2 Things That Will Get You Drunk

I’ve had the privilege of working with tons of recovering addicts over the past 5 years. Lots of them are doing well today, some of them are still trying to figure it out, and many of them never made it past the first few months.

Why? Well, there are lots of contributing factors, but in my experience there are a couple glaringly obvious things that will get you drunk faster than you can say Cooter Brown.

Check them out…

1. Relationships

There’s an unwritten rule of recovery that says you’re NOT allowed to be in relationships within the first year. I swear, if people would just follow this one rule, the relapse rate would be cut in half in a matter of months. But most addicts refuse to follow this. They are stubborn and don’t like to be told what to do. Real big surprise, huh?

The reason why this is stressed so strongly in most treatment facilities and certainly in the HIA Mentoring Homes, is because addicts early on are just not ready emotionally to be in a relationship. For the first time in years, they are just beginning to feel their own feelings, which means they are in NO position to take on someone else’s.

On top of that, relationships takes energy. Energy we early addicts don’t have. For the first year of our recovery, our full energy should be focused on working OUR program and growing our connection spiritually.

As hard as this is for some of you to hear, early sobriety should be a very self-centered program. There will come a time to focus on others, a time to make amends and start working on finding healthy relationships. But the first year of your sobriety is not that time. This is the time to just focus on you.

Keep your eyes on the prizes, your hands off other people, and you’ve got a good chance at this…

2. Pride

Pride = Relapse

every. single. time.

If you have a big dose of pride, you probably have a very small amount of surrender. I would even go as far as saying the opposite of recovery is not relapse, but pride. Because true recovery starts and ends with humility. Every basic tenant of recovery requires a large dose of humility to accomplish. If you lack humility, then you have no shot.

Pride will keep you from going to sober living.

Pride will keep you from going to meetings.

Pride will keep you from sharing in meetings.

Pride will tell you it’s ok to have a girlfriend or boyfriend.

Pride will tell you that no higher power can ever change you.

Pride will convince you that you don’t need a sponsor.

Pride will whisper in your ear that no one ever needs to know your secrets.

Pride will tell you that however many days you have accumulated, you’ve done it on your own.

Pride is a killer.

If you want to stay clean, start by staying humble.

There is one relationship you can have in early sobriety and it will also help you take care of that pride issue. That relationship is with God. What I hope you find in that relationship is a friend that will stick by your side forever. Someone who will listen to you, love you, and fight for you while you try to change your life.

I use this prayer every morning to help remind me that I need God and that I am not him.

God, I offer myself to Thee. To build with me and to do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help of Thy Power, Thy Love, and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always! Amen

In summary, stay away from relationships and stay close to God. You do those 2 things, good chance that bottle never hits your lips.

I Almost Relapsed on the 4th of July

“I Will Not Use, No Matter What!”

I wrote that phrase in my lecture notebook during my stay at Rob’s Ranch, and I still remember the exact moment I wrote it. A feeling of strength came over me as I made a personal mandate that I was done with my old way of living.

This statement became my mandate and it has pulled me out of many traps the past few years; but one such occasion stands out.

Like an idiot, I took off by myself (not something I would suggest early in recovery) on a camping trip to Roman Nose State Park near Yukon, Oklahoma. I was looking forward to this trip—just me and Mother Nature for an entire week. I was convinced I would spend the time sitting outside my RV, writing, reading books, and enjoying the scenery, undisturbed for days.

It was gonna be good, the only problem was I forgot what weekend it was. I was so focused on packing the right stuff, getting out there, and getting set up that I totally forgot the date.

It was 4th of July weekend . The year, 2012.

Now, I am not a complete idiot. I had realized it was a holiday week, I just didn’t realize everyone would stay at the state park the entire weekend! Next thing I knew, I was surrounded by thirty other RVs full of people partying and partying hard.

So there I was, all alone, stuck in between what sounded like some pretty quality parties. I had no accountability (first mistake) and nowhere I needed to be for days. I have to admit I had some pretty troubling thoughts that first night. But each time my mind wandered into a thought like No one will ever know or You can have a few beers, what’s it gonna hurt? something would click inside my head and I would immediately begin to speak my mandate quietly to myself.

