S. Jeffrey Jones- BLOG

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04 Apr

Parents Finding Hope in Community

For six years, Phillis struggled with an autoimmune disease - a medical conundrum. Essentially, human tissue attacking itself. The experience of physical pain, bedridden for days, coupled with dark emotions spiraling into a fog resulted in depression. At the epicenter was loss of her role as mother to her daughter, 14 year old Ella. Because of the frequency and volume of arguments, Ella would spend nights with her 18 year old boyfriend, Buckle where she felt seen, recognized, and heard. Ella’s interest for connection with her mother was numbed by the drug induced ecstasy she shared with Buckle.

With everyone in the family doing their best to compensate for both an incapacitated family member unable to fulfill their role, and drug use of a teen, the invisible structure of the family incrementally increased in rigidity. Unable to provide an emotional connection with Ella, Phillis’ inner world was haunted with guilt, memories of her own childhood, and her mother’s struggle with Lyme’s disease.

Now, more then ever, she wanted to be a guiding presence in Ella’s life. But, her own illness prevented this ideal and she hated it. She tried setting boundaries with Ella, but anger and resentment would leak out. After the police arrested Ella for driving after drinking and found cocaine in the car, Art, Ella’s dad moved from out of state into Phillis’ house to help. Despite her parent’s suggestions, cajoling, pleading, demands, bribery, and threats, Ella spent nights at Buckle’s.

Art couldn’t bear to see Ella tormented and did everything he could to ease her pain. Never raising his voice, Art patiently listened to Ella’s anger and blame of her mother. Art naturally empathized with Ella. Phillis felt alienated. Underlying issues of their divorce was amplified. Ella’s absence in the evenings left space for Phillis and Art to scrape old wounds and ignite old arguments.

Only after Art’s business partner of 22 years expressed concern about him, did Art consider the impact of his family situation on the rest of his life. Art assumed intervention would initiate an outside process that he feared would further disrupt his family. He took action to research options online. The family recovery deep community was the only thing he found that allowed him to listen anonymously, ask questions when he was ready, and get feedback from like minded families in similar situations. To his surprise, the deep community also provided resources for him to assess himself, and his family’s situation. For the first time, he felt hope and started to understand a pathway of actions he could take toward change. The community provided options for Art to learn at his pace, while staying engaged with the family situation. He started to see a pathway to healing. Hope.

He brought information he was learning into conversations with Phillis. She was most struck with Art’s new ability to name when he was getting triggered, name that he needed space, and name that he would come back to the conversation when he was able. When Art asked her to join him in listening to a guest in the Community Show, she agreed. No fear of being seen by a neighbor or having to show her face at a meeting in a local church basement.

In the community, they read a transcript of a doctor being interviewed about multigenerational trauma, “The child is aware of its own body and can also feel the tension, rigidity, and pain in the body of the mother. If the mother is suffering, the baby suffers too. The pain never gets discharged.” Something rang true for Phillis, a curiosity about challenges of the past contributing to challenges today. She was struck with the concept of using strengths from the past to best manage a present situation, and how to transform one’s story about the present by better understanding the past.

Phillis looked at the videos in the community that led up to the family map process. What haunted her in the past, was now a source of curiosity. Curiosity building. Art noticed that the frequency and duration of their arguments had decreased. They both committed to the family map process.

On the day that Phillis and Art were going to be online for the morning with a facilitator taking them through the family map process, Ella stopped in. She couldn't help but hear that her parents spoke to one another differently. She didn’t trust this new change, and left once she got her clean laundry.

For Art and Phillis the family map process that morning temporarily shifted their attention from the focus on their personal positions and feelings between them today, to expanding their understanding of the roots of those positions that automatically occurred between them.

Phillis was most struck with her insight between the lack of connection she has with her daughter and the lack of connection she had with her own mother. Incapacitating physical illness of her mother, and now her own illness was the common thread. She recalled that when her mother was bedridden, her grandmother moved into the role of taking care of her and her sister. Now it was different. Like an imbalanced hanging mobile seeking stability, Art had moved into the care taking role to help with tasks that were not getting done, an effort to stabilize the system. Phillis had resented Art for having a better relationship with their daughter. Now she saw that it was not his fault, and they both were seeing how his style of helping their daughter was also contributing to the problem.

