Saturday, March 10, 2018

Questions and Answers!

Questions and Answers

I am going to preface this with a brief explanation why I wanted to write this post. After posting my initial post “publically”, I received questions, encouragement, story after story of heartbreak and success. I then started the 12-part series of my story and key points and steps that were life changing for me, after just three posts of that I was flooded with questions of all kinds, from addicts, loved ones of addicts, and random inquires. I am not saying I am cool by saying the word “flooded” but I was in shock how little addiction and more importantly recovery is talked about when so many are interested in the topic and affected by the disease. These questions are answered by loved ones of addicts who have addicts still in active addiction and addicts in recovery, addicts with years of recovery, addicts in early recovery, and yours truly. The cherry on top is that these questions are also answered by a (my) licensed counselor who has 35 years of experience counseling addicts and their families. But not only does he have that experience, he himself is also an addict/alcoholic in recovery, so he has “been there”, to say the least all of his answers are from his education, experience serving and counseling other addicts and their loved ones, and he has also been “the newcomer”. I am also going to write a letter to the addict that is still struggling because recovery is hard and even harder to start.

Dear struggling addict-
 I once sat in your chair, I felt all the pain agony that you are shackled to. I know you didn’t envision this in your future. You don’t want to feel like you want to crawl out of your skin every day, wondering and wanting to feel normal, and you don’t want to keep turning to your addiction, I know how that feels. Most people in the world don’t understand you and all you crave is love and compassion. Please know that what they crave is to have the “old” you back and their greatest desire is the same as your greatest desire. When you get hit with anger and hatred you immediately turn to your addiction to lessen the pain you feel promising yourself that tomorrow you won’t use again. Tomorrow you will come clean and get clean but then it never comes and then it’s a week, a month, and year later and you feel as though you are too far gone and the consequences are so much greater than you ever could have imagined. I wish so badly that I would have stopped before going to jail or having to go to rehab, but it’s part of me now and part of how I can love others and choose to be happy and joyful because I don’t take life for granted. I know how it feels when all the sudden you believe you are a lost cause just like everyone keeps murmuring around you and telling your loved ones. I’ve plotted to commit suicide, been to jail, been to rehab, went to that same rehab once a week for TWO straight years. It is hard and it is dreadful to start and sometimes stay in recovery, especially when during addiction you have burned every bridge imaginable to the ground. I was lost hopeless and condemned every thought and action I continued to make yet I couldn’t stop. Just when I thought all hope was lost and there was no reason to live anymore and that everyone around me especially my daughter and husband deserved better. God told me “you’re worth it” “let Me help you” “let’s decide together”, once you feel this moment in your life, hold tight and make a decision that you’re done and do EVERYTHING in your power to stick to that DECISION, I promise you will thank yourself later.  I knew something was wrong with me and my brain, I had no one else to blame and no circumstances to use as a crutch, I needed help. I let those who still loved me unconditionally love me and help me, I took in what everyone around me in treatment was saying with humility, and I allowed my counselor to help me change my thinking and thought patterns. I gave everyone around me a break and a chance to catch their breath because it wasn’t them it was ME. 
In active addiction, I couldn’t envision an ending, I wanted to die and all I could feel and see was darkness. 
I never could have imagined or seen this life I live now because it was clouded, I was allowing it to be clouded. Today life is so so so beautiful, loving and happy. I never knew I could be a genuinely amazing good person to EVERYONE. I didn’t know there were people out there that changed their lives and in turn would help me change mine. That very first decision and moment in time changed everything, but it wasn’t all roses after that point but because I finally made a choice that wasn’t bad, God blessed me and my family, slowly and suddenly, and all at once here I am whole, happy, and free from the chains addiction created. The spirit I feel within my soul is incredible and it allows me to turn to my Savior every day to make a better me, a better life, and be a better mom and wife, but the reality is, it is still day by day, one step in front of the other. I can promise if you can take just one honest look at yourself and tell God that truth. You will ignite a fire that will be fueled by the grace of God and Jesus Christ. With Their help and help from your support people who you WILL find you will start to do WHATEVER it takes. I can also promise that you will not only get your life back but you will get a BETTER life. An amazing awe-inspiring life that is more beautiful and free than anything you can ever imagine right now. It is possible. It will happen. It has happened and it is time to start truly living instead of walking around as a shell who is dead inside.  

First part is directed to loved ones of an addict; friends, spouses, parents, neighbors, ward members, anyone who would want any direction in how to cope and help an addict.

·       How can the family/loved ones get over the constant fear of relapse and not be on constant alert that it could/will happen?
Addiction counselor-This is a 2-part question. 1- The more the family accepts the nature of this sometimes-fatal disease, the easier it is it is to relax, knowing that they would be ok if the worst imaginable happened. 2- The best indicator of relapse is the behavior today. If the person is working a solid recovery program and their behaviors are consistent with that, then living one day at a time approach gives the accuracy of the situation.
Me-There will always be fear especially if active addition caused a lot of emotional pain for the family and loved ones, especially children and spouses who lived in the home and lived through that pain. Once fear can be turned into courage and faith is when the “constancy” of worrying will begin to dissipate. If the family can learn to live in today then they will begin to see behavior consistent with TODAY which is all that can be controlled.
Loved ones of addicts- Begin to let go and work step 1 for yourself, accept that you cannot change them or anyone but yourself, accept the person as they are regardless of whether they are choosing recovery or not. Fuel your own recovery by going to support groups (al anon, LDS recovery support meetings). Find a workable Higher Power or God and utilize Him to lesson your burden. After a while those fears get less and less but they are always there. Families with addiction in several family members will be the tough one to satisfy. The slightest sign of inappropriate behavior are the main triggers. The addict has to understand loved ones have zero concrete evidence that all is well, they live by faith alone. The longer the appropriate behavior the stronger the faith. When there’s a relapse it starts all over at day one and takes much longer for the trust to develop the next time. Unfortunately, the fear NEVER goes away but time will increase faith which also increases hope and less worry. 
·       What are healthy boundaries when you are a spouse? When you are a friend? When you are a family member?
Addiction counselor-Healthy boundaries for any individual is to not allow anyone (addict or loved one) to sabotage or cause themselves to digress in anyway. Specific boundaries vary a lot and that is often times determined by how the person sees themselves in their life, plus the boundary that may or may not be helpful for the other person, everyone responds differently to boundaries and circumstances. Example of healthy boundary- communication, if you are in an uncomfortable or unacceptable behavior it is perfectly acceptable to say I am choosing to end this conversation, should you chose to pursue the conversation that I feel is unacceptable I am going to choose to walk away. Example of a healthy boundary if the addict is still in active addiction, example, I don’t want to be around you while you are under the influence, or you go to a specific area in the home, or leave the home. Another example, since you are choosing to use I will choose to remove your access to the vehicle.
Me- Healthy boundaries that I have seen others do in recovery as the codependent or loved one is not letting behavior affect or determine their life and happiness. If the addict relapses, or the addict “emotionally relapses”, if the addict acts like a straight up jerk- boundaries from the family should be consistent with what will keep their inner self at peace. It can vary greatly but learning that you are in control of your own behavior and actions gives you the power back, which is the goal of boundaries “keeping yourself OK”. Something also to note about boundaries is however you choose to keep yourself and family OK is OK! If something happens to the addict that you feel guilt over remember that as you set the boundaries you need to feel as though you did everything to keep yourself OK and also have unconditional love. If you are going to CHOOSE to stay with your spouse who is an addict or CHOOSE to allow the addict to be in your life, the consequences need to be accepted. If you CHOOSE to stay know that you made a conscious decision and that the blame game isn’t healthy anymore, finding a way to be serene and have inner peace knowing you made the choice to stay will make a world of difference instead of playing the victim you can once again gain control of your own life.
Loved ones of addicts- Have the same bed time, check in with each other, be open to have 24-hour disclosure of triggers and be able to discuss this openly, talk about what the triggers were and what the addict did to resolve them instead of using, give each other space and allow trust to develop naturally and with time. No drugs in the home and if the addict is under in the influence don’t allow them to be around you or children. Voice the behavior that you would want the addict to do in early recovery, example, call and tell the loved one where you are and when you will be home, be transparent with phones and at any given time allow the loved one to see your phone. Example of healthy boundaries are not paying the addicts bills, fines, fees, not calling in sick for them, etc.
