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Drugs and the addict: A destructive relationship

Addict

“There’s a phrase, “the elephant in the living room”, which purports to describe what it’s like to live with a drug addict, an alcoholic, an abuser. People outside such relationships will sometimes ask, “How could you let such a business go on for so many years? Didn’t you see the elephant in the living room?” And it’s so hard for anyone living in a more normal situation to understand the answer that comes closest to the truth; “I’m sorry, but it was there when I moved in. I didn’t know it was an elephant; I thought it was part of the furniture.” There comes an aha-moment for some folks – the lucky ones – when they suddenly recognize the difference.”
Stephen King

Have you ever heard of anyone that began taking drugs with the intentions of becoming an addict? Addictions often start slowly, just one use at a time, then before we know it, a person is hooked. There are many different reasons one may try drugs in the first place, whether it is curiosity or a pain so intense nothing so far has been able to dull the intensity.

For whatever reason, one thing is certain. The person begins to rely on the drug to the point where it feels normal. Like Stephen King’s quote, it feels like it fits where it is. It doesn’t feel like anything is wrong, a perfect dream – until it is too difficult to tell the dream apart from reality. Suddenly the fog begins to lift alongside a whole heap of undesirable consequences and the harsh reality of the control the drug has begins to become clear, though at this point, life without the drug feels incomprehensible. It is no longer a choice, but a necessity for survival.

Unless we have been in that place, it is difficult to appreciate the complexity of the situation. The most commonly asked question is “why don’t you just stop?”. Good question, though don’t expect the answer to be simple or straightforward.

The decision to say good-bye to addiction needs to be made by the addict themselves. No amount of begging, pleading, desperate actions, or harsh words can possibly cause the addict to change their lives around. This is because the addiction has a toxic hold, it promises to make everything better, to treat them the way they are supposed to be treated – not the way their family and friends are treating them by trying to stop them from feeling good.

No. It is an entwined, toxic relationship. One in which there is only one person who can end it.

So what can you do to help your loved one with their addiction?

This will feel like it is totally in the wrong direction. Though the biggest thing we can do, is to support them. Now I don’t mean enable them. What real support looks like is giving them what they need – not what they physically feel like they need. So what is this?

Well, what do you need as a person?

  • Respect?
  • Love?
  • Relationships?
  • Encouragement?

Everything the drug provides. If the addict can see they can get what they need elsewhere, consistently and genuinely, they will feel safer and more empowered to make that life-changing choice.

Though again, it is still up to them. You cannot take responsibility for their decisions. Once you accept that you are powerless to change them, you can then freely provide what they need from you in the way they need it.

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Home: A place to belong

Home-Belonging
Belonging is an innate need. It is how we know where we fit, what is expected of us, what areas we can safely push the boundaries, and somewhere to retreat to.
Home should be a place where we feel all these things – unfortunately that is not always the case.

So many families have been affected by the choices and actions of those around them. Being a system, like a mobile, one aspect cannot avoid being affected. This is incredibly dangerous for children growing up within families. Sometimes when parents and those around them make mistakes, it can be used as helpful for the children – in ways of demonstrating that even adults make mistakes and have the courage to apologise. For others, it can have harsh consequences.

Children can grow up in life searching for that safe area to retreat to, using only their internal resources that have often been neglected and malnourished. Adults who have had childhoods like this can certainly turn things around and make different choices – though this becomes very difficult when the healthy values have not been instilled in the first place.

So how can one fulfill that need of belonging and safety?
The key tool is self-awareness.

We cannot challenge our thoughts and ideas to see if they are healthy or know where they came from, if we do not have self-awareness.

How does one develop self-awareness?

This is a lengthy, ongoing, empowering journey that we all need to embark on throughout our life.

This involves taking on different tasks such as:

  • Taking a step back

Sometimes we need to just stop of a moment and analyse the situation. What is happening? What am I feeling? Who is involved?

  • Playing the devil’s advocate

The best way to challenge whether your thoughts and actions are healthy and true is to argue against them. If you argue different angles, you get a better picture of what is actually happening without well-intended emotions clouding the image.

