Monday, March 31, 2014

"Beyond Addiction" Book Giveaway: #1 of 4

Welcome to the first of four chances you will have to win your very own copy of the Center for Motivation and Change's fabulous new book, Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change.

I truly love this book and raved about it in a blog post just a few weeks ago. I wish this book was around when my wife and I first became aware of our son's addiction issues. I know it would've made a huge difference in how things went early on.

Beyond Addiction is based on CRAFT--Community Reinforcement and Family Training--the research-supported, evidence-based, clinically proven approach to helping families of substance abusers. As I wrote in that earlier blog post: "Some of the things you read in this book may surprise you, but trust me: it makes sense. Kindness, positive reinforcement and communication, limit-setting, and self-care can not only help you help someone change, it can help them want to change."

To give you an idea of just how chock full of useful information Beyond Addiction is, I will share something with you. When I read books like this, I always highlight passages that I find helpful and want to reference later. But when I got my copy of Beyond Addiction from the Center for Motivation and Change (CMC) and started reading it, I found myself highlighting so much material that it became a bit monotonous. So I went to and downloaded the Kindle version of the book so I could easily highlight stuff with my finger. If I hadn't done that, I probably would've burned through four or five highlighters before I was done reading the actual book.

So here's how this random drawing will work...

At the beginning of each week in April, I will post what I think is a thought-provoking or eye-opening excerpt from Beyond Addiction, just to give you a feel for what this landmark book is all about. To be eligible to win that week's copy of the book, all you need to do is send me an email via the "Contact Form" that appears in the column on the right-hand side of my blog (under the listing of "Most Popular Posts"). Just tell me you want to be in the drawing. At the end of the week (likely Sunday evening), I will put the names of all the people who have entered into a hat and choose a winner at random.

(Note: I understand that some of you may be reluctant to share your name and email address with me, but it's the only way I can get in touch with you to let you know if you've won. I assure you that I will not share your information with any individuals or organizations.)

Now, on to this week's excerpt from Beyond Addiction.

This excerpt comes from the "Start Where You Are" chapter in the "How to Cope" section of the book. It talks about acceptance.

"Awareness is paying attention to what is actually happening. Acceptance is being willing to stay with it while you sort out what you can change and what you can’t. Acceptance leads the way to making changes out of the raw material of how things actually are. Acceptance puts you in a stronger position to change the things you can. It is also how you come to terms with the things you cannot change.

"As you become more aware, it is natural to want to know what you can do about reality--particularly painful reality. Acceptance is an action. It is something you can do that leads to less suffering and, again paradoxically, to positive change.

"Acceptance does not mean approving, giving up, or detaching; it means recognizing things for what they are, no better but no worse either. We may not like the truth, but it’s true anyway. This is not meant to sound harsh. It’s to give you permission to stop fighting so much and show you to a calm place in the eye of the storm: acceptance is a little bit of peace within us no matter what else is going on. Consider how differently your blood pressure reacts to 'So, this is what’s happening . . .' as opposed to 'I CAN’T BELIEVE IT, WHY IS THIS HAPPENING TO ME?!' And this is a skill you can learn. The alternative--not accepting painful reality--adds avoidable suffering--hostility, resentment, and alienation--to unavoidable pain."

And a bit later on:

"Wishful thinking, avoidance, hostility, resentment, and other forms of nonacceptance are like quicksand from which you, and change, cannot move forward; the more you try, the more you sink in. Reality is the ground for change." 

And finally:

"You need awareness and acceptance because you can only do so much. They are skills that will help you know what needs to change, what you can do to support change, what you can change within yourself to have an impact, and what might be blocking change. Still, all of your skillful efforts may not result in the change you want, in the way that you want it. Accepting that only so much of the situation is in your control will help make the frustration and fear that come with awareness manageable.

