A Conversation about Helping & the Model of Change
First email sent in to the website by K.
I am not sure but I believe your site is RecoveryRoadMap.com. Please let me know if I am mistaken or you would rather not respond to this email. Otherwise, please read on... I was on your site and found some information that I found very helpful. So, here is my story, dilemma and question:
My boyfriend is an alcoholic who was in recovery (AA) and tried Crystal Meth after falling off the wagon and trying to prevent wanting to drink again. Obviously, he is truly an addict. He has shared with me that he was on heroin about 6 or 7 years ago and had tried almost every drug. He had gotten off heroin on his own working on an island on a nature project. He was clean from all substances about 6 months and he said he started drinking again.
Anyway, he has now been using Meth for about 9 months. When he first used he told me and I lost it on him. He eventually told me that he had confided in me because he wanted to be honest and didn't want to continue using. I didn't understand because I have never done drugs. I became really scared after about a month or so of his use because he has a really addictive personality and it certainly had him imprisoned.
He told me that he wanted to start his recovery from substance abuse and he was ready to do it for himself for the first time. I had called an interventionist that week because I love him very much and was so scared for him. I told him that I went to see the drug & alcohol counselor (the interventionist) because I wanted to be honest with him. It all came together and month and a half later his mom, a good friend, the interventionist, and myself did and intervention. At that point, he hadn't used in 9 or 10 days, which was the longest period of time. I asked him if he would go to see the drug/alcohol counselor with me ad he did. He was so angry when he saw his mom there. He stayed for a little while and when his mom starting speaking he flew out the door and walked home.
Anyway, that was 7 months ago. He has been trying to get off of the stuff and his own but keeps failing. In late November/December he detoxed and made it 2 weeks, and then used. He has tried 3 or 4 times since then and used again. I have been incredibly supportive and I am afraid that he is losing hope. He has called the interventionist a number of times at strong moments to find out about options for help and then ends up using again. The girl that got him on it brings it to him. And, of course, she shows up whenever he has been clean for a while. I'm sure not by accident. He says he isn't going to get anymore from her, but she shows up whenever he is weak.
Two weeks ago, he told me that he really needs my help to get off the drugs because he's killing himself. We started going to church because he won't get treatment now. Some days he wants to and others he wants to do it himself. I thought that if he started somewhere spiritual it might help him surrender in a sense. He says he is working on it, but I know he is really scared and hates himself for being addicted and using again this week. I have such compassion for him and I am not sure how to proceed because he is pushing me away more and more. It hurts but I understand the power of the drug and try not to take it personally. I truly want to help him, especially because he is asking for help at times.
He also recently called his mother and asked her for help again. He said he really needed her and asked her to come visit. She made excuses to why she couldn't come. I think she is failing him at a truly important time but hopefully he will find the strength within himself anyway. We agreed to help him at the intervention when he finally asked for help.
Anyway, I saw the Cycle of Change model (transtheoretical model of change) on your site. I am currently in grad school for art therapy and I was searching for that particular model. I am not sure if you have any more information on it or could give me your take on things. He says that he is going to recover with or without me. He says he can't take any more pressure and he is preparing for his sobriety.
I do believe that he is preparing but I also believe that the drug is tricking him as well. I believe that he has been preparing for some time and is trying to actualize it. I know he is using often right now and I am not able to be around him. I am uncertain what to do from here. I love him and don't want to give up on him, but I may be losing him. I thought educating myself about the psychological process of change in recovery might be the best barometer I have.
Please let me know if you have any advice or guidance. I truly appreciate your taking the time to read this. It was actually very good for me to write this whether you were the right person to send it to or not. Thank you... Hope & love. K
Doug’s first response to the website contact.
Thank you very much for the long email. To quickly address a few things in your email:
Ultimately it is up to your boyfriend to make the changes in his life. Your help might actually be enabling at this point. His using could be a way of keeping you on the line. Think about it in terms of codependency. Don't blame his mother if she is pulling back right now. She actually might be doing the right thing.
If your boyfriend is pushing you away a bit, that might be because he is not ready to change and does not want to see you get hurt. This may be on a subconscious level, but I think that is what is going on.
