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7/31/08

Grace for the Addict

Every choice a person makes affects every one who cares about him. Emotional investment causes one to project an ideal image onto the addict and becomes frustrated when this ideal is not being realized. This frustration stimulates the creative system to find answers. Statistics indicate more hot line calls are from family members than from the substance abuser. Here are thoughts about living peacefully with an addict and aiding his recovery.

Recognize the hard truth. You cannot fix him. You feel powerless because you are powerless over the addict. He is self-determining in the addiction and in the recovery. You are self determining in the “enableing” and in the “tough-love” of a change-encouraging environment.

Prepare for the long haul. Do not assume you are dealing with a normal person. Substance abuse distorts thinking, emotions, moods and the ability to relate to others. The bonds of an addiction are too weak to be noticed until they become too strong to be broken.

Understand your role. Do not minimize your position. Your input and influence are significiant, even though it may not be readily visible. Taking a fix-it mentality sets you up to be an enabler. Understanding facilitates your becoming a needs-fulfilling element that allows the addict to evaluate her own behavior and discover her own destructive actions. Understanding does not administer manipulation, coercion, threats or fear tactics. Understanding loves without controlling. Within generous limits, abide the addicts self-destruct behavior until she comes to the conclusion that she needs help.

Total recovery involves total behavior. Focusing on a single area can severely limit recovery. The body, mind, spirit connection is vital. Statistics show that the majority of addicts seek help from clergy before other professionals, even non-believers.

It takes a village. A wide support system plays a key role in recovery. Just as “your sickness is in your secret,” so also your healing is in openness. Without blame or shame, acknowledge the problem and be open to receive insights and prayers from others.

It is my premise that all of us are broken and all of us are in process of recovery. Caregivers need caring too. Al-Anon is an excellent organization for those who care about the self-destructive behavior of a loved one.

Mona Dunkin, Motivational Speaker, Corporate Trainer and Personal Success Coach of f Solution Principles, specializes in maximum people development. Contact Mona at 254-749-6594 or mdunkin@flash.net Read past articles at http://www.monadunkin.blogspot.com/

7/20/08

Overcoming the Empty Nest Syndrome

Family is the backbone of civilization and is always in transit. The gift of children not only enriches our lives, they also consume our energy, time and resources. And what a void there is when they go out on their own. Here are some thoughts on fulfilling the emptiness.

Appreciate and let go. Rather than bemoan the inevitable of the child growing up and living independently, acknowledge that the relationship has taken on a new and exciting dimension. Your role becomes more friend, advisor and confident. Embrace his adult maturity and enjoy the fruits of your labor.

Plan ahead. You had nine months to get ready for the birth, now put preparation into the pending transition into interdependent adulthood. Give yourself something to look forward to. Be proactive by scoping out new activities and become involved. Check out going back to school, to work or commit to volunteering. Continuing your education or complete your degree. Do not engage is self-pity or self-imposed abandonment. Become a vital part of the community; group activities are a good antidote to isolation.

No shrines allowed. Welcome your newfound freedom with all its promised opportunities. Turn the extra room into a home office, hobby room or exercise parlor. Home will still be home whether the room is intact or not. I remember the wise advice of our daughter in my dilemma over redoing her room; “Mom, when I say I miss home, I mean you, not this floor plan.”

Reconnect as a couple. The marriage bond is a permanent contract and needs constant renewal. Travel to discover new lands, local or faraway, and rediscover the adventure of relationship building. Spend leisure time over morning coffee and discuss local events. Make it a point to develop an interest in your mate’s activities and become a supporter. Reflect together on the pleasures and problems of the wonder years; see how each brought you closer as a couple/family.

Begin those “someday I’ll’s”. The time has come to complete those one-of-these-days- promises. Redecorate the living room. Organize closets. Become a Master Gardener. Put your life accumulation of photos in order and scrapbook. Write the family history. Everyone has a book inside them so begin your novel.

Get involved in the community. Redirect your need to nurture into volunteer work. Fulfill your need to connect by becoming involved with church, AARP, political interests or social clubs. Reconnect with family and friends.

