Monday, August 24, 2009

Do The Right Thing.

Acceptance and Commitment TherapyImage by Leonard John Matthews via Flickr

Sometimes, you just have to do what's right.

A couple of years ago a friend of mine, Stacey Gill, approached me with an idea for a group for kids from families with substance abuse issues. I was skeptical at first, but eventually realized the importance of doing something to help some kids before they got into trouble.

Also, as anyone who knows Stacey would agree, she can be very persistent.

Anyway, with the help of a grant through the Healthy Communities Initiative and the County Office of Behavioral Health, we got this little group off the ground, and for over a year some kids were able to come to a safe place to talk about whatever was on their minds without fear of retribution or resentment. They laughed, cried, played games, learned meditation and stress management techniques, and got a snack. They learned about addiction, family roles, skills to help survive in an addicted family. It became a very rewarding group to do.

Until I got the news last week that because of the budget crisis in Pennsylvania, no one knew when or if the grant would be renewed.

Now, I know that there are more inportant cutbacks and shutoffs than Stacey and my little group. I have talked to out of work fathers and mothers whose unemployment has been held up, families who are waiting for some relief in the areas of health care and fearful of cuts in school programs and vital public services like fire departments and police stations.

Against that backdrop, how important can one little group for Children of Substance Abusing Families be?

Well, considering that kids from families with drug and alcohol problems are more likely to become addicts themselves, to get arrested, to have unplanned pregnancies, to contract STD's, HIV/AIDS, Hepatitis and the variety of illnesses related to cigarette smoking, not to mention the fact that their kids are at higher risk of addiction and alcoholism, maybe more important than one would think.

At any rate, Stacey and I have decided that it's too important to shut down. So, we aren't shutting it down.

Grant or no grant, funding or no funding, this group is going to continue. Every Thursday, 4:00 to 5:30 PM, Stacey and I will be doing the group at Ken Williams' Recovery, 300 W. State St., Media PA 19063.

We won't charge for it, and we won't get paid. It's not that we don't care about that, neither of us are independently wealthy, but as we are faced with hard choices these days, sometimes the choice is, simply, to do the right thing. And the right thing is to stand by our words. We told these kids from families of chaos that we would be there for them, so there we will be.

And the snacks are on us.

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Saturday, August 22, 2009

Recovery In Action

The City of PhiladelphiaImage via Wikipedia

On September 12th, 2009, Philadelphia will be invaded by addicts and alcoholics.

They will not be hiding in alleys or committing petty crimes. They will not fill the bars, or the crack houses, or shooting galleries. They will not hide. They will be in plain sight, walking en masse down the streets and boulevards of Philadelphia.

And they will bring their parents, their children, their spouses and their loved ones. They will be of all races and colors and faiths, as well as atheists and agnostics.

They will be walking to celebrate recovery.

This will be PRO-ACT's Annual Recovery Walk.

We walk to let Philadelphia see that the face of Recovery is as diverse as the city itself. That individuals and families from every walk of life recover from the ravages of the disease of addiction.

We walk to show that, as it says in the Basic Text of Narcotics Anonymous, We Do Recover. Last year there were almost 5000 of us. Let's make it more this year. Check out and to find out more.

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Sunday, August 9, 2009

The Art of the Intervention Part III

What's a Professional Interventionist?

As of this writing, that's a tough question to answer. There is no one certification or license; no one specific training process, graduate school of Intervention. So here are some things to look for. Don't be shy, ask questions. Ask a lot of questions, if you need to. And ask for references. Any of us who have been around for a while should have no problem furnishing you with several family members who have participated in past interventions and are willing to share their experiences.

