Monday, April 16, 2018

Strategy List for Families Dealing with a Loved One’s Substance Use Issue

There are no easy answers. If anyone tells you they have a simple solution don’t listen to them.  Change is challenging. (Consider yourself, for example – is change easy for you?)

Ø Positive change is derived from a combination of insight, internal motivation and external motivation. These factors often change with time so you may need to adapt your approach

Ø Every human has free will (whether we like it or not, acceptance of this is important)

Ø There is HOPE – Part of your mission should be to hold on to hope and remain a source of hope (often in combination with a lot of patience) – Believe in the capacity for change in your loved one

Keeping a positive focus is better than relying primarily on negatively focused strategies – (Often easier said than done because of all of the emotions involved)

Ø Nagging is ineffective. Nagging is often a dysfunctional outlet for the frustrated family member but does little for the individual who is struggling with addiction

Ø “Tough Love” has a time and place – It is often not a first line tactic but to be used more as a last resort. (The “nuclear” option)

Ø “FBI tactics” alone are not enough – Staying alert is fine but focusing entirely on staying “one step ahead” is often a losing proposition when dealing with addiction. No matter how hard you try, you will be fooled on occasion and valuable energy can be wasted on surveillance and spying

Ø Honesty is essential and means a lot more than using deception or trickery. If you expect honesty, then model it yourself for your family member. You lose credibility and trust when you lie

Ø “Use your brain and not your pain” – As difficult as it can be, do your best to remain reasonable, rational, using sound judgement, rather than lashing out emotionally. Help one another with this

Ø Try to be proactive rather than reactive – Clear concise warnings of expectations ahead of time can make difficult decisions much easier later. Avoid overly repetitious warnings which can mirror nagging. Follow through on warnings when needed

Ø The saying is true: “Trust has to be earned – Trust is a lot like managing a bank account with “deposits” and “withdrawals” – Allow trust to be earned with time even when it can be scary to let go

Ø Behavior and attitude are the best measures of progress – Stay alert to subtle changes either way (but avoid nagging about them). Notice, recognize and praise the positive that you see

Ø Do not undervalue the power of encouragement – Sow sincere “seeds” of encouragement which may sprout with time. Emphasize the positive even when it seems small – Praise is powerful

Sometimes there is more – If someone is “holding on” to their substance use, often they may not let go until they see something else better to reach out for. *But they have to want it

Ø Coexisting issues often play a role – Mental health, trauma, and other issues can be a huge part of the puzzle – Or not – Sometimes addiction is just addiction

Family should be as united as possible – Communicate, work together, and avoid undermining each other. Be there to provide checks and balances for each other as it is easy to get caught up in emotions and pain. Remember self-care and caring for one another. Don’t be afraid to seek help for yourself

For a printable version of this on - CLICK HERE

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Garbages and Gardens - Attitude Made Simple

Attitude: “A predisposition or a tendency to respond positively or negatively towards a certain idea, object, person, or situation. Attitude influences an individual's choice of action, and responses to challenges, incentives, and rewards” (

The following is a simple, two-phase strategy toward developing and maintaining a positive attitude, (provided of course that you want to have a positive attitude – some people choose to like their negative attitude which is another problem unto itself)
If you want to have a positive attitude you should regularly “throw away” what isn’t good for you. Because we are human and imperfect, negative aspects of attitude can pop up at any time. People with a positive attitude have mastered the art of eliminating the thoughts that can transform a good attitude into a bad one. Everyone has negative thoughts at some point so it is critical to be able to know what thoughts are potentially dangerous to our outlook and attitude and then to quickly throw those negative thoughts in the garbage, like the trash that they are.
As one would expect, the next key component of maintaining a positive attitude is identifying and then nurturing the positive thoughts that sustain a positive mindset and viewpoint. The most important thing about positive thoughts is that they have to be meaningful to you. If thinking positive thoughts does not come naturally to you, then similar to growing a garden of flowers, you may need to plant, seed, fertilize, water and cultivate positive thoughts in order to help them “bloom” in your current state of mind.
The following questions will open discussion about attitude followed by further group activities afterward:

Attitude Self-Assessment
How would you rate your overall attitude in life?

When you are struggling with your attitude, what does it look like to yourself and to others?

What can trigger a negative shift in attitude for you?

What are some challenges when it comes to your overall outlook and attitude in life today?

What are some areas in which you have made improvement when it comes to your attitude?

How do you look, act and feel when you are able to keep a positive attitude?

Who or what can help you maintain and sustain a positive attitude?

What do you think that you may still need to work on in these areas?