Tuesday, May 31, 2011

When we're told to "stay strong!"

Here, I've 'copied and pasted' part of the Guidelines from that box, above, on this page.
"Do not advise others to stay in, or leave, their relationships. And do not give any advice -- direct or implied -- at all. Please just share your own experience, strength, and hope --and others can glean for themselves, what they would like to do. 1/3 of marriages (and more, in alcoholic homes) have domestic violence, and we do NOT know enough about any situation, on the internet, to make suggestions that would, for certain, not put them in danger, if they carried them out."

Part of "..and do not give any advice" includes not telling people to "stay strong".
What happens when that is done?

a. people think, when reading this, that it is good.......after all, who wants to "be weak"? Or who wants to be considered to "be weak"?.

But, almost all of us are going to vacillate--- go back and forth on feelings, actions--- at least 8 times ---or 80 times----- before we 'land' where we want to finally be-----at a place that is good for our own unique situation.

b. Then, what happens after we post for help------and we read a reply that says, "stay strong" from a well-meaning person?

We at first, think, 'oh yes --thanks for the reminder! I'll do that!"

Then-----for MOST of us------ reality sets in----the anger dies down for the moment----- and we miss them---- we go into whatever we go into, in our heads---- and we DON'T "stay strong" (whatever that means to you).

And then what?

We feel shame.

We get scared to post that "we reverted"......again.

ESPECIALLY if we have gone back and forth dozens of times-----and we're scared that people are rolling their eyes at us.

What then? Many of us then retreat into silence, and don't post.

We're just too ashamed to let people know that we "were not strong".

c. And------- what do most of us mean when we admonish someone to 'stay strong'?
We almost always say that to someone when they HAVE LEFT a situation...... like, "great! now STAY away!"......or we say it to someone when they 'stood their ground'....... or 'told him off'.

The same shaming applies to all that.

When they again stop telling him off-----or they go back home-----or they tell him they love him-----or they call him------ or whatever----- they do it with shame.......for, they remember that they were told to "stay strong".

And they weren't "being strong".

Please please do not post and tell others to "stay strong".

I do delete posts that say that to people.

For goodness sakes, we ALL know that it does not feel good when we return to yukky situations!

We all know that it feels not-good when we call him-----and he has contempt in his voice when we do so.

THAT feels bad enough.

We don't need to feel shame on top of it.

We will ALL work through our particular dilemmas of whether to stay or leave------or find another option------ WHEN we are allowed to do so WITHOUT PRESSURES OR PERSUASIONS.

Al-Anon is SO wise.
It says, "we do not give advice."

And-----the paradox is, we all find our own ways, in our own time, on our own path-----when we ARE allowed to do so without pressures or persuasions------- SOONER THAN IF WE HAD HEARD THE WELL-MEANING BUT SHAMING WORDS, 'STAY STRONG'. ........ love to all, Toby

Monday, May 30, 2011

Do they drink because "of problems"?

I copied and pasted this "September, 2000, Recovery Tip of the Month" from that section of this website. (There are 12 Recovery Tips per year, archived on that section, since 1999......some people tell me that they get to read them all by clicking on one year per day and just reading those tips.....that way, they get to better keep track of what they have read and what they still want to read).

here is that 'recovery tip of the month'-------

It is so easy to slide into believing that the alcoholic drinks "because of an emotional problem".
And the thinking is -- that if the alcoholic just "gets to the root of the problem", then the drinking/drugging problem will just "wither away" by itself.

That was the thinking of almost the entire mental-health profession about 25 years ago -- before the days of James Milam (author of "Under the Influence"), who, along with other pioneers in the field of addictions, toured the country on a regular basis, lecturing and training mental-health practitioners, judges, pastoral counselors, nurses, criminal-justice personnel, and others, to help them understand that alcoholism is a primary disease.

What does that mean? It means that nothing can get you drunk.

It means that no matter what else is going on in your life; no matter what your childhood was like; it means that no matter what your job is like, your spouse and/or kids are like; that none of those things get you drunk.

Yes, they cause stress!
Life causes stress!

