By John Casey
When we think about what is important in life, we will conclude more often than not that the most meaningful goal is to be happy. And we think about what it is that might get us there, whether in the short-term or long-term, and various things cross our mind—a nice house, a good job, a new car or for the moment, a big, decadent slice of chocolate cake. And they do make us happy! But then we admit to ourselves that these things are subject to a law of diminishing returns. Some of us try to take care of that by having more cake. Sometimes shopping more frequently seems to give us a boost. There are those of us who turn occasionally to alcohol, or prescription drugs, or even illegal drugs—others rely too heavily on these things. The majority of us do our best to manage our lives in a way that is mostly positive, and to do the things we think will provide us longer-term happiness. And we believe, for the most part, the things that will keep us happy are good things—friendships, a stable family, healthy living. And we are right! Those are virtuous and productive parts of life that, combined with our occasional indulgences, provide a spectrum of happiness that overlaps and should keep us generally content. Except it doesn’t always happen that way. If this is our recipe for a full and satisfying life, some of us will succeed. However, most of us will probably fall short of our expectations, and some will fall much farther.
For those of us who are falling short, what then, do we need to add to our recipe? Our intent is to gain a basic understanding of how to lead a more satisfying and happy life, and the answers are all around us, but we often have trouble prioritizing them. We need to keep it simple and focus on just a few things—the most important ingredients. That being said, the recipe for happiness is not quite the same for each of us. People are different, physically and mentally. Depending on who we are, and what our background is, we will require varying amounts of each ingredient to succeed. But the good news is, the ingredients themselves are the same for everyone.
There are those who seem to be happy most of the time, regardless of what happens. Some are prone more than most to anger, dissatisfaction and irritability. Others have had to deal with traumatic events early in life, with few options for help, and are way behind the curve. Some people are genetically predispositioned to be less happy. Yes, they were born that way! And then there is everyone else. In addition to our upbringing and environment, our general state of happiness is directly related to how much dopamine our midbrain releases in everyday situations. Dopamine is a chemical that makes us feel happy, and is released in varying amounts, depending on how “good” the mid-brain estimates our life events are. With this action the brain rewards us for being in situations it determines are beneficial to our survival, and the amount of dopamine released is regulated on a scale that is genetic. So a smile from a friend may make one person 39 percent happy, where in the same situation, with the same smile from the same friend under the same conditions, another person may only feel 25 percent happy. There are other things that release dopamine in the brain as well—sex, sustained exercise, certain foods (cake!), caffeine (a drug), nicotine (a drug), certain prescription and illegal drugs, and alcohol (a drug). While some of these things, in moderation, provide us with healthy doses of short-term happiness, too much of any of them might indicate a misguided search for happiness, or lead to addiction.
The good news is, everyone has the capacity to be happier without over-indulging in anything, and in most cases, we have the ability to become much happier. We just have to work at it. But we have to be careful about how we focus our efforts. When we say we want to be happy, there is a tendency to focus on receiving happiness—“what” or “who will make us happy,” instead of “what can we do to be happy,” and even more important, “what can we do to make others happy.” When we remove ourselves from the focus of our goal, and instead center on the happiness and welfare of others, we begin to find that true, enduring, and productive happiness is a natural byproduct—for others and for ourselves. This is one of the main ingredients in our recipe for a happy life, which I will call our Soulution.
Knowing what the ingredients are only gets us partway there, though. We still have to be able to put it all together, and we have two simple, yet profound answers to help with that, each of which responds to an ages-old, “unanswerable” question. Even as unanswerable as they may seem, we continually search for some complicated, metaphysical epiphany, that blinding light “aha moment” to resolve them—especially when things look bleak, or when our lives are at a crossroads. The questions are similar, but different enough that answers for both are required. And the answers are simple!
The first question is: What is the meaning of life?
The second is: What is the key to happiness?
