Get OFF the Roller Coaster!

You know what I can’t do anymore? Ride roller coasters. They make me sick. I get dizzy, my head hurts and my entire day is ruined. I don’t know if it’s because I’m getting older or because my body has changed or what. But one thing is for sure, I don’t ride them anymore. I learned that I don’t like the way they make me feel or how they impact my life. So I quit.

Being in a relationship with an addict, is a lot like riding a rollercoaster. A rollercoaster of emotion, that you ride all day – every day.

They take us up and then they take us down. They take us side to side and for loops. And then just when you think the ride is over and it’s time to get off, they hit the reverse button and you do it all again, but this time backwards!

Loving an addict can be nauseating! Up and down, side to side, head over heels craziness can really suck the life right out of you.

I’m sure as many of you moms and dads read this your heads are nodding as fast as the Dwight Schrute bobblehead doll from The Office. You fully admit this is the way it is, yet for so many of us we can seem to avoid taking this ride.

We tell ourselves, we won’t do it any longer. We say NO MORE! I’m not getting back on that ride. I’m tired of being dizzy, exhausted, depressed and sick to my stomach! Yet so often we find ourselves back in line handing our ticket over to the carney and watching as he lowers the bar onto our laps and quietly whispers, “Hold on, this may hurt a little.”

Learning to stop getting on this ride is a HUGE step in the recovery process for all parents and spouses of addicts. Your ability to stop riding the emotional rollercoaster that their addiction produces is the first step towards finding your peace again. It also just may be the shove that finally pushes your addict to truly see their need to ask for help.

You see, each time you get back on that roller coaster with them. Submitting to their requests for money, buying into their grandiose stories of victimization or allowing them back into your home. You’re showing them that no matter how many loop to loops their rollercoaster has on it, you’re not getting off. You’re always gonna be there to hold the barf bag…

It’s time to get off and stay off.

It’s time to show them what a firm boundary looks like.

It’s time to start taking care of yourself and let them deal with the consequences of their actions.

I know it’s easier said than done. I get it. And if that’s the way you feel, then this week just start small. When he or she tries to pull you into their emotional craziness. Just take a deep breathe and say no.

No, I can’t help you today.

No, I can’t give you any more money.

No, I’m done bailing you out.

No, I will not let you back into my home.

No, I will not get back on this roller coaster with you.

When you stop taking your seat on their roller coaster of life, you start shutting down all the options that have supported their addiction. The longer and more effectively you can do this, the closer your addict gets to that pivotal point in their life when recovery becomes the best option.

For more help on learning how to get off the proverbial roller coaster that is loving an addict, pick up my book: Finding Hope, a Field Guide for Families Affected By Addiction.

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.

My Moment

“We do not remember days, we remember moments” – Ceasre Paverse

It was a normal morning. It started off just like almost every other morning had the previous three years.  I woke up blurry eyed, hungover, jonesing for something to take away the pain.

My legs were kicking and my stomach was aching. I took my time getting ready for the day, stopping every few minutes as my gut rejected all the previous night had forced upon it.

It was miserable, but it was normal.

With a hand full of pills in my pocket and a few more waiting for me in my top desk drawer, I headed out. A couple Red Bull pit stops later and I made it into work about 9:45.

Locked inside my office, my day began. Chopping, smashing and lining up 3 beautiful rails that would be my breakfast. A mixture of Oxy’s and Lortabs flew up my nose, at about the same time I heard a pounding on my office door!

My life changed in this moment. It was at this precise moment that everything began to change. It was April 6th, 2011. 5 years ago today. (click here to read exactly what happened)

I often ponder what God must have been thinking the days leading up to this moment. Was He excited? Was He smiling? Did He wonder what choice I would make when given the opportunity? Or did He already know? What did God think about this moment?

Of all my experiences the past 5 years, it was in this moment where everything stood in the balance.  I could go and open the knocking door, face the truth and begin to change. Or I could open the door, continue living in denial and run from reality like I had done for so long. This moment offered two distinct options. Freedom or continued bondage.

I’ve often said that what changed for me in that moment was the choice I made to finally confess. Instead of arguing over details or trying to manipulate my way out of it, I just admitted the truth that everyone else already knew. I was caught and it was time to get honest. It was my moment.

Since that moment at roughly 10AM on April 6th 2011 nothing has been the same. Life has truly been magical.

That magic moment brought so much truth into my life. I learned that confrontation breeds change. That God is not, was not and will never be, mad at me. I realized that He had a plan for my life. I began to see that my life was worth living and living to the full. I chose freedom and I’m so glad I did.

That moment changed me forever.

I believe moments like this happen every day for so many of us. I believe God provides “a way out” of pain, divorce, addiction, guilt, shame and resentment all the time. Sometimes it’s through people and sometimes it’s through circumstances. But the moments of change are always present. Freedom is always one moment away.

The question is, “What will you do with the moments God gives you today?”

Could it be that the life you’ve always wanted hangs in the balance of the choices you make in the moments God gives you today?

My life is proof that that is possible.

So make the most of the moments God gives you. Choose to embrace challenge, step into confrontation and as often as you can, confess you baggage.

Life is meant to be lived free. May you step into the moments that God gives you today and find the freedom you deserve.

Hope is Alive!

 

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.

10 Signs Your Kid Has A Problem

What makes an addict an “addict”? At what point do they cross the line? What does an unmanageable life look like? What percentage of their income do they need to start spending on their drug of choice before we call it a problem? Does it only become an addiction if they tip over into doing illegal things? What about smoking weed, is that okay because it’s legal in some states? (more…)

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!


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