And if everyone who had stress drank alcoholically, everyone would be an alcoholic.

But the stressors of life are not what makes one an alcoholic.

You "get" alcoholism because you are genetically predisposed to it.

(You have to go back about six or eight generations to see the proclivity to alcoholism in one's family; just because your parents did not have it, doesn't mean it is not in your family. And back then, no one said people were alcoholic unless they were falling down in the gutter.
And they certainly did not say that women or the clergy or any "good people" were alcoholic).

But, getting back to the mythology of "stress causing alcoholism": Yes, stress can make you want to drink.
Yes, having violent parents and being thrown out on the street at age 17 can make you want stress-relief and want to drink.

But if you don't have the brain receptors, etc., to be alcoholic or addicted, it'll be a "passing phase".

It's like what happened with the U.S. veterans after the Vietnam war was over ----- a huge percentage of them had tried heroin in Vietnam---- but only 1/3 of those who took it in Vietman, continued to take it, after they came home.
Why? Because if you don't have the physical set-up to become an alcoholic or other-drug addict, you won't.

(Look at all the spouses in Al-Anon who are not alcoholics who sat on barstools to try to drink alongside their alcoholic spouses, to be there, to have their spouses at least physically with them -- and who could not keep up the drinking, even when they tried to.)

And, if a catastrophe in life happens to a non-addict/non-alcoholic-- and if they drink, or do any other temporary thing to relieve stress-- if they are not genetically addicted------ they will probably, after awhile, not continue that drinking, but instead, get down to dealing with life on life's terms.

The difference with alcoholics is that if they start to drink at all------
even for a "legitimate stress reason"-------- then the craving and the obsession make them continue the drinking--------
because the process of the disease of alcoholism takes over.


It often LOOKS like the alcoholic drinks because he lost his job-- or because he hates the weather....... or misses his mother.........or he hates his mother....... or you had too many children.......or the boss wants to tell him what to do, for goodness sake!....... or it rained too many days this year..... or he's bored because he can't find a job that is up to his standards, even though you are working two jobs to keep a roof over your heads.

But when that same alcoholic gets a job... a better-paying job -- and/or moves to where the weather is great....... the probability is that alcoholic will still continue drinking or start drinking again, and the disease will still progress and the drinking will get worse than it's ever been before.
(The disease of alcoholism is fatal and progressive).

"Stuff" happens in life........................to everyone.
"Stuff" does not cause alcoholism.

When alcoholics get sober and go to A.A. on a regular basis, they learn to replace that knee-jerk reaction of picking up a drink or a chemical for stress-relief -- and replacing it with "taking it to a meeting" and talking about it.
And by the Grace of God, it relieves it.
A way is found to deal with it.

One more thing------- when an alcoholic has, alongside the alcoholism, an additional psychiatric illness (like clinical depression), they may initially only drink to relieve the clinical depression -- and they may receive temporary relief from it because they drank. But, and this is a big "but" -- when they drink even for that reason -- it gets and keeps the disease-of-alcoholism process going. And even if that particular cycle of clinical depression "lets up" for awhile because of the temporary relief of the alcohol -- the alcoholic drinking usually continues, because the alcoholism has its own dynamic and is itself progressive, and it gets to exists alongside, in addition to, the psychiatric illness. And if the alcoholism is not treated for itself and the drinking does not stop (even if the psychiatric illness is treated with medication and therapy) then two things usually happen:

a.) intaking alcohol when the medicine is in the body usually makes the medicine less effective; and

b.) the alcoholism follows a progressive course and continues to eventually make that person's life worse on just about every level, if not all levels, of one's life. And it usually continues to make that psychiatric illness worse, too. If a person with both psychiatric illness and alcoholism wants to get better, they usually have to get help for both problems-- and that help is often found in an alcoholism treatment center (one that is A.A.-oriented) that is good at diagnosing and treating persons with both addiction and psychiatric illness. And after initial treatment is completed, ongoing counseling --as well as A.A., of course--is usually the prescribed course of treatment.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Knowing that it's hard to lose an alcoholic...........