If you cannot love yourself first, you are no good to anyone else. The best relationship is when you do not NEED the other person but CHOOSE to be with them. We all need each other as human beings, and learn to thrive when we are surrounded by healthy relationships, and we suffocate when we are surrounded by co-dependent relationships.
As a counselor, I have to be extremely careful to build healthy relationships with my clients and the people I interact with through email and over the internet. Many addicts want and crave codependent relationships, because they can then get another person to share in the responsibility for their behavior.
Your possible enabling of your boyfriend by staying with him, may be putting yourself in an unhealthy situation, and may just be the thing that is preventing him from really making the changes he is obviously terrified to make. If he changes will you still need him, and help him? Just think critically for a moment about what nurturing needs are being met within you being in this relationship.
Educating yourself is extremely important, and no one wants to be alone; but being in a dysfunctional relationship maybe what is preventing the growth that you claim to want to happen. Even doing a trial separation, may help. At least it will allow both of you to get a little more perspective on what is important to each of you. For you Kristin - can you put yourself first - not in a selfish way, but to be able to love someone freely as an equal?
For your boyfriend can he be courageous enough to learn to live a real life and deal with his problems as an adult - not running to use some sort of chemical courage. Because I can promise you, if you maintain a relationship with a user, your relationship will become just as unreal as the haze through which the user lives their life.
How does a person that is high know what their real feelings are? How can you truly know what your real feelings are when the person that you have the strong feelings about is not really himself? Regards, Doug
Second website contact from K.
Hello again Doug,
Thank you for the email. I appreciate your advice and the time you took to reply. Additionally, your site is really great. I probably wasn't clear, but I am not currently with my boyfriend. We are taking time apart, whether it is permanent or temporary I am not sure. It depends on his choices. I had held a pretty big mirror up to him a few weeks ago, and I am sure that is why he is pulling away, subconsciously or consciously.
I do understand that your response was out of concern, but quite honesty, I am so tired of people immediately assuming that there has to be a codependency issue. I guess I am not as concerned about that because I do love myself and I don't feel that our relationship has been based on need. (Although, it has changed dramatically since the meth.) I do put myself first, and live separately from him because of that. And although I do understand that most relationships mirror one another, I am not so sure that is the issue here. Trust me, the wonderful growth that was the foundation of our relationship has ended with the abuse of Crystal Meth.
I have chosen to try and support him through this process of change, because he has been trying to get help. This means that I listen when he is trying to decide how to get help and encourage the positive decisions he is making. I had noticed some changes in the past 2 months, such as not being defensive about his behaviors and choices.
I was interested in the model of change to understand the process better. I am unable to be with him when he is on drugs, but I do have hope that the beautiful man I was once with is still alive in there. I am not so certain that he isn't in the process of surrendering to make changes, but I want to be educated and not blindly hopeful. In the meantime, I am not spending time with him. He knows that won't change until he permanently commits to recovery.
He has tried 3 times in the past 3 or 4 months to get sober, and has failed. He has made it about 10 days each time. I respect very much that this is his recovery process, I just wanted to know what to expect in the process of acceptance so I am educated. My concern is in understanding the difference between permanent changes and temporary ones, when to encourage versus not to enable.
I also would like to be better educated for future art therapy work. Again, I truly appreciate your time and perspective. Please respond at your convenience. Sorry I am so long-winded! Have a wonderful evening. Good night ;) K
Doug’s second response to the website contact.
OK then no codependency issues, good. I was very tired when I wrote the email to you; and apologize if I misread what you were asking and where you were coming from. Most people, who know about how quickly this drug can drag the user and everyone around them into a deep pit, will naturally be concerned to prevent further damage to all persons, as a first step.
If you are choosing to take on the HELPER role then the model of change should be a good place to start. There is a lot more information in the member’s section. Also, if you want to dig through the question and answer section on the website, there are a number of gems in there as well, that might prove helpful in your situation.
For someone who is ambivalent about wanting to change, the best thing that you can do, is get them to think. I know of one treatment program that actually locks teens into a treatment centre until their heads clear and they are “cured.” I spoke with a teen delegate (former meth user) at a conference yesterday whose friends actually kidnapped her and locked her in an apartment for a week until the meth was out of her system.