  1. Experience: If anyone can hang out a shingle and say that they are an interventionist, then you have to ask a lot of the hard questions. How many interventions have you done? What was the outcome?
  2. Education: What specific training have you had in addiction? Remember, training or education as a counselor does not automatically qualify someone to do addiction intervention. Any good Interventionist will be able to identify a specific course, training or other educational process directed toward competency in Intervention.
  3. Cost: Do not be squeamish about cost. There is a broad divergence in the cost of Intervention. My personal belief is that Interventions can be made available to any family at an affordable price. Talk about the cost with an interventionist and if it seems excessive, move on. In Pennsylvania PRO-ACT can recommend Interventionists who charge reasonably, and locally, in my little corner of the world, The Delaware County Interventionist Network is committed to finding affordable ways to help families in need of Intervention.
Why do you need a professional?
Family loyalties, problems, tensions and arguments are extreme. Feelings run deep, resentments, too. Trying to organize all of this into a focused and specific intervention can be like trying to nail jelly to a tree. What begins as a well-intentioned talk about a loved one's problems turns into a free-for-all.

A professional Interventionist will:
  • Help the family to understand addiction as an illness.
  • Work with the family to master the art of effective confrontation.
  • Plan an effective post-intervention strategy for both the subject of the intervention and the family.
Interventions are not events, but processes. An Interventionist is someone who knows the process, and can help the family to negotiate it.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

The Art of Intervention Part II

The Drama Triangle, as Karpman described it, is an ongoing, series of rigidly patterned behaviors, driven by unfulfilled needs. See for more information on the Drama Triangle, including an excellent piece relating the triangle to classic alcoholic and addicted family roles.

At any rate, if we use the Drama Triangle as a starting point, we see the roles to which we are relegated in the disease of addiction. We become reactive; our actions dictated by the behaviors of the sick addict. We can scold, extravagantly rescue, feel abandoned and guilty. We can experience mood swings based on someone else's drug use or drinking.

We get sick. Literally.

In The Medical Aspects of Codependency Dr. Max Schneider identifies a variety of medical issues that develop as someone becomes enmeshed in a codependent relationship with an addict.

Most importantly, we lose the ability to act. We can only react. We cannot act in the best interests of the addict. We cannot even act in our own best interests. We either continue in the downward spiral of emotional addiction or we run away, filled with anger and shame and traumatized by the experience.

Is it any wonder why a family member or other loved one of an addict gets butterflies and sweaty palms at the thought of confronting the addiction? Not at all. Because when we do, we are not only intervening in the person whom we love's addiction, we are also intervening in our own codependency. We are reclaiming our ability to act, with all of the risk and responsibility that implies, in our own self-interest, and the interest of the addict.

Enough to make anyone nervous!

Next--why you need a professional interventionist.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

The Art of Intervention

"Let me talk to you for a minute...."

We all know the feeling, speaker or spoken to, the rise in the anxiety level, the catch in the voice. We know what we want to say, we know what we don't want to hear.

Why is it so difficult? I mean, we're adults. We should be able to talk about anything. (Unless we are adolescents, in which case we can't talk about a lot of things, but we sure can text, message, facebook and twitter about them!)

It's anxiety-producing to venture into any area that is emotionally unpredictable. The old fears about abandonment come to the surface itching poison ivy. What if he can't handle it? What if he kills himself? What if it just makes her drink more? What if I'm wrong?

And on the receiving end: oh, man, this is it. I'm getting thrown out! They're putting me away. I'm done for!

We take care of each other out of love and become co-dependent out of fear. The fear spurs resentment, then guilt, then more fear. Stephen Karpman postulated years ago that each of us us capable of only one of three existential roles when dealing with an addict.

Rescuer, Persecutor or Victim.

The Rescuer feels bad because of the physically or emotionally impoverishment of the addict and tries to help, maybe with a loan. Sure, people have warned him not to give money to an alcoholic or addict, but he seems like such a good guy and only needs something to help him get back on his feet. A Rescuer is born.

What?? Oh no, he couldn't have done this to me! He used the money for drugs? How could that be? What have I ever done to him to deserve this? Victim.

That lousy rat....just wait, I'll show him, trying to put one over on me! I'll just wait until I get a good chance to take a shot at him and..... Persecutor.

Rescuer, Victim, Persecutor.

More to follow