Monday, February 15, 2016

Winner Winner!

Congratulations @bblascovich from Instagram for winning the FREE ticket to A Reason to Stand! Email me at to collect.

Congratulations @Summer Sloan Swanson from Facebook for winning a FREE copy of The Pathways Home.  I'll drop it off this week!

Much love to all!!! I hope to see you at the conference!


Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Reason To Stand conference ticket GIVEAWAY!!!

You guys, not only am I beyond thrilled to announce that Larissa and I will be speaking at the fabulous Ashlee Birk's A Reason to Stand conference in Boise Idaho, but, and perhaps even more exciting, we have a FREE TICKET to offer to someone from our blog viewers.  Check out the line up of presenters here ! You won't believe how amazing it looks.  It will be a day of healing, growth, and love.  The theme of this conference is "forgiveness from within."  To enter into the drawing, simply write a comment on the blog with anything about forgiveness. You can share a story, ask a question, make a comment, or relay your thoughts. Winner will be selected one week from today on February 10th so get your comments in before then.  Also, we will give a copy of The Pathways Home to the first runner up. I can't wait to hear your stories!

Lenaya and Larissa

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Laxatives: the dirty little secret

Today I'm going to talk about something that is very uncomfortable... even for me! Laxatives.  After receiving comments from a half dozen people about them since our book came out, I want to spend some time giving a more detailed explanation of why you should not ever even consider using them.

As evidenced in The Pathways Home I actually did lose weight when I was taking abusing laxatives.  However, it was not without ridiculous amounts of pain, damage to my body, and damage to my mind.  If those aren't big enough deterrents, then let me also explain why they worked for weight loss... because they DON'T ACTUALLY WORK FOR WEIGHT LOSS!

The belief that laxatives are effective for weight control is a myth.  In fact, by the time laxatives act on the large intestine, most foods and calories have already been absorbed by the small intestine.  Although laxatives artificially stimulate the large intestine to empty, the “weight loss” caused by a laxative-induced bowel movement contains little actual food, fat, or calories.  Instead, laxative abuse causes the loss of water, minerals, electrolytes and indigestible fiber and wastes from the colon.  This “water weight” returns as soon as the individual drinks any fluids and the body re-hydrates.  If the chronic laxative abuser refuses to re-hydrate, she or he risks dehydration, which further taxes the organs and which may ultimately cause death. ( 

 I saw some limited success when I was taking laxatives because I was SEVERELY DEHYDRATED! I literally would not allow myself more than one cup of water per day out of fear the scale would rise (which it would have). And also because I was STARVING myself and THROWING UP.  Between all of those things, the number on the scale did, indeed, go down.  But at what cost?

Physically, the damages include:
  • Dehydration.  Dehydration can cause weakness, blurry vision, fainting, kidney damage, and (in cases of severe dehydration) death.
  • Electrolyteimbalance.  Electrolytes are minerals (sodium, potassium, calcium, etc.) that are in body fluids in very precise amounts and ratios.  Electrolytes are responsible for proper functioning of nerves and muscles. Laxative abuse can upset a person's electrolyte balance and cause improper functioning of vital organs, like the heart!
  • Laxativedependence.  This is when the colon requires larger and larger doses of laxatives to produce bowel movements.  People often become so dependent on laxatives that their body loses the ability to produce bowel movements on it's own without the aid of laxatives.
But beyond that, I don't know how I can more clearly convey how painful it is to abuse laxatives.  I literally felt like I was dying ALL THE TIME.  But because it was so embarrassing and such a secret, I usually had to pretend like I was fine.  People now have asked, "Well what if I don't abuse them? What if I just take the prescribed amount?" The truth is, there is no such thing. If you are taking them to lose weight, then you are abusing them. If you take them at all, then your body stops being able to poop all by itself.  Which is one of the many reasons they become habit forming. They are habit-forming, ineffective, pain producers.  Seriously, when I look back on my life it's hard not to come to the conclusion that I was masochist.  But the truth is, I did not understand any of that.  Nobody had ever talked about laxatives to me (except Larissa who I quickly dismissed), and my mental state was so tenuous that I would engage in any level of risky behavior to achieve my desired results.  It has taken almost a decade for me to even be regular in the colon department.  I used to faint on a regular basis, the toilet was never left without crimson blood.  It was awful.  And it was fleeting because eventually, even despite continuing in all those terrible eating habits, I still gained and gained and gained all the weight back plus an additional 80 lbs. 

