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Stress Level: 10 by Annie Highwater

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For more information about Annie Highwater, http://anniehighwater.com

Stress Level: 10!!!

There once was a time when stress for me had two settings only; the needle sat on 0 or it jumped straight to Level 10. An unsettling phone call from a loved one could send adrenaline shooting through me as rapidly as if you were to step on the gas and take your car from 0 to 100 mph in 0.3 seconds. I was often hurled into panic. Getting pulled into chaos and the craziness of family conflicts, or addiction related crisis was almost a daily event. I know by heart what that’s like (as detailed in my book “Unhooked, a Mother’s Story of Unhitching from the Rollercoaster of her son’s addiction”).

In those days, I was easily snared by gut-wrenching arguments with family members who were enmeshed in our situation. Sometimes I’d even get pulled in by strangers brought randomly into our life by virtue of the circumstances.

Like a speeding pinball game, I would be catapulted from those moments back to my constant wrestling match fear and the heartache that tormented me night and day. I had no peace.

Returning to 0 after an episode of chaos wasn’t really that peaceful. Sadness resided in the quiet times, along with fear and dread as I waited for the next wave to crash or for bad news to come.

Back then my emotions could become ferocious alongside the stress. Have you ever tried to wrap your hands around a raging thunder storm, or attempted to calm a hurricane?

Internally, that’s pretty much how it felt for me. The pressure was unbearable, sickening, overwhelming. And yet I had to function through my daily routine.

I remember reading the German saying: denn wir haben eine Krise der Verzweiflung erreicht mentioned in the SESH book for Nar Anon families. It translates as: “For we have reached a crisis of desperation.”

Before my son entered recovery 4 years ago (and I began to work on recovering my own wellbeing from the long term effects of the chronic stress), I reached a crisis of desperation often. In fact, I did constantly. Stress and desperation ruled my life. The red line, panic zone, miserable kind of stressed out desperation that rises up with the madness that addiction brings with it. When addiction enters your life it feels as though a freight train comes roaring through the house and keeps coming back! Many times my mind would race wildly and my heart would beat so fast that I would feel my pulse in different places all over my body, throbbing in my temples and neck. Level 10 stress becomes par for the course for a mother, daughter, father, brother, wife etc. who are closely involved with someone in active addiction.

At least it is at first.

Once you begin seeking recovery, support and healing you do begin to level out. Somehow once recovery and support enter your life, the wave crashing moments don’t come as often, hit as hard, or last as long.

Since telling our family’s story, I now frequently receive emails and calls from frantic parents, relatives and others who are absolutely wracking their brain to figure out how to manage a life adjacent to active addiction. These are everyday people who are pulled into profoundly difficult circumstances.

One recent conversation was with a shell shocked mom in a crisis of desperation herself. Only the night before, her son had shaken her awake, whispering and gesturing madly over her, “Mom, wake up!” He ranted frantically. “I need $200, they’re waiting outside! Mom, they’re going to kill me if I don’t pay them! They even said they’ll kill you!”

This desperate and scared mom once again pulled a handful of cash from a locked safe she’d recently felt the need to purchase for cash and valuables that often went missing.

“This threat is becoming common now!” She told me. “Do I believe it every time?” I noticed she sounded as tired as she did worried. “Am I truly to be afraid for his life? Should I fear for my own? Or…do you think maybe he’s manipulating me?”

Unfortunately, these insidious situations also sometimes become par for the course for those living with a loved one battling the disease of addiction. These are the moments that send a parent reeling. It feels like you’re falling off the world, unable to land. I’ve been through those intense situations and felt as though fuses were blowing in my brain. It was at times like an out of body experience. Sometimes I would get so stressed that I felt like I might start levitating! My brain felt like it was steaming and was about to explode. Life became powerfully overwhelming. The combination of terror, exhaustion, worry and sorrow are like a herd of elephants standing on your chest.

So how does one respond? And more than that, how do we go on about normal life in the midst of the madness? How do we go in and face a demanding work day when dealing with something so horrendous at home? How can we go to bed and have a fitful night of sleep for the next day? How do we go to the grocery store, fold the laundry, or ever have a normal, lighthearted conversation with anyone when nothing about life is normal? How can we accomplish a thing while going through this?

Truth be told, it was almost impossible for me at first and it didn’t get better overnight. It takes time, it’s a process.

While I certainly don’t want to minimize a threat that could lead to a tragedy, I have learned myself that most of the time in scenarios where money is needed to avoid physical harm, manipulation absolutely was involved.

