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.

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.

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.

The Mother’s Prayer

If you read my last two posts, then I think you would agree that I’ve got one INCREDIBLE mom! And I bet you can now understand why I love her so much?! I’m so grateful that God has brought us both through my mess, all the way to this place where we have a great relationship based on the healing God has brought to us.

The thing is: the whole time I was using, I knew my mom was praying for me. Even though I was so inwardly focused I could barely see to the end of my own nose, I still managed to occasionally glimpse the pain and hurt I was causing my parents. I knew my mom was praying for me because I saw it in her eyes. I watched her crumble slowly with each pill I took, with each poor choice I made, with each occasion when I didn’t show up to a family gathering, or let my phone ring rather than talk to her.

When I did answer the phone, she would plead with me. She would always try to talk sense into me or quote scripture to me, but it always fell on deaf ears. I was just not in a position to hear her cries.

But God was. She prayed for me steadily through all ten years of my ordeal, forming every possible thought and shaping every sentence she could think of. She combined all kinds of words in prayer, all on the same theme: God, please save my son.

Eventually, however, my mom took a different track in her prayers, and I think it’s one to consider if you’re in the same situation she was in, loving a person who simply cannot shake their addiction. Her prayer became simple, but the slant on it was different than anything she’d prayed before:

“God, please do whatever it takes to help Lance find a relationship with you.”

And you know what? He did.

What I love about this prayer is that any mother can pray it. Or father, for that matter. Or any loved one or any person who cares about another person. Just switch out my name for theirs and you’re on your way!

“God, please do whatever it takes to help ________ find a relationship with you.”

It’s a risky prayer, though, because you have to mean it. The second you start considering the implications of that prayer, you tend to want to take it back. It’s the whatever it takes part. That thought can be pretty scary, but it’s also very necessary. The addict who simply came to their senses one day and left behind their addiction is extremely rare (and possibly doesn’t exist—I know I’ve never met one).

So, if you’re looking at a loved one who is far from God and close to an addiction, I would like to encourage you to be brave enough to pray this prayer for them. Moms, it can be tough, I know, but God loves your child even more than you do. You have to dare to leave them in His hands.

With Hope,

-Lance

For more on learning hot to live with addict in your family, pick up my new book: Finding Hope.

It Got My Son (Part 1)

Guest Post: Pam Lang

There is a tremendously thin tightrope parents struggle to walk. You work to be omniscient in order to protect them from evil that is lurking. You strive to see their vulnerabilities and train them to overcome… to be strong when temptation raises its ugly head. This is what I desperately wanted to do for my children. I had seen the absolutely devastating effects of drug abuse and alcoholism in my husband’s family—how it took lives, how it destroyed relationships, how it left family members poverty-stricken.

My husband had nursed his father (with whom he had never lived) as he lay dying in a nursing home with an acid-eroded esophagus from decades of alcohol abuse. We had seen so many divorces it was hard to remember in-laws’ names. We experienced family members going from owning businesses and living in nice homes to begging us for money.

It was ugly, and I wanted my children to see alcoholism and drug abuse for what it truly was.

As a parent, I tried to live out the principles of scripture as laid out in Deuteronomy 6 where it says, “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your house and on your gate.”

When bad choices cost people or took people’s lives…it was the lesson I taught. When people made good choices and God blessed them, I gloriously set their example as a trophy in front of my children. My husband made sure they were surrounded by godly, Christian men and women. We had missionaries, evangelists, pastors, and denominational leaders intentionally in our home for them to learn from and hopefully emulate. I talked to them about how important it was to never take that first drink or experiment with that first drug due to the rampancy of abuse in our family. At the breakfast table each morning I prayed with them and for them. I searched for age-appropriate devotional books for us to read together, we memorized scripture… I strove to fully arm them as they left my nest.

Yet, it got my son.

Did I see it coming? Lance was strong-willed, incredibly capable, always the leader, always out front, always first… always pushing the boundaries, so did I see it coming? I guess I worried he would get into some situations where he would try stuff and we would have to discipline and pull back the reins, but I never thought bad choices would totally alter the whole course of his life. I had been too proactive for that to happen… but yet it did.

In the course of a few months he went from being a high school graduate enrolled for college in the fall, to being a teenage husband and father. I find out a decade later that he had begun to dabble with weed his senior year of high school which led to a whole pattern of bad behavior.