  • Explore

Taking time to explore and investigate the “whys”. Why is this happening? Why am I feeling this way? Why am I involved? Identifying these “whys” can help us to put context around what is happening.

Through these activities, we can develop our self-awareness which allows us to tend to our true needs. Those needs which may have been neglected throughout our lives – whether intentional or unintentional.

The first step is a question – let’s see where the journey takes us!

Who am I and why am I here?

Who am I and why am I here?
Purpose:
noun
1. The reason for which something exists or is done, made, used, etc.
2. An intended or desired result; end; aim; goal.
3. Determination; resoluteness.

Without purpose, there isn’t any reason to do anything. We eat in order to sustain, we sleep in order to energise, we socialise in order to be connected. Everything we do, has to have purpose.

What is my purpose here with these blogs? This lies primarily with my purpose for becoming a counsellor.

So why did I become a counsellor and what does it have to do with a blog?

This story has taken my whole life to get to this point.
It first began in primary school, when 2 friends in particular, began sharing their struggles and pains with me. It felt powerful. I felt like I had something to give – though I was not sure what it was at the time.

Then high school came and the same thing happened. This time I knew it was because I was so quiet, I had the trust of others not to spread their secrets.

Then high school came to a close and I had to work out my next step.

The school counsellor suggested counselling – I felt I knew better and would go into psychology instead. Though I soon found out that the very essence of what I loved doing, would take years to get to if I continued that path. One thing led to another and I eventually found the right course for me.

I grew, I changed, I started thriving.

I was challenged to improve my life by applying what I learned in everyday situations. I still have a long way to go. Though now I feel like I have the basic foundations to keep riding this roller-coaster of life.

So what does blogging have to do with it?

As a counsellor, my desire is to make myself redundant.

Some people just need some nudges to explore areas in their life and to challenge their thinking.  Others, like myself, need a bit more intensive work to get the ball rolling.
My purpose for blogging, is to achieve both. To give a directive nudge to make the unknown explored and to highlight areas that need to be explored more intensively.

So now you know who I am and why I am here.
The question you now need to ask is who are you and why are you here?

Mental Illness: What does it mean?

 Freedom Mental Health
With all the promotion and education going around, a lot of us have a basic understanding of what mental illness is, though unless we have experienced it, it is generally on a factual basis. This is good, we need to know facts, facts are powerful. Though what does it mean if I am diagnosed with a mental illness?
There are 2 points we need to look at here:

  • What does it mean for me?; and,
  • What does it not mean for me?

What does it mean for me?

It means I have been diagnosed with an unseen illness. Mental illness is serious and does affect life as we know it. Our bodies are designed amazingly well, when one of our five senses are no longer functioning well, our bodies and mind included, compensate. If it wasn’t for the four year old eye sight check, my daughter would be going another year without apparently much needed glasses. Since receiving her glasses last week, her behaviour has been much more co-operative; not that she always misbehaved, rather she would become tired and moody quite quickly. This is because her mind and body was working overtime to compensate for the difficulties she had seeing – though she didn’t know what she was missing out on and she compensated so well that I didn’t even consider eye problems.

Very similar to mental illness, the mind and body compensates in different areas depending on what is needed, this takes extra resources and can mean that some things are not as easy as they used to be or what we see others do.

Relationships are usually the most difficult of all challenges, these are incredibly taxing on emotions that, and in situations of mental illness, are often running in overdrive as it is. In recognising this, it would be really helpful to consider employing a third person to help mediate between relationship difficulties. We all need relationships, though we don’t always have them running in the way they need to.

Like myself and my daughter, I couldn’t see what was wrong with her, I put it down to typical four-year old behaviour with a stubborn streak that would pay off when she became an adult. Instead we actually needed a third person to help bridge the gap with facts, which changed our understanding which meant we can approach any issues with resources that would actually help our relationship.

What does it not mean for me?

It does not mean life has ended. As demonstrated above, we seek knowledge and understanding; we use this knowledge and understanding to explain issues. I was quick to put an explanation to my daughter’s behaviour down to information I received from all over the place that her behaviour was normal. Though this did little to help either of us.

