Addiction Recovery Has Emerging Voices About the Nature of Addiction

6146924854_a9d3218a0d_zResearching online information about addiction recovery is hard. 98% of the material online is about addiction or treatment. But addiction recovery could be free over the internet. The $35,000,000,000 spent on treatment reaches 11% of addicts. Instead of fancy buildings the treatment industry coud provide a real service with free community education outreach. All those who can’t go to treatment need educated too.

Voices about recovery:

Dr. Gabor Mate: Why This Doctor Believes Addictions Start in Childhood. He also wrote In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

Johann Hari: The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think

Dr. David Sack: Mapping AA: The Neuroscience of Addiction

Dr. Marc Lewis: The Biology of Desire (his book) and Understanding Addiction (his blog)

Dr. Marc Lewis writing about Dr. Carl Hart: Hart to Hart: drug use, race, and addiction

Dr. Carl Hart: Dr. Carl Hart: Drug Myths Exposed and his book,  High Price

Rich Jones: The Baffling Lack of Innovation in Addiction Treatment

Brooke M. Feldman: Multiple Pathways to Recovery: It Is Time That We Lead The Way

Maia Szalavitz: Unbroken Brain and other books on Amazon; Time magazine articles by her; and Maia Szalavitz on a New Way of Understanding Addiction

Dean Dauphinais writing about Maia Szalavitz: “Unbroken Brain”: A New, Forward-Thinking Book on Addiction

Articles about Addiction:

Facing Addiction: It’s Time to Focus on Solutions

Innovation in Recovery

Recommended Reading for Addiction Recovery

Addiction, Recovery and CrossFit

YouTube–Noah Levine on Addiction, Recovery and Buddhism

California recovery–Recovery Avenues for People with Mental Health/Substance Use Challenges

Center for Social Innovation: Praxis Training for Massachusetts Adiction Professions

Staying Sober After Treatment Ends

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Families Struggling With Addiction Need Resources To Help Themselves and Others

4503433644_28418490db_zHaving begun my healing in 1976, I have seen many families excited at the prospect of healing for their loved ones only to have to face the reality that the loved one has entered a new world. Often it is a world that other family members don’t enter. Addiction feels as if it is the addict’s problem. But addiction is a family disease. We all learn how to dance to addiction’s tune. Addiction is in control of all the family members.

Blog posts written by family members dealing with addiction and/or similar life situations:

From themiracleisaroundthecorner: “Is Dysfunctional Family a Redundancy?

From The Addict in My House: “Addicts and the System”; “Relapsed”; and “The Gift That Just Keeps Giving

From Just for Today: “There is nothing noble here”; “Addiction-Mental Illness”; “Every Life Matters”; Coming out of the tunnel

From The Addict in My Basement: “Survival”; “Light the Night Purple

From An Addict in Our Son’s Bedroom: “Boundaries” (2009); “Jail Does No Good for Addicts” (2009); “Detaching With Love” (2011); “Pinch Me, Am I Dreaming?” (2016)

From The Maven of Mayhem: “In Which I Respond to 5 Comments on My LGBT Family”

From The Immortal Alcoholic: “What! No Family program?”

From Jean Heaton: “That’s What I’d Like to Know, What Did You Do Wrong?”

Many of the following YouTube videos have several other videos in each series.

Strengths-based family therapy session

Abraham Hicks: Dealing With Family Relationships

John Bradshaw–Healing the Shame That Binds You

Resources to help the family understand addiction recovery:

From Addictions and “An addiction destroys families as much as it destroys individuals. Living with an addict is both heartbreaking and exhausting. Family members are torn between how to help the addict and how to avoid being sucked into the addict’s world.”

From The Addiction Recovery Guide: “The tragic death of a brilliant young writer named Jacob Waletzky* from a cocaine induced cardiac arrhythmia at the age of 29 inspired the creation of this website. The site is produced and funded by Lucy Waletzky, MD, a psychiatrist who is Jacob’s mother and fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. She is assisted by Marsha J. Handel, MLS, a medical librarian at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel.”