Was I blind? How did I not catch this? How did this happen under my watch, under my roof… am I the worst parent in the world? Did I not do enough to prepare him for temptations, did I not pray enough, was I not strict enough or was I too strict, did I not check out his friends and activities closely enough? If I allow them, these questions continue today to eat me alive, to suck the very life right out of me. Why…

Because, it still got my son.

Since we became pros in the addiction/recovery world over the last few years, I have discovered a new word…the word is enabling. Evidently, many times alcohol or drug addiction is the result of one or both parents enabling their child not to grow up, to remain dependent, to not accept responsibility…in other words, to do too much for them. So I have self-examined. I have searched myself; I have pondered and I have scoured my soul. My conclusion: I guess I did.

What I thought was empowering maybe was enabling; what I thought was giving good gifts to my children maybe was spoiling; what was pushing them to popularity and success in a lot of activities maybe was imposing my life upon them. All I do know is this: I wanted them to have the very best life possible and be thankful; I wanted them to be godly, holy Christians that made a difference in their world; I wanted them to respect authority and above all fear their God, for this truly is the beginning of wisdom. I tried my best, I failed a lot, I have regrets, I would do things differently today, but unfortunately we don’t have mulligans in raising our children. My intentions were good…

Yet, it still got my son.

Check back next week for Part 2 of “It Got My Son”.

To read more amazing content from my mother pick up my new book, Finding Hope.

You can find all of my books here: www.LanceLang.com/books

What Comes After Rock Bottom?

Last week we talked about how to find that elusive rock bottom all loved-ones of addicts are so often searching for. Today I am going to discuss some steps for those of you who have a loved who has find that magical place and now are wondering what to do next?!?! Unfortunately, one of the main struggles I have in our family support groups that our ministry hosts, and even in writing the Finding Hope book, is getting the idea across that there is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question.

There is no clear-cut, step-by-step approach to handling your loved one’s addiction. Anyone who tells you so, who guarantees “success”, is lying to you or deceiving themselves. Each addict, although they have similar traits and motivations, is vastly different, just like your family is different from other families while still having some universal traits you all share.

While I can’t offer you a line-by-line transcript of the process you should follow, I can give you a template, based on my own personal experience and the education I’ve received. I can also offer you the hope that comes from seeing hundreds of addicts’ lives changed as they’ve followed this template.

Before we go any further, let me encourage you with this: if your loved one has hit rock bottom and is wanting to make a change, that’s huge! The road ahead is incredibly difficult, to be sure, but making it onto that road and being pointed in the direction of sobriety is a major victory.

Congratulations!

First Base: Detox

Drugs and alcohol introduce a large level of foreign chemicals into the addict’s physical system, and those chemicals have to be purged before anything else can happen. This is the time period called detox, and it is the worst. I’ll never forget my 10 days in a detox facility, eating horrible food, living in green scrubs, having my vitals checked four times a day, and only seeing the light of day for the occasional smoke break. It was horrendous, and not just for me, the addict—it’ll be hard for you, too. Seeing your loved one go through so much physical pain as the drugs leave their system, can be debilitating. Both of you just want it to stop. But, fortunately, it always eventually passes, and then they’ve done the first difficult part of scoring in baseball: getting on base.

Second Base: Residential Treatment

Once they’ve rid their body of all the toxins that their drugs or booze have put into them, your addicted loved one can head over to second base: residential treatment.

This is a period of time where the addict lives at a treatment center and their entire existence is overseen by a staff of professionals. Here, your loved one will learn an entirely new language, and be given new terminology to help them learn about themselves, about their disease, and what a way forward looks like.

I cannot state this loudly enough: learn that language. This is another thing Chuck Robinson taught me, and it’s is so crucial because that new language is going to be their new lifeline, the thing that keeps them on track, and the mandate by which they live their new, sober life. By learning that language as well—by digging into the incredibly dense new vocabulary they’ll have—you’ll be able to encourage, support and understand them.

They will also begin to learn to love themselves.

So many people turn to addiction because they don’t love themselves, and turning off the addiction isn’t going to change that. Residential treatment provides a means for them to start the lifelong process of accepting who they are, and learning to love that person they see in the mirror.

Choosing the right treatment center is a tough process as well. Treatment is not a one size fits all type of scenario. Different facilities have special focuses, disciplines and therapies of choice. Some work well with mental health components, while others focus primarily on the drug and alcohol abuse. Some use experiential therapy while others use traditional approaches. Some have strict guidelines; others provide a looser environment. Treatment facilities are just like any other business; they will do some things really well and others not so well. So understanding what facility best suits you’re loved-one is a road you need to walk down with someone else. It’s a crucial step in the process and a choice that shouldn’t be made flippantly.

