“I found strength during crises and was able to intervene”
‘’When my daughter was in the hospital, I learned to whittle down the problem. I learned not to worry about six months from now, when I was “sure” she’d be in trouble again. I learned not to worry about bills that would come up before they actually did. I learned to deal with what was in front of me at the moment. Before, it was all one big lump. That’s why I couldn’t do anything about anything. I couldn’t sort it out.
But what I did find was I could do one thing at a time. I learned what to set aside for the moment.
When a crisis comes and you’re not in a recovery program, you just run in circles. When a crisis comes and you are in a recovery program, you have a lot of practical options to choose from. All those steps that you’ve been hearing about–the- how-to-get-better steps (which maybe you weren’t practicing because you weren’t desperate) – they now come back to you.
Those things you “put on the shelf – that before you couldn’t do – they do come back to you as well. They do. You seem to make a conscious decision to try (even though you’re scared) to do those steps.
You know that you have to do something.
When you come to a recovery program, you learn to trust that you will be given the answers, and you are. It just happens. I said to myself, this is a process that has helped many people. Am I willing to try?
It took the pressure off, thinking in terms of “I’ll try,” rather than, “By God, it’s going to work, or else!”
I learned to see treatment as a process that would not necessarily fix my entire family all at once, but one that would begin the healing process. I tried to change my attitudes about intervention to see it as yet another step towards getting well rather than a fearsome “it-better-work-or-all-is-terrible” final solution. Once I learned to incorporate this way of thinking, I had a more relaxed attitude about the outcome of intervention. I called a treatment center.
The following is an interview with a wife of an alcoholic who was also the mother of alcoholic children.
“I allowed myself time to heal”
How did I allow myself time to heal, to get well enough to be able to make the necessary changes in my family, without the guilt that I was allowing precious, and maybe dangerous, time to go by?
Since, in the beginning I couldn’t do anything anyway, I surrendered to that fact. I accepted it. I had no choice. I was doing my best that day.
It was one day at a time.
I got my body to the recovery meetings, to prepare for the time when I could act. I found enough gentleness there, enough caring for me and enough acceptance – acceptance while I was crying, and immobile; acceptance with the knowledge that just because I was crying didn’t mean the drinking was going to stop.
People asked, “Was there anything more you could do today? Were you able emotionally to do any more today?” And I answered,” I couldn’t”. So they told me that was my best.
I was allowed to have my limitations at that moment.
When bad things happened to my kids and I was not yet able to do anything, I knew that in the end, if I did the best I could, than that was the best. When I told myself I should have exerted myself more, despite my fears and feeling immobile, I reminded myself that in order to use the program of recovery, in order to get any help, you have to surrender to the program. If you don’t surrender, you’re not going to be able to use the program. To me, my surrendering to the program means I totally believe it – believe that I and my family can eventually get well. I accept that and believe it. I have to start by accepting what I cannot do today.
If I don’t accept myself as I am now, I cannot go forward. This idea allows me to start my day at any time. When you become aware that what you are doing is ineffective, you can start over that minute. You can say to yourself, “Okay, this is not getting me anywhere.”
“How my panic stopped”
Whenever I focused on solutions –“what can I do” – I got all screwed up.
I’d get hooked into thinking the impossible, that if I “solved” the problem, then everything would be all wonderful or I’d scare myself out of taking any action because I was sure that it wouldn’t work at all.
I began to trust that even though there isn’t necessarily one neat solution, or
one right way, there is help.
I had great faith in reading things that I was certain would be helpful for me. That started making me feel very special. I felt that maybe God was there. I would read something, and I’d say, “Oh, yes!”
So, help came in various ways, through a counselor, often people —and my quiet times with God. More and more, if you keep coming back to recovery groups, you’re going to begin to have some times when you feel okay and it doesn’t have to take years. I’ve seen it take just a few weeks or a few months. It’s taken you a long time to get into this mess so don’t expect that in one day everything is going to be solved but you will begin to know that ultimately, it’s going to be okay. Your limitations will become fewer and fewer and at the same time you will learn to begin to be good to yourself because the program tells you to. You start feeling a little better. You gain some self trust. You stop believing everything that everybody tells you and you begin to discern.
You learn to “take what you like and leave the rest’’.
You start to do that in life, with everyone.
There was a time when it felt as if I had ten counselors telling me to do something. The police, my husband (who was still drinking), everybody was telling me what the right “solution” was for my kids.