We can answer the first question in just two words: To Live. Let’s think about this realistically. If we are constantly searching for meaning in our life, we aren’t leaving ourselves much time to reflect on, experience, interact with, and live in the here and now. The meaning of life is to watch a sunrise, go for a run, build something grand, have a family, and teach our children how to do it all. What does it mean to live? “To live” defines itself. When we are mentally absent from the present much of the time due to our preoccupation with what life should have been, or what life is supposed to be, we leave a void of inaction in the present that extrapolates, quite possibly, into an unhappy legacy that falls far short of our abilities and expectations. We quite literally become physically absent from our own life. This then leads tragically to a circular dependency on the aforementioned preoccupation.
In the same vein, the key to happiness is: To Be Happy. The significant similarity of this answer with the previous is that both contain action verbs—“to live” and “to be.” We cannot live without eating, thinking, moving, working, or interacting. Likewise, we cannot be happy without doing these and other things, like loving, sharing, helping others and improving ourselves. We sometimes confuse the underlying meaning of these verbs by relegating them to passive status. We equate happiness and life with conditions of existence. In other words, we approximate “to be” and “to live” with “to exist.” When this happens it becomes difficult to answer our two questions, because the resolution is now dependent on our environment. It moves away from us, and instead to other people, to the world, to the universe. Once we’ve expanded our “Soulution set” to include the entire universe, it becomes quite complicated and ultimately, impossible to achieve.
Bobby McFerrin seemed to understand this when he wrote Don’t worry, be happy. I love this song. Most people do because it’s catchy and simple, and represents an ideal we’d like to be able to incorporate into our daily lives. Just be happy. And who wouldn’t like to leave all their worry behind? Except that worry can’t really be left behind. It can, however, be mitigated or prevented—which requires action. One of the most effective things we can do is to recognize that worrying about things we cannot control (such as the past) is fruitless. Correspondingly, in his Odes from 23 BC, the Roman poet Horace wrote “carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero,” which translates to “Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow.” His point was that instead of worrying about tomorrow, one must take action for the future in the present—not necessarily the meaning we ascribe to the better-known, shortened version, carpe diem, which we take to mean seize the day or live for today… What Horace meant was our actions in the present must be purposeful. Let’s put Bob and Horace’s ideas together with our answers to the Meaning of Life and the Key to Happiness, because they are all part of our simple Soulution:
Live Purposefully and Be Happy!
To live and to be happy require action—we need to do these things—they are not done to us. We may recognize that we have experiences or interactions that improve our lives, and that certainly do make us happy, and there is no visible connection between our own actions and these situations. In other words, they appear to happen to us. The truth is, everything we do and say in life, and how we think leads us, inexorably, to these moments. The more consistently positive we are, the more productive action exhibited on our part, the more we find ourselves receiving the benefits of happiness that are seemingly unrelated. Seemingly.
Does this appear too simple? Well, it is and it isn’t. It’s relatively easy to be positive, nice, and productive when the conditions are favorable. When we are challenged, stress can make these required actions seem almost impossible. And again, we tend to spend much of our time reflecting on the past, planning for the future, and searching for meaning. But what if there were no past, and no such thing as the future? We’d be logically driven to cease much of this wasteful behavior, leaving more time to address those challenges and reduce our stress, right? In the book Zen and the Art of Happiness by Chris Prentiss, we are introduced to a concept that helps us realize this. Paraphrasing his point: There is no such thing as the past, and there is no such thing as the future—there is only the present. Think about it. Pick a time from yesterday—any time. At that exact time yesterday, it was the present. As you read this sentence, it is the present right now. And at noon tomorrow, when noon tomorrow comes, it will be the present then. It is always the present. Always. When we focus on doing the right thing, right now, all the time, we begin to see a past unfold that looks quite attractive—a past we are proud of and happy about. And we come to realize that this trend will more than likely continue into the future so long as we stick to this plan. The only thing that exists is right now. This is where life happens. Right now. All the time.
So let’s add Chris’ concept, which provides a little more depth to Horace’s carpe diem, to our Soulution:
Live Purposefully and Be Happy Right Now!
