Archive for the ‘Abuse’ Tag

Unexpected Gifts   1 comment

Have you every been given a unexpected gift? A gift that you get at a time that there is no special day or time associated with it, no birthday, no holiday. no anniversary, etc. For many that either personally battle with the challenges of addiction and mental illness or have a loved whom does, that is exactly what they get almost every day. Unfortunately is not in a good way. Addiction is a “gift that keeps on giving.” What kinds of gifts does it “bless” the affected with?

  • Physical Illness
  • Emotional Pain
  • Poor Self-Esteem
  • Legal Problems
  • Estranged Relationships
  • Financial Problem
  • Guilt / Shame
  • Hopelessness

Unfortunately, there is no “Day after Christmas” in the real world. There is a strict “no refund, no exchange” policy in reference to these “gifts. Once they have been received, the best that we can do is take them as they come, and attempt to cope with them as best we can. <Kinda like the ugly sweater that Aunt June gave you. You think it is absolutely hideous, but with a smile you put it on and wear it for the day. Then when she goes home you put it in the pile for your next rip to Goodwill.>

Unfortunately as we all know those that battle addiction, do not typically respond to these gifts in a “healthy” or “positive” manner. Many times they are taken as a good “excuse” to continue the negative and destructive behaviors.

This is so typical, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV-TR) says this about Substance Abuse (Addiction):

When an individual persists in use of alcohol or other drugs despite problems related to use of the substance, substance dependence may be diagnosed.

This is one pattern of behavior that is needed for a person to be “diagnosed” with a substance abuse disorder.

In my opinion, this is the typical view that has been taken of these “Gifts of Addiction”, the negative and destructive. I want to challenge our paradigm and look at them from a little more positive perspective. Then I want us to look at the greater gifts and rewards that are found on “the other side”, in a life of recovery.

Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900) a 19th-century German philosopher, poet, composer and classical philologist, once said,

That which does not kill us makes us stronger.

A couple of similar quotes reinforce this idea.

Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strengths. When you go through hardships and decide not to surrender, that is strength.Arnold Schwarzenegger

I have had to fight like hell and fighting like hell has made me what I am.John Arbuthnot Fisher

Opposition is a natural part of life. Just as we develop our physical muscles through overcoming opposition – such as lifting weights – we develop our character muscles by overcoming challenges and adversity.Stephen R. Covey

So what am I trying to say? I would NEVER choose to rewind the clock of time relive any of the struggles of the past including their pain, loss anger, etc. However, as strange as this sounds, I would not go back and undo them if I could either. Despite, all of the negatives that resulted, these struggles come with their own “unexpected gifts”. They develop character. Each one of us is the person that we are because of our experiences good and bad not despite them. These same trials foster strength and courage. Having gone through and overcome these trials, we become stronger and stronger with each obstacle that we conquer. With each step that we take onward and upward, we are stronger and wiser when it comes time to face the next one. It is not easy and will take a lot of work and devotion, but in the end we realize that it was all worth it.

That brings me to the ultimate “unexpected gifts”, the gifts that we discover in a life of recovery. In my experience and communications with those that have known both sides of this coin, there is one gift that is far and above the most treasured, “PEACE”. We learn that life does NOT have to be full of chaos! As we grow and get wiser and stronger, we realize that we are capable of much more than we have ever given ourselves credit for in the past. We realize that we DO have something to share with the world that is around us and it is some thing positive, healthy and beautiful! Life AFTER addiction is just that LIFE! We finally start living and being able to enjoy the experiences of each day rather than simply “surviving”. Life after addiction is a life of daily “unexpected gifts”. That is if we will open our eyes and hearts to be watching for them.

So whether it is your past, your present or you future, I challenge you to open your eyes and your heart and be grateful for each of the “unexpected gifts that come into your life.

Thanks for letting me share one with you in these words!

One breath, one step, one day at a time,

GUEST POST – Not. My Kid. Kelli’s Story:   2 comments

Not My Kid – Kelli’s Story:  

Advice for Desperate Parents about your Child’s Addiction, from a Former Homecoming Queen Turned Drug Addict

By: Kelli Athas / Personal Interventionist, Intercept Interventions

High school homecoming queen. Cheerleader. I was beautiful, bright-eyed, popular, and had every advantage. I came from a good, solid family who loved me; I had friends I loved being with, and a future that shined bright with opportunity. Then I made a choice that changed my life forever.