As with mental illness, we often try to reason away any difficulties observed and experienced based on the knowledge and facts that we have acquired along the way. Thanks to previous messages, these often include:

  • “I should be locked up”
  • “I am not good enough”
  • “I can’t do anything right”
  • “I am fake”
  • “I am weak”

These are all false.

You may not be able to do things in the same way others do or the way you used to, though in all honesty we rarely do things exactly the same anyway. Sometimes we need to ask for help and sometimes we need medication to give us a boost so we have the resources to complete the required activities. I don’t know about you, but for me to ask for help takes a lot of strength and willpower but the benefits outweigh the initial cost.

Being diagnosed with mental illness doesn’t have to be a life sentence – if anything it can be life-giving. The diagnosis isn’t what causes the illness, it is recognition that it isn’t because you are weak or a failure, it simply means you need a different approach to overcome obstacles. This can give you direction to explore different options that will work so you can actually live life to the full.

Fighting in marriage

 
Oh the arguments we had before we were married! It was so important at the time, though looking back now it is quite laughable.These days we have heated discussions, though those arguments taught us a lot about each other. We learnt about our needs, our boundaries, and our temperaments.That doesn’t mean it was good to have them, but it doesn’t mean they had to be a cause for us to break up either.

We took those lessons and grew up together, rather than apart.

There are healthy ways of dealing with conflict in marriage, here are some basic guidelines:

  1. Observe – yourself and your partner. What are you feeling? What are they saying with their tone, actions, words? Is there urgency? What is really happening here? Is this just about the dishes or is it more personal?
  2. Time out – if things are escalating, agree to take 10 mins to yourselves, and then to meet up at an agreed place. Though instead of fuming in silence, take a pen and paper and work out the heart of what you really want to say.
  3. Take turns – agree on who speaks first – someone has to! Allow them to speak and then it is your turn.
  4. Be respectful – no name calling and avoid saying “always” and “never” – this just causes everyone to get incredibly defensive because it attacks their identity.
  5. Change your view – at this point you may just be seeing the negative points. Though that isn’t realistic, you fell in love for a reason. Mix up the positives and negatives and remember they are human just like you.

The only good fight a couple can have is if they are fighting together for their marriage.

Saying NO to the Addict you Love

 
Saying no

Empowering words from Karena for anyone who loves an addict.

Does your HSC result determine your future success in life?

Life after the HSC
Sweaty palms, deafening heart beats, shallow breathing, panic setting in staring at the blank piece of paper.

They are my memories of the HSC. I remember them vividly, and, I am still alive. I have a roof over my head, I have a loving family, and a career that brings me a great sense of purpose. Though if you went off my HSC results, I shouldn’t have the life I have now.

They were low, quite frankly I had burnt myself out in year 11 and was just over study – I didn’t really care anymore. Until the actual exam time came around. Then there was panic, sleepless nights, what would happen to me? Why had I not studied harder earlier?
Yet, here I am. Relieved that all those bad dreams did not become a reality.

The HSC results don’t have to dictate the rest of your life, they may have an effect on your short term plans, though there are always other options – sometimes they are better than your first choices.

In my year 11 exam for Senior Science, I achieved almost 100%. This was a real surprise because I was sick, I had very little sleep, and I was just over it – I didn’t care anymore. I finished that exam 1 hour early. Apparently, because I let myself off the hook, because I just tried my best and accepted it was the best I could do, my mind could recall things a lot easier than if I had fogged up my mind with stress and worry.

So, as you head into that exam room, remember:

1. You are more than a number;
2. Life will carry on;
3. Do your best and know that it is the best you can do;
4. The less unnecessary stress you put on yourself, the clearer your mind will be.

You are important and valuable, regardless of what your marks suggest. Walk into those exam rooms strong, focused, and confident that you will walk out as the same important and valuable person who walked in there in the first place. Ready to take on life after school.

Toxic Mom Toolkit on Boundaries: If Any Other Adult…

Boundaries are so important. As parents need to allow their children to grow up as individuals, so do children need to learn to set healthy boundaries with all adults, including their parents.

If you have experienced life with toxic parenting, visit Toxic Mom Toolkit for more resources, support and encouragement from others in similar circumstances.

There is now a book available for you to purchase through Amazon.com that is full of personalised pieces to help walk you through your journey of healing.
Check it out here.

