Tuesday, April 3, 2012

PART 18-Step 4 Revisited

                                                      Part 18- Step 4 Revisited

It is once again the month of April and time to revisit  Step 4. In reality Step 4 needs to be reevaluated more than once a year,preferably at least every month. It is a very critical Step and begins  a cycle that runs through Step 9. The purpose of 4 is to help us make the changes necessary to move forward with our lives. It requires a deep look inside by each and every one of us. We need to see the Good as well as the Bad and work on promoting the former and limiting  the latter. We all know this is a process and takes years to really work completely in any sense. It is important to remember the Steps are a lifetime job. They and we change all the time,as do our perspectives. So don’t be discouraged and do not put off working the Steps. They are the guidepost for our recovery.
I am a firm believer in the truth and in simplicity. I have often said that we have a simple program for very complicated people. And as we proceed,we see that is absolutely true. Most of the problems and issues lie within us-some so deep and longstanding that they are hard to understand and very hard to discard or change.
I would like to provide a few clearcut changes that we need to make.

1.We must regain our  control  as gatekeeper of our heads.  We must eliminate the addict and everyone else from that role. That job belongs to us-no one else. Our inablility to do this keeps the addict playing with our  thoughts and our fears which paralyzes us and keeps us doing Everything Wrong as it relates to the addict and others. And to  ourselves.

2. We must learn to believe that our lives are important. We were not put on earth to fix the addict,which  automatically  excludes our ability to live our own lives .Our lives have value and meaning and we are entitled to the fulfillment of our dreams-our dreams. This has nothing to do with addicts or anyone else. These are our personal dreams for ourselves. Yes they may include a happy family life ,but that cannot happen with the addict in control of the family. We must accept our right to take back control  of  our own lives and make them what WE want. This is not being selfish;it is being honest and realistic.

3.We must have the courage  to  say “no” and understand that it is a complete statement. When we add the” because” or the “but”,we have played right into the hands of someone else(usually the addict).” No” is perfect for almost every  issue that arises  with addicts. You do not have to say anything more or do anything at all. Every time we respond with more or start to do something ,we get it wrong. We play right into the addicts scheme. And whatever we think we are saying or doing,trus tme-the addict is in control. The answer is NO, NO, NO ;and what to do is Nothing! DO NOTHING that pertains to the addict,but DO EVERYTHING that pertains to YOU. Never forget-the addict reads you perfectly. No matter what you  say or do, the addict knows you are eating out of  his/her  hand. It all about GOTCHA! We think we are throwing a safety net and the addict has actually  entrapped us in his/her  web of addiction and craziness. Until recovery takes place,which can only  occur with  our understanding the need to change, this scenario is and will be  reenacted over and over thousands of times-perhaps for our lifetimes.

4. I have said the following on many occasions. When I look back from a 22 and a half year perspective I am appalled  how easy it is to throw every working relationship out the window to seek to save the one person who cannot be saved by us. Everyone we are willing to discard is salvageable-but we throw them out the window(or out of our lives). How ironic and how completely crazy this is. It shows how truly our lives have become unmanageable. We discard every one who  matters to chase the one we can Never Catch , Never Help. and Never Fix. We need to change this thinking and behavior 180 degrees. Could this be any clearer?

I know this is a different look at change and the actual wording of Step 4. However in the interest of truth,simplicity and brevity(we all hope to shorten the time it takes us to” get it”) this is an enumeration of some  the most urgent changes that we must undergo. I know all of this takes hard work,but in the end it will be much easier than pursuing an addict for  another 30 years.


