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Archive for the ‘Addiction’ Category

How to Forgive

Wednesday, August 30th, 2017

In my business it’s pretty common to hear “I forgave her but I’m never going to forget,” or, “I’m a [insert religion of choice] and so I HAVE to forgive him/her.” My favorite, “Forgive your brother right now!” is one I heard a lot growing up.

When an offense occurs in a relationship the ‘Receiver’ (the one who was offended or impacted by the thing) will probably expect an apology from the ‘Actor’ (the one who did the thing). If the ‘Actor’ has read my blog on what makes a good apology, then he will know how to be more than just an apologizer. He will be a Rebuilder/Amends-Maker. A Rebuilder not only apologizes, he makes a conscious, visible effort to change. If he has not read my blog, then he may resort to justifying his actions, blaming situations outside of himself, blaming the Receiver, or minimizing the impact of his actions by saying things like, “I’ve been getting a lot better at quitting this behavior,” or, “I only hit you once this time!” or “If we had sex more often I wouldn’t cheat!”

This blog is about forgiveness. Forgiving the apologizer who tries to be a Rebuilder or Amends-Maker. Forgiving an Actor who justifies, minimizes, blames the receiver, or never apologizes in the first place. Yes, this blog is about how to forgive anyone easily. Because here’s the thing: Forgiveness isn’t a process or an event.

It is an AWAKENING.

When you get stung by a bee, you get angry and hurt and you may even kill the bee. In retrospect, you may say to yourself something like, “I hope I never get stung again,” and “well that’s what bees do.” From that day forward you may run away from bees, swat bees, or spray bees with insecticide (please don’t do that, bees are endangered), but you will never say “I wonder if I should keep that bee as a pet,” or “I think I’ll start a beehive in the middle of my kitchen.” Why? Because you learned that a bee sting hurts and distance from a bee keeps you both safe, comfortable, and alive.

This is acceptance. This is forgiveness.

Forgiveness/AWAKENING begins by recognizing the nature of the person who offended you, then choosing to draw near or create distance, and validating the feelings that follow.

Recognize

Maya Angelou said, “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Too many of us don’t believe our friends, family, and lovers when they show us who they are the first time. When they cheat on the relationship, assault us physically and emotionally, betray us again and again, we choose to believe our own rose-colored glasses that tell us who we wish they would be. We feel anger rise up in us and we attack or retreat in the battle with the offender, but we refuse to let ourselves see them for who they are trying so desperately to show us they are.

So we go back. And we fight. And we run away. And we come back.

Recognizing the humanity in the offender is one of the deepest forms of love and respect we can offer. Recognizing that the offender will only change when he/she is ready and ending the battle to change him or her is life-changing. Letting go of ‘what could be’ and ‘what I want’ and surrendering to the free-fall of what is, can be terrifying. But it is in that moment of surrender, that we can choose.

Draw near or create distance

We can choose to draw near the offender. We can ask them to come to counseling. We can offer resources like rehab or residential treatment. We can let them know we are in this with them as long as there is positive movement toward relationship goals.

Or we can choose to distance from the offender. We can realize that we have been stung too many times. We can decide our health and comfort and safety are important too and seek to save ourselves. And finally, we can decide to let our offender remain who they choose to be without interference from us.

Validate the feelings that follow

If our offender chooses to unite with us and work on the relationship with a third party and become a rebuilder then we will validate our feelings of joy because we may yet get to experience intimacy. We will validate feelings of anger because after all, why didn’t they change before now? We will validate feelings of fear because what if they go back to their old ways? And finally, we will validate feelings of anxiousness as we watch our offender become someone who is open and healed, someone we’ve never met before.

If our offender chooses to sting again, then we will validate our grief. Shock, anger, denial, bargaining, depression, and finally, acceptance, will all need their turn in our consciousness. If we try to run back and put the beehive back in our kitchen, then our reliable offender will be sure to sting again and again. They will do this to remind us they are not a chunk of clay to be molded into the next comfort object; that they are who they are and they will change on their terms. So eventually, as our AWAKENING progresses, we will move through the stages of grief and understand that our offender has been trying to show us who they are for a long, long time.