Hopefully everything we’ve looked at so far about how to be happier makes sense. As was mentioned at the beginning though, some people find themselves in such a negative place that “Live Purposefully and Be Happy Right Now” is simply a bridge too far—they do not currently have the capacity, or they are trapped in a situation or environment that prevents them from being able to do this. Those suffering from the terrible effects of addiction or alcoholism, and people with certain other mental illnesses often cannot recover (and be happy) without the help of others. They are conditions sometimes established and often perpetuated by a perceived inability to be happy, and/or a misguided search for happiness. Unfortunately, helping people with these diseases can seem difficult, thankless, and oftentimes hopeless. The reality is that if people with these mental illnesses are helped in an empathetic manner, they can learn that there are healthy, positive, and enduring ways to add meaning to their lives, ways for them to work toward and build happiness, and they can recover. Empathy is important here, because it demonstrates that we understand. If we understand, then our help becomes genuine, and is more likely to be embraced. If we do not understand, if we lack empathy, our help can be perceived as superficial or “clinical,” and may not be readily accepted. You may be asking, how can I be empathetic when I don’t have those problems? Consider that you do. It may only be at a fraction of the level of some, or maybe more than that and you keep telling yourself that “it’s not that bad…” The truth is, every person in the world is at least a little bit nuts! If we weren’t, we’d be mentally perfect, and I haven’t met that person yet. So yes—we can relate, we can be empathetic. We just have to be honest with ourselves first, and yes, (again!) work at it. The good news is, a very significant ingredient in our Soulution for improving our own happiness is helping others, because it is in helping others that we create and build positive, enduring relationships with other people, which I believe constitute the very essence of spirituality.
When we consider the word “spiritual,” religion, faith, and God come to mind. But being spiritual is not the same as being religious, or believing in God. There are many, many definitions for spirituality, and they vary depending on the source. When it comes right down to it though, they generally share two common characteristics—improvement and understanding of self, and with that knowledge in hand, achieving a deeper understanding of our environment and of our place in it. Given the most important part of our environment is the human community, I choose to define spirituality as: A state of continuous personal growth achieved in harmony with others. We can simplify this further by saying: A state of becoming better people. Using this definition, we cannot realize our true potential for personal growth unless we are influencing others, either directly or indirectly, to grow as well. It follows that spirituality requires we strive to be empathetic, and to be cognizant of the needs and value of others. A religion, on the other hand, is a framework of codified beliefs and tenets that by their very nature require us to have faith in the existence and power of God, gods, or a higher power of some kind. And the tenets and beliefs of every statistically relevant religion in the world have essentially the same goal in mind for all of us—to be better people. Notice that we are not saying “good people.” To be “better” implies we can always improve ourselves. To be “good” leaves us with the idea that there is a “self-improvement destination” somewhere along the way, a finish line, when there isn’t one. Our goal is continuous improvement. Together. Religion provides a path for us to become spiritual.
When we believe in God or a higher power, we are admitting we are not the center of the universe. What about other people? Do we measure our worth against others? Yes, we do from time to time. But are we better than them? How do we really know? What is our measuring stick? What do I have to measure others against if not myself? If we are caught up in these kinds of sticky questions, we’ve become confused about what being better or spiritual really means. To be better people, we must first direct our attention inward and understand ourselves.
When we understand and honestly embrace who we are, what we are capable of, what we can control, and what we cannot, we are now equipped to make personal decisions where the determining factors are driven more by self-care (making sure we have everything we need) and less by selfishness (making sure we have everything). We begin to judge others less often or as quickly, and are more open to their thoughts and ideas. We become less prone to ignorant or bellicose behavior, and it becomes easier for us to get along with everyone around us. All of this, in turn, opens our minds and hearts to positive opportunities and healthy relationships that had been, until now, hidden in plain sight. The net (and continual) result is increased happiness. We have come to believe in something greater than our individual selves—and we’re becoming better, spiritual people—something we could not do alone. And before we begin, we have to accept it is all true whether we have proof or not. This is faith, and it is part of our Soulution.
Have Faith, Live Purposefully and Be Happy Right Now!