Beyond than that, I also began to learn that we don’t have to jump into the madness and surge along with it. I have to be okay and level headed to maintain a sane, peaceful, safe environment. Therefore, I had to develop the ability to not get pulled into the chaos or conflict. I learned that it’s actually wise not to.

Living with chronic stress has lasting effects.

Chronic, long term stress does damage. Brain damage to be precise. Chronic stress actually changes the brain. Long term stress changes the functions, structure and size of the brain. I am fascinated by the study of stress effects on the brain, by Madhumita Murgia, an educator for the Telegraph who compiled a report for Ted X.

Chronic stress literally changes who we are.

Medical research shows that stress begins in the Hypothalamus Pituitary Adrenal Axis (HPA Axis which interacts between the brain and the kidneys). When a stressor occurs, the HPA Axis immediately signals the kidneys to release the stress hormone cortisol, signaling the body to instant action. This is helpful in moments when we need a boost, like exercise, moments of danger etc. However, a long term releasing of cortisol caused by chronic stress wreaks havoc on the body and brain. Areas of the brain inevitably become weakened and so then becomes our ability to deal with stress.

The prefrontal cortex is especially affected. This is the control center for concentration, decision making, judgment and social interaction. As a result, fewer brain cells are made, making it more difficult to learn and remember things.

The long term stress caused me to become very forgetful, hasty in my decisions, confused and socially awkward. Even more than usual! I also noticed that during that time of my life I became very clumsy.

At the time it became obvious to me that I was heading for a crash if I didn’t get ahead of my stress. I knew I had to develop different responses for the ambush, crazy making moments of chaos. There are solutions. There are ways to handle those stressful moments when cortisol becomes activated. There are also ways to reverse the effects.

What I found to be helpful for me in chaos moments was stepping back, maybe going into another room and closing the door even if demands were still being aggressively made. Stepping away gives you a moment to collect yourself and not jump into the chaos. I would then take a moment to silently lift the burden off of myself and place it onto my Higher Power. Turning it over to my faith, praying “Please God, help us. Show me what to do. I believe you make all things possible, please make peace possible in the midst of what right now feels like insanity.”

I felt quiet relief in those moments.

Another method I still use when plunged into urgency is to allow myself four deep, full breaths. Deep breathing floods oxygen to our extremities and calms us enough to think about what the options are. This breathing technique never fails to calm my mind.

If I had a longer break from the situation, I would go for a quick walk, bike ride or run.

If the situation was still spiking, I knew I need help and support. This is when I called upon a trusted friend. If it continued to escalate and I felt it necessary, I contacted law enforcement. I did whatever I felt was helpful to restore sanity, peace and safety to my environment.

One thing I stopped doing was allowing those moments to force me into a quick decision.

When I started to respond this way instead of accelerating with the situation, I began to actually sense myself calming down in the midst of them. I found then that the atmosphere around me would grow more calm as well and then over time, life became more calm and manageable. Addiction, terror and chaos were no longer calling the shots.

From my work to recover I have learned that eventually thicker skin and calmer responses do prevail.

Again, this wasn’t easy. It took time and effort. It is definitely a process. Sometimes I’d fail, but stronger I got. I was determined to have a peaceful, sane life; I would therefore keep working toward it. I agree with Napoleon Hill that “Effort fully releases its reward only after a person refuses to quit.”

As far as undoing the damage, it was noted in the study that exercise and meditation are two of the most effective ways of reversing cortisol damage, as they involve deep breathing and mindfulness. It doesn’t mean we have to start spending hours in the gym or meditating the morning away! However, these truly are great forms of self-care. I personally try to exercise at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week. I also meditate 10-20 minutes every morning to prepare myself for facing the day.

For me, these rituals have been strength boosting and life-changing. We have to make ourselves a priority. We all can find 20 minutes here and there for a brisk walk or some other activity to get the blood flowing. And even if it’s for only 90 seconds in a quiet room or hallway, pulling away to breathe, meditate and release pressure will produce great results over time.

It’s a process.

These days, we have come so far in that area that I barely remember what those moments were like. That is how permeating peace can be. Not only does life begin to settle down and stabilize, but peace can soothe even the memories of traumatic days gone by.

The process of recovery leads not only to peace, but the deepest of relief.

