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“I Didn’t Know What I Didn’t Know”

BALM | August 31, 2018

BALM Testimonial by:

Lisa Costa, CBC
Certified BALM Coach and Recovering Family Member

As a mother of two sons suffering from opiate addiction, my life was filled with hopelessness and despair for several years. I was a loving, caring mother who always nurtured, supported, and unconditionally loved her children. They were raised in a “good” home, with devoted extended family and friends. It made no sense to me–I feared I had truly failed as a mother, and I found myself living a life of shame, isolation, hopelessness, and misery.

Many of you who read this will say to yourselves, “That sounds like me.” In truth, my life was exactly like anyone else’s who has a loved one suffering from addictive behavior.

It was several years before I found the BALM. On my own, I had joined a support group, read books, and attended parent programs of the treatment center that my children attended. I started to understand that to help my sons would take a new form of parenting that would require a serious commitment, which I thought I had, but found that it was much harder than I had ever dreamed. I continued to make some serious mistakes while not realizing that I was still enabling and still in denial. I tried not to listen to the requests of my boys but rather to the professionals. Nothing was changing. Although I didn’t understand this at the time, I was suffering from trauma. Anyone who has lived this life is truly a victim of trauma . . . subjected to abusive behavior, tirades, theft, and constant lies, while holding our breath praying for a change–but devastated with each relapse.

Many of us learn the Al-Anon mantra: I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it. I tried to believe it because it certainly helped me relieve some guilt, but deep down, I still thought somehow it was my fault, that I could control it (after all, I had done pretty well controlling most situations) and certainly could figure out a way to cure it. What I hadn’t yet fully understood, that while those three C’s were statements of truth, I wasn’t completely removed from the outcome. The big truth that I would come to know so well from BALM was that I could contribute to my loved one’s recovery. Or, just as easily, I could unintentionally contribute to his continuing to use. Such a terrifying reality.


Fast forward a couple of years. Through some sort of divine intervention, I was introduced to Bev Buncher, and hence the BALM. “What is this BALM?” I asked myself. I thought I knew about family recovery.

What happened next was life-changing. You know that phrase “You don’t know what you don’t know”? I had only scratched the surface and scratching the surface will not help save a life. Certainly not my own life. The BALM is more than comprehensive learning–it’s fast-tracked learning, which is vital when you have a using addict. It is intense support–providing the self-care we all need desperately. Most definitely, the BALM is transformational. I can honestly say that I am transformed as a parent in the way that I interact with my children (not just the two in recovery). My relationships in general are stronger. I always thought of myself as nonjudgmental and empathetic, a problem-solver (except for this nightmare), a shoulder to lean on, and a good communicator. Again, I didn’t know what I didn’t know. Through the BALM, not only have I learned so much about addiction and the proper role of a loving mother in this situation, but I have had access to hundreds of interviews with addicts and professionals. Most importantly, I have become able to communicate in a way that I didn’t know was possible. I know how to contribute to recovery rather than contributing to the problem.

My two sons now each have five years of recovery, and their lives are transformed through their journeys more than I could have ever imagined. My relationship with them is something I could only dream of. I can honestly say, although I wouldn’t wish this nightmare on any parent, their lives are richer, and they are better human beings because of recovery. There truly is hope for all, and I am so proud of them. I am also so proud of my own recovery as a parent.

I have become a BALM Family Recovery Life Coach and Teacher and am able to share this incredible program with other families as well as to guide them not to make the same mistakes I did. I cringe when I think of those mistakes, as they were life-threatening, albeit well-meaning. We absolutely are our loved one’s best chance, and it’s vital that all parents understand this fully. Everyone learns recovery in their own time, but we can help them embrace change sooner rather than later. To witness other parents as they learn to practice the BALM is inspiring beyond words. Although there is never a guarantee that your loved one will recover, I have witnessed many situations where the family has been able to see what they once believed would never happen: a loved one in recovery!

My best friend of thirty-five years said to me, “What I love the most about you is that you continue to become the best version of yourself.” I can truly say that the BALM has been my inspiration. Thank you, Bev.

To download Lisa’s guide to getting off the wheel of denial, titled The Ferris Wheel, CLICK HERE.)

If you would like to hire Lisa as your BALM Coach call 1-888-998-BALM (2256) option 2 or email Tracy @ tward@familyrecoveryresources.com.

To learn more about the BALM Comprehensive Family Recovery Education Program CLICK HERE.