In the 2011 movie Happy, leading scientists take us on a journey in search of what makes people happy. In the documentary, researchers conclude that 50 percent of a human’s capacity to be happy is genetic, and roughly 10 percent is related to our ability to properly clothe, feed, and shelter ourselves. Twenty or so percent is dependent on our health and physical fitness and activity, and the rest is based on the level and quality of our human interaction. So half of our capacity to be happy is more or less dependent on us, and how we choose to live our lives! And with 20 percent directly influenced by what we ingest (or choose not to), combined with how fit we decide to be, we can go a long way toward increasing happiness right off the bat by being committed to eating right and exercising regularly. Further, when we exercise we should be doing something we enjoy—it shouldn’t feel like a chore. The goal with exercise should be to do it long enough each time for our brain to release endorphins and dopamine. Endorphins are released when our brain decides we are going to continue to stress our bodies despite how difficult it may be, and it does this because it has determined that we need to keep going. The word “endorphin” is derived from two other words, “endogenous” and “morphine.” Yes, morphine. Endogenous means “made within the body.” They are opioid neuropeptides that inhibit pain, which allows us to exercise longer. Combined with dopamine release, they also provide a sensation of euphoria. These effects bolster our ability and desire to keep going. It is when we reach this state that our scientists from the documentary say we are “in a zone.” Our exercise goals should always include finding that zone. When we find it, our other health and fitness goals, like losing weight, fall right in line. And it needs to be a regimen—a routine, as the happiness we achieve from fitness and being in the zone is transitory—it gradually subsides over the course of the day. By keeping to a regular exercise schedule, we are more likely to maintain healthy eating habits because we see results faster, and we realize we can really do it. We begin to feel better about our appearance, and we sleep better. All of which makes us happier. Which makes health and fitness part of our Soulution:
Have Faith, Live Purposefully, Be Fit and Healthy, and Be Happy Right Now!
Staying with the documentary, the last 20 percent of our capacity is the most important, because it represents the most pervasive (longest-lasting) potential happiness portion of the 50 percent that is not genetic—the portion over which we have control. As we discussed, much of what makes us happy, like exercise, tends to be transitory or situation-dependent. So which situations or conditions under our control provide long-lasting happiness? The scientists in the film were able to show that humans are most happy when they are giving of themselves—when they help other people—unconditionally (these results are borne out in other scientific studies) – with no thought of personal gain. As we discussed earlier, this type of behavior improves our ability to create and sustain positive, enduring relationships—the essence of spirituality, and a gift that keeps on giving. So those of us who already have the capacity to improve our lives and our happiness can do so most significantly by helping those who don’t yet have that capacity! How wonderfully, symbiotically perfect!
Most people recognize there is personal and societal value in helping others. What many do not realize is how powerful this type of human interaction can be. The product of this effort is personal growth and happiness for both the person helped and the helper. It even provides happiness vicariously to people nearby who may only be watching, or hearing about it. And it can then be a catalyst of change for those who witness these actions and their positive results, leading to their desire to contribute to the cause. It’s catchy. When this happens enough, an entire community can evolve.
I’ve had the wonderful opportunity for a few years now to work with an organization that specializes in helping others—Rise Recovery. Rise is a nonprofit based in San Antonio, Texas that provides free counseling, support groups, workshops, and activities to help teenagers and young adults recover from drug and alcohol addiction. With the help they receive they then go on to lead productive and fulfilling lives. And we include their families and loved ones, because these close relationships form the core of their support group as they grow in their recovery. Last year we were able to help 3,148 people. You won’t find a more dedicated, charitable, gracious, effective, and happy group of people than the staff and Board Members at Rise Recovery! They understand what I’m talking about.
So the final ingredient is helping others, unconditionally. And we complete the recipe for a happier life by suggesting we teach our Soulution to others, and work on it together (spiritually!):
Let’s Have Faith, Live Purposefully, Be Fit and Healthy, and Be Happy Right Now!
That’s it then, right? The meaning of life, the key to happiness, Zen, zone, Bobby McFerrin, carpe diem, faith, etcetera, all wrapped up and distilled into a simple, awkward imperative? Well, yes. It’s not magic, just a few things I’ve learned, some things I’ve experienced, things I believe, and a song I heard. What’s relevant is, I’ve incorporated these ideas into my life, and I can tell you they work! And I’ve seen them work for many, many others. In order for these ideas to work for you, we have to work at it, and it has to become routine—a way of life.