Forgiveness is the moment when we AWAKEN to who our offender is and not who we wish they would be. When we save ourselves and allow the grief free reign over our consciousness and our decisions.

The bee, after all, is not bad. She is only a bee.

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What Makes a GOOD Apology?

Thursday, August 17th, 2017

Apologies and forgiveness are two terms we (humans) tend to throw around quite a bit. What makes a good apology? Most of us know how it feels when we receive a sincere one, but it can be tough to explain to another person (especially if they have offended us) what a good apology is. Luckily, like most things I write about, there are three steps to understanding what makes a good apology:

  1. Divide the scene into ‘actor,’ and ‘receiver;’
  2. Validate your own feelings
  3. Ask/Act.

An offense usually involves an ‘actor’ and a ‘receiver.’

  • A car swerved on the freeway and your car received a dent.
  • Your wife had sex with your best friend and your marriage received a dent.
  • Your sister took a swing and your bicep received a dent.

Even if we know the driver was on the way to a hospital emergency, your wife was lonely, or your sister was mad because you called her ugly, we can still identify the person who ‘acted’ (did the thing), and the person who ‘received’ (was impacted by the thing). Dividing the scene not only allows us to identify the ‘actor’ and the ‘receiver,’ it allows us to have empathy with the actor without excusing his or her actions. For example, we can all empathize with a father who is driving erratically because his son is in the hospital, the wife who is lonely, or the sister who is angry. This empathy won’t pay for a damaged fender, repair a marriage, or heal an arm though. Furthermore, hospital emergencies don’t cause dents; loneliness doesn’t cause cheating; and teasing your sister doesn’t cause assault. Rule number one, filed under “things I was supposed to learn in Kindergarten,” is I am responsible for my own actions. This means we can have empathy for the actor AND expect her to exhibit self-control.

Validate your own feelings.

Empathy will help you forgive the actor in time, but for now we’ll put it aside so you can focus on how you feel. This can be tricky because so many of us get locked into the role of empathizer. We can all empathize with a parent who is out of sorts because he just found out his child had an accident. We’ve all been lonely in a relationship. We even know teasing is verbal abuse and recognize our sister’s anger when she pulls her fist back to hit us in the arm. Feelings don’t predict actions (for example, just because I feel hungry doesn’t mean I will go rob a bank to get the money to buy food). Rather, feelings help us tune in to what we need. When we feel hungry, we eat. When we feel the need to go to the bathroom, we excuse ourselves and try to locate the facilities. It’s vitally important as the ‘receiver’ that, for a time, you put aside empathy and recognize any feelings you have in this moment. You may feel scared after a car accident, betrayed after an affair is discovered, or shocked after getting hit in the arm. Take a moment and validate those feelings. Think about what you need, and decide what you might ask the actor to do or say in order to repair the relationship.

Act/Ask

First and foremost, you may ask the actor to say, ‘I’m sorry.’ Then, you may ask the actor to take responsibility for his or her actions without blaming, justifying, or minimizing the behavior. Finally, you may ask the actor to make a special effort to repair the relationship (often referred to as rebuilding or making amends). Put all of those together and voila! You have the makings of a great apology.

Let’s look at an example.

I live in a part of the country where the freeways are enormous and overcrowded. When there is a lull in traffic, lots of empty space, or the traffic is free to move, it is not uncommon for me to speed. Yes, I will put the pedal to the metal and push my little Jeep over the posted speed limit. I don’t feel like I am being dangerous, I only do it once in a while, and usually it is because even though I planned ahead, there is a wreck so I am running late. But yes, I speed. And I am sorry.

Is this a good apology or a bad apology? After all, I admitted my actions, (I broke the law) and I said, ‘I’m sorry.’