·       It is easy to “vent” but sometimes it feels like the conversation spirals and goes negative and then it feels like the problem is worse, how do I have healthy conversation that will result in hope rather than feeling worse?
Addiction counselor-That’s tough, because it’s a huge spectrum. If the conversation is confrontational, boundary setting/intervention it is not meant to be comfortable or upbeat. If it is more about what you are thinking about the behavior “I find this uncomfortable for me, should you choose to continue this behavior, understand I will always love you but not support you in a negative way, if you want to talk about said behavior and solutions for resolution then I am more than willing.” Venting to a friend/neighbor- there is difference between venting out emotional issue, rather than seeking an ally - we go to friends to feel better but it makes it worse and uncomfortable because they quickly jump on your side and talk negatively about the addict as a loser who will never change. To create a positive conversation, say; “I want to share where I am emotionally, I do not want advice, nor do I want this to sound like gossip, but what I need is someone to listen to me and validate my emotional experiences.”
Me- I truly believe in optimism. My counselor taught me the importance of validation, this allows feelings to not get “bottled up”. Validation is key to the start of healing, being heard and know that someone understands is sometimes all you need. If you feel like conversations about or with your addict are turning negative and in the end, feel harmful to the situation as a whole, learn and next time the point at which it feels the conversation is getting negative, either end the conversation and it if it is with someone else learn the difference between gossip and validation. If you just need to be heard and say out loud emotional pain you are feeling then that is validation. If you are saying the feelings that you are having to gain an ally and someone to help you “gang up” on a person then it is gossip. If the problem seems to be you that is turning the conversation negative, tell whomever you are talking to about the issues and emotions prior to any conversation, “if I start to sound negative and as though I am not wanting a healthy solution, please stop me”.
Loved ones of an addict- If conversation with the addict is going south stop the conversation or change the subject and circle back when both parties are ready to speak calm and come to solutions rather than fighting. If you are talking to others about your addict, make sure they are to be trusted but also that they are educated about addiction and that they can “see both sides” so you aren’t just finding someone to be in your corner. When talking to someone else about your addict set the standard that you don’t want to speak ill of your addict rather come to healthy conclusions and solutions. When openly conversing with the addict have faith that they are trying their best, don’t lose hope, because no one is “too far gone” and hope needs to always be instilled in both the addict and the loved one. Attend meetings together and share after the meeting what you learned and be open to learning more from each other. Read literature from Al anon so you can educate yourself and see your part in any situation or underlying emotional distress. When you are talking with the addict state your concerns then LISTEN, stay quiet and allow the addict to talk and voice their true feelings without jumping to conclusions about how they truly feel. Explore their answers and show the addict that you are trying your best to understand their feelings, the addict will begin to reciprocate your same actions and you will both be on the same page.
·       The addict is on a recovery fast track and I feel left behind how do I follow the same speed to find the happiness they are?
Addiction counselor-By working their own program. There is a lot of support networks for the families of addicts and a lot of the same recovery skills and tools would apply to the family member as well. The biggest problem is that loved ones have a harder time admitting their own problems or difficulties therefore they feel left behind, and generally they are left behind in a sense because it is still the addicts behavior and actions that the addict is working through not anything to do with them.
Me- This was the case for Brian and me, when Brian started coming to continuing care with me and working the steps for himself, and gaining his own knowledge of addiction and recovery is when our happiness collided. We weren’t looking at each other’s weaknesses, rather we were looking at the flaws in ourselves and working on them in turn looking at each other and seeing so much beauty in them and the process.
Loved ones of the addict- Set goals in the beginning of recovery that you can work on together, and also state what goals you have separate so you can support each other achieve them. Make self-care a priority. Work on finding contentment and underlying true joy regardless of where the addict is in recovery. Allow each other space to rebuild trust, transparency, and open communication. Ask questions and truly listen with the pure intent of understanding and educating yourself not just inquiring about the addict’s true intentions. Listen to them, sometimes addicts don’t want your advice rather they want to just be heard. Attend your own meetings and attend meetings together. Attend or read anything that can allow a growth in knowledge and allow you as the loved one to be validated. Get a good sponsor one who has been there and will truly be able to stay neutral. Allow the addict to attend meetings even if it is inconvenient for you. When you see them truly joyful for the first time in a long time, be happy for them and with them instead of going back to your old coping mechanisms of getting angry, mad, second guessing, etc. Seek professional help for yourself. If only one person is growing and changing then you are naturally going to grow apart.
·       When the addict enters early recovery how can I support them while they are in rehab, finding a sponsor, or just attending meetings?
Addiction counselor-The best thing to do is to learn about the specific recovery model they are using and being taught in rehab, the disease concept, the recovery concept, and then learn about themselves. Some of the things that are not so helpful is if they fail to recognize that this is a very intense process for the addict and it’s a huge sacrifice for the family but if the family or significant other focuses on themselves for a brief time more so than the addict they will gain strength and begin to make healthy changes for themselves. Understand that it is a lifestyle change not just learning how to not use or drink.
Me- I think for me I kind of wanted Brian to just be kind to me, it is so rigorous and so difficult at the early stages to break ourselves down to completely nothing and rebuild ourselves I just craved to come home to a happy face and a soft place to land. I almost needed him to be loving and kind, and those first 28 days were full of doubt in myself and then at home I was also unsure there too. Step back and allow the process to happen as God intends. In my case once I truly was all in the process was so smooth and easy to find what would and was working for me, had Brian interfered at this vital point I feel like it would have been a stumbling block and one more people please instead of fixing me I would revert back to trying to make everyone else OK and end up losing myself again.
Loved ones of an addict- Go to recovery meetings with them, if they want to come home and talk to you about what they have learned or talk about the uplifting comments they heard at a meeting that gave them hope, listen. Learn from them in early recovery, that first part of the process is vital and important and you will probably be able to learn a lot from them. Allow them to make decisions as far as finding a sponsor and what meetings they want to attend, realizing these two parts are trial and error. Don’t force them to go to meetings or open up with others about their recovery, allow the process to happen naturally as they develop their “own program”. Ask questions about what the addict wants your role to be, if you are open and willing to these suggestions and actually take on what they ask of you, not only will you start to compassion towards them, but you will always gain the gift of humility. If you have no knowledge of addiction or you have never attended a recovery meeting, GO! You will hear other addicts who are in recovery share their experience, strength and hope, it will in turn allow you to look for signs of recovery rather than relapse. Give your loved one to GOD because no amount of begging, manipulating and pleading is going to change them.
·       In early recovery I feel like I need to almost not talk about it because my addict is stressing the importance of anonymity, how can I talk about recovery without being a helicopter spouse/parent?
Addiction counselor- A lot of people in early recovery, especially if they are in treatment, are so engaged in talking about themselves and spending long days at work and long nights at treatment, they are just emotionally drained. The last thing they want to do is go home and repeat a lot of the stuff they have already said. Anonymity only pertains to other people in the group not themselves, it does get used as a quick excuse that the addict will use to get out of talking about it. It is a cope out to say anonymity is why they don’t want to talk, but understand it is very exhausting.
Me- I think in early recovery especially if someone is in treatment they are “sick of talking about and feeling all of it”. To get off drugs or to quit any addiction and enter recovery is the easy part, the hard part is breaking it all down and figuring out what emotional pain was triggering the need to “escape”. For me I made a deal with myself to be transparent with Brian so even though I was sick of talking about everything in treatment and I wanted to just “take a break” he deserved more than that. I feel like if an addict is shutting down and no wanting to talk about it then the answer they give should be in line with the truth, instead of using “anonymity” as a cope out to be transparent my answer in early recovery would be “I really am exhausted emotionally and mentally”. As a loved one of an addict ask questions be curious and not “pushy”, allow open communication without pressure. Words flow out and I wanted Brian to understand what I was figuring out about myself and the answers to all the whys of my drug abuse. Also in early recovery as a loved one you are wanting very desperately to start building trust, so a good way to inquire in early recovery in my opinion is ask questions about yourself to the addict. By doing so the addict realizes that they are not the only “messed up” person trying to do better and it evens the playing field.