Toxic Mom Toolkit

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If any other adult treated you the way your Toxic Mother treats you,

what would you do?

Think of the office colleague who rolls her eyes at your suggestions in meetings, but later re-presents them to praise from management — how do you behave socially with that person?

The gym rat who asks you about your weight and diet and then snickers a little when you say you are focusing on your overall health — how much interaction do you really want?

The ex-spouse or former in-laws who are tracking you for slip-ups, who are constantly checking with mutual friends to pick up any sort of dirt about your life – when do you need to spend time near or with them?

If another adult treated you in such a way that you sought private psychological therapy to recover your emotional equilibrium and sense of personal power —…

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Swimming Against the Tide: A refreshingly real blog about life, faith, and mental health.

I love to swim against the tide and ride waves full frontal. After a lifetime of Office Management in administration and finance, I find myself wanting to finally engage in my passion of writing and empowering others for the betterment of society. As a Christian, writer (new to blogging) trainer, gardener and photographer I want to use my faith and skills for the common good…

Mental Health Week: 5 ways you can respond 

5 ways to respond to Mental Health WeekToday is the beginning of Mental Health Week, though how does it affect you? Does it cause you to stop and think? Or do you find you continue on your day-to-day routine, forgetting until you see that post on Facebook?

Just like mental illnesses, this week can often be unseen – either because we do not see, or because we do not wish to see (now I am quoting  Dreamworks – The Prince of Egypt!). It isn’t nice to be reminded of issues that we would prefer to avoid, that make us feel uncomfortable, that remind us we might need to do something about it.
Sometimes it just seem like there is nothing we can do about mental health issues – the whole situation can feel really out of control.

So how can we respond to this week?

Here are 5, simple, yet effective ways we could respond with:

1. Research: There is so much out there that we do not realise we don’t know about mental health! We hear the basics and think we have been given everything we need to know. As the internet is so advanced, and I am assuming you have the internet to read this, you could choose just one mental health issue to research. Preferably one that is close to you or you know someone who lives with that illness. Another way of researching, is talking with others. You will be amazed to hear the wealth of knowledge others have about the illness they are living with or have researched themselves. This can be really empowering and uplifting for both of you!

2. Self-care: This is a really powerful tool to help prevent mental health issues, and it is much easier to prevent than to treat. If you are living with high-stress each day, it will take its toll and affect you in ways you could not imagine. Taking an hour out of your busy schedule to spend on yourself, perhaps some gardening, or walk the dog, take the bus or ride a bike; can repay you ten-fold.

3. Examine: Examine yourself. We get caught up in the busyness of life that we can lose sight of our identity. If we feel that we need to chase after the next best thing, we can turn off the beaten track we are on and get entirely lost! Examining ourselves frequently is an easy, yet effective way of checking into where we are up to. If we start to feel agitated, instead of band-aiding it – look at why we are feeling like that in the first place. We need to continually examine our bodies for signs of skin cancer, likewise we need to examine our minds for signs of illness.

4. Sleep hygiene: This is a tough one for me! Having a good sleep hygiene routine is really important and yet so hard in this switched on world! – I have personally experienced both sides and having a healthy sleep pattern is definitely the way to go. Though I do admit I struggle with keeping to a good bedtime each night, it is also difficult to retreat from electronics before and during being in bed. It is best to have a routine and stick to it, avoiding using devices while in bed can be really helpful to allow your mind to begin switching off, otherwise you will find you are too wired up to actually sleep well! Stay tuned for my journey of healthy sleep hygiene, I will be keeping a journal on what I did and how helpful it was which I will share with you over the next few weeks.

5. Coffee (or tea!): (Such an important one!) This is great for relationships. In order to help others and yourself, have hot/cold beverage together! Many a word of wisdom, encouragement, affirmation can be shared over the dainty little tea cup and a sense of togetherness that we often leave last on the priority list. There is real safety in number, the more connected you feel, the more supported you will be – and vice-versa. Besides, it is a great way to push those fluids into our thirsty bodies!

So instead of letting this week pass you by, try implementing some of these things, just in small doses, and take note of any changes you experience.