Jay, Bill, and Matt Part 1 – Recovered 828

150 150 Mark S

Our generous Recovered Podcast Community allows us to be self supporting and not rely on outside contributions.  If you would like to join us, there are two ways.

  1. Episode Sponsorship  We will recognize you by first name only at the top, mid, and end of the episode.  Any amount will qualify.
  2. Premium Membership  This is the single most effective way to support the show.  Watch the video in its entirety and learn how to become Premium

The Recovered Podcast Community is not a glum lot.  They contribute to the show and what they share is exactly what someone else needs to hear.  The new guy needs to hear your story.  So honor your 12th step obligation by calling in and help the guy who has not yet gone to his first meeting, you may make the difference in his life.  There are two ways to add to the show:

  1. Speakpipe Use your mobile or computer and leave a message.  This is the preferred method because the sound quality is excellent.
  2. 1-734-288-7510 is our voice message line.

Check out this episode!

Making Decisions – Recovered 827

150 150 Mark S

Our generous Recovered Podcast Community allows us to be self supporting and not rely on outside contributions.  If you would like to join us, there are two ways.

  1. Episode Sponsorship  We will recognize you by first name only at the top, mid, and end of the episode.  Any amount will qualify.
  2. Premium Membership  This is the single most effective way to support the show.  Watch the video in its entirety and learn how to become Premium

The Recovered Podcast Community is not a glum lot.  They contribute to the show and what they share is exactly what someone else needs to hear.  The new guy needs to hear your story.  So honor your 12th step obligation by calling in and help the guy who has not yet gone to his first meeting, you may make the difference in his life.  There are two ways to add to the show:

  1. Speakpipe Use your mobile or computer and leave a message.  This is the preferred method because the sound quality is excellent.
  2. 1-734-288-7510 is our voice message line.

Anyone who’s in long-term recovery knows that it’s not all good times.
Sure, there’s the great feeling you get from knowing
that you’ve started your journey on the road to recovery.
But that’s just it ? it’s an ongoing journey, not a destination.

This means that there are bound to be many
twists and turns along the way, and some of these can prove
frustrating, difficult, or downright confounding.

How do you know what to do?
Tonight, we talk about how we make difficult decisions and
How we choose from the good, the bad, and
the in-between in recovery.

When you were new, what decisions did you have to make?
How did you do this?
What went right?
What went bad?

Today, what tools do you use to make difficult decisions?
Example of how these tools worked?

Any examples of how it did not work?

What types of decisions are difficult for you?
Why do you think these types are hard for you?
How do you handle emotional decisions?
How do you make financial decisions?

Some suggestions
Make a List
Talk Things Over with Others
Revisit Your List
Making No Decision is a Decision
When Your Emotions Get the Better of You
Create New Goals

WE HAVE CALLS

Kurt from Canton
https://www.google.com/voice/fm/00557165274674955804/AHwOX_BGTU5Ovp0cZdSbMo1co-PLM6tMgXKJDJvs6NL2of1QhInBstI0iPdeP1lmUXCt1pgsWsdOpsAYeq4KG8vV83_2r0-9pjcUYbbDr6uQozqvgLKgHo_cDJjMK9HO2cOrZ4SX2tNXxgDc0GDU8DdTHwBZQStA9w

Talia from Boston
https://www.speakpipe.com/messages

Brianna from Minnesota
https://www.google.com/voice/fm/00557165274674955804/AHwOX_CFOj14NKdp2Sfl4wHzqWKoDK-AuNa7BNNpzJY-4xjUFU3GWo3WTna1h4D34ib0K0amJDfnnHxbi37UW8TbZD2JxctuEsZDkfBuGYysQI0uSBvqSZ75zIXyyIbIL_DIj12VSRVQn0xuMdpiaf3axbWorMb9FQ

Email from paula
https://mail.google.com/mail/ca/u/0/#inbox/15cb67cc5e7cd7aa

Check out this episode!

Chris and Myers Part 5

150 150 Mark S

Our generous Recovered Podcast Community allows us to be self supporting and not rely on outside contributions.  If you would like to join us, there are two ways.

  1. Episode Sponsorship  We will recognize you by first name only at the top, mid, and end of the episode.  Any amount will qualify.
  2. Premium Membership  This is the single most effective way to support the show.  Watch the video in its entirety and learn how to become Premium

The Recovered Podcast Community is not a glum lot.  They contribute to the show and what they share is exactly what someone else needs to hear.  The new guy needs to hear your story.  So honor your 12th step obligation by calling in and help the guy who has not yet gone to his first meeting, you may make the difference in his life.  There are two ways to add to the show:

  1. Speakpipe Use your mobile or computer and leave a message.  This is the preferred method because the sound quality is excellent.
  2. 1-734-288-7510 is our voice message line.