This understanding, helped Phillis to dis-identify from personally holding Art responsible for “intentionally” pushing her out of a relationship with Ella. Something was different. In an argument, Phillis saw Art stop, look down, and take a breath before acknowledging he needed to take a break. Phillis named still being triggered by Art having a “better” relationship with Ella then herself. Small, incremental steps grew towards trust.

In the community, Phillis talked about their daughter’s situation with her boyfriend, the drugs, the police, their worry and not knowing what to do. To her surprise, several people responded with their own similar story and what they tried. One community member made herself available to answer any questions in the future. Instead of shame and embarrassment, Phillis felt supported and hopeful. In time, Phillis and Art aligned on a unified recovery message to their daughter.

Unlike the cultural norm that focuses solely on the addicted individual in the family, Art and Phillis felt fortunate they started their own work and acted when they did. They both set aside pain between them long enough to unify to help their daughter. Through a process of exploring resources in the community, researching options, and individual conversations with community members, Phillis and Art found criteria for treatment referrals and chose one with a strong family program. They were committed to continuing the work they had started; they were committed to continuing to be a part of the solution.

Jeff Jones LPC, CACIII, CAI and Certified Intervention Professional, has created a online family community for two reasons: 1) practice, support and gradual mastery of core teachings from their loved one’s treatment center, and share it with like-minded peers, 2) provide a confidential, low cost entry for families to reach out, learn, and gain skills, ideally before a crisis.

You can learn more at: http://thefamilyrecoverysolution.com/community/

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24 Mar

Finding Bliss in Community.

Bliss called me from her hospital bed. Emphatically, insisting I do an intervention on her son, Buckle. In an exhaustive tone, she explained that (as a result of past pain) everyone else in the family cut Buckle out of their lives. She described details of three previous treatment programs, and that Buckle had just relapsed 13 days after discharge from his last treatment. Because of their excellent website, she considered it one of the finest treatment centers in the West. “But they failed me.” Bliss saw her role as persisting, fighting, and advocating for her son, which often meant pushing the treatment center’s policy. With a lilt in her voice, Bliss insisted I convince Buckle to go back into treatment. Treatment number four.

Years of history have clarified the symbiotic relationship between the addicted individual and the advocate role in the family. The progression of the addiction is proportionate to the level of focus and concern from family. Of course Bliss was deathly concerned for Buckle. So concerned that she struggled to see her own needs. With initial reluctance, she began to accept that her pushing through a traffic light about to turn red and getting into an accident, put her own life in danger. Potential death - the same kind of danger she attempted to prevent with Buckle.

From her hospital bed, Bliss was able to connect with like-minded peers online who had stories of struggles with their own adult child’s addiction. The stories percolated slowly into the corners of her mind. Incremental insights. Momentary acknowledgement before sliding into familiar shame. Connecting her past desperation to save Buckle, with skills learned in the community, specifically the Belief System Cycle, inspired her to create new beliefs. Days confined to her bed, resulted in awareness of her habitual thoughts that historically lead to unrealistic expectations she had of herself.

She needed to understand what contributed to risking her own life in a car accident. From the Spotlight Diagram, she learned that her habitual strategy of advocacy with Buckle was not her fault. But now she knew, it was her responsibility to take different actions. Continuing through videos in the family community inspired her to consider going back into therapy, for herself. She felt a surge of hope.

Something was changing inside. Upon seeing Buckle while discharging from the hospital, she said, “Son, because of your suffering, you have helped me to see my own suffering and how frustrated I am with myself. This patterns go back a long ways in my family. Maybe this is the generation where we can stop the transmission of suffering. I’m committed to a healing process. You can join me. If you are not ready, know that I love you and you are always welcome to join me.”

Buckle expected her complaints and pleading. But instead felt very alone, maybe for the first time in his life. Was she giving him permission to drink or giving him full responsibility? He drove Bliss home in silence.