Our organization, Hope is Alive Ministries would love to help you down this road. We work with hundreds of families every year helping them understand the best options for their loved one. We would be glad to visit with you, discuss your situation and present you the best options for your loved-one. In addition, we have a page on our website now that provides a listing of our Trusted Resources. Theses are organizations that we know, trust and believe in.

Third Base: Sober Living

This is a base that a lot of people try to skip, but my experience has taught me that sober living is critical for lifelong sobriety. Once your loved one leaves residential treatment, it is often impossible for them to reintegrate into normal society. Unfortunately, they do not tend to have all of the tools necessary to manage the transition, and a huge statistical majority of them will wind up back in rehab at some point in the near future if they try and skip this base.

What can you do to mitigate that recidivism? Sober living. Don’t tell the addict in your life this, because it will freak them out, but if they’ll commit to spending a year in a sober living home, they’re far more likely to achieve lifelong sobriety. In fact, my recent experience tells me that eighteen months is really the best scenario.

Most of the addicts I encounter are young, so I always put it to them this way: they have probably 60 years left of their lives, give or take. I tell them that if they’ll give one single year to sober living, they’ll have a great chance at having the other 59 years be great ones. If they don’t, they’ll probably have a lot fewer years, and they’ll be miserable for all of them. Hope is Alive provides sober living homes for men and women in Oklahoma City, reach out to us if we can help you with this step! Call: 405-242-3704

Home Plate: Continued Meetings

After a year in a sober living home, most addicts are back on their feet. They’ve learned how to manage their lives, they’ve learned how to hold down a job, how to stay organized, how to maintain healthy relationships, and all the other stuff that normal living entails.

But they aren’t done.

I recommend that they still attend regular meetings. This is the overlooked aspect of maintaining sobriety, but it’s an imperative part of it. I’ve been sober for years now, and I still go to (and run) meetings all the time. I need to be reminded of who I was, so that I never lose sight of who I am now, and who I want to be in the future.

And one more thing: there’s nothing that says YOU (the loved-one)) can’t get involved in recovery, too. In fact, I recommend it! If you’re successful in getting your loved one to get help, it would do you well to get help yourself. Get involved in Al-Anon or Hope is Alive’s Finding Hope classes for family members of addicts. Learn the language. Let it change you. Give back.

Parent’s Perspective: Wendell Lang

I knew so little about addiction when we got involved with Lance’s recovery process. God graced our family by providentially getting us in touch with people who directed us to Rob’s Ranch, a recovery facility that God used in a mighty way. The detox process is horrible for both the family and the client, but the necessary pain is essential for healing. Recovery is paramount to a computer refreshing, the old need to go away to get a clean screen.

Detox is necessary to rid the body of impurities and toxins, because these poisons must be removed before recovery is possible. The Bible uses a word for the detoxing process: purity. The meaning is to be utterly sincere, honestly transparent. Purity means to be clean. The word Jesus used was katharizo, from which we get our word “catharsis.” Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure…” A better meaning of purity means to be unmixed or undiluted. Pure gold doesn’t have any mixture of other metals. This spirit of undivided loyalty will allow our body to operate as intended.

Lance going to treatment was a time of anxiety, fear, and yes, hope. Hope has become the mantra for our family, and the first shred of hope began to crystalize throughout the treatment process.

This chapter has me thinking about two words: “no shortcuts.” Lance made an attempt at a “short cut” approach to recovery and it simply did not work. While God can use any method in the healing recovery process, I am convinced that long-term accountability is the most effective and will yield the highest results of recovery.

Throughout my years of pastoring, I had always been the one doing the counseling and had never participated in personal counseling. The times of meeting with our counselor were unbelievably revealing and helpful to bridge a huge chasm in our family. It became apparent to me that not everyone views an event or circumstances through the same lenses. Each person brings a unique experience to a conversation.

For us we found that talk, time, and a lot of tears brought about healing and hope.

Treatment comes in many forms today, but I am convinced that a holistic approach to treatment is essential. A good treatment center deals with the head. This enables the client to think the right thoughts.

A good treatment center also deals with the hands. This allows the client to work in a constructive manner in service to others.

And finally, a good treatment center deals with the heart. This allows the client view his or her situations from God’s perspective.

No one treatment center is right for everyone, so ask and research. Finances and faith in the institution are vital in choosing the right option.