It was terrible!

  • I justified my actions by explaining, “I’m not dangerous”
  • I blamed a wreck for my actions
  • I minimized my actions by saying, “I only do it once in a while” (justifying, minimizing, and blaming are relationship killers by the way).

I could have made it even worse by saying things like, “I said I was sorry. Can’t you just drop it?” or, “Why can’t you trust me? I’m not speeding right now!”

On the other hand, a Rebuilder/Amends-Maker:

  • Is quiet. She apologizes and stops talking. She won’t justify, minimize, or blame and she will leave lots of empty conversation space.
  • Is busy. She is willing to go to therapy (or in my example, defensive driving), meet with healthy peers, read books, and generally work on herself, without pressure from the receiver.
  • Is humble. She won’t fight for her rights in an argument and she allows the receiver to feel (be sad or angry) after her actions.

If you find that the person who ‘acted’ is not able to make a good apology and rebuild, then you may need to act. If it’s a relationship you don’t care to maintain, then you may need to just walk away. If it’s a relationship that is important to you, then you may need a mediator to help you work on what’s going on. Don’t be surprised if you need to make some apologies and amends too, but don’t get ahead of yourself. Divide the scene and validate your feelings. Your important relationships will thrive from this model because old wounds will finally have a chance to heal.

 

What is a Boundary Anyway?

Friday, January 22nd, 2016

 

 

 

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Good boundaries are a part of any good relationship. In fact, a relationship without boundaries will almost always have other symptoms: violence, emotional arguments, infidelity, addiction, emotional cutoffs, or debilitating enabling. The problem with boundaries? They can be hard on a relationship. The boundary-setter finds it hard because he dreads retaliation from the boundary-receiver. The boundary-receiver finds it hard because, well, no one really LIKES to receive a boundary. Here are three things everyone in a relationship needs to know about boundaries:

  1. Boundaries are designed to protect the boundary-setter, not the boundary receiver. Let’s say you love your neighbor, you love your neighbor’s cows, and you love your yard. You do not, however, love your neighbor’s cows IN your yard. In fact, you are starting to lose your serenity because of it. Since you value your yard and your serenity, you decide to build a fence. The cows are a little miffed because they can’t get to your grass and your neighbor is a little miffed because his view is now marred by your fence. You, on the other hand, feel pretty good because you have your serenity and your yard. Maybe your neighbor will realize your serenity helps the relationship and grow to appreciate your fence. Maybe he will harbor hurt feelings over your fence and never speak to you again.

Lesson: You built a fence because you started valuing your peace more than your neighbor’s peace. There is a possibility the relationship with your neighbor will suffer because of this shift. There is also a possibility the relationship will become better than ever.

  1. Boundaries are not the same as telling someone what to do. Let’s say you have the same neighbor, the same cows, the same yard, and the same budding resentment. You realize that a fence might hurt your neighbor’s feelings so you are going to try some things that are ‘less offending’ than a fence. Here’s what you try:
    1. You try to talk to your neighbor and tell him that if he cared about you he’d keep his cows on his own side.
    2. You tell your neighbor that it’s just common sense to keep his cows under control and if had any common sense, he would do that.
    3. You repeat 1. and 2. at all social gatherings, barbecues, and kids’ birthday parties until eventually he goes the other way when he sees you coming.
    4. You file a restraining order against your neighbor and his cows.
    5. You shoot the cows when they come in your yard.

Lesson: Nagging, guilt trips, threats, and acts of violence are attempts to change or control another person. Unlike boundaries they rarely protect your yard or your serenity and they always damage relationships.

  1. Boundaries will always require a change in your behavior, not your neighbor’s. Did the neighbor have a right to graze his cows on your grass? No. Did you have a right to be angry? Sure. Is it fair that you had to spend money and time and energy to build the fence when his cows are the problem? Yes. After all, you care more about your serenity (and your yard) than your neighbor does. Lesson: If you value it, then it’s up to you to protect it.

