Changing addiction, anxiety, and depression through connecting

“I know I can quit when I want to. I am just not ready to quit yet…”

“I feel so ashamed of what I have become. I can’t go home for Christmas this year. I am going to tell my family I have to work…”

“I am not sure when it got so crazy. It has been a long time since I felt in control of my own life…”

Young adults trying to stay ahead of their addictions and anxieties

It’s All About Grace

For years I have struggled to understand addiction. I couldn’t get it. So many live in the shame/blame game of constant hiding and guilt and repeated cycles. To me it seemed the addict would DO ANYTHING to escape that life…SO WHY????

Many theories of addiction exist. Most believe addiction is merely a disease we treat clinically. Timothy McMahan King in his insightful book Addiction Nation: What the Opioid Crisis Reveals About Us details how addiction is disease, culture, context, and pervasive in American society.

Putting it bluntly, Gerald May in Addiction and Grace states, “All people are addicts…To be alive is to be addicted, and to be alive and addicted is to stand in need of grace.”

STANDING IN NEED OF GRACE…this I can wrap my mind around. OF COURSE…

Just like Paul, I constantly do the thing I don’t want to do and it makes me feel miserable. And the very acts I LONG TO DO…promote kindness and selflessness…I fail to do every day. My quick tongue is ALWAYS ahead of my logical thinking brain! I NEED SOME GRACE. ADDICTED TO SARCASM and RUDENESS. And it does bring me anxiety and depression…

So what is the answer?

Quit the Shame Game

Like all addictions, the natural response is SHAME. When I want to hide that is when shame has its most power. When my mouth threatens to tear apart a relationship, just like a drug or alcohol can do, instead of running away I must run TO my home and community of support.

Obviously, connection to community unites when relationships were smashed open through harsh words. But where is the data which concludes that healing could occur when relationships have been pulled asunder through drugs and alcohol through HOME AND COMMUNITY.

DOES IT EXIST…

Yes.

When soldiers returned from the Vietnam War, 43 % reported that they had been using heroin on a regular basis while away. Of the reported users 20% considered themselves addicted to the drug. Believing The United States was entering a new era of addiction crisis, the US government prepared for follow up treatments and regular drug testing for all returning military men. However, after six months home, the new veterans were reported to have returned to their former abstinence of drugs or their former level of drug use before their deployment.

In other words, once home, the heroin did not have the addiction effect it had while in Viet Nam. CONTEXT WAS KEY. The government concluded, “We need to look for at addiction from an angle for which the disease model does not occur.”

There’s No Place Like Home

Researchers like Neil Levy and Bruce Alexander state that addiction is “embedded in a social context.” Rather than a reflection of an aberrant individual, addiction occurs as a response to an untenable situation. Wouldn’t this account for the Vietnam Vets addiction and their ability to quit their heroin use when they returned to their loving environments?

King records several other historical and longitudinal studies which reveal patterns of displacement and cultural disintegration precede substance abuse. What happens when the displacement and disintegration are reversed? OFTEN SO ARE THE ADDICTIONS AND ABUSES…

King, in Addition Nation discusses “a place to call home is a powerful prerequisite in helping people recover.” Home is a place to unpack our past and connect.

Alexander tells the story of the Alkali Lake Band in British Columbia where alcoholism went from nearly 100% to a 98% sobriety rate in seven short years. The culture of the tribe changed when the Chief and his wife and local police committed to principles of Alcoholics Anonymous, reinstituted prohibition on the island, increased access to treatment and committed themselves to old cultural practices in the community. These cultural practices bound the culture together through their uniqueness and identity. Their motto, “culture is treatment” rings true in homes and communities dedicated to openness with unity instead of shame or blame.

What about those who are never able to “return home” to their safe place?

Most adults have two homes: the home we come from and the home we make. Our adult children may struggle to make their own homes safe from stress and trauma. Perhaps this is because they need help in understanding the home they emerged from. Can they distinguish when the confrontations where necessary and where they were emotionally “over the top?” Do they need us to LISTEN to their perspective on those memories?

We can connect to our adult children through authentic revelation of the home they grew up in. Imperfection, doubt, mistakes make up the fabric of our children’s formative years as much as birthday parties, summer camp, and winter vacations. Own the joy and the sorrow. Speak openly about your pain and your glory.

Build a unique identity within your own family. The place called home equates to a place of healing where all members are open to growth and let go of shame and blame. Hear the stories of your adult children… build openness and connection.

Next Week Part Five:

How changing the world through connecting adult children to their parents changes the world: How far can the revolution go?

