When we don’t hold an addict accountable for their unhealthy behaviours, we prepare them for a world that doesn’t exist. They begin to believe that they can act in whatever ways they choose and get away with that. It can be a huge shock when they are held accountable by the societal systems that are in place – for example, being fired, arrested or incarcerated. We can actually love the addicts in our lives by setting – and maintaining – appropriate, respectful boundaries, so they can see that their negative behaviours need to change.
Last week, I went to see my doctor about something minor. I’ve been very fortunate to have had the same GP for the past 30 years. We first started together in the very early days of my recovery from addiction, so he has seen me grow from being emotionally despondent and very physically ill (Crohn’s Disease)—as I tried to stay away from the various prescription medications and pot I’d been using for years—into the very different person I am today. As I sometimes tell my clients, you wouldn’t have wanted to know me back then, and I remember it as if it were yesterday. I believe that is my Step One, and keeping that time in my memory definitely helps keep me clean and sober today.
My wonderful, compassionate, encouraging doctor now refers clients to me, which I see as a great honour. He knows the work I do with families that are struggling with addiction, and supports me to be the best I can be holistically. As we were talking about addiction and recovery last week, he used the word “ennobling.” I wasn’t even sure at the time if that was a real word—but what I did instantly know was that, real word or not, I was going to steal it and incorporate it into my work.
Because, for me, the very idea of ennobling would be the antithesis of enabling—and until we choose to stop enabling addiction, it will just continue.
So what exactly is ennobling, and how can we use it to obliterate addiction?
In its simplest definition, ennobling means to elevate something or someone, to make something better. Enabling, of course, simply makes things worse—especially an addiction of any kind. [Read more…]
The Journey of Recovery for a Loved One
As anyone who loves an addict knows, the journey along the way can be quite arduous. There are many trials and tribulations that we never see coming. Try as we might, there are times when it feels like things will never get better; in fact, until some type of therapeutic intervention is invited in, these situations generally just get worse and worse over time, and loved ones are left picking up the pieces as best they can.
The damage can be devastating—physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.
Many loved ones of addicts exhibit codependent, people pleasing behaviours—and as this becomes their default position, they find themselves putting their own needs on the back burner while focusing on the wreckage caused by the very addicts they are so desperately trying to please. In time, loved ones become obsessed by this situation—they think about it and talk about it incessantly, desperately trying all kinds of ways to change what is happening—generally because they feel so afraid and powerless.
They will often have trouble sleeping, experience great difficulty focusing on their work or education, and perhaps even neglect other family members such as their partners or their non-addicted children. In some cases, family and friends of people with addiction will become so overwhelmed and over-extended that they themselves become ill—sometimes with potentially life-threatening conditions such as cancer or heart conditions—and even then, they will continue to look after the addict’s needs instead of taking better care of themselves.
Are we having fun yet?
Have you been busy trying to change what you cannot change?
Are you doing your best to control what you simply can’t control?
If so, please know—you’re not alone!
It’s strange but true—a great many people all over the world are continually trying to change something that is not in the realm of things they can change. When it’s drastic enough, we see it on the news—generally as some kind of violence toward somebody else. For most of us, however, this tendency goes relatively unnoticed—except perhaps by those you’re trying to mould into the way you think you need them to be. If you’re someone who believes that others need to be different in order for you to feel better, then you’re likely feeling hurt, frustrated, confused, and resentful much of the time. You probably feel as if your life is often spiralling out of control and you don’t know what to do about it.
The Amazing Serenity Prayer
During the many years I attended 12-Step programs for my own addictive behaviours, I heard the Serenity Prayer recited over and over again, quickly and by rote, at the end of every meeting without exception. Everyone had it memorized and we’d all just sing-song our way through it. But I became curious about what this prayer was really saying—what the message behind it actually was—so I began to look at it in some detail, line by line.
I discovered some very intriguing ideas: If we don’t feel serene or calm, we are not fully practicing the amazing guidance of this short but magnificent prayer. If you are the loved one of someone with an addiction, or perhaps an addict yourself, then serenity is not something you’ll have very much of. The roller coaster ride of addiction—however it’s manifesting and affecting you—is never fun or easy. And not only will you not have much, if any, serenity in your life, it will truly become something you’re wanting very much to attain.
To gain this peaceful serenity and resolve what we can about our situations, we first must be willing to accept what we can’t change. When we look deeply enough at what those things are, we realize that this means absolutely everything outside of ourselves: the weather, the past, how fast time is going, how temptingly delicious chocolate tastes—and most especially other people, who we simply cannot change unless they let us. And, of course, when it happens that way, it’s not really a case of us changing anyone else anyway!
Next we need to look at what we actually can control. After all of my years of wishing I could exert control over the world and pretty much everything in it, I finally had to admit that the only thing any of us can control is—drum roll—ourselves. What we can control and therefore change includes our thoughts, our feelings, our choices, and our reactions. We can solve problems that WE each have, but not the problems someone else has—because those are their responsibility to solve. [Read more…]
A while ago, I was going through my newsfeed on Facebook, when I came across this proclamation:
If it doesn’t open, it’s not your door.
I thought it was one of the most brilliant pieces of wisdom I’d ever heard—so of course I immediately stole it and shared it on my own Facebook page too. And I’ve been using it—with clients, with friends, and with myself—ever since.
How many times have we all tried to manipulate situations and relationships to make them work out the way we wanted? How often have we tried to control people and things we just simply had no control over? Raise your hand if you’ve ever done this—once or maybe a hundred times over.
Sometimes if we try as hard as we can—when we are forceful enough or persistent enough—we can get the outcome we want. Or so we think… But how many of us have had the experience of getting that desired outcome, for a time, only to have it blow up in our face? Why does that happen? Because if it doesn’t open—or if it takes too much manipulation or scheming or controlling to keep it open, it’s truly not the door we’re supposed to walk through.
And at times like that, it’s best to cut our losses and focus on what is ours to do, instead of what isn’t. [Read more…]