Thursday, January 12, 2012

Part 17: Recovery is The Only Job

So often we do not understand that there is only one goal in this very complex program which we are working. That goal is recovery.
There is not second goal. If we all recover,only good things will follow. If we do not recover,nothing good will ever happen to any of us. It is really that simple. Recovery is Job 1,2,3,..................ad infinitum. All the other issues that we thought were important,especially for the addict, are not important. If GOOD RECOVERY takes place,all the other issues we worried about will fall in line. Without GOOD RECOVERY,nothing we or the addict does will ever  matter. And I mean NOTHING. So all the fretting over how the addict gets a job,gets an education(this seems to be enabler's first   priority),gets food stamps,or a bike, or a car DOES NOT MATTER. None of these make recovery more or less likely. In fact college for most addicts in poor or no recovery is a very BAD idea. I know colleges are trying  to do the right thing,with sober living,meetings,etc. But I believe that the idea of taking a recovering person from a very sheltering recovering community,or 12 step school, or something else of that nature and trying to put them into college is  a huge mistake.  I am all for education,but addicts need to recover long enough and function in our difficult world sober  for at least 2 years before engaging in the idea of college. I am aware that most families who are not in recovery are aghast at my ideas. But I have repeatedly seen the rush to college  fail because it is a rare addict in early recovery who can manage the pressures of college.VERY RARE!

We know that if the addict gets a few years of recovery under his/her belt than the time might be  appropriate to try college. It is amazing to me however,how many families fail to understand that without recovery,all the education is meaningless. My experience has taught me that when individuals go into reasonable recovery,they need time in the workplace doing small and humbling jobs. No Wall St. for the young addict. Maybe after 5 or 10 years of recovery that works. But it does not work in the beginning of recovery(first 2 years).

It is hard to emphasize enough,that without GOOD RECOVERY,nothing will work for the addict or the family. All that I have said applies to all of us,family and addicts. The attempt to scale large buildings in a single leap like Superman DOES NOT WORK and only sets us back. We need to move forward slowly and steadily. I know that recovery is not a straight line.I have had enough relapses of my own. But I have learned that the journey we are all on concerns one thing-RECOVERY. NOTHING ELSE!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

Part 16:What to Say?What to Do?

I have often described the tempestuous events surrounding drug addiction as a protracted stage  play. I view it as a one man play performed by the addict.
Regrettably family dynamics draw many others into what is supposed to be a one man performance. And sadly ,those drawn in as accompanying players are the family members,particularly the enablers. This happens because our emotional baggage and our head clutter draws us onto the stage and makes us active players for many years. The key in my view is for us to get off the stage and let the performance unravel as a one man play. I know this is not easily done,and for many of us it takes years to understand that the show is the addicts’,not ours. And the likelihood of a satisfactory ending  only happens when we step off the stage. I know it is not that simple,but the analogy is a very good one.
The title of this piece is intended to help us perform a shorter time and ultimately leave the addict as the numero uno  solo in the play. The  question of what to do and what to say is very important because they define our role in this drama and with understanding, we can help ourselves exit the stage.
Let’s look at what to do first. In our rush to enable and save the addict we invariably act  in ways that keep us onstage. As long as we are enabling, we must be part of the show. We must always respond to everything the addict says and does. Remember this happens because we feel we created the problem which is totally untrue;but our heads are filled with many untruths. As we stop reacting to the addict because we eventually see the destructiveness of our of our role in the  performance, we start to do less and less. If your recall the readings,”Detachment,” and “Helping” our role is to be things ,not to do things.” With progressive uncluttering of our heads we begin to understand what that means. To be there. And to be there without doing anything! Ultimately we understand how to be there without doing anything. When we get to this point in our own recovery, we will be heading for the exits .. So the answer to the question”what should I do when the addict does………”, is do  nothing. Of course this does not preclude doing something for ourselves which we never thought about because we were so involved in our”acting careers.” managing the addict. The secret weapon which we finally learn to use  is doing nothing for the addict.  And that is the hardest thing for us to understand. When we do  nothing but act supportively to the addict’s recovery, we have found the secret of question number 1. In truth we should have been doing nothing for years,but our emotions would not let us. As we grow and understand how complicit our behavior has been,the answer become obvious. What should I do? Nothing for the addict,but everything for our own recovery.
It should be clearer what the answer is  to  second question in the title. Since so much of our communication in this play serves the same purpose as our actions,we have to learn to say  NOTHING  sometimes,a loud and clear”NO” at other times, a lot of “HMMMMMM’  and the very supportive”I AM SURE YOU CAN WORK THIS OUT”. These  responces are incredibly successful in stopping the interplay  with the addict. No addict likes to hear any of this;they expect something like”of course you can come home”. But when the answer is no the addict understands exactly what is going on. And if you want to pursue getting off the stage say “no “ a few hundred times and you will see just how much  the addict understands what it means.It is our heads that mislead us and keep us saying”yes”.

