5 Natural Ways to Improve your Mind (Guest Blog by Erika Long)

5 Natural Ways to Improve your Mind

The brain is the most complicated and important organ of the body, regulating almost all cognitive and bodily functions.

Ensuring that your brain is functioning properly is vital not only to support your intelligence and mental health, but for your overall well-being. There are numerous factors that affect brain function, but focusing on several key lifestyle changes can fine-tune and improve the mind. Here are five of the most important tips to follow to ensure cognitive health and enhanced brain power.

 

  1. Better sleep

Sleep is one of the most crucial aspects of your daily routine. It’s a key process that helps regulate a wide variety of functions in the body. Sleeping is not simply resting, as the body is actually working fervently during sleep. When you sleep, the brain is consolidating daily information intake and repairing the natural damage caused by ageing to ensure that cognitive power doesn’t degenerate.

 

Recent studies that have confirmed the correlation between healthy sleep (both in terms of quality and duration) and brain power. Sleep affects memory function and psychological mood. Even one extra hour of sleep and a short daytime nap can effectively enhance your brain power and learning capacity. At the same time, it’s worth noting that other results indicate that too much sleep can be equally detrimental as lack of sleep, so you should follow the guideline of 7-9 hours a night.

 

  1. Exercise and fitness

“Mens sana in corpore sano” is a famous Latin phrase that translates, “healthy mind in a healthy body.” This advice makes sense as exercise is a key for the proper function of our minds. Studies have linked aerobic exercise like running, jogging, or swimming to enhanced cognitive prowess.

 

A routine of just 10 minutes of daily exercise can drastically boost performance, and when duration is increased there are increased benefits to both your body and brain. During exercise, the development of new cells is stimulated and more connections are created between them, resulting in an overall boost in mind performance.

 

Finally, exercise is a key factor in overall health, playing an important role in blood pressure, circulation, and regulating blood sugar, and to name a few. A mind attached to an unhealthy body is almost guaranteed to underperform and age faster.

 

  1. Omega-3 Fats

The brain is about 60% fat, and requires a stable, healthy supply of good fats in order to maintain a healthy structure and continue functioning well. Omega-3 fats play an extremely important role as research indicates that these fats essentially safeguard the health of your brain and ensures its longevity.

 

A diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids includes frequent consumption of oily fish (like salmon and mackerel), nuts and seeds. These essential fatty acids allow your brain to self-repair more efficiently and sustain higher performance throughout your lifespan. Additionally, a correlation exists between omega-3 consumption and the prevention of brain degenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

 

  1. Flavonoids

Flavonoids are potent anti-oxidants that are crucial to the proper function and health of the brain, ensuring high levels of cognitive power. These antioxidants protect the neurons of the brain from damage that can be caused by the accumulated concentration of toxins in the body. At the same time, they stimulate brain cell production and growth. This powerful combination of functions ensures that the brain continually rejuvenates itself so it can be as sharp as possible, despite the effects of ageing.

 

These important compounds can be found primarily in nuts, spices, berries, and citrus fruit. Most of these foods are readily available all around the world, making it is easy to implement them into your diet and reap all the benefits they offer.

 

  1. Vitamins B and D

Vitamin-rich diets are generally considered important in safeguarding from disease. Vitamins that belong to the B complex are vital for the function of the brain, as they stimulate energy production, neuro-chemical synthesis, and cellular construction or repair. Studies have indicated that a higher level of B vitamins is linked with better performance in cognitive and memory tests.

 

Similarly, vitamin D has been found to support the structure of neurons which has led to elevated performance on mental aptitude tests. The dietary sources of vitamin B and D are similar. Again, oily fish are rich in these nutrients as are leafy greens, and eggs.

 

Additionally, UV radiation stimulates the creation of vitamin D internally thus it’s important to get some time in the sun daily as internally-produced vitamin D is even more potent and long-lasting than vitamin D from food or supplements.

 

 

When we embrace a healthy lifestyle focused on quality sleep, good nutrition and sufficient movement, we ensure our cognitive function will last throughout our years. Besides incorporating these foods and habits into our daily routine, we can also take natural supplements that support brain health. These practices are easy but do require conscious effort and consistency to reap all the benefits a healthy brain has to offer.

Guest Blogger Erika Long loves corgis, curry and comedy. Always searching for the next great snuggle, flavor or laugh, she inspires people to live their best life now. When not writing, Erika can be found at her local brewery dominating Harry Potter trivia night.

What is Your Hope in?

When it comes to knowing someone I love is struggling, I used to harness my heart to their situation.

It’s been a long process of learning to take a broader perspective.

Some years ago I had a friend who was a family dysfunction counselor that I began to lean on during some intense years of struggle. She was very healthy in her responses to me, but being in over my head and not yet educated in behavioral dynamics (including my own) related to family dysfunction, addiction, codependency etc., she often spoke in terms that would confuse and even at times infuriate me.

Until I was able to accept the truth of them.

Don’t we desperately not want the truth to be true sometimes?

When I would call crying or ranting about whatever crisis was happening within my family, listing all the ways I felt pinned to the wall and desperate for a breakthrough, she would often remind me that there was so much hope for me…but that hope “Was not to be in another person’s behavior or struggles. My hope is in a Higher Power, who has all final say and has a good plan for me through all of it.”

It sounded good.

I would burn for a moment, and try to breathe it in.

And then I’d think, “What is she talking about? Of course my hope is in this person changing, that’s the problem! I’m hoping this situation (which is pretty major, and very scary) has a breakthrough…or I’ll die in the midst of it. How can I not put my hope there? I have my entire heart invested in this person.”

With my heart pounding and adrenaline still surging, I would try to agree with her and gain strength from her words, but internally I really didn’t get it.

The thing I needed to awaken to was that yes, behavior changing and circumstances turning around was exactly what I was hoping FOR. But my hope wasn’t IN that happening, or even in the person I loved so much who was in a life and death struggle.

My hope needed to be propped up on something that transcended all of us. My hope had to go beyond and above all of it.

My hope needed to be placed on a living Force, a higher power Source, in order to get me outside of my own head.

I needed to anchor my hope to a Source with solutions superseding my knowledge, resources and limitations.  To a power Source that has knowledge, ability and authority beyond the realms of anyone and anything else.

(I need to add that who and what is to be our Source upon which to anchor hope and turn to for help is something we all have to flesh out for ourselves.)

This revelation of a Greater Authority began a process of trust for me that continues to this day.

It taught me to allow space with people, to put separation on situations, to lift them all up, off of me, and to not allow anyone to have too much power over me.

I am now on the other side of those desperate years; when life being anything but depressing, chaotic and crazy didn’t seem possible.  Even still, when troubles arise, and triggers present, instead of reacting immediately, or collapsing into a puddle of mess – I respond by taking a moment to submit myself to my Source.

My hope remains harnessed to the One who engineers all things to work out in my favor, no matter how bitter they appear when I’m in them.