Walk it off. Get physically active - this is good not only for physical health, but also for your mental health, plus it is a great stress reliever. Movement keeps you limber for getting on the floor with your future grandchildren.

Change your perspective. Instead of seeing yourself as being put out to pasture, embrace your life accomplishments and revel in a job well done. Know that you will always be an important part of your children’s lives.

Being an involved parent in the formative years is vital. Good parents work themselves out of a job. Relax, appreciate and learn to be your own best friend.

Mona Dunkin, Motivational Speaker, Corporate Trainer and Personal Success Coach of f Solution Principles, specializes in maximum people development. Contact Mona at 254-749-6594 or mdunkin@flash.net.

7/12/08

Common Sense Parenting

Parenting is one of the greatest fulfillment of life and also the most challenging. Someone rightly said, “Children are such a good way to start people.” But, sometimes we expect these little people to be, and know, and act like an adult. We often expect our children to be something that we, their parents, are not willing to be - things like patient, kind, mannerly, and honest. Here are a few common sense thoughts on parenting that makes childrearing a joy.

1. Survive and Thrive. To survive, children need air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat and protection from harm. To thrive, they need love. The Apostle Paul admonished the older women to teach the younger women to love their children. (Titus 2:3-4) This seems to indicate that love does not come naturally but must be learned. Oh sure, most parents love their children, but they find it hard to “like” them; and that is exactly what Paul meant. To love means, “to be kindly disposed toward.” In other words, learn not only to love but also to like and enjoy being with your children.

2. Acceptance does not mean approval. In learning to like your children, you must accept them as they are! You may not approve of your child’s laziness, but accept him in spite of this character trait and teach him responsibility. You do not approve of your child’s disobedience, but accept him in this weakness and teach him to obey. A child needs to be acknowledged as a person. Show common courtesy to your children; introduce them to friends and acquaintances rather than ignoring their presence.

Children need to make choices so they can learn to reason. Be careful that the choices are not too overwhelming. Do not ask your child, “What do you want to wear today?” Give two alternatives, say, “Do you prefer to wear this outfit or this outfit?” Allow them to help make simple family decisions such as the choice of the restaurant when dining out.

Include your child as an important family member. This sounds so simple, yet it is often overlooked. I know a couple that purchased a house and were ready to move and the children were totally unaware they were moving until the big day arrived. When a major decision has been reached, at least let the children know what is going on so they will feel like a necessary part of your lives.

3. Children need to be useful. Often it is easier to do a task for a child instead of taking the time to help him learn, but this is damaging to his self-esteem and produces a lazy, dependent person. Remember that children are children and are not as proficient at chores as you are, but trial and error is an effective way to learn. Resist the temptation to redo the child’s effort, at least in the presence of the child. When our daughter was learning to make her bed, it was hard for me not to go behind her and smooth out the wrinkles and straighten the lop-sided spread. Instead, I would praise her effort and overlook the imperfections.

Those times it was too sloppy to overlook, I would straighten it while saying to her, “When you are a little taller you will be able to reach the middle of the bed better, and smooth out these lumps.” Or, “When you are a little bigger you will have stronger muscles to pull the spread”. Using the term when projects to the child that it just a matter of time until he/she will be able to perform the task as well as you. With loving guidance, she learned to make the bed beautifully.

4. Children need to be trusted. Set moral standards before them, teach them honesty and responsibility and then trust them. Of course, this does not mean they are turned loose on their own without monitoring. Children need to voice their opinions; to speak for themselves as to what their feelings are. Children need time alone just to think. In other words, children’s needs are much the same as yours.