I used to be the addiction counselor in a youth detention facility. The police brought many teens into the facility while they were still partly high. They would then suffer through withdrawal cold turkey style (sudden stop). The problem was that the teens that were high on crystal, would crash badly to the point where they could not be woken up for court the next day.
Many of the admission staff and nurses were not very sympathetic to their situation. Of the teens that would end up doing time in custody, the lucky ones were able to take part in an addiction and recovery program offered by myself, and the unlucky ones were simply released back to their addiction.
So, does it help to forcibly stop a person's use? The answer is YES, but the long-term result of this action if not back up by a lot of support for individual decision-making is too often a hopeless future or a relapse situation. Why? Because to quit in this fashion the person believes that the way they achieved their sobriety was through an outside force and not their own will power. In a sense, I believe that the person is being set up for a life of dependency (codependency) and reliance on others to help them stay clean and sober.
Although, I used to work in a system that facilitates locking people up to get clean, (not necessarily intentionally). The ideology of most justice systems & the law is that a jail is not a treatment facility, and teens should only be locked up for serious violent offences. The fact that teens end up in the facility for legal reasons and are able to get some addictions counseling is a bonus for them. In more general terms, forcing or coercing anyone into treatment may help them get clean and sober, but may be counterproductive in the long run.
Working within this understanding, I do the best that I can to impress upon the individuals that it has to be their choice to quit or not. It is that sense of understanding, accepting and acting on personal responsibility that leads to personal freedom.
My point here is to be aware of the problems associate with the level of intervention that it may take to break some of the behavior patterns associated with meth use and the need to avoid building a codependent relationship.
So, if you are already aware of these you will make a good counselor / friend / helper. Being non-judgmental such that your friend is less defensive is very good. Really there is nothing for them to be defensive about as you recognize that it is their choice to quit or not you are just a person to talk to who might have a bit of knowledge about the recovery process. In other words you need to present to your friend as non-threatening.
Even if a person wants to make changes, they need to build up a level of motivation and emotional arousal (internal will power) that is greater than their urge to keep using. One way to build this level of emotional arousal in a person is to simply have them talk about the negative effects of using. You can let your friend talk about the positive effects too (which will be a relatively short conversation) as anyone who has used for any extensive period of time eventually builds up a lot more negative effects, over every aspect of their life.
The other thing that I suggest is simply watching various drug-related movies with the person and talk to them about it. You might start with Salton Sea, or Requiem for a Dream. Your choosing to spend time with him or not, is setting boundaries that you can live with, good. As to whether change is permanent or not, it is hard to say.
Recovery is something that people get good atit is a one-day-at-a-time process. Just like bodybuilding. Not everyone is totally dedicated. Some people might work out really hard for a while and then eat junk food for a day and then go back to working out hard again. Does that mean that on their day off they were not still trying to improve their physique?
Relapse is common. It does not have to happen, and when it does occur, it is often as a result of not having a good Relapse Prevention Plan in place. The trick is to slip but not fall. I hope that this has helped. Doug
Third contact by K, regarding emotional arousal and being powerless.
Thank you again for your in-depth response and insight. I have found it very valuable. I appreciate the "no codependency" comment. It made me chuckle. Thanks for that...
I did want to respond about the emotional arousal suggestion. I have a knack for picking emotionally challenging movies. Anyway, I rented Life as a House with Kevin Kline. (A truly wonderful movie if you haven't seen it.) Anyway, he began crying uncontrollably during the movie and then asked if I minded if he watched it again. He has also watched Salton Sea, maybe 10 times. I believe that for him that emotional content is very powerful.
The other thing I found to be extremely powerful is poetry and inspirational cards. I tend to send cards. He always saves them and reads them when he's having a hard time. I forget the encouragement they seem to give spiritually, so I thank you for reminding me.