Loved ones of addicts- Allow yourself to begin to trust them again, trust your gut and your Heavenly Father but instead of solely focusing on them use this short period of early recovery as an opportunity to look at yourself. If you aren’t going to therapy with a professional, don’t randomly search google, rather find a podcast, website, etc. that has sources from trained professionals in addiction recovery giving information. Make sure as you seek answers and information that your thinking is guided toward changing your thinking habits, coping skills, and attitude. If the addict needs to separate themselves from you emotionally because of the rigorous process of recovery allow them to and find your own meetings to attend- online or in person. Read the AA/NA/LDS ARP literature and learn as much as you can on your own. Have your “own” meeting one on one with the addict as the family member you need to share somethings you struggle with allowing you to become vulnerable as well as it creates intimacy and will help the addict know they are not alone in their struggle and everyone has struggles. If “anonymity” is truly the excuse tell them to make up names and ask them to just talk freely and openly and make sure they know you just want to understand and find ways to support them as best as you can. There is nothing wrong with asking questions but a common theme has been to be cautious about nagging.
·       What is the best way to support the addict as a friend/spouse/loved one before they “hit rock bottom” or chose to begin recovery?
Addiction counselor- Understanding the concept of unconditional love, doesn’t mean that we take care of their emotional needs. The overused word of “enabling” applies, what it means is that it facilitates and allows the continued drug use, bailing them out of jail, paying fines. Situational and the person has to decide what they are willing to allow the addict to go through or not, what emotional pain will they allow the addict to have or not. But it isn’t a blanket statement, “quit enabling and they will hit rock bottom” sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t and sometimes they don’t live to bottom. I always tell families that it is easy for me to say kick them to the curb, but the family has to live if the unimaginable happens. (death)
Me- KINDNESS. I know tough love is important and sometimes feels like the only option when every decision the addict is making is so totally off course. Kindness does not mean a soft, warm place to sleep at night, it doesn’t mean giving someone money, it doesn’t mean uncomfortable conversations and questions. Kindness is a realization that demeaning and kicking someone when they are down doesn’t help. Kindness sounds like “I love you so much, these decisions you are making are really hurting me, I don’t know how to help you with words anymore, should you decide to continue making these choices please know I am always here when you decide to make a change, but for now I will not (X Y or Z, let you stay here, give you money, allow you to have social media, have access to any car that I am a cosigner of) insert healthy boundary here.”
Loved ones of addicts- Love them unconditionally. Never lose hope, the addict will come to a point where they will lose every ounce of hope in themselves, let them know you haven’t given up on them. Never shame them, that isn’t your place, try to find empathy realizing as you are in your own hell they are causing you, they are also in their own hell and their brain is in a place that is unreasonable. God will allow the person to feel hurt and discouraged to want to change so leave that up to Him and hate the sin not the sinner. This is the most difficult and unstable time, set those healthy boundaries, make sure the addict knows you love them and shield children or other family members from exposure. If the addict cannot accept those limits while in active addiction that is a very clear answer that they are not ready to change. There is a fine line between showing your love no matter what while still making sure they know and your actions align with not accepting inappropriate behavior, it is all up to the addict to take the first step towards changing their life.
·       I feel like it is something that can just be controlled (self-control) why can an addict not just stop?
Addiction counselor- There is a neurological aspect, the brain is negatively affected and addiction changes the brain literally rewiring it. Beyond the neurological aspect it’s the inability to defer gratification, inability to think rationally enough to at any given moment think the situation all the way through. Use of substance affects cognitive ability, when a person is physically addicted its human nature to listen to what the body is saying, the body says “I need a substance or behavior to alleviate withdrawal or pre-withdrawal”, then our mind quickly says oh ok and begins the craving process and bottom line describes the powerlessness. What works for some doesn’t work for all, and a lot of families assume and look at life through their lives and simply can’t see the bigger picture and cannot jump in their brain to see how it feels to be addicted. One of the biggest obstacles of recovery is the person claiming to be an addict just quits one day years ago and then they sabotage their recovery by saying “well I or so and so just quit so you can just quit.”
Me- This is a question that is so difficult and would take an entire blog post to fully delve into. (possibly in the future I will). Very short synopsis is education about addiction before judgement of someone’s brain make up is key. I do know there are so many people who will use “I’m an addict” as a crutch to continue addict behavior. For me it was a relief when I was educated in early recovery. Once I knew there was a cure for my disease because simply just stopping wasn’t an option and simply not “working”, that is when I felt some empowerment. I felt Jesus Christ’s grace enter my life and I relied heavily on my medical background for comparing it to any kind a disease. If you have high blood pressure you can’t simply one day wake up and say no more hypotensives for me I am just going to just decide my 180/90 blood pressure down will be 120/75 tomorrow. The science behind addiction is so fascinating to me and I read articles all the time about it. But a VERY SHORT answer is the cure to addiction is learning coping mechanisms that are healthy, not keeping emotions in and covering them up or masking them, and the very best and my most powerful tool is God. Something greater than me can and will make up the difference, the 12 steps and recovery in general are spiritual. Once spiritual connection is found, grasped, and growing daily is when the disease can be truly managed. Someone with type 1 diabetes isn’t cured, but insulin manages the disease. EDUCATION.
Loved ones of addicts- Educate yourself on the medically proven science that once the addict is in active addiction they cannot “just stop”, pray it away or wish it away. Once you have this knowledge you will start to feel empathy. No addict dreams of being an addict, and if they could just wish it away and completely stop then addiction at large wouldn’t exist. The addict is literally sick, and you can’t control “sick”. A non-addict will NEVER truly understand because it’s much more than a physical need its spiritual loss and chemical imbalance. It is hard to watch when the loved one’s greatest desire is to have them just change, but it is a process that until there is any change it is impossible to understand. It is an illness and a disease and needs to be treated as such “that is why there are rehabs”.
·       Is relapse a part of recovery and to be expected or is it a conscious choice and should it cause me to be angry (Because it does), and how do I help them after they have come clean about the relapse?
Addiction counselor- I completely disagree that relapse is part of recovery and should be even mentioned that it probably will happen, it can be part of the disease, but saying it is “part of recovery” does a disservice to the addict because it leaves a backdoor open and turning back to the addiction as an option. The reason we are angry disappointed, hurt, afraid, and anger is always a secondary emotion to cover-up those emotions, and anger is used as a source of control. So yes, when poor choices are made in recovery and if they personalize it then it creates a resentment.
Depends on the addict’s attitude if they are remorseful, regret, scared, willing to figure what went wrong and compensate for that then a healthy response from the loved one should be I am disappointed and scared but how can I help you get back in the saddle. If they arrogant defensive, justifies, not genuine, insincere, rationalizing why it happened, then that’s when you rely on the boundaries.
The boundary I do not like, if you ever use again I will do such and such. A good statement would be if you continue a behavior I will choose something else and I will not live with the behavior.
Me- Relapse happens. But it is a conscious choice. When I relapsed, I had a moment in time where I contemplated the outcome, I contemplated and wondered if I was an addict, I told myself that I could control my use. Because I had these conscious thoughts and after processing my relapse I knew then that relapse is definitely NOT part of recovery. Does it happen? Yes. Does it have to, need to, will inevitably happen? NO.
Loved ones of addicts-
Relapse is never something you wish to happen, but as the loved one being prepared that it could happen allows it to not tear you down to nothing, progress not perfection, know how you will react if that happens and establish your own boundaries if the worst happens. Allow time and then try to reconnect and move forward, after initial emotional response discuss the relapse openly and try to see what led to the relapse. Don’t shame them, it has already happened. Find ways to support them. After the relapse, the addict needs to be upfront instead of “caught”, both the addict and loved one need to accept that it happened and find solutions to move forward in a healthy manner, try and allow the addict to be totally honest when it happens and try to keep initial emotions calm so if heaven forbid it happens again they feel as though they can come to you. If you compare recovery to walking, tripping and falling is not walking, falling and tripping isn’t part of walking. Just like relapse isn’t part of recovery. Try to ask what went wrong and how you can support them in in the future to prevent it from happening in the future.