And finally, what about the emotional/mental damages?

Laxative abuse for me encouraged overwhelming feelings of shame, embarrassment, loneliness, and self-hate. I felt completely isolated all the time because I had a dark secret that quite literally ruled my world without being able to share one word of it to ANYONE else.  I felt completely and utterly alone.  I hated myself for being unable to control my eating so that I had to rely on dangerous methods of purging my body of the self proclaimed poisons.  This caused me to feel like a failure every single day.  The isolation and feelings of failure led me to feel estranged from my family, my friends, and my Heavenly Father.  I felt unlovable, dirty, and disgusting.  My eating disorder significantly impacted my promiscuity and drug addictions. The psychological impacts are so far reaching it is impossible to accurately catalog all of the losses.  In short, do not be tempted by something that will LITERALLY only bring misery.  Laxatives have nothing else to offer including the coveted weight loss so many people take them to seek.  Ten years later, I can look back with great relief and gratitude that I no longer have that life.  So take my word for it, even if you "don't abuse them" which is not a real thing... they will NEVER WORK.  

Even though I'm much heavier now than I was then, I would not trade this life for all the skinniness in the world.  There are safe and effective methods to lose weight.  But beyond that, loving yourself enough to take care of your body and your mind also has more far-reaching impact than I can accurately convey. 


Saturday, January 16, 2016

Overcoming Codependency

A turning point in my sister's recovery was when my dad made a decision that made no rational sense at the give her a car.  With no restrictions.  Signed over to her.  Here she was living in crack houses, dropped out of school, avoiding employment and any productive activities, and yet he felt that he should simply sign the car over to her.  Not long after, she came home.

Years later when I was reading about overcoming codependency (Codependent No More by Melody Beattie)  I learned that my father had done something that is essential to avoid codependency.  He was able to detach himself from her recovery.  The following are some gems I picked up from Beattie that made a huge difference for me:
·         “Worrying, obsessing, and controlling are illusions.  They are tricks we play on ourselves.  We feel like we are doing something to solve our problems, but we’re not.” (p. 60)
·         Detachment is, “releasing, or detaching from, a person or problem in love.  We mentally emotionally, and sometimes physically disengage ourselves from unhealthy (and frequently painful) entanglements with another person’s life and responsibilities, and from problems we cannot solve…
·         We are only responsible for ourselves.
·         We allow people to be who they are.
·         Detaching doesn’t mean we don’t care.  It means we learn to love, care, and be involved without going crazy….We become free to care and to love in ways that help others and don’t hurt ourselves.
·         Reward from detachment is serenity, peace, ability to love, and freedom.
·         Detachment sometimes frees people around us to begin to solve their problems.
·         HOW- Honesty, Openness, Willingness to try
·         You need to detach most when it seems the least likely or possible thing to do.

I emotionally detached the day that I decided to no longer play the private detective.  I tried to be supportive to her and absolutely loved her, but I was no longer going to spend my life tracking her steps and basing my happiness on them.  I couldn't have a real relationship with Lenaya until I stopped trying to control her.  It was both scary and liberating.  It felt at times like giving up, but I wasn't giving up hope for her....just control over her. Not that I was ever in control of her choices.  I always remind myself that there is only one person I can control:  me.  I have a hard enough time with myself.  That will take a lifetime of practice.


Tuesday, January 12, 2016


Recently a very wise friend asked me about triggers and how I cope with them. She said she feels like she should always keep me entertained and busy so that I don't get bored.  I laughed. But the truth is, she's right. For me, a major trigger is boredom.

