Tag Archives: substance abuse

Lamar Odom and His Reported Addiction to Cocaine

GTY_lamar_odom_serious_nt_130826_16x9_992The Kardashians aren’t strangers to headlines and media coverage. From Kim’s sex tape with Ray J to Kourtney’s son Mason not being Scott’s biological son to the media’s blatant insensitivity by continually calling Khloe the “ugly Kardashian.” The media has been as harsh to this family as they have been kind.

If we thought the headlines stating that O.J. Simpson is Khloe’s biological father was as bad as it could get, we were wrong. With an attitude of being able to roll with the punches, the latest headlines about Khloe’s husband, Lamar Odom, having a substance abuse problem is the type of attention this family does not want. Lamar was arrested for DUI and is reportedly addicted to crack cocaine.

He was arrested last week, and has a court date on September 27. He was lucky that he only spent 3 hours and 31 minutes in custody. The harshest consequence that Lamar faces is not a hefty fine or jail time, it’s the possible loss of his career and his marriage to Khloe.

Odom’s DUI came shortly after headlines surfaced stating that he had a substance abuse problem with cocaine. According to the LA Times, if Odom does sign with a team and is convicted of a DUI, he will face mandatory evaluation by the director of the NBA’s anti-drug program, according to terms of the league’s collective bargaining agreement.

Allegedly, Odom has an addiction to crack cocaine. Khloe has tried repeatedly to help get him clean and even arranged an intervention. Reports say the intervention took place last week and resulted in Odom storming out of the couple’s home. Drug addiction always ends with extreme consequences. In the case of Odom, seeking treatment would be the best thing that he could do at this time. He cannot be focused on saving his career or saving his marriage; he must be focused on learning about his addiction and embracing the tools necessary for a successful and healthy recovery.

I have worked with numerous couples and celebrities, and unfortunately they aren’t always ready to peel off their celebrity status and be humble enough to take their recovery seriously. My hope is that Lamar Odom takes these wake-up calls seriously. He still has time to recover.

* * *

Sherry Gaba LCSW, a psychotherapist and life, love and recovery coach, is featured on Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of  The Law of Sobriety, which uses the Law of Attraction to help people recover from addiction; she is also a contributor to Conscious Entrepreneurs, and to several e-books: Empowerment Manual: Finding Purpose with Intention, Filling the Empty Heart: 5 Keys to Transforming Love Addiction. The e-books Relapse Prevention and Eliminate Limiting Beliefs can be downloaded free of charge at www.sherrygaba.com. Contact Sherry for webinars, teleseminars, coaching packages and speaking engagements.

 

Photo credit: Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Get in the Flow

questionsbefore

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, a professor and former chairman of the Department of Psychology at the University of Chicago, has been working with a concept he calls “flow.” The process of flow occurs when your consciousness matches your goals, allowing psychic energy to flow smoothly. For 40 years, Csikszentmihalyi has been studying what makes people happy, and has found that happiness comes from being in the flow in your life.

You can listen to a talk he gave about this idea of flow here. In it, he says, “There are seven conditions that seem to be there when a person is in flow. There’s this focus that, once it becomes intense, leads to a sense of ecstasy, a sense of clarity, you know exactly what you want to do from one moment to the other, you get immediate feedback. You know that what you need to do is possible to do, even though it’s difficult. And a sense of time disappears, you forget yourself, you feel part of something larger. Once those conditions are present, what you are doing becomes worth doing for its own sake.”

When you are in the flow, your actions are natural, fluid, and graceful. Everything just feels “right.” So, of course, it’s not possible when you are behaving in a way that makes you feel guilt, shame, anxiety, or fearfulness. You can’t be caught up in addiction and be in the flow. And you can’t be caught up in blame or denial or frustration or anger.

When you’re in the flow, in tune with your creative energies and your purpose, you feel it’s worth spending your life doing things for which you don’t expect either fame or fortune—as long as those things make your life meaningful. He writes in Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, “It is when we act freely, for the sake of the action itself rather than for ulterior motives, that we learn to become more than what we were.”

Flow comes about when you are challenged by something in an exciting way, and you feel your skills are up to the task. So it’s not about just sitting back and being comfortable; it’s about pushing yourself a little bit. He says being in a state of arousal is actually good,

“Because you are over-challenged there. Your skills are not quite as high as they should be, but you can move into flow fairly easily by just developing a little more skill. So arousal is the area where most people learn from, because that’s where they’re pushed beyond their comfort zone and … develop higher skills.”

*****

Sherry Gaba LCSW, Psychotherapist, Life & Recovery Coach is featured Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of “The Law of Sobriety” which uses the law of attraction to recover from any addiction. Connect with her and download free E books at http://www.sherrygaba.com/

The Importance Of The People Around You

sky dive

One of the hardest things that people in recovery from an addiction have to deal with is their relationships with the people in their world. While dependency and co-dependency often go hand in hand, there are also more peripheral relationships that can be toxic to a person in recovery. These toxic people are so negative, so dark and so destructive that they have to be removed from your life to allow helpful, positive and supportive people to come in.