Resource Recap:

Trusted Resources: www.hopeisalive.net/resources/

Finding Hope Support Group Classes: www.FindingHope.Today

Treatment Center Lance Attended: Rob’s Ranch

Lances Books: www.LanceLang.com/books

For more help on parenting an addict or what to do when your loved one is ready for treatment pick up my new book, Finding Hope.

Are You Codependent? Find out.

 

Oftentimes, people will enable an addict because they’re codependent on them. Codependency is a word that gets thrown around a lot in recovery circles, and some people are certain they’re codependent when they aren’t, while others are certain they aren’t codependent when they actually would make a terrific textbook example.

So how can you know whether you’re codependent? You can start by answering the following ten questions:

  • Do you seem to attract needy and dependent people and wonder why that always seems to happen to you?
  • Do you find it easier to be more concerned about other people than about yourself?
  • Do you find it difficult to hear and accept criticism, even when it’s given lovingly?
  • Do you need or seek approval from those around you?
  • Do you feel guilty when you can’t help someone that you feel responsible for, like you just aren’t up to the task?
  • Would you rather give in to the will of others than defend yourself and stand up for what you believe in or demand what you want?
  • Would you stay in a difficult relationship or situation because you’d rather deal with the pain there than change?
  • Do you ever feel resentment for people when you help them?
  • Do you have an undefinable feeling that life is cheating you?
  • Do you have physical, stress-related symptoms like difficulty sleeping, stomach problems, tension in your back or neck, or headaches?

If you answered yes to most of those questions, you may be codependent. And if you’re codependent, you’re probably enabling.

So how can you know if your caring has turned to codependency?

Here are the eight most common characteristics of codependency; see if any of these sound like you.

 Responsible

Codependent people feel responsible for others, but in a much more hyper, over-the-top way than your garden-variety responsibility. The codependent person takes so much responsibility that their own emotional well being rises and falls on the behavior of the person they’re trying to be responsible for.

Emotionally Confused

Codependent people have a very difficult time knowing how they feel. Ask them an emotion they might be feeling, and they likely will not be able even to identify it, let alone express it in a healthy way.

Afraid

Though they may not realize it at the surface level of their brain, codependent people are deeply afraid of being alone. This fear of abandonment leads them to dig in and stick with relationships that are hurting them, simply to avoid the isolation and pain that comes from being by themselves.

Perfectionistic

Codependent people tend to be perfectionists, holding up unrealistic expectations as a measurement tool for just about everything. But don’t feel bad—they can be just as hard on themselves as they are on everyone else.

Repetitive

Those who are codependent will often find themselves repeating relationships with other dependent people, whether those people deal with alcohol or drug addiction, or to more socially acceptable addictions like food and work.

Reactive

Rather than acting on their own behalf—because that might be too risky (and remember, they don’t know how they feel)—codependent people are reactive. They react to situations, they react to other people, they react to just about anything, because being reactive makes more sense than being proactive.

Condescending

The codependent person can sometimes adequately be described as “a hot mess”, because in the midst of their perfectionistic and reactive tendencies, they also often feel like a failure. But this is a deep sense of failure that works its way into their entire being, creating a low sense of self-worth and leading them to a great, yet unspoken, sense of condescension toward themselves.

Depressed

Lastly, the codependent person also often struggles with depression, and not the put-a-smile-on-it kind, but the long-lasting, medically diagnosable kind of depression that leads down many dark roads.

Now, just to be clear, you don’t have to be codependent in order to enable your loved ones—I would say neither of my parents really fit into the codependency box, but they managed to enable me rather well (which is something they’ll admit, right alongside the fact that they didn’t know what they were doing, and were just trying to do the best that their uninformed selves could do).

Nevertheless, if these aspects of codependency ring true to you, then you might be enabling your loved one as well. That can be a very, very difficult truth to accept, and believe me—I understand if you’re having difficulty with it. I know you love your son or daughter, your spouse, your parent, your family member—I know you want the best for them and want to help them in any way you can.

But I also know that enabling them is the opposite of help.

If you need help understanding more about codependency and enabling behaviors and you live near the OKC area I want to strongly encourage you to visit one of Hope is Alive Ministries support groups called Finding Hope. You will be welcome there, you will be encouraged there and you will begin to learn how to find a healthy relationship with the addict in your life. And once you get healthy, your loved-one will eventually find health as well.

click here to see a list of classes: www.FindingHope.Today.