What is a trigger you ask?
 "A trigger can be thought of as anything that brings back thoughts, feelings, and memories that have to do with addiction. As if matters needed to be made worse, triggers not only bring about responses that make you think about the drug. In fact, over and over in learning and addiction research, it's been shown that triggers actually bring back drug seeking, and drug wanting, behavior. As soon as a cue (or trigger) is presented, both animals and humans who have been exposed to drugs for an extended period of time, will go right back to the activity that used to bring them drugs even after months of being without it. In fact, their levels of drug seeking will bounce back as if no time has passed" (Jaffe).

One of the reasons my second rehab (The McClean Center see The Pathways Home) was so successful for me was because we spent a great deal of time learning about and discussing triggers.  If you have read my book, you might be thinking, but it wasn't successful, you relapsed! And yet, sadly relapse is in fact PART OF RECOVERY and should be expected in ALL cases of addicts recovering from drug abuse AT LEAST once.  So as an addict, or as an addict's loved one, triggers are pretty darn important.  This is why spending so much time learning about them was crucial to my eventual success at maintaining sobriety. In group therapy we would talk about the physical response to triggers, then we would discuss the emotional response, and finally we would contemplate and hypothesize how to react to those responses. We often discussed cues, or triggers that we would likely experience in the coming week. For example, I was working at a restaurant at the time, and I would volunteer something like, "After work all of my co-workers head to the bar together to unwind and to hang out.  That is a huge temptation for me and a TRIGGER to feel like I'm missing out on something." The group would offer suggestions and support about how to respond when I was in that situation.

Triggers are as unique as the people who experience them.  But generally speaking, they tend to center around emotions and stress.  Each member of my group had added associations based on their own experiences. For me, when I quit smoking cigarettes, driving in a car or after a meal were really hard times. My body was so programmed to smoke every time I set foot in a vehicle and after every meal for so long that it was physically hard to get through those times.  I started keeping a bag of dum dum lollipops in my car so that at least my fingers and mouth could be kept busy.  Eventually, the cravings and triggers dulled and now I can't remember the last time I felt the urge to smoke a cigarette.

Some triggers are far more subconscious than others.  For example, after each rehab, and then for the first seven years of sobriety this final time, every season change made me feel so uncomfortable. Season changes are triggers for me.  I'm not entirely sure why.  And the past few years I have not had the same experience because, like the cravings for nicotine, these associations have been replaced with others.  Still, for decades, something about the weather changing, particularly from cold to warm, made my skin crawl and brought feelings of discontentment and anxiety.  In time, I grew to expect them and to force myself to evaluate all of the wonderful things in my life.  When summer came along, I might not be heading to the nearest bar, but I was bringing my children to my most favorite place, Lake Tahoe.  So I would try to ease those strange feelings by reminding my brain how much more beautiful my life was sober.  For the last few years, I've braced myself with a new feeling in the air, but the triggers have not come; the anxiety has not been present; the desire to use has not risen up.  This is incredibly motivating for me. Now, I can't speak for everyone, but I certainly hope that this is a common phenomenon because to me it means that so long as you withstand the temptations for long enough, eventually they will go away.

This is not to say that triggers don't exist in my life.  Sometimes a trigger will hit me out of nowhere sharp enough to take my breath away. Driving at night time by myself (something that doesn't happen often anyway with four kids) can evoke cravings or feelings of dissatisfaction.  But even those are more and more fleeting every single year.

So back to boredom.  I never made the connection before this week, but this is likely the reason that I am almost never bored. I am scheduled and planned two weeks out constantly adjusting to fit everything in and always with a lengthy to-do list.  This particular trigger can be problematic to my well-being because a little boredom goes a long way in introspection. As a result, I often have to schedule time to THINK about me, my goals, my accomplishments, the things I need to work on.  That's a little backwards to most people who think about those things more organically than I do.  But I'm grateful that I almost naturally overcame this trigger without putting much thought into it. I innately crave activity and action, so it has not been a challenge for me to fill my life with both.  I am a complete extrovert, and I'm grateful always to husband and friends for being my companion and network.  All along the way I've relied on friends and family to help me feel happy and alive.