Check out this episode!

Summer Sobriety – Recovered 825

150 150 Mark S

Our generous Recovered Podcast Community allows us to be self supporting and not rely on outside contributions.  If you would like to join us, there are two ways.

  1. Episode Sponsorship  We will recognize you by first name only at the top, mid, and end of the episode.  Any amount will qualify.
  2. Premium Membership  This is the single most effective way to support the show.  Watch the video in its entirety and learn how to become Premium

The Recovered Podcast Community is not a glum lot.  They contribute to the show and what they share is exactly what someone else needs to hear.  The new guy needs to hear your story.  So honor your 12th step obligation by calling in and help the guy who has not yet gone to his first meeting, you may make the difference in his life.  There are two ways to add to the show:

  1. Speakpipe Use your mobile or computer and leave a message.  This is the preferred method because the sound quality is excellent.
  2. 1-734-288-7510 is our voice message line.

For most of us,
summer is the perfect time for recreation,
outdoor activities, socializing and relaxing.
For some of us,
Summer is the busy time of the year and
finding time for recovery is the challenge.

Now that you’re sober and summer is upon us,
your idea of fun will no doubt look and feel
a lot different than it did in the past?and that’s a good thing!

For those in recovery ?
especially early recovery ?
summertime can also present a unique set of challenges.

In the past, some of your summertime activities
may have been synonymous with destructive behaviors.
However, changing your lifestyle for the better
doesn’t necessarily mean you have to
redefine your personal definition of “fun.”

So, if you’re looking for some new summer activities
that will allow you to let loose, laugh and have fun
without the fear of triggering a relapse, you’re in luck.
We have suggestions!

What was your first summer like?
Did it feel odd to not use? How and why?
What were some of your triggers?
How did you cope?
What tools did you use?

What has held you back from enjoying summer as a sober person?
What is the best advice you ever received about keeping your recovery program strong during summer?
What book, website, podcast, music, movie, concert, do you recommend the new person to check out this summer?
What is something that is working for you right now in your summertime recovery program?

Suggestions you may want to comment on.
Go Camping, Embrace Nature
Join a Sports League
Travel and Sightseeing
Volunteer Your Time
Try a New Activity
Explore Your City or Home State
Involve Your Pets
Explore Your Creative Side
Coordinate/Vacation with Others in Recovery
BBQ
Meditate in unique places
Start an outdoor meeting

WE HAVE CALLS

Minus from San Diego
https://www.google.com/voice/fm/00557165274674955804/AHwOX_Cam1VcYbWkckfhcV37lRben1KjuV6yX76F1q76K7ugJ1ezNgk-3dKOsByei9D3DwnmtGVu6aZ7G2Rfmhge_QXACZk8ZZywHjSUot7Sduhx1mfX_rvcyIr9AElSyiuqO8rtjFUU40LsCaziMe2mbLfJcBVosQ

Tony from Connecticut
https://www.google.com/voice/fm/00557165274674955804/AHwOX_C7xeRDQcbFfA9N9DeN7ilzFy7w_RGxOiaxCFLoz3p-W4VnzuWN-pQu4GSX6EsTHayf8w9D0Gym3vOemBUiJDB3zjRIFOB4FoOBrojnGYA0g_xKLXg5qr1yrgwP2K1oNZAmrQJSv4kgmcW1WKNosY0dYuPcyg

Mike from Walled Lake
https://www.google.com/voice/fm/00557165274674955804/AHwOX_AFrptoocO–mXxFh47CrcyP3bWA2uG3C721bAa3u9vpbzs39rjD6P6-klTGvb5jBteL3wh2n14vn5djpuAbt_8n4ox2ffPVnhSjo9MQCAjRSeWaOywjfbMU9DUhLKohdLHi2Lw07dm1yAgKzNoxHRvCyVU6A
Zach from Canton
https://www.google.com/voice/fm/00557165274674955804/AHwOX_BEjUpRORxv6Pw21CAhsQ4LFuhk1HzaXpk1JEylDOxHztUc4TXpDyKrgCb6-jOAwM4q2ABBGjO8yOUP6eBf024E-2i4urlFSLgCPYUuHmp6vNaf4qUxYDQK-FEgy4TGDd2joiEpVsvLpZ7sCNjC6bLgSnOWIg

Buddy from Ga
https://www.google.com/voice/fm/00557165274674955804/AHwOX_Ddxbi9JmTsGODzf_J1umCOVq2Hr1a9Jzgd2BG4cGZQ2MTw7LCeEoS4FTwDEbAgmC6BLiLeriOsY0klxF5wWJ7TjRyx1X0ECEIBSeQqEoGckCw-EuWZmTILUFdqjszCgDGhsob0HUeGopKSdPg7V53Kxei4AA

Check out this episode!