"Everything that hasn’t changed, everything you hate, everything you want, everything you’re not sure about, and the hating and wanting themselves, along with ambivalence and confusion—acceptance puts the whole world in your hand. Openly assessing reality as it is right now can empower you to be humble about the complexity of life and free you from the burden of having to figure everything out. Acceptance is the way to live through something instead of being stuck in a constant fight against it. It’s a powerful first step indeed."

Words of wisdom, for sure. Having a loved one who is suffering from addiction is not easy. Beyond Addiction, I believe, can make it easier.

Thanks again to the CMC for sending me four copies of the book to give away. If you're interested in winning your own copy, shoot me an email. Good luck!

(Note: Excerpts from Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change are Copyright © 2014 by Psychological Motivation and Change Group, PLLC. All rights reserved.)

What a great place to start.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

"Beyond Addiction" Book Giveaway Coming in April!

I'm happy to announce that I'll be giving away four copies of the tremendous new book Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change during the month of April.

My plan is to post an interesting excerpt from the book at the beginning of each week in April. Anyone who is interested in winning a copy of the book can then either leave a comment on the blog post or send me an email through my blog. All of the interested parties will be put into a random drawing. I'll give one copy of the book away every Friday in April.

A huge thank-you goes out to the folks at the Center for Motivation and Change, who very kindly supplied me with the books to give away. You should check out their website and Facebook page if you haven't already.

So stay tuned and watch for your first opportunity to win a copy of Beyond Addiction next week!

One of these could be yours!

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Keep Calm...and STOP YELLING!

When my son turned to self-medication and I found out he was addicted, I was heartbroken and mad. Because, at the time, I didn't know any better.

I was mad as hell for quite a while. Not just weeks or months, but a few years. As I've written before, there is no owner's manual for parents of an addicted child. When I first learned of his addiction, I was uneducated and felt like my son was making a very deliberate choice to use drugs. I didn't understand that he was suffering from a brain disease; one that he didn't choose and one that he sure as hell didn't want. (Despite those who still argue that being an addict is a choice, it's not. Nobody puts "Become a heroin addict" on their list of life goals.)

Early on in my son's addiction, things were not all peachy keen in our house. And there was lots of yelling. Or should I say, LOTS OF YELLING!!! Mind you, I'm not proud of this and it hurts me now to even think about it. Thank God I eventually learned that being angry wasn't helping anyone, and was probably making things far worse.

Talking about this--and especially feeling bad about it--goes against my relatively new "don't look back" philosophy on life. But revisiting "the old days" was triggered by reading the fabulous new book called Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change.

Written by Jeffrey Foote, Carrie Wilkens, and Nicole Kosanke from the Center for Motivation and Change, Beyond Addiction is a tremendous guide for families. Everyone who has an addicted loved one should read it. How I wish someone could've put this book in my hands years ago when my family's life became a living hell. (Interestingly enough, the title of the book's introduction, which you can read here,  is "Hope in Hell.")

This paragraph from chapter two of the book especially resonates with me:

"Last, 'yelling' versus 'not yelling' (concretely and metaphorically) may be one of the biggest variables in your control for facilitating internal and positive motivation for change. Tone matters. Volume matters. In fact, these matter more than anything else. Our families tell us that not yelling is the hardest change to make because they are often so upset. But when we yell, people don't hear us. They become defensive and flooded with emotion. The conversation becomes a fight; the fight escalates. Also, when we yell we model yelling, that is, we 'teach' other people to yell back. The only upside to yelling is letting off steam. While we might feel better for an instant, there are other ways to let off steam (or cool down before we come to a boil) that don't sabotage communication and damage relationships. In addition to all the things we've discussed so far about motivation, there is one other thing we know from research studies and clinical experience: confrontation is the archenemy of motivation."

Wow. It's a good thing there wasn't a test on parental behavior early on in my son's addiction, because I would've failed it miserably. My yelling at my son likely fueled at least some of the rage and anger that he exhibited. If I would've been calmer from the beginning, maybe we could've avoided some of the family battles we had back then.