So the next time you are considering action because of a partner (or a neighbor) remember the difference between boundary setting and controlling. Boundaries are uncomfortable, sometimes costly, strategies designed to protect you. Controlling strategies are designed to change someone else’s behavior so you are more comfortable. Boundaries have the added benefit of improving a relationship. Controlling almost always results in relationship damage.

Kate Walker Ph.D., LPC, LMFT

Taking Your Stuff [disability, addiction, anxiety, etc.] to College

Monday, August 10th, 2015

This month is all about ways you can help your child transition successfully to higher education and independence. My last article discussed helping your child make the transition, and this week I’m going over the services that are available at most colleges and universities. My next article will discuss ways to maintain clear communication with your student once he or she is away at school and construct a plan ‘B’ if you see they are struggling.

Sending a child off to college who has experienced emotional and behavioral struggles can be hard. Issues such as eating disorders, cutting, and substance abuse require the help of outside therapists and medical experts. Similarly, mood and behavior difficulties like depression, anxiety, or ADHD, may require additional educational interventions such as a 504 plan. Educational differences such as dyslexia and dysgraphia may also require special education interventions. By the time a child turns eighteen, most parents have become experts at accessing services that help their child feel better, stay healthy, and succeed in school. The question becomes, then, how do you help your adult child maintain the same level of interest in self-care and success when they go to college?

Depending on your child, you can start by looking at colleges that address his or her need. The University of Iowa offers students with intellectual, cognitive, and learning disabilities access to the REACH program. Through The Learning Center on the West Virginia Wesleyan College campus, students with learning disabilities, attention disorders and other special needs can find a wide range of support options (http://www.bestcollegesonline.com/blog/2011/09/21/20-incredible-colleges-for-special-needs-students/). If you don’t know where to start, educational consultants can be a tremendous source of information to help your child plug in to the right college or university.

If your child has his or her heart set on a particular university, then be sure to tour services such as the student writing center and campus TRIO programs (federally funded programs on many campuses that offer everything from free tutoring, writing help, to financial help). Your child’s campus will always have an ADA office so include that in your visit when you take your college tour.

Here are some tips from http://www.campusexplorer.com/college-advice-tips/B6B71A43/College-Advice-For-Students-With-A-504-Plan/

  • While a high school is required to identify your requirements and provide free appropriate public education to meet them, a post-secondary institution is not required to waive or change academic requirements. However, colleges cannot discriminate on the basis of disability, and must provide the necessary adjustments for you to function academically. This includes housing for students with disabilities that is comparable, accessible and affordable.
  • While disclosure of your disability to a college is voluntary, it is necessary in order to qualify for assistance. You may apply for an adjustment at any time, but it is recommended that you do so early. Initiate contact with a school before the college application process begins, and ask questions. It may take some procedural time for your application to go through, and requirements may vary amongst different colleges.
  • You will also need to provide proof of your disability, so be sure to research what is necessary for different institutions, and start your evaluations before senior year. Neither the state nor your college is responsible for the cost of obtaining documentation of your disability, but your state vocational rehabilitation agency may provide funding.

Drug Use Among Teenagers

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

The pronouns ‘he’ and ‘she’ are alternated for brevity.

When parents are struggling with their teen using drugs or alcohol, they may choose therapy as an option. After the initial relief, however, comes the surprise at the amount of work placed squarely on their shoulders.

When a therapist specially trained to work with teens who are using initially meets with parents, he has one goal in mind: learn the family rules. This may take several sessions, but it is vital for the therapist to learn what is permitted in the home (respect, compensation for chores, doors locked/unlocked) and what is not permitted (eye-rolling, substance use, failing grades). If the therapist is confused by the rules, it is likely the teen is also.

