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Millie’s Story

Addiction Recovery for Families, Early Sobriety, Family Recovery | August 9, 2013

After enduring years of watching her husband ply their daughter with junk food, money, and expensive electronics regardless of her behavior or attitude, Millie received the call from the local police department that changed everything. Her daughter had been arrested for possession of heroin. Drug testing had shown the drug was in her system.

(There is a powerful technique I teach my clients to use when news like this breaks. You can use it too. I’ll talk about this in depth next week.)

Within hours, the story came out: Her daughter had not been studying in college. She had been using heroin. Her grades had plummeted. Millie’s husband had hidden the reports from her and continued to give their daughter money to feed her habit. Let’s stop here for a moment. What do you think the father must think? Is he well within his rights to handle the situation however he sees fit?

Mom didn’t think so. She kicked into overdrive, got her daughter into a treatment center and that’s where I came in. Treatment centers often send families to me. “We’ll help the kid, but the parent needs help too and we just don’t have the time or staff. Please give them a call!” is often what I hear on the other end of the line. I’m not the be all and end all. There are so many coaches out there. But my approach is straightforward: You CAN help your loved one get sober but to do so, you’ll need skills and tools! In fact, you, the family, are your loved one’s BEST chance at sobriety! And I began teaching Millie a whole new approach.

We connected with an initial session. Once Millie told me her goals and vision, our work together began. We discussed the value of developing a calm center and speaking lovingly to family members. But Millie couldn’t see past her rage. If you are dealing with addiction in your family, you can probably relate to this.

Fortunately, we have practices that help families manage the inevitable anger that comes when one is related to someone using drugs or alcohol. While anger needs to be given a chance to express itself, family members who house that anger also need tools to work it through and let it go so the rest of their work can begin.

Frustrated Family Member Tip #2:

Do not judge what you see as you observe yourself… just be curious.

Her first assignment? Do tip #1: Observe the way you interact with your loved ones. “Just watch yourself interacting with your mind, your daughter, your husband, the world,” I advised her. “Become aware of the feelings that come up as you think about your situation and of how you speak with those around you. See how your interactions affect those you interact with. No judgment, just observation. Jot down your observations and bring them back to class and our next coaching session.” This is not always easy, but can be a very powerful tool on the road to family sobriety. Often, clients share amazement at what they observe.

When Millie came back, she expressed shock at her own behavior. “I saw myself being totally out of control,” she shared. “I was mad and mean and my attitude was spilling over into my relationships with almost everyone I came in contact with – especially my daughter and husband and even the treatment center.”

Frustrated Family Member Tip #3:

Allow your curiosity to fascinate you in the moment – as if you are seeing something for the first time as in – “oh, so that’s what my behavior looks like.” or “oh, so that’s what it’s like to feel out of control.” or “Oh, so that’s what it’s like for me when I can’t find any other way to respond.”

Millie’s awareness of her own behavior opened her eyes to the role she was playing in the family and gave her a chance to consider how she wanted to move going forward. I assured her that recovery was not about suppressing those emotions, but rather about feeling her feelings and making decisions about how she was going to express them and to whom. One of the sayings I teach is: You are always at choice. It took on new meaning for Millie as we moved forward into the next stage of our work together.

We spent a lot of time today talking about Millie. It makes you wonder about the dad’s perspective. I’ll talk more about him next week.


You may have missed the first part of Millie’s story. If you’d like to read more about Millie and the techniques I mentioned earlier, you can go to the upper right hand side of this page and add your best email address to receive a free guide to being in relationship with a loved one who is dealing with addiction. It tells you a bit more about “Being a Loving Mirror”. You’ll also be able to follow stories like Millie’s once a week.