The Answer To All Your Problems

You may have heard thousands of times that admitting you have a problem is the first step. Well I couldn’t disagree more. Admitting the problem is nothing. You can admit to anything, especially when being pressured or confronted with the dreaded “choice” question. I can’t tell you how many stories of recovery I have heard that have started with this line: “Well, I was given a choice…” Typically that’s followed by “…to go live on the streets, homeless with no support or to ‘admit’ I had a problem and agree to check into treatment.

While lives can be changed in this situation, the admission of the inherent problem is not a step in the actual “recovery” process—it’s just a public acknowledgement of what the rest of the world has witnessed for years.

The first step, the most important step, and yes, the most difficult step for most people, is initial acceptance of the problem and continual acceptance every day from that point forward. The difference may sound subtle to you, but it’s not.

Think about it. Admitting you have a problem can easily be lip service, done to appease family, the justice system, a boss, or a spouse who’s had enough. But true daily acceptance of your addiction, your problem, your life harming habit, requires you to get up each morning and choose to surrender. As one of my other counselors in treatment would say: choose to live in the solution, not the problem.

“Why is this so important?” you may be thinking. Well because for many people—even after experiencing time in a treatment center or working through the steps with a great sponsor or finding recovery from codependency—have a mind with a strong propensity to work against us. It fills us with scary thoughts like these:

  • I made it. I stayed clean longer than I ever thought I would.
  • What’s a couple of beers gonna hurt?
  • I can hang out with those people; I’m strong enough now.
  • No more drug tests, I’m in the clear now.
  • I got a job and my legal issues are over; why not see if I’m really addicted?
  • Alright, the wife trusts me again. Let’s have some fun.
  • I can smoke a little weed. It’s not gonna hurt me.
  • I was never really an alcoholic anyway.
  • I’ll give them a little money now, they seem to be doing great.
  • I’ll just call them one more time.

Some of you have already had these thoughts—and many more just like them. That is why a choice to surrender must be your first step every day. Each morning should start out with a purposeful action to live in the solution, not the problem. A mental, emotional, and yes, even a physical surrender to your addiction or plight.

By doing this each morning, you set the tone for how you will address the problems, questions, issues, successes, temptations, and triggers you will face the rest of your day.

So what results are you looking for? What type of life are you choosing to live? Are you willing to surrender? Are you willing to do whatever it takes or do you still want to fight? Are you ready to finally begin to see some progress?

As the big book says, “acceptance is the answer to all your problems today…”

For more on acceptance, addiction and surrender, check out Lance’s book Hope is Alive. Click here.

Forgiving Me

I feel like it’s been too long since I opened up and shared something personal. So here goes…

This is a letter I wrote myself 17 days into my rehab stint a few years back.

Dear Lance,

This letter is really not easy to write at this moment. The pain you inflicted on so many people still lingers. For the longest time I was confused & angry at you for continuously repeating the same mistakes over and over again. You have hurt so many people who rely on you, especially those two kids that need you the most. You let everyone down.  You put your children in horrible positions. You lied to your family. You cheated your employer and stole from your friends. Others you forced out of your life completely never allowing them to be anything but afterthoughts, deterrents to your mission off getting high. Pills took over your mind and never relented.

You don’t deserve the love and forgiveness that the majority of these individuals have given you. But I hope that you see that if those that you hurt the most can forgive you. Then you need to seriously begin to embrace the concept of forgiving yourself. 

Lance, you are controlled by a sickness that is incurable. Do you realize that? If so, trust in what you are learning here. Understand that a true acceptance of powerlessness is releasing your past, surrounding to God and forgiving yourself. You must do this every day.

So with this said, I want you to know that I forgive you for everything you did. All the illegal acts, the lies, the pain and the hurt you caused others. I release you from it all. I love you and can’t wait to see what you do next. 

Your biggest supporter,

Lance

This letter was the beginning of a long process of forgiveness. I share it not to gain any acclaim or bring about attention, but for these two reasons.

  1. To give me strength and encouragement. It’s good to see where I was and compare it to where I am today.
  2. To inspiring many of you to do the same. Forgive yourself.

