Categories
Recovery

A Look at Recovery: Complete Abstinence

Recovery can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but what it means when you are talking recoverypathabout recovery from addiction and mental illness is complete abstinence. You can’t dabble here and there. An alcoholic can’t smoke weed, and a pothead can’t drink; a heroin addict can’t have a drink now and again and an anorexic or bulimic can’t go on juice cleanses every so often. They just can’t. It’s not wise action or safe behavior. It’s also not indicative of abstinence.

 

Being sober and in recovery means:

  • You don’t drink or use drugs. Period.
  • You eat mindfully and healthfully if you are recovering from an eating disorder.
  • You have a recovery program that you are a part of and that you continue to participate in: 12-step, Refuge Recovery, Al-Anon, et cetera.
  • You are of service to others.
  • You are seeking mental health care if you need it.
  • You are getting help from someone who has been doing this longer than you have and are on a recovery path that you admire.
  • You learn to ask for help and accept help when it is offered.
  • Your relationships are stable or are becoming more and more stable as your recovery time increases.
  • If you are required to take medication, you do so under the care of a physician who is aware of your addiction history. You can’t go rogue here.

 

Recovery is one of those things where there really is no grey area. You’re either in…or you’re out. When we come across someone on the slippery slope of relapse or in the full swing of addiction, what we may find is a chorus of denial and accusations of judgment. An addict certainly doesn’t want to hear that they are slipping down the rabbit hole.

 

The delusion of addiction tells them that they are just fine.

 

What can we as family members and loved ones do?

We have to maintain strong boundaries. If we are in recovery ourselves, it’s a good time to reaffirm our own programs, and ensure we are staying grounded and that our needs our met. Remember that in order to help others, it’s important that we help ourselves first.

We may need to reach out to therapists and arrange an intervention for our loved one, or we may need to make that phone call to a treatment facility to get our son or daughter into treatment.

No matter what the next step is, we must make sure we do it with firm boundaries, compassion, and love in our hearts.

 

The suffering involved in untreated addiction and mental illness is great. Dysregulation is common, along with anger, resentment, and a feeling of isolation. Family systems often start to show signs of wear, if they weren’t already. Addiction doesn’t magically appear! It’s important that the family is ready and willing to begin the work of recovery as well and come to accept that it’s not just the addict in the “hot seat” of recovery.

Categories
Adolescence Family Parenting Recovery

In Honor of Father’s Day: Celebrating Visions’ Dads

It’s Father’s Day weekend and we want to honor some of the fathers we have here at Visions. Stepping onto the path of recovery includes working with dysfunctional root systems, which includes parents that aren’t emotionally and in some cases, physically there for us. However, the recovery process also presents another opportunity: The chance to view others in a positive light, and to be able to look at some of the men in our lives who are good and present fathers with what the Buddha calls sympathetic joy.

 

Our founder, Chris Shumow is a great example of this. I often look toward Chris with great admiration and hope, excited to see a man who has not only turned his life around in terms of recovery, but who has taken the helm of parenting and gone to great lengths to be an amazing father. It’s a relationship he treats with deep respect, humor, love, and joy, and it’s an incredible thing to watch.

 

Our Director of Operations, John Lieberman, is another dad that has transcended that which we assume parenting should be. John is a wonderful example of what it means to be an engaged, supportive father. He’s also a grandfather, and I have to tell you, seeing him talk about and rave about his granddaughter is remarkable. He’s also playful in a way that makes anyone around him know that he is a kid at heart.

 

Daniel Dewey, our Residential Director of Education, is not only a seasoned father, having a burgeoning adult under his wing; he is also a new dad. There is something really beautiful and gentle about Daniel’s disposition. He’s accepting and kind.

 

There’s also Mason Rose, one of our Recovery Mentors and father of a young daughter. We were able to watch Mason’s metamorphosis from young man to father, and it’s been really inspiring. Vito Romani is another one of our amazing young dad’s! He and Mason both grace Visions with regular visits from their little ones. There really is nothing like seeing these young, proud papas with their daughters. And John Johnstone, one of our Recovery Mentors is one of the most dedicated dads I know. He is willing to talk about the tough stuff, show up, love unconditionally, and maintain a sense of humor. That’s inspiring!

Last, lets not forget the role of the step-father: Joseph Rogers, Education Coordinator stepped into the role of fatherhood over 6 years ago and has been able to navigate the treacherous waters of forming a partnership and taking on part of someone else’s role with great kindness and compassion. I can say from watching this one up close and personal that the role of step-parent is often the role of the real parent, and taking that on is a challenge. It’s been really inspiring to watch Joseph do this in the way that he has.

 

The role of a father is not always easy, but we are fortunate at Visions to have a group of men in our midst that consistently show up for their kids. These men show up in the same way to our clients, showing them that the father role has the potential of shifting toward love and acceptance. Father’s day can elicit a varied set of emotions for our kids and for us as parents. They can range from untended loss, or expectations, abandonment, and deep grief rising internally around parents that were never available for us, be it physically or emotionally. The recovery piece is finding our voice amidst that loss. Sometimes it wobbles. Sometimes it screams. But it’s there, waiting to come out. Knowing and working with good men in our recovery can help heal that wound and allow us to experience sympathetic joy instead of anger and resentment.

Happy Father’s Day, gentlemen. You are truly an inspiration.

Categories
Family Mental Health Recovery

Ways A Family CAN Pick up the Pieces and Recover

Healing a family from addictive behaviors and emotional dysregulation takes work.