Toxic people are all around us in the world. In my book, “The Law of Sobriety”, I talk about the effects of these individuals. Often they are very subversive and covert in their negativity, which can be even more difficult to understand. It may be hard to explain and see the havoc they are causing at first glance. Key signs of a toxic person to your recovery include:

  • A person that always sees that the glass is half empty and never sees the glass as half full.
  • The person that always just wants to “reality check” if something is a good decision, particularly if it is something that would take you in a direction away from them. The reality check always results in you deciding not to do that specific thing.
  • A person that always makes you feel unsettled, unhappy or dissatisfied with your life or some aspect of your life whenever you are around them.

These people often have a very strong influence on a person in recovery. They can tear down all the hard work that the addict and the therapist do, but it is always done under the guise of trying to be a friend. Friends don’t discourage, friends encourage. Friends don’t focus on the negative, they encourage you to stay positive and move forward in your life.

Getting a toxic person out of your life is often a difficult issue to deal with. However, once you have that negativity out of your environment you will find that positive people come in to fill that gap, inspiring you to keep moving forward and seeking new opportunities as you move down the road of recovery.

Sherry Gaba LCSW, Psychotherapist, Life & Recovery Coach is featured Celebrity Rehab on VH1. Sherry is the author of “The Law of Sobriety” which uses the law of attraction to recover from any addiction. Please download your  free E books at http://thelawofsobriety.com/store/   Contact Sherry at sherry@sgabatherapy.com for webinars, teleseminars, coaching packages and speaking engagements. Listen to Sherry on “A Moment of Change with Sherry Gaba”on CBS Radio

Creative Commons License photo credit: Bilal Kamoon

 

What is Health?

 

 
C. Norman Shealy, M.D., Ph.D.
 
For almost 70 years there has been a national and individual state debate over the issue of medical treatment, oddly called health care.  Prior to 1926 there was no insurance to cover hospitalization and prior to the  1930’s there was no insurance to cover physician fees.  In the mid 1940’s the first major national debate to have government or national medical insurance lost to a wide assortment of foes.  In the 90’s the issue was defeated yet again.  Now we stand on the threshold of another great battle over "Health Care Reform."
Health is, to me, the absence of obvious disease or symptoms.  Some super semantic purists insist that health is primarily a spiritual/attitudinal issue. I agree that Health Care should mean taking care of body, mind and spirit. That would include attitude, beliefs, food and drink, exercise, rest, etc.  Medical Care includes all the attempts to FIX problems or restore the person to a healthy state, free of known symptoms or dysfunction.  Obviously there are many problems which cannot be totally reversed.  M.D.’s. N.D.’s, D.C’s, D.O.’s, O.D.’s , DPM’s, DDS and DMD’s, Nurses, Physical and Occupational Therapists, and the vast array of supportive therapists, including counselors, psychologists, etc are all primarily involved in attempting to FIX a perceived problem. AND THEY ARE ESSENTIAL!  Virtually none of the work of the medical system has anything directly to do with just Health Care. 
 
As with most problems, Health Begins at Home.  Healthy mothers produce healthy babies at least 99% of the time.  Thus, health should be the normal status-UNLESS you have unhealthy habits.  Even major accidents appear to be the result of carelessness at least 80% of the time.  Unhealthy habits are largely:
Overeating
Inactivity
Unhealthy habits that result from unhealthy beliefs and attitudes
 
According to the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug 
Dependence(NCADD)  (www.ncadd.org)    "Substance Abuse"  is our nation’s number 1 health problem. At least 25% of the cost of Medical Care is that for addiction.  At least 25% is also for diseases related to obesity.
In the long run, HEALTH CARE REFORM requires a major reformation of personal responsibility.  Although there are assistants that can help restore health, Dr. Wilbanks noted in "The New Obscenity" that the vast majority of individuals who recover from obesity, smoking, alcoholism or drug addiction do it with Will Power.  What we seem to need is a significant overhaul of real HEALTH CARE.  Take care of your health!!
It is the best Christmas and holiday gift.
BOUNCE!!!!!

 

6 Holiday Wellness Tips

Staying grounded during the holidays is difficult for most everyone. Financial stressors, substance abuse issues (yours or someone else’s) or a history of trauma can only exacerbate the problem. Add to that the fact that old family roles kick in during family gatherings and well-adjusted, normally sane people suddenly find themselves acting like 5 year olds. How do you maintain your peace of mind and stay balanced? Here is a list of suggestions for maintaining your mental health during the holiday season.

1. Maintain your Self Care

If you have a regular exercise routine, a healthy diet or a relaxation program that gets you through the rest of the year, the holidays are not the time to forego them. In fact you often need them more this time of year. Eat as healthily as you can. Maintain your workout or relaxation regime as best you can. Use suggestion #2 to save time for these very important practices.

2. Just say "No"

Maintain your boundaries and your sanity. The holiday can be a great time for getting together with friends and family. However, too many parties or gatherings can leave you exhausted and compromise your self care.

Things you might think about saying "No" to:

  • Attending every single holiday invitation you receive
  • Being pressured to eat or drink too much
  • Buying presents for every single person you know or ever met
  • Buying expensive presents that break your budget
  • Being pressured into bypassing your self care (exercise, diet, relaxation techniques, etc.)
  • Attending family gatherings which deteriorate into drunken brawls, finger pointing contests or other dysfunctional patterns

You may even want to create a holiday gathering of your own and forego dysfunctional family dynamics. We don’t often think of it, but many people have been cast out of their families of origin. The gay and lesbian community is one community which has been very strong in creating their own healthy families and having their own gatherings. We should all learn from their example. "Family" doesn’t have to be biologically relevant.