You deserve to catch the feeling of freedom that comes with forgiving yourself. The release of pressure that comes with letting go of your past mistakes, your screw-ups and impulsive decisions. Don’t let the past hang around your neck forever. You are not your  mistakes. Releases those weights you’re carrying.

You can overcome whatever is holding you back right now. You are fearfully and wonderfully made. A unique person set apart to do great things. If you’ve fallen off the wagon, came up short or messed up again. It’s ok. We all do it. Start your journey back to being all you desire to be by forgiving yourself today.

-Write yourself a letter

-Write a note to yourself in your phone

-Take one minute, look in the mirror and say….. I forgive you.

There is freedom on the other side of forgiveness…

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Who’s the Imposter?

From time to time, we ALL push for those around us to view us in a more favorable light. We portray one person at home, one person at work, one person at church and yet another on Facebook or Twitter. So, who are we really? Which person that we portray is our true self? Which one is the imposter?  And ultimately who do we really want to be?

I love documentaries (most opiate addicts do) and recently I watched a great one. It’s called “The Imposter” and it chronicles the story of a young man from Spain who claims to a grieving Texas family that he is their 16-year-old son who has been missing for 3 years. This young man fools the family and the country for a period of time. It’s crazy! But it worked, for a bit. He looked and sounded just like the missing boy, yet he wasn’t. He was a fake, a con, a fraud.

Addicts and alcoholics do this all the time. We take on the persona of someone we are not in order to get something want. The young man in this documentary was no different. He desperately needed attention and was willing to do whatever it took to get it.

What parents and spouses of addicts must realize is that while those you love are using and drinking, they are playing the role of the imposter. They are not themselves. They are not the little boy or little girl you raised. They are not the person you married. They are an imposter. 

As the movie depicts, sometimes imposters are hard to identify. This is especially difficult with addicts. Why? Because as an addict our job 100% of the time is to get YOU to believe the lie that we are living. That’s our focus, motivation and drive. Because if we can get you to believe that we are still the person you loved or raised, then you will give us what we want. 

The following six I’s are taken from a recovery based lecture called “the Big I” and will help YOU see through the imposter that has taken over your loved one. These six defensive mechanisms are used by addicts and alcoholics to hide their true identity, to protect themselves and to boost their self-worth. What actually ends up happening is that the defenses cover up a lack of self-worth.

In short, what we think will help us, hurts us. What we think is protecting us, is rendering us vulnerable for attack.

Are you using one of the following defenses as a shield to keep everyone out? To enable you to continue to live as someone you are not?

1. Immaturity – We deal with problems by pouting complaining, throwing temper tantrums

2. Inferior – we act like a macho man/woman. We use external efforts to prove we are superior

3. Inadequacy – We have a fear of being less than, so we reject other people’s ideas. An all or nothing attitude that we must be the best

4. Insecurity – We feel anxious, unsafe. We think no one cares or understands. We need constant reassurance that we are important

5. Impulsivity – We don’t think, we just rush into everything. I want what I want, when I want it… is our motto. We desire our needs to be met now.

6. Insensitivity – We appear to not care for others. We do as we please rebelling against parents, school, the law, our boss or our spouse. Our feelings get hurt very easily.

Do any of these fit your loved one? I am sure they do. Hopefully they will you to spot the imposter.

 

The Unfair Advantage of Your Story

I have something that no one else does. And so do you, it’s called my story. It’s perfectly mine and specifically purposed to help others. But so is yours! Because, as unique as each of us are, our struggles are oftentimes universally experienced. What I’ve gone through, so have others. What you are experiencing, so are others.

You have a story to tell. Don’t sit on it, and don’t let it go to waste. No matter where your story is today, someone needs to hear it. You may have emerged with a third-act victory that would inspire even the darkest soul, or you may currently be mired in a terrifying, second-act cliffhanger, dangling by the strength of your fingertips, and wondering whether you’ll be able to find firm footing again.

However far your story has progressed, you have what someone else needs to hear.

When you can begin to see your situation—no matter what it looks like—as a blessing, then you can use it to change the world.