From NCADD: National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence: “Living with addiction can put family members under unusual stress. Normal routines are constantly being interrupted by unexpected or even frightening kinds of experiences that are part of living with alcohol and drug use. What is being said often doesn’t match up with what family members sense, feel beneath the surface or see right in front of their eyes. The alcohol or drug user as well as family members may bend, manipulate and deny reality in their attempt to maintain a family order that they experience as gradually slipping away. The entire system becomes absorbed by a problem that is slowly spinning out of control. Little things become big and big things get minimized as pain is denied and slips out sideways.

Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) and the Red Book

12 Step and Recovery Groups

Online Self-Help Forums

Parent and Family Topics from

Helpful Links:

Helpful Books:

  • The Betrayal Bond: Breaking Free of Exploitive Relationships by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D.
  • Codependent No More: How to Stop Controlling Others and Start Caring For Yourself by Melody Beattie
  • The New Codependency: Help and Guidance for Today’s Generation by Melody Beattie
  • Mending A Shattered Heart: A Guide for Partners of Sex Addict edited by Stefanie Carnes, Ph.D.
  • It Takes a Family A Cooperative Approach to Lasting Sobriety by Dera Jay
  • Addict in the Family: Stories of Loss, Hope and Recovery by Beverly Conyers
  • Adolescent Drug and Alcohol Abuse: How To Spot It, Stop It and Get Help for Your Family by Nikki Babbit
  • Don’t Let Your Kids Kill You by Charles Rubin
  • Everything Changes: Help for Families of Newly Recovery Addicts by Beverly Conyers
  • Get Your Loved One Sober. An Alternative to Nagging, Pleading and Threatening by Robert J. Myers, Ph.D. and Brenda L. Wolfe, Ph.D.
  • Parenting for Prevention: How to Raise a Child to Say No to Alcohol/Drugs by David J. Wilmes
  • Recovering My Kid: Parenting Young Adults in Treatment and Beyond by Joseph Lee, M.D.
  • Sober Siblings: How to Help Your Alcoholic Brother or Sister – and Not Lose Yourself by Patricia Olsen and Petros Levounis, MD, MA
  • The Family Recovery Guide: A Map for Healthy Growth by Stephanie Brown, Ph.D., and Virginia M. Lewis, Ph.D., with Andrew Liotta
  • A Gentle Path Through the Twelve Steps: The Classic Guide For All People in the Process of Recovery by Patrick Carnes, Ph.D.
  • Courage to Change: One Day at a Time Al-Anon
  • How Al-Anon Works: For Family and Friends of Alcoholics Al-Anon
  • One Day at a Time Al-Anon
  • Paths to Recovery: Al-Anon’s Steps, Traditions, and Concepts Al-Anon
  • The Language of Letting Go by Melody Beattie
  • A Family’s Journey by Diana Clark

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Emotional Sobriety Excerpts About Learning to Love Ourselves

27469629066_08f992b311_zBecause there are hundreds of bloggers writing about his/her recovery, I do a weekly post about an aspect of recovery which includes excerpts from some good posts. Today’s topic is learning to love yourself in recovery.

1. From the Maven ( How to be as High on Yourself as I am: a Self-Esteem Primer:

“We have one life to live. One. (Unless you believe in reincarnation. But then you might be born a toad or or a mushroom or something, so that doesn’t really count anyway.) Do you really want to waste it feeling like shit all the time? What purpose is that serving? And believe me: It is serving some kind of purpose, so you need to figure out what that is.”

“Are you keeping yourself down because you’re afraid of taking any steps to fix it? Is it comfortable doing what you’re doing, even if it’s not pleasant? Do you get some kind of attention from it? (AKA, having other people feed your ego by saying “Don’t say that about yourself! It’s not true!” That’s not self-esteem, and it’s not going to make you feel better about yourself. Like a junkie, you’ll always be looking for the next compliment fix. Been there, done that.) Are you afraid of succeeding? Are you afraid of becoming ridiculously arrogant if you’re not meek and mild all the time?”

