David Sheff’s story about his son’s addiction and recovery has led him to several realizations about himself as a parent his own need to recover from the experience. He found that his constant suffering and struggle through near crises with his son was easier to deal with than focusing on himself. Today, their relationship has evolved into one of independence, acceptance, compassion and always love.
Setting healthy boundaries and confidently following through with them is not easy and requires reflection, work and practice. But it is a strategy that provides support during the difficult times, especially when addiction is present.
Holidays tend to bring on some of the most emotionally charged situations. Here is a list of 5 suggestions offered by therapists and expert family advocates to help you get through the holiday season while taking care of yourself.
In our next podcast, Annie and Laurie welcome special guest Alicia Cook, an established writer and award-winning activist on addiction issues. Their discussion covers a range of topics from the very personal, Alicia Cook’s own experience with her cousin’s death from overdose 10 years ago, to her work today as an activist helping families affected by addiction. This very open discussion about the opioid epidemic reveals some harsh truths but also shows a way forward.
In today’s podcast, Laurie’s son Tommy opens up about his experience with SUD with a very moving account of surviving a terrifying overdose. This strong, raw, and honest conversation gives much insight into the mind of an addict, where they are and where they need to go in order to get better.
Annie and Laurie open up about the parallel issues that can arise during the worst of times. With their sons’ addiction raging, they also had to deal with what was going on on other fronts: chaos, crises, judgement, family discord. They learned how to respond to other’s remarks, and not react to them, how to stay united and not sink.
In this week’s podcast, Laurie and Annie compare support group experiences. They discuss what is helpful and what works, the importance of being among others who experience the same struggles. They also learned to be careful in some of these tricky group settings where giving support was sometimes equated with giving advice.
When a loved one enters treatment, there is often a feeling of emptiness which comes suddenly after a prolonged period of anxiety and stress. The source of constant focus and worry has gone off into treatment but the strong emotions associated with their presence may linger. Laurie MacDougall shares how she coped in this situation, learning how to let go and take care of herself.
It takes a lot of mental work to get and remain sober and so a recovering loved one may be unintentionally careless with those who support them. If we recognize that people do the best they can with the tools they have in the moment, then we can accept this carelessness more easily. In the meantime, take care of your own well-being.
Laurie and Annie tell their own stories as mothers facing an addicted loved one. They discuss their backgrounds and family dynamics, speak about their lives leading up to and through their personal experiences with the national opiate crisis. Their compelling stories confirm that addiction is a disease and it’s a family disease that can happen to any family in any community.
If you are the bystander watching this brutal disease from the front row, what do you do? Detach from someone you love as they are spiraling? What does it look like to detach? How do you abruptly cut them off? We hear “you have to detach” a lot, but what does it actually mean?
The long-term stress I experienced caused me to become very forgetful, hasty in my decisions, confused and socially awkward. I also noticed that during that time of my life I became very clumsy. It became obvious to me that I was heading for a crash if I didn’t get ahead of my stress. I knew I had to develop different responses. I knew that I didn’t want addiction, terror and chaos calling the shots anymore.
Through recovery work, I have learned to stop expecting people to be different and to reduce the frustration that comes from trying to cause a person to get better, or trying to mold them into how I think they should be (even if it’s reasonable). When I put these demands and expectations down, I can love people for who they actually are.
My healing did not come easily and did not come overnight. It has been an extremely difficult journey and I am still not great at it. It took really small baby steps and there are still many times when I just lose it and cry. What is different now is I have a bunch of tools in my toolbox to utilize. I have strategies and a plan in place.
If I’m out at a party at a friend’s house, staying present in the party, in the moment, and enjoying every single moment with them, because that’s where I’m at right now … [this] helped me to have some joy and love right then, in that moment …
Vitriol can be described as a solution-less rant of hate-filled criticism. A brand of sulfuric acid was named Vitriol, reason being that the acid was strong enough to burn through anything, including steel and rock. Another permanent boundary I now have: I will not remain in the presence of vitriol.
It’s been said that for every one person struggling with addiction, there are at least 15 people affected. The effects are painful and relentless for those of us left in the wake.
An Allies in Recovery member writes from the heart, sharing his experience of being the parent of an adult child in early recovery: “We were in the beginning stages of recovery ourselves. How could we help him if he expressed or evidenced the difficulty of staying focused and doing all the work of recovery?…”
Our role as the family member of a struggling loved one is not limited to doing things for them. What we do for our own well-being (physical, mental, spiritual … ) will create a ripple effect that brings relief and much needed change, within us and all around us.