Real people, who have gone through real issues of pain and suffering, have what Mike Foster, the founder of People of the Second Chance, calls “the Unfair Advantage”. You have lived through a tragedy, stood on death’s doorstep, and now you have an unfair advantage, because you have found something the whole world needs.

Hope.

Hope is what sets you free to live again. It’s the medicine the hurting mom aches for when searching for her addicted daughter and the peace that calms the anxiety ridden nerves of a father who doesn’t know where his son is. Hope changes the game for the depressed, it lets the financially strapped breath deep again and gives husbands and wives the courage to say “let’s give this another shot”. Hope is the oxygen that feeds our emotions and the fuel that drives our passionate daily pursuits. With hope, anything is possible, without it, we’re dead.

Using your story to give hope to others is a double-edged sword. It gives you both HOPE. They receive the blessing of knowing they are not alone and you receive the gratitude that what you’ve gone through God can use for good.

You’re HOPE is so powerful.

We were created to give hope to the rest of the world. And it’s my challenge to you today to do just that. Give your HOPE away. Our experiences give us the unfair advantage of HOPE and someone that you will see today needs that precious gift.

 

Your story, which is always being written, is a deadly tool that can be used to shut down the enemy’s fiercest attacks. Our brothers and sisters desperately need to see you standing up boldly and sharing your story, however “crazy” it may be, so that they can see that hope does exist and it’s still alive!

 

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3 Signs Parents of Addicts Should Look For

When it comes to relapse, there’s a huge difference between someone who is early in their sobriety and those who have a few weeks, months, or years under their belt. No one is immune to relapse—“one day at a time,” and all that—but just like a newborn baby stands a greater chance of catching a cold than a healthy teenager does, those who are new to sobriety do run a more significant risk of relapsing.

When you’re learning to live sober, each day is a grind, and presents huge obstacles to overcome in order to stay clean. The smallest of disagreements, comments, or change in the weather can send someone spinning directly back to their old ways.

So you may be wondering: is there any way you can spot a potential for relapse before it actually hits? As it so happens, yes! As I’ve worked with different addicts over the years, I’ve come to notice three major signs that a person in early sobriety is headed down the road to a destination they want to avoid. 

They Start Thinking They’re Really Special

Let me say this: everyone is special in God’s eyes. You are. Your addicted loved one is. I really hope you hear me on this so that no one gets me wrong or gets their feelings hurt. We are all beautiful, unique creations, purposefully created to do what only each of us can do.

But when it comes to the addict’s recovery, they need to hear me loud and clear: “YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL!”

Those who are early into sobriety simply cannot go out and do their own thing and expect it to work. There is a reason why they ended up where they did: because their way didn’t work! They need to get used to doing things the new way; a way that countless others have discovered.

See, there is a solution to the problems that those who are recovering from addiction encounter, and that solution has worked for millions and millions of other people. It leads to a life filled with purpose, passion, and joy! It’s a great life, but no one will get there by thinking they are immune to the rules, or that they can find their own way there.

Addicts: you cannot drag your old life into this new one; it has to stay behind where you left it so you can follow what has worked for others.

They Get In A Relationship

You know what the number one cause for relapse is? Romantic relationships. It’s the biggest issue among people early in recovery. Why? Because newly sober addicts are not emotionally stable enough to handle the rigors of relationships.

Good, healthy, long-lasting relationships take a lot of work, and for the early seasons of your sobriety your focus needs to be on you, not anyone else. That is why I fully subscribe to this tried and true recovery suggestion: No romantic relationships with anyone for the first full year of your sobriety.

Now, most of the people I work with don’t like this rule, but here’s what I’ve come to find out. The men and women who really want to stay clean will do what’s proven to work for other people, while the people who really don’t want it will think they’re special (see the previous sign, in case you’ve forgotten about it during the last few paragraphs) and go jump in a relationship.

Look, relationships are emotionally demanding and require a ton of hard work—and that’s when you’re sober! Addicts shouldn’t complicate their early sobriety by trying to cruise for their future spouse at an AA meeting. It just won’t work and is an extremely bad idea.

They Refuse To Tell Anyone They’re Sober

This is almost a guarantee for relapse: make sure no one knows they’re trying to stay sober.