(I copied and pasted this chapter from the "Getting Them Sober, volume 4" book...from the section on this website called 'DOZENS of excerpted GTS book chapters". One can go to that section by scrolling down the green sidebar on the left side of every page on this website, and clicking it on..... then, you can click on and read, dozens of chapters from 4 of the books).

here is the chapter-------

PART ONE (of the book): "The non-addicted partners' illusions that keep them attached to alcoholic/abusive persons"

Chapter 3: "Knowing That It’s Hard to Lose an Alcoholic, Helps to Calm Us Down and Keep Us on the Recovery Path"

I said in my first book, "Getting Them Sober, Volume One", that it’s hard to lose an alcoholic.

People have written to me and asked me what I meant by that.

Basically, it means this: You can marry him; divorce him; remarry someone else; repeat the process. And the probability is that he’ll still want to be with you (what­ever that means to him), in the long run.

I know of a couple who have been separated for over 40 years. He lives in the woods of New Hampshire as a resident alcoholic recluse, Each Christmas, Easter, and birthday, he sends her a card . . . and he still considers her “his wife.”

This is not unusual.

This can be useful information to have, to get through the times when you are feeling panicky about losing him.

However, you may ask, “But when will he come back, this time?”

It seems unfortunate, but the alcoholic/addict often begins to return home (wooing you all over again, albeit for a short time before starting on his “junk’’ again) when you begin to not want him around anymore.

He often appears again before you get over him entirely (and you can!). He probably doesn’t want to lose you. He has what I call “alcoholic radar.” (When they are into this behavior, they know just what to do; when to pop up.)

During those terrible panic times when you are un­able to do much else than think about getting him back, it can be very comforting to have this information. And it helps to know that even if he leaves again, if you are willing to put up with it, he probably will keep coming back.

But, it is good to remember the facts: as long as he continues to drink, the alcoholic will probably continue his elusive behavior.

Remembering that can help you to become more self-protective and keep some of yourself emotionally sep­arated from the situation.

Later, when you are calmer, you can deal with the idea of staying in a relationship with an alcoholic (or otherwise emotional­ly-unavailable person).

But, for now, just knowing that he will most likely be back (it you still want him) can help you through these panic-times.

* * *

Counselors sometimes ask me, “Why do you reassure her that he’ll probably come back, when it’s healthier for her to realize how sick that relationship is, and that she must let go?”

When families enter treatment, they most likely do not have to be told that an abusive (emotionally and/or physically) relationship is not good for them. They know it.

Very often, her history is that she and the alcoholic have both blamed her for the relationship problems over the years. If I chastise her for wanting him back, I am subtly adding to that blame to make her feel, again, that she is “wrong.”

If a counselor is baffled and shocked by the fact that she “still wants him back,” she does not understand addictive families.

Families’ greatest fear is that “they will lose him.”

Only if we can get beyond that obsessive fear, by telling her the reassuring facts, can we seriously get down to looking at options. For, when her panic dies down, she is often very willing to begin to look at reality. If I press her to look at this reality too soon, she will probably stop treatment, and then there is no chance to help her.

In other words, we do not lose ground by not getting right down to Divorce and Getting On With Your Life. And if I focus on what I think she should do (instead of under­standing that she is nowhere near that, in reality), she inherently knows that I know nothing about her.

Friday, May 27, 2011

What's our process for a MUCH EASIER & QUICKER healing??

a. As I've posted for years------ it is extremely important for us to accept where we are right now.
To not shame ourselves for 'not being where we want to be'.
For shame just adds boulders in our path........totally un-necessary boulders.
Shame does not make us 'move on'-------it just makes us cringe.
b. What DOES help us to become what we want to become-----WITHOUT SHAMING OURSELVES?

What IS that process?

The process is three-fold--------

a. no self-shaming.....and no internalizing shame from others, for "not being where we think 'we should be'

b. never lying to ourselves......i.e., not minimizing about what is really the truth about the situation.
In other words-------- (and this is why I posted about try very hard to see your situation as others who have not been emotionally abused, might see it)----- if we try to REALLY see under our fears-----------and look squarely at the truth-------then we see it MORE CLEARLY.