HELPING TROUBLED YOUTH

I often receive heartbreaking letters from caregivers needing help with troubled youth. This is my reply and suggestions:

“My heart goes out to both you and to the child. Sounds like you have a lot on your plate and I cannot imagine how difficult it is and has been for you. I appreciate your willingness to be his advocate; he needs someone in his corner. In addition to therapy and the doctor's regiment, I would suggest the following:

Build relationship. Relationship is about the quality way in which each of you relates with/to the other. Anger and disappointment get in the way of relationship. Unrealistic expectations get in the way of relationship. Relationship is about acceptance of the totality of the person - the good, the bad, the beautiful and the ugly. Please note, acceptance does not mean approval, it simply means I accept you as you are. Out of this uncomplicated acceptance you can build a mutually satisfactory relationship. We are all flawed individuals. Humility is one flawed individual willing to receive correction from another flawed individual. It is through acceptance of flawed humanity (ours and theirs) that we are in a position to heal our wounds and positively influence healing in others.

Limit over-expectations. If a person has a broken leg, is he expected to run a marathon? Have there been individuals with crippled legs that run marathons? Yes, either haltingly or in wheelchairs, but they are few and far between. We applaud those of such outstanding feats and are willing to give grace to a handicapped runner. If you were the crippled runner would you want grace? All handicapped in one way or another and some more than others. Gently train by receiving grace for your weaknesses and giving grace to those without your mental or physical abilities.

“Make order. Order does not mean perfection or a military-type regimen. Order means not complicated, not messy, not wasting a lot of time. Order is honestly assessing your time, resources and abilities and not taking on more than you can accomplish. Order is setting realistic goals for you and your child so neither one is disappointed. Order is not taking on more than you can reasonably manage. Order is not demanding of the child more than he is reasonably capable of accomplishing. Order sets you free. Order is planning and scheduling and following through and having a feeling of accomplishment. Order allows you to set a healthy, relaxing daily routine and discover how much control you have gained over your life. Go to my blog www.monadunkin.blogspot.com and click on the articles under organization for additional help in establishing order. I will in the next few days do an article on ADHD helps and will post previous articles on effective study skills.

“Learn to be assertive. Assertive is taking care of you so you can help take care of others. It is knowing that you cannot give out of an empty basket so, as the airlines instruct, "put on your own oxygen mask before helping a child of crippled person." Assertive is not doing for another what he/she is capable of doing for himself. Assertive is standing up for your own legitimate rights and not being lost in the hassles of life. Assertive is setting healthy boundaries and firmly, yet kindly, enforcing them. Assertive is asking for change without demanding change. Assertive is not making excuses for you or him, but honestly facing the issues straight on, with courage and dignity. Assertive is truth or consequences. Assertive is graciously receiving the rewards of your own truth or humbly suffering the consequences of your own untruth. It is maturely allowing another to suffer the consequences of his wrong actions and supportively acknowledging and encouraging his participation in his own truth.


“Know who you can control. The bottom line is, the only person over whom you have control is you. You can threaten another, manipulate, coerce, reward or punish - all of which are ineffective long-term and are relationship destroying. As you take effective control of the thoughts you think, the words you say, the tone of voice you use, the expressions on your face, the actions you make, the way you behave, the choices you engage in, the places you go, the company you keep, the way you spend your money, etc., etc., etc., then the greater the positive influence you have on others. And, it is relationship building. Nothing influences like a good example. Being the good example puts you in a position to encourage the same in your child and to set limits when it is disobeyed. To demand and not example, is to be a “talking head” with negative results. See blog, Ask, Don’t Tell.

“Make quiet time. It is imperative. The answers are within and are discovered through contemplation. In quietness your soul can hear the still small voice of conscience. In quietness you are attuned to truth. Through honest reflection you become aware of strengths and weaknesses. Getting honest about weakness conquers egotism, fear and ignorance and paves the way for teamwork. Being candid about strength enlightens, energizes and promotes cooperation. It is through quiet contemplation that potential energy is transformed into enthusiastic force. As you realize your spiritual purpose you are refreshed and enlivened.

“You can purchase my book, Creating Value, an intangible in a tangible world, which gives invaluable help in building relationship. Chapter four is entitled Receiving the Gift of Yourself and Chapter five is Developing Yourself and Others. Send $15.00 and I will send one to you. Mona Dunkin, P O Box 774, Elm Mott, TX 76640.

“In addition to my book, Creating Value, purchased through me, I recommend Dr. William Glasser's book Unhappy Teenagers and what Parents/Grandparents Can Do About It. You can buy Dr. Glasser's books at Barnes and Nobles. I send out a monthly motivational e-letter and have added you to the list.