Unfortunately, I think my boyfriend (friend, right now) is a bit atypical. He is very aware of his dysfunctions and psychological reasons causing his escapism. He does take responsibility for things, which I heard, aren’t normal either. He is, however, not ready to accept that he is completely powerless. He has accepted that he is powerless over alcohol, but I think he is still surrendering to the idea of being powerless over Meth. He intellectually & analytically knows what is going on but gets caught in the emotional cycle. It would make sense that the emotional arousal would trigger change.
From an art therapy perspective, you would use art to get someone intellectual out of his or her head and into their heart. The truly unfortunate thing with him is that he is very functional and successful in his career. He works for very wealthy clients who are a bit eccentric. Honestly, most of them have so many of their own issues, they don't even notice when his behavior is erratic. He has so much energy that he is always working and making more money than ever. This obviously is not causing any detrimental issues to make him want to stop using.
He has told me that his back & neck constantly hurt, he always gets headaches and knows he is very thin. (He is aware that he is sick.) And I know that forcing him to seek treatment would take power away from him.
The intervention broke through a lot of denial, but he is still expressing anger over it. I guess I am feeling that the best role for me right now is to stay out of his way right now and just listen. Intuition tells me that something is happening inside him.
I know it is very important for him to make the decision to get sober on his own, and I'm sure it would mean more to him without any influence from me. Your guidance is a good reminder.
Anyway, I will sign up as a member to get more model of change information. I also see a therapist both for my own well-being, growth and for my career development. She has her doctorate and is incredibly knowledgeable, and is the one who suggested I look into the transtheoretical model of change. I will ask her next week for any additional information she may have in her archives, and pass whatever I find onto you. I am actually quite a good detective when it comes to information. I suppose I am a sponge when it comes to knowledge.
Lastly, I have learned more than I have actually wanted to about this drug. Now, that I have become aware of how harmful and destructive it truly is I would like to bring that awareness to others as well. I truly appreciate your taking the time to give guidance and if I could help back in any way, I would be happy to. I am very grateful and I will continue to pray for God to empower him to triumph. ;) K
Doug’s third response to the website contact.
Hello again K,
I feel like I am making another new friend. Amazing how critical issues can unite people in their efforts. Glad you got a chuckle from my “nocodependency” comment. You're welcome. Contrary to the 12 Step approach I do not agree with admitting that we are powerless. My disagreement might not actually be a disagreement at all, but simply a matter of interpretation. I do think it is extremely important to humble ourselves and recognize that we often need outside and spiritual help to overcome a variety of challenges in our day-to-day lives.
That is both the curse and blessing of being humanwe need each other. I would also go as far to say that we need to have a relationship with the eternal as well - whether that is God or some other spiritual belief. For me the key to recovery is recognizing and acting on our personal responsibility. Even if that means going out and getting help from people, programs, information, medication, whatever it takes. The very act of choosing to get help is self-empowering.
I can understand how your friend might perceive that to admit he is powerlessness over anything means accepting defeat, which then might lead to a cycle of dependence and potential relapse. I do not think that this is the intention of the 12 Steps programs, to create a new dependency, but I do think that this is a far too common response. I believe the intention is to have the person come to a point of sincere humility in their lives that they acknowledge that they need help from others and God. It is still their choice to ask for this help and accept it.
Is it OK to shift dependencies from a drug to a fellowship program? At least until the person is strong enough to recognize that they can truly make and be responsible for their own choices?
Now some people WANT to give away this personal power in their lives. It is just too much RESPONSIBILITY for them. These are the people who go to meetings and hold onto the principles, steps and traditions for all that they are worth, because they do not want to accept the responsibility from being in control over their thoughts and actions. To me, this legalism is not what recovery is all about.
Recovery is a balance between humility, recognizing that we need each other and a higher power; and accepting the personal responsibility that is ours alone to seek out others and our higher power.
Is it truly that bad to be so legalistic? Not at all. If you are a cripple and need a crutch, a crutch is not such a bad thing. Still this approach does not work for all. There are many more people who sober up on their own without a 12 Step program, because they made a choice to sober up and followed through. In other words, they accepted personal responsibility and acted on it!