Hope placed solely in people and circumstances isn’t stable or healthy (not for me anyway).

Hope placed in something bigger, something above and beyond, greater than myself or anyone else…gives me a way out of the madness of worry, obsession, or efforts to control and interfere.

Thank you, recovery!

Because that area of me was a complete mess.

Whether a heavy, scary thing occurs in my life, or a door I have much hope for slams shut in my face – it helps tremendously to come back to the reminder that; “No matter what I’m hoping for, my hope is not in this person, place or thing. There’s a bigger picture, and a grander Source.”

Once you begin to find that Source for yourself and turn things over to it, hope will begin to transcend your situations.  Hope will anchor to your Source, and that offers more relief than I can describe.

Peace like a river.

While I absolutely continue to visualize and have specific hopes for situations (and people) to go this way or that, and I always will, my hope is always foundationally IN and connected to a power far greater than any of it.

I personally believe that no one has more authority or ability than my Higher Power, the Force who has the final say over every area my life, my son’s life, my family, our circumstances, and even all things adversarial (including enemies and toxic people).

My Source works it all together for my good.

And in coming to an understanding of that, I finally found peace.

Here’s to hope,

Annie

Effects of Emotionally Unavailable Parents.

Recently the question, “What were the effects on your life from having an emotionally unavailable parent?”

Whether due to a medical condition, a drug or alcohol problem, or an emotionally immature parent.

My experience is one that due to dire circumstances, resulted in the emotional absence of both my parents.

I was the youngest of my parents six kids. They had a very unhappy marriage. It was riddled with violence through the first four kids. They tried to pull it together just before their fifth and sixth were born; the violence stopped and we became an alcohol free household.

My parents tried to get their footing through various extreme church/religious practices and self-help trends but never really recovered from their own childhood traumas, which resulted in years of poverty, dysfunction and conflict. They lived from crisis to crisis. In fact, their home burned down when my mother was eight months pregnant with me and they moved in with her parents.

They had a lot of drama! I was brought home to loud, chaotic misery.

By the time I came along my dad was older with a few health issues, his routine was to leave for work every morning at before 6:00AM (just as most of us were waking up); he came home and went to bed by 6:00PM (just as most were coming home). He often seemed like a shadowy figure to me, one that everyone seemed to be afraid of.

My dad and I had as much interaction as possible in the hours he was present. He gave me a lot of good advice and skills as far as ways to look at life…but he just wasn’t consistently available.

As for my mother, she had spiraled into mental illness before I was born, struggled with severe codependency, fears, delusions, and prescription pill abuse.  She was a steadfast manipulator, as she was pretty well known as “THE Church Lady.” She doesn’t drink, cuss, etc., but she is addicted and unwell.

Opiates became her main addiction by the time I was 12 years-old after she was in a car accident.  Abusing narcotic pain medication and Ambien is her routine to this day. Prescriptions, weekly doctor visits, buying extra pills from relatives and friends after she runs out, along with frequent pain clinics are now her way of life (all while condemning others with the Bible).

Not shaming her, these are just the facts.  It’s been frustrating and painful.

That was life in our loud, rowdy household in a nutshell.  The theme of the home was urgency, crisis, religious outrage and misery.  There was not a lot of emotional support, or guidance regarding how to live. I certainly did not feel a presence of love.

Due to lack of healthy conversation, love, guidance or care-taking…many things about me were feral as a child.

I was sent to school with very little awareness as to why I was there.  Often dirty, not prepared, without lunch money, etc.  That didn’t make me feel sorry for myself and to this day I do not, but it certainly made me feel lost.

When you are a welfare kid, or a child who is uncared for you develop a sense of shame so deep within that it can take decades to unravel it, if you even become aware that it’s your issue.

Family shame can stunt your life.  

The effects were that I had zero self-worth. Zero.  I hated myself more than anyone else could ever possibly hate me.  I absorbed blame and shame like a sponge. I took on every problem, or difficult personality as my fault. If someone was an angry or mean person, I thought I caused it.  All roads led back to how “bad” I was, in my broken perception.

This thinking set me up for many years of chaotic, codependent, blame-shifting, advantage-taking relationships, and friendships.

However, hating the dysfunction and misery, along with despising myself and my life drove me to spend a lot of my young adult years going to the library, and seeking out classes, counselors and teachers out of desperation to figure life OUT.

Or better said, I was desperate to figure a way out of my life.

The issues and my response to them, over time, had a profound effect that gradually overlapped the damaging effects…my history made me a seeker, and it saved me.

I became a seeker of truth, recovery, information, confidence, therapy, health, wellness, logic, sanity, healing, forgiveness, PEACE, and improvement anywhere it might be found.  I looked for it all.  I wanted ALL of it!

Years later, when my son became addicted to prescribed opiates after a football injury, I went right into seeker mode again to find out the best possible responses.  He’s now six years out of that and living a great life.

As a result of my upbringing and what it led me to do to survive it, my life is healthy, and full of joy.  I have worked hard to have safe, kind, healthy connections with the people close to me.  The difference of who and what I allow into my personal life is now based on health, self-compassion, wisdom and trusting my inner guides of intuition and peace.

Life is actually pretty great on this side of the early madness. Which is why I openly and as real and raw as possible write, talk, tell, podcast, and speak about all of the above.

The passion of my life is to tell anyone who needs to hear it –  No matter how dark, no matter how low and disadvantaged you started out, no matter who dropped the ball on you… you can have an AMAZING life as an adult.

You can recover from anything!  If you do the work to heal, all can be made well.

I wish you well,

Annie

 

Divorced, not Divided; A House Divided Stands No Chance

 

Divorce, Division and the Disease of Addiction

I think any respectful, right-minded person would agree that it’s important within a group or family setting to be on the same page when making decisions and navigating circumstances. This is especially true as it relates to managing crisis.

While we all may agree that unity is critical, this ideal is useless if our actions don’t corroborate our claims. We can all find ourselves locking horns with those we’re called to unite with for a common cause.

When the goal is centered around a loved one who struggles with substances, united not divided is of utmost importance.

If division is occurring within the home (or homes), it’s crucial to resolve differences in a fair and honest manner in order to obtain peaceful solutions.

Concerning alcoholism, addiction, and SUD, most people have stories of division. Some occur within a marriage where everyone in the household is pulled in different directions. There can be a good cop/bad cop situation in play, siblings played against one another, and so on.

Coming to terms with the huge importance of having a united front is crucial.

In families where there has been a divorce, it would seem division may be already in place, but from my own experience I know that unity is possible.

Division may come from well-intended family members or friends. Division can come from people pulled in or perhaps outsiders taking it upon themselves to become involved. Division can be motivated by fear, guilt, or more sinister motives such as selfishness or a hidden agenda. Whatever the case may be, division is an area of weakness that allows the disease of addiction and the manipulation it needs to survive, to wreak absolute havoc within a family.