Casey’s Recommended Reading:
Blink, The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, by Malcolm Gladwell, 2007
Mindsight: The New Science of Personal Transformation, by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D., 2011
When the Servant Becomes the Master, by Jason Z.W. Powers, M.D., 2012
Zen and the Art of Happiness, by Chris Prentiss, 2006
Casey’s Recommended Viewing:
Happy, Wadi Rum Films, Inc., 2011
Hector and the Search for Happiness, Relativity Media, LLC, 2014
Groundhog Day, Columbia Pictures, 1993
John Casey currently serves as Program Director for Xerox Corporation Government Healthcare Solutions and Board Member/Public Relations Chairman for Rise Recovery.
By Sarah Goodman
Summer months are typically about going to the beach, getting a tan, creating memories, sharing backyard BBQ’s and planning family vacation time including trips to Grandparent’s house. For some teenagers, summer is about having one last “fun summer” before going off to college or joining the ‘real world’ with getting a job. Summers, however could be full of idle time which can lead to negative behavior such as underage drinking and drug misuse/abuse.
In a recent report, “Seasonality of Youth’s First-Time Use of Marijuana, Cigarettes or Alcohol,” from the Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) shows a 40 percent increase in first-time youth marijuana use during the months of June and July, compared to the rest of the year. More than 1,500 youths per day, used hallucinogens for the first time compared with averages of about 1,100 to 1,400 per day in other months. First-time use of inhalants also peaked in July with more than 1,800 new users on average per day compared with about 1,100 to 1,700 new users each day in other months. This isn’t what we typically think about when preparing our family activities for summer months.
Teenagers’ are constantly looking for adventure and wanting to explore and learn and have fun. So when they are pressured to explore drug use and underage drinking, they might have found a new form of entertainment for the summer when left with nothing better to do. Many researchers have discovered that a main predictor to whether teenagers will begin drinking/drugs at an early age is if their best friends drink and have access to it. Although a family history of alcohol or drug abuse can play a role in this decision, gaining acceptance from friends and access to drugs and alcohol is the most important factor, these researchers say. Adolescents who get their first drink/drug from friends are more likely to begin using earlier in life compared to those who get it from other sources. Young, adolescent brains are less developed in the “life decision” skills department. Researchers have discovered, through looking at pictures of the brain in action that adolescents’ brains function differently than adults with decision-making and problem solving. Based on the stage of their brain development, adolescents are more likely to:
· Act on impulse
· Misread or misinterpret social cues and emotions
· Get into accidents of all kinds
· Get involved in fights
· Engage in dangerous or risky behavior including drugs and alcohol
Adolescents are less likely to:
· Think before they act
· Pause to consider the potential consequences of their actions
· Modify their dangerous or inappropriate behaviors
Now that we are aware of this information about adolescents (less developed decision making skills and the high risk of early drug and alcohol use due to brain development and idle summer time); what do we do? There are many prevention strategies that can be applied to help teens avoid drug use during the summer months and even into the fall season. There is not one specific undiscovered hidden secret to keep your child away from these self-destructive behaviors. According to several sources, this can be prevented through several solutions:
1. Keep them busy with productive activities to cut down on boredom and give them something to do. Also, it can be additionally helpful to set a goal within the activities that has worth in the eyes of your teenager. If they are taking a class, involved in a sport, or in any way active in something that interests them and contains a goal they wish to reach, they are less likely to risk throwing it away by taking part in drugs.
2. Ensure adequate supervision as much as possible. Perhaps your teenager is at an age where they no longer require a 24 hour babysitter, but they can be made to check in regularly and to not be left somewhere for hours at a time. The longer a teenager is left alone, the longer they have to try a drug without worrying about being caught. It’s also important to take note of who is doing the supervision. For example, if they are being watched over by the parent of one of their friends, have you met the parent(s)? Not all adults are equal in their level of responsibility and care for their children. Ensure you take the additional step of meeting the parents that may be watching your teen, not just in the summer, but all year round.