It sounds like your friend does not want to admit defeat to this drug. Good. So, use your skills to encourage and empower him, letting him know that he is stronger than this addiction and that he can beat it. Yes, he may need to humble himself and ask for help, but it is and will be his choice to do so. Also, remind him that part of the responsibility of reaching out and getting help himself, is in turn stretching his hand out to others with help as well.
Part of being responsible is recognizing that we are able to respond. This process facilitates personal growth and community wellness. Not only must your friend learn that he is capable of helping himself, but that he is capable of helping others too. (Get him posting on the site recovery support forum.)
Your friend is not as atypical as you think. A lot of addicts know that they are dysfunctional. What they do not know is, what to do about it!
I like your idea of encouragement cards. I have used this before and will re-introduce it into my addictions groups again. I use poetry now, but I think I will use it more. Thank you! Try to read up as much as you can about good nutrition for people suffering with addictions. Diet can play a HUGE part in a person's ability to recover.
Please, share my philosophy as stated above with your therapist and let me know what she thinks (if you can). Also, you might want to look for research on experiential learning, and how it plays a role in developing addictions and can play a role in recovery from addictions. Anyway, you have an idea of the philosophy of the RecoveryRoadMap.com website. If you have any information, comments, suggestions, anything, that you could contribute to any part of the website would be more than welcome! Or if you have any ideas about fund raising to keep the website going. I am willing to explore all possibilities. Regards, Doug
Fourth website contact from K, regarding boyfriends still being hooked.
Hi back again Doug,
It is truly amazing how there are no mistakes in life. Life provides you with what you need at the right time. The universe is uncanny. I completely agree with your philosophy and I appreciate the reminder of the word “powerless.” I use it in a content meaning that people are powerless without the love of others. Basically, that we are all here to help one another. Anyway, my friend is very adamant about not being powerless. His mom is very adamant about his being powerless. I think you can probably see why the struggle they have continues.
Anyway, my friend believes in a higher power but was having a really difficult time admitting he was powerless. He feels that God or a “higher entity” blessed him with free will and the strength to overcome adversity. I very much agree with him. I have always felt like AA did a bit a brainwashing, and trust me, that am not to take away any value that it plays in the lives of many.
You are actually the first person that has a similar belief system about empowerment. My friend keeps telling me what he needs. He says he needs to feel like he is making progress with decisions and improving on how he handles difficult situations. I did check out the question and answer section on the website, and I read the response to getting someone into treatment and found it very helpful.
My friend has been asking for help not just from me but also from others clean friends which I do find encouraging. He initially would only ask me for help, which was very difficult for me because I am a very independent Aquarian! Anyway, I kept telling him that it was great that he was asking me but he needed to begin trusting other friends. Now he is confiding in them and asking for help from them more often, which I am very happy about. He is developing a very healthy, supportive group of friends.
Unfortunately, he is still hooked on the drug. It seems whenever he stays clean for a while, he falls back into the trap and then is angry with himself. The really interesting thing is that he has put a lot of time and money into his residence, which he is renting. He had finally gotten to the point where everything was fixed, filed, organized, landscaped and efficiently functioning. He said that he was beginning his recovery, but had to get organized and prepare himself and his environment to begin his sobriety. I am certain that things happen for a reason, but it seems like he is tested every step of the way. I am sure there is some spiritual reason. It seems either the universe doesn't want him to be able to heal or the choice will require him wanting it so much that he overcomes every obstacle to get there. Your thoughts?
In regards to nutrition, I am very well educated. I had a systemic fungal infection for almost 5 yearsa very long story. The short version is, I studied in as an exchange student in France during college and picked up a strain of bacteria from a rare cheese. I beat the infection with a vey toxic anti-fungal drug and 9 months of nutritional detox and internal rebuilding.
I did a lot of sauna therapy, which was tremendously powerful and probably helped the most. The theory is the same with Meth. By removing the toxins from your fatty cells, you are causing less stress on your internal organs, especially the liver and utilizing the largest organ to detoxify, the skin (sauna treatments). One theory suggests that the residual drug and toxins left in the fatty cells can trigger cravings to use. I did find this to be true with toxins and sugar cravings with my fungal experience.