Cracks of division, similar to cracks in a foundation, will bring a house down. Wherever those cracks appear, deception and manipulation can get in, which will deter truth and peace and can postpone the path to recovery.

My personal experience

I don’t write as an expert; I write from experience. The following is my experience with solutions in place for division:

– Divorced not Divided

My ex-husband and I kept a pretty good truce going for the decade we shared the responsibility of raising our son after our divorce. Of course it was awkward and even hostile in the initial phases of separating. In the early days we were prone to heated conversations and blame (never in the presence of our son) and it made for discomfort when our paths crossed.

Two years after the divorce, we met in person to have a conversation that cleared the air. We put our issues to rest moving forward from them with a commitment to positively parent our child. We set clear guidelines to prevent our exchanges from becoming cluttered with issues.

This allowed for strong unity when SUD and crisis came roaring through our lives later.

The following are a few ways we avoided division going forward:

Decide on goals and ground rules

Goals:

Having common goals: peace, health, happiness, and well-being for every child you share is of the highest priority. Never forget, it’s about them.

Giving our shared child a fighting chance at the life of stability we felt we didn’t get growing up was important. Giving our son a strong sense of family despite having divorced parents was crucial. These goals were important as a lifestyle for the years prior to crisis, and they became priority during.

Ground Rules:

Anything you do or say (within reason) wont be held against you. We can choose to not have paper thin skin in dealing with one another. Cooler heads must prevail. If you make a mistake you are still respected as an important part of the family. It’s not going to get rubbed in your face. Moving on is constant.

Lets not demonize one another. It is never healthy to say negative or destructive things about someone your child half-identifies with. If a child is not under threat of serious harm, truths will come out if they need to. Attacking one another and shoving poison in the ear of your shared child(ren) causes confusion, negativity, and will pave the way for unneeded struggles for them down the road.

Lets not rush to react, pounce on, or punish each other. Not everything is an ordeal to freak out about. Making a mistake does not classify you as the villain of our equation.

I prioritized this, having come from a condemning, shaming, punishing background. Which is a very difficult culture to be a part of—it makes it impossible to relax enough to just be. If one lays in wait for another to mess up in order to pounce, there can never truly be peace.

No petty, spiteful moves. That would only be wounds from the past manipulating current behavior. That includes not passive-aggressively planting negative seeds about one another in the mind of a child. No competitive parenting, such as good guy versus bad guy mentalities. If one needs to lose for the other to win, not only does no one really win, but the shared child, group, and goals are the real losers.

Incidentally, its good to remember that the behavior we engage in may turn up later in our sons and daughters. If I am engaging in (or accommodating) spiteful, manipulative, game-playing, or unfair tactics, chances are my son will grow up to date, marry, or become someone like that. By virtue of this behavior being woven as if normal into the fabric of his being, he may come to believe its acceptable and okay. Its not acceptable or okay.

Those things will always come back to bite.

Agree to approach things humbly and bypass childishness. Our sons and daughters are way too important for us to engage in arrogant, right-fighting immaturity. It really helps to be a proud “I dont know-it-all.” It’s not about just one of us, our history, our unresolved feelings, or who is the better parent. Its about the goal: the well-being of our kid(s). We must compromise, come to agreement as much as possible, and unite for what is right, fair, and true. This is about what is best for the greater good.

White flags go up immediately. When it comes to our sons and daughters, cease-fire should be quick, regardless of how we may feel about one another. If we are at odds, a peace treaty can still happen by virtue of having a shared mission.

Many times in our situation we could be aggravated with one another or at odds, yet still always have the safety and ability to call and say “I have to tell you what just happened.”

Loyalty to the goal, to the truth and to what is fair and right. We don’t need to fight just to win. Logic overrules emotion.

These standards greatly mattered to us when our son was young.  They later became the strength from which we navigated him to a healthy place when our lives were in crisis.

* * *

What do the earlier years have to do with the disease of addiction? Plenty—addiction is a family disease. If the time ever comes when we might deal with issues of addiction within the family, we have a great running start against the behaviors fueled by SUD. With goals in place, we have strategies ready for managing crisis, manipulation, and division in the future.

And that can prove to be life (and sanity) saving.

Will we ever fail when it comes to abiding by the ground rules? Absolutely. Sometimes miserably! We don’t always get it right. But the foundation laid is always there to return to no matter who drops the ball. You live, you learn, you do the next right thing and keep going.

* * *

What if it’s not possible to agree and unite or if the efforts are one-sided?

Understandably, there are people we all have to deal with that refuse to play by the rules. Some operate with low-blow behavior, don’t care for the greater good, and can’t be trusted to be sincere. Other times, too much damage has been done to have safe, vulnerable communication. There are people not motivated by logic, fairness, or peace. Some folks prefer to keep the fires of conflict and discord burning.

In these situations, the reality is they are probably not going to change behaviors or become less difficult. However, we can set good boundaries and remain healthy enough within ourselves that our reactivity is not negative alongside them.

Personally, in those cases I believe it’s a thing of honor to choose to be the one who still does what is right, staying committed to integrity, boundaries, and decisions, holding hope for a peaceful outcome, despite anyone else’s decisions. Their journey is theirs to figure out—we are responsible for our own.

Show kindness, don’t ever interact with vitriol, respond with dignity, and keep moving forward.

* * *

Nelson Mandela lived by the “Ubuntu” principle. The concept is, “I need you in order to be me; and you need me in order to be you.”

We need each other. We need to be kind and respectful with one another because we need each other.

I am thankful my ex-husband and I were able to establish unity when there was so much opportunity for division. It’s possible if we all do our part.

Our mission is to give our sons and daughters a strong family which in turn will give them a fighting chance for a healthy adult life.

Our responsibility is to not further discord, conflict, or chaos.

Our outcome can be the creation of a unique family unit that will become a safe haven, which in turn makes it easier for our sons and daughters to choose a healthy adult life in which they can thrive. 

My story is not a beautifully packaged family tale. It is raw and real. But it is a true story of reality, recovery, hard work, and hope.

Peace is possible!

Still learning,

Annie

Author of books: Unhooked, and Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache

Host of:  The Unhooked Podcast

* * *

For information, comfort, encouragement and support:

Codependents Anonymous

Parent Support – TAPU

Family Recovery Support

Judge Not

In a recent meeting, a friend shared her wisdom about having been a judgmental person.  She said judgment isn’t only about judging people.  It’s also about judging situations. Something she felt she’d done a lot of.

Judging circumstances as “good or bad,” can sometimes create blind spots, because in the economy of growth, maturity, recovery and building strength—something “bad” can work for “good.”

I thought back to a time when I had to rethink a tough situation in terms of what’s good or bad.

When my son was early in recovery, he wanted to keep his job in California where his home and car were, but planned to spend a year in a different state doing therapeutic work.

He was offered a temporary role in the new location, that would preserve his regular position, but it came with some profound challenges.

Due to geography and his circumstances at the time, he would be required to get up every morning at 5:00 AM to ride the bus for close to an hour, then walk half a mile to the location in 100-degree Texas heat.

