Quote of the Week

"If I cannot do great things, I can do small things in a great way" ~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

Indian Poker anyone? (updated Sunday 8:15 AM)
Posted by:Lloyd Woodward--Saturday, August 13, 2011

Indian Poker is sometimes called Blind man's bluff. 
The Disease of Addiction was talking with a newly recovering addict. The Disease said, "I'm a family disease and my core is denial denial denial; however, if you tell anyone else in your family I said that, I'll deny it."

In families of addicts the tendency to say everything is OK is tremendous. And with denial, you don't just break through to the other side once, and then you're good. Denial can creep back anytime during the addict's recovery.

No matter how bad things may look, no matter your inner voice is telling you that this is BS, an addict and his family sometimes can't see it. Instead the family makes excuses such as, "He is depressed," "I can't work his program for him," "Even though he might be using, it's not as bad as it used to be," "I can't be so negative all the time, “If he gives up all his old friends, he won't have any friends at all, and that's not acceptable either," "It's time I worked on my own program and let him worry about working his program."

Addict's families need help on this one. Everyone can't see it. But people don't want to give feedback that might hurt someone's feelings. Naturally, there is a risk involved when giving feedback to someone. Sometimes the feedback is too much and it turns out to be counter-productive. This happens when the person receiving the feedback pushes away from the group because they don't want to hear it. To coin a new word the whole thing becomes counter-frontational.

It's a little bit like playing Indian Poker. The players have one or two cards held up to their forehead so that everyone can see the cards except the person whose card it is. The only way he can catch a glimpse is by the way others around him react. Sometimes, someone with a five thinks they have a face-card. It's funny to everyone else who can plainly see that it is indeed only a five.

So what can we do?

We can invite feedback. We can ask our friends, family, and fellow PSST members to tell us what they see. We can ask on a regular basis. Our real friends will tell us the truth but sometimes only if we ask. Otherwise, they think we don't want to know, we wouldn't listen anyway, and if we speak our mind our friendship might end.

Another thing we can do if we're really brave is just tell the other parent that they're not thinking clearly. Or, if we're not brave, we can just write a post and somewhere in there put this line, "You know who you are." The problem, of course, is that often the parent does indeed not know who they are.

Let's use the ole You Might Be a Redneck if ________!

1. You might be in denial if you know your teenager who is supposed to be in recovery is still using, although he doesn't appear to be as "badly off" with it as he was before he went into rehab, if you've decided that the best course of action for right now is to do nothing.

2. You might be in denial if your teenager isn't following his contract that you wrote before he was discharged from inpatient drug treatment and you've decided that the best course of action for right now is to do nothing.

3. You might be in denial if your teenager isn't being responsible in some major areas of his life, such as following his contract, and you've decided for right now it's OK if he still drives a car.

4. You might be in denial if your teenager has violated his Conditions of Supervision and you've decided for right now not to let his PO know about it.

5. You might be in denial if your inner voice is telling you it's time to be a stronger parent and take action but your other inner-voice is saying, "There's really nothing I can do that would help anyway." Especially, if your child still lives at home there is always something that can be done to send your teenager a message. Not acting also sends your teenager a message.

Remember, being in denial doesn't mean that you won't admit that stuff is happening. Usually, the Parent can admit that there are issues, but then deny that they need to take any action by telling themselves that in some ways what's happening isn't really that bad. Denial results in a failure to admit that you should take action, not a failure to admit that there is an issue.

If your teenager lives at home there is always something you can do to send a message that his behavior is unacceptable. If your teenager no longer lives at home, then you may be limited to making sure that you are not enabling him in anyway although sometimes even the estranged parent has other options.

And finally,

6. You might be in denial if you hear another parent share that 1-5 above is happening in their home but you've decided that there is no use in you confronting them because:

          A.  They already know that what they are doing is wrong.

          B.  They will never come back to a meeting.

          C.   They will kill the messenger.

          D.  That's not my job, that's Lloyd, Kathie and Val's job.

The problem with D is that parents helping parents can be more powerful than Lloyd, Kathie and Val doing the same thing. I don't know why, it just is. Also, when we reach out to help others we end up helping ourselves. It's the "If you really want to learn something, teach it"- kind of a thing.

So, to sum up: let's try not to let a fellow PSST parent drive down the road after a meeting with a five on their forehead thinking it was a face-card. But if we do do that (and there will be times when this just happens because we are all naturally afraid of being counter-frontational) remember that reaching out to people in between meetings can be just as powerful!



Max said...

Thanks for this, Lloyd, and thank you for always being so straight forward with insights. I agree with everything written, but I will add my own piece (I have said this before over the years): One size does not fit all. Not everything is black and white,and none of us can know each and every circumstance behind every parental decision. We hope of course, that every decision is an informed one, based not on fear or denial, but with perhaps a bigger picture or goal in mind. You very correctly point out, getting feedback and truthful opinions from others (professionals, friends in similar circumstances such as PSST) count. This is why, when I ended my updates on my family in the meeting I said "this is for MY family, I don't recommend it for anyone else". To the new folks, or those that don't know me, I should have said "decisions my husband and I make in regard to our kids, specifically for Michael (older son) have been made factoring in many things; opionions of people we respect (including PSST folks), and professionals(PSST,Gateway,private therapists). For me personally, research before making a decision is what helps keep my anxiety at bay - which allows Mel and I to stick to our particular plan with conviction. That has always been what has worked best...for ME. What may seem like an ill-advised situation to some, may have more thought behind it than first meets the ear.