Individuals who are newly sober might be compromised by a family which drinks heavily. Individuals who have experienced childhood abuse or violence within their families may not feel safe returning to them if their abuser or molester is still present. If attending a family gathering is not possible for any reason, don’t miss out on the season. Create your own community and have your own gathering that is safe, supportive and healthy.

3. Maintain moderation

Eating, drinking and partying too much can wipe out the good health you strive for the rest of the year. Be mindful of how much you do of each and try to maintain moderation. It’s not necessary to taste everything or drink as much as uncle Fred. Do what is best for you. Refer back to #2, learn to say "No".

4. Drink up

Water, that is. It’s cold out there and most people have their houses nicely heated this time of year. Combine that with the stressors of airplane travel, non-stop shopping, overeating and increased alcohol intake and dehydration can be an issue. Keep drinking your water to stay hydrated and energized.

5. Stay connected

If you have a support system that helps you get through the rest of the year, don’t abandon it now. Exchange phone numbers or emails if you are traveling and determine ahead of time the best method for getting, or giving, support during these next few weeks.

6. Get real

Every year I watch as people motor off to the Normal Rockwell family Christmas they have created in their heads. And every year I watch them crawl back to work totally disillusioned and depressed. Get real about your family’s dynamics and how Christmases really turn out. Having more realistic expectations will keep you from having that great let down on December 31st and allow you to develop strategies for having a Christmas that is more realistically likely to happen.

See more articles about mental health issues at my blog: Kellevision.com

Dealing with Addiction During the Holidays

Though we often think of the holidays as a time of giving and sharing they can also be extremely stressful. This stress can lead to an increase in substance use or a relapse by someone in recovery. What are some of the symptoms of a problem in a family member? In yourself? What can you do to protect your own sobriety?

Family dynamics are often at the heart of holiday stress. Add to this the hustle and bustle of trying to organize and fund festivities and the stress climbs even higher. To a former addict or alcoholic holidays can prove to be a difficult time. They may face a lot of guilt about embarrassing behavior during previous holidays or family events which was caused by drinking or drug use. Family relationships may be strained because of their behavior while using drugs or alcohol. Trying to fit in during family events in which others are drinking or using drugs can also be stressful. None of these reasons are an excuse to destroy a family event by being so high or drunk that you create a scene or start a fight. But they are factors to be aware of.

If a family member has a history of disrupting Christmas dinner because of their addiction there may be a lot of fear from everyone else that this will occur again even though they are now sober. So people are entering the dinner expecting a problem which may not even occur. There may also be a lot of resentment toward the now sober person for previous events which were ruined due to their substance use.

If the person’s role in the family as the scapegoat was largely cemented by their drug use – and they are now clean and sober – there may be a panic in the family system as everyone anticipates having the scapegoat role transferred to them. The sober person may find themselves being sabotaged by family members who actually hope they will relapse so the blaming and finger pointing can resume. So the family may say they are happy the person is getting control of their substance abuse while working to undermine it at the same time. And this is done unconsciously, making it even harder to address.

Being aware of all of these feelings and owning them is an important factor in changing the family dynamic.

What can you do if you have a family member who is using or has a history of using?
What can you do to protect your own sobriety during the holidays?

For the Family of a Substance Abuser

Can the Self Righteousness

Everyone has their “addictions” and human foibles. I’ve literally watched someone who weighed 300 lbs. and was stuffing the 3rd piece of pumpkin pie into his face go off on a relative for their drug use. Before you decide to fill yourself with self righteous indignation and stand in judgment of others, check yourself. If you’re not perfect, ease up on everyone else.

Do You Want to be Right, or be Happy?

I actually read one article this year which recommended drug testing relatives. Oh my gosh! What are you, the police?? What possible purpose could that serve? Is determining the chemical in their bloodstream going to accomplish anything other than to prove that you were right and they were wrong? What is in someone else’s bloodstream is not the problem. The behavior is the problem. If someone is stumbling around, falling over things, slurring their speech, talking too loudly and getting aggressive – what difference does it make what is causing it? If you want to be right, go ahead, administer drug tests and wave them over people’s heads in self righteous triumph. But if you want to be happy, focus on the behavior.

Most addicts with whom I have worked don’t realize how impaired they are. Their denial allows them to convince themselves that they are pulling it off, that they are “O.K.”. Giving them kind, but honest feedback about how they appear usually works quite well, without getting into a debate about what is causing it. Use words that come naturally to you, the language of your family. And try to give constructive feedback without blaming. Do not have this conversation at the dinner table or in the middle of the living room. Take the person aside and talk to them privately to avoid embarrassing everyone.

“Hey man, I’m kind of worried about you. You’re look really sedated, your speech is really slurred and you’re stumbling around a lot.”

Suggest a constructive solution that doesn’t blame.

“Would you like to go lay down upstairs for a bit?”
“Do you want to go home and get it together and come back later?”

If they are too impaired to be at the Christmas dinner, they are too impaired to be driving.

Offer to give them a ride or get them a cab. If they are from out of town, help them navigate the public transportation system in your area.