·       I go 0-60 in anger and my addict is still in active addiction, how do I control that anger?
Addiction counselor-Look at themselves.
Me- 0-60 is not my nature so for me to answer this question I am relying on the witness of how my counselor has helped other who are quick to anger. Work on yourself, learn techniques to pause before acting. Seek medical help from a licensed professional who will give you tools to utilize. Work step 1 for yourself, admit that you cannot control someone else, therefore the anger is only hurting you.
Loved one of addicts-Walk away before the emotion of anger shows in behavior that is negative, try and be alone and figure out why, your reaction to the behavior of you addict is your problem, being mad or holding a grudge is like drinking poison and waiting for the other person to die. Anger is an ugly emotion and needs to be controlled no matter the circumstance.
·       Can someone recover without intensive treatment of any kind of therapy? And if so can someone recover without working any “steps”?
Addiction counselor-Yes, they can recover without treatment, number 1 factor to a person’s success is the loyalty to the model. There are several different recovery models but success will be determined by how loyal they are to the model and how much of their heart truly believes in the model they are working. 12 step recovery is a model and is an easy one, if the addict is committed it is very successful- it also involves peer normalization and social interaction. There are so many models but the addict has to believe it and be committed to it.
Can you make up a model- yes, example, wife becomes pregnant I will not have you drinking around my kids and you will start going to church with me. Addict commits and does very well the rest of their life, no talk of addiction or recovery they just adhere to that model. Any model you chose doesn’t necessarily have to be one that has curriculum, but it does have to be adhered to for the rest of the person’s life to be successful. Because once a certain model is chosen the addict has to be all in.
Me- Yes, I have witnessed it. The people I have witnessed get clean without treatment or therapy have been successful because they found a program that works for them. As far as recovering without “the steps” would depend on if they are spiritually connected. The 12 steps for me were a recipe to finding, learning, and utilizing the Atonement in my life. If that level of spiritual connection can be found in another way without steps then yes, I don’t know any other way or how that is achieved without the 12 steps because that was what worked and continues to work for me.
Loved one of addicts-Yes, without treatment, but the 12 steps are important. Some loved ones have seen it both ways with or without treatment and with or without steps. Depends on level of spirituality. If you are a member of the LDS church what you think about during the passing of the sacrament will determine your level of spirituality. Enos in the Book of Mormon prayed all day and night to reach a level of spirituality in order to give away his sins. The rich man in the New Testament was unable to give away his earthly possessions to gain said spirituality. The Savior gave His life to enable Him to take your sins. Is your spirituality sufficient to give Him your sins? If not the steps are there to bring you to place of humility and allow this level of spirituality to enter your life.
·       Should I get a “sponsor” or can I continue to just confide in my best friend who I 100% trust?
Addiction counselor-If you engage in al anon naranon coda or any of the support networks, church organizations, a sponsor is a guide. If you are looking for a sponsor in these recovery models they need to be someone who knows how to work that model. If your friend is a healthy individual and knows how to manage their own emotional issues, and can see both sides, and be objective in their feedback then this friend has to be mostly neutral, but a friend like this is someone who wants the best for you not them.
Me- I don’t think a “sponsor” is 100% necessary but the best friend in whom you are confiding in needs to be an educated person in the difference between validation and gossip, and also be educated about addiction and more importantly recovery.
Loved ones of addicts-Don’t fight silently, my best friend has been my go to but she is educated in addiction. Yes, get a sponsor and yes utilize close trusted friends, but by getting a sponsor you can’t bullshit a bull shitter. Plus, a sponsor will have no skin in the game and can be neutral.

·       I want to talk about my spouse’s problem to the bishop is it my place? It is making my life “unmanageable” so does that make it ok for me to seek that help?
Addiction counselor-There is a difference between compulsion behavior and addiction. Religious people are the only people who call individuals with sex and pornography compulsion issues addicts, where outside religion it’s called a compulsion behavior, and that cannot be stopped. Compulsive use of porn which can be as a whole seen as “bad” behavior. Addressing “should I go to the bishop because it is affecting “my” life” then yes. But when you do so talk about YOUR struggle, you do have to give details to get help but you can avoid throwing the other person under bus and allow that person to be labeled or diagnosed, because it sets up for failure. A very informed bishop and who “gets it” will know that an individual can receive help on an individually basis not even involving the other person until they are willing or wanting to change.
Me- Yes, if your life is unmanageable the Atonement has a key aspect of priesthood power that I have a firm testimony has essential healing power. If you are seeking the bishop or priesthood power for yourself and the need to heal yourself, then it is your place. If you are going to the bishop to say “my spouse is a piece of crap this is what they are doing, call THEM to repentance” then…. NO because you aren’t utilizing that power for the correct reasons and value in which it is in place for, that would simply mean that seeking the bishop out to place yourself in better standing and showing what a “piece of crap” the addict is. Bishops are in positions to counsel and assist you to spiritual connection and the divine power that God offers for healing. You can talk to the bishop, recovery counselor or people at meetings about YOUR part in it and what is going on with you. If you are going for the soul purpose to bring peace into your life then yes because it reignites hope and changes you. There is always help and hope for the loved one of an addict you just have to reach out and take whatever steps necessary to help yourself. A bishop is there to guide you in the direction of that peace. A bishop holds confidences and more importantly the priesthood, so when the comfort from that power is needed he is the presiding priesthood holder or “shepherd” over you.

Next part are questions about addiction and answered by myself and addicts in recovery.

·       How did addiction start for you? What led up to it?
Me- it started because I wanted to escape the darkness of depression (see part 1 blog). There was something missing, I didn’t know that when I used drugs it would fill that hole but turns out it did temporarily. I didn’t intend to be addicted, I didn’t want to be an addict. What preceded addiction was simply my life was not OK, I wasn’t OK, and drugs simply placed a band aid on a wound that was infected.
Other addicts- A void, and something was off. Feelings of inadequacy and inability or more so unwillingness to develop any self- discovery for a way to be OK, instead turning to addiction to be OK.
·       What made a difference to finally hit rock bottom (because everyone’s is different-some lose everything and some lose nearly nothing)? Is there a science or something behind what “type” of people have different rock bottoms?
Addiction counselor-God allows distress as a motivator, but we make plenty of bad choices. What clicks in our mind is when we are “sick and tired of being sick and tired”. They fully agree with themselves that self-respect is totally lost.
Me- As far as science I have heard several theories of education, age, age of when the person starts heavily using (if it is at a younger age then it stunts brain development to cognitively problem solve and cope at an adult level). When a person decides they are “sick and tired of being sick and tired” is a common phrase I have heard in recovery meetings. But I have heard so many different rock bottoms that I think it is unique for everyone.
For me it was definitely jail. That was my wakeup call and something that was totally a consequence I never imagined because up to that point I had never had a physical consequence. The way I describe jail is that it is the most Satanic place on this earth, it is so dark in the sense that I felt no happiness could exist there. It was scary not that I would be beat up or feared for my life rather scary that all choices are stripped from you and you cannot choose to find a happy place within those walls, you are constantly surrounded by negativity and pure evil. I am not judging or calling anyone in jail evil but the air was thick with dark evil vibes. It is hard to describe but I truly believe that it is the bleakest, most horrible, and seriously disturbing place I have ever been on this earth.
Other addicts- The fear of drinking finally out weighted the fear of “finding out” about myself. It takes what it takes for someone to hit their bottom but to sum it up you are spiritually, mentally, physically and emotionally bankrupt or broken. “My mother lost many material "things" before she hit rock bottom including a marriage, job and financial security.” 
There is no way to determine someone's rock bottom- however having support (financial, community, emotional support can help but it can also enable one so that they don't hit rock bottom). It is difficult even as an addict in recovery to explain.
·       At what point did you realize your life was worth fighting for?
Me-When I got out of jail after being there for six days and realizing that I put myself in that position and that if I wanted to make my life right and have my eternal family restored I needed to make a change and once I decided that everything began to work out, because I saw the end game and I utilized the power of the Atonement, line upon line everything began to fall back together.