Lloyd Woodward said...

One size does not fit all. Sometimes at PSST I'm sure it looks like we have sort of a cookie cutter approach to addiction. Good comment and thanks for tolerating my thinly veiled concerns. You unmask me.

People do have to listen to all the advice out there and then find their own answers. "Take what you can use and leave the rest."

If I seemed arrogant, as if I am omniscient, I apologise. It's not the first time I've done that I'm sure.

Rather than cookie cutter, I think at PSST we value diverse approaches and we recognize that parents know their own teenager best; however, we draw the line in the sand at allowing recovering teenagers to continue to abuse drugs at home without some sort of intervention or response from parents. The intervention or the response may vary to be sure.

That's us. That's what you expect from PSST. That's one of the things that's not really negotiable for us; however, you are also correct that we don't know all the differnt ins and outs of your situation. I for one only know what you shared on Saturday, and let's face it- time is precious at any of our meetings anymore so I'm sure we don't know everything that went into you making your decision.

Also, you've accomplished so much with Michael and with David; I value both your point of view and your leadership at PSST. You are a role-model for others even though I'm sure you didn't ask to be one.

You ARE a veteran PSST member, Blog Editor, quite accomplished Blog author, and others in our group certainly do look to you for leadership. In fact, as you point out, this is not the approach that you'd recommend for others.

In spite of that disclaimer, I am concerned that others who are inspired by you may try what for them might turn out to be a Faustian Bargain.

You have been through a lot and you have taught yourself much. Maybe this IS right for your family right now; however, it might not be right for the next parent who thinks that they can do something similar. That's part of why I thought it was important to write this post.

The other reason that I wanted to write this post is this: you've pointed out in the past, and correctly so, that when you come to PSST you tend to get a certain fare. When you go to Gateway it's something different that you can expect. And there are many valid points of view from other sources.

I wonder if part of you wanted more PSST-kind of feedback from the group than what we gave you on Saturday. I worry that we let you down. Part of you may have been seeking to hear that you are indeed on a slipery slope, and especially with David coming home soon, you may also be on thin ice.

If that's true, you didn't hear it at our last meeting. I'm NOT comfortable with that. Now you've heard it- and I for one feel better for the exchange. Call me or email me anytime if you want to kick this around a bit more.

I know you realize that how you handle Michael is also a strong message to David. You are a smart lady; I'm sure you'll be making the right decisions for your family.

Max said...

Thanks for this, Lloyd - I once again, agree with all sentiments expressed and I appreciate you writing back. My current situation is not easy to explain fully partially due to lack of time,and partly because I know that for this moment (until Labor day when all hell will break loose) we are in a watch and wait - so there are many things I leave out when I give a recap(not to mention those families with much more currently serious issues than mine - I don't like to take the time when I feel grounded; those in crisis need time more).I realized you were addressing me in the post (I appreciate the concern), as well as realizing I probably sent a poor message to others; hence my initial comment. With my current support team of professionals and friends - PSST prime among them - we feel we have a handle on things today, for now. Believe me, David is of our highest concern at the moment. We have no intention of him coming to live in a toxic atmosphere. By the way, I always get what I need from the group even if I don't share - I learn something each time, impliment what I believe will work for us, and store the rest in the safe for later use. When in crisis, believe me I will ask for help directly as I did in the beginning.

Wilma said...

AS i read this post I had an uncomfortable feeling in the pit of my stomach. And I think its because I have a feeling something is going on with Bam Bam but not taking action. We had an incident yesterday where Bam told his dad, Fred, that a friend stole beer from a basement refrigerator. (Fred doesn't usually keep beer in the fridge but as we don't have kids over here a lot anymore he didn't think of it being there as a potential problem). Bam Bam called all nervous and apologetic swearing he didn't know "celo" took the beer. This is before it was even missed! Fred believes him. I, on the other hand, think there is more to the story. I think he was being proactive so that before the alcohol was missed he would already have his innoncence proclaimed.
However, instead of confronting Bam Bam and his dad I just let it go because of course I am "too suspicious". Though when Bam texted later in the evening that he was "going to be a tad late"-telling not asking-I told him NO and curfew was 11. He then called around 9:30 and asked to be picked up at his friend "Eddie's" house so Fred went to get him. Uncharacteristically Bam went right to bed. It didn't occur to me until today that I should have tested him for alcohol as I'm pretty sure he may have been partying with his friends. Of course I don't know for sure. Though subconsiously I probably didn't think of this so that I could have the rest of a peaceful evening.

It is easier ignoring stuff but when you do the stuff gets bigger and worse.

So, I am definitely going to be working on listening to my inner voice.



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