Thursday, February 25, 2010

My thoughts....

Kelli at heartsbrokenmomdrugaddict asked "When does the lying stop?"

A response to this question was posted at

RecoveryHelpDesk suggests:
"People lie about use because they don’t want to face the consequences of being honest. Often these consequences are reactive and counter-productive to long term recovery.

Perhaps people are wise to want to avoid them.

The lying ends, of course, when it is safe to tell the truth

This happens when the person stops using and feels the safety of a stable recovery.”

Here are some thoughts off the top of my head.... i.e., My Opinion... and that's all it is, is an OPINION.

(Take what you need or agree with, and leave the rest, etc! And please share Your Opinion... I'm still learning!) In fact, in this post, I'm thinking out loud and just getting my thoughts down.

This seems to suggest “the lying would end when there are no (or reduced) consequences to admitting they are using.” I’ve read the article several times. I absolutely may be mis-reading it, or taking away from it something different than what RecoveryHelpDesk meant. If so, I truly apologize....

Anyway, I feel that if The Truth is that my addict is using, in my opinion there should be some consequences. These consequences help protect my own personal boundaries. A few examples: I will not live in a house where drugs are being used. If my addict is using, she is not going to live here and perhaps will not be permitted to even visit here for a while. Why should I risk losing another camera, Ipod, or having my bank account hacked online from my own computer while I am in the shower? Why should I have to lock up valuables in order to open the front door to her?

If I let her keep coming home each time she relapses and gets clean in jail or detox, instead of taking away that privilege as a consequence of using and then stealing from us, am I not just setting us all up to go through it again?

That doesn’t mean I would not meet her elsewhere, share a meal, be in her life, etc.

Another example: Why should I provide a car for her to use to get to work if she is using? The inevitable conclusion there is that there will be less and less days where she will make it to work, and more and more days that I will run the increased risk of financial hardship when she plows through a red light while loaded and injures someone and my insurance rates go up (or there is a personal lawsuit from the injured party/family because we knew she was an addict and still gave her the killing tool--the car)?

Believe me....that happens! And even if you are proven not liable? You could bankrupt yourself proving it in court. Lawyers are e$pen$ive.

That doesn’t mean that I will not meet her, as I am today, and enthusiastically hand her a sack lunch and take her to an intake evaluation for possible inpatient treatment (county paid).

If she chooses to use, there are using friends who can and do assist her, and she assists them, in the business of daily living as an addict. She never fails to manage to get a room for the night, food to eat, clothing to wear, and medical care. She may steal. She may not pay her bills (such as her two recent overnight stays in the emergency room for IV antibiotic administration for a widespread staph infection), but the care is available. "Addicts are remarkably resilient", to quote another blogger.

I will not help her under those circumstances. If she is using, she has my love, she has my encouragement, and she knows this. She simply will not have certain “comforts” and “privileges” while using, because I choose to protect my own home environment from seeing and experiencing her lifestyle, up close and personal, 24/7.

“Often these consequences are counter productive to long term recovery.”

Okay, here's my confusion on that statement. In the ten years I’ve been dealing with this in my family, I’ve not heard of one addict who got clean and stayed clean, while not experiencing consequences, or while sitting around, warm and cozy, with full rights and privileges normally given a non-using, productive member of society. If I could get loaded and there would be no consequences, where is my motive to ever stop?

I’m just thinking out loud here. This is still, after ten years, a learning process. We tried the whole gamut of responses to her addiction:

from insurance-provided treatment when she was younger, to treatment we have helped pay for,

from letting her live with us and the unfortunate results which always included her leaving anyway, to telling her she can no longer live here,

from paying for sober homes while she is looking for work fresh out of jail, to having a clearly stated endpoint to that sort of help and backing off and allowing her the dignity of assuming her own care.

I am wide open to hearing other opinions. If I have completely misinterpreted the article, I apologize and I would truly like to learn/understand something that might help my family/my addict.

The post also stated, "If you don’t like the lies, your best option is to help create a recovery environment that supports your loved one in becoming more open with you."

I feel a little differently - I think my best option is to support and love her from a distance while SHE creates her own recovery environment, i.e., works, lives in a sober home, attends meetings, works the steps, etc. If she does those things, she creates exactly what she needs and derives some pride/satisfaction from having created it herself.