“Using the concepts of Reality Therapy and Choice Theory, I do individual sessions. I charge $65.00 per session and would love to work with you or your grandson.

“As God brings you to my mind, I will whisper your names in prayer.”

7/7/08

It's Better Late Than Never

The best laid plans of mice and men are not always followed through, resulting in guilt and shame. Here are a few personally tested and verified suggestions.

Distinguish between true guilt and false guilt. True guilt is when you have broken a promise or caused another hurt. This guilt indicates a working conscious; heed it and take corrective measures. False guilt is the nagging shame that you have not lived up to expectations - yours, societies, a certain someone or dogma. This guilt indicates hypersensitive emotions. Recognize the inappropriate guilt trip and dump it.

Think it Through. If it continues to bother you, even on rare occasions, it still matters. It needs to be settled so you can move on. Put emotions aside and use sane, reasonable and logical thinking to assess and evaluate.

Challenge Your Excuses. Why are you not following through or correcting inappropriate behavior? Is it because you are fearful? Lazy? Unorganized? Don’t know how? In denial? Disillusioned? Lack of self-discipline? Don’t care?

Seek Trusted Counsel. An incest victim was encouraged to privately share with her counselor the pain that kept her bound. In time she healed enough to break the code of silence on a family secret. Other family members acknowledged pain of either having been wounded or of having suspicions but failed to address them. Together they confronted the perpetrator and sought legal justice. Generational cover-ups were exposed and multitudes of wounds were healed.

Peacemakers Make Trouble. Peacemaking is not peace-at-all-cost by ignoring the situation and trying to pacify everyone. Peacemaking is stirring up the troubled waters to be sifted and settled. Healing came to a family, even the repentant abuser.

Incorporate AA’s Steps 8 and 9. “Made a list of all persons we had harmed and became willing to make amends to them all … except when to do so would injure them or others.” Relationships are always worth restoring. Whether you are the victim or the perpetrator, proceed with wisdom, caution and humility.

Give a Simple Explanation. There is a difference in an excuse and an explanation. An explanation accepts and clarifies an oversight whereas an excuse covers up irresponsibility. Do not go into a long tirade of reasons; in Dragnet fashion, state “Just the facts Ma’am”.

Be Sincere. In the Greek agoras, statues were mass produced one at a time. The artisan covered up his slip-of-the-chisel with a cleverly molded wad of wax. The buyer unawares bought the flawless statue, pleased with his purchase until the hot sun either melted the cover up or discolored it. Truth in advertising prevailed. True Greek artisans stamped their crates “Sincerieta”, meaning without wax. Be genuine and without false humility. Do not gloss over your mistakes, remorse, shame or embarrassment. Be an adult and make amends with grace.

Rest in the End Results. Whatever the outcome, be an adult and receive the person’s response with grace. Embrace a relationship restored and communicate to keep it healthy. For a brief time, grieve a restoration rejected and move on, continuing to hold them in high regard as a person of worth and value.

Live in a State of Self-Evaluation. Continually evaluate your attitudes and actions and be responsible for your responses. Is what I am doing helping or hurting? How is it helping? How is it hurting? What can I do to improve my communication skills? How can I develop a greater empathy? Do I push people away or draw them in? How am I being a jerk? How am I maturing and overcoming?

Some of the greatest lessons learned are those we missed the first time. Life is faithful to give us the tests over and over until either we pass or die. We’ll still die even when we learn from past failures, but perhaps death will be more peaceful with friends and loved ones nearby.

Problem Solving Techniques

The bad news is, “Life is filled with problems.” The good news is, “We can learn effective problem solving techniques.” How we approach problems has a lot to do with the outcome. Here area few proven tips for success.

Define the problem. Failure to define the problems lends it to growing out of proportions. Be specific and do not stack complaints. What exactly is the issue? Is it mechanical or personnel? Who is involved? What is their level of involvement? Do they need to be involved? If yes, for how long and in what capacity? If not, why not? What is the desired outcome?

