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 http://www.theempowermentcoach.net/ 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.