I have gotten over feeling guilty about any "responsibility" for my son's addiction. After all, genetics are genetics and I've come to accept the fact that they are beyond my control. (It did take me a while, though.) But I do still feel a little bit of guilt about how I handled things during the early stages of my son's addiction. In retrospect, I think I could have done better. Man, what I wouldn't give for a "do-over."

If you have a loved one who's battling addiction, get yourself a copy of Beyond Addiction and read it. Stat. It's based on CRAFT--Community Reinforcement and Family Training--the research-supported, evidence-based, clinically proven approach to helping families of substance abusers. Some of the things you read in this book may surprise you, but trust me: it makes sense. Kindness, positive reinforcement and communication, limit-setting, and self-care can not only help you help someone change, it can help them want to change.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Heroes in Recovery Blog Post on the First atTAcK addiction 5K

Just wanted to let everyone know that I have a new blog post up on the Heroes in Recovery website. It's about the inaugural atTAcK addiction 5K that my wife and I attended in Delaware a couple weeks back. It was an amazing, emotional weekend and we were honored to be a part of it.

Please click the link and read "The Inaugural atTAcK addiction 5K."

Also, be sure to visit the atTAck addiction website and Brad Spicer's Project Run 7000 web page.


P.S. Here's a great video recap of the atTAcK addiction 5K. Do yourself a favor and take six minutes out of your day to watch it.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

I Have Grown So Much

Earlier this morning I was looking through the journal I used to keep before I started this blog.

Sometimes I read the words I wrote years ago and can't believe they were written by me. I was struggling so much back then and was thinking so negatively. I didn't like myself at all and was full of guilt. I was completely lost.

Case in point, an excerpt from my journal entry of March 13, 2007; exactly seven years ago to the day:

I cried for about 45 minutes this morning. I know I have no control over what [my son] elects to do about certain things. But it still breaks my heart and makes me feel like a failure as a parent....I am definitely not qualified to be a parent. At least not a good one....Parenting skills must be something I’m severely lacking....My mind is racing. I can’t stop thinking negatively about life, work, family, etc....I’m exhausted. I’m physically exhausted. And mentally exhausted. And I hurt all over. How long am I going to have to feel this way???

When I read that passage--which, ironically, was written on the same day I started therapy in earnest--it makes me realize how much I've grown as a person. It's almost like I've been reborn over the last few years. All of the negative feelings I had are gone now (well, most of them anyway). My outlook on life is so much brighter and I have a tremendous sense of self-worth. Back in 2007, I never thought I could possibly feel this good.

This all goes to show you that change can happen. It may be difficult and messy, require a lot of work, and take some time, but transformation is definitely possible. I am living proof. And I am so grateful to be living the life I am living.

"Awareness is necessary to instigate purposeful change; we must recognize the facts of our situation in order to change them. We acknowledge what is real, take its measure, and act from there." --From the book Beyond Addiction: How Science and Kindness Help People Change, by Jeffrey Foote et al.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Guest Blog for To Write Love on Her Arms.

Today I am grateful and honored that the amazing organization To Write Love on Her Arms. (TWLOHA) has posted a guest blog by yours truly on their website.

TWLOHA's mission statement reads: "To Write Love on Her Arms is a non-profit movement dedicated to presenting hope and finding help for people struggling with depression, addiction, self-injury, and suicide. TWLOHA exists to encourage, inform, inspire, and also to invest directly into treatment and recovery."

It really is an extraordinary, effective, and necessary movement, and one that my wife and I support wholeheartedly. The people affiliated with TWLOHA do great things to help people.

If you get a chance, check out my blog post--entitled "What I Learned Through My Son's Addiction"--on the TWLOHA site. Feel free to use the "Like" and "Tweet" buttons on the site to share the post, and/or leave comments there as well.

Thank you! I appreciate your support so much!

