Working My Way Back to Me is the story of my relationship with Frankie Valli, which started with a meeting when I was five years old, consummated when I was 16, and went on nearly three decades. I first wrote this story on my own four years ago, but the self-published memoir did not gain much traction. I enlisted a professional writer to help me author a new book, focusing on the emotional journey of my youth through the prism of the Frankie relationship.
In WMWBTM, I explore universal issues of love, sexuality, addiction, and mental health through my personal experiences. It is a journey that begins for me as an Ohio farm girl in the 1960s and continues through my years as an aspiring beauty queen, a college student, and a young counselor. My memoir is set against a backdrop of familial love, but also violence, abuse, and dysfunction.
I hope that you’ll see me as a somewhat different participant in the #MeToo movement, in that I see myself less as a victim and more as a woman trying to break a generational mold.
I have two masters in education and am a therapist working with dual diagnosis clients, often those who struggle with addiction and early childhood trauma.
April Kirkwood, M.Ed., LPC
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Talking to someone who is in the cycle of addiction can be frustrating until no one in the room is thinking clearly and nothing is accomplished except more pain and feelings of isolation for all involved. In short, more harm is done than good.
I believe that family is key to both our personal strengths and weaknesses. It is where we both fall and rise up. Families, therefore, can be part of the problem and more importantly, part of the solution. So how do we reach out to someone that seems like a stranger to us. They are not only a stranger but an unlikeable one at that!
Here are some key points to keep in mind to be the parent, friend, lover, or child that want to be a positive force in their recovery.
Cut the meat from the bones! Don’t nag and complain about minor issues; your addict is fighting to stay alive each moment.
Example: It doesn’t really matter if they made their bed or not this week.
2. Lead with statements not questions. Questions are an invitation for lies, defensiveness, and a war of words. Yes, they are more than aware that they are breaking your heart and screwing up their lives and everyone else’s too.
Example: Statements like “Don’t you care about what you are doing to me? We’ve tried everything. Don’t you see that your’e throwing your future away?” are just another way to make them feel more worthless and a failure then they already do.
3. Give them a place of safety and where trust can grow: Let them talk and fill the space with their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions – even if you admanently disagree. This moment is NOT about you.
Example: They sarcastically scream out, “you never loved me. ” You want to explain, object, and clear the slate. The outcome is yet another unproductive fight. This is not helping anyone. Perhaps a better way to handle their anger is give them respect by allowing them to get it out genuinely listening. You could say something like this, “I’m listening and I want to know you and how you feel. Anything you say, I can handle because I love you.”
4. Take yourself off the pedestal of judge and jury. No one is perfect and if you haven’t heard – addiction is a family disease. When you talk to an addict, especially with family members, it’s key to know that none of us are without flaws.
Example: Do you take a pill when life gets too much to handle? Or have a drink or two after a hard day at work? Perhaps you are addicted to living up to standards of others aka chasing the illusion of a life well lived? Working too much? A fear of intimacy? Hold back playing God. (You’ve been doing that and it isn’t working!) Once again, remember the goal…keeping the addict in a place where they are open to do the work they have to do to get clean.
5. Get educated. What happens when someone gets addicted to anything is mind boggling (literally). Rewiring takes place and the pleasures others enjoy are replaced by the drug of choice (sex, shopping, opiates, food).
Examples: Do you know what has happened to the brain? What happens when the addiction is cut off? How long does it take to get the mind functioning within the normal range? What can help? These will be covered here on After Detox, Now what? but there is information everywhere. Learn as much as you can so you can help rather then accidentally hurt their recovery.
6. Find a support system. It is both informative and comforting to realize you are not only in this battle. There are other spouses, parents, grandparents, and children and together you can grow and allow doors to finding enriching and healing relationships.
Some examples with website information for substance abuse are:
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) www.aa.org
An international fellowship of men and women who come together to share their experience, strength and hope with the purpose of staying sober and helping other alcoholics to achieve sobriety. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop drinking. Services and materials are available in Spanish, French and English.
Al-Anon/Alateen offers hope and recovery to all people affected by the alcoholism of a loved one or friend, whether the person you are concerned about is still drinking or not. Support for friends and families.
Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) www.adultchildren.org
Adult Children of Alcoholics is an anonymous Twelve Step program for people who grew up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home.
Cocaine Anonymous (CA) www.ca.org
A fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other so that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from their addiction; the primary purpose is to stay free from cocaine and all other mind-altering substances, and to help others achieve the same freedom.
Crystal Meth Anonymous www.crystalmeth.org
Crystal Meth Anonymous is a fellowship of men and women who share their experience, strength and hope with each other, so they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from addiction to crystal meth. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using.
Dual Recovery Anonymous www.draonline.org
An independent, twelve-step, self-help organization for people with a dual diagnosis of chemical dependence and an emotional or psychiatric illness. Dual Recovery addresses how both illnesses affect all areas of life.
Marijuana Anonymous is a 12-Step fellowship that addresses the common problem of marijuana addiction. There are in-person and online meetings. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop using marijuana.
Narcotics Anonymous (NA) www.na.org
NA is a fellowship of men and women who come together for the purpose of sharing their recovery from drug abuse. NA members are working together in a spirit of unity and cooperation to carry their message of recovery. The only requirement for membership is the desire to stop using.