Next the therapist will ask the parents to identify and prioritize two or three behaviors they wish to change. Of course using drugs or alcohol is the primary symptom, but typically grades, curfew, and respectful behaviors are identified as well. The list is kept short to maximize effort and success.

Finally, the therapist will need to know how the parents plan to ‘parent’ the identified behaviors (design and enforce consequences). This is important because not only must parents have a plan for the other six days their child is not in therapy, their influence must increase while the therapist’s decreases. Failure to do this could lead to the therapist becoming the ‘influential figure’ in the family (“didn’t the therapist tell you drinking was wrong?”) and this will lead to therapy becoming the consequence rather than the place for help and healing.

Leaving a session with a therapist trained to help teens who are using may leave parents confused. The hard work will pay off, though, and parents will have tools to help them help their child be successful, and drug and alcohol free.

 

Alcohol Addiction Help during the Holidays: Attending an Addiction Support Group, Seeing an Addiction Therapist

Friday, December 21st, 2012

The holidays are a special time of year when people take time to focus on others, give thanks for what they have, and give to those in need. While it is easy to get caught up in the holiday festivities those in recovery from addiction understand the importance of self-care. Developing a holiday recovery plan will help individuals avoid relapse by ensuring recovery activities are scheduled into each day.
A holiday recovery plan is all about dealing with additional stress, balancing the extra activities involved with the holidays, and managing ‘high risk’ situations. The first step in any good holiday recovery plan would be to check the calendar for upcoming events. Make sure high-risk situations like family gatherings or office parties are limited both in number and time spent participating. Likewise schedule more recovery activities such as AA or NA group meetings, exercising, meditating, or professional counseling sessions.
Even the best-laid plans are not perfect so urges to use are normal. Family, memories, parties, finances, crowds, and even the additional commercials advertising alcohol may trigger urges to use. When managing urges, it is important for individuals to remember how easily inappropriate reactions to high-risk situations can turn into a relapse. Completing a daily inventory at the end of each day can help you stay on track. Reflecting each evening on thoughts, feelings, urges, reactions, and actions can help you gain awareness, knowledge, and skills needed for a continued successful recovery. Even evaluating the triggers that lead to past holiday relapses can provide valuable information about navigating this year’s holiday calendar.
Those with addiction can successfully navigate the holidays by starting with a holiday recovery plan. By carefully planning recovery activities, reducing high-risk situations, and being mindful of ‘what works’ you can have a relapse-fee holiday!

 

Types of Addiction: the Holidays and Addiction Support Groups and Overcoming Addiction

Wednesday, November 14th, 2012

There is no season of the year quite like the Holiday and Christmas seasons. It’s the time of the year for social activities, excitement, decorating, spending time with family and friends, and entertainment. It’s also a time of additional pressure and worry. The holidays can bring on extra expenses, additional activities, less sleep, poor diets, unpleasant past memories, and an overall increase of stress and anxiety.

Sadly, many who suffer with different types of addiction will have a relapse this holiday season. It is important for those suffering from addiction, and the family of an addict, to to be conscious of the additional pressure so that they can develop plans to reduce the risk of relapse. The individual suffering with addiction can psychologically prepare themselves for the imminent events.

Positive things your folks and you can do includes using appropriate coping strategies like relaxation, meditation, exercise, healthful diet, and positive self-talk. You can use affirming and transparent communication with family and friends to stay on track. The holidays are a superb time to attend extra support group meetings as well. These addiction support groups aren’t only for the addict, but also for family and friends.

Finally, when attending a holiday party where alcohol may be served, it is vital to take a sober buddy or family member for additional support Also, take non-alcoholic drinks, and plan to leave early. Refuse to attend parties where drugs might be available. The holiday season is a great time to update names and numbers of sober family and friends who will be supportive of you in your addiction recovery efforts.

The holidays can be a challenge for sure, with high risk situations for those suffering with substance addiction. It could also be a period of replenished commitments and affirmations, and an opportunity to think on how much has been accomplished through the method of recovery. If you are fighting with substance abuse or addiction issues, be certain to find help. Remember that you are never alone in the journey in overcoming addiction.