(Hence, Al-Anon's important primer book, "Al-Anon FACES alcoholism'.......it's all about how we need to be fearless in our looking at REALITY).

And---------when we see reality more clearly----------without shaming ourselves---AND THESE TWO PROCESSES CAN BE TRICKY---BUT IT CAN BE DONE......AND THEY ARE CRITICAL FOR OUR HEALING-------


The denials that we revert to ------put boulders in our path.
The shaming that we take in ----puts boulders in our path.





WHICH LEADS RIGHT TO THE QUESTION ---------how do we do this looking squarely at our situations-------without feeling depressed about the TRUE reality?

It's when we KNOW and truly UNDERSTAND that we WILL be moved along the path of healing-----------BECAUSE THAT IS HOW HEALING WORKS------A COMBINATION OF TOTAL SELF-TRUTH AND NOT-SHAMING OURSELVES---------- combined with the knowledge that the universe organizes itself to then move us in ways that we could not have known before----------along healing paths---------
--------when we really really realize this----------internalize that this process is a combination-process that works--------- we can relax into the healing that surely will come.

And before we know it--------we will truly in a real, in an organic way-------ALMOST WITHOUT EFFORT--------be moved along the healing.

And when we KNOW this--------it is then SOOOOOOO much easier to live one day at a time about this, emotionally.......for we know, then, that since WE will be more healed in ways we cannot even imagine-------then we stop feeling trapped..............

.........and that depression lifts........

c. And------- what do we do when we STILL SOMETIMES GET SCARED?...When we hear 'just live in today' or 'just turn it over'---------AND WE "REVERT" ---- AND WE FEEL THAT WE ONCE AGAIN, CAN'T DO THAT???....... That OFTEN happens because we still have not yet learned---or internalized ----- about exactly what happens to the body and brain of the alcoholic...... for when we truly learn-----TRULY INTERNALIZE THE TRUTH-------- about all the in's and out's of his disease
------then he stops looking so powerful to us!......
We INTERNALIZE the truths about his disease------that what comes out his mouth is just the disease------

So-------how speed up that process?...... Read about this disease....... not only read about how all the daily 'stuff' and how to handle it (that's all detailed in the "Getting Them Sober" books (and 33 of the chapters are excerpted on that section of this website) -------but also read about the physical disease and how it acts on his brain-------read "Under the Influence" by Milam (all about the body/brain of the alcoholic).....
Read and re-read and read again........until the truth about this crazy stuff is internalized.
All of this together--------all three of these processes together----will absolutely "move you along your path of healing--------YOUR INDIVIDUAL PATH-----AT YOUR PACE------IN YOUR TIME-----IN GENTLE KIND WAYS TO YOU"......... hugs, Toby

Thursday, May 26, 2011

It's not amount or frequency of drinking--it's ANY drinking

a. If one is alcoholic, the disease of alcoholism progresses with any amount one drinks......... or no matter how often one drinks.
As they say "it's not how much you drink------or how often----it's WHETHER you drink at all".
b. alcoholics can be very clever at trying not to 'look like' they are alcoholic......many do not gulp their drinks if they think others are watching.......many drink a lot before they go out, so they can sip their drinks and make others think they hardly ever drink.
Of course, as the disease progresses, this hiding gets harder and harder to carry out.
c. So----how know if there is alcoholism?
1. read the 20 questions in the back of the "Getting Them Sober, volume one" book.......they are the 'industry standard' of evaluation.
2. when I directed a treatment center many years ago-----I was taught by a very smart person (who owned the center) how to find out if an alcoholic was really one (we evaluated court-sent persons to us).
We looked for two things--------one, did his family complain about his drinking? Almost NO ONE has this problem----unless he is alcoholic.
Two-----we asked if the person ever 'switched' to other drinks (the underlying purpose was to control his drinking). No one but alcoholics try to control their drinking---------- for, if one is not alcoholic-----one does not even drink enough to HAVE TO control it!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Unable to remember they hurt us? They still need make amends

There is no need to even think for a moment that if they don't remember (because of blackouts or brain damage) what they did to harm the family during the drinking days------that it's an excuse not to make amends.