“News flash: Being ridiculously arrogant is my job, not yours. You can’t have it, so you’ll have to settle for feeling confident. I know that sucks, but that’s how it’s gonna go down.”

“Anyway, figure out what’s keeping you down. If it’s fear, work through it. If it’s depression, open up and talk to someone. If it’s traumatic childhood issues, watch a few episodes of Hoarders and realize that pretty much everyone has traumatic childhood issues, but we need to work on letting them go and live for today, or face a lifetime of garbage collection and dead, buried cats.”

2.  From Guinevere writing at Guinevere Gets Sober:  “On Resentment, Codependency, and Recovery from Addiction”:

“I can see clearly, from my vantage point inside my resentment, the difference between resentment and anger. Anger can be OK, it can tell us when something dangerous or threatening has happened, it can motivate us to positive action, it can be energizing and productive and protective. Resentment is just sickness. It’s just picking a scab. It’s putrefying.”

I”t’s also exhausting to stay angry about something that’s over. It takes a lot of energy.”

“A psychologist told me recently (I may have mentioned this before; forgive me if I have; it’s something I’ve been thinking about) that children are sort of genetically programmed to keep the family together. I can remember now how many times I did this for my mother. She’d have a fight with my father (clarification: she’d fight with my father; my father would just drink and listen to her fighting) and come back to me crying, complaining about what an insensitive bastard he was, etc. ad nauseam,and I’d listen and calm her down and commiserate and encourage her that things would be OK.”

“Then I’d go to my room and absolutely fall apart. I didn’t know what was happening to me, of course. (I also wasn’t fully cognizant that she talked about me behind my back, too, in the same way she talked about my father) What I thought I knew was that I hated my father and loved my mother. After she died and all her crazy behavior stopped, I came to learn that my father was a very gentle man who hardly ever roused himself to anger—it was my mother who incited him to hit us.”

“Anyhow. All that is water that’s now downstream. It’s OVER.”

3.  From  TAAAF writing at Through an Al-Anon Filter: “Allowing Ourselves to Experience Pain”:

“By the time I came into Al-Anon, I was pretty much living on the front porch of myself. The entire rest of my house of self, was stuffed to the ceilings: old moldering crap mixed with relatively untouched newer items, all mixed together in one giant seething mass. I tried not to go in there, if I could possibly avoid it.”

“In Al-Anon, I learned that if I wanted real recovery, I was going to have to do an inventory, Step 4, and sort through that massive hoard of feelings, thoughts, beliefs, unmet dreams and desires, expectations, disappointments, resentments, and unfelt, stuffed pain.”
I was terrified that the pain would destroy me completely if I were to feel it – how was I to maintain mental stability while doing such a task?

“By working with my sponsor and my program friends, by asking my Higher Power for help, and by taking it one small step at a time. I don’t have to deal with the entire past today. I can deal with today only. One day. How am I feeling right now? Why am I having this feeling? Is it because of an unmet expectation, or is it the result of an unkind choice made by another person?”

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Opening Up and Confiding About Family Trauma Takes Courage and Commitment

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Healing childhood trauma can lead to overcoming addiction, depression, anxiety, or any debilitating condition which benefits from redefining who you are. According to US Dept of Health & Human Services: Child Welfare, childhood trauma effects are persistent fear response, hyperarousal, increased internalizing symptoms, diminished executive functioning, delayed developmental milestones, weakened response to positive feedback, and complicated social interactions.

“You survived by seizing every tiny drop of love you could find anywhere, and milking it, relishing it, for all it was worth. And as you grew up, you sought love, anywhere you could find it, whether it was a teacher or a coach or a friend or a friend’s parents. You sought those tiny droplets of love, basking in them when you found them. They sustained you. For all these years, you’ve lived under the illusion that somehow, you made it because you were tough enough to overpower the abuse, the hatred, the hard knocks of life. But really you made it because love is so powerful that tiny little doses of it are enough to overcome the pain of the worst things life can dish out. Toughness was a faulty coping mechanism you devised to get by. But, in reality, it has been your ability to never give up, to keep seeking love, and your resourcefulness to make that love last long enough to sustain you. That is what has gotten you by.”