Chris and Myers Part 4

150 150 Mark S

Our generous Recovered Podcast Community allows us to be self supporting and not rely on outside contributions.  If you would like to join us, there are two ways.

  1. Episode Sponsorship  We will recognize you by first name only at the top, mid, and end of the episode.  Any amount will qualify.
  2. Premium Membership  This is the single most effective way to support the show.  Watch the video in its entirety and learn how to become Premium

The Recovered Podcast Community is not a glum lot.  They contribute to the show and what they share is exactly what someone else needs to hear.  The new guy needs to hear your story.  So honor your 12th step obligation by calling in and help the guy who has not yet gone to his first meeting, you may make the difference in his life.  There are two ways to add to the show:

  1. Speakpipe Use your mobile or computer and leave a message.  This is the preferred method because the sound quality is excellent.
  2. 1-734-288-7510 is our voice message line.

Check out this episode!

Call Recovered About Summer Sobriety

150 150 Mark S
MONDAY night, the Recovery Topic is “Summer Sobriety.”
 
For most of us, summer is the perfect time for recreation, outdoor activities, socializing and relaxing.  For some of us, Summer is the busy time of the year and finding time for recovery is the challenge.
Let’s talk about this solution.  Tap Speakpipe (preferred because the sound quality is excellent.  Use this method especially if you are outside the Unites States) or call 1-734-288-7510 and answer the following question(s):
What was your first sober summer like? Did it feel odd to not use? How and why? What were some of your triggers? How did you cope? What tools did you use?
Recovered Podcast is live online every Tuesday at 6:30 pm EST as we record the show.  Join the fun and be part of the show.
If you would like to listen to the live stream of the show, just tap Recovered Chat and Live Stream.  We give away an Amazon gift card each week, you could win if you join us on Tuesdays.  
 
Click on our Show Notes we will use Monday night.

Listener Questions – Recovered 823

150 150 Mark S

Our generous Recovered Podcast Community allows us to be self supporting and not rely on outside contributions.  If you would like to join us, there are two ways.

  1. Episode Sponsorship  We will recognize you by first name only at the top, mid, and end of the episode.  Any amount will qualify.
  2. Premium Membership  This is the single most effective way to support the show.  Watch the video in its entirety and learn how to become Premium

The Recovered Podcast Community is not a glum lot.  They contribute to the show and what they share is exactly what someone else needs to hear.  The new guy needs to hear your story.  So honor your 12th step obligation by calling in and help the guy who has not yet gone to his first meeting, you may make the difference in his life.  There are two ways to add to the show:

  1. Speakpipe Use your mobile or computer and leave a message.  This is the preferred method because the sound quality is excellent.
  2. 1-734-288-7510 is our voice message line.

Tonight dear listener,
we are trying something different.
We will be answering your questions.

Normally, I ask our audience a question and they call in with their experience, strength, and hope.

Now it’s their turn to ask the questions.

If you are in the chat room, feel free to ask questions.
Ask away and we will try to respond to your inquiry

But as we line up our listener questions

Let me start.

What are you working on in your program today?
What is holding you back in your program today?
What recent good advice have you received?
What book, movie, tv show are you watching?

Jim – Walk in wilderness
https://www.speakpipe.com/messages

Mandy – walk in wilderness
https://www.speakpipe.com/messages

Clyde – Biggest Threat
https://www.speakpipe.com/messages

Alex
https://www.speakpipe.com/messages

Tony – Perfectionism
https://www.google.com/voice/fm/00557165274674955804/AHwOX_Df9pCeMXdyutsu-bhepnL_irKaqz5w7SQ7qeJQTgGcHTPx1KNZklzowqceMP95DlTPq2ABmz3uXOE-bJzlC5eREo6Tey3iXxXXEGAqhLkywYi54JF4TIjxk-7cPOv2n7IU4Sow51WeRir61RUmsW6_y0TLMQ

Buddy – Humility
https://www.google.com/voice/fm/00557165274674955804/AHwOX_Df9pCeMXdyutsu-bhepnL_irKaqz5w7SQ7qeJQTgGcHTPx1KNZklzowqceMP95DlTPq2ABmz3uXOE-bJzlC5eREo6Tey3iXxXXEGAqhLkywYi54JF4TIjxk-7cPOv2n7IU4Sow51WeRir61RUmsW6_y0TLMQ

Don – Home Group
https://www.speakpipe.com/messages

Check out this episode!