3. Educate your child. You may very well be told by your teenage daughter or son that they know drugs are bad and they don’t need to talk about it. Yet, sitting them down and looking at statistics and articles on drugs and asking questions to ensure their understanding on how drugs can negatively affect a person’s life is well worth the time invested. Often enough, a reminder can go a long way and if your teen has the idea that they may drink alcohol or try drugs for the first time in the near future, it may just steer them back onto the right path.
4. Come up with a rewards and penalties system. Inform them of what the consequences will be, possibly in terms of loss of privileges, if they do try drugs and alcohol. However, set up a system where the penalties will be less if they ever come clean on any alcohol or drug use. Establish a rewards system where they will earn something of value to them if they say no to drugs and continue to do so despite any possible peer pressure. This ensures that you keep it safe enough for your teenager to trust that they can always talk to you about the subject and get help and guidance when needed. Kids will be kids, as the saying goes, but what kind of kids? Are these the kids with idle time or sober ones attempting to be safe and making healthier decisions? We can’t always control the outcome, but we can control providing preventative solutions that just might help, serve and keep our young ones safe and away from self-destructive behavior. Keeping idle time to a minimum during summer months is possible and idle time can become ideal solutions.
By Trish Frye
The following are 10 questions that you might ask yourself before making an “am I helping or enabling” decision:
1. Will doing (or not doing ) this, help my loved one stay sick? Sometimes our best intentions allow the disease of addiction to continue.
2. Am I considering my needs first? When we compromise our own needs in order to make others comfortable, we not only compromising ourselves, but our loved ones as well.
3. Am I compromising my personal values? Standing behind our values is the single most important thing we can do for ourselves and our loved ones. Everything else is negotiable. Compromising our values is not.
4. What are my expectations? Having expectations is a guaranteed set-up for resentments.
5. Do I want to do it? It is not wrong to want to help our loved ones. It is okay to do nice things for them. Doing something out of the kindness of our own hearts is one thing. Doing something to avoid fear, discomfort, rejection or guilt is another thing.
6. Is this something they are able to do for themselves? There is a big difference between not being capable and being uncomfortable.
7. Whose responsibility is this? It is important to allow our loved ones to experience the natural consequences of their actions. By doing so, we empower them to grow and take responsibility for themselves. Not only will you be giving them the opportunity to learn a lesson, they will also get to experience their own successes.
8. Have I checked with an accountability partner (sponsor, counselor) before making my decision? Often those people can offer a different perspective, providing us with a clearer vision on which to base our decisions.
9. Have we been here before? According to Albert Einstein, doing the same thing over and over again expecting different results is practicing insanity.
10. Have I taken time to think and pray about this? Making an immediate decision sets us up to make an emotional decision. Actions based on prayer and meditation rather than emotion are always more productive.
Community Rallies at the Last Minute to Achieve
SAN ANTONIO, Jan. 14, 2015 — Thanks to a generous matching challenge from the Security Service Charitable Foundation and community members pulling through at the last minute, a record breaking $93,217 was raised during the 2014 Holiday Match Campaign for Rise Recovery – home of the Palmer Drug Abuse Program.
The contributions made during this year’s fundraiser will provide free counseling and support, prevention education, early intervention and youth leadership to over 3,100 teens, adults and their families recovering from the effects of drugs and alcohol.
The Holiday Match Campaign ran from Thanksgiving to Dec. 31 with a target of raising $90,000. With the help of the Security Service Charitable Foundation’s seed donation of $10,000 and the guarantee from generous donors to double every donation up to $45,000, the goal was achieved. On Dec. 30, there was still $12,000 left to raise but the community accepted the challenge and not only met the goal but exceeded it.
“It was looking like we might not make it but thankfully, our supporters pulled together and sent in some very generous donations that last day,” said Crystal Gomez, development director for Rise Recovery. “We are very grateful for all of the organizations and individuals who made donations. There are so many young people in need of recovery services and their contributions make that possible.”
