Learning to Save Yourself While Helping Others in Addiction


“For almost every addict who is mired in this terrible disease, other — a mother or father, a child or spouse, an aunt or uncles or grandparents, a brother or sister — are suffering too. Families are the hidden victims of addiction, enduring enormous levels of stress and pain. They suffer sleepless nights, deep anxiety, and physical exhaustion brought on by worry and desperation. They lie awake for hours on end as fear for their loved one’s safety crowds out any possibility of sleep. They live each day with a weight inside that drags them down. Unable to laugh or smile, they are sometimes filled with bottled-up anger or a constant sadness that keeps them on the verge of tears.”        Beverly Conyers

1. From “Detaching FROM Love“: When I think back about our experiences while Alex was actively using many thoughts and emotions come to the surface. It’s hard thinking about what exactly DID we do right? A couple things come to the surface about what we did wrong; tough love and detaching from love.

I wrote not long ago about the importance of listening. I saw my own shortcomings in that area. Still I do a lot more talking than listening. I’ve always heard that you are never learning if your mouth is open. It’s amazing that I can even walk and breath at the same time.

Listening is so critical in parenting an addict, but sharing carries much weight too. Darlene and I would listen to anyone no matter their credentials or experience. We were lost without a map. As I look back not a single person in our history gave advice that wasn’t sincere. Every single person was trying to help and we felt so much love from our family, friends, bloggers and even strangers. I guess most people can relate to a parent that fears they may soon lose there child at any time.

How do you separate and analyze the advice that helps and the counsel that harms everyone involved? That takes a person much wiser than me to figure that one out. However, I have decided one thing that I would never say or do again. Call it what you may but I’m going to cut straight to the chase, TOUGH LOVE.

Tough love is one of those generic terms that gets thrown around very loosely. First, I HATE the term, I have written about it before. But as soon as you hear tough love everyone has an opinion but one thing it seems everyone agrees within the definition is “throw’em out”.


2.From “You Are Not Alone“:

I remember the early days of my son’s addiction.  I felt paralyzed.  I sat with this new information alone.  Would I be able to tell anyone?  What would they think of him?  What would they think of me?

I looked around with new eyes.  I saw families–they all seemed so normal compared to how I now saw our family.  I wondered if others could see what I now saw in our home.  While I tried to figure things out, I felt so alone.

After some time, I began to reach out to people that I considered to be safe.  I trusted these friends and family members to keep our secret.  I did not want to hurt anyone.

Finally, I attended my first twelve-step meeting.  In that room, I met people of all walks of life.  These people were full of joy.  How could that be?  It was there that I first realized that I am not alone.

There were many parents there, like me, that attended because of their kids who were affected by the disease of addiction.  There were husbands there because of their wives and wives there because of their husbands.  Brothers and sisters came because of each other.  Grandparents because of their grandkids.  Friends and family members are always there sometimes they come for more than one person.  Every relationship that I could imagine, I have seen represented in these rooms.  It confirms the fact that I am not alone.


These meetings where I can share my burdens with others who understand are lifelines.  In these room we are encouraged to come out of isolation.  They ask me to acknowledge that alone, ‘I can’t’ (step one), but ‘God can’ (step two) and if ‘I’ll let Him’ (step three) then I have gained a powerful companion to guide me along this difficult journey.  If I do this, I have enlisted someone who can do all things and I’ve placed them in charge of my situation.  I am relieved and I am not alone.


3.From “Whether or Not Our Loved One Finds Recovery–Jackie Stein”:

Most of us have heard of Al-Anon and Nar-Anon, which are 12 step recovery programs for those who have friends or family members that are suffering from Alcohol or Substance Use Disorder (AUD or SUD).  I talk about use disorder rather than alcoholism or addiction as this is the terminology used by medical and therapeutic community and it includes those that have not yet hit “rock bottom” with the idea that recovery is possible if we address the issues earlier in the process.

I would like to share my experience with another life-changing program that taught me I can be my loved one’s best chance at recovery and I can also be their best chance at relapse: the choice is mine. The program is called Be A Loving Mirror or BALM© and it is a truly transformative program.  I like to refer to the BALM as “Al-Anon or Nar-Anon on steroids”.  It is a deeper, more expansive program to not only help your loved one but also help yourself.

The 12 step programs have as part of their foundation what we call the “3 C’s” — we didn’t cause our loved one’s addiction; we can’t control our loved one’s addiction; and we can’t cure our loved one’s addiction.  Many don’t know that there is actually a fourth C in Al-Anon and Nar-Anon which is that we don’t have to contribute to our loved one’s addiction.

BALM starts with the same first 3 C’s, but takes a different direction on the fourth C and adds three more. In the BALM we learn that:

  • You did not cause your loved one’s SUD
  • You cannot control your loved one’s SUD
  • You cannot cure your loved one’s SUD
  • You can contribute to your loved one’s recovery
  • You are connected to your loved one on a level deeper than their SUD
  • You can learn to communicate effectively with your loved one and others.
  • You are always at choice.

So you see that the first three C’s are the same.  We have flipped the fourth C to make it a positive statement. Instead of saying that you don’t have to contribute to their addiction, we say you CAN contribute to your loved one’s RECOVERY. Just the change to the positive can be transformational.

The fifth C recognizes that we have a connection to our loved one that existed before the disorder and we remember that no matter what their disorder, there is an underlying love that permeates all.  We try to not lose track of that connection, whether or not we continue to live with or work with our loved one and whether or not our loved one finds recovery.

The sixth C is about learning a new way to communicate with our loved one.  Communication is at the core of all of our relationships, including our communication with ourselves.  In the BALM, we learn how best to communicate with our loved one in a manner that they can hear and that can encourage a healing process.

And the seventh C is clear.  We always have a choice.  I have heard some say that if your loved one cannot find recovery, you should cut ties and save yourself.  When we talk about choice, it doesn’t have to mean all or nothing.  Certainly, you can say “Should I stay or should I go?” and either answer is appropriate so long as it is true for you.  But it is also possible to remove yourself from the situation and still interact with your loved one from a place of love and respect for the person that is still living with that use disorder.  What we teach is that there is no right or wrong answer. Staying or leaving or something in between is always our choice and no one should be stigmatized for whatever choice they make.

The BALM program is far more than just the 7 C’s.  There is a depth to the program that is both educational and transformative.  I personally found the BALM program almost 3 years ago, while dealing with the AUD of a loved one.  The change in our communication has been incredible.  I no longer nag, plead or scream.  I no longer throw things or feel like my life has to be controlled by what he does.  And while he has not yet achieved the long term recovery that he truly desires, he can hear me now because of the change in the way we communicate.  And while my choice was that we no longer live together, we still love and respect each other and I can still help without enabling and truly be a loving mirror.


Photo credit.


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