Looking Back and Moving on By Annie Highweater

150 150 Mark S

Looking Back and Moving On

On a recent visit home after quite some time apart, my son “Elliot” and I did a dual interview to discuss our experience roughly five years ago with Substance Use Disorder (referred to as SUD, most of which is detailed in my book Unhooked).

With a list of questions from various parents and family members who have been affected by the opiate epidemic surging through homes across the nation, we sat down for a very real, open conversation.

In our interview conversation, Elliot gave his perspective as one who has been to the depths of darkness with this disease and I gave mine as a Mother who was deeply affected.  We touched some on our background and story and then went right into the most intense dynamics we faced as a family.

 

Relapse occurs mentally long before it occurs physically.

When asked if he ever “hit bottom,” Elliot’s response was “Yes, several times and each time was worse than before. But life would then eventually come together again,” he explained, “things would level out and almost as if forgetting, I would drift back to that mindset again and find myself on track to another bottom.”  Elliot explained that it wasn’t until he decided to live a life with different goals and began refocusing his thoughts toward staying on track that he began taking preventative steps to avoid circling back through and repeating dangerous cycles.

 

 

Family relationships will recover if you allow for time and forgiveness.

As is common when substance abuse has raged through a family, our family dynamics were a disaster for a while. Crisis tends to bring out whatever pathological “trash” (meaning; it causes everyone’s dysfunction to rise to the surface) lies dormant.  There were hard feelings, bad blood and fractured communication on all sides.

Where we are today is a far cry from where we were then.  Recovery is possible and I believe, it works best when everyone does individual work on themselves (therapy, relevant books, support groups etc).  With time and compassion, we both began to realize that in the midst of some terrible circumstances, everyone was doing the best they thought they could do.

 

 

It’s not personal

Regarding stressful conflict, texts that get hateful, conversations that turn toxic and behaviors that involve betrayal, lying stealing etc. Elliot’s explanation related to a speaker he heard teaching from the book Choice Theory, written by William Glasser. The idea is that there are times we internally commit to choices.  Sometimes we will commit to a choice even if it’s wrong, and drive it all the way home, believing it is the best choice, the only choice, in that moment.

When it comes to a Loved One committing to a wrong choice that is having terrible effects on others, Elliot’s suggestion was to not engage it, protect yourself, and back away.

When someone is deep in struggle with a dependency upon a substance, their thoughts are only on what they need to do to meet that need. Anyone they affect or argue with is either a steppingstone, a source, or in the way.

And that is exactly what the disease of addiction does. The mentality of your Loved One is not only unlike the person you know and love, it’s not intentional, but it is adversarial.  SUD takes over the mind and will of the person struggling.

I had to realize, the less I make everything in life about me, the easier it is to logically deal with things.

 

 

Silence is excruciating

Some of our conversation covered when communication is cut off between the one struggling and the family at home.  Those can be extremely frightening, painful times for a parent.

I asked my son to think of what he feels if his dog is out of sight, even for a few minutes and doesn’t respond when he calls for him.

Or?what happens when he can’t find his cell phone.

Those situations prompt frantic moments of panic and relentless searching. Now, multiply those feelings by a million to understand what a parent goes through when their child is lost, off in active addiction or perhaps has gone silent for days on end.

It is those emotions that drive our decisions to investigate, search you out, walk the floors, and “lose it” emotionally.  These were the times that I had to absolutely prop myself up on my faith.

SUD is a crisis no family should have to become great at handling.

There are ways to go about it with sound, healthy judgment. But there is no way to become perfect at handling the crisis of addiction.  The reality is, it’s a terrible disease that creates terrible circumstances, conflicts and emotion for anyone touched by it.

 

 

Don’t go crazy in the madness of it!  That will solve nothing.

During the worst of times I literally became a detective, researching, spying, tracking people and chasing away anyone he was involved with.  I even kept binoculars in my car!

