3 Ways To Control Addiction

Control is a hot button issue for many, especially in addiction. Those new to recovery often have to define what they can control and how they’re going to do it. Those living with someone who’s addicted may go to extremes: trying to control everything and actually having control over nothing. Here are three ways to start gaining some control over addiction.

1. Define Then Control Your Territory

Put some serious thought into what you want to claim as yours. Maybe you’re willing to fight for your fridge by declaring an ultimatum, “No alcohol in here.” The key here is to start small. Protecting your entire town from drug use is too big of a perimeter to maintain. Protecting something smaller like your bedroom or apartment sets you up for success.

When we’re new to claiming territory, our talk is usually much braver than our actions. Choose something you know you can defend. You must be willing and able to enforce your boundary.

Many times, we, the new empowered boundary setter, can’t see our own weak spots, but our loved ones can. They look for weaknesses in the boundary and then attack there. This has nothing to do with your love for each other or respect. It has to do with old habits and patterns of behavior. Be prepared for several attacks to the same weak spot. Boundary busters don’t give up easily.

2. Define Unacceptable Behavior

Accepting unacceptable behavior is common for people who struggle with addiction and for those who love them. Many of us bring other hurts and traumas to the situation. In many families, addiction is a way to self-medicate the pain from abuse or mental illness. Adult children of alcoholics, for example, struggle to define what’s “normal.”

Again, it’s important to start small. Pick one or two behaviors that are hurting you the most. Then get ready for battle. Strategically plan what you will do when the behavior happens. This is not an “if” situation. Like boundaries, our friends, loved ones, and drug dealers won’t welcome any change. They are probably quite comfortable with the relationship’s existing dynamics.

Often, when we are ready to make this change, we’re beyond frustrated. We want ALL of the behaviors to change yesterday. This is because we’ve accepted the unacceptable behavior for years. Making a small change isn’t for their benefit. We benefit. Success breeds success. After we tackle the first behavior, we’ll be stronger. Then we move on to the next offending behavior.

3. Define Your Support Team

Abuse and addiction survive by keeping their victims trapped in silent fear. Tell someone you trust about what’s really going on in your house or with your family. The first step is to admit there is a problem.

Recovery isn’t only for the addicted. Many groups like AA and NA have parallel support groups for family members. Al-Anon and Al-Ateen follow the same 12 Steps as AA. Nar-Anon is the corresponding family support group for NA. The best news is, you can attend these groups before your loved one starts treatment. Other groups like CoDA (Co-dependents Anonymous) and ACoA (Adult Children of Alcoholics) also offer support.

These groups cost very little. Members are encouraged to chip in a buck or two share the costs of meeting space. They teach about boundaries and healthy living. Often, they have “old timers” who’ve dramatically changed their lives and are willing to tell you what worked for them.

To sum it up, we all have the power to change ONE person, ourselves. We can only control ourselves. Focusing on these three areas lets us start small and gain momentum. When we start to change, the other people in our relationships then change by default. We just don’t get to control how they change.

Do you need help getting control over addiction? From rehabs to support groups, Recovery Guidance lists hundreds of choices. Take our self-assessment test to find out where to start..

What Is Narcan, Who Needs It, How To Get It

When someone you love is using opioids, the constant fear of an overdose is debilitating. However, there is a way to keep a sliver of hope at home in your medicine cabinet and it’s called Narcan.

Continue reading “What Is Narcan, Who Needs It, How To Get It”

12 Warning Signs That Someone Is Using

Something’s not right, but you can’t pin point what’s wrong. Your feelings run from disbelief, fear and betrayal to anger, concern and back again.  Addiction doesn’t go away on it’s own. Here are 12 warning signs that need immediate attention.

In an intimate and caring relationship, accepting your loved one is a substance abuser is the hardest thing in the world. Someone you love is caught up in something dangerous and beyond your control. What you do and how you handle it is important. Taking care of yourself and being able to understand and accept the situation improves your quality of life. Accordingly, your example might lead your loved one to change.

First Be Observant

Do some detective work. Watch what’s going on, and make notes about how your loved one is acting toward you and everything else. Learn about addiction and the changes that occur in personality and behavior.

