e-book 'How Can I Get Them Sober? A Guide for Spouses and Friends of Addicts' on my website at or call me for a free consultation at 786 859 4050.

All the best,

Beverly A. Buncher, MA, CEC, CLPF
Family Recovery Coach

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Expect Them To Recover

When you have a relative or friend who is active in their addiction, or newly sober, or newly sober for the third or fourth time after another relapse, it's natural to wonder, to worry, to not want to get your hopes up too high. After all, what if they never recover or what if it doesn't last or what if it's just another short bout of recovery followed by another relapse?

The what if game is easy to fall into and almost serves as a form of self protection for those of us who feel the pain and trauma of our addict's choices so deeply.

But, let's try another kind of what if game.

What if, just for a moment at a time, we expect our addicts to recover, we expect them to get it, we expect things to get better? What if, regardless of how things look on the outside, and how many times we have had our expectations dashed, we simply expected an upward turn.

What then?

"Well," you might say, "then I'd be setting myself up for a let down. I can't take the disappointment. It's too difficult."

Okay. So let's look at that. Who is this about? You or the loved one? I would say it is about both of you and that having a positive expectation is healthy for both of you. In fact, I'd like to posit that the value of a positive expectation is two fold:
1. it gives us the ability to feel good about the potential of the future and affects the way we see our addict (as someone with potential rather than as a deadbeat or a lost cause)
2. it allows our relationship with the addict to unfold from a perspective of positivity rather than from that of negativity.

Research has shown that people who have an optimistic outlook on life generally have about three positive thoughts for every negative thought they have. These thoughts then affect how they feel physically, mentally, and emotionally and how they see others and act toward them.

Although being related to someone who is ill with addiction can tax one's optimistic reserves, recovery is about building up the reserves once again. We do this first by focusing on all that we do have to be grateful for in our lives in this moment, second, by seeing the potential in ourselves and in the people we love, and third, by always looking for the good, for the positive possibilities and for what's right in our lives and in the world.

But what happens if we have positive expectations and the addict has a slip anyway?

Of course, another's actual behavior is completely out of control. But, our response is totally within our control and is much easier to control if we create habits of mind that keep us focused on what is going right. The value of building these habits cannot be overestimated.

When we see the addict slip, our reaction can be one of "OH MY GOD" or of "okay, here's a sign that there is more work to be done."

When we don't blow things out of perspective, we don't contribute to things getting worse. We become a partner in the journey who can be counted on to have their head on their shoulders and be supportive without being overwhelmed.

Yes, addiction is a relapsable illness. And we didn't cause it, we can't control it, and we can't cure it. BUT, we don't have to contribute to it. And by having a positive expectation for the addict's future, while keeping the focus of our thoughts on our own lives, we can make a positive difference in their recovery by not contributing negatively to any of their behaviors or experiences. 

And when we let our addicts know that we have faith in them and in their ability to recover and live a sane and happy substance-free life, we help them to grow in faith that a future of recovery IS possible for them, regardless of how things look right now.