Now, it’s not up to you to prod your loved one into telling their story of addiction and sobriety, or who they should tell that story to, but it’s a great idea to be aware of how forward they are being with their struggle. If they’re hiding it from everyone, not telling anyone at work or at church or at small group, then they’re pointing in the wrong direction.

I know that can sound a little harsh, but it just wears me out to watch people struggle with relapse time and time again only to find out no one even knew they were trying to stay clean in the first place! I tell guys and gals all the time: you don’t have to tell the whole world you’re clean like I did, but the more people an addict can tell about the new life they’re reclaiming for themselves, the more accountability they’ll have when it gets rough.

If no one knows, no one can help.

Historically, sobriety has been an anonymous journey. And trust me, I understand why it started that way. But in today’s society, I think that can be counterproductive and only ends up limiting the social protection for an addict—and for the family of an addict. Because you are not immune to the trials and tribulations of recovery, either. This is going to take a toll on you and all the other people who are in the same familial orbit as your loved one.

So just know: in the end, the more people who know what you’re going through, the more people can help you when you have to go through a rough patch.

For more on relapse behaviour and what to look our for with your child, spouse or friend, pick up my new book: Finding Hope.

4 Most Common Areas of Relapse

I know relapse can be a dreaded word, and it carries with it a lot of negative connotations, so let’s settle on a definition before we move any further. I believe relapse is defined as: “When, after a period of abstinence, a person re-engages in an activity that is painful to themselves or to others.”

Relapse, backsliding, setbacks, regression, falling off the wagon… it doesn’t matter what you call it or specifically what you are speaking to. The point is, none of us is perfect and we all have moments of relapse in our thinking, speaking, or even in our actions. The important thing to focus on is how you got about recognizing what you are doing and correcting your behavior so as to hopefully stop yourself from ever “taking that drink”, “binging”, “visiting that website” or doing whatever it is you’re trying not to do.

Contrary to popular opinion, relapse does not start when a person decides to start using again. It’s a long process of slowly migrating back into old behaviors, practices, or attitudes. Relapse really begins…

The moment they start to avoid accountability.

The times they skip out on your meetings because you’re “tired.”

The days they flip the channel to the free preview of the HBO show they know they shouldn’t watch.

The nights they ignore their sponsor’s phone calls.

The weekends they bail on the service work they used to be so committed to.

The moments they slip into negative thinking.

The stretches of time between their step work.

The days they fail to hit their knees in prayer.

The instants where they bury their secrets so they never see the light of day.

Relapse is a dynamic period of time. Its beginnings are eerily camouflaged, and its conclusions are oftentimes, public tragedies. Relapse can sneak up on people in their weakest moments, and lure them into poor patterns which lead to poor choices, which leads to pours, lines, clicks, and more.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. The more addicts know about themselves, the better chance they have of catching themselves in the act of relapse behavior before they fall into the act of relapse itself.

Below are the four most common areas of relapse.

Run through these list of potential relapse questions and pay attention to your responses. 

Area 1: Relationships

Check your relationship with God. Are you purposefully seeking a relationship with God every day? Are you harboring resentments against God? Do you find yourself angry at God?

How much do you love yourself today? This will always be evident in your self-care. Are you resting? Are you exercising? Are you taking time for you? Are you forgiving yourself when you make mistakes?

When we are using and abusing drugs and other substances, on average, we hurt 21 other people. Are you hurting others again? Are you mindful when you hurt someone else? Are you making amends?

 Area 2: Honesty

Are you being completely honest with God, yourself and others?

Have you failed to tell the full truth recently?

Is there someone you need to be honest with?

Do you have secrets?

 Area 3: Delusions & Denial

Are you beginning to negotiate with yourself in order to do things you haven’t been doing or know you shouldn’t?

Are you criticizing others?

Are you thinking poorly about others? Being judgmental?

 Area 4: Letting up on Daily Disciplines

Are you justifying missing meetings, daily readings, church or family events?

Are you procrastinating on step work or calling your sponsor?

Are you avoiding accountability?

If the addict in your life could nod “Yes” more often than “No,” then watch out: they’re in the Kenny Loggins Danger Zone.