(Because lying is such a constant with an addict, I don't make decisions based on what I hear. I go by what I see (she's paying her rent means she is working), or by how the words are conveyed (body language, tension, calmness, etc).

Since there are consequences to certain truths at my house, the lying stops not when it is safe to tell the truth (I'm using); the lying stops when the truth is safe to tell (I'm not using).

Perhaps I am saying the same thing, as the RecoveryHelpDesk's last sentence I quoted above? "This happens when the person stops using and feels the safety of a stable recovery." Your thoughts?

Update: I picked up my daughter from detox. I told her of her former sponsor's offer of a bed in her sober home from which she can make calls to try to get into inpatient treatment. Probation approved her living there. I drove her to her intake appointment at the Villa. She was told the wait could be 4+ weeks, but she knows that if she calls every single day, she moves up on that list and the wait gets considerably shorter. She will also get appointments for other intake evaluations at places like Phoenix House, Salvation Army, etc. I dropped her and her clothing at the sober home and her former sponsor will meet with her there later this evening if possible. DD2 asked if we could meet for lunch this weekend and I said "Sure!" She's been out of detox a couple of hours and already has three possible jobs lined up which may permit her to work until admission for treatment, go into the 30 day lockdown portion of treatment and then come back to work during the subsequent 60 days of treatment when she is expected to be working outside. I know she can do this. I hope and pray that she will! I love her so much!

Edit from RecoveryHelpDesk:
Tom sent me an expansion on his post that helped me understand a LOT more of the concepts he was trying to convey. He couldn't get it to post as a comment (too long, I think) and he sent it to me in an email - the only way I could figure to get it on here was as an addendum to my post!

Thank you Tom!! I really appreciate it and I do understand more clearly what you were saying. You have some different and new (to me) methods and I am grateful for your further explanation. Thank you for your thoughtful reply!!


I've been trying to leave this comment...maybe you could post it for me.
Are you ever in the chat room at I'd enjoy chatting
with you some time!



Thanks for reading my blog, commenting on my blog, thinking about what I
wrote, and being so kind and gentle in your sharing of a different
perspective! I appreciate all that.

I also appreciate you pointing out where I could stand to clarify…

When I say that people often lie to avoid the consequences of telling the
truth about drug use, I’m just making an observation.

I don’t seek to impose consequences for a few reasons:

1. They aren’t very effective (check out the relapse rate after release
from jail, or the ER)

2. Major consequences already exist (overdose, HIV, Hep C, loss of money,
loss of family, loss of child custody, loss of job, loss of housing,
negative emotions etc.), and I don’t need to add more

3. I want to establish a therapeutic relationship with my clients and not
a power relationship with my clients (I’m a counselor not a probation

4. Focus on consequences is ineffective and removes focus from what is
effective… putting together a realistic and workable recovery plan,
removing barriers to recovery, supporting recovery, reducing harm, and not
adding to harm

I would also like to be clear that I encourage parents to set boundaries
to protect themselves and other family members, but not to impose
“consequences” in the sense of “punishments” intended to somehow force

Not having somebody live with you who is likely to steal is an example of
a good boundary to set for your own benefit. It may also be a
consequence, but it is much more likely to be an effective personal
boundary than an effective incentive for recovery.

Also, let me clarify what I mean when I said,

“Often these consequences are counter productive to long term recovery.”

Let me give a common example:

Client has a probation officer who says, “I’m here to help you, I just
need you to be honest with me.”

Client has a recovery plan, get’s into treatment, gets a place to live and
a job. This isn’t easy.

Client relapses. Client is “honest” with the PO. PO puts client in jail
for their “safety.”

PO does not allow for the relapse response plan to go into effect. As a
result, a minor relapse results in discharge from treatment, loss of
housing, loss of job, loss of trust in the system and the process.

People sometimes take years to come back from this kind of a set back. It
may be years before they even feel able to try again.

The consequence was reactive and counter-productive to long term recovery.

As I like to say, real recovery is safe and sustainable.

The PO put the person at risk (decreasing safety not increasing safety).
And instead of helping to re-stabilize the person following a relapse,
they caused the person to become significantly more destabilized.

The medicine was worse than the ailment.