Tia Parsley, LPC, LCDC  is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Licensed Chemical Dependency Counselor in Texas and Arkansas. She can be found at achievebalance.org and at her websites www.tiaparsley.com

 

Am I an Addict? A Simple Addiction Test to Begin Your Journey as a Recovering Addict

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

“Am I an addict?”

Have you ever asked yourself this simple question? It may be surprising to know that many struggle with identifying addiction in their own life.  Addiction has many definitions, but one way to think of it is to challenge yourself, “Does this substance/behavior have more control over me than I have over it?” It’s a simple question, and provides you with an addiction test that has identifiable methods for gauging an answer.

Here are some addiction test questions which are easy to relate to and may assist you in determining if a substance/ behavior might be an addiction:

•    Do you ever use alone?
•    Have you taken one drug to overcome the effects of another drug?
•    Do you avoid people or places that you used to enjoy because they disapprove of your using?
•    Have you been unsuccessful at cutting back or stopping the behavior or drug use?
•    Do you often use more than you planned?
•    Have you gotten into trouble as a result of using?
•    Have you lied about using a drug or how much you have used?
•    Have you lost any relationships due to your substance use or behavior?
•    Have you used drugs to make you feel better about a situation?
•    Do you continue to use a drug despite negative consequences?
•    Do you have family/friends who have said you need to cut back or stop using?
•    Do you have to use more of the drug to get the same effect as before?
•    Have you forgotten things you did or said while using?
•    Has your job or school performance deteriorated since you have started the drug?

Answering positively to any of these is a cause for concern. Three or more positive responses indicate you have a substance use problem and you may be an addict.

Declaring a drug is a problem takes courage. But admitting the problem is the pivotal event that allows a hopeless addict to become a hopeful, recovering addict.  It is the beginning of getting better and regaining control over your life.

Tia Parsley, MEd, LPC, LCDC has experience assisting adolescents and their families with issues such as addiction, anger management, depression, anxiety, communication, parenting, and stress management. Lear more about TIa Parsley the these websites: www.achievebalance.org and www.tiaparsley.com.

 

Parents, Adolescents, and Drug Abuse: Using a Substance Abuse Professional

Thursday, June 28th, 2012

No parent wants to believe their child could be using drugs.  Yet, statistics prove that many teenagers are engaged in using mood altering substances and many die each year due to substance use. Such troubling information may prompt some parents to consider the possible drug-related issues in their own child’s life.  Though the realization of a child’s struggle with addiction may be devastating, there are several ways parents can be proactive in order to recognize signs of substance use and help their adolescents.

First, the signs and symptoms of substance use, or substance abuse evaluation, may assist parents in determining if their child has a drug problem. Children who are using mood-altering substances may have a change in school performance including failing grades, absences from extra-curricular activities, or increased disrespect toward school faculty and other authority figures.

Second, there may be a drastic change in dress, language, beliefs, music preference, behaviors and friends. Teenagers using drugs may exhibit increased withdrawal from the family unit and increased conflict with parents, especially when parents attempt to set limits. Often times, adolescents using mood-altering substances have sudden changes in moods, lose motivation, and present an uncaring attitude.

Finally, parents should pay attention to smells on clothing or in the bedroom, and look for excess use of eye drops, room deodorizers, and cologne or perfume. Consider contacting a substance abuse professional for other symptoms and signs.

Open lines of communication between parents and adolescents can assist adolescents as they develop a sense of self-identity and learn appropriate socialization.  Parents need to be involved and open to the struggles their adolescent may be facing and encourage professional help when needed. These early steps may decrease an adolescent’s chance of continued substance use in adulthood, and defer the consequences of drug abuse as well.  Parents must remain educated and aware in order to assist their child overcome avoid and overcome substance abuse and dependence.

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