He’d have to clean up again when he got into work, work all day, and later catch the same bus route back to his residence.

More than a few of those conditions were new for him.

Many days he would call sounding exhausted, stressed and frustrated. Often describing how he had met someone on the bus ride who was homeless, in active addiction and sometimes in desperate condition.

A lot of days were upsetting.  But he was determined to keep his job, get through that time, do well, and continue onward.

As a Mom, that time was HARD.

I had to work through the desperate feelings the circumstances in his life ignited within me.

I still felt like I’d break having him so far from home. Loving my only child so much in relation to the things that occurred in his life could sometimes feel traumatic.

Daily I wrestled with overwhelming fear, nostalgia, and sadness.   As well, I was at a loss for how to ease his troubles.

Both of us had to accept that this was something he just had to face and get through.

I set my will to be a corner coach, and told myself that none of this was going to kill him.  In fact, it might make him stronger.

Instead of saying, “You poor thing.”  I cheered him on, often saying, “You’re doing incredible things!  You’ve got this, you’re doing it. This is creating amazing strength in you. You’re going to be able to handle anything after this!”

He called me often to hear those words. We both needed to believe them.

The months unfolded, things changed, and that season finally ended. But, even the ending of that time was dramatic. The day he was leaving that state to head back west, he was bit by a brown recluse spider and spent the evening in the emergency room.

Once we knew he was okay, we decided to view even that as part of the beautiful tapestry of life.  That too was part of the building experience, another scar he shows.  Proof of battle!

That season happened a few years ago.  I have to say it’s one experience my son is extremely proud of. He draws strength from the memory, which comes up often.  We both remember it with pride.

We don’t normally brag about the easy days! But we joyfully remember what mountains we climb.

That tough season developed grit, strength, and character in him. That span of time is one of the things I credit for making a strong man out of my son.

It also built resolve within me, and increased my faith that not only shall “This too pass,” but difficult things can work out even better than we expect.

It was a season. Seasons change.

We’re now both grateful for that experience.  We braved through it and ended up better for it.

How often do we want to jump in with a son, daughter, or other loved one and make difficult things easier for them?

Too many times we judge someone’s adversity or struggle as bad; when it might be the very thing to build an inner fire and the strength to handle just about anything! Which is what they’re going to need to get through life.

Don’t be judge the mountains someone you love is called to climb! Examine what you’re feeling and why you’re feeling it.  And then get out of their way, tell them they can handle it, and let them climb.

Once they do, they’ll be able to face anything.

There’s victory and joy on the other side of conquering.

Strength and Peace,

Annie

Author of books: Unhooked, and Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache

Host of:  The Unhooked Podcast

* * *

For information, comfort, encouragement and support:

Codependents Anonymous

Parent Support – TAPU

Family Recovery Support

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Guard Your Valuables! What We Need to Protect

Because I write openly about my struggles and recovery from trauma, I often get letters asking what I might do in certain situations involving deep, hostile family conflict or the madness that ensues from an issue of addiction or alcoholism in a home.

In years past, I didn’t have many “tools in the toolbox” for navigating those troubled waters. I’m certainly no expert. But I am experienced when it comes to turmoil and crisis. By the time our crisis transpired and in the moments when dormant issues exploded to the surface (as they are prone to do when left unattended), I realized I needed strategies in place for managing tough times and intense emotions when they occur.

First and foremost, having faith and gratitude can be some of the strongest power tools we possess. Combined, the two empower us to forgive, find hope, let go, make peace, adapt to extremely difficult situations, and get back up (over and over).

Beyond this, a set of “tools” to pull out on an as needed basis is vital. Those I have found useful…

Knowing who you are

For most of my life I allowed a background of dysfunction and the issues in my life to cause me to feel intrinsically worthless. When we come up through a toxic mess, we believe our identity to be based out of every area of deficit, which results in even more toxic connections and environments. Because it’s our normal.

Like many, I personally thought I deserved less than anyone. I spent years second guessing myself and not trusting my intuition even when it shouted at me. I’d usually believe someone else had more authority to be right about me than I did. Many times after things took a wrong turn, I’d look back and see all the signs I had ignored because I simply didn’t believe in myself.

When this is your thought pattern, you’re at the mercy of everyone around you. You will believe that drawing lines, setting boundaries, and sticking up for yourself are selfish things. But they’re not selfish, they’re healthy.

Unless we know who we are and that we were fundamentally created with value, we become easy prey for those with a dysfunctional agenda.

Therapy and recovery work

Therapy is not for the faint of heart. Therapy and recovery are strong tools that serve to identify and separate us from our issues.

Spending time with a counselor is not a sign of weakness. It’s actually quite brave to admit that we’re struggling with something. (Therapy probably kept me from having a mug shot.)

How much better to just be real and get it over with than to pretend we’re not in a struggle, put on a mask, and end up acting it out.

Spiritual Life

Alongside therapy and recovery, great tools to rely on are regular spiritual practices. We can prop ourselves up on faith and find there to be no better support.

During more than a few major storms, while facing what I felt were huge obstacles and impossible odds, I discovered that I could always find comfort in the Higher Power of my life. The Unseen Force of kindness and strength that is always for me, always helping, healing and strengthening me. The Presence of peace that never leaves us in the worst of times. Even when it feels like everyone else has.

The reminder to: “Guard your valuables!”

This incredibly powerful tool was a piece of advice frequently given to me more than a decade ago and it took almost as long to fully grasp it.

I have a close friend who counsels families in crisis I would sometimes call her to complain about whatever emotional injury du’ jour that I’d sustained. Usually my frustration pertained to a snide comment from a friend or coworker that was delivered at the worst possible time. Or maybe it was an issue I was having with my mom, another relative, or my son.

Her response was never to shame them and baby me (which is important), but instead to point out that once again I “hadn’t protected my valuables.”

“You didn’t guard your valuables.” she would gently remind me.

“What are my valuables?” I’d asked in confusion.

“That’s your problem, you don’t know.” she said more than a few times. “When you figure them out, you’ll protect them.”

We established over time that valuables are the things that make up who we are. Guarding our valuables involves protecting our confidence, peace of mind, goals, problems, sorrows, dreams, and opinions; the deep places of the heart.

Guarding your valuables means being cautious with whom we reveal what is going on in our life.

She would also suggest that valuables are how we respond to others and allow them to speak to us. Self-respect and dignity are valuables.

We aren’t protecting ourselves when we’ve felt uncomfortable or unsafe around certain people yet didn’t give ourselves enough support to create a safe distance from them. We need to honor those gut feelings instead of second guessing ourselves or thinking it might be rude to be guarded.

You can only spend so many years being pulled along by others before ending up burned out and resentful, not realizing you’re betraying yourself. This is how we regularly give away our power and identity. When you live like that, it will put you at the mercy of everyone around you.

The more we grow in the knowledge of our worth and rights in those areas, the healthier our mind will become and over time confidence begins to grow.