Elliot made it clear this resulted in a huge breakdown in communication, furthering the breach of trust between us.  It also caused him to go to greater lengths to find sources, involving much more risk and danger than usual.

Chasing him down, doing the crazy things, going mad in the midst of it ? helped no one, solved nothing and didn’t cause anyone or anything to get better.

Had I put up healthy boundaries, enforced consequences, while maintaining a kinder, more logical position and then taken my hands off, we may have been better able to discuss solutions sooner than we did.  Looking back, I did the best I could with the tools I had, we all did.  If I had it to do again, I would have taken a softer (yet firm in healthy ways) approach and been fully equipped with the CRAFT method in place.

It took time for us both to heal from those days.

 

 

There’s hope

Elliot’s advice to those who are in their teens, 20s and 30s who may wrestle with SUD, regardless of how it began is that it life doesn’t have to be about leaning on a substance or who can party the hardest. “At the end of the day you end up sloppy and might be living down current choices for decades to come.”

Elliot’s words for anyone caught in the trap of active use who feels lost, alone, hopeless and like there is no way get out, “Please know there are thousands of hands out there ready to help you.  You can find a meeting (NA, AA etc) taking place every day in your city.  All you have to do is call, show up, reach out.”

His hope for families was to let them know, when he came to the end of every resource and had to become his own resource (meaning, lovingly cut off from all supply of money and housing), he had to find his own way.  That is what drove him to the desire for sobriety, recovery and a healthy productive life.

We are all relieved with how far he’s come (and how far we’ve come as a family) these last four years.

 

 

Recovery works.

I asked my son the other day when he was home, if it bothered him to go into old, familiar places or potentially cross paths with upsetting people there may have been previous conflict with.  I wondered because those things tend to bother me. His response was “Not at all.  Places don’t affect me anymore like they used to.  As for people, I’m aware of energy and vibes, if they’re negative and rude, all it tells me is that the person hasn’t dealt with their issues. I’ve moved on.”

Once you heal and move forward, you really can be done with the residual effects.

We are aware of the work of recovery and its power in our lives in how completely our relationship has healed.  A wonderful aspect of having gone through it is that due to the level crisis we reached, we dealt with our issues and then we put them behind us. There’s no elephant in the room today, or junk swept under the rug that we have to ignore when we sit down to dinner or have a visit. We live in the wholeness of the moment and celebrate life as it is now. Looking back only to learn and reminisce, but focusing forward on where we are now and what lies ahead.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Never give up,

Annie

Check out this episode!

Looking Back and Moving On By Annie Highwater

150 150 Mark S

Looking Back and Moving On

On a recent visit home after quite some time apart, my son “Elliot” and I did a dual interview to discuss our experience roughly five years ago with Substance Use Disorder (referred to as SUD, most of which is detailed in my book Unhooked).

With a list of questions from various parents and family members who have been affected by the opiate epidemic surging through homes across the nation, we sat down for a very real, open conversation.

In our interview conversation, Elliot gave his perspective as one who has been to the depths of darkness with this disease and I gave mine as a Mother who was deeply affected.  We touched some on our background and story and then went right into the most intense dynamics we faced as a family.

 

Relapse occurs mentally long before it occurs physically.

When asked if he ever “hit bottom,” Elliot’s response was “Yes, several times and each time was worse than before. But life would then eventually come together again,” he explained, “things would level out and almost as if forgetting, I would drift back to that mindset again and find myself on track to another bottom.”  Elliot explained that it wasn’t until he decided to live a life with different goals and began refocusing his thoughts toward staying on track that he began taking preventative steps to avoid circling back through and repeating dangerous cycles.

 

Family relationships will recover if you allow for time and forgiveness.

As is common when substance abuse has raged through a family, our family dynamics were a disaster for a while. Crisis tends to bring out whatever pathological “trash” (meaning; it causes everyone’s dysfunction to rise to the surface) lies dormant.  There were hard feelings, bad blood and fractured communication on all sides.

Where we are today is a far cry from where we were then.  Recovery is possible and I believe, it works best when everyone does individual work on themselves (therapy, relevant books, support groups etc).  With time and compassion, we both began to realize that in the midst of some terrible circumstances, everyone was doing the best they thought they could do.