Other addicts- Once I had stopped withdrawing I felt a weight lifted from my shoulders, still heavily craving but I felt like I finally could see color again.  When children are involved a common theme among the answers from addicts was the fear of leaving them motherless/fatherless, or the fear of losing them physically and never be able to be around them again.
Someone shared, “I went to my first meeting high, someone shared that their first meeting they were under the influence and I felt a little less shameful and I started to listen, at the beginning when the words were read the only requirement for membership is the desire to not use anymore were read suddenly I felt as though I belonged somewhere in the world. In active addiction I felt unwanted, unloved, and worthless and now to be a member of a group of amazing people just by having a desire to want to stop, fulfilled a longing of being wanted and needed. Never knowing that by simply continuing to attend these meetings meant my life would end up being better than ever and my life has amazing purpose in the service to others.”
·       What were you thinking in active addiction about your family/friends/anyone trying to help?
Addiction counselor-Understanding that most cases you hit that point and are wondering what they can do. Open communication, if the family members are reactive and punishing it is probably better to go to friend, trusted church leader
Me-I wasn’t really, I thought I was a good mom and that was really all that mattered, I was thinking in active addiction that everyone was just being super judgmental and didn’t care about helping me or saving my life just wanted to fuel the fire of drama.
Other addicts- I honestly hated anyone who wasn’t fueling my addiction, if people were trying to help save my life and not help me continue to use I hated them. In recovery, I have learned that if an addict hates you, you are probably doing something right.
“I knew my family was concerned about me, I denied my alcoholism for a quite a while. I was defensive and angry when I knew my husband drank more and longer than me, yet I was the one who was so messed up. I questioned that because I felt as though I was being treated differently or unfairly in comparison to him.”
“In active addiction, I thought they needed to back off because I believed I had control, until I was thrown in jail. After that I was open to help. I was ready to surrender and admit I didn't have control to myself.”
·       What are ways when you were in active addiction you wished someone would have done/said to help you, or what may have helped you in active addiction “see the light”?
Addiction counselor-The bottom line is there are ego defensives, true accurate denial, the addict figures out the best way for acceptance without having to change. A healthy way to give feedback and accurate accounting of what is going on are exact examples of what is going on, concrete evidence of using. Acknowledging that it is real and tangible and there are solutions.
Me-I don’t think anyone could have called me to repentance or done anything to allow me to “see the light”. I do however think that one thing that would have allowed relationships to flourish again after I was in recovery would be kindness during active addiction. Knowing that if I ever did change that I didn’t lose them forever. I also think that if I were to have connected or resonated with someone’s story of addiction who was in recovery I would have craved to seek that out. I would have possibly wanted to change, because in active addiction I heard mostly horror stories, “once and addict always an addict”, and my “so and so” never changed we are now going on “x” amount of years of their addiction. I wanted to hear success stories, the bad stories of never changing addicts didn’t give me any hope and left me darker. One of the main reasons I started my blog!! HOPE is key to any beginning.
Other addicts- “I don’t think anyone could have helped me see the light because I didn’t know that it was dark in my life, I had to be the one to turn on the light to realize that I was causing the pain, mostly because I blamed everyone and everything bad that has ever happened in my life and used it rationalize and justify my addiction.”
I wished someone would have said I'm really concerned about you and I believe you are addicted to your pain pills.... I know a way to help you... and then gave me a plan.
·       How do you live in contentment? You say you are content nearly every day- how so what do you do?
Me- I live in contentment because I have worked the 12 steps. I worked step 5 by going to the bishop and stake president on my own terms and when I was 100% ready and willing to completely end that part of my life. I thoroughly worked step 9 and made amends with the world and those I harmed. Contentment to me is what I call “making my spiritual bed” I pray, meditate, process, and reach out if I feel off. I don’t let myself stay stagnant or stuck, I do a thorough moral inventory every day and if I am still off I do another and another until I see where I am struggling. An example is if I am continually talking about someone badly, I take a good look at my part and why I feel that way about them. I stop blaming them for being human and set goals to notice their strengths and also work hard on changing me, because that is all I can control. To live in contentment, I do everything possible to keep the Holy Ghost with me, and live right the best I possibly can, and allow God to guide my life leaving my will and what I think is best behind.
Other addicts-I live in contentment now by being present and noticing each moment.
Contentment means I am at peace with myself and I can place value where it is helpful and leave behind what would potentially hurt me.
“To be content everyday means that I am working steps 10, 11, and 12. I examine myself every day and if I have harmed someone I make amends “promptly”. I pray for guidance to stay in God’s will and read AA literature every day. And finally, I serve others, in one way or another I find big or small ways to serve other people and get out of my selfish human nature.”
·       What has helped you the most to get to a place of vulnerability with other addicts, non-addicts, society and allow connection?
Me-I started my blog years ago, I posted it publicly recently and had a vulnerability hangover! For real, I wanted to crawl in a hole and hide. Then I received positive feedback and people reach out to me saying that my sharing helped them find strength and be brave to talk about their own recovery. Being vulnerable with other addicts was insanely easy and I felt like I belonged somewhere in the world. Being vulnerable with non-addicts had to be courageous and talk openly and as if I was talking about the weather, it opened the door for them to just speak freely about how they felt and questions they have had instead of creeping around the subject and holding back their feelings. Opening up and talking about my weaknesses and strengths was extremely difficult but this connection I have found with others going through any trial has been the most beautiful experience I have ever had in my life, besides meeting my daughter for the first time and seeing her sweet face every day in the morning. Being able to see people as Christ does has allowed me to vulnerable and place integrity and value in my own life which in turn allows me to see others in a different “light”.
·       When people don’t believe you can or have changed how do you handle that?
Addiction counselor-The best thing to do is set yourself up to win, as an adult it is your responsibility to go out of your way to gain trust. Make an effort and say “I’m at a meeting”, and have willingness to talk about recovery. I had thoughts about using this is what I did with it. Avoiding risky situations, and being firm about boundaries (example- being alone in someone’s house in early recovery alone who you know has your drug of choice, driving past the liquor store, being alone with access to anything that you are addicted to or have a compulsion issue for) and you won’t compromise your recovery.
Me- When people don’t/didn’t believe me, “it is none of my business what others think”. When people don’t believe I have changed, bottom line is I don’t care because God, my Savior and I know and that is all that matters. I also have “my people” who know I have my back and will be there no matter what. “All you need is a few good people” Emily Crowton.
Other addicts- I always remember “it’s none of my business what others think of me.” However, in humility I can understand and empathize their feelings based on my past behavior. I don’t “get the right” to someone’s confidence, I have to earn it
ACTIONS!!!! ACTIONS speak louder than any words! I show them!
·       How can you forgive and more forward when you have been wronged but will never hear an apology?
Me-One of the biggest lessons I have learned in recovery is that I never need an apology from anyone to move forward in my life, if my side of the street is clean then forgiveness comes from me and that is all that matters, I never expect or feel entitled to receive an apology. Forgiving someone without any action on their side are some of the most liberating experiences I have ever had.
Other addicts-My life isn’t controlled by other people, if I feel as though someone needs to apologize to me then I am being self-righteous and self-absorbed, no one “owes” me anything.
·       What do you do when people are straight up ass holes to you in active addiction vs recovery or really anytime?
Me- I have learned that because I have taken a hard look at myself and changed me, then all I need to know is that others are still “sick” and that I choose to accept anyone and everyone as they are.
Other addicts-What am I doing hanging out with people who are straight up a- holes? I wish them well- I have nothing to prove to them.
Listening to what people say to me about my actions, behaviors and life style then taking an accurate account to see if what they are saying is true or false for myself.
·       How do you start an amends? If you feel like you have tried to make amends and they are unaccepted what is the best way to make sure that “your side of the street is clean” do you make another attempt at a future date?
Me- I actually have made every amends that I had on my list for step 8. A few of those amends just barely happened. I feel as though it is a cope out to not complete an amends to its fullest. And that has been difficult but it also takes time for people to accept an amends, because actions speak louder than words. To start an amends, I have to be total free from addict behavior and be totally connected spiritually before I make an amends. Amends are supposed to present themselves when God feels the time is right, so I know that they will be presented to me when the time is right on both sides.