Probably my most pervasive trigger is weight gain. This is my trickiest because my weight fluctuates a lot. This is also problematic because weight gain triggers a desire to do drugs and to starve or throw up or take laxatives.  This is one that I continuously have to work on and have spent the most of my recovery overcoming. Another thing that's tricky about this particular trigger is that it encompasses so much more than just weight.  Why did I overeat? Why did I gain weight? What emotional challenges or stresses have I encountered? What is leading me to binge? These are the questions I have to ask and sincerely analyze in order to combat this particular trigger.  I'm not perfect at it, but like the cravings, It seems to get easier with practice and time.
(During this phase of my life was when I felt the fattest, ugliest and was filled with the most self-doubt.)
(20 years and close to 100 pounds later, I am way better at seeing myself, my worth, and my ability through a clearer lens.)

Through therapy, I learned coping mechanisms to combat my triggers. This might not be true of all of your loved ones who suffer from drug or alcohol addictions. So one thing you can do to help is get to the bottom of it in a kind and loving way.  This can be difficult because many addicts don't know what their triggers are themselves and are therefore ill-equipped to articulate them to others.  During or after recovery, spend time with your loved ones talking with them about what types of experiences are particularly hard for them. That will be a great place to look for their triggers.

Also, I relapsed even after learning all of this about my recovery. So if your loved one relapses (and most of them will), try to love them anyway. When they are ready for change, be prepared to completely replace their social network. People who stay in their same environment with their same friends are almost never successful at sobriety. If you can figure out what their triggers are, you can help support them in their quest for sobriety.  Don't beat them up about relapse as that will lead to more intense feelings of guilt (believe me they already feel like a failure, and they already feel like all is lost).  You can support them by showing them that they can start again. It's never too late to have your first day, or hour, or minute of sobriety. It's never too late.

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

You are so much more than the sum of your accomplishments

My dad kept meticulous journals. Since his death, I've been slowly going through them.  I stumbled upon this little nugget. What great wisdom in this journal entry:

"Dr. [Joe] indicated that Lenaya was moving quickly in her correspondence courses.  I gave her the following advice in my letter:  "One thing you should know.  Although I know you have always been capable of good grades, and of course generally have gotten them, grades are less important to me than that you learn the things you study and experience the joy of learning.  I had a friend in college who was a straight A student but who did not know the joy of learning; I always thought he was pretty sad.  What you accomplish is important of course, but you are so much more than just the sum of your accomplishments.  Your sweet, vivacious, intelligent, warm, wonderful personality is so much larger than a mere list of classes and grades.  Study hard, yes, and learn, but don't let grades be the bottom line.  Grades will generally but not always follow a zest for learning, but the zest is so much more important than the actual grades."  I hope she takes the advice; I probably give her too much advice."

I can hear my dad saying these words so clearly, he could have said them to me yesterday instead of being gone from our mortal earth for more than two years! I don't remember this particular letter, but this was a sentiment he often expressed to all five of his children. It resonated with me, and I believe, with my siblings too.  We all found joy in the journey. We all love learning. We all cherish knowledge more for the sake of thought than for financial compensation.  But the one line, "You are so much more than just the sum of your accomplishments" I'm not sure resonated so fully for me.  Is that true? Doesn't the world tell us all the time that we matter based on our contribution; our importance; our popularity? I certainly struggled with this in my youth: see The Pathways Home first 200 pages, but I wonder now if I still struggle with this.  

You see, I don't find my value based on my accomplishments, but I'm definitely guilty of seeking value based on the sum of my children's accomplishments. I don't mean to... in fact, before this week I'm not sure I ever realized I did it.  But aren't our children a reflection of us? Doesn't their good behavior suggest successful parenting and bad behavior, well, doesn't that mean we are failing? Now logically, in my mind, I know that is absolutely not true! I spent a fair amount of time in the book indicating just how false that was.  I believe that with my own parents whole-heartedly! I KNOW that my poor choices were NEVER a reflection of their poor parenting.

And yet I apparently need to do some serious soul-searching and self-analyzing because last week, it was a dozy! My four-year-old suddenly out of nowhere after having been potty trained for more than two years began peeing his pants.  I was overwhelmed with concern which was followed by feelings of complete failure.  See, I am not the sum of my accomplishments, but my son's regression in accomplishments made me feel inadequate for weeks.  And that's a bummer... because I am more than the sum of my son's accomplishments; and HE is more than the sum of his developmental milestones.  Such hypocrisy was running around these parts! 