Rachel Reiland

From Wikipedia

A traumatic event involves one experience, or repeating events with the sense of being overwhelmed that can be delayed by weeks, years, or even decades as the person struggles to cope with the immediate circumstances, eventually leading to serious, long-term negative consequences, often overlooked even by mental health professionals: “If clinicians fail to look through a trauma lens and to conceptualize client problems as related possibly to current or past trauma, they may fail to see that trauma victims, young and old, organize much of their lives around repetitive patterns of reliving and warding off traumatic memories, reminders, and affects.”

1.  One of my favorite bloggers for many years is Syd. Syd’s blog is I’m just F.I.N.E.—Recovery in Al-Anon. For this post, I’ve included his writing from: “More will be revealed”:

I took my mother-in-law for her doctor’s appointment today.  In the car, she began to tell me about the tests being done on her husband, who is still in hospital.  I have written here before that he has cirrhosis of the liver.  The doctors are doing a liver biopsy and some other tests as well.

I asked her if she thought alcohol was a factor in his liver disease.  And she opened up to talk to me as she has never done before.  She told me that my father-in-law would go on binges for days.  She said that she has been called every name in the book by him, been yelled at and belittled.  She also told me that her own father drank.  And she said that he did not want her to marry another man who drank.

All of this came as a huge “Ah-Ha” for me.  I could understand her anger over the years, her need for a perfect house,  her changeable moods.  It all made sense to me when I knew that she was a kindred soul–an adult child of an alcoholic who married an alcoholic.

I have been around my mother-in-law for all of my married life.  Yet, I never had this kind of conversation with her.  She kept her distress from her sister and from close friends.  And she kept it for all these years from me.  Now, I see her through different eyes.  I feel a level of compassion for her that I have for newcomers who arrive in pain.

She has persevered through a marriage of over 50 years, carrying around a secret that so many of us, who are affected by alcoholism, do.  She told me that the reason she stayed in the marriage was because of her daughter, my wife. And that decision no doubt had its ramifications for C.  Probably, what she isn’t aware of, is that she stayed for other reasons as well–hoping to change the alcoholic,  fear of abandonment, economic fears, pride, and a host of other emotions that keep us bound in an emotional prison.

I shared with her about my father.  I didn’t mention my wife as I won’t break her anonymity, even to her own mother.  I told her that I don’t know whether my dad was an alcoholic but that I also had a lot of unresolved emotions carried over from childhood.  And I told her that I have learned to detach from the belligerence of others by physically removing myself.  She said that she tunes out her husband’s yelling as best she can.

How I wish that she could have gotten into Al-Anon.  The conversation we had  made us both feel better.  As she put it, “We now know something about each other that we didn’t before.” How very true.  More will be revealed.

2.  From Nel writing at Discovering Serenity. Repost below is from Talking About Trauma:Is it necessary to heal?”

Today, I was asked a question by a therapist-friend of mine, who knows I am a survivor of trauma, but does not know that I am DID.  I was explaining that sometimes I get “stuck” in the healing process, like I plateau and I’m moving forward but I don’t feel like I’m making progress.  I explained to her that I get stuck usually in fear, and the emotion overcomes me.  I am unable to process memories with my therapist at that point.  They just swirl around in my head.

She asked, “Do you have to talk about the memories to move past them?”

I answered with a very strong YES!  Although, as one of “The Regulars” I don’t have clear memories of the abuse, someone else does.  And they really feel like it is important to talk about it to “move on” (or whatever you call healing).  My therapist-friend felt that in her professional experience, it wasn’t always necessary to process the trauma, but more important to learn and implement coping skills.