Her Big Sad wrote, “In the ten years I’ve been dealing with this in my
family, I’ve not heard of one addict who got clean and stayed clean, while
not experiencing consequences, or while sitting around, warm and cozy,
with full rights and privileges normally given a non-using, productive
member of society.”

In my experience, people suffer more than enough consequences without
needing to have more imposed in the name of recovery. I have helped
hundreds of clients successfully transition from current use to long term
recovery without imposing a single consequence.

In fact, my program is built on a “low threshold” model. For example, we
work with people and respect them in the same way whether they are using
or not using.

We don’t require people to have appointments (walk-ins are fine). There
are no consequences for missed appointments other than a phone call
checking in to see how the client is doing and inviting them to reschedule
or stop in when they have time.

Our focus is on enabling recovery. To do that, we need to be in contact
with our clients whether or not they are using, whether they are in jail
or out of jail, and whether life is such that they can keep appointments
or not.

We need them to feel safe communicating openly with us so that we can help
them problem solve. We need to be on the same side –and it has to feel
like we are on the same side.

Consequences are not useful to us.

If you haven’t already, I would ask you to read my post about “hitting
bottom,” because I think it will add to this.

So when I say, “If you don’t like the lies, your best option is to help
create a recovery environment that supports your loved one in becoming
more open with you,” I’m advocating for taking this kind of approach as a

Set appropriate boundaries for yourself (and explain them in that way),
but don’t try to assert control by imposing consequences.

Your power to contribute in a positive way to your child’s recovery comes
from your status as a parent. Your appropriate support is highly
meaningful and effective.

Her Big Sad also said, “Since there are consequences to certain truths at
my house, the lying stops not when it is safe to tell the truth (I’m
using); the lying stops when the truth is safe to tell (I’m not using).”

The problem with this approach is that you may not hear the truth until
(unless) your daughter is already successful in recovery.

As a treatment provider, I’m not satisfied with the “wait until they hit
bottom” approach, or the “come talk to me when you are already sober”
approach. I want to intervene now, build motivation to change in a
positive way, and support recovery every step of the way.

This is an approach that can work for parents too.

My point is that by letting go of the need to control or impose
consequences you can place yourself in a better position to be a part of a
process that results in earlier and more effective recovery.

I realize this is a non-traditional approach. But I think it is a more
effective approach, and one that is more respectful of individual dignity
and choice. It also is more humane.

I’ve got lots of personal experience with this approach, and I know it works.

Thank you for contributing to an interesting and respectful conversation.


  1. Good news about her accepting the offer and wanting to make the calls to get her in somewhere quicker. How does she get jobs so easy?!! That's great!

    I interpreted what Recovery HelpDesk said differently. I will try to explain. I agree with you 100% about not letting an using addict live in the house, etc. I will never sleep with my keys and wallet under my pillow again. That is my number one rule for my son. Its a clear, black and white rule - if you are using you are out. I guess the gray part is "what is using?"

    I think I looked at what RHDesk said in a broader sense of creating the right environment...not a physical one, but one of support and understanding. I think he meant, for example, if that my son relapses and I ask him, he will tell me the truth because he knows that I support him, love him, and understand that he obviously could not stop himself - or he would have.

    Everybody's circumstances are a bit different. You've been dealing with this for ten years, no one knows what is best for your daughter better than you do.

  2. That makes sense, Barbara! Maybe that's where I was getting confused... Thank you for commenting because I really do want to understand and continue to learn...(10 years doesn't mean I think I'm any smarter - I still feel inept at this parenting gig!)

    I'm still a little confused about consequences being counterproductive to long term recovery...

    But yeah, the support and understanding, the realization and acceptance that she may relapse again, the knowledge that I love her no matter what, she's got that. So maybe that was the environment referred to in the article. I was taking that part way more literally...

    Again, thanks for your thoughts! Hope you and Keven have a restful night!

  3. I can only hope one day that my son will have the ability to rebound into recovery as your daughter has. Her skill level is astounding when it comes to accepting treatment, finding jobs and essentially taking care of herself in society as a clean and sober person. Yes, she has had many relapses with much drama, as most addicts do. But please tell her that she offers so much hope to one mother out here. I am so happy she accepted the offer and I pray that this time will be it for her.