So I had to ask myself why am I doing this to myself? And I realized something really important happened.  Although my value is NOT determined by the behavior of my children, sometimes the things they do are excellent wake-up calls for us parents.  I discovered that he did FAR better when he got more attention; when I was softer, quieter. I found the gentler my approach (which by no means comes naturally for me), the more successful he was.  Also, the more I saw him... I mean really saw him for who he is.  The other night was our date night, and he told me, "Mama I'm gonna treat you so good!" I had to laugh, but it was sweet and stuck with me.  Am I treating him so good? If I'm worried about my success based on his behavior, then I surely am failing him. But if I instead use his behavior as a compass of sorts to help guide me in the difficult, beautiful experience that is motherhood, well, then I think that goes hand in hand with my dad's advice, "The zest is so much more important than the actual grades." And yes! I can apply this to my whole life! The zest is so much more important than the one-year-old having a melt down.  The zest is so much more important than being first or best or having the most trophy's. The truth is, the awards or accolades are typically the least impressive parts. It has been a profound and important reminder to me.  

On the flip side, we have to also be careful not to commandeer our children's accomplishments as our own. In October, Xiana made the choice to be baptized a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  I was so proud of her.  I felt such relief that she was so good.  When she was confirmed, she sobbed telling me she could feel the Holy Ghost so strongly. I know that I was not as spiritually sensitive when I was 8-years-old.  Again, the temptation to determine my value based on her accomplishments was front and center. Doesn't that mean that I'm such a good parent? Aren't I so special and wise to have such an old soul for a daughter?  It's silly really, but it truly does work both ways. We have to be careful not to feel like we are the sum of our accomplishments OR failures just as we have to be careful to understand that is true of our children as well.  President Monson's profound yet simple statement reiterates what my dad wrote in his journal twenty years ago.  

And I would add to it, the zest is so much more important than [fill in the blank].  And it truly is! 

Friday, January 1, 2016


 Image result for codependency
When I first started working on my Master's Degree, I read a book that changed my whole outlook on loving an addict: Codependent No More by Melody Beattie.  I had never realized that I was codependent....Suddenly there was a name for what I was experiencing and how Lenaya's behaviors were impacting me. 

Beattie defined different types of codependency:
“An emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules-rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”

“Those self-defeating, learned behaviors or character defects that result in a diminished capacity to initiate or to participate in loving relationships.”

“Codependency means that I’m a caretaker.”

“Codependency means I’m up to my elbows in alcoholics.”

“Codependency is knowing all your relationships will either go on and on the same way (painfully) or end up the same way (disastrously).  Or both.”

“One fairly common denominator was having a relationship, personally or professionally, with troubled, needy, or dependent people.  The second was unwritten silent rules the PROHIBIT discussion about problems; open expression of feelings; direct, honest communication; realistic expectations, such as being human, vulnerable, or imperfect; selfishness; trust in other people and one’s self; playing and having fun; and rocking the family canoe through growth or change.”

“A codependent person is one who has let another person’s behavior affect him or her, and who is obsessed with controlling that person’s behavior.”

I most closely related with the last definition in all my attempts to change Lenaya.  I felt this intense responsibility to fix her.
Beattie also described who are affected by codependency:

“Many groups of people have it:  adult children of alcoholics, people in relationships with emotionally or mentally disturbed persons; people in relationships with chronically ill people; parents of children with behavior problems; people in relationships with irresponsible people, professionals- nurses, social workers, and others in helping occupations.  Even recovering alcoholics and addicts noticed they were codependent and perhaps had been long before becoming chemically dependent.”

She is quick to point out that being codependent doesn't mean that we are bad or inferior.  We learn coping or survival skills to deal with our challenges.  What has become our way of coping in extremely difficult conditions, sometimes turn into the problem.  I came to understand that nothing I did would change Lenaya unless she wanted to change, and I had to learn to accept that.  The only person I can change is me, and that is certainly hard enough.  I relearn that over and over again with my children, my spouse and my clients.