Know The 12 Warning Signs

Not all of these will apply to your loved one, but these are the most common warning signs of substance and alcohol abuse and addiction:

  1. Mood swings
  2. Anger, impatience, irritable behavior, especially when confronted
  3. Sudden appearance of new friends
  4. Secrecy about activities and whereabouts
  5. You found items that you suspect might be drug paraphernalia
  6. Pupils are often either enlarged or constricted. Methamphetamine and cocaine enlarge the pupil while heroin and other opiates will constrict the pupils.
  7. Smells different. Alcohol, marijuana and other drugs can change body odor.
  8. Loss of appetite
  9. Money and other items are disappearing.
  10. Neglecting things that used to be important—family, church, relationships, activities
  11. Neglecting personal hygiene and personal appearance
  12. Sudden secret phone calls and texting

Educate Yourself About Substances

Learn about the different classes and types of drugs. Most drugs have fairly precise symptoms if you know what to look for. Treating marijuana is a little different than treating heroin. Some medications can help with alcohol and opiate addictions. Researching is scary, but not knowing is dangerous. 

Get Help

Yes, trying drugs or alcohol for the first time is a choice, but becoming addicted is not.

Addiction is now medically described as an chronic relapsing brain disease. Don’t try to change anyone on your own, it won’t work. Seek professional help from a therapist, addiction professional, or a doctor. Recovery Guidance lists help for families and those who are addicted. Click here to search for family resources

Want help, but not sure where to start? Take our our self-assessment guide.


5 Steps To Take When Your Child Is Using

Realizing that your child is using drugs is very difficult to process. Your gut reaction is often to panic and plan for a major catastrophe. Your fear shows up as anger and rage; it tells you to control, condemn, and yell. Unfortunately, those tactics almost never work. (We know this because we’ve been in your shoes.) So let’s explore five steps that can help your child recover his or her sobriety and the relationship with you.

1. Do Not Panic And Catastrophize

Fear drives parents to:

  • Blame
  • Panic
  • Think the worst

In recovery, we call this reacting. Reacting takes away your power because the situation defines you and your responses. If you react, you will offer no healthy solutions to the situation.  Likewise, your child will then react to your reaction. This almost always escalates into an argument.  For example, when you see your child stoned, you may start yelling things like:

  • “How stupid are you?”
  • “You’re grounded for life.”
  • “How could you do this to me/us?”

Yelling and screaming triggers the same type of response from your child.  He or she will defend by saying something like:

  • “It’s my life and I can do what I want.”
  • “I hate you.”
  • “Everyone else is doing it and it’s no big deal.”

2. Take Action, Not Reaction

Instead of reacting, parents can take action. Taking action empowers you to find solutions and lets you respond from strength; you have choices. In this step, you separate your feeling from your options. For example, a parent who takes action first begins by calmly taking to the child about the substance use. When parents offer a listening ear, two things can happen:

  1. The child may actually open up, but even if this doesn’t happen, the strength position is modeled for the child.
  2. If the overreacting child doesn’t get the hoped-for reaction from the parent(s), the drama starves. It’s no fun to act out, argue, or throw a fit if the other person doesn’t play along.

Parents can also take action by finding support for themselves. Seeing a counselor or attending a support group is a very empowering process in its own right.

3. Explore Solutions And Consequences

By exploring healthy choices, the child learns the parent is on his or her side. This creates an open dialogue regarding what needs to happen in a positive choice manner. Parents and children can brainstorm healthy solutions such as:

  1. Not hanging out with using friends
  2. Being home by an earlier curfew
  3. Limiting the use of the car
  4. Going to family counseling
  5.  Attending AA/NA meetings (and young people’s meetings if available)
  6. Or if needed, seeking inpatient or residential treatment.

After some solutions are discussed, hopefully, the child will be willing to comply. If not, then the parents may need to set some boundaries. Parents and children must also discuss the consequences of future use.  Creating consequences with the child, not for the child, gives the child a voice.  This step may be repeated as necessary for recovery is not a linear process. There will probably be relapses so know in advance how you’ll deal with a relapse.

4. If Your Child Is Using Again Enforce The Consequences

Parents must follow-up and enforce the agreed upon consequences. Too often, parents ignore signs that the child is using again, but this is the worst thing a parent can do.  Some parents walk on eggshells to not trigger relapse. Other parents see their child as helpless or fragile. This is also called enabling the child.

Parents, remember step 2, take action. Giving in is a type of reaction, not action. The parent gives away the power in this situation. Interestingly enough, as a therapist, I’ve found that children and teens often give themselves more severe consequences than are necessary. Just like in step3, this step may be repeated as often as needed.