Rise Recovery is a San Antonio-based non-profit organization that empowers teens, young adults and their families to overcome the effects of drugs and alcohol, while strengthening the community through education and prevention. For more information, visit our website at www.riserecovery.org or call (210) 227-2634.
The untimely and tragic death of Philip Seymour Hoffman reminds us that regardless of intellect, talent or success—no one is immune from the devastating effects of the disease of addiction. Addiction is a disease that leads to hijacking of the brain, and in the process causes profound loss of reasoning. Surely Hoffman did not imagine his relapse would lead to the loss of his life and devastation to his family and friends.
I have worked with thousands of families and young people suffering from the impact of chemical addiction. With few exceptions, these individuals and families delayed calling for help—either because of the overwhelming shame that something so unacceptable was taking hold of their family, or denial that it was bad enough to need help. Many are afraid that asking for help is a badge of dishonor. The fear and shame trick us into repression, thus allowing the disease of addiction to take hold. We don’t share it at work, with our social circles or our church. It’s kept in the dark and people get sicker. Like cancer, if we ignore it when it is in stage one, it is sure to grow to stage two.
Even though substance abuse starts with a bad choice it continues for other reasons. Alcohol and drugs are powerful. They cause physical and emotional damage in young people’s lives at a faster rate than adults. It’s never too soon to get help. There is hope because we know from experience that the early interruption of substance use is imperative in preventing further destruction.
In San Antonio one approach that has worked to address the cycle of addiction is intervention with young adults 24 years old and under. San Antonio is the 19th most generous city in the nation. Most important — have an open heart when you encounter a young person who needs help.
Hoffman had a disease and was blessed with 23 productive and purposeful years of remission. His death should not diminish hope for recovery. Far better for us to use it as a reminder that apathy, shame and judgment can and will open the door to relapse. Let us not forget that there are 23 million Americans in long-term recovery. Few choose Hoffman’s fate. His was the life of an addict. It wasn’t bad behavior. It wasn’t the failed war on drugs. It was the simple fact that relapse does happen. It is imperative that as a community we embrace those afflicted and for those of us in recovery to always remember to stay active, purposeful and mindful of the gift of another day.
25 Tips Parents Should Know About Substance Abuse
1. Alcohol and drugs are powerful. They cause more physical and emotional damage in young people’s lives at a faster rate than adults.
2. You cannot isolate your child from this issue. Social tolerance of drug use is far more prevalent than when you were a teenager.
3. Good parents can end up with a child on drugs. Don’t let shame or embarrassment stop you from asking questions and seeking help. In most cases you did not do this to them.
4. No one is immune. Just because your child is involved in church, sports or gets good grades doesn’t mean he/she won’t abuse drugs or alcohol.
5. Teenagers are peer oriented. Positive peer pressure can be just as powerful as negative peer pressure.
6. Educate yourself. The more you know about drugs and alcohol, you’ll be better equipped to respond.
7. Marijuana is far more potent than it was 20 years ago. Just because you tried it and turned out okay, does not mean your child will be okay.
8. Many over-the-counter medications and various household products can be used to get high. These include cold and flu medications, aerosol deodorants, and even alkaline batteries.
9. If your child experiments with cigarette smoking, it does not mean he/she will progress to drug & alcohol abuse, but it should open a dialogue about the subject.
10. Consider the long-term effects of substance abuse-and the message you are sending-before allowing your child to have a drink or smoke cigarettes in your presence.
11. Substance abuse starts with a bad choice, but continues for other reasons. Chemical dependency is an illness. Respond to it as such.
12. Don’t take it lightly! Experimenting with alcohol & drugs is not a part of normal adolescent behavior.
13. If you suspect your child may be using alcohol or other drugs don’t be afraid to act. In the beginning an over reaction is far better than doing nothing.
14. When a child starts using, they stop maturing emotionally and socially.
15. Standard parenting and discipline techniques may not be the best way to deal with substance abuse.
16. Don’t be afraid to pursue the issue. Searching rooms, confrontation and setting limits is okay. Hard evidence is not necessary to seek an assessment.