That weekend, saying “I Will Not Use, No Matter What!” as my mandate statement became a habit that has stuck with me every day since. I made it through that camping trip and came home stronger than ever in my sobriety. While I should never have put myself in that situation in the first place, I view that time as a turning point in my recovery. It was one of the most tempting times I had experienced, and I came out of it victorious.

I knew I could do it.

So what is your mandate? Have you ever sat down and thought about it? Do you have a statement you live by, something that drives you forward or keeps you on track? Use whatever analogy you would like for your mandate.

Call it your rudder, your barometer, your compass, your GPS—whatever you want. Just get one that means something to you and convicts your heart to act. That is the most important facet of a moving mandate. It must have a passion behind it that will stir you to action.

Keys to a good mandate statement:

  • Keep It Short. A mandate statement should be between five and ten words max; a phrase you can memorize within a few minutes. You want it to be something your brain will immediately turn to at a moment’s notice in the heat of battle.
  • Keep It Specific. Make your personal mandate attributable to your life experience, addiction, or struggle. It should be a command that will instantly speak to you while pointing to your future.
  • Keep It Singular. A mandate should have meaning behind it that draws you to a certain time in your life or particular emotion you’ve experienced, acting as a verbal reminder of who you once were and what would happen if you made the wrong choice. It should be uniquely singular to you.

If you have a mandate statement let us know by leaving it in the comments section. If not, write one up now.  I’d love to know what drives you to stay clean, make the right choices, or just stay on track every day.

This is an excerpt from my first book, Hope is Alive. It’s part autobiographical and part practical advice on how to stay sober in the modern world. You can pick it up here.

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.

Parents, It’s Not Your Fault

Let’s take a moment to take a moment to talk about a famous scene in the film Good Will Hunting (no, not the one where Matt Damon slaps the phone number on the window of the bar and asks, “How you like them apples?”). It’s a scene that takes place toward the end of the film (spoiler alert), after the troubled genius character of Will (played by Matt Damon) has spent a good bulk of the film’s runtime reluctantly submitting to therapy sessions with Sean (played by Robin Williams, who won an Academy Award for his performance in the role).

Throughout the film, Will resents the time he has to spend with Sean, but as is the way in these types of stories, eventually the two form a sort of bond and each of them begins to see a breakthrough in their own stories.

The scene in question contains a riveting revelation: both Will and Sean were victims of child abuse. As the emotions pass over Will’s eyes, Sean looks deeply into him and tells him, “It’s not your fault.”

And then he says it again. “It’s not your fault.”

And again. “It’s not your fault.”

Over and over and over, Sean tells Will the truth. Hammering it home through sheer repetition, each utterance another blow against Will’s defenses and the self-defeating lies he’s been telling himself.

Eventually, Sean has said it enough that Will begins to believe it, and he’s left an honest, vulnerable man, aching tears billowing up and temporarily alleviating the pain he’s kept down for so many years.

“It’s not your fault” is a mind-blowingly liberating sentence, but it can be so incredibly hard to believe.

Nevertheless, that doesn’t make it any less true for you today.

You might have a loved one who is an addict.

But you are not the one who made them that way.

What Happened

There are about as many reasons people get addicted to a mind-altering substance like drugs or alcohol, as there are people. No one’s story is exactly the same, which is why I feel comfortable saying that there’s not a person in the world who is immune to the disease of addiction.

Yes, some people are more prone to it (alcoholism has been shown to be hereditary), but everyone, given the “right” circumstances, could wind up veering into addictive territory.

Addiction doesn’t care about anyone’s family history or upbringing; it doesn’t care about anyone’s economic status or genetic makeup; it doesn’t care about anyone’s race, creed, or color. Addiction is no discriminator and will go after anyone and everyone.

That’s why I can say it’s not your fault.

There’s a quote they use in Al-Anon, which is, to quote their literature, a “worldwide fellowship that offers a program of recovery for the families and friends of alcoholics,” and it’s a quote I love:

When it comes to addiction in your loved one, “you didn’t cause it, you can’t control it, and you can’t cure it!”

Isn’t that liberating? Read it again and let it sink in.