Let Bygones be Bygones

If past Christmases have been disturbed by someone’s drug use, but they are now trying to get it together, try to find it in your heart to let it go. Don’t keep throwing in their face “what happened” when they were 17 – when they’re now 45 and have been clean and sober for 3 years.

This does not mean you continue to tolerate the behavior.

If a family member has a history of substance abuse which disrupts the holidays and they appear to be under the influence, stay in the present. Talk about what is going on right now and deal with that. Hitting them over the head with, “you always”, “you never”, “this always happens” and “every time you…” serves no constructive purpose. First of all, they are impaired. Do you really think they are going to remember this lecture when they sober up? Second of all it only fuels the fire and does nothing to address the situation. Deal with the situation in front of you right now. Give them constructive feedback about how they appear and work together to find a solution: they leave and come back later, they leave and come back tomorrow, they skip the festivities this year, they go for a walk and clear their head, they go upstairs and sleep it off, etc.

Avoid Blaming

I think a lot of family members feel like a substance abuser messes up the family gathering on purpose. In most cases, this really is not the case. Because of the emotional stressors I mentioned earlier, a former alcoholic or addict can be really stressed about going to Christmas dinner. They may sabotage themselves by resorting to old methods of dealing with emotional stress; alcohol, drugs or prescription medications. They may think, “I’ll just have one to calm my nerves” and they have absolutely no intention of getting drunk or high. They are often trying very hard just to “act right” and not disrupt or disappoint everyone. But one pill or one drink becomes five and off we go. Recognizing that it is a weakness rather than a conspiratorial plot to destroy the dinner you worked hard to prepare will help you avoid resentment and hostility and focus on solving the problem while still being conscious of everyone’s feelings.

Don’t Enable

If they are impaired they need to leave. Don’t allow the family to sit and sweat bullets about what Uncle Fred is going to do next and if, or when, he is going to be so drunk that he becomes violent. If Uncle Fred is drunk, he needs to leave so everyone else can relax. Be kind about addressing the behavior, but don’t put up with it. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. This is the family Christmas dinner. Protect it. If it has been ruined every year by someone being drunk, stoned or high just say “No”. Say it with understanding and kindness, but say it.

If You are the Former Alcoholic or Addict

Be Aware of Family Dynamics

Is there a scapegoating function being perpetuated by your former substance abuse? If so, the family will be highly motivated to keep you in that role. It’s important to realize that they are not doing this on purpose. Family patterns are handed down from generation to generation but people are totally unaware of them. It’s important to recognize the dynamics to understand how they might trip you up. The Christmas dinner is not the time to educate the family on these dynamics. Just be aware of them, how they might play out and what effect they might have on your sobriety so you can make choices about how to address them.

Take Responsibility

Whatever happened before, you did it. Own it. If you have thrown up on people, started a fight or passed out in the cranberry sauce, acknowledge it. Apologize and move on. Don’t make excuses for it or try to deny it. The family gathering was disturbed by this event and you are responsible.

Stay in the Present

However, regardless of what happened before, this is this Christmas and you are sober right now. Bring your family back to this point as many times as you have to. “I am not doing that right now.” “I am perfectly sober right now.” Keep bringing them back and don’t allow it to become a blaming or guilting contest.

Realize their behavior may come from fear. They may not be telling you what you are doing right now, they may be telling you what they fear you will do. If your instincts tell you this is the case, try to confront the fear. “Could it be that you are afraid I’m going to get drunk and embarrass everyone like I did last year?” If your family uses humor as a coping technique this would be a good time to use it. Put the fear on the table. Then address it by keeping it in the present. “But I’m absolutely sober, right now.” Then negotiate a compromise. “O.K., you’re afraid I’m going to get drunk. But I’m not drunk right now, right? What if you tell me if you sense that I’m getting drunk at any point in the dinner and I will be happy to leave. Will that work?” That keeps them focused on what you are doing right now and lets them know that you have agreed to leave if a problem erupts. If you stay sober, which you will, you stay at the dinner. Problem solved.

If your family refuses to address the fear and refuses to keep it in the present and let the past go, they may be heavily invested in keeping you in the role of the family drug abuser for some reason. If this is the situation, you may just have to excuse yourself from the gathering. Do not allow yourself to be kept in that role.

Be Aware of Saboteurs

If your family needs you to be a screw up for some reason, they may use ingenious ways of sabotaging you: “Just one drink won’t hurt.” “What are you, a holy roller now?” “Ohhhhh, you think you’re better than us now??” First realize that this is not consciously done. Whatever their reasons for needing you to be a drug addict or an alcoholic they would probably be the last ones to realize it. Getting them to own their motives or behavior may be impossible for this reason. Whether they can or will take responsibility for it, the Christmas dinner is probably not the time to try to hash it out. If you are being sabotaged try not to take it personally, but do not allow it to continue. Just say “No” to sabotaging. Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries. Excuse yourself and have a Plan B.

Have a Plan B or an Escape Plan

Decide what you will do if things start to go awry. Look at what possible reactions your family may have to your sobriety. If there is a potential for any type of sabotaging or blaming, decide ahead of time what you will do. Decide how far you will let it go before you leave. Don’t leave with a lot of fighting, blaming or finger pointing. Just tell them quietly you think it would be better if you leave and quietly leave.