When we learn to do nothing other than be supportive of recovery,and to say nothing that is any way suggests we will save the addict,the stage play will wind down and before anyone realizes the performance is back to a one man show.That’s really what it should have been from day 1. And without other participants on stage,hopefully  the play will come to a more rapid end.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011


I  chose this rather unglamorous title because recovery is really hard work. I know  progress in this effort  will  have great rewards, but I sometimes think the difficulties of getting to recovery and staying there is simply more than we can manage.. This applies not only to us but to our addicts as well.

The need to change our thought processes , our view of the addict and ourselves , work the 12 steps , and attend meetings, while actively trying to change much of our behavior  is a  fulltime job. I am not saying this to be discouraging. To the contrary I am a firm believer that it can be done. But none of us can possibly anticipate  the  time and effort that will have to be given to make our  recovery happen.
We often speak of our journey-that’s what it is and much of the  trip is up a very steep and uncertain incline. The journey and the its  process is the destination. There is no  last page or final mile. There is no finality in working the Steps. Our lifetime is the duration of the journey. Yes we have to work on recovery forever. That is why you see  recovering people in AA   who have 25 years of sobriety.  We  like the addict , need to continue  with meetings to keep our  own recovery intact ; and as important, we have to lend a helping hand to other who are struggling.  For me this is what Step 12 is really about. Step 12 is serious work. My son once said to me on a hot day as he was mowing the lawn:”I’d love an ice cold beer, but I know that would lead to the end of my recovery ; and most important I know I could never go through this again.” He didn’t say why, but I knew how many years he had struggled to find sobriety and  he was uncertain he could  ever  find his way back to  long term recovery  again if he relapsed at that point in his life. The statement was an eye opener for me ;I had not realized how difficult our journeys had been. I guess finding some peace and some resolution tends to blank out the years of pain and hard work. But he had not forgotten how much he struggled to recapture his life.

We often wonder as family members of addicts how much punishment they can take. But recovery, I believe, for them , is much harder  than staying lost  the in the chasm  of addiction . For us the chasm of despair and enabling is, for many years,  easier to manage than  the process of recovery. That’s why I refer to the “daily grind” of recovery. And I believe that is the reason so many  of us  struggle for years trying to get better. My experience has taught me that the truth upfront trumps  the “ embellished fairy tales” about  addiction  every time. I firmly believe that the truth ,while painful to hear, accelerates recovery. If we understand what we  are up against ,we  will be less disappointed over the many failures that precede  success in this process of recovery. And I know we can all succeed in this effort if we have the knowledge of the facts about addiction  and  understand why we need to change. The fuel  that propels us is this knowledge and the  hope  that our efforts coupled with guidance from our Higher Power,  will ultimately  lead us to  peace and serenity in our lives.
“The journey is the destination”