5. Be Supportive Of Positive Steps

We all need positive reinforcement in our lives. When your child is using, he or she needs even more support for the positive steps they take. Give them kudos for staying sober, for following up with their action steps, and for how their behavior has changed for the positive. Catch your child doing something right. If the child relapses, be supportive of the steps he/she/they can take to get back on track.  Honor the time they stayed clean and their behavior improved. Relapses are sometimes an important part of recovery. They can remind the child of how much havoc using created for them. Relapsing doesn’t have to send your child back to the old habits, nor should it send you back to panicking.

Need help but not sure where to start? Click here to take our self-assessment


How To Protect Your Finances From Addiction

It’s crucial to be safe when your loved one has a substance use disorder. Protect your finances and possessions so that you don’t have serious problems down the road.

Families With Drug Abusers Always Have Financial Difficulties

Drug abusers (and some people with behavior addictions) need money all the time to support their drug of choice. They use their families to get it by:

  • Going from one family member to another asking for money
  • Taking money from wallets and purses that are left unattended
  • Stealing valuables from their relatives’ home to sell
  • Scaring family members into providing money for them
  • Coercing or blackmailing family members who fear homelessness or worse behaviors if they don’t give money

The families that protect themselves against financial wreckage due to a substance abuser are the families that fare the best. Here are some tips to follow.

Protect Valuables In The Home

Know what and where your possessions are and monitor them. What to do:

  • Make a list of your assets and valuables
  • Know where everything is
  • Make sure your valuables all have your name on it
  • Engrave your name on jewelry when you can
  • Lock valuables away whenever possible
  • Alert everyone in the family that possessions are watched and monitored

Guard Your Wallet

Does the abuser have access to your wallet, cash, credit and debit cards? Does cash mysteriously disappear? Cash charged on a credit card costs more, and the credit card holder may be held responsible for the charges. Have you seen charges you don’t recognize on your cards? What to do:

  • Make sure your wallet or purse is always in a safe place not accessible to abuser
  • Keep your cash hidden
  • Keep your credit cards locked up
  • Check you balances frequently

Protect Bank Accounts And Investments

Who is in charge of the family money? Abuse occurs when the abuser is in charge of finances. Be aware of your family finances. What kind of bank and investment accounts do you have and where are they? You should have access to bank accounts and safety deposit accounts as well as investment accounts. What to do:

  • Be sure to have access to all bank accounts
  • Watch the balance to see if cash is going out
  • Start keeping some money separate for emergencies
  • Change passwords often for online banking accounts that you own
  • Check your safety deposit box if you keep valuables there
  • If you have an investment advisor alert him/her to potential problems

Grandma And Grandpa’s Finances

Abusers will go from family member to family member with sad stories and sometimes threats. The most vulnerable may well be grandma and grandpa. Is the abuser stealing from the grandparents or getting them to hand over social security checks? What to do:

  • Take an inventory of grandparents’ valuables in the home
  • Monitor what drugs they taking and make sure they are not kept in the open
  • Ask about investment accounts, bank accounts, debit cards, and other potential sources of cash
  • Keep in touch with them and other vulnerable family members
  • Pay special attention to jewelry, guns and other weapons, and tools

Legal Options

Check with your lawyer about your rights and liabilities as a spouse or parent.

Want help, but not sure where to start? Click here to try our self-assessment guide.

What Makes A Family Good?

Yesterday, shots rang out in another American high school, but this time it was in my home town. Most people shared this reaction, “He came from a good family.” Some were talking about the shooter. However, others were talking about the victim. Who was right? What makes a family “good”?

Meet The Smith Family

Bob Smith, the patriarch, works for the town’s most prestigious car dealership. Everyone in town loves Bob. He served in Vietnam. In his free time, Bob likes to garden, and he shares the harvest with everyone on his block. Bob sings in the church.

Bob’s wife Fran is friendly. She always has a pitcher of tea and twenty minutes to sit down at the table and chat. Fran loves to take care of her grandkids. They spend most Saturday afternoons in the neighborhood park or at the library.

Likewise, Bob and Fran’s kids are upstanding members of the community. Their daughter is in pharmaceutical sales. Their son is a brilliant engineer and a respected veteran. Both of the kids are active in their respective churches.

Now Meet The Jones Family

Mark and Jean also have two kids. Mark knows everybody because he’s had lots of jobs. Jean is funny. She’s always making jokes, usually at Mark’s expense.