Nar-Anon Family Groups (Nar-Anon) www.nar-anon.org
Nar-Anon is a twelve-step program designed to help relatives and friends of addicts recover from the effects of living with an addicted relative or friend.
Nicotine Anonymous www.nicotine-anonymous.org
Nicotine Anonymous is a 12 Step Fellowship of people helping each other live nicotine-free lives. Nicotine Anonymous welcomes all those seeking freedom from nicotine addiction, including those using cessation programs and nicotine withdrawal aids.
6. Draw a line in the sand. You have most probably become entwined in this person’s addiction; perhaps even enabling them to continue on some level. We will be discussing this in more blogs but in short: know the difference between a loving no, a destructive yes, and a wide river of churning grey in between. The addict is the best salesman on earth and making the grey seem white is their forte.
Examples: Addict says he/she needs a new cell phone claiming that it was stolen. This is most likely, 99 percent likely, a scam. The cell phone was sold for drugs. Do not replace! Let me rave and rant…..walk away if you must. Don’t try to explain…they know the jig is up and of course, it infuriates them.
7. Keep in your mind your happiest, most joyful, remembrance of you and the one who now feels like a stranger. Hold that deep in your heart. They are somewhere in there. Carry that photo if you have to. Never give up on their sobriety.
You have become a stranger to others but most importantly to yourself. If you at loss where to go, since your wisdom and good judgment is a little rusty…..lean on what you have in front of you to wake you up.
Writing down and working on these conversations help in recovery to wake up the cognitive mind, practice reading and writing skills, as well as do some very important work on your way to your best self.
Finding the areas in your life that need fixing through the assistance of even those who might be considered your enemy. Everyone has value in our lives. Every piece of information can be used for your growth. The choice is yours. Wake to the world and its value to be a friend to your recovery.
Jot down all it….for your eyes only…at least now!
Make a list of messages you heard or were told that are negative and next to that list the names of those people involved:
Three of After Detox, Now What! Recap to: Finding Your Truth Series in Others
“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.” ― Oscar Wilde, The Importance of Being Earnest
Sometimes it seems almost impossible to find our personal truth, especially when addiction has tricked you into believing you need to have something so long that it takes away your ability to think clearly.
Addiction changes people and after detox the journey back to being your best self can evoke anger, distrust, insecurity, and defensiveness.
Exercise Steps To Allowing Others To Help US
Step out of your own head. Become the watcher. Become the investigator of your truth. Attempt to be nonjudgmental…it clouds your ability to think rationally. This is a skill that like any other can be mastered but like learning to walk when you are a baby, it takes time.
4. List each person’s possible motivation for their advice: In other words, ‘what’s in it for them?’ Be open minded. Truly, most people aren’t out to hurt you though when you are in the throws of criticism it hardly feels that way!
B. Walk away from this physically and emotionally for a while and think in the secret place in your heart if this has some value to your greater good? (Healing isn’t measured by how quickly it takes but how deeply you find your way back.)
Addiction is not a moral issues, a financial issue, an ethnic issue, or cultural issue.
Addiction is an epidemic crossing all religions, races, and financial boundaries.
I assert that addiction is a multi-layered very individualized disease with mental, physical, and spiritual elements. Addiction is progressive and fatal illness.
Addiction is a behavior that becomes more frequent until it becomes a significant part of life causing conflict in daily living negatively altering relationships, careers, families, health. Judgment is impaired as the primary goal of each day is now getting a drug of choice.
After detox is not the end, even if the body has now gone through withdrawal of the actual drug of choice there is much work to do on the road to recovery.
There are two types of Addiction Substance and Behaviors
Muscle and bone pain Insomnia
Cold ashes with goose bumps Leg movements
Prescription Sedatives & Tranquilizers
Overactive re exes
Increased heart rate, blood pressure, and temperature with sweating Hallucinations
Depression Tiredness Sleep Problems
Mood swings Tiredness Restlessness Loss of appetite Insomnia Lowered sex drive Depression
Sex, porn, shopping, over eating, gambling, working, hoarding, stealing, skin picking, hair pulling, video games, internet
Effects of Behavior Addiction
Preoccupation with the behavior.
Diminished ability to control the behavior.
Building up a tolerance to the behavior so the behavior is needed more often or in greater intensity to get the desired gratification.
Experiencing withdrawal if the behavior is avoided or resisted.
Experiencing adverse psychological consequences, such as depression or anxiety symptoms, when the behavior is avoided or resisted.
(That is why no one has a right to judge or condemn anyone as the majority of the population is struggling with substance abuse issues.)
Questions to ask yourself:
What makes you excited?_________________________________________________________________________________
Do you get irritable when trying to cut back on that behavior?__________________________________________
Even when you try to control, stop, or reduce the behavior is it difficult to do so?______________________
What helps you relieve stress?____________________________________________________________________________
Do you find yourself concealing, hiding, or lying about what you do?____________________________________
Is this activity negatively affecting relationships, jobs, education?_______________________________________
Do you consistently ask others for financial help to get you out of trouble?_____________________________
What is your experience? Do you believe addiction is a brain disorder or a choice?