Saturday, November 26, 2011



I know that the quest for serenity sometimes seems unimaginineably difficult. This  is most  true when we are in  the midst of the chaos of addiction. There are 2 keys that help us navigate these difficulties. They are 1: understanding that serenity, when we first discover it,  is a small island in a huge  raging sea. I f we work on making the island bigger and the raging sea smaller  we will have more and more serenity.  If we think that serenity is a final state  and permanent in that form , then we are bound to be very disappointed and disillusioned.. The amount of time we are serene starts out ver y small. But it  will grow if we  understand the second key ; believing   that we are the gatekeepers of our heads and its contents.  Both of these two keys take time to find and embrace. If we believe we will find total serenity  in an instant, or if we cannot accept that we are the gatekeepers of our heads,then the process will take that much longer.
The first key is the easier to understand understand. Keeping people and their problems out of our heads is much harder and takes a lot of work. We must believe however that we have that power and that we can control what impacts us and our emotions. The issue is very much the same as what  I refer to as  the front burner,back burner  phenomenon. We all know how to move a pot from one burner to another, but we struggle to move problems in our heads from a big area to a small area. It does take practice and hard work. And I guarantee that it can be done if we  want it enough..
So often what seems impossible is really the result of our  unwillingness to make it happen. If we really love the chaos that the addict brings and love having the addict live with us so the chaos can be fulltime,then we will never find serenity. PERIOD. That is why we have to be WILLING and READY to make changes in our emotional needs and then in our behaviors. So often people complain  that none of the beautiful changes we talk about  are possible. But that is only because they are  getting something from the chaos generated by the addiction . EVERY BEHAVIOR HAS A REASON;THERE IS NO RANDOM BEHAVIOR. I BELIEVE THIS 100%. When behavior is crazy,some one is deriving a benefi (or a an emotional reward)from it. Find  the benefit,eliminate it ,and the behavior goes away. This has been demonstrated over and over in every clinical psych class and psych  book. And this can be shown to be true in addiction and in our codependent behaviors. We enable because it give us a psychologic benefit . Enabling give us pleasure because it fills the emotional  hole we created by  believing we caused the problem,or we didn’t show enough love,and on and on……… If you take away the belief through behavioral modification ,the reward  disappears and so does the behavior. I know it sounds simple,but because we are complicated  people, nothing is simple.

It is very much the same with belief  that you are the gatekeeper of your head. To get there you have to eliminate the benefit you receive from all the turmoil of letting the addict(and other problem people) control your head. Once you understand this  ,it is a lot easier to do what you need to do. Where does behavior modification  fit  in? Behavior modification is what we get  from going to meetings, listening to people with years of experience, and  studying  our  literature. The addicts gets  the tools for recovery(behavior modification)   from rehab, from living with other recovering  people,going to meetings and studying  their literature.

So if you really want to find serenity , you will  find it. So much of the difficulty,  as I said earlier, is within us. It’s in eliminating  all that nonsensical clutter and the  erroneous belief systems which   dominate our thinking  and blind  us from  seeing  the truth. When we are ready to change our lives  and find  serenity, we will gradually  clean out the mess in our heads   and move forward with our lives with the help of our Higher Power. And if we are lucky ,the addict will do the same.

 Looking back on all of this 22 years from the start, I find it hard to believe how incapacitated  I was and how much freer and better  I am today. I struggled for years over these same issues-just like everyone else.  But having arrived at a place where I understand what I went through and why I had so much trouble changing ,I hope to pass on some  knowledge from the  recovery  side of the battleground  to help others . By relating what I learned  from my struggle ,perhaps I   can l help you shorten  yours. And  I want to assure those  who are mired in despair ;there is hope  for all of us –and our addicts.


Sunday, November 20, 2011



Just as Hope is hard to uncover in the midst of the chaos of addiction,reasons to be Grateful can be equally elusive. We always try to think and  talk about Gratitude at this time of year. After all, that’s what Thanksgiving is about
We really do have much to be grateful for. I know that the addiction tends to preoccupy so much  of our  thinking;yet  we must to  look  at the bigger world beyond the addict. The addict is not the only thing we should be thinking about. I realize in the beginning of the process of recovery,it is very hard to concentrate on anything else. However by attending  meetings  and gaining some insight,we can begin to move the addict from the front burner to the back burner and find room for thoughts  of of other things,other people and why we should be grateful. If we can focus on the other members of our family who are doing well despite the addict(the enablers are always the last to see the truth and detach)we must be grateful for them and learn to listen to them  and enjoy them. I realize that our preoccupation  cause us to consider our other children and spouses as less “into” the problems- but it's always as we see them. We  the enablers are too aware and too involved, and we tend to brush everyone and everything  else aside. However at this time of year in particular we need to be grateful for everyone else. We need to find comfort in the beauty that surrounds us - the sunrise,the sunset, the night sky,and  all the natural phenomena that move through  their cycles despite by our addict. Yes,it is true ,that there is a big world outside the addict. We simply have to learn how to find it. I know that this is very hard, especially in the early months after the realization  that we have an addict in the family. But we need to push past our preoccupation with the one person  and see  the many ,who are a source of pleasure and Gratitude-and Hope.