Check back next week, when we interview a few addicts and allow them to offer up their experience on living with co-dependency / enabling partners. You can also stop by Amazon and pick up my new book Finding Hope, where you will find lots of interviews, perspectives and advice for living with, raising or loving an addict.

 

Are You Helping or Enabling?

When I was in high school, I had very little in the way of moral grounding, something I’m not proud of but which is key for understanding the way I acted in the story I’m about to tell you.

This story takes place during my senior year, when I was all the way gone into the party scene.

It was during this time that I dated a lot, and as my senior year wound down, I found myself dating two different girls, possibly at the same time, and both of them older than me. They’d both gone to my high school and had the very same English teacher that I had: Mrs. Diem. But the similarities don’t stop there: they’d also written their senior papers on the same topic: Charlemagne, the famous king of the early Middle Ages.

I knew I was going to have to write my senior paper eventually, and by now you can maybe guess where this story is headed. I managed to use my silver tongue to acquire the electronic versions of both my girlfriends’ senior papers on Charlemagne and then literally copied and pasted different parts of them into one document, and turned it in as an attempt to pass off as my own.

I handed that paper in with about a month left in the school year, and it wasn’t long until my mom received a fairly irate phone call from Mrs. Diem, delivering the news that she was going to fail me in senior English—rendering me unable to graduate—unless I had a new paper to turn in. On the following Monday.

It was a Tuesday.

I had to turn around a brand new, fully cited, 20-30 page research paper, and I had less than a week to do it. And if I didn’t do it, I wouldn’t graduate.

I actually panicked. Not because I wanted the grade, but because I wanted to be done with school.

But you know who panicked even more? My dear mother.

She knew me, and what I was capable of at that time in my life. She knew that, if it were up to me and my efforts, that paper wouldn’t even get close to done. She also wanted me to graduate on time, so she decided to help me.

By “help,” I mean “write every word of my senior English paper for me.”

Literally. Every word. I didn’t even type in my name.

To this day, I have vivid memories of seeing her upstairs in the office of our home in Pryor, Oklahoma where I grew up, hard at work at the computer doing research and writing my paper for me.

I’ll admit it: I felt slightly guilty about it at the time, but not enough to run up there and relieve her of the duty. If she wanted to help me, I was going to let her.

Besides, that meant I could go out and party with my friends.

She finished it, I turned it in, and guess what: I got a pretty decent grade on it! Good enough to walk across the stage at my graduation and get that diploma that my mom had earned for me.

God bless her, she was doing the best she knew to do at the time, and I don’t fault her for it one bit.

But while she thought she was helping me, she was actually enabling me.

What Is Enabling?

You cross the line from helping to enabling when you start to shield your addicted loved one from the full consequences of their behavior. My Charlemagne story, while funny, is a perfect example of this.

I should not have graduated. I had slacked off the entire school year, and did not deserve the diploma I got. I was the one who turned in the original plagiarized paper, so I was the one who should’ve had to stay up late for a week, desperately working to create something that would get me a passing grade.

But that’s not what happened. My mom—who is a lovely, lovely person who honestly thought she was doing the right thing—stepped in front of that no-graduate bullet and took it for me.

You can probably understand why. The reason we call these people “loved ones” is because we love them! We want to care for them and meet their needs, but the fact of the matter is: addicts are irrational, and in the throes of a disease that renders them uncaring. When you see them begin to stop caring for themselves, or for the world around them, you do the logical, human, empathetic thing and try to export your caring on to them.

The problem is: that doesn’t work.

Instead, you wind up trying to control your loved one’s behavior, which is always going to be a bad idea.

I know this sounds counterintuitive, because the things you want to do—assist, encourage, fix, protect, support, nurse, serve, accommodate—are all good things.

These are the kinds of things that good spouses do. They’re the kinds of things that good parents do. They’re the kinds of things that good family members do.

But when it comes to the addict, these good things become poison and the exact things that will keep everyone unhealthy.

When you enable, you prevent your addicted loved one from suffering any harmful consequences for their behavior—and if they don’t suffer any consequences, they have no reason to change. Your help becomes something they can depend upon, therefore enabling them to continue living the lie that their disease is feeding them.

Do you see? Is this making sense to you? Are you feeling liberated yet? Is the unbearable weight of making yourself responsible for someone else’s behavior lifting off your shoulders?

I hope so.

 

Check back next week, when I list several signs that you are enabling your loved one…. or feel free to stop by Amazon and pick up my new book Finding Hope. (all this stuff is in there)

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.


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