codependency counseling

Saying No with Love to Family with Addictions Not Easy

Michael Jackson died from addiction a few years ago. All that incredible talent subsumed by an addiction fed by his doctors. Which is not to say Michael wasn't responsible for his own decisions. He also died because no one in his circle could say "no" to him. Certainly his doctor was unable to say "no." Jackson died from years of escalating abuse of prescription medications. One morning, one shot, one pill too many and on that particular day his system had had enough and went into arrest.

Jackson's addiction and death is sad for millions, but no more sad to me than my mother dying of cancer due to her cigarette addiction. Or my brother, who in four years has gone from middle-class salesman and homeowner to barely getting by, but sober. Or my sister, who is in her last months of struggling with alcoholism. I have said "no" to giving money to her except for food, to letting my brother live with me once he'd relapsed, to my mother taking care of my child when she was drinking. I know it's not easy, I've been there. What's most difficult is to say that no with love and compassion. Minutes ago I got to exercise a loving "no" with my sister. Sober yesterday, we planned a movie afternoon. Drinking today, I sadly declined as I choose to not be around her when she's doing so.stressedwoman

Addiction is not just to the hard stuff, but to what I call the "lite" addictions and what Steve Bhaerman refers to as "weapons of mass distraction." We seem to need a buffer between ourselves and the stresses and upsets of daily living. Anything from hours of TV, to cruising through the fast food drive-in on the way to Starbucks, with a few hours of shopping to top it off. We Americans love our distractions, temporary though they may be. But, take a breath, (one of my favorite buffers) because JOY and freedom are available to create a pause button to "lite" addictions with easy to learn body-mind strategies that I'll be sharing in the weeks ahead.

Addictive America Pt. 2: The "Lite" Addictions

Are all Americans addicted? Of course not. However, there are many that are "addictive."  Meaning they have what I call "Lite" addictions.  These normal Americans do a little shopping when stressed, work compulsively when anxious, or drink a couple glasses of wine a night to relax. In my book Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom I explain and explore why we are so addictive and give strategies for coping with stress. One example is the TARA process below.

Addiction can be thought of on a continuum. Imagine a line across the page and at one of the line are those that have no addictive behaviors and at the other end are those whose lives are unmanageable or out of control. Most people that have addictive issues, sit somewhere between those two end spots. 

Stress or anxiety escapes such as a glass of wine (or 3 or 4) or a hit of pot, or shopping, or food, temporarily distract us from life problems, but don’t solve anything, and don’t deal with the underlying feelings. If you find yourself relating, take a breath, and try to be nonjudgmental. There are ways to to cope with stress, upset and life in feel better ways.

 What’s The Solution?

There are three strategies I’ve been teaching for 20 years that help to quickly and easily reduce the stress and anxiety that are under most addictions. I’ll talk about others in future blogs, but let’s look at Touch, Accept, Release, Action today.

Touch, Accept, Release, Action – Imagine you’ve just been fired. You’re stressed, angry, hurt, sad, afraid – lots of emotions boiling away. You have this irrational desire to go shopping. But that's crazy - you can't afford to. What do you do with all those feelings instead? A healthy way of “processing” (therapist term) is to stay present or with the feelings and really FEEL them. You know how your 3 year old will bug you until you give her attention? Well, our emotions are a bit like that. When you pay attention and go into them, rather than resist or avoid, the intensity often lets go and you feel better. This doesn’t change the situation, but does soften the upset. Once you feel more relaxed, the brain can come up with creative solutions and there’s less craving for the temporary relief of shopping. 

The TARA strategy I developed allows you to identify what feelings are underneath the upset in a quick, easy format. New brain neuroscience research shows that just naming emotions is often enough to feel better, but we have to know how.

For FREE PDF of TARA contact Lynn at lynntelfordsahl@gmail.com For a quote from Lynn in NY Daily News article about compulsive shopping:  http://tinyurl.com/c3sfzv6