I said in an earlier piece that part of our problem is mind clutter.  We have opened  the gates and  permitted  the addict to  flood our heads, pushing everything else into dark corners. When we start to get better we clear out the mess and throw much of it away.  That is a large part of recovery. The sickness we have is the constant absorption in the addict’s issues. There really is a gigantic,often wonderful  world outside the addict and that reasons for Gratitude are  not hard to find. We wear  very secure blinders for years.  We will find Hope and Gratitude by throwing off the blinders and begin  seeing that there is joy everywhere. And it isn’t  impacted  one bit by our preoccupation with the addict.

Yes, there is so much to be grateful  for,if we learn how to look, and we are ready to see what is obvious. So much of our issue is our  inability to accept  this  reality :there is  wonderful  life  for us outside the addict.

 As we approach Thanksgiving  and, hopefully,  every good event in our lives, we must throw off the shackles and blinders  that we placed on ourselves. This is what prevents us from seeing everything that is right in our lives .When we progress with  our  recovery,we will find reasons  for Gratitude  everywhere. Our cup will truly run over as we move from the darkness  to the light. Recovery is a wonderful blessing! And for many of us it is the  primary reason for our  Gratitude.


Friday, November 18, 2011


This title is a great truth. Our program is very simple when we  finally get it. We have a great deal of trouble getting it because of all the stuff rattling around in our heads. The major stuff relates to our being a failure as a parent because we have an addict in the family. From this stems an entire belief system, usually at the subconscious level, telling us  how we failed and what we must do to make it up to the addict. I believe this issue is the root of our extraordinary ability to sacrifice everything to fix the addict,never seeing that  enabling is not  the source of our  redemption.It works out that this erroneous belief system  makes everything about drug addiction  worse for years. The more we enable, the worse the addiction and our lives get. This occurs because our premise is INCORRECT. We are not the cause of the addiction. It has nothing to do with us as parents. Our addict is sick because of a chemical disorder of the brain which I believe is present before  the first pill , injection , snort,or drink. I believe it is a genetic disorder,like so many other diseases. Unlike other diseases however,this one can only be fixed by the person who has it; there  is really nothing we can do about it. Similarly if we have an adult diabetic family member who refuses to take medication,is there anything we can  do  about it? Addiction differs because it is so visibly and rapidly self destructive. Diabetes takes years to kill. Drug addiction can be very lethal, very quickly.  And addiction has , in my view,  the potential to  destroy all family relationships over time. Diabetes does not have that potential.

The key for us lies in recognizing what we are dealing with and that we did not cause this disease. Once we see the truth we can detach,allowing the addict to be responsible for his or her recovery. And we can attend to our own recovery.

As I said in the beginning,it is our complexities that make all of this so tough. Yes addiction is truly horrible,but so much  of the driver of the horror is the garbage in our heads. Going  to meetings with people who have worked on these issues for years  helps us understand that we are not responsible for the addiction. The addict is responsible for the addiction and the recovery. We have our own recovery to work on. So much of our recovery is recognizing that what is in our heads is  not correct and  that there is another huge  part of our lives that has nothing to do with the addict.  As I have said  before ,when  we understand the truth about this addiction, everything gets easier. And none of this is beyond our reach.

Finally,there is a wonderful statement the source of which is debated. It says:"You shall know the truth,and it shall set you free." That is absolutely true!