Ask a friend or family member if you can join their Christmas dinner if your family gathering becomes untenable. You may have a support group you can attend. You may just want to go home and practice self soothing techniques to get your peace of mind back. But have some kind of back up plan so you don’t get caught off guard. If you plan to go to home you might want to check yourself. Loneliness is a big problem this time of year. If you are an introvert, going home to self soothe may be a good idea. If you are an extrovert, you may want to have a backup plan that involves being around other people.

Plan Ahead

If your family drinks or if you think drugs will be present at the gathering decide ahead of time how you will handle it. If alcohol is the problem, take your own beverages so you know you’ll have something non-alcoholic available. Decide how to establish a boundary with your cousin who is still using should she invite you to join her. Take a friend who is also in recovery who can support you and help you realize insidious family dynamics which might threaten your sobriety. Be very aware of which self soothing techniques help to calm you and arm yourself with them. Take a time out if the stress starts to rise. Excuse yourself to take a walk. Invite a “safe” family member who is supportive of your efforts to join you on the walk. This eliminates speculation that you are going to the liquor store or going to score. Practice good self care throughout the holiday season.

If you don’t know what I mean by self care or self soothing you might want to take a crash course in these two concepts. Here are some articles which might help.

“Building Sellf Esteem through Self Care”
“Satir’s Mandala: The Components of Happiness”
“Self Soothing Techniques”

You may also want to review the entire section on Self Care to see all the articles.

Remember to HALT

Not allowing yourself to be emotionally compromised in ways which put you at risk of relapse is important. Stop and take a breath if you are:

1) Hungry
2) Angry
3) Lonely
4) Tired

Breathe. Also be aware of boredom, guilt, fear or stress. Stay in touch with your feelings if you are tempted to relapse and see what is going on. Keeping Satir’s Mandala in mind at the holidays can be a great coping mechanism. If you have worked hard to fill every one of those areas you will be much less likely to relapse. If you attend your family gathering and a lot of painful emotions erupt, check the mandala. What has been compromised? What needs to be replenished? Know which techniques you personally use to replenish them. See the self soothing articles for ideas if you need help.

Don’t Take a Holiday from Self Care

See the Self Esteem through Self Care article for a list of basic requirements to maintain simple mental health. These apply to everyone whether they are in recovery or not. Be sure you continue good self care throughout the holidays. This is when you need it the most! Check yourself. If your self care starts to lapse you may be sabotaging yourself or allowing others to sabotage you. Don’t beat yourself up, just fix it. If you start eating a bunch of sweets and carbs, stop going to the gym and stop doing your daily meditations – and these have kept you sane in the past – don’t beat yourself up for having lapsed. Just get back on the treadmill and congratulate yourself for catching it and fixing it.

Learn to Relapse

Some hard core AA folks may ream me for this one, but I think it is important. Many times, someone will have a simple slip. They will stop and have one beer, or take one pill, or one hit. There is now a chance for a choice. Do they continue or stop? Unfortunately many addicts and alcoholics have very black and white thinking. They are either perfectly clean or totally messed up. If they have a little slip, they immediately think, “F— it” and go on a binge.

Learning to stop this behavior, and this kind of thinking, can really save you. If you relapse, own it. “Dang it. I did it again.” Stop and listen to your body, your feelings and your thoughts and see if you can identify what tripped you up. Congratulate yourself for stopping after 3 beers instead of 20; or 4 pills instead of the entire bottle; or one night, instead of an entire weekend. Get back on the horse. Check your self care. Correct anything which has lapsed. Practice self soothing to soothe whatever hurt caused you to relapse. And get back on track.

Forgive yourself, but take responsibility. Find the loophole in your self care strategy and plug it. Then move on. Stay in the present. Learn from the mistake and figure out how to avoid it in the future.

If you have a hard time with this you may be a perfectionist. If you tend to beat yourself over the head for not being perfect, please read my article, “Progress not Perfection” which gives you a new way to think about things which may be more conducive to getting better and staying sober.

See other articles on mental health at my blog: www.kellevision.com.

Dealing with Addiction During the Holidays

Though we often think of the holidays as a time of giving and sharing they can also be extremely stressful.  This stress can lead to an increase in substance use or a relapse by someone in recovery.  What are some of the symptoms of a problem in a family member?  In yourself?  What can you do to protect your own sobriety?

Family dynamics are often at the heart of holiday stress.  Add to this the hustle and bustle of trying to organize and fund festivities and the stress climbs even higher.  To a former addict or alcoholic holidays can prove to be a difficult time.  They may face a lot of guilt about embarrassing behavior during previous holidays or family events which was caused by drinking or drug use.  Family relationships may be strained because of their behavior while using drugs or alcohol.  Trying to fit in during family events in which others are drinking or using drugs can also be stressful.  None of these reasons are an excuse to destroy a family event by being so high or drunk that you create a scene or start a fight.  But they are factors to be aware of. 

If a family member has a history of disrupting Christmas dinner because of their addiction there may be a lot of fear from everyone else that this will occur again even though they are now sober.  So people are entering the dinner expecting a problem which may not even occur.  There may also be a lot of resentment toward the now sober person for previous events which were ruined due to their substance use. 