The person who is in active addiction is partially there because they are lying to themselves, and one of the big lies they’ll tell to themselves is that their situation—when they even look around and have a glimmer of awareness that it’s not a good one—is not their fault.

No. They want to believe that someone—anyone other than them—is to blame for the bad choices that have led them down this path.

Maybe they’re trying to pin that blame on you. My advice: don’t let them. They want to make you think you’re at fault, and if you let that start to take root within your heart, the guilt can grow to debilitating degrees.

That’s why you have to reject it.

They’re the ones who are making the choices they make. Perhaps they made those choices out of a reaction to a terrible tragedy, or to a hurt or wound they sustained. While that’s somewhat understandable, it does not make it excusable.

People are victims of tragedies every day; not everyone turns toward addiction to handle them.

That’s why I can say with absolute certainty: it’s not your fault.

As much as I would have liked to blame my parents for my problems, at the end of the day I was the one shoveling pills down my throat.

Did I struggle come to terms with the way they chose to handle a few situations? Yes, of course—what kid doesn’t? But as I chose to accept them for who they were, I also began to accept my role in the play as well.

I was the chief problem, the main issue; I had something innately different about me, and until I dealt with that, I could never find sobriety.

Acceptance was and will always be the key to moving past all my problems.

Because it’s not your fault. It was mine.

—–

This is an excerpt from my new book Finding Hope, to read more of this chapter and others, click here to pick it up.

New Book Announcement!

I’m so excited to make this BIG announcement! It’s been a long time coming, but today is finally the day! It’s with great anticipation that I announce today that my new book, “Finding Hope, A Field Guide for Families Affected by Addiction” is set to release on August 14th!

For over a year now God has been stirring up inside of me a compassion for families. A longing to help loved ones of addicts understand three things:

YOU are not alone

 It’s not YOUR fault

There is HOPE!

Families of addicts and their plight has been a heavy burden on my heart for years now and I am really pumped to share with you this powerful message.

But the new book is not the most exciting news of the day. What’s really special about todays’ announcement is the co-authors of my next book, my parents, Dr. Wendell and Pam Lang. I’m so thrilled that they have chosen to travel this journey with me and they are the perfect people to speak to what addiction can do to a family.

By my parents choosing to join me on this book I believe we have written something very special, quite revealing and extremely informative.  With that said, this book won’t give you “five steps to straightening out your kid”, but it will show you that second chances are possible and give you real ways in which you can find hope in what seems like a hopeless situation.

The book will also give people the real perspective on what it’s like to raise a child who happens to be a drug addict. It will talk about the pain, the confusion, the drama, the heartache and the fear it leaves you with. The book will give you the truth about what worked with me and what I have seen work with hundreds of other addicts I’ve worked with.

Why write this?

Over the past several months I’ve been bombarded with this glaring revelation. Loved ones of addicts feel just as lost and lonely as the addicts themselves. Loved ones want to break free, just like an addict, but they don’t know how. Loved ones long for a life of freedom, but instead succumb to a prison cell of shame. The comparisons between addicts and loved ones of addicts are endless. Ultimately the struggles are staggeringly similar.

Week after week I meet with parents and spouses who look at me and with tears in their eyes utter these words….

“We just don’t know what to do.”

It’s because of these people and the tears I’ve watched them cry that I set out to write this new book. It’s my hope that this book will help provide some answers, insight and ultimately hope to the thousands of families in our communities battling addiction issues inside their homes.

My parents and I are super excited to share more with you in the coming weeks. Including some sneak peeks at some of the chapters, some potential book covers, along with previews of the interviews I conducted in preparing to write the book. So stay tuned to this blog and my social media channels so you don’t miss anything!

To make sure you don’t miss any updates, sign up here to receive my emails. I promise not to send more than a couple a week.

Save the Date – The new book “Finding Hope” drops on August 14th!

4 Things Drug Addicts Are Not

I will never forget the first time someone asked me, “What’s wrong with you?!” I had stolen some pills, okay, a lot of pills, from someone who had just had surgery. I didn’t even think about what I was doing at the time. All I was thinking about was getting high and not getting sick. It was a means to an end for me. Basically my thought process was… (more…)


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