Tuesday, October 20, 2015

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

One of my favorite expressions is that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.  There are several things that we as parents can do to safeguard our children from addiction.  In my next few posts I intend to share some of the ideas that I use in my work with children and adolescents as well as their parents.

I.  One simple tool is to help foster positive self-esteem.  The way that children gain positive self-esteem is by gaining self-mastery.  They can do this by seeing improvement in what they are doing.  Children know their own interests, and they are more likely to master something that they start out liking.  

As parents we can set them up for success by fostering opportunities to grow.  If they love music, we can sign them up for voice or instrument lessons.  (We can barter for lessons with a skill that we have, if the money is too much).  If they like trucks, we can go to the library and find all the books available, go to truck shows, or find a mechanic who would do a personalized field trip.  If they like to draw, we can provide art materials and help them find youtube tutorials.  For animal lovers, we can take them to Petco, to college experimental farms or make friends with people who have animals.  I don't mean to suggest that we have them do everything and burn ourselves out in the process.  What I do mean is that we can observe what they love and help them grow personally by following their interests.  

We all feel better when we are doing what we enjoy and feel that we are making progress.  We can model this same behavior by pursuing our own interests.  In my own life I have gained a lot of joy and satisfactory when I have mastered some new skill.  I learned to play the piano and then organ when I was 31.  I learned how to jog when I was 40.  I taught myself to knit a few years ago, and I love trying out new patterns and different types of yarn.  The options are limitless.  The point is that mastering something that is difficult at first brings us a great deal of happiness.

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Stay tuned for the next few "ounces of prevention"!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Choose Love

The main thing that fueled my drug addiction was my insecurity about my weight.  If I could just weigh 120 lbs, then I could love myself; okay, 110; finally, 100.  Each smaller number on the scale encouraged lower self esteem and larger insecurities. There was no magical number that could evoke love for myself.  At 100 lbs I'd never wear a swimsuit without board shorts. I was consumed by the tiny cellulite dimples that lined my upper thighs. I scarcely spent a waking moment that I did not think about my weight which lent perfectly to a meth addiction and eating disorder.

 At 200 lbs, I recklessly avoided thoughts of my appearance, bearing my thighs for the first time since I was a child.  I was still consumed by my weight, but rather than starving myself, I buried my head in the sand and pretended nobody could see my fat if I refused to acknowledge it.

Neither process was healthy; and neither demonstrated love and acceptance for myself.

I don't have a magical plan, but I have found that it's hard not to love myself when I trust in God. I am His creation, and He is perfect. If I have faith in Him and a greater plan, it's easier to accept myself.   If' I'm feeling particularly down on me or fat or ugly or mean, I can typically trace it back to some separation from my Heavenly Father. Did I forget to pray last night? Was I angry at or unforgiving towards another? Finding the answers to these questions helps.  But that doesn't mean that I'm cured of self-doubt.

See, the thing about loving yourself is that it's not a destination... it's simply part of the pathways you choose.  Just as you have to choose to love your spouse, your friends, your significant others repeatedly; so too you have to choose to love yourself again and again. And once you do, that's not the end. Because tomorrow or in five minutes you have to choose to love yourself again.

I imagine it's a lifelong process.  But when I can choose to love myself; I am a better wife, friend, mother, daughter, and sister. And when I choose love, the desire to escape through drugs or starvation or other risky behaviors get suffocated.

It's a win-win.  Choose love!


Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Zombies Among Us

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I work part-time as an outpatient counselor with children and adolescents.  A common irrational fear kids have, which has become a big part of pop culture, is the fear and fascination with zombies.  I used to scoff at the idea and roll my eyes at the ridiculous belief in zombies.  During a conversation with my supervisor, while we were discussing the meth problem in our community, she called the addicts of the world "zombies."  The idea stuck with me, and I truly have come to believe that drug addicts are the living dead, posing as human beings.  Our children have good reason to fear.  Addictions rob people of their humanity.  What initially serves as an escape from emotional pain, stress, responsibility, and guilt, turns into flaxen cords and then into chains.  The seeming solution becomes a trap without an escape route.

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Having both lived with and loved an addict as well as worked with families in the same predicament, I believe that we suffer as much as these "zombies."  We have no escape and live through the daily pain and disappointment, fear and frustration, guilt and despair.  My purpose with this blog is to offer encouragement and hope to those struggle with addiction and those who love addicts.  

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The process of tempering glass occurs through heating the glass to 1,148 degrees Fahrenheit, well above the temperature to make ordinary glass.  The added heat strengthens the glass.  The pain we experience has the capacity to strengthen us without losing the unique human quality of loving those around us.  We gain a tempered heart that is stronger yet is still able to love the seemingly unlovable.  Learning to love those who struggle with addictions sometimes feels impossible, but we can start where we are at.  When clients feel overwhelmed by huge obstacles in their way, I like to ask them, "How do you eat an elephant?"  Then I provide the answer, "One bite at a time!"  I believe that though figurative zombies walk the earth, love is more prevalent and has the power to help break the chains of addiction and can help us as the bystanders make our own peace with the situation.