MANY alcoholics who are truly sober and working the Steps in A.A. do not remember what happened--------and when they want to make amends----they ASK the family members to tell them what they did and how it affected them...and how they can begin to make amends to them.

Don't know which one, but in one of the Recovery Tips of the Month (a section on this website), I wrote about how many sober alcoholics begin to heal their relationships with their adult children---------by encouraging their adult children to talk about what they remember and how it affected them. And these truly-sober alcoholics then LISTEN and LISTEN and LISTEN to their children for months--- and months --------and months------without saying in so many words, "get off my back".

They VALIDATE their children.

And they are truly sorry for what they did.......and they spend literally years trying to make the proper amends to their spouses and their kids.

I do not post this because it is an un-common occurence.

I post this because it is a VERY COMMON occurrence with the majority of people in A.A.

One can liken it to what we used to call, in the U.S., years ago, the "silent majority"----------i.e, the regular folks who just do what they are supposed to do------go about their business-----and don't make a fuss about it.

It's the ones who make the headlines that are real b**ta**s------ that are focused on in the news.
But the 'silent majority' are nice people.

It's the same in A.A.

And-------of course, when we are in relationships with the "not-silent minority' of those in A.A. who are NOT making amends-------who don't give a darn about how we felt for decades------- THEY are making "the headlines" on the internet.

We usually find we don't have to post about the nice ones...they're not making our lives a living hell...and therefore we don't need to post to get some support to just get through a day with them. ---love, Toby

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

When he says "You're trying to control me!"

"You're always trying to get the perfect husband! Well, I"m not here on earth to try to live up to your idea of what I should be!" -------says the still-drinking alcoholic.

IS wanting him to be sober -- a "perfectionistic" requirement for marriage?
Do you have the RIGHT to demand recovery before you want to return to that marriage?

Let's look at this.

Think back to when you were younger, thinking about future marriage.

What were your dreams about the 'perfect' husband or wife?
Did your list of attributes include "sobriety"?
Did you even consider that a GREAT husband or wife, meant "not passed out"?!

Of course not.

It is not "perfectionist" to want your spouse to be not-un-conscious.

It IS part of the disease of alcoholism coming out of his mouth, for the alcoholic to call you "a perfectionist" when you expect BOTTOM-LINE things ------ like consciousness and breathing -- from your marriage."
----- love to all the families, Toby

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

MORE on --when we've been told "we're enablers"

It is normal for us, when we've been told by some therapists // the media --- that we're "enablers"..... that we internalize it.

Problem is, it is a very shaming term, for most of us.

And it is totally un-necessary for that term to be used 'on us'......

In the "Getting Your Children Sober" book (and in the "Getting Them Sober, volume 4" book, too) I talk about this very important issue--- for, the implicit shaming in that terminology sends so many of us family members fleeing from counseling -- and gun-shy about seeking any more help again....which results in tens of thousands of family members going down the drain with the alcoholic because they've been so shamed and are afraid to seek any kind of help again, including going to Al-Anon.

(When I'm training counselors, they often tell me that the family members do not return to counseling, once they have a session "about their being enablers").

Here is a small excerpt from the "Getting Your Children Sober" book about this issue..........Please don't let the term 'children' be off-putting -----it applies to adults, too.

(This excerpt is from the chapter about the ways that mental-health counseling has failed to help families of alcoholics).

"Myth #6: When parents are told they are “enablers,” it leads them to stop the enabling.

“Enabling” is meant to describe the res­cue opera­tions that the spouse or parent of an alcoholic carries out, when she can’t stand watching the alcoholic suffer the con­se­quences of the disease. When that hap­pens, she “cleans up” the alcoholic’s messes (lies to the school that the son has the flu when the child was actually picked up for drunk driving).
That way, the alco­holic doesn’t suffer the real conse­quences of his behavior.

A parent must learn, eventually, to get some detach­ment on watching these crises happen in order to stop cleaning up after the child.
The idea is to allow the disease to hurt the child so much that he or she wants to get sober.
Of course, it takes a parent a lot of time in a healing group such as Al-Anon in order to be able to do this.
And this detach­ment can’t be forced or rushed by counselors. It is a slow process, and very frightening to the parent.