That doesn’t mean it’s the end of the world and the definitive close to your loved one’s sobriety, but they definitely need to check their program, check their behavior, and talk to someone who cares about them (you, perhaps!). We are all just two choices away from relapsing, but staying true to ourselves and honest with others keeps us in where we need to be.

In the end, relapse is not some huge choice we make to drink, drug, or watch porn. It’s the hundred small daily choices to do the wrong things over a period time, which leads to that one huge choice. But the great news is that relapse can be avoided the same way that sobriety can be found: by making the daily choice to do the next right thing in every situation.

For more on relapse and how to read the signs, pick up my new book: Finding Hope.

New Year, New YOU

Last week, I challenged loved-ones of addicts to find a support group.  Well near the end of a recent support group class I was hosting, we went around the room and recapped what everyone learned and some of the best takeaways. Here are a few quotes from the parents, spouses, and other loved ones who attended.

“I wish we had this class and learned all of this years ago.”

“The boys and all they had to say—I learned so much from them.”

“Tough love and setting boundaries are really important.”

 “Letting go is necessary.”

“Loved knowing about the ‘new language’ you need to learn to speak; I feel like pounds have been lifted off my shoulders.”

But on top of all these thoughts and feelings, the one thing we heard over and over, the thing that trumped all the good stuff and shone a light of hope on all the hard stuff, was a three-word phrase that almost everyone spoke:

“I’m not alone.”

I believe, to the depths of my heart, that the best medicine for families living with addiction, is that empowering, life-giving knowledge that you are not alone.

I’m going to say that again, because I want to make absolutely certain you can latch on to this truth and lodge it in the innermost part of your soul—that’s how important it is:

You. Are. Not. Alone.

In case you don’t know already, this is the guiding principle of small groups. The Bible is our best teacher of the value of the community, and the New Testament church showed us how to share not only in our blessings, but in our struggles as well. And when we can become united in our pain, but still under the banner of love, we can begin to find hope.

We find hope when we can sit among others who have the same struggles and victories as we do, and vulnerably share about what we are facing in our lives. We exhale deeply, shaking internally as we speak of the terror, the fear, the embarrassment, the confusion, and the doubt we feel…and then weep with strength as we watch as dozens of heads nod in agreement and tears fall in unison.

Then and only then can we grasp this majestic feeling of HOPE. Together we are

Holding On Praying Expectantly

So how do you find hope? You find help.

Help from God.

Help from others.

And yes, help through yourself.

This can be one of the most difficult lessons for a family member, or spouse, or parent of an addict, but it’s a hard truth: it is more important for you to focus on yourself than it is on the addict you love. Their health and long-term potential of finding the life-giving gift of sobriety rests on their ability to get healthy, but it also rests just as much on you getting healthy as well.

If I’ve seen it once, I’ve seen it a hundred times. The addict goes to treatment, gets out and relapses. They fall further, cause more pain and then go back to treatment, get out and relapse again! This process is then repeated time after time after time. Except near the end something changes. The parents or spouse finally begin to understand the role they play in this diabolical drama, and they start getting help for themselves. They find a Celebrate Recovery meeting to attend, an Al-Anon group to be apart of, and as they begin to find health, miraculously, the addict begins to find a solid foundation of sobriety.

It’s hard to believe, but trust me this is true. An addict’s recovery is often time pursuant to the family finding recovery. Or better said, your addict finds HOPE, when you FIND HOPE!

So getting help for yourself must be a priority. In fact, I believe you should deem your health more important then the health of your addict.

I know that can seem counterintuitive, but it’s just the plain truth. And it’s okay to think that way! A lot of times people—especially people of faith—feel prideful or selfish when they prioritize their own physical, emotional, or spiritual health over others. But this is a fallacy! Jesus gave an explicit command to “love your neighbor as yourself,” but within that command is an implicit assumption: that you love yourself. You can only love your neighbor, your child, your spouse, or your other family members as well as you love yourself. And that means you must take care of you.

So it’s a new year and it’s time to be a new you. Take the step to find a solid support group right now.

You can register for my classes here.