My wise friend’s advice was a specific way of identifying boundaries along with methods of protecting myself within them. Life-saving.

* * *

Other valuables might include:

Who we spend time with

Who we do favors for, who we allow to vent to us, who we allow to know our confidential personal business, who knows us on intimate levels, and so on. These are valuable parts of us that we need to treasure and protect.

If we don’t know that—that is where the recovery work needs to be done.

We attract the results of the work we do. If we haven’t done much work on ourselves and our sense of value, we end up surrounded by people who don’t think of us much either.

Rigorous honesty

In order to recover, we have to uncover.

This is a time-saving power tool. Rigorous honesty makes life a whole lot easier when we cut to the chase. Nothing can block the flow of energy that honesty carries. Truth is a power tool.

Self-awareness

Recognizing your participation in an unhealthy situation is a giant step toward freedom from it.

Knowing yourself, trusting your intuition when it checks you (it will always check you—it’s our built in safety system!) will protect you from being desperately hurt by people who pretend to be one thing and turn out to be another.

Open, honest, safe communication

Healthy people communicate; unhealthy people manipulate.

Maintaining peace and equanimity in the midst of chaos

Ignore those who always come running to you like their hair is on fire.

My favorite word is equanimity. Equanimity is the ability to maintain mental calmness and composure when in a difficult situation.

There are personalities who come at you to try to force you on your heels. Some people thrive on conflict, shock value, etc. Ambushes can trigger us. We have to work to remain mindful and composed. Maintaining equanimity and enough presence of mind to not merge energy with someone else’s negativity, or “hair on fire” urgency, is the goal.

Education and information are life preserving power tools

Within my own life, I prefer to have clear understanding of what is going on and what steps I need to take to find solutions. Becoming informed and educated might mean going to the internet for information, taking my questions to professionals, calling friends with similar experiences, finding books, classes and workshops on the subject, or having a counselor or therapist to call and check in with in times of stress or confusion.

When it comes to issues of addiction, alcoholism, substance use disorder and the dysfunctional behaviors they involve, clarity is the doorway to resolution. Knowing the patterns of the brain disease of addiction, understanding the situation at hand, and having tools in place when times get desperate will help build boundaries around your peace (and sanity).

A Strong, healthy support system

We all need someone to have our back and we need to be that for others in return. The ebb and flow of support is what heals people. I cannot stress the importance of support enough. Friends to call, a recovery group, a family support group, a unit that is compassionate, kind, and treats us with sincere, positive regard will heal just about anything.

* * *

Having strategies and tools on hand for tough times are as important for our lives as a toolbox or first aid kit.

When a tornado rips a house apart, once the storm is over, life does go forward, yet it’s different than before. We can’t just proceed as usual now that the winds have stopped. There’s damage to deal with and rebuilding that must take place. It takes time to gather the tools to build stronger lives. It’s a process.

Speaking from personal experience, it’s one that is definitely worth it.

Peace and equanimity are possible.

Still learning,

Annie

Author of books: Unhooked, and Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache

Host of:  The Unhooked Podcast

* * *

For information, comfort, encouragement and support:

Codependents Anonymous

Parent Support – TAPU

Family Recovery Support

 

 

Codependent Comfort Won’t Help Me Finish the Race!

Some years ago I suffered a painfully dislocated shoulder in a minor car accident.  A paramedic pushed it back into place but it was never quite the same.  Over time the damage done and the pain it caused became excruciating.

I was advised by a doctor to have the shoulder repaired with surgery.  However, I tend to have a strong tolerance for pain and delayed that for as long as possible.  But when my shoulder joint began going in and out of socket regularly and the ache from that became unbearable, I decided I had to go through with it.

Pain left unhealed may lay dormant temporarily, but it will inevitably return and usually with a vengeance.  Eventually comfort will become your only focus.

I went through shoulder surgery, titanium anchors were inserted to repair my labarum and I was advised by the doctor to rest for eight weeks.

Being one who can’t sit idle for long, I was determined to return to my love of running as soon as possible.  However, the injury,  surgery and time off had taken some toll (and added some weight!).

Stubbornly, I signed up for my favorite 5k race anyway and set my resolve to finish strong.

I had two weeks to prepare!

The day of the race my son, a junior in high school at the time, drove me to the starting line, gave me a quick pep talk, said “See ya at the finish!” and off he went.

Nerves immediately hit, worse than previous races.  I knew I was not in the physical condition to do well.  Discovering I was late for the starting line didn’t help.

Being that it was a large, community event I had to make my way through thousands of people chatting excitedly.  Some wore bright costumes, hats and ribbons, some were running in place, others stretching against one another.  Many wore shirts proudly displaying previous races, signs of experience and love for the sport. These were always my favorite familiar sights.

Yet in the midst of it all, I found myself feeling alone and insecure.

I realized I wouldn’t be on time to make my way to the runner’s starting line so I decided I would line up with the walkers and weave my way forward to reach those who were running.

The race started and we were off, I stumbled forward with groups of women pushing strollers.  Realizing I was surrounded as far as the eye could see by those who were walking while I wanted to sprint, I made my way to the side to run around slower paced folks.

Jumping curbs, dodging dogs and yelling “Sorry! Excuse me!” over my shoulder as I went.  Nearing the end of mile one I realized how out of breath, out of energy and exactly how out of shape I was!

I stopped to walk a few times, hating myself for it.

Finally, accepting that this whole thing was a mistake I began believing the voice in my head screaming “This race was too soon!  You only trained for 2 weeks!  You’ll never finish!  Your running days are over.”

I stepped away from the crowd and called my son from my cell phone which was tucked safely in my pocket for such a moment as this.

“No.”  He answered immediately.

“You are not calling me to quit.  Are you kidding me?!  No.  Mom you’ve run a marathon…the year after you lost your Dad! You raised me by yourself, you made a life for yourself out of nothing.  Alone!  You’re not quitting.  This is nothing for you, you can do this!  Just keep going. I’ll see you at the finish line.  Even if you don’t get there until midnight!”

He hung up.

My mouth fell open as tears tugged my lower eyelids threatening to spill over.  I stood there holding the phone to my ear as the crowd moved on in front of me.

And then something resident inside of me, a familiar strength began to rise up. I realized he was right.  I had been through worse and had kept going.

I had to try to finish.

Plus, I kinda had no choice!  My son wasn’t coming for me.  I wouldn’t see him until I did finish.

I took his words to heart and told myself to just keep going.  Slowly I jogged back in with the crowd making their way forward.

As I continued winding my way through the throngs of people, a woman came running alongside me, she was moving right along with my pace.

“Oh you are running it too? I can’t find my way through the walking section.  I got a late start, I’m still trying to find the runners. Do you have any idea how far we are from the first wave of them? It seems like a sea of walkers to get through!”  I told her, striking up conversation, figuring we were in the same boat.

“Oh I already finished the race today.  I decided to run it again so I started the route over.”  She said, barely out of breath.