    As to the recoverydesk question, I kind of took it as meaning that until the family has had recovery, the lying will continue. I know that my relationship with my son has changed dramatically over the past five years. In the beginning of this whole mess, I fought him tooth and nail, tried to control, fix, blah, blah...always up in it and in his way. So many arguments, fights, disfunction and unrest. I was ALWAYS reactive, never taking the time to assess the situation at hand, take a bit of time or even a couple of minutes before attacking. Maybe that is what they meant, is that they lie because they don't want to deal with the destructive reaction? I agree 100 percent with what you laid out here though. That was just my first take on the quote they gave. You will always be an inspiration and guiding light to me, really. Renee

  4. That makes sense Renee, and your understanding of the article is supported by Tom's clarification. In some ways, we are all saying similar things, and in other ways, there is a new way of looking at something now and then! I find this very helpful!

  5. okay. yeah. and so here is 'gloomy gert', with my 2 cents.

    creating a supportive environment is the job of the counselor. NOT THE PARENTS AND FAMILY.

    the families job is to protect themselves from the fallout of the addicts actions.

    to not believe the bullshit.

    to not invest in emotional hoping that the addict will (this time) finally get clean

    to not have any expectations at all.

    while I will not actively impose any more consequences on my addict since she no longer lives with me, drives any of my vehicles, only gets to see her kids under supervision,

    there ARE consequences. life gives them to the addicts.

    as I said to Alex, and it is a hard thing to hear...

    Life is like a jar of jalapeno's. What you eat tonight can burn your ass tomorrow.

  6. I really liked this whole exchange...It really shed some clarity on things I have thought about for quite some time. Thank you all for actually putting your thoughts out here for all to see. I really want you all to know how helpful this is to a mom with a very fuzzy vision of my own recovery in this mess I have obviously been a part of creating. I am not talking about taking responsibility for my sons addiction but rather my own accountability for being tangled up in his addiction.

  7. I read everything carefully, and one thing that stood out to me was Recovery Desk's comment that they "could help the addict problem solve"...if they can do that and effect long term recovery, more power to them, but when I read HerBigSad and others, (even clean addicts) I seem to hear a recurring theme - that they are better served by doing their own problem solving. That they gain pride and self esteem by making those "right next steps" when they make them. I hear Madison and Lou say that the addicts know what they SHOULD do next, since they have been down the road before; they just need to be allowed to use that knowledge? As the folks who love them, we hurt and reach out to help, but I think HerBigSad is doing it right. She is offering love and positive support, but keeping her boundaries for the health of all the rest of the family. I love you, Sis.

  8. I learned a lot from this post and it reminded me of how much I still don't know/understand about how an addict thinks/is impacted/what is the right thing to do, etc. My therapist has said many times that boundaries are not for the addict, they are for you and your recovery and today I believe that. And I also agree with Fractalmom's comment that the supportive environment comes more from the counselor than from the family. I believe the family needs to detach with love, continue to have hope, and create boundaries that keep them safe from the addicts behavior/actions (not the addict himself/herself). This was enlightening. Thank you.

  9. Jacque, I think she's doing it right too. And it just about broke my hear to read her post this morning, I don't know how she keeps going year after year watching her daughter destroy herself...she and some of the other parents I've met just blow my mind with their resilience. I guess you get what you need when you need it - the other alternative is to crawl in bed and cry and never come out. I feel so bad for DD1 too :(

  10. Hi,

    I thought Fractal Mom's comments were very appropriate. I have done this sort of thing many times...... Beth is happy and relaxed, she is hopeful and so am I. Whooosh ....She dissapears. I almost understand, actually sympathize when I see her seek drugs in a state of disspair and anxiety. Seeing her do it when all is going well just kills me. I feel your pain.

    Sometimes I think that hope is the enemy and sometimes I think that it is the only thing that keeps me alive.

    That being said, hope has to be for the distant future not for this minute otherwise our emotions go soaring way up then crashing way down making for a tremendous whiplash of the soul. Every person who recovers begins that journey for the last time at a particular moment but the moment they begin is not really known to us until much later.

    God help you appreciate the other blessings in your life. I know that you are blessed in other ways.

  11. Thank you for this answers lots of my questions. xx

  12. This is good stuff. I've enjoyed all the comments and, of course your post and Tom's response. I need to spend more time here and comment - and pressed for time right now. Thanks for everything. I'm thinking of you, HBS - (wish I knew your name - is it Lou?)