Other addicts-Forgiveness is not conditional- it does not require apology to be accepted. It is freeing yourself from cement.
·       Explain living amends. It seems like a cope out.
Addiction counselor-Indirect or direct amends. The steps don’t include you to get hurt- “injure them or others” it doesn’t include you. 1, 4 and 5 is amends to your life. If you include yourself on the list 8, then you probably do owe someone a direct amends. Indirect would be I have no idea who I have hurt or how I have negatively affected your life. The problem in addiction if you are working the program and the 12 steps then you are making a living amends, but if you put something that is tangible as a living amends that wouldn’t harm them or others then that would be a cope out and means direct amends are necessary but the addict is unwilling to make themselves uncomfortable to do so.
Me-A living amends is now a blanket statement, for the rest of my life I will always be kind, loving and honest. I will be quick to forgive and quick to seek forgiveness and because of that I am in a constant living amends by the way I will continue to live my life.
Other addicts-I believe you start seeing amends when you go through the process of reviewing the truth about yourself and the harm done to others. The process of amends isn’t dependent on acceptance by those hurt- it is dependent only on an honest, willingness on my part to set things right.
Saying sorry is not enough. Living a new way of life is what our family wants to see. They get tired of hearing I'm sorry... all they want to see is changed behavior
·       In early recovery, how do you think you would have been best supported?
Me- Assistance with my daughter while I was in treatment came from my best friend, my mom, and my mother in law. I didn’t have to worry that she was being neglected. Also, my husband supported me best when we made time together to attend two recovery meetings a week for the first year. It was hard but the people that watched my daughter during this time was the greatest support I feel as though I received because those who watched her during these times knew through education and open communication that these meetings were 100% necessary for my recovery journey.
Other addicts-I was very unstable in early recovery so I think calm and rational conversations would have helped me more than any disputes, no matter what it was about.
I loved that my wife came and supported me at meetings and family group, however once she learned about moral inventories I was constantly getting told what defects I was displaying. Now that we are both healthy and far into recovery I wish in those early days she would have looked at her own inventory instead of calling out every negative move I was making.
I loved that my parents supported me in the beginning and let me stay with them while I was in treatment but I do wish they would have fueled their own marriage and lives. Self-care was taught to me in treatment and I saw them completely thinning themselves to nothing and causing marital problems. I know that I had a part in that but in reality, and looking back now it was a perfect chance to stop worrying about me and focus on restoring their lives as a whole family unit.
·       Once you start to understand recovery and start to get into it how do you feel is the best way to discuss it would family, friends, loved ones? Extended same question how do you talk about it when they don’t believe in the process of the 12 steps or a spiritual program?
Me-I feel like in the beginning I didn’t explain or say much. I just did what I felt like was “my program”. Once I started to tell others about what meetings are like (where I have felt the spirit the most) and what the steps are and how they have built my rock-solid testimony of my Savior and the plan of happiness my Heavenly Father has for me constantly, there was more of an understanding as to why the steps are so important and were completely vital to my healing and constant state of recovery.
Other addicts-“This is going to sound weird, but I feel like if people wanted to talk to me about recovery in those early days that they would have asked permission. I never felt safe talking about getting sober with anyone, had someone asked if they could talk about it with me then I think I would have not shut down.”
“Don’t fish! If you want to know something don’t round about ask me, just come out with it, trying to sweeten conversation or smooth talk to get what information you are looking for is almost insulting. Just ask, I could have chosen to not answer.”
“I had a hard time opening up for fear that it would be passed on. If you as the addict don’t want to share for the same reason, don’t. Open up to people you know have your back and are genuine, if you question if they are or aren’t don’t set yourself up to fail. Choose your support group carefully and only with winners.”
·       How do you channel your additive behavior? Do you feel like sometimes you cross addict yourself into something that isn’t a drug or a substance, but say a behavior (anger, preaching) or a hobby (too much of a good thing, can it be a bad thing?) i.e.: running and neglecting family to do so, meetings neglecting family to do so because you feel like maybe your whole life needs to be recovery. Simplified
how do you find balance in all things and still channel the natural addictive patterns?
Me- I channeled my addiction in the beginning by going full out in recovery, meetings, sponsor discussions, prayer, meditation, and scripture study, also reading recovery material. I actually took it to an extreme where I was telling my husband that I had to go to meetings no matter what. If something came up I told him that there was no way I could miss and he had to be inconvenienced. I checked myself after about 6 months and toned it down and found more of a connection at church which in turn decreased my recovery meeting attendance but made church so much more of a spiritual bus that I allowed to be a place where I was there for me and a place I sought answers to prayers.
I now find a healthy balance, I make recovery first which means I make my testimony growth a top priority. However, I am an addict and the behavior was needing more channeling. I turned to running, working out, and healthy eating. I started out making my life a hair unmanageable, if I missed a workout I was ornery or if I ate crappy one day I allowed self-condemnation. I checked myself again and now I channel the addiction to running and working out still but always with a convenience for my family. God blessed our lives with a new job for Brian that gave me the opportunity to get my workout in early, my reading and studying done before Meiken even wakes up.
Trail running is where I have found the most solace because I allow my mind to get lost in thoughts, I process with my best friend or if I am solo I allow my mind to think, I come up with solutions and I receive validation for emotions then make sure my behavior is in line with how I want to live my life. My friend Brett Hales said this about trail running and it was so perfectly said I asked him if I could quote him because I feel it is exactly why trail running channels my addiction. “A large part of me wonders, “why do I do this to myself?” as I try and conjure up some grand answer I think it’s part of what makes being a human being so amazing. Our ability to see something that’s difficult and figuring out the solution through trial and error.” To add my own thoughts the ability to challenge my body and control the pain I put it through is liberating, to know that I get to physically work out any mental or emotional pain through means of pushing my body to limits I didn’t know existed and then continue to go farther is truly amazing. Because in active addiction there was no control and in recovery there is complete control of me. To be able to continually get on the trail and make the conscious choice to channel my actions and then in turn be rewarded every day fills a void that could never be outdone by any mind-altering substance.
Other addicts-Learning how to have balance in all things. To channel addictive behavior means that if you find something you love you will probably be addicted to it, just don’t let it make your life unmanageable (cause tension in your family or with your spouse, going all out and by no means being able to “miss out” on participating in your new healthy addiction). Something I have learned is I have to make my life fun in a healthy way, so I make sure I do things I find enjoyable!
·       How did you become not shameful of your past?
Me- Brene Brown says, shame is I am that, guilt is I did that. Once I became right with myself, God, and my loved ones my past didn’t just disappear but I don’t define myself by my past actions, I did those things but I am not those choices. I worked the repentance process thoroughly and became right with the world and God. I worked hard to get my temple recommend back which in turn brought me a calling to be the stake temple and family history specialist, that was not a coincidence Heavenly Father gave me that calling because of my past and because I redeemed myself through the Atonement of Christ I am now redeeming myself even more by redeeming the lives of my ancestors who made my life possible.
Other addicts-
Someone sent me information from a website they found helpful in the healing process and releasing shame below is from this webpage.
Courage: There is no more powerful relationship than the one that exists between fear and shame. Shame leads to fear and fear leads to shame. When we fear disconnection, it causes us to be afraid of many things. It takes courage to tell our addiction story, and all that we have gone through, with others. When we do, it brings us closer to letting go of our shame and reconnecting with other people. Connection: We heal through our connections with others. Involving ourselves with others in a similar situation such as addiction, allows us to support each other and learn from other’s experiences. With connection, we develop a social network and we gain power when we come across others in the same situation. We move from being disconnected to being connected to others. Compassion: This is a necessary part of feeling empathy. We are willing to hear someone else’s pain. We don’t have to be born compassionate. Being understanding and loving to others is a commitment we can make. Be willing to practice listening and understanding another person’s painful stories. We can feel compassion for someone else’s story if we have accepted our story with all its flaws. Compassion is not about healing the other person, compassion is about two similar people listening to each other. Empathy: Responding to others in a meaningful and caring way is the strongest remedy for shame. Being empathetic allows us to use our own experiences to connect with a story that someone is sharing with us, and to be able to see, hear and feel another’s situation. When we understand, share the feelings of others, or put ourselves in someone else’s shoes, we connect on a deeper level. People who are able to resist feeling shame can both give and receive empathy
·       Now that I am in recovery I notice so much bad in others, how do I channel my brain to not look harshly at others (i.e. judge them)?