If the person’s role in the family as the scapegoat was largely cemented by their drug use – and they are now clean and sober – there may be a panic in the family system as everyone anticipates having the scapegoat role transferred to them.  The sober person may find themselves being sabotaged by family members who actually hope they will relapse so the blaming and finger pointing can resume.  So the family may say they are happy the person is getting control of their substance abuse while working to undermine it at the same time.  And this is done unconsciously, making it even harder to address. 

Being aware of all of these feelings and owning them is an important factor in changing the family dynamic. 

What can you do if you have a family member who is using or has a history of using?
What can you do to protect your own sobriety during the holidays?

For the Family of a Substance Abuser

Can the Self Righteousness

Everyone has their "addictions" and human foibles.  I’ve literally watched someone who weighed 300 lbs. and was stuffing the 3rd piece of pumpkin pie into his face go off on a relative for their drug use.  Before you decide to fill yourself with self righteous indignation and stand in judgment of others, check yourself.  If you’re not perfect, ease up on everyone else. 

Do You Want to be Right, or be Happy?

I actually read one article this year which recommended drug testing relatives.  Oh my gosh!  What are you, the police??  What possible purpose could that serve?  Is determining the chemical in their bloodstream going to accomplish anything other than to prove that you were right and they were wrong?  What is in someone else’s bloodstream is not the problem. The behavior is the problem.  If someone is stumbling around, falling over things, slurring their speech, talking too loudly and getting aggressive –  what difference does it make what is causing it?  If you want to be right, go ahead, administer drug tests and wave them over people’s heads in self righteous triumph.  But if you want to be happy, focus on the behavior. 

Most addicts with whom I have worked don’t realize how impaired they are.  Their denial allows them to convince themselves that they are pulling it off, that they are "O.K.".  Giving them kind, but honest feedback about how they appear usually works quite well, without getting into a debate about what is causing it.  Use words that come naturally to you, the language of your family.  And try to give constructive feedback without blaming.  Do not have this conversation at the dinner table or in the middle of the living room.  Take the person aside and talk to them privately to avoid embarrassing everyone.

"Hey man, I’m kind of worried about you.  You’re look really sedated, your speech is really slurred and you’re stumbling around a lot."

Suggest a constructive solution that doesn’t blame.

"Would you like to go lay down upstairs for a bit?"
"Do you want to go home and get it together and come back later?" 

If they are too impaired to be at the Christmas dinner, they are too impaired to be driving.

Offer to give them a ride or get them a cab.  If they are from out of town, help them navigate the public transportation system in your area. 

Let Bygones be Bygones

If past Christmases have been disturbed by someone’s drug use, but they are now trying to get it together, try to find it in your heart to let it go. Don’t keep throwing in their face "what happened" when they were 17 – when they’re now 45 and have been clean and sober for 3 years. 

This does not mean you continue to tolerate the behavior.

If a family member has a history of substance abuse which disrupts the holidays and they appear to be under the influence, stay in the present.  Talk about what is going on right now and deal with that.  Hitting them over the head with, "you always", "you never", "this always happens" and "every time you…" serves no constructive purpose.  First of all, they are impaired.  Do you really think they are going to remember this lecture when they sober up?  Second of all it only fuels the fire and does nothing to address the situation.  Deal with the situation in front of you right now.  Give them constructive feedback about how they appear and work together to find a solution: they leave and come back later, they leave and come back tomorrow, they skip the festivities this year, they go for a walk and clear their head, they go upstairs and sleep it off, etc.

Avoid Blaming

I think a lot of family members feel like a substance abuser messes up the family gathering on purpose.  In most cases, this really is not the case.  Because of the emotional stressors I mentioned earlier, a former alcoholic or addict can be really stressed about going to Christmas dinner.  They may sabotage themselves by resorting to old methods of dealing with emotional stress; alcohol, drugs or prescription medications.  They may think, "I’ll just have one to calm my nerves" and they have absolutely no intention of getting drunk or high.  They are often trying very hard just to "act right" and not disrupt or disappoint everyone.  But one pill or one drink becomes five and off we go.  Recognizing that it is a weakness rather than a conspiratorial plot to destroy the dinner you worked hard to prepare will help you avoid resentment and hostility and focus on solving the problem while still being conscious of everyone’s feelings.

Don’t Enable

If they are impaired they need to leave.  Don’t allow the family to sit and sweat bullets about what Uncle Fred is going to do next and if, or when, he is going to be so drunk that he becomes violent.  If Uncle Fred is drunk, he needs to leave so everyone else can relax.  Be kind about addressing the behavior, but don’t put up with it.  Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.  This is the family Christmas dinner.  Protect it.  If it has been ruined every year by someone being drunk, stoned or high just say "No".  Say it with understanding and kindness, but say it. 

If You are the Former Alcoholic or Addict

Be Aware of Family Dynamics

Is there a scapegoating function being perpetuated by your former substance abuse?  If so, the family will be highly motivated to keep you in that role.  It’s important to realize that they are not doing this on purpose.  Family patterns are handed down from generation to generation but people are totally unaware of them.  It’s important to recognize the dynamics to understand how they might trip you up.  The Christmas dinner is not the time to educate the family on these dynamics.  Just be aware of them, how they might play out and what effect they might have on your sobriety so you can make choices about how to address them.

Take Responsibility

Whatever happened before, you did it.  Own it.  If you have thrown up on people, started a fight or passed out in the cranberry sauce, acknowledge it.  Apologize and move on.  Don’t make excuses for it or try to deny it.  The family gathering was disturbed by this event and you are responsible. 

