BLESSED TO SPEAK TO FAMILIES OF THOSE WITH ADDICTION – WENDY BLANCHARD, M.S., CHHC

Today I was blessed to have the opportunity to speak to families of addicts who are currently in treatment. I was asked to go to a rehabilitation facility to speak, and when I arrived, I was told that I would not be speaking to the patients as I normally do, but to their families who were there and going to visit with them after our group. I was told that these families needed to listen to someone who had been on this journey and was living a successful, sustainable recovery, and that they also needed to be heard with a loving, empathetic ear.

I have learned so much in my three plus years of sobriety, so I tapped into all of my tools, and spoke about my Wellness Approach to Recovery, and it was well received. There were folks visiting their children, siblings, significant others, and there were two sweet young boys under the age of 14 who attended this group whose siblings were in the facility for Heroin addiction. There were also quite a few who were also in recovery from addiction and alcoholism themselves.

I spoke of my own recovery and shared my journey of exploration and discovery in a holistic approach to recovery. The group seemed to take great interest in my story, and as I pointed out, I’m eager to share my journey with them in order to make folks aware that my wellness approach is another pathway to addiction recovery.

I also spoke directly to the two young boys about how they were feeling about their siblings addiction, and we also talked about the importance of keeping an open dialogue for them, the importance of healthy nutrition, and that staying connected to the adult in their life who is sober as a safety net if they find themselves in a situation where they are being pressured by peers to use drugs or alcohol. One of the boys told me that all of his friends do drugs and he never has the opportunity to just go out and throw a ball or play outside because all of his friends are only interested in getting high. This is the sobering truth. This is why I started a specific dialogue with these boys. I wanted to understand what its like for these young folks in a world where everyone around them is struggling with addiction. Today was yet again, validation, for the urgency of education on addiction, and on healthy nutrition, exercise and healthy lifestyle practices that offer empowerment of self care at an early age as prevention in addiction.

Today was so important for me as I learned a great deal as well. Another young woman who had been clean for 5 years had a lapse in her recovery two weeks ago. She told me she feels she’s in a good “head” place with things in control, not depressed, and in fact, a happy place in her life, and just wanted to celebrate a new job. She quickly learned how progressive this disease is when she got drunk rather than just having one drink to celebrate. She told me she realized immediately the next day that she cannot entertain that thought again, and this is a great lesson in learning strategies that are useful in the “thought to action process” which is taught in some behavioral therapies. I suggested she let it go and begin again with the same courage that she implemented 5 years ago when she began her recovery. Be kind to herself and move on.

When I asked the group why they thought addiction has become such an epidemic, and what they thought the underlying common denominator is, everyone agreed that we as a society put a “band-aid” on everything rather than allowing ourselves to feel, and let the wounds heal naturally. We self medicate, and when our children are watching us and how, as the role models, we navigate through pain, physical or emotional, it should not be of any surprise to us that they emulate their role models. This is what they are learning in their environment as they watch us….constantly. “Children learn what they live.”

The other important point that we discussed are the doctors who are over-prescribing pills. I’ve talked about this a great deal in my writing and in my advocacy, and it bears repeating…we MUST educate the medical community on addiction. Doctors do not learn about Addiction in medical school and so many are ill-equipped to handle the patients in crisis, and…..if they understood the intricacies of the disease, and also had a prevention plan that included nutritional counseling, an exercise plan, and a host of alternative methods for healing, they could offer these natural and organic healing solutions as a healthy lifestyle regimen for a patient that comes in with symptoms of “dis-ease” as a longterm sustainable health program, rather than prescribing a pill for dis-ease which begins the never ending”ride on the merry go round.”

I brought in a journal for each patient at the facility today as writing down ones thoughts and feelings is so cathartic. I still journal every day both in a personal journal and a prayer journal. I also provided them with self reflection questions, and an article that I wrote that shares a variety of suggested tangible, inexpensive items that might be of comfort to them, and helpful to them, once they leave the facility. I suggested that they use the questions as they reflect in their journals each day. This gives them the opportunity to see and validate their thoughts, acknowledge them, and then let them go, and also share with someone else if they choose. I know, for me, sharing my thoughts with my Life Transitions Coach is liberating and validating for me, and I still do this on a weekly basis, and sometimes more frequently as I need to.

This is what addiction recovery is all about….sharing our information, and connecting and supporting each other. Every single person in the group today had valuable information to share. This is how we help each other to navigate either as a recovering addict, or a loved one of an addict. I shared with them the importance of self love and self care as the family member. Take care of yourself first, pray for your loved one, guide as you are asked to, or see an opportunity, (put the oxygen mask on yourself before you help another on the airplane scenario) hold the space for infinite possibilities that includes your loved one finding the inner strength and courage to ask for help, and to take the steps toward recovery. Think positive thoughts. “What you focus on…expands.” The person in addiction has to want it more than you want it for them, and only they can do the work.

As I spoke about holding the space for infinite possibilities, one young woman in the group told me she had a tattoo that said, “Infinite Possibilities,” which she showed me. Hello Universe! I hear you! We both chuckled.

I am so grateful to have had this experience and opportunity to be of service. If you were with me today and you are reading this blog, you are awesome!

With faith, hope, and love, anything is possible.

Wishing you harmonious health 4 life!

Love and blessings,

Wendy

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