Jeff Jones LPC, CACIII, CAI and Certified Intervention Professional, has created a online family community for two reasons: 1) practice, support and gradual mastery of core teachings from their loved one’s treatment center, and share it with like-minded peers, 2) provide a confidential, low cost entry for families to reach out, learn, and gain skills, ideally before a crisis.

You can learn more at: http://thefamilyrecoverysolution.com/community/

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20 Sep

Addiction & Family Transformation Potential

On the surface, The Family Recovery Solution™ (TFRS) is a three phase process that offers families two levels of engagement. Under the surface, TFRS offers family members a pathway to transformation.

First, we create opportunities for families to talk about, understand, and make decisions about specifics that are happening right now in the family. We work with what the family brings, which is often concerns about their loved one. Often families focus on some aspect of their loved one behavior, potential triggers, problematic events that have happened, and areas of highest risk that may lead their loved one back into the problematic addictive cycle. These conversations are important for the day to day issues that arise, and creating an environment for the family to have them is one level of engagement.

This level of engagement alone can feel like the whack a mole game, or chasing one’s tail. The family’s patience can wear thin. They may be reminded of past attempts to help their loved one’s addiction and can’t see how this time will be different.

In the first two phases the TFRS, a second level of engagement supports the first – the equivalent of two days of family retreats/intensives designed to best support them in a transformation in how they see and respond to the problematic behavior or addiction in the family. The family moves from recognizing underlying factors that have contributed to the problem, to potential transformation and healing.

The Signature Process of The Family Recovery Solution™ (TFRS):

TFRS can be used at any stage of addiction/recovery.Screen Shot 2016-03-28 at 10.28.28 PM

The first phase of TFRS’s 3 phase process can be initiated before the family is ready for an intervention, with an intervention, after an intervention, at any stage of the addicted individual’s treatment, or after a couple years of abstinence and the interpersonal patterns in the family have not changed. Of course, the earlier the family is engaged in a process of change, the more positive influence they will have on potential healing in the family, as well as decreasing the chances for relapse down the road.

As mentioned the potential with TFRS is transformation, which is totally linked to the commitment from family members. It’s ideal that everyone in the family would be on board with the change. The reality is that a small group with a sustained commitment can make powerful change over time. The changes in the “rules of engagement” and the structure has an impact on the entire family.
Here’s an example of the shift in thinking that can occur for family members

Often families see their loved one as the source of their problems. For too many reasons, this happens quite often and creates a polarization between the addicted individual (AI) and their family. The polarization is reflected in their thinking.
Here are some examples of thoughts for family members that can occur in the early stages:

“We don’t have much to do with this; I’ve had enough blame by so called ‘experts’”
“The assessment from the doctor/treatment center/psychologist is bunk. There may be some truth there, but I don’t believe it”
“When they change, I’ll feel better”
“If they would just stop ________, our family would be better off”

These thoughts can easily invade one’s mind, but it’s important to know these thoughts are some of the biggest obstacles to potential transformation.

When some or all family members get to a deeper understanding of the problem and where it comes from, their thinking about their loved one, about the problem, and about the addiction, changes radically. Here’s an example of a transformative thought process family members have, specifically when the underlying driver is trauma that has been passed down from generation to generation, or has occurred in this generation. The words are an example of a recovery message in this example, applicable to whole family healing.

Through your suffering, you’ve identified something that we’ve always known about, which is how hurt we are and how disconnected from ourselves we are. In our frustration with you, we recognize our frustration with ourselves. This did not begin with you, or with us either. It goes back a long ways in our family, and maybe this is the generation where we can stop the transmission of suffering. So you’re welcome to be a part of this change. We are going to engage in a healing process so we don’t pass it on, and you’re so welcome to join us. You can do that right now. And if you’re not ready, we’re going to love you anyways. And we invite you to be with us whenever you are ready.

Sure, this is an example. But think if people in your family personalized this message to your person of concern, or addicted individual. How might this start a world win of change?

Curious if your family could benefit from The Family Recovery Solution? We can get started today when you fill out the form, Let’s Get Started.

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11 Dec

Holiday Stress?