Shame hit me like a gut punch.

“Well, I ran all the time before this injury.”  I said pointing to my shoulder.  “I recently had surgery and I’m just getting back to it.”

I caught myself overcompensating to explain my deficiencies and hated it.  Never being one who cared to create an illusion of who I am, I quickly dropped that first instinct to have a defense mechanism, and returned to being real.

Real is where the magic happens.  Real is when the breakthroughs come.

“To be honest with you,” I went on, “I’ve been a runner for quite a few years, I’ve run a marathon.  But I had this injury and it brought me to a standstill.  I’m so out of it lately and today just feels like one big failure.  This 5k feels like I’m pushing a bus up a mountain.”

She looked over, pulled me to the side and stopped running.

Facing me she said “Listen you are a runner.  That means you have heart and you know how to push through.  That’s still in you.  I was injured a few years ago myself. I went through the worst time of my life.  I lost my home, I went through a divorce, depression, weight gain…I wanted to give up.  But I didn’t let myself.  I started again and day by day, because I didn’t give up and here I am.  Back to it, stronger than before.  You’ve got this.  You can do it.  I know it for a fact, I’ve been there.  You can do this.  Just don’t give up, don’t ever give up.  Keep going.”

She lightly tapped me on my injured shoulder, nodded in the direction of the runners, turned and ran off.

“Don’t quit!” She yelled back as she disappeared into the crowd.

I was so moved by her compassion and comfort that I stepped up my pace, boosted by her encouragement and kindness through most of the next mile.

I pulled it together and finished my race that day.  Though more labored than usual and slower than ever.  I finished.

I give credit to the inspiration of my son who spoke to the fighter within me; as well as to the kindness of a stranger who took a moment to ease another’s distress.

It’s been almost 10 years since that race.  I have added many more 5 and 10k’s along with another full marathon to my running resume since that one.  None of them compare to that 5k race.

That memory still speaks into my life. I learned what comfort really means that day.

I’m so grateful for the tough, “Suck it up” pep talk from my son when I called him determined to quit.  Had he said “You’re right, Mom.  You can’t do it.  You poor thing, you shouldn’t have to, it’s too hard!  I’ll be right there.”

I would have sat down on the curb and waited for him to come for me, climbed in the car and most likely continued on down a path of defeat and easy resignation.

I didn’t need the codependent kind of comfort that coddles me into giving up.  Not if there was any chance I could keep going.

And my fellow runner, what an amazing picture of comfort, empathy and true human connection.

I don’t remember what she looked like, I forgot the color of her clothing and what type of running shoes she preferred. I didn’t even catch her name.  But that moment with her will be with me forever.

People truly do not forget how you make them feel.

The kind words of a stranger telling me “I’ve been there; I know you can do this. Just don’t give up, don’t ever give up.”  fill my mind every time I am tempted to quit something in my life.

Someone who can say “I’ve been there.  I know this path by heart, and I know you can do it.” has weight in their words.

Whatever hard thing I’m facing, that memory powerfully comforts and encourages me to take a few more steps, to not give up, to just keep going.

I’ve had many adversities to persevere through in my life.  Mental illness and addiction run rampant within my family.  I’ve struggled through many a defeat, failure and tragedies I never saw coming.  I have had my heart so broken that there were times I wore sunglasses in the grocery store to hide my red, swollen eyes.

I’ve lived through shocking loss and pain.  It’s not been a cake walk by any means.

I know myself that not just anyone can spur you on through the hard times.  Well-intending friends or family may say ill-informed, unhelpful things that can wound you further and sometimes even hinder your progress.

But someone who has been through it, who has run the same course, who knows the pain of the struggle – telling you that you can handle it, if you just keep going; will help you believe you can.

Comfort like that can change the whole trajectory of your thinking.

Before you know it, you’re past the moment of giving up and heading toward the finish line.

Had my kind stranger not decided to run her race again, going back through to run alongside those of us enduring it for the first time—she wouldn’t have been there to encourage a weak, insecure runner needing fresh hope.

Reaching back to those coming through what you’ve endured to say, “You can do this” is a picture of support, encouragement and comfort at their best.

When I finally reached my finish line, seeing the proud face of my son was an incredible moment, one I will always cherish.

More than that, proving to myself that I could keep going was worth every hard, heavy step it took.

“Surround yourself with people who are rooting for your rise.”  ~Brene Brown

Don’t ever give up!

You can do it, I know you can,

Annie

Author of books: Unhooked, and Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache

Host of:  The Unhooked Podcast

* * *

For information, comfort, encouragement and support:

Codependents Anonymous

Parent Support – TAPU

Family Recovery Support

An Encouraging Project for Difficult Times

My life has had its fair share of ups and downs, I went through another round of despairing circumstances a few years ago.  I wrote a little about it in my second book Unbroken.

Through that time, I could not find seem to my way to a solution for some intensely pressing problems. It was tough not to give up, I’m not going to lie.

It was a hard season of life.  I took more than a few pajama days during that time.

One morning while going through it, I happened to catch an interview on television where a man talked about having a “happiness project.”  He described how having a method of gratitude and positivity had actually pulled him through a season of suicidal depression.

He went onto explain that expressing gratitude and extending kindness are two things that can chemically alter the brain; they can increase serotonin and release dopamine.

I listened, took notes and came up with my own method out of what he did.

Later that day, I bought a notebook and set a goal for 30 days.

For one month, I would write 10 daily things that brought me joy or positive energy, things I could find to be grateful for.  My list varied from a favorite song coming on the radio that I hadn’t heard in a while, the sun shining outside my window, my son calling with good news, my dog laying against me, someone holding a door for me, etc.

The 2nd part of the process required saying something complimentary or positive to three different people every day.  Whether in email, phone call, mailing a card, sending a text, and so on.

(Gotta be sincere with this part, you can’t feel like you are just meeting a quota or it won’t work for you – nor be felt as genuine by the receiver.)

I set out to do both of those things every day for 30 days, I figured I didn’t have anything to lose and it might at least lift someone else’s spirit or help me find a few things to be positive about when every area of life seemed to be crashing and burning!

And so I began.

It was an uplifting, quiet process that made me feel I had some control over the stability of my life. So far so good, yet nothing miraculous happened.

About halfway through the 30 days, things hadn’t yet changed…however, I began to.  My emotional energy began to shift.

I felt more positive concerning those same upsetting, uncertain situations.

I began to feel more optimistic and energetic toward solutions.  I felt the stirring of hope.

Life then gradually began to level out and become more calm and easily manageable.  It was as though I had internally changed directions and my life began to move with me.

Doing those simple things everyday led me to easy breathing and optimism.  It gave me something to look forward to everyday.

Having that joy and kindness project in the midst of raging circumstances, carried me through and eventually drove me out of the darkest days of that time.

By the end of the 30 days, I felt internally cleansed and much stronger to face the things I’d been struggling with.