Addiction counselor-It is an inaccurate statement that we don’t judge. But distinguishing value of behavior or someone’s value, example is someone dropping f bombs in places- you disagree with those behaviors. Instead of calling or thinking someone is a slime ball because they do that.

Me- I am observant of others, judgement is when I begin to make the choice to think negatively about them. I view others flaws but instead of making that my focus I try my best to see their assets, strength and pray daily and ask Heavenly Father to give me a portion of His love for them.
Other addicts-Practice open-mindedness and realize that everyone is on their own path of life and learning their own lessons.
·       Early recovery was amazing, I feel as though I have plateaued and don’t feel the same drive, how do I reignite it or fuel the fire to stay on a spiritual high?
Addiction counselor-10,11,12- first year of recovery is about you second year is about you helping others, finding enthusiasm in the recovery process not just keeping recovery to yourself.
Me-  Once I hit a plateau I didn’t allow this to be an excuse, I made a choice to work harder and every day I try harder to be more kind, more loving, more uplifting, shine my light I receive and continually feed that spirituality. If I feel as though I plateaued then that would be my fault, it is my choice to be better every day. The word intention applies here because every night I review my day and see where I had some weaknesses, I set a goal/intention to be better the next day in that area, I focus on the strength that I can find in an area where I am weak, soon the asset (patience vs impatience) is easier and becomes habitual. Praying for the strength and allowing the grace of my Savior to fill in the rest is how I reignite the fire that seems to be lost because I am now allowing him to make up for my human fallibility.
Other addicts- Take meaningful time to reflect on the journey of recovery, “play the tape” imagine what your life would look like if you were still using, ask your sponsor or support people what they do to find passion in recovery again, SERVE OTHERS
·       My addiction is completely different (drug of choice), do you ever feel as though you are unique because of your drug of choice? If not how do you find the commonality?
Me-In early recovery, I used false pride to say that I was different than others because my mistakes and drug use was different and theirs were worse. However, the commonality I have found is that the Atonement of Jesus Christ is the same for everyone and His suffering and agony to feel the pain of every human makes no sin, mistake, amount of drug use, or addiction different than mine, it actually is the opposite and makes it the exact same.
Other addicts- Open mindedness, know you are not a mold of someone else and try and look at what you could gain and benefit from other people with different addictions, not focusing on what makes you dissimilar.
·       I don’t believe in God and actual have strong feelings against “God” but I have started the steps and it states that I need to believe something bigger and greater than me can return me to a complete spiritual health, how do I find a Higher Power if I don’t believe in God, yet need something greater to put complete trust in?
Addiction counselor-If you say you have any positive or negative feelings about God that means you are acknowledge and believe in God. “Universe” is a term that I use as a blanket statement to relate to everyone’s unique Higher Power, but don’t dilute the steps, you need a usable Higher Power, a Higher Power that has to have the ability to work the steps with you. As long as It can help you work the steps then it is workable Higher Power. If you have earnestly worked step 1 then you have the open mindedness that something outside of yourself can restore your sanity. But it is all a journey.
Me-If you don’t believe in something greater than yourself then change the title to Higher Power and find what that is for you. Complete trust that something greater than you is the most beautiful and relieving thing you can do as an addict. It allows you to not fault yourself for being human and allows an opening for you to lift the burden from yourself and give it to God, and more importantly the Savior because He has been there and felt exactly what you have felt. Because of my testimony of that I know I am not alone and I know that I can be relieved of the burden I carried throughout my entire active addiction.
Other addicts- My sponsor had me write down right then what I thought God or a Higher Power was to me in that moment. Then she told me to then quickly write what I wish God or a Higher Power would be to me. We then compared the two and the similarities is what I ran with over time a relationship formed with my Higher Power and I now trust it 100%, but in the early days of recovery I just needed to begin somewhere and that helped.
You have freedom to choose and define your own higher power, it doesn’t have to be religion based, but it does have to have the ability to give you strength, courage and make complete sense to YOU.
·       How do you know you are an addict?
Me- Someone has to decide, determine, and admit for themselves that they are indeed an addict but I found some literature from Mayo clinic that has statements to know if you are an addict.
Mayo clinic has these statements to know if you are an addict. But in order to know for sure is to be completely honest with yourself.
Drug addiction symptoms or behaviors include, among others:
·       Feeling that you have to use the drug regularly — daily or even several times a day
·       Having intense urges for the drug that block out any other thoughts
·       Over time, needing more of the drug to get the same effect
·       Taking larger amounts of the drug over a longer period of time than you intended
·       Making certain that you maintain a supply of the drug
·       Spending money on the drug, even though you can't afford it
·       Not meeting obligations and work responsibilities, or cutting back on social or recreational activities because of drug use
·       Continuing to use the drug, even though you know it's causing problems in your life or causing you physical or psychological harm
·       Doing things to get the drug that you normally wouldn't do, such as stealing
·       Driving or doing other risky activities when you're under the influence of the drug
·       Spending a good deal of time getting the drug, using the drug or recovering from the effects of the drug
·       Failing in your attempts to stop using the drug
·       Experiencing withdrawal symptoms when you attempt to stop taking the drug

·       What do you think the very first step to take once I feel like I might be an addict but ashamed and don’t really feel like I want to go to meetings yet or even tell my family/friends/loved ones?
Me-The very first step is to look at yourself in the mirror and admit it, you don’t have to accept it or tell others, all you have to do is finally throw in the towel and say “yes I am an addict”. The second step after admission to yourself is seek out God and through prayer and desperation for His assistance you will be guided to a “softer way of living”.
Other addicts-Educate yourself before you receive any advice about what you should do. Allow others to take in what you are admitting to and give them time to process what they will say before telling you what to do and ask yourself if what they are telling you to do or advice they are giving is true and accurate to a proper way of healing.
Just listen, when I finally admitted I was an addict it was redemptive but it was the hardest thing I have ever done. I wasn’t ready to do anything else but admit it, I mostly just needed/wanted someone to hear me say it out loud before I made any resolutions on how to get help. After I told my wife she immediately called her friend who went to rehab and started googling all sorts of places. I went to rehab before I was ready to do anything except admit it, needless to say I went to rehab and then went back again when I was ready to make a modification to my life.
·       Have cravings completely ceased for everyone you know in recovery, if not is it normal to crave often?
Addiction counselor-Biologically 18 months. I personally have 34 years and there are still times I crave- I see what triggered the craving and through cognitive processing try and find ways to avoid it. Frequent? It should diminish after 18 months, if it is persistence the addict is probably entertaining thoughts and leaving a back-door open.
Me- I can’t speak for every addict, I know several that crave it for a very long time. Science has proven that after 18 months the brain rewires and the addictive channels heal. Cravings have ceased for me but I work a totally 100% abstinence program, this allows my brain to not be triggered to allow the craving process to even start. If I ever had to take anything mind altering for medical reasons and it was 100% necessary I would be open and honest with myself, God, my sponsor, and my people so they could be there and notice if my life and addict behavior began to show its ugly head again in my life. I think to be realistic recognizing the cravings and what triggered the cravings would come from a thorough moral inventory and processing with a trained professional.
Other addicts- I crave often when I am not thoroughly working my program.
I get triggered and crave occasionally the difference is when I am triggered what I do with it. If I entertain the trigger then I begin to crave. If I use my recovery tools when I am triggered then I can avoid craving.
In the beginning, I quit drugs but my mind hadn’t. It wasn’t until I started to “mentally” enter recovery that my cravings began to stop.

This next section is about recovery and the process involved, I answered these questions also my counselor, so there are probably a lot of different variations of what recovery looks like.
·       Is professional treatment necessary?