17. You can’t rationalize with an irrational person. If your child is using, chances are they are irrational.
18. A drug screen is not always conclusive. They can be easily tainted and only test for certain substances.
19. Focusing on “why” keeps you in the problem and does not provide solution.
20. There is a difference between enabling and helping. Let your child experience natural consequences.
21. Substance abuse affects the entire family. Research shows that there is an 80% greater chance of success in recovery when the family is actively involved throughout the process.
22. Communicate with other parents. You’ll find that your situation is not unique, and that recovery is possible.
23. Communication involves listening. Try actively listening to your child rather than “fixing” them.
24. It’s never too soon to get help. Early intervention can and does work.
25. Seek a professional opinion. They can provide an objective assessment.
Rise Recovery provides no cost and confidential assistance at (210) 227-2634.
Enabling behavior is born out of our instinct for love. It’s only natural to want to help someone we love, but when it comes to certain problems — helping is like throwing a match on a pool of gas.
Definition of Enabling
In the true sense of the word, to enable is to supply with the means, knowledge, or opportunity to be or do something — to make feasible or possible. In it’s true form, then, Enabling behavior means something positive. It’s our natural instinct to reach out and help someone we love when they are down
or having problems. However, when we apply it to certain problems in living – addiction, chronic financial trouble, codependency, certain forms of chronic depression — enabling behaviors have the reverse effect of what is intended. Here are some examples…
- Repeatedly bailing them out – of jail, financial problems, other “tight spots” they get themselves into
- Giving them “one more chance” – …then another…and another
- Ignoring the problem – because they get defensive when you bring it up oryour hope that it will magically go away
- Joining them in the behavior when you know they have a problem with it -Drinking, gambling, etc.,
- Joining them in blaming others – for their own feelings, problems, and misfortunes
- Accepting their justifications, excuses and rationalizations – “I’m destroying myself with alcohol because I’m depressed”.
- Avoiding problems – keeping the peace, believing a lack of conflict will help
- Doing for them what they should be able to do for themselves
- Softening or removing the natural consequences of the problem behavior
- Trying to “fix” them or their problem
- Repeatedly coming to the “Rescue”
- Trying to control them or their problem
Enabling Behavior — the Addiction of the Codependent
The need for an external focus, along with other lessons of childhood prepare a person for addiction to enabling behavior. Take a look at how the signs of addiction match the signs of codependency.
- Relief Using or Enabling – Comfort eating, spending, working or “helping” someone with their problem in order to avoid an internal focus.
- Increase in Tolerance – for the behaviors of the problem person.
- Preoccupation – with the problem person or persons
- Loss of Control – over emotions or behavior (Excessive eating, yelling at the
- Continued Use (of enabling behavior) Despite Serious Negative
- Consequences – to yourself as well as them
Middle or “Crucial” Stage
- Family Problems – Drama Triangle or the variation below (Punishment/Forgiveness Cycle)
- Social Problems – Embarrassment, avoiding parties where they may be “too much temptation” for your partner.
- Emotional Problems – Depression, anxiety, chronic stress
- Financial Problems
- Legal Problems – Domestic disturbances
- Occupational or Academic Problems – Loss of concentration due to preoccupation with the problem person or persons
Late or “Chronic” Stage
- Physical Deterioration – headaches, stomach problems, stress disorders, etc
- Serious Physical Withdrawal Syndrome – cannot stay away after a break-up or separation
- Obsession – preoccupation increases until it takes the majority of your thoughts
- Loss of Social Supports – stop seeing friends and begin to isolate, other people give up trying to get you to see what you are doing
- Collapse of the Alibi System – can no longer make excuses for yourself OR the problem person
- Drinking, Using Prescription Meds, Eating, Working, etc. to keep functioning or “feel normal”
- Hopelessness and Despair
- Untimely Death – accident, suicide, illnesses secondary to the Codependency
Reprinted with permission from Don Carter, MSW, LCSW For more visit his web site at HTTP://www.internet‐of‐the‐mind.com/enabling_behavior.html and
reprinted with permission