It takes willingness from all parties involved and a moment of clarity from the addict as well as the family in order to get the ball rolling. It takes dedication and a commitment from the entire family system. When someone says, “I’m sick and tired of being sick and tired,” it helps us to recognize that this is the brain’s way of taking a breath of fresh air. That “breath of fresh air” is the internal shift an addict or alcoholic needs to embrace and encourage them to move toward the next level. In our last blog, we noted the following 4 things a family needs for recovery. I thought it wise to break it down further:

 

1. A healthy home

2. Mental and physical health

3. Sense of purpose

4. To have and build a sense of community

 

What does a healthy home look like?

When when Visions’ Noelle Rodriguez, Psy.D. is working with families and helping them heal broken or disrupted family systems, she stresses the importance of “having an intentional culture in the home that supports open communication, boundaries that are well defined, and have mutual respect.” In this way, home can become a refuge instead of a place of commotion.

 

Mental and Physical Health:

If a mental health diagnosis has been made, it is imperative that there is consistency with medication, consistent medical and psychological follow-ups, and that the family as whole is on the same page. Recovery requires a broadening net of support. It often begins with the clinical support in treatment, and expands to include a network of sober, healthy peers, and often reparation of the family system.

 

Sense of Purpose:

Find something that inspires you:  Something that is positive and supports your path on recovery. Remember, purpose is another word for motivation: take commitments at meetings, be of service, volunteer somewhere that you love, take a morning walk. Joseph Rogers, Assistant Education Director at Visions’ IOP says, “If students/clients don’t have a light at the end of the tunnel, something to look forward to, it is hard for them to see why they should continue making an effort.”

 

To have and build a sense of community:

One of the most amazing things about treatment and the path to recovery is fellowship (community). Knowing that you have a net of like-minded people in your corner is a powerful salve. How often do we hear the John Burroughs quote, “Leap and the net will appear”? I have to tell you from my own recovery experience, building and sustaining a healthy community of support and care has shown me truth in that very quote. I have leapt often and each time, I have been met with an incredible “net” that I call community. Your community will tell you the truth, love you when you can’t love yourself, and hold you accountable when you make a fool of yourself. Community aka fellowship is a glorious thing.

 

I recently heard something I found revolutionary from an addiction psychiatrist about hitting bottom, saying that it’s important that we as professionals and families “eliminate rock bottom as a condition of recovery and find the right conditions for recovery.” This moved me because it encourages taking action sooner, it encourages destigmatizing what recovery can look like, and it provides a sense of hope. Families need hope. They need to believe that recovery is possible. They need to know and understand in the fiber of their being that there is light at the end of the tunnel. UCLA’s Dr. Tim Fong said, “Addiction and mental health are not necessarily curable conditions, but they are controllable conditions.” In other words, recovery is attainable.

 

Categories
Adolescence Dual Diagnosis Family Parenting Recovery

An Intensive Family Program Promotes Healing the Family System

Visions knows that a family in crisis needs requires an intensive family program. It doesn’t benefit a family to be viewed as having individual branches that need to be removed, trimmed or repaired. We are thrilled to be building out our 3-day intensive family program with the help of Jeff and Terra Holbrook. They have been doing family work for almost two decades and are deeply committed to healing the family system. Their insight and experience are invaluable and in line with the  culture of Visions. Visions wants the family to heal from the inside out; We require all families to go to:

  • Weekly parent support groups;
  • Weekly multi-family groups; and
  • Individual family sessions.

Families are also encouraged to go to outside support groups (Al-Anon, AA, ACA, Refuge Recovery, et cetera).  When we meet with families, we address issues of attachment, enmeshment, codependency, and we assist families in creating healthy boundaries. The recovery process requires a level of willingness and curiosity on everyone’s part and it is particularly important to do family work because addiction and mental health are rooted in the family system. It is not uncommon for parents and loved ones affected by their child’s addiction or mental illness to become angry, place blame, distance themselves from their child, or try to fix the problem themselves; often times, the focus remains on the addict. Here’s where an intensive family program comes in.

 

Think of the family system as a garden. Imagine the roots of everything in the garden weaving their way through nutrient rich soil containing love, respect, healthy boundaries, positive attention, and connection to healthy resources. Now imagine what happens when that same soil becomes fallow: The roots begin to suffer from neglect, abuse, abandonment, deprivation, and entanglement; the garden begins to whither away, grasping onto whatever is closest to try to survive. Family systems need to be nurtured from their root systems all the way up. Removing one unhealthy part won’t allow the entire system to heal. In fact, the entire root system will malfunction as a result.

 

Our intensive family program provides salient educational tools for parents to learn to face addiction and mental health in a healthier way. Families must begin to unpeel their own layers, and begin looking deeply within themselves and at the origins of their own root systems. Parents must also understand what they are asking their kids to do to recover, and more importantly, it’s invaluable for parents to show their kids they are willing to do the same hard work.  For example, if a family is asking their kids to look at how they are powerless, that same family needs to ask themselves the same question.  Addiction and mental health are a family disease; they are not isolated incidents wherein one family member goes rogue. As David Sheff, author of Clean says, “The addicted are not morally bereft, they are ill.”

 

An intensive family program will also help parents move away from the stigma of mental health and addiction and move toward acceptance and healing.  Families are often surprised to find out that their feelings are in line with their child’s: Both may feel angry, betrayed, ashamed, scared, resentful, frustrated, tired, and so on. When parents are able to shed a light on these similarities, the willingness to look at the hows and whys of addiction and mental illness becomes more palpable. Recognizing this similarity also elicits compassion and empathy for their child and for themselves. When a family can recognize that everything is connected, recovery can truly bloom.