Stay in the Present

However, regardless of what happened before, this is this Christmas and you are sober right now.  Bring your family back to this point as many times as you have to.  "I am not doing that right now."  "I am perfectly sober right now."  Keep bringing them back and don’t allow it to become a blaming or guilting contest.  

Realize their behavior may come from fear.  They may not be telling you what you are doing right now, they may be telling you what they fear you will do.  If your instincts tell you this is the case, try to confront the fear.  "Could it be that you are afraid I’m going to get drunk and embarrass everyone like I did last year?"  If your family uses humor as a coping technique this would be a good time to use it.  Put the fear on the table.  Then address it by keeping it in the present.  "But I’m absolutely sober, right now."  Then negotiate a compromise.  "O.K., you’re afraid I’m going to get drunk.  But I’m not drunk right now, right?  What if you tell me if you sense that I’m getting drunk at any point in the dinner and I will be happy to leave.  Will that work?"  That keeps them focused on what you are doing right now and lets them know that you have agreed to leave if a problem erupts.  If you stay sober, which you will, you stay at the dinner.  Problem solved.

If your family refuses to address the fear and refuses to keep it in the present and let the past go, they may be heavily invested in keeping you in the role of the family drug abuser for some reason.  If this is the situation, you may just have to excuse yourself from the gathering.  Do not allow yourself to be kept in that role.

Be Aware of Saboteurs

If your family needs you to be a screw up for some reason, they may use ingenious ways of sabotaging you:  "Just one drink won’t hurt."  "What are you, a holy roller now?"  "Ohhhhh, you think you’re better than us now??"  First realize that this is not consciously done.  Whatever their reasons for needing you to be a drug addict or an alcoholic they would probably be the last ones to realize it.  Getting them to own their motives or behavior may be impossible for this reason.  Whether they can or will take responsibility for it, the Christmas dinner is probably not the time to try to hash it out.  If you are being sabotaged try not to take it personally, but do not allow it to continue.  Just say "No" to sabotaging.  Boundaries, boundaries, boundaries.  Excuse yourself and have a Plan B.

Have a Plan B or an Escape Plan

Decide what you will do if things start to go awry.  Look at what possible reactions your family may have to your sobriety.  If there is a potential for any type of sabotaging or blaming, decide ahead of time what you will do.  Decide how far you will let it go before you leave.  Don’t leave with a lot of fighting, blaming or finger pointing.  Just tell them quietly you think it would be better if you leave and quietly leave.

Ask a friend or family member if you can join their Christmas dinner if your family gathering becomes untenable.  You may have a support group you can attend.  You may just want to go home and practice self soothing techniques to get your peace of mind back.  But have some kind of back up plan so you don’t get caught off guard.  If you plan to go to home you might want to check yourself.  Loneliness is a big problem this time of year.  If you are an introvert, going home to self soothe may be a good idea.  If you are an extrovert, you may want to have a backup plan that involves being around other people. 

Plan Ahead

If your family drinks or if you think drugs will be present at the gathering decide ahead of time how you will handle it.  If alcohol is the problem, take your own beverages so you know you’ll have something non-alcoholic available.  Decide how to establish a boundary with your cousin who is still using should she invite you to join her.  Take a friend who is also in recovery who can support you and help you realize insidious family dynamics which might threaten your sobriety.  Be very aware of which self soothing techniques help to calm you and arm yourself with them.  Take a time out if the stress starts to rise.  Excuse yourself to take a walk.  Invite a "safe" family member who is supportive of your efforts to join you on the walk.  This eliminates speculation that you are going to the liquor store or going to score.  Practice good self care throughout the holiday season.

If you don’t know what I mean by self care or self soothing you might want to take a crash course in these two concepts.  Here are some articles which might help. 

"Building Sellf Esteem through Self Care"
"Satir’s Mandala:  The Components of Happiness"
"Self Soothing Techniques"

You may also want to review the entire section on Self Care to see all the articles.  

Remember to HALT

Not allowing yourself to be emotionally compromised in ways which put you at risk of relapse is important.  Stop and take a breath if you are:

1) Hungry
2) Angry
3) Lonely
4) Tired

Breathe.  Also be aware of boredom, guilt, fear or stress.  Stay in touch with your feelings if you are tempted to relapse and see what is going on.  Keeping Satir’s Mandala in mind at the holidays can be a great coping mechanism.  If you have worked hard to fill every one of those areas you will be much less likely to relapse.  If you attend your family gathering and a lot of painful emotions erupt, check the mandala.  What has been compromised?  What needs to be replenished?  Know which techniques you personally use to replenish them.  See the self soothing articles for ideas if you need help. 

Don’t Take a Holiday from Self Care

See the Self Esteem through Self Care article for a list of basic requirements to maintain simple mental health.  These apply to everyone whether they are in recovery or not.  Be sure you continue good self care throughout the holidays.  This is when you need it the most!  Check yourself.  If your self care starts to lapse you may be sabotaging yourself or allowing others to sabotage you.  Don’t beat yourself up, just fix it.  If you start eating a bunch of sweets and carbs, stop going to the gym and stop doing your daily meditations – and these have kept you sane in the past – don’t beat yourself up for having lapsed.  Just get back on the treadmill and congratulate yourself for catching it and fixing it.