Their youngest is almost finished with probation. She was arrested last year for selling drugs near a school. Although their oldest is filing bankruptcy this week, he’s doing well. He’s a year sober and the family’s bright spot. Between the two kids, there’s two failed marriages, two arrests and two stints in rehab.

It’s easy to tell which family is good, right?

Wrong. They are the same exact family. The Smith family represents the positive side we post on Facebook and share at the coffee shop. The Jones family represents what many families try to hide. Each day they breathe a sigh of relief when last their latest court case doesn’t make it into the paper.

To Get A Solution, We Have To Have A Problem

The idea of “good families” prevents healing because “good” families don’t have problems. Nothing to see here folks. Just one good kid shooting another good kid for no good or bad reason. All of the other nearby kids were good too. We’re all good, and we’re all “fine.”

American Families Are Not “Good”

According to drugfree.org, one in ten Americans over the age of 12 are addicted to either drugs or alcohol. One in five Americans experience a mental illness in any given year according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. The National Institute of Drug Abuse found that 67% of the people in drug abuse treatment centers were physically or sexually abused as a child. This is not good; too many Americans are hurting.

Drop The Label And Get Better

Recovery teaches us to drop the “good” and “bad” labels. We look at what doesn’t work for us, and we admit there is a problem. Mental illness and substance abuse impact an entire family for several generations. Once we tire of feeling “bad” enough, we look for a life that’s better than just “good.”

Are you ready to find something better? Recovery Guidance can help. Recovery isn’t just for the person fighting addiction or struggling with mental illness; it’s for the whole family. From our website, you can find mental health providers, addiction treatment centers, family counseling, and family support groups. You can also use our site to search by city, state or zip code. We list resources from across the country.

Search by location

Good treatment encourages healthy family participation in the course of care. Click on the button below to take our self-assessment guide:

Assess Your Needs Here


5 Don’ts For Staging An Intervention

She’s had ANOTHER DUI. He lost ANOTHER job. That’s it! We’re staging an intervention!

Addiction leaves a wide path of destruction, and people are exhausted from fearing the worst. We hope our loved one, who might be angry at first, will admit the problem and promise to quit. Then we hope they actually keep their promise.

Unfortunately, Disney doesn’t plan interventions. In reality, interventions are risky and messy. They can backfire, plain and simple. Before you set the stage for disaster, consider these five don’ts.

1. Don’t Point Fingers And Lay Blame

Saying how you feel works best. Some examples:

  • I am afraid I won’t have money for groceries
  • I am afraid we’ll lose the house
  • I’m terrified you’ll get arrested or die
  • I want to know where you are after 10:00 p.m.
  • I need to have the car to drive

2. Don’t Make Threats You Won’t Keep

Before you intervene, decide which behaviors you can and cannot accept. What will you do the next time unacceptable behavior occurs? Be honest with yourself about your limits. Will you be strong enough to do what you say?

3. Don’t Be Afraid Of Silence In The Intervention

Even though you may feel hurt and betrayed, an intervention is not the time to point fingers and lay blame.  Write your thoughts down before the intervention. Be brief and amazing. A popular recovery tool says to:

“Say what you mean. Mean what you say, and don’t say it mean.”

Practice your speech. Stay calm. Be specific when talking about incidents and issues. Focus on how you feel instead of what they are doing. Then wait. In silence.

Give your loved one time to process what just happened. Then wait some more. If you do not care for their response, consider keeping quiet. Smile if you can.

4. Don’t Give Up

Interventions are hard for everyone involved, and emotions may run high. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is step back and let everyone regroup. The last thing you want and the substance user needs is to feel like everyone is against them. Try to see your loved one as someone else’s child or spouse.

If the intervention doesn’t go as planned or you believe it failed, reconnect with the substance user.  Assure them of your love and support. This doesn’t mean that you have to placate them or tell them you didn’t mean what you said.

5. Don’t Be Afraid To Ask For Help

A trained professional can help reduce these risks and keep the intervention from going sour. Recovery Guidance lists Recovery Professionals like counselors and interventionists, who specialize in this type of care. You can find resources in your area by clicking on the Recovery Professionals tab and selecting the Intervention Services specialization.

Search for intervention

Be sure to:

  1. Ask about the professional’s credentials and certifications.
  2. Make sure you are both on the same page for the intervention.

Recovery Physicians can also help your family discuss abuse concerns and treatment options.

Want help, but not sure where to start? Click here to try our self-assessment guide.