Me-Not for everyone, for me it was vital because I didn’t start using for fun, I started using/abusing to cover up emotional pain, professional counseling was necessary for me to see what was underlying. It allowed me to overcome things from my life that I had no idea could/would trigger me to feel as though I needed a substance to fill a void.
·       What is rehab like?
Addiction counselor-Many different types, in treatment processing, finding understanding, awareness of thought processes, resolving emotional issues, relapse prevention plans, etc.
Me-For me it was a rigorous process of self-discovery. It was writing about my past, present and setting myself up with tools and coping mechanisms to win and be successful to cope with life on life’s terms.
·       Will I have to leave my family behind and septate myself from them for a while, during the rehab part?
Addiction counselor-Depends on intensity (inpatient beyond detox process with a lot of family contact allows the addict to give beg families to leave treatment). If it is intensive outpatient then no.
Me-No, including my family was vital. Addiction is a family disease, it didn’t just affect me so if I were to leave them behind would have been detrimental, I feel as though as I began to heal in recovery my whole family unit and support system healed. I found strength from my loved ones and it truly made all the difference to involve them in the rigorous process.
·       I have heard you need to change everything, what does that mean and how did you do it?
Addiction counselor-Common expression, over generalized. It is intended to mean you have to change lifestyle people, places, and things. Riding yourself from high risk temptations. What needs to change ultimately is yourself, then you commit yourself to a healthy atmosphere.
Me-I needed to change everything by returning to a straight and narrow path. I had to start living in line with my moral beliefs. I had to begin to follow all of God’s commandments and repent often/daily. I had to truly change my thoughts, actions, and behaviors and seek God’s will for me. That did include cutting out negativity from my life from people I felt weren’t motivating me to live a better life and weren’t challenging me to be Christ like.
·       How long does it take for an addict to fully recover?
Addiction counselor-No addict fully recovers because it is a lifelong disease. Stabilization- full recovery 1 year absolutely abstained from anything mind altering. Post-acute withdrawal syndrome ends around two years and the addict has progressed enough that there are likely less relapses.
Me-Scientifically the brain heals and rewires in 18 months, however after thoroughly working step 1 daily I know and have admitted that I am an addict, because of this I will never be able to successfully use mind altering substances again. Although I am in recovery, I feel like the “one day at a time” saying applies, I am fully recovered today, then I will work step 1 again tomorrow when I wake up and I will be fully recovered for another 24 hours.
·       How can I guard myself against relapse?
Addiction counselor-Minimize risk factors, which vary. If you have a history of chronic depression and not treating with right medication that is a risk factor. Refuse to change life style and want still be around the party life or allow substances around them. The person commits themselves to their recovery, success is the person’s commitment to recovery model.
Me-Find a program and routine that keeps you spiritual fit. My counselor calls it recovery insurance, if you do what works to keep you clean and sober daily then you are paying your recovery insurance and because of that you keep yourself far from relapse. For me I place boundaries, I don’t allow myself to be around people under the influence, I don’t handle any mind-altering substances, and I work an abstinence program and not put anything in my body that can trigger my mind to crave to “feel” different. (Benadryl, Unisom, a lot of cold and allergy medications, pre-workouts, etc.)
·       I feel like too many people want to know about my recovery, but I’m not ready to share. How do I keep my circle small? Is that necessary? Should I make myself uncomfortable and just talk about it?
Addiction counselor-Support and privacy, a suggestion is to have a tight knit group of support people for intimate details of persons life. Social recovery, open forum and talk with other recovering addicts, gives suggestions about how to deal with cognitive issues. If it’s helpful to voice about recovery and you can place value there then share. In early recovery, the addict wants to escape emotional discomfort so when talking with others be objective and have people who are able to listen without too much advice.
Me-Do what makes you feel safe and OK. If you aren’t ready to share your story don’t, work this out with God. He knows what you can and cannot handle, if you feel like wearing your story on your sleeve then do it. It took me two years to be able to openly talk about my addiction, because of that my openness and transparency was only with a very select few and that kept me safe. Being in a bubble is OK and you do not owe anyone anything when it comes to your recovery. Once you feel like you are past shame and that you are not defined by your active addiction and choices made during this time you will feel like you can openly share. But I know several very successful addicts in recovery that don’t share with others. My theory is that God gave me this trial of addiction to learn lessons I needed to draw nearer to Him and my Savior, once I learned these lessons I feel like to show Him I have learned is to share with others and lessen their burdens even if it is in the slightest way to relieve their pain or give them hope.
·       I have been in recovery for about a year and I feel like I want to use almost every day, what are little or big things I need/should do so I can stop having such intense cravings?
Addiction counselor-At the 1 year mark, you should be past intense cravings. If you are aren’t you probably are not working steps, not working program, failed to progress and failing at finding a rewarding life that is worth staying in. (lonely, unsatisfied life)
Me-If you have been in recovery for a year but have intense cravings still, for me that would mean my program is off. That would mean for me that I am holding something in and that is what I would call a “dry drunk” or white knuckling recovery. Recovery for me looks like freedom from emotional pain in turn not wanting or needing to use. If I were not to do something daily for my recovery I truly know and believe I would crave to use because I wouldn’t be filling the void in my life with the power of God, rather I would be living in my own will. Something for me that triggered intense cravings in the beginning was not being completely honest or what my counselor called a “trickle of honesty”. I wasn’t courageous enough in the beginning to 100% spill everything out, I figured a little at a time was good, but it kept me sick longer, where if you have full disclosure in the repentance process with the bishop or sponsor then you probably will feel less of a burden and less cravings.
·       How do you allow God to be the composer of your life, and sit back and “let go let God”
Addiction counselor-Faith in Higher Power, and knowledge of how to use it. Many people don’t rely on Higher Power to actually guide decision making. Group conscience as for support, guidance and ask for their experience. Faith- open honest prayer-talking, meditating- listening open spirit up to be receptive, rational guidance. GOOD ORDERLY DIRECTION G.O.D... If these things are done the recovery process is fairly smoothly, not with without issue but smooth
Me- Richard G Scott gave a talk titled “To be Healed” in 1994, he says; “Challenge comes as testing from a wise, knowing Father to give experience, that we may be seasoned, mature, and grow in understanding and application of His truths. When you are worthy, a challenge becomes a contribution to growth, not a barrier to it. Yet no matter what the source of difficulty and no matter how you begin to obtain relief—through a qualified professional therapist, doctor, priesthood leader, friend, concerned parent, or loved one—no matter how you begin, those solutions will never provide a complete answer. The final healing comes through faith in Jesus Christ and His teachings, with a broken heart and a contrite spirit and obedience to His commandments. That is why human reaction to challenge in life that engenders hatred, despondency, distrust, anger, or revenge must be supplanted by the tender mercies of a loving Father in Heaven and His Beloved Son.”
Ultimately it is faith that Heavenly Father sees the bigger picture and to allow him to “compose your life” you have to lay your burdens at His feet and have faith that He will take them from you, lessen them, or give you the strength and direction you need in order to live in His will, which ultimately leads to living a life that is happy and joyful despite trials and hardships, because His plan of happiness is always in place and always ready for you when you want it.
·       How can I avoid being a “dry drunk”, I don’t have anyone that will say that I am being one but how can I catch myself before it becomes a problem?
Addiction counselor-We need others to act as mirrors, behavior red flags of addict behavior, emotional avoidance, restless irritable discount, 17 defects any distorted thinking daily
Me-Taking a moral inventory daily and recognizing your faults and human fallibility, then turning the Heavenly Father and seeking to live a Christ like life. Those attributes are found in Preach My Gospel chapter six and are: Faith, Hope, Charity and Love, Virtue, Knowledge, Patience, Humility, Diligence, Obedience.
·       How can I not white-knuckle recovery?
Addiction counselor-That means simply not using. To avoid most will have days just to not use. Healthier lifestyle, cognitive, relationships more support equals more ability. More sophisticated tools and coping skills to help you be serene and content

Please take note as you have read this that these are subjective/objective and every addiction and recovery looks and sounds different. The biggest lesson I have learned in recovery is take what is useful and good for me and leave behind the rest. God knows what is best for you and if you spiritually resonate with any of these answers and suggestions then utilize them as tools in your life, if you don’t then leave it behind.