Learn to Relapse

Some hard core AA folks may ream me for this one, but I think it is important.  Many times, someone will have a simple slip.  They will stop and have one beer, or take one pill, or one hit.  There is now a chance for a choice.  Do they continue or stop?  Unfortunately many addicts and alcoholics have very black and white thinking.  They are either perfectly clean or totally messed up.  If they have a little slip, they immediately think, "F— it" and go on a binge. 

Learning to stop this behavior, and this kind of thinking, can really save you.  If you relapse, own it.  "Dang it.  I did it again."  Stop and listen to your body, your feelings and your thoughts and see if you can identify what tripped you up.  Congratulate yourself for stopping after 3 beers instead of 20; or 4 pills instead of the entire bottle; or one night, instead of an entire weekend.  Get back on the horse.  Check your self care.  Correct anything which has lapsed.  Practice self soothing to soothe whatever hurt caused you to relapse.  And get back on track.

Forgive yourself, but take responsibility.  Find the loophole in your self care strategy and plug it.  Then move on.  Stay in the present.  Learn from the mistake and figure out how to avoid it in the future. 

If you have a hard time with this you may be a perfectionist.  If you tend to beat yourself over the head for not being perfect, please read my article, "Progress not Perfection" which gives you a new way to think about things which may be more conducive to getting better and staying sober.

See other articles about mental health on my blog: Kellevision

 

Depression, Anxiety, Stress and Substance Abuse in America

Tim Ferriss, the author of "The 4-Hour Work Week" has posted some interesting stats on his blog about work and American life. 

63% of all employees want to work less, up from 46% in 1992.

26% of adult Americans report being on the verge of a serious nervous breakdown.

40% of workers describe their office environment as “most like a real-life survivor program.”

Only 14% of Americans take two weeks or more at a time for vacation. The average American therefore spends more time in the bathroom than on vacation.

61% of Americans check email while on vacation.

53% of employees would opt for a personal assistant rather than personal trainer.

62% of workers routinely end the day with work-related neck pain, 44% report strained eyes, 38% complain of hand pain, and 34% report difficulty in sleeping due to work-related stress.

88% of employees say they have a hard time juggling work and life.

70% of working fathers and working mothers report they don’t have enough time for their children.

In 2005, a psychiatrist at King’s College in London administered IQ tests to three groups: the first did nothing but perform the IQ test, the second was distracted by e-mail and ringing phones, and the third was stoned on marijuana. Not surprisingly, the first group did better than the other two by an average of 10 points. The e-mailers, on the other hands, did worse than the stoners by an average of 6 points.

Dr. Richard Wolff, a professor of economics states in his online video, "Capitalism Hits the Fan", that Americans are working 20% more than they were 30 years ago while Europeans are working 20% less.  He also cites constantly increasing numbers of Americans taking psychiatric medications and struggling with substance abuse.

It may be time for the American people to examine their values and determine if their mental health might be more important than owning the latest, greatest new bit of technology or wearing designer clothing, or having a new Hummer.  And indeed, I see some who are.  A recent article on the Examiner.com site, "Frugal is the New Sexy" discusses the new phenomena of people placing expensive purchases in unmarked shopping bags and "closet shopping" to create a unique, signature style rather than purchasing the latest new looks.  

As Americans place value on things, hopefully they will more highly value people and relationships and our dependence on psychiatric medications and substances to alter our moods will be replaced by socializing with friends spending more time with our families.  ANd perhaps Americans will become more active in electing officials who actually represent them as opposed to politicians who serve corporate interests above human interests. 

We can hope.

You can read more about mental health issues on my blog at www.kellevision.com.

 

Milestones Ranch Malibu

Milestones Ranch Malibu founder Glen Gerson, the Executive Director of Milestones Denise Klein, MSW, and their clinical director Dr. Seth Kadish, Psy.D talk with Bradley.Milestones is a 12 step based program, but aside from just learning how to get involved in that process, steps, meetings, fellowship etc.. find out what’s unique about Milestones. Aside from being one of the premier dual diagnosis residential treatment centers in the country, Milestones is where they’ve designed their dual diagnosed residential treatment center in a way that comforts and treats both individuals and the families who have been impacted by substance abuse, alcoholism, dual diagnosis and their related mental health issues. Catch the full interview at: http://www.bradleyquick.com/milestones-ranch-malibu

“DON’T GIVE UP YOUR DREAMS: YOU CAN BE A WINNER, TOO”

Legendary entertainer Charles Connor, original drummer for Little Richard, and the author of "DON’T GIVE UP YOUR DREAMS: YOU CAN BE A WINNER, TOO", offers "Connor Sense", or practical advice on how people can improve themselves, create positive relationships, and enjoy a balanced, quality life.  Because of his faith and positive mental attitude, his long-lasting versatile and pioneering career, his quick-witted sense of humor, and his ability to be eloquent on any subject, I believe that you are in for a real treat.  And because he has personally triumphed over substance abuse, and witnessed it among talented entertainers with whom he’s known, he’s got a lot to talk about.  He’s a real inspiration to those who are battling substance abuse and suffer from low self-esteem. Listen to the full interview at: http://www.bradleyquick.com/charles-connor-dont-give-up-your-dreams

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