See the situation as solvable. Defeatist thinking has never worked, plus it is stress producing. Turn your focus from a problem to a challenge and experience the creativity to overcome. See it as an opportunity to stretch, learn and grow while developing patience and determination.

Brainstorm. Get the creative juices flowing and the fun flourishing. Consider many possibilities, whether rational or irrational. Think with pen and paper in hand and jot down a cluster of ideas without weighing and measuring them as to ultimate possibility. Do not worry about your idea being absurd; with modification it may be just the trick. Do not judge. Laugh. Enjoy the process whether alone or in group.

Determine what is needed. Is it expertise or tools? If it is more information, who do you consult or what training is needed? Is it an attitude adjustment? Do you need more people? Less people? Resources? Time constraints?

Get counsel. Someone not so close to the situation has fresh eyes, is less emotionally involved and can be more objective. Be willing to receive input, knowing that the final decision is yours.

Come to a conclusion and go with it. Do not analyze to the point of paralyses. No decision is a decision you just have not let yourself know it so you continue to agonize. Weigh pros and cons and make a decision. If the solution is long term, set short-term steps and take action.

Continually evaluate the effectiveness. After putting the plan into implementation, be open to adjustment if needed. “No” is not fatal and “Yes” is not final. This is not promoting wishy-washiness but flexibility and growth.

Procrastination rarely has positive results. The axiom, “action is the distraction”, is applicable in problem solving. Happy conclusions.

Change Blockers

A ship left its port-of-call for an eight-day sail across the ocean. On the 8th day, friends and family gathered on the other shore to welcome the arriving ship. Only it did not come. They waited and waited and no sight of the ship. The coast guard was called. Eventually the cruise ship was found, in tact, everyone safe but scared at being lost at sea. An investigation revealed that the radar mechanism was off calibration by a mere 1%. Only 1% off, yet hundreds of miles off course.

“Human beings are build for success but programmed for failure.” -
John Roger & Peter McWilliams in Do It!

Here are some attitudes that can cause us to go so far off course, and become lost in a sea of frustration, scared and alone.

1. Justification. I call this the “Big but syndrome.” Agreeing but disagreeing. “I may be wrong, but you are too.” “I see what you are saying, but I just…..” “I know this is not my best work, but…” Justifying excuses ad nauseaum. Justification refuses to recognize truth.

2. Rationalization. This is akin to justifying, only dressed up a little. It is more intellectual and sounds more plausible. Regardless, it blocks honesty, admitting mistakes and changing for the better.

3. Denial. Denial is saying one thing and doing another. “No, I don’t watch too much TV!” Really? Do a time log to see how much time is wasted in front of the boob tube. “I don’t have an attitude!” Really? Make a recording of you interacting with a client or family member with what you think is your okay attitude. Wait three days and then listen to the recording again. Denial leads to delusion that believes the lie you have told yourself.

4. Dishonesty. Dishonesty is stretching the truth. Dishonesty is refocusing the situation to put you in a good light and make someone else the bad guy. Dishonesty is leaving out, even to yourself, anything that might make you look bad. Dishonesty is being fake and counterfeit.

5. Fear. Fear is seeing the need to change, only being afraid you cannot change. I know how to be obnoxious, but I do not know how to cooperate. I know how to be sarcastic, but I do not know how to be honest. I know how to demand, but I do not know how to ask or to make an appeal.
The willingness to take risks is our grasp of faith. George E. Woodbarry

6. Arrogance. Arrogance is thinking you are always right without considering the other side. It is obstinately and intolerably devotion to your own beliefs or creeds. It is putting on “airs” and pretending to be someone you are not.

"It was because of my great pride that I began to attack everyone who did
not see everything just the way I did." The Final Quest by Rick Joyner

We human beings are a peculiar lot. We want change, yet are afraid to change. Or maybe we want the situation to change, while we stay the same. After all, “I am not the problem.” But what if I am at least a part of the problem? Even a tiny amount like 1%? Think about it.

“Nothing of value gets lost in the change.”
- Anthony Hopkins in The Dawning