To this day I return to that process every time I sense that I’m sinking low about a situation, or if I’m feeling like circumstances are out of control, perplexing, and discouraging.

Consider a 30 day positivity project of your own, you have nothing to lose!

Besides, it works.

Still learning,

More optimistic,

Annie

Author of books: Unhooked, and Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache

Host of:  The Unhooked Podcast

* * *

For information, comfort, encouragement and support:

Codependents Anonymous

Parent Support – TAPU

Family Recovery Support

 

 

Needing Support

How important is support? I believe nature reveals to us that we are meant to support one another along the journey of life. Dolphins, for instance, are known to work together to catch fish, save sick friends, and play. Recently researchers have recorded the clever cetaceans ‘talking’ to each other in order to solve a complex puzzle. The discovery suggests dolphins use a language dedicated to problem solving. I read an observation report about one dolphin becoming paralyzed. When others saw that it was unable to swim, they gathered to form a bridge of support under it, carefully raising their injured friend to the surface for air.

Joshua Plotnik, a behavioral ecologist at Mahidol University in Thailand, and primatologist Frans de Waal, director of Emory University’s Living Links Center, have shown through a controlled study what those who work with elephants have always believed: the animals offer something akin to human sympathetic concern when observing distress in another, including their relatives and friends. Elephants in another herd were once found solemnly gathered in a circle, weeping together over the body of one of their herd who had died.

Along with dolphins and elephants, gorillas, dogs, cats, certain corvids (the bird group that includes ravens), and squirrels among others, have been shown to recognize when a herd mate is upset, weakened, or injured and to offer gentle caresses and chirps of sympathy, according to a study (published February 18 in the online journal PeerJ).

In nature, lending comfort and support seems to come, well…natural.

Some years back I personally observed comfort and support from nonhumans when my beloved Cairn terrier injured her spine, became paralyzed, and went through major corrective surgery. She recovered, yet never regained full strength. For the next four years of her life I tended to her every need as my other dog and our cat watched over her closely. They stuck by her, ever present at her side, especially when she grew weaker or sick. I often found them sleeping one on each side of her, lying close against her.

When she died, for months the two of them would sit with me in every room I occupied, something they hadn’t done together before. Every day they would lie at my feet, one on either side, as I worked my way through the sadness and misery of losing my closest companion. That little dog had been like a baby to me. Because of her many health issues, I took care of her like a child. In some ways, caring for her had even become a distracting comfort when my son moved across the country. Losing her was a traumatic shock. I was touched by how aware the remaining two were of my grief. Their loyal presence helped me get through that difficult time. Animals somehow sense when we are in need of extra comfort.

Another example I read not long ago was in reference to Redwood trees having surprisingly shallow roots compared to other trees. Redwood trees are some of the tallest, strongest trees, yet they have short roots that grow more wide than deep. However, these roots have an amazing ability to latch onto one another, growing tightly together as a strong force underground. The linking of roots allows for added strength, causing several trees to unite as a whole, standing together as one when storms come.

  1. Love. That.

Nature gets it. So if support and comfort are vital in nature; what message does that send to us?

What a beautiful thing if that kind of support came naturally in every family and group setting. How much different would our lives be if we instinctively came together to raise each other up, without considering fault, blame, or shame, without thinking of our personal issues or awkward feelings? How wonderful would it be if we didn’t hold back, but instead showed up, putting opinions and differences aside to offer comfort and encouragement, rallying around someone in need? How much stronger we would be when the storms come?

I’ve most often found unconditional support in rooms of recovery. Managing the adversities of life feels crushing, especially when you feel like you have to do it by yourself. Having reliable group support can provide great comfort in challenging times.

For most of my life I’d taught myself to have a stiff upper lip and push through trials. Therefore, support was most often reserved for a small handful of friends, Google, or the self-help section of the Library. It was by chance that I started attending family recovery meetings. We had already come through so much of the storm by the time I started going. But once I went, I never left. Supportive meetings were the final puzzle piece in my walk forward out of years of misery and dysfunction. They were a perfect fit.

After experiencing the profoundly healing effects of attending a good, solid support group, I now admit I regret the nights I walked the floors alone, agonizing about our circumstances. I regret not having a safe place to vent my frustration or hear how others coped when dealing with their own. How I wish I had a room to go to from the beginning of the journey, to gather with people going through what I was going through. I would have found safety in those numbers and strength from others who could say “Yep, I’ve been there. That happened to me too. You’re not the only one. I get it.”

I did have very good friends to call and I was lucky enough to personally know a few professionals I could contact in a pinch. Yet, had I also been rooted around those going through the same dark waters I was drowning in, I believe it would have made navigating my way through them a lot easier. There’s just something about someone who has walked the same road telling you “It will be okay” that is truly worth its weight in gold.

We are some years past the havoc of addiction first raging through our home. But I still regularly meet with a group for support. Now that life is more calm and stable, I believe listening as well as giving comfort, encouragement, and hope back is a great way to keep a stream of kindness flowing. No one should have to go through the harsh times of life alone. That’s when we need others to build a bridge under us and raise us up, especially when we’re feeling paralyzed. There are also times we’re called to be part of that bridge and help lift someone else up. Support is give and take. We all need it; we all need to offer it.

Its not weak to admit you need some support, actually its strong. Its real. And thats not always easy; it takes courage. Being real is not for the phony or faint of heart.

The epidemic of addiction our nation is experiencing is not stopping or even slowing down. I believe it’s awakening us to our need to be open, honest, and to compassionately support one another. Thankfully support groups are becoming more available. I strongly encourage everyone to research and find one that is a fit for you. Online or in person. We need all the strength available! Life can be brutal; it helps when you’re not alone. Support can make all the difference.

We need people to understand and care. That is where healing happens and strength develops. It’s as simple as that.

“Friendship is born at the moment when one person says to another, What! You too? I thought I was the only one.” ~ C.S. Lewis

Rooting for you,

Annie

Author of books: Unhooked, and Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache

Host of:  The Unhooked Podcast

* * *

For information, comfort, encouragement and support:

Codependents Anonymous

Parent Support – TAPU

Family Recovery Support

 

 

A House Divided Stands No Chance

Divorce, Division and the Disease of Addiction

I think any respectful, right-minded person would agree that it’s important within a group or family setting to be on the same page when making decisions and navigating circumstances. This is especially true as it relates to managing crisis.

While we all may agree that unity is critical, this ideal is useless if our actions don’t corroborate our claims. We can all find ourselves locking horns with those we’re called to unite with for a common cause.

When the goal is centered around a loved one who struggles with substances, united not divided is of utmost importance.

If division is occurring within the home (or homes), it’s crucial to resolve differences in a fair and honest manner in order to obtain peaceful solutions.

Concerning alcoholism, addiction, and SUD, most people have stories of division. Some occur within a marriage where everyone in the household is pulled in different directions. There can be a good cop/bad cop situation in play, siblings played against one another, and so on.

Coming to terms with the huge importance of having a united front is crucial.