Holidays are meant for a sharing of joy. However, the holiday season can be a time of increased chaos in family relationships. Unfortunately, if past holidays are associated with challenge and pain, there can be an automatic reaction to coping. When we are not conscious of of a defensive / habitual pattern – a pattern meant to protect us. A way of relating that succeeds in getting us through a difficult time perhaps – but, often it comes at a price. I think you know what I mean.

If there is addiction in the family and a concern that someone will possibly indulge too much in an addictive substance or process, becoming difficult, belligerent – this concern may be legitimate, but know the concern may taint your attitude, expectations, ability to connect and overall holiday experience.

The family may seem to revolve around this person; this person is in the spotlight. The spotlight is about behavior, in this case bad behavior that is triggering an activated state in everyone around the spotlight person. This situation (the holiday festivities) results in increased stress and everyone doing their best to cope. “Doing their best to cope” can mean people resorting to their own past coping strategies.

With alcohol being an example of the substance the spotlight person uses to excess, know that roles form around the spotlight person. Some roles that may be created are:

The role of someone also drinking alcohol, however when they drink they do not have the same problematic outcomes as the spotlight person.
The role of someone wanting to stay connected through communication, but they don’t want to talk about the alcohol or the problems that come from it – they may want connection but avoid the difficult conversations.
The role that is the opposite of avoidance. They may want to talk about the alcohol and the problem that comes from it, and they may communicate in a shaming, blaming or criticizing way. The volumes of voice escalate, and heart rates go up. Arguments result.
The role of someone who really wants to help – help the person in the spotlight role, or help fix the problem. However their helping may not be completely honest; they may be denying the problem and covering for the spotlight person. “Helping” can get problematic here.
Other roles may be someone who is distanced or has distanced themselves from the family. People in these roles may have been in other roles at one time but either were fed up and pulled back or may feel pushed out of the family.

Do some of these seem familiar?

Know that all of the people in these roles are really trying to do their best – do their best to deal with the situation at hand. Whether they are aware of it or this “doing their best” also attempts to regulate their own nervous system. All of the above roles are stressed induced roles. I’m guessing, stress that has been in the family for a while, and the role has become the learned response – the easiest way to cope for that person. People in these roles can shift from role to role and/or become identified and attached to one role. The attachment to the role can become personal. Know that much of this is unconscious. There is more at play here then the surface story, and often we get attached to the surface story. Our attachment can result in self-justified anger and/or underlying hurt.

The holidays which are meant as a time of joy and sharing, can easily turn to opening old wounds, attempting to cover the pain in whatever way we are use to, which too often means covering the pain with headaches, excessive drinking, arguing, avoiding, over-eating, or difficulty sleeping.

It helps to be proactive here. Go into the holidays with a plan. Of course, everyone’s plan needs to be personalized and make sense to them.

Here are some potential elements of a plan for you to think about and see if they make sense for your situation. I say, “potential” because these are only suggestions and you need to decide what makes sense and is a best fit for you. Notice that some of these may be contradictory. Try what isn’t automatic.

Keep expectations for the holiday season realistic and manageable.
Talk with others in your family about coming up with a unified plan.
Rely on others, lean into your support systems.
Before an event really think about what makes the most sense for you.
Try something different then whatever habitual role is automatic. Go easy on you.
Realize you are in a stressful situation, and at every moment you are doing your best.
Slow down. Pace yourself. Ask for help.
Organize your time. Keep busy. Stay productive.
Be someone others would like to interact with.
Stay balanced. There are two sides to every interaction.
Allow yourself to sit with your emotions, before acting them out.

Granted, it isn’t realistic to think that you will make one change and the structure of the whole family system (the roles that form around the spotlight person) will magically change. It is however realistic to start making little changes that you can do with the knowledge that any lasting change takes place over time. Changes you start today can lead to big changes down the road. Your odds of changing another by yourself are limited. However, everyone of us has the power to change ourselves, and this change impacts others. It’s contagious.

This article was written to stimulate thinking about what you can do individually. The Family Recovery Solution provides a pathway for everyone in the family to make changes that lead towards healing.