And I was saying, “What is the right thing to do? I just know what “I” need to
As long as I retained the attitude that whatever intervention action I took about my child’s alcoholism wasn’t necessarily the final solution, but another step, I found some serenity. It kept the panic down.
THIRTY SYMPTOMS OF ADDICTION*
*NOTE: This list has been compiled with the aid of top experts in the field of adolescent addiction. However, it is not an exhaustive list. Parents and therapists may note other symptoms that could indicate a pattern of addiction in children and teenagers
1. Has your child stayed out all night without your permission? (Before you say, “All kids do that,” they don’t all do that.)
2. Have you come across inappropriate things in his or her bedroom?
3. W hen your child comes home, do his or her eyes look bad?
4. Does your child come home and seem “spaced out”?
5. Does this child physically hurt younger brothers and sisters?
6. Does your child act up at public gatherings where certain decorum is expected, and where other kids are behaving properly?
7. Has a teacher or principal called you about your son or daughter?
8. Has he or she been suspended from school?
9. Are your child’s school grades worse than they were last year?
10. Has he or she been truant?
11. Has your child dropped out of sports or other school activities? Does he not want to lift weights when he used to? Did she used to like tennis, and now makes excuses not to play?
12. Has there been a change in your child’s dress, even within the implied dress code of his or her peers?
13. Does your child no longer do chores willingly, if he or she used to? Are you given as an excuse, “I have to go out”?
14. Does your child often tell you that he or she “has to meet friends on the playground”?Often, after hours in elementary and junior high school, the school grounds are filled with alcohol and other drugs. Parents tell themselves, “I’m glad my kid is straightening out and going along with school friends to play.” (After all, when we were kids, there weren’t drugs on the playground.) And you, of course, want to believe your children. We think it’s a moral issue; we forget it’s a disease.
15. Does your child refer to “pleasurable” drinking that is months or years in the future? (“I can’t wait to go to college so I can drink and party there!”) Or, if you’re talking about another person who stopped drinking, does your child exclaim, “But, what about beer and crabs next July?” (Even though it’s only December).
16. Has your child ever come in after a good time and commented that he or she drank everyone under the table?
17. Does your child use the word “party” as a verb, rather than the noun which it is? (i.e., if your daughter is going to an upcoming party, does she talk about “partying” in general, or is she talking about the people who might be there?)
18. Does your child often ask to spend the night at a friend’s house? Does Susie’s mother maybe not mind if they drink “just beer”? Does your child tell you that Susie’s mother will be there and she’s not? Check on the facts.
19. Are you finding empty liquor or beer bottles under your child’s bed?
20. Is your child hanging out at a shopping center? Is there a liquor store there? Are the kids buying booze there, or getting an adult to buy it for them?
21. Has your child’s circle of friends changed in a way that is noticeable?
22. Are drugs in the medicine cabinet slowly disappearing? Kids often get their initial supply of drugs there.
23. If you keep alcohol in the house, does it seem diluted? If you’ve had a
party, have people claimed that it seems weaker than usual?
24. When you ask your child questions, does he or she seem to “skate”; meaning, not being direct with answers, but kind of going all around the point, being vague?
25. Is money missing from your pocketbook or piggy banks in the home?
26. Is your child getting an allowance and lunch money, and still coming back and saying he or she needs more?
27. Are your possessions disappearing?
28. Has your child been stopped or arrested by the police for drinking while
29. Have you ever considered seeing a professional about your child’s behavior?
30. Has your child ever spoken about, or attempted suicide?
If your child has two or three or more of these symptoms, they often form a pattern of probable addiction. Children manifest these symptoms differently, at different times.
As discussed earlier, at times they may appear to stop altogether. That is the disease’s deception which makes parents think that their child’s problem is gone, that it has cleared up.
AA says that alcoholism is cunning, baffling, and powerful.
So, how can you know – when the symptoms disappear for a while – if the problem might really be gone? Well, unfortunately, the statistics are not on your child’s side. The disease may lie dormant by the seeming “controlling” of it, and your child may appear to “do well” again at school and in his or her general behavior. But, if that child holds on to his or her “right” to drink socially, that is often a symptom of a continuing problem with alcohol.
Toby Rice Drews is the author of the million-selling “Getting Them Sober’’ book series, endorsed by ‘dear Abby’, Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, and Melody Beattie (author of ‘Codependent No More’). Toby trains counselors throughout the U.S. and Canada, and offers telephone consultations with families of alcoholics. Her books are available on her website http://www.GettingThemSober.com. They are also available on Kindle, The Nook, Amazon and in bookstores nationwide.