In families where there has been a divorce, it would seem division may be already in place, but from my own experience I know that unity is possible.

Division may come from well-intended family members or friends. Division can come from people pulled in or perhaps outsiders taking it upon themselves to become involved. Division can be motivated by fear, guilt, or more sinister motives such as selfishness or a hidden agenda. Whatever the case may be, division is an area of weakness that allows the disease of addiction and the manipulation it needs to survive, to wreak absolute havoc within a family.

Cracks of division, similar to cracks in a foundation, will bring a house down. Wherever those cracks appear, deception and manipulation can get in, which will deter truth and peace and can postpone the path to recovery.

My personal experience

I don’t write as an expert; I write from experience. The following is my experience with solutions in place for division:

– Divorced not Divided

My ex-husband and I kept a pretty good truce going for the decade we shared the responsibility of raising our son after our divorce. Of course it was awkward and even hostile in the initial phases of separating. In the early days we were prone to heated conversations and blame (never in the presence of our son) and it made for discomfort when our paths crossed.

Two years after the divorce, we met in person to have a conversation that cleared the air. We put our issues to rest moving forward from them with a commitment to positively parent our child. We set clear guidelines to prevent our exchanges from becoming cluttered with issues.

This allowed for strong unity when SUD and crisis came roaring through our lives later.

The following are a few ways we avoided division going forward:

Decide on goals and ground rules

Goals:

Having common goals: peace, health, happiness, and well-being for every child you share is of the highest priority. Never forget, it’s about them.

Giving our shared child a fighting chance at the life of stability we felt we didn’t get growing up was important. Giving our son a strong sense of family despite having divorced parents was crucial. These goals were important as a lifestyle for the years prior to crisis, and they became priority during.

Ground Rules:

Anything you do or say (within reason) wont be held against you. We can choose to not have paper thin skin in dealing with one another. Cooler heads must prevail. If you make a mistake you are still respected as an important part of the family. It’s not going to get rubbed in your face. Moving on is constant.

Lets not demonize one another. It is never healthy to say negative or destructive things about someone your child half-identifies with. If a child is not under threat of serious harm, truths will come out if they need to. Attacking one another and shoving poison in the ear of your shared child(ren) causes confusion, negativity, and will pave the way for unneeded struggles for them down the road.

Lets not rush to react, pounce on, or punish each other. Not everything is an ordeal to freak out about. Making a mistake does not classify you as the villain of our equation.

I prioritized this, having come from a condemning, shaming, punishing background. Which is a very difficult culture to be a part of—it makes it impossible to relax enough to just be. If one lays in wait for another to mess up in order to pounce, there can never truly be peace.

No petty, spiteful moves. That would only be wounds from the past manipulating current behavior. That includes not passive-aggressively planting negative seeds about one another in the mind of a child. No competitive parenting, such as good guy versus bad guy mentalities. If one needs to lose for the other to win, not only does no one really win, but the shared child, group, and goals are the real losers.

Incidentally, its good to remember that the behavior we engage in may turn up later in our sons and daughters. If I am engaging in (or accommodating) spiteful, manipulative, game-playing, or unfair tactics, chances are my son will grow up to date, marry, or become someone like that. By virtue of this behavior being woven as if normal into the fabric of his being, he may come to believe its acceptable and okay. Its not acceptable or okay.

Those things will always come back to bite.

Agree to approach things humbly and bypass childishness. Our sons and daughters are way too important for us to engage in arrogant, right-fighting immaturity. It really helps to be a proud “I dont know-it-all.” It’s not about just one of us, our history, our unresolved feelings, or who is the better parent. Its about the goal: the well-being of our kid(s). We must compromise, come to agreement as much as possible, and unite for what is right, fair, and true. This is about what is best for the greater good.

White flags go up immediately. When it comes to our sons and daughters, cease-fire should be quick, regardless of how we may feel about one another. If we are at odds, a peace treaty can still happen by virtue of having a shared mission.

Many times in our situation we could be aggravated with one another or at odds, yet still always have the safety and ability to call and say “I have to tell you what just happened.”

Loyalty to the goal, to the truth and to what is fair and right. We don’t need to fight just to win. Logic overrules emotion.

These standards greatly mattered to us when our son was young.  They later became the strength from which we navigated him to a healthy place when our lives were in crisis.

* * *

What do the earlier years have to do with the disease of addiction? Plenty—addiction is a family disease. If the time ever comes when we might deal with issues of addiction within the family, we have a great running start against the behaviors fueled by SUD. With goals in place, we have strategies ready for managing crisis, manipulation, and division in the future.

And that can prove to be life (and sanity) saving.

Will we ever fail when it comes to abiding by the ground rules? Absolutely. Sometimes miserably! We don’t always get it right. But the foundation laid is always there to return to no matter who drops the ball. You live, you learn, you do the next right thing and keep going.

* * *

What if it’s not possible to agree and unite or if the efforts are one-sided?

Understandably, there are people we all have to deal with that refuse to play by the rules. Some operate with low-blow behavior, don’t care for the greater good, and can’t be trusted to be sincere. Other times, too much damage has been done to have safe, vulnerable communication. There are people not motivated by logic, fairness, or peace. Some folks prefer to keep the fires of conflict and discord burning.

In these situations, the reality is they are probably not going to change behaviors or become less difficult. However, we can set good boundaries and remain healthy enough within ourselves that our reactivity is not negative alongside them.

Personally, in those cases I believe it’s a thing of honor to choose to be the one who still does what is right, staying committed to integrity, boundaries, and decisions, holding hope for a peaceful outcome, despite anyone else’s decisions. Their journey is theirs to figure out—we are responsible for our own.

Show kindness, don’t ever interact with vitriol, respond with dignity, and keep moving forward.

* * *

Nelson Mandela lived by the “Ubuntu” principle. The concept is, “I need you in order to be me; and you need me in order to be you.”

We need each other. We need to be kind and respectful with one another because we need each other.

“A family is supposed to be our safe haven. Very often it is the place where we find the deepest heartache.”  Iyanla Vanzant

 

I am thankful my ex-husband and I were able to establish unity when there was so much opportunity for division. It’s possible if we all do our part.

Our mission is to give our sons and daughters a strong family which in turn will give them a fighting chance for a healthy adult life.

Our responsibility is to not further discord, conflict, or chaos.

Our outcome can be the creation of a unique family unit that will become a safe haven, which in turn makes it easier for our sons and daughters to choose a healthy adult life in which they can thrive. 

My story is not a beautifully packaged family tale. It is raw and real. But it is a true story of reality, recovery, hard work, and hope.

Peace is possible!

Still learning,

Annie

Author of books: Unhooked, and Unbroken, Navigating the Madness of Family Dysfunction, Addiction, Alcoholism and Heartache

Host of:  The Unhooked Podcast

* * *

For information, comfort, encouragement and support:

Codependents Anonymous

Parent Support – TAPU

Family Recovery Support