I am a recovering drug addict.

I have walked the streets with prostitutes. I have eaten table scraps. I lived the nightmare you fear for your child. I have done things to get high that I am deeply, deeply ashamed of…I understand desperation. I have been to hell, and by an unfathomable grace I am alive and healthy today.

Your child is a drug addict. You are in a desperate place right now; I understand. I have breathed inside your son or your daughter’s skin. I have been consumed, eaten alive, with a force that was a thousand times greater than me…a force that is right now consuming your child’s body, heart, mind, and soul. Inside every hour of every day I was addicted to drugs, my mother and my family tried to help me; they hoped, cried, prayed and lived a frantic existence of worry and fear. If you are the parent of an addict you likely feel just as out of control as the addict you so desperately want to help. You want to cure your baby. Unfortunately you cannot cure this person you love.

Perhaps accepting the fact that there is no cure, no quick fix that will make everything go back to your “normal” family life is the first step toward strength and clarity for you. There is an overabundance of well-intentioned (and many non-well-intentioned) people advertising quick methods that will change your loved one’s life, make them get off drugs and become whole again. The reality is there is no one that can cure drug addiction. An addict must first face up to their addiction and admit they need help. They will need to find a support group best fits their needs, and stick with it. Recovery is a journey not a destination. The insanity and chaos that is imbued in addiction toys with emotions, and feelings become erratic and unpredictable. This is one of the reasons it is vitally important to seek an objective point of view from someone who’s been in an addict’s shoes, in their skin, someone you trust to give you and your family hope and guidance.

I am still so saddened when I remember the pure exhaustion and desperation on my mother’s face when she would look at me during my struggle. She wanted so much for me to overcome this disease, but it would be a long road to recovery for me. I’ve been in treatment several times. I got out of my first rehab in 1996 and my mom thought the nightmare was over and life would go back to normal. No one explained this is a lifelong journey, a battle for me and for her. The greatest lesson I learned in my first stint in rehab was that I needed to hide my addiction better. I never thought of myself like the others in rehab; they were failures, they were low. Some whored their bodies to get money to buy drugs, others stole from their parents and kind-hearted friends. I was nothing like this. But after leaving the recovery program and getting back to my toxic patterns, I realized in the blink of an eye that I was lying to myself – I was exactly like them.

Addiction manifests itself in many ways. Manipulation and deception are huge indicators of trouble to come. Parents be vigilant – teens know how to manipulate. In my senior year of high school I was voted “Miss Smooth Talker”…and I considered this an accomplishment. The title should’ve been “Miss Manipulator” because that’s exactly what I had become. I thought “just one time for fun” would be just one time for fun – but instead it kick-started an all-consuming lust to chase that first high. It’s an indisputable fact that a high rate of teens begin their alcohol & drug use at this pivotal age in their life, as a parent it is an excruciatingly frightening scenario. No one can predict it and no one knows what they’ll do unless they’re in it themselves. It’s common to want to give your child the benefit of the doubt. Praying it’s only a phase, & for many it may be just that. But if your child has been experimenting and because of it they receive some adverse consequences, such as being suspended from school and they continue to use, that is when serious action should be to be taken. If you don’t seek help your taking the risk that they will fall into the vicious cycle of addiction.

Educating families & kids about addiction is not easy. My advice to you: get in their face. Ask them the uncomfortable questions, and if they try to blow you off, if they try to manipulate you, do not budge. If you’re not talking to your kids about drugs, someone will. Find out who their friends are. Find out where they hang out, what they do after-school. Protect them when they don’t know enough to protect themselves.

The social stigma of “not my child, they’re smarter than that” is not enough and will not help you help them. If your son or daughter has an addiction problem my advice to you is dig deep for strength, draw it from your love for them, and walk beside them through their journey toward recovery without expectation and without judgment. Be their parent, their cheerleader and the person they can trust most in the world. And no matter how dark it gets and how much they struggle to run away from you, never let them go!