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Handmade Hearts 4 Hope

If you're a regular reader of this blog, you know how I feel about my wife. She is a saint, my rock, my best friend, and one of the greatest moms ever to walk this planet. She is incredibly caring and compassionate, and always looks for ways to help others or just make them feel better. She also knits.

My wife's knitting is the centerpiece of much of her goodwill. Among the organizations she regularly donates knitted items to are afghans for Afghans and Friends of Pine Ridge Reservation, both of which have received countless blankets, hats, scarves, and mittens from my wife over the years. In addition, many babies and chemotherapy patients have been the beneficiaries of hats made by my wife, each one made with loads of kindness and love.

For the last few years, she has also been knitting hearts. They are small, colorful hearts, filled with soft stuffing. They fit in your hand and feel nice and comforting. My wife knits these hearts for people who are going through difficult times. People who are sick, have a child who is struggling, or are just experiencing a bumpy period in their life; they've all been recipients of my wife's hearts.

Most of the hearts my wife has given away have gone to people she knows. But today she decided to expand the "program" by creating a Facebook page called Handmade Hearts 4 Hope. The idea behind this page is to give away at least one hand-knit heart per week to someone who's having a tough go of it.

My wife is still working out the details, but she's thinking she'll post a photo of a heart on the page, then have people comment on the photo if they are interested in receiving that particular heart. The "winner" will then be chosen in a random drawing.

The kindness and compassion that my wife exudes is contagious. I know that being around her for as long as I have has changed me for the better. I also know that her good qualities have rubbed off on our children, too. Now maybe the rest of the world will get a chance to experience her big heart as well. In miniature form.

"One love, one heart, one destiny." --Bob Marley

Some samples of my wife's Handmade Hearts 4 Hope.

Monday, March 3, 2014

20 + 2,000 = Serenity

1. the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.


I woke up this morning in New York City, where my wife and I are visiting her brother and his family. I'm 622 miles away from home, unemployed, and my finger nails are painted blue (left hand) and pink (right hand) with multicolored sparkles. (Just one of the benefits of having two adorable nieces!)

But after a long and emotional weekend that included driving to Delaware; meeting some amazing friends for the first time; giving a talk at the atTAcK addiction 5K pre-race dinner on Friday night and participating in the actual 5K on Saturday (more to come on these events soon); worrying about an impending snow storm; and driving up to NYC on Sunday, I realized something this morning: I am at total peace with myself.

Seven years ago, I never could have imagined feeling this way. In fact, here is an excerpt from my journal entry from March 3, 2007:

"I feel like I’m starting to not care anymore about the few friends that I have. I just don’t care anymore. I think I’m close to bottoming out. I have no interest in doing anything anymore."

That was written while my son was going through a very difficult time in his life, dealing with his severe depression and addiction. It was also a time when I was in the throes of hating and feeling sorry for myself instead of working on my own recovery. I had been consumed by my son's illnesses. Looking back, I was almost as sick as my son was. I was lost and I was struggling.

Fast forward to today. March 3, 2014.

I have worked hard on my recovery and on making myself feel better. I am at peace. I have managed to take back control of my own life. And the pesky demons that wouldn't allow me to feel good about myself have been extricated.

You know, every once in a while I tally up the number of days it's been since I decided to give up alcohol. I did that calculation this morning, and discovered that today is a milestone of sorts.

It's been 2,000 days since the family therapist at my son's rehab facility told me to "Be the change you want to see in your son." I am so grateful that a power greater than me convinced me to take that advice and run with it. I grew up the son of an alcoholic, and I hated that more than anything in the world. (And I mean anything.) Fortunately my sons can say they have a sober dad, and maybe the example I'm setting will help them as they get older.

Oh, yeah. One more thing: My son celebrated 20 months of sobriety yesterday. That's 608 days, one day at a time. How badass is that?

Do the math: 20 + 2,000 = Serenity.

"God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference." --Reinhold Niebuhr