 

It’s not personal

Regarding stressful conflict, texts that get hateful, conversations that turn toxic and behaviors that involve betrayal, lying stealing etc. Elliot’s explanation related to a speaker he heard teaching from the book Choice Theory, written by William Glasser. The idea is that there are times we internally commit to choices.  Sometimes we will commit to a choice even if it’s wrong, and drive it all the way home, believing it is the best choice, the only choice, in that moment.

When it comes to a Loved One committing to a wrong choice that is having terrible effects on others, Elliot’s suggestion was to not engage it, protect yourself, and back away.

When someone is deep in struggle with a dependency upon a substance, their thoughts are only on what they need to do to meet that need. Anyone they affect or argue with is either a steppingstone, a source, or in the way.

And that is exactly what the disease of addiction does. The mentality of your Loved One is not only unlike the person you know and love, it’s not intentional, but it is adversarial.  SUD takes over the mind and will of the person struggling.

I had to realize, the less I make everything in life about me, the easier it is to logically deal with things.

 

Silence is excruciating

Some of our conversation covered when communication is cut off between the one struggling and the family at home.  Those can be extremely frightening, painful times for a parent.

I asked my son to think of what he feels if his dog is out of sight, even for a few minutes and doesn’t respond when he calls for him.

Or…what happens when he can’t find his cell phone.

Those situations prompt frantic moments of panic and relentless searching. Now, multiply those feelings by a million to understand what a parent goes through when their child is lost, off in active addiction or perhaps has gone silent for days on end.

It is those emotions that drive our decisions to investigate, search you out, walk the floors, and “lose it” emotionally.  These were the times that I had to absolutely prop myself up on my faith.

SUD is a crisis no family should have to become great at handling.

There are ways to go about it with sound, healthy judgment. But there is no way to become perfect at handling the crisis of addiction.  The reality is, it’s a terrible disease that creates terrible circumstances, conflicts and emotion for anyone touched by it.

 

Don’t go crazy in the madness of it!  That will solve nothing.

During the worst of times I literally became a detective, researching, spying, tracking people and chasing away anyone he was involved with.  I even kept binoculars in my car!

Elliot made it clear this resulted in a huge breakdown in communication, furthering the breach of trust between us.  It also caused him to go to greater lengths to find sources, involving much more risk and danger than usual.

Chasing him down, doing the crazy things, going mad in the midst of it – helped no one, solved nothing and didn’t cause anyone or anything to get better.

Had I put up healthy boundaries, enforced consequences, while maintaining a kinder, more logical position and then taken my hands off, we may have been better able to discuss solutions sooner than we did.  Looking back, I did the best I could with the tools I had, we all did.  If I had it to do again, I would have taken a softer (yet firm in healthy ways) approach and been fully equipped with the CRAFT method in place.

It took time for us both to heal from those days.

 

There’s hope

Elliot’s advice to those who are in their teens, 20s and 30s who may wrestle with SUD, regardless of how it began is that it life doesn’t have to be about leaning on a substance or who can party the hardest. “At the end of the day you end up sloppy and might be living down current choices for decades to come.”

Elliot’s words for anyone caught in the trap of active use who feels lost, alone, hopeless and like there is no way get out, “Please know there are thousands of hands out there ready to help you.  You can find a meeting (NA, AA etc) taking place every day in your city.  All you have to do is call, show up, reach out.”

His hope for families was to let them know, when he came to the end of every resource and had to become his own resource (meaning, lovingly cut off from all supply of money and housing), he had to find his own way.  That is what drove him to the desire for sobriety, recovery and a healthy productive life.

We are all relieved with how far he’s come (and how far we’ve come as a family) these last four years.

 

Recovery works.

I asked my son the other day when he was home, if it bothered him to go into old, familiar places or potentially cross paths with upsetting people there may have been previous conflict with.  I wondered because those things tend to bother me. His response was “Not at all.  Places don’t affect me anymore like they used to.  As for people, I’m aware of energy and vibes, if they’re negative and rude, all it tells me is that the person hasn’t dealt with their issues. I’ve moved on.”

Once you heal and move forward, you really can be done with the residual effects.

We are aware of the work of recovery and its power in our lives in how completely our relationship has healed.  A wonderful aspect of having gone through it is that due to the level crisis we reached, we dealt with our issues and then we put them behind us. There’s no elephant in the room today, or junk swept under the rug that we have to ignore when we sit down to dinner or have a visit. We live in the wholeness of the moment and celebrate life as it is now. Looking back only to learn and reminisce, but focusing forward on where we are now and what lies ahead.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.” ~Eleanor Roosevelt

 

Never give up,

Annie