Kelli Athas is a certified national drug and alcohol interventionist. She and her husband Nick Athas are the founders of Intercept Interventions, a program that helps families through the intervention process. Kelli is a highly sought after drug and alcohol recovery expert and works with courts, child protection services’ case managers and school administrators to mentor teens struggling with drug and alcohol addiction.

http://www.interceptinterventions.com/


Trauma   3 comments

PREFACE: Please be aware that some may find this article triggering. Read with caution and PLEASE stop reading and seek out support at any point that it becomes overwhelming. It WILL be emotion inducing and some what challenging. However, I believe that you will be glad that you did so.

                 This article is definitely more enlightening, but I do hope that by the end you are encouraged, inspired, instilled with hope and most importantly EMPOWERED to believe in yourself and the strength that resides within.

YOU are NOT a VICTIM!                     YOU are NOT a SURVIVOR!

YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER!

There can be absolutely no denying the impact that trauma has on mental illness and substance abuse. In fact, I would guess that a significant number of readers of this very article, have been touched by some kind of trauma or another. In fact, I would be bold enough to day, that if you personally have not been touched by trauma, every one of us has some one close to us that has.

Well, let’s start with a simple definition of trauma:

  • A serious injury or shock to the body, as from violence or an accident.
  • An emotional wound or shock that creates substantial, lasting damage to the psychological development of a person, often leading to neurosis.
  • An event or situation that causes great distress and disruption.
  • Extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope.

Trauma is also defined by DSM-IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) as:

an event in which a person experiences, witnesses, or is confronted with actual or threatened death or serious injury or threat to physical integrity of oneself or others

Trauma can be the result of experiences that are private in nature such as:

  • sexual assault
  • domestic violence
  • Rejection / Abandonment
  • child abuse/neglect
  • witnessing interpersonal violence
  • Victim of Crime (assault, robbery, etc)

Trauma can also be the result of experiences that are more public in nature such as:

  • War
  • Natural Disasters
  • Terrorism
  • Automobile or other Accident

That being said we have ALL experienced some kind of trauma or another. However, it is the personal/private trauma that we think of most and typically has the most psychological effect.

 A Few Facts about Trauma

In mental health and substance abuse service settings

  • As many as 80% of men and women in psychiatric hospitals have experienced physical or sexual abuse, most of them as children.
  • The majority of adults diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder (81%)or Dissociative Identity Disorder (90%) were abused as children.
  • Up to two-thirds of both men and women in substance abuse treatment report childhood abuse or neglect.
  • Nearly 90% of alcoholic women were sexually abused as children or suffered severe violence at the hands of a parent.

In childhood and adolescence

  • 82% of young people in inpatient and residential treatment programs have histories of trauma.
  • Violence is a significant causal factor in 10-25% of all developmental disabilities.

In the criminal justice and juvenile justice systems

  • 80% of women in prison and jail have been victims of sexual and physical abuse.
  • In one study, 92% of incarcerated girls reported sexual, physical or severe emotional abuse.
  • Boys who experience or witness violence are 1,000 times more likely to commit violence than those who do not.

From The Damaging Consequences of Violence and Trauma, 2004, compiled by Ann Jennings, PhD.

Trauma, especially when left untreated can have a severe and negative impact on a person’s physical and emotional well-being. Trauma has been linked to…

  • Hallucinations
  • Disassociation
  • Depression
  • Suicidal Tendencies
  • Chronic Anxiety
  • disturbances in mood/self-esteem,
  • Delusions
  • Self-Injury
  • Hostility
  • Flashbacks /Nightmares
  • Assaultiveness
  • Impaired interpersonal  Relationships
  • substance abuse

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

OK, enough of the textbook info. What about where the rubber hits the road. In the lives of REAL people not numbers and statistics.  The truth is, traumatic experiences can literally be devastating! A single experience can be disturbing enough on the functioning of an adult, how more injurious is repeated or multiple traumas to the psyche of a child. This is my personal theory, not supported by any research that I know of:

“Trauma is the number one leading cause of poor self-esteem.”