When a mother rescues her alcoholic child and I label her an enabler, she ob­viously is still doing the rescuing behav­iors and is not yet unafraid enough to give them up.
She knows I am being judg­mental when I use this term.
Even when I say it lovingly, I seem to be admonishing her to go faster than she is capable of doing at that time.
And she feels des­pairing, because she is doing her best.
She may get so discouraged and frustrated and overwhelmed that she stops treatment.

More specifically, the term 'enabler' implies that while the parents did not cause the drinking, their rescue operations con­tributed to the perpetuation of the drinking.
Such thinking is dangerous; it leads alco­holics, who are already looking for a way to blame others for the drinking, into again placing responsibility for the drink­ing on the family.

Alcoholics do not need any encourage­ment to blame others!

Alcoholism coun­selors spend most of their time trying to crack through the blame-systems of alco­holics.

It is considered to be a major break­through in the wellness process of alcoholics when they begin to acknowl­edge that nothing “got them drunk.”

In contrast, alcoholics who have had relapses and are re-entering treatment are now often heard saying, “I wouldn’t have gone out that time if I hadn’t been enabled!”

The alternative to being labeled 'enablers' is to teach you to end the rescue operations through the simple but effec­tive process of detach­ment.

For, de­tach­ment will help end your fears – and it is your fears that origi­nally caused you to rescue.

And even though, in this book, we are pri­mar­ily talking about par­ents and kids, the detachment process is espe­cially important if you also are married to an alcoholic.

It is important for you to lose your fears of that adult alcoholic so you can get on with your life and become more able to deal with your children-alcoholics.

How does detachment work? How does it help you to lose your fears of your alcoholic child or spouse?
The general process goes something like this:

1) When you begin to learn ways to stop watching the alcoholic in order to begin the healing process of seeing to your own needs, the alcoholic has ­radar and senses this switch in focus.

2) Much of the “games” stop then, be­cause the alcoholic knows that less attention will be paid to him or her.

3) By continuing to focus on yourself in­stead of the alcoholic, you get an even greater distance (i.e., detach­ment) from the threats, and begin to lose your fears of them.

4) Again, the alcoholic senses this. He or she begins to threaten even less.

5) You see that detachment works! You gain more confidence. Many of the illusions in your household are begin­ning to end.

6) You lose much of your preoccupation with the alcoholic. Your pre­occu­pa­tion was based on your needing to stop him or her from hurting you. You now see they are much less capable of hurting you than you thought. They’ve already done most of the damage they can do. But the game has been to keep up more of the same junk, to keep up the illusion that the alcoholic is powerful. This no longer works. You have learned not to look at him or her; to walk out of the room; out of the house – to not beg.

7) The alcoholic now stands alone with his or her disease. ("The cheese stands alone").
They’ve lost their audience, and therefore drop much of the bullying. You are not watching it.

8) The alcoholic can no longer get you to believe you are responsible for his or her drinking and for the craziness in that house.

9) The alcoholic has a chance to grow up and make a decision to get help.

10) You are free.

When I teach family members the dynamic of what I have just described, they begin to naturally let go of the disease – to detach, and therefore stop 'enabling' – ­because they are losing their fears of the alcoholics.

* * *
ALSO------- try using the word "rescuer" instead of "enabler" when you speak of yourself and your history of rescuing the alcoholic.
It "means the same"-------but the CONNOTATION is kinder. When we 'are called' rescuers-------it implies that we meant well ------not so with the word 'enabler'.

No matter what the term, we can stop the behavior, if we are gently led on how to do so. IMPORTANT------- of course, only follow any suggestions on the internet if it is physically safe for you and your children to do so-------AND of course, be discerning.......if the alcoholic's life is in danger -----OF COURSE we rescue him!
And-------- we also are discerning along common-sense lines. In other words, if it is 'rescuing' to pay the utilities, we often of course pay them or WE suffer the consequences.. But we think of areas in which we can back off and not pick up the pieces and rescue him--------if the consequences do not hurt the family.