I know many alcoholics have sugar cravings. After taking in so much sugar regularly over a long period of time while being improperly nourished, the body develops an imbalance and craves more sugar. My friend asked me to help him with detoxing the first time, and I found a nutritional detoxing formula for anxiety, depression and rage. It is basically 5-HTP, Insotol, Gaba, Amino Acids, Vitamins B-6, C, E, Chromium Piccolate & Zinc, and I forget the rest. You take the formula 3x per day and it helps to regulate chemical levels and help the production and absorption so your body can begin re-creating it own dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, etc.
Also, have you had any experience with interventions? The interventionist we worked with is a recovering addict, sober for 30 years, and she is supposed to be one of the most highly recommended in California. I question some things and the way she has handled them. She asked to me to meet with her on a follow up appointment with my friend. I quite honestly feel that she has a lot of issues of her own that she hasn't really resolved, such as defensiveness, blaming, not retuning phone calls.
My friend has called her to meet several times to discuss options for help and for resolution from the intervention. She sometimes doesn't return his call for a couple days and makes excuses for not returning calls. Sometimes, even to the point of saying to my friend, and me "Well, if you leave a message asking me to call I will always return the call, but you didn't ask me to call you."
I am not big on playing games. I know she has a lot of experience, but it seems that honesty and genuineness are more important than reading into someone’s intent. She is very focused on empowering someone to make his or her own choices. I feel that she can get so caught up in trying to read someone that she doesn't really listen. I am sure that being in her position she has heard it all. Any thoughts here?
Anyway, I would be happy to help you. Just let me know when you're ready. I will also bring the email with your philosophy and discuss it with my therapist and get her feedback. Thanks for sharing it with me. I just realized how long this email is. Whoops!
Keep in touch. And have a great day. :) K
Fourth response to K from Doug.
Thank you again for your emails. I am considering adding an editorial section to the website, at some point featuring in-house and guest commentaries on various topics related to recovery from alcohol and other drug use. Anyway, I have a favor to ask. I would like to post excerpts from our email conversations back and forth as the first EDITORIAL. The title would be a conversation about powerlessness, intervention and empowerment. What do you think?
May I have your permission to use your emails in conjunction with my own - as long as I take out any specific personal information about you, your boyfriend, his mother etc? I would like to be able to list your name as just K. unless you are fine with your name being used.
I will remember your - Powerless without the love of others - it to me is a great interpretation!
I have always thought that it is the legalism that kills most churches, and I guess I would expand that to 12 Step fellowships as well. We do need others, if we all could over come everything on our own then there would be no such thing as a person having an addiction, as it would not exist and thus would not be a part of our vocabulary.
I am glad that you have found some of the question & answers on the website helpful. Thanks for the nutritional information. There is some good information in the member’s section on interventions. Most of the artwork on the website was done be teens at a drop in art studio as Art Therapy. Hope you are doing well yourself. Take care, Doug
Fifth website contact regarding posting the recovery conversation.
First of all, in response to your question about the Editorial section, yes, of course. I give my permission to use our correspondence. Thank you for asking, though. I would be more than pleased to contribute anything to bring greater awareness and / or understanding to this horrific drug and addiction. Thank you also for the suggestion on the meth discussion forum.
That is actually how I first came across the transtheoretical model of change (cycle of change model) on the your site. I had found the forum and would read posts from time to time to help me gain a better understanding of the drug. I had never posted anything until this week. I actually just used "k" as my name because it is my nickname anyway. I suppose that is really how I came into contact with you. The people on that board are really special. I have gained a lot of strength and perspectives from reading some of the posts. I realized after I emailed you that you must be the same guy on the forum posts. By the way, you have given some amazing heartfelt advice and you should be very proud of your efforts and inspiration. I truly appreciate your time and concern. You are no doubt a truly caring person.
Also, the artwork on your site is great. I would love to do more art therapy work. I have a feeling that I am going to do more and more work with addiction and substance abuse. I have not finished my program yet, so I still have time to work on that. Well, since we last spoke...
Thank you for all your time and heartfelt energy. I appreciate your opinions and inspiration. I feel very lucky to have come into contact with you. There are no mistakes. Good night & God bless... ;) K
There is a lot more information in the member's section.
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