You can learn more about Parents Helping Parents here.

You can find a list of al-anon meetings in your community here.

Lastly, if you love someone with an addiction I would strongly encourage you to pick up a book my parents and I wrote last year called Finding Hope. It’s full of useful tips, tools, resource and most importantly HOPE! Buy it here.

Break Out of the Shells

I don’t know how the phrase “walking on eggshells” came about. I don’t know what it means, exactly, or what historical thing it’s referencing. What I do know is this: I hear it a lot, especially from moms and dads, spouses, siblings, and other friends and family members of addicts.

I will meet with an addict’s loved ones during the early stages of recovery, and inevitably one of them will say, “I just feel like I have to walk on eggshells around them.” What they mean—and what you’ve probably meant if you’ve said the same thing—is that you’re worried. You are living with the constant fear that anything you say or do could be taken the wrong way, and then they’ll be out the door and headed for relapse.

It makes sense. After all, they weren’t the most emotionally stable, rational person while they were using! They’ve trained you not to believe in their behavior, and they’ve trained you really well.

So what can you do?

First of all, realize that their sobriety is their responsibility, not yours.

One of the things they’re learning is to take ownership of their decisions, which is something they hadn’t done in the past (and why they were so irrational and moody). It’s new to them, so it’s going to be a little jarring and, just like a toddler does more falling down than walking at first, it’s going to take them awhile to get used to it.

That’s okay! You still can be kind and caring without littering your life with eggshells.

The other thing you definitely need in your life is a positive support group around you. You need to connect with other people who either have gone or who are going through the same ordeal as you, and who can provide encouragement to you through this time. And an extra bonus feature: you get to support them, too! It’s a win-win!

Just like addicts need other addicts to lean on and to say, “I understand; I’ve been there,” you too need other family members, spouses, siblings, or parents to say the same thing. You won’t believe the tremendous emotional and physical benefits you’ll get from regular interactions with other family members like yourself. I cannot encourage you enough to find a program and stick with it. Don’t let anything stop you from doing this. Not pride, or fear, or telling yourself you don’t really need it. None of that.

You need a support group. Join one! And there’s no better time then right now! It’s the start of a new year, filled with NEW promises and NEW hopes. So today, make a resolution to find a support group and get plugged in!

If you live in the OKC area I would personally like to invite you to join the parents/spouse support groups I host called “Finding Hope”.  In fact, we have a group meeting tonight and you can come as my guest!

Click here to see the times & locations of the Finding Hope classes in OKC.

Hope is Alive!

A New Year’s Resolution YOU Can Be Proud Of

With the start of the New Year upon us, people are once again looking to improve themselves and accomplish new goals. Half of all Americans set a New Year’s resolution, which is admirable, but research shows that a full 88% of those resolutions fail!

So this year instead of setting out to make some drastic change in your life, why not instead focus on making a consistent change in someone else’s?

What do I mean you might ask? Well by signing up to support Hope is Alive Ministries with a reoccurring monthly donation, you can accomplish a worthwhile resolution and see amazing fruits of your generous gift all year long! You may not hit that goal of volunteering or achieving the beachbody you long for, but you can support a worthwhile cause that is changing lives!

You can make a HUGE difference and isn’t that what a New Year’s Resolution is all about? Changing for the better?

Hey, I understand how difficult it is to stay focused on a big New Year’s Resolution, we’re only human, and as the Buffer Blog points out, there are actually biological reasons why we often stumble when we set such a high bar for ourselves. The nice thing about giving monthly to HIA through our online tool is it’s an easy goal to accomplish. All you have to do is complete a simple donation form and you’ll be all setup to achieve your resolution.

No, it’s not quite spiritual enlightenment or lasting inner peace, but it’s a start. When you make a commitment to give a recurring monthly gift you will accomplish something that (1) creates good in the world, and that (2) you will be reminded of throughout the entire year. That’s not too shabby.

You might say, well my budget is pretty tight as it is. Well no gift is too small. And I mean that. Check out what these monthly gifts enable us to do:

$5 a month = Provides a Resume Building Class for 1 Recovering Addict.

$10 a month = Gives 1 Recovering Addict a Free Counseling Session.