 It reaches in to the deepest places of the individual psyche, pulls it out, rips it to pieces, stomps on it and then hands it back. All that is left is mess and the individually is usually unable to even recognize her/him-self after the fact.  All one is left with is pain, anger, fear, and self-doubt. At this point it feels like there is absolutely no hope at all.

My friends, look around, this sounds paradoxical, but if you are at the bottom, then that is a GOOD thing.

It is a good thing, because if you are at the bottom then there is only one direction to go and that is UP!

My personal “traumatic” experiences are rather minimal, but I have known and helped many through very intense and overwhelming experiences.  I do NOT claim to be a trauma expert, but want to offer some encouragement and insights for helping those that have these experiences to fully overcome them; even it is a “baby step” at a time.

So, where to begin? The first step and most important step is recognizing that you do not have to be a “victim” of the trauma in your past. Simply having survived and come out of it at least somewhat functional, you have proven the strength of your character. Despite how powerless you feel now, you are stronger than you believe at this point in time.

YOU are NOT a VICTIM!                      YOU are NOT a SURVIVOR!

YOU ARE AN OVERCOMER!

I once heard it said something like this: “The mark of an individual is not what he/she has accomplished, who he/she was in the community, how much money he/she made, but what adversity had he/she overcame!

Let me say it a little differently:  “Your past has shaped your view of yourself and the world around, but it does not define who you are now, or your destiny.

The first and hardest part of coping with trauma is separating ourselves from it! We must find a way to start rebuilding our “self” from the inside out. Here are a few practical steps from my article on self-esteem. (Click the link to open the article – will not close this one).

  • List 5 positive things that other people have said about you.
  • List 5 positive things about yourself.(Attributes or accomplishments)
  •  Share a compliment with 5 other people.
  •  Do something unrepentantly kind for someone that you perceive to be “worse off” than you.

 As you complete each “step” take out a pen and journal about how completing the activity made you feel. Take note to how you feel about your self before and after each activity.

 Next and likely just as difficult and I know more painful…. We MUST get in touch with the depths of the emotions associated with our traumatic experiences.

 **WARNING**

Do NOT try this at home!

Do NOT attempt to do this ALONE!

As long as we continue to hide from, cover-up, stuff and self-medicate the feelings associated with our trauma, we will continue to suffer just like we were in the midst of the event over and over again. It is like a never ending flashback of pain and suffering. However, when we face them head and push our way through them, yes it is going to be VERY painful, and we want to quit and give-up. We say to ourselves and even to those around us, “It’s not worth it”. But hang in there. The pain is severe, but if you will endure, then you can break the power and control that those strong emotions have had on you leading to ongoing suffering. Now is the time to be totally honest with yourself and the PROFESSIONAL that is helping you. There is no such thing as wrong or inappropriate emotions. Every feeling that you feel related to your experiences is valid and need to be expressed, processed and released!

You will NEVER forget, but with time and work, those memories will not be painful and debilitating. You are on a long and treacherous journey, much like climbing a steep mountain with nothing but a cliff on one side and falling rocks on the other. But if you can hang on and keep pushing yourself, when you get to the top, the view is worth it. When you finally start feeling like you are getting “ahead” of your past, you will simply be amazed of how STRONG you will feel. The beauty and confidence that have been hidden by pain and fear.

Be patient with yourself, you did to get to this point in your life overnight and unfortunately overcoming it does not happen quickly nor easily either. But, celebrate and reward yourself for small victories and accomplishments along the way. Every obstacle that is overcome, makes you stronger and more prepared to overcome the next. Soon, instead of “making mountains out of mole hills”, you will be “making mole hills out of mountains!”

In closing let me close with one final recommendation

Each day wake up, believe and strive to demonstrate this simple affirmation:

 “I and I alone choose my destiny, I control whether I am happy or sad. I am responsible for me and me alone. I choose to live MY life; I choose to write my own story!”

We have to LIVE in the present looking forward with hope for the future. I urge you my friends star LIVING and take your life and destiny back from the traumatic events and perpetrators that have haunted you for TOO LONG!

 YOU ARE WORHT IT!

Your past may have set you going down a certain path, but you are still the one in the driver’s seat!

 The scars of yesterday are the badge of honor and strength of today and the proof of potential for tomorrow.

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