I agree that healthy coping skills are important.  Grounding.  Containment.  Hobbies.  Distraction.  Relaxation.  But without processing the trauma, I know I will never move on.  I need to talk about it with my therapist.  In detail, including feeling the feelings no matter how overwhelming they are.  Once and for all.  I don’t know if that’s just different for me, or if it is different because I’m DID, or if it’s different because I’m dealing with Complex Trauma.  Or all three?

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Forcing Anyone to Hit Bottom Can Be a Death Sentence

Family at the Golden Gate BridgeToday is a reprint about tough love from a Facebook page. David Sheff writes about his struggle with this concept and the help he received from Al Anon. I agree that forcing others to hit bottom may be pronouncing a death sentence. I have seen hundreds of people over these 39+ years to be helped by repeated interventions and being court-ordered to recovery.

From David Sheff- the following is an excerpt–read the whole post at the link.

“I’ve edited this post. After reading some comments, I understand that I didn’t clearly express what angered me. My anger is toward the archaic and harmful view of those who tell people — who *insist* — that an addict must hit bottom before he or she can begin recovery.

It began yesterday. A father had written. He was in anguish. He told me that he had kicked his son out of the house. He’d been told that he had to have no communication with his son. He was told that he had to stop helping him in any way. He was told that his son had to be left isolated and alone so he would hit bottom.

The dad didn’t want to do it, but nothing else had worked. His son had relapsed again and again after a number of treatment programs. He said that he’d been told again and again that he was co-dependent and was contributing to his son’s addiction. And so, desperate and resigned and heartbroken, he shut the door on his son and told him that he’d have nothing further to do with him until– unless his child was clean and sober for a substantial period of time. When my son was using, I’d heard the same thing. Some rehab counselors and parents in Al-Anon meetings said that Nic had to hit bottom and drag himself into treatment if ever he would get and stay sober. More than once, I was told that I had to sever ties with Nic until he’d been clean for a year.

I didn’t know what to do. Like so many others, the father and I were desperate. Over time, I had been indoctrinated by counselors, therapists, and people in 12 step groups who espouse the concept of hitting bottom. They insisted on it. Anything short of allowing an addict to hit bottom is, they said, codependent and contributing to the addiction.

But Al-Anon doesn’t advocate this approach. Al-Anon is wonderful –it helped me. It doesn’t tell us to let a child or spouse or other loved one live on the street. It doesn’t tell us to give them ultimatums or cut off contact with them. My understanding of the program is that it can help us learn to take better care of ourselves and separate helping from enabling. In those meetings, we can learn from one another’s experiences, learn about addiction, learn how it can destroy families and how we must take care of and protect ourselves, and we can support one another. As far as I understand it, though, Al-Anon doesn’t advocate forsaking our addicted children, closing the door on them, and waiting for a catastrophe that will get them into treatment–if it doesn’t kill them. In Twelve Step meetings, some addicts in recovery do say they had to be allowed to hit bottom as a prerequisite to their recovery. It’s important to remember that it may have worked for them. However, it doesn’t for many. ANd it’s dangerous to assume that it will.

Over and over, in program after program, we’re told that we must kick our loved ones out and isolate them in order to get them into treatment, that they must hit bottom and drag themselves into treatment if ever they’ll fully embrace recovery. This warped and dangerous definition of tough love is killing people. Maybe instead of trusting the counselors and others who espouse hitting bottom, we should trust our instincts: Of course we must help a loved one who’s ill get into treatment. We must do everything we can. People say that addicts must want to go into treatment in order for them to stop using. It’s not true; research confirms that whatever brings a person into treatment, he or she has the same likelihood of getting and staying sober.

This doesn’t mean that we don’t set boundaries — we must protect ourselves and other family members. There are many circumstances in which it’s harmful and potentially dangerous to have a using addict living at home. It can be traumatic for parents and siblings. And we don’t want a child in their bedroom using drugs. But nor do we want a child on the streets. We want them safe. On the streets, their drug use will probably continue and it may escalate before they hit bottom. They may never hit bottom. The consequences can be catastrophic.”

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