$25 a month = Puts 1 Recovering Addict through our Life Skills Class.

This is the change you could be making in someone’s life every month! Now that’s a resolution you could be proud of.

To sign up to support Hope is Alive Ministries click here: I Want To Join The Hope Squad!

The Best Thing My Mom Ever Did

My good friend Floyd works down at Rob’s Ranch, a treatment center in Central Oklahoma for men struggling with chemical dependency. He’s the health and nutrition supervisor, and makes a point to spend time with many of the families each weekend as they arrive for visitation. In conversations around the dining room table, I’ve heard him tell parents this about hundred times…

“The best thing my mom ever did for me was leave me in jail.”

It’s always fun to see the responses, especially those who have loved ones caught up in the grips of addiction. If you’re like that, you’ve probably wondered if you should have followed Floyd’s mom’s lead and done the same thing a time or two.

  • Leave them in jail
  • Leave them on the street
  • Don’t give them any more money
  • Take away their car
  • Turn their phone off
  • Change your locks

What Ms. Carter did, saved her son’s life. But it wasn’t an easy decision. Allowing kids to reap the consequences of their choices never is.

But it’s often the best thing you can do.

A few years ago, my then-eleven-year-old son asked me, with tears in his eyes, if he could quit football. He wasn’t seeing any playing time, and some of the kids had been giving him a hard time.

“Please, Dad!” he pleaded, standing on that field after a just-finished practice, and staring me right in the eyes. “Let me quit!”

In that moment, I wanted to ease my son’s pain, to let him off the hook, and give him a quick way to find relief. It seemed like the right decision; after all, he was hurting.

Letting him quit would’ve been the convenient decision. But it was not the RIGHT decision.

Yes, I could have let him walk off the field that night and instantly relieved the hurt and embarrassment he was feeling, but it would’ve only done so temporarily. Instead, all I would have done was bailed him out, set him up to be a quitter the rest of his life, or, worse yet, potentially crippled his ability to work through pain.

I’m so glad I didn’t. Instead, I had a talk with him about pushing through difficult things, the power of perseverance, and all the ways he could grow if he just stuck with it for a little while longer.

He went back to practice the next day, and though not a lot changed for him in terms of the game of football, the character in his heart grew stronger, even if he didn’t realize it.

Bailing our kids out is a natural reaction, and just to be clear: sometimes it makes sense. There are times when we do, as parents, need to rescue or advocate for our kids.

But I would say that, more often than not, we probably don’t need to slap the training wheels back on our kids’ lives.

It’s tempting, though, because our brains and hearts justify that as love. We feel like the savior, the hero…. “Daddy or Mommy to the rescue!”

But what are we really saving them from?

Are we saving them from pain? Poisonous relationships? Prison time? Or are we just keeping them from learning vitally important life lessons—the types of lessons that will help them arrive at that crucial place where reality sets in, and help begins to make sense.

You see, each time we step in and take away the pleasure of earned consequences, we take one step closer to enabling, and they take one step closer to addiction.

The weight of enabling grows heavier and heavier as our kids turn to adults. And when you begin to enable your children, you begin to walk a fine line that typically doesn’t end well.

I speak with families every week who look me in the eyes and say, “I know I’ve enabled him; I know we bailed him out one too many times.” Each time I hear this, it scares me to my core.

Why?

Because this is a recipe for years of pain, guilt, and possibly an early death.

I get it—no one wants to watch their kids suffer. But if you are faced with a situation, as Ms. Carter was, when time and time again your child has made destructive choices while consistently looking to you to bail them out, I urge you to follow her lead.

Will that be easy? I’ve never had to go through it personally, but I can imagine it’s one of the most difficult choices a parent might have to make. I know for a fact that Ms. Carter hated to see Floyd suffer, but look what happened: that suffering was temporary, and now on the other side of it there stands a man of character, endurance, and hope; a man who can testify that he came through the suffering and it turned out okay.

Sometimes the best thing a parent can do is to let go and let God do what he needs to do.

For more on enabling, setting boundaries and learning how to live with addict in your family, pick up my new book: Finding Hope.


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