Change the world of divorce and poverty

If only I had someone to talk to. My mom hated my husband and she probably thinks I deserved it when he left me…

“If my Dad stood beside me during this I might know how to navigate marriage counseling. I feel so alone…”

“Without any family, I have to settle for a minimum wage job to support my three boys…”

Moms alone during a nightmare they never saw coming

Parents of adult children certainly don’t have all the answers to selfish- hearted people. They can’t solve all the answers to marriage problems. Many marriages end in divorce before the marriage has any possibility of reconciliation…but NOT all marriages have no hope. Many could be saved if only…

Moms and Dads can’t save ALL the marriages of their adult children–but they CAN be part of the lives of their adult children IF the kids ARE WILLING TO work through the suffering and pain.

Often couples need parents who LISTEN without judgement to their complications in marriage. Parents of adult children should LISTEN TEN TIMES more often than we give advice. Frequently, we reverse that formula. No wonder they run from us!

Once our adult children learn that we are good listeners they are more open to any wise counsel we might offer. However, usually our wise adult kids can figure out their marriage issues on their own as they hear their own words spoken out loud. They NEED to talk it out. Through our coaching and questioning we can HELP them figure out their own answers.

Do you have the discipline and self-control to ask the questions, listen, and wait for your adult child to figure a way through the mire of the marriage? The suffering often brings the best of the marriage.

However, when the marriage is NOT salvaged, it is the wife and children that suffer the most and this often leads to poverty in America. I am NOT being overly dramatic.

According to many researchers across America from 2008 to 2017, women with children who divorce are 2.83 more likely than men to fall to the poverty line when they divorce.

Huffington Post; Center for American Progress.

None of us desire our daughters and grandchildren to live in poverty, yet we often say, “I don’t want to get involved in their business. Their marriage is not any of my business.”

I agree! I do not think I should be a busy-body mother or mother-in-law asking about their bedroom or their budget. However, if RED FLAGS are waving I need to open the door for transparent vulnerable conversations.

Our daughters and grandchildren living in poverty will become our issue if we do not take steps to prevent this tragedy. We CAN take steps to prevent the tragedy of the broken hearts, shattered dreams, and lives that will never be the same.

Be brave. Open the door to a listening conversation.

Some good opening lines might be,

I am curious, would you like me to take the kids for a few a days while you and Joe go away and spend some time together?

What’s the one thing I could do for you that would help the most this week?

I hear some anxiety in your voice, is there anything I can do?

Some of my friends are mentors and counselors, do you want me to see if one would talk to you? You sound like you need to let off some steam…

Truly, just opening a conversation with your adult son or daughter about a difficult marriage is a huge step.

As likely as not, your adult child longs for a way to speak freely about this troublesome situation.

In the headline, I challenged all of us to change the world of divorce and poverty. Just one less divorce and one less single mom with children living in poverty changes the world. It changes the world for them.

It is uncomfortable. It is awkward.

It is scary.

But it is worth it to speak to our adult children about their marriages and how they can save their home.

What are your thoughts on connecting with your adult children about the REALLY important areas of their life? Next week more important topics and how we can change the world…one connection at a time.

Part Three:

How changing the world through connecting adult children to their parents changes the world of body image, abuse, and abortion

Part Four:

How changing the world through connecting adult children to their parents changes the world of addiction, anxiety, and depression

Part Five:

How changing the world through connecting adult children to their parents changes the world: How far can the revolution go?

Change the World: Parenting Adult Children Can do That!

Parents attempt connection  with their adult children out of love and devotion and sometimes out of loneliness and loss.

Occasionally parents connect to adult children because of previous shortcomings, failure, shame, and hurt. But, in all these cases, parents connecting to their adult children creates a world that is a more authentic and safer place to grow for both the parent and the child.

Regardless of motive: connection heals.

Parents aim for mutually beneficial relationships for themselves and their adult children. Don’t we all desire unity in our homes? If that is true of us, can we believe it is true of all Americans? 

Through our attempts to establish relationships of love and connections between parents and their adult children, we must believe that we can unify all of America starting with just one strategic home: our own. The unity in our home spreads to our church.

The authenticity of our church represents many unified families of adult children and parents. Then, that connected church influences our authentic connected community. Our vulnerable and open community influences our transformative city and, before you know it, we have a wave of unity, connectedness, and authenticity, instead of alienation, separation, and division.

Today we hear from both political parties how America remains a nation divided. They attribute our problems of poverty, racism, abuse, sex trafficking, and suicide to this deviousness. But what if we as Moms of Adult Children, not a political party, own the power to change that?

 We need not identify ourselves as identical to our adult children. 

As a matter of fact, we must embrace the diversity of our culture; we need our own ideas, our own opinions. Our adult children must create their own philosophies and theories. How will society improve without new ideas and creativity? 

However, we sincerely need the unity of our love, our acceptance, our belonging. I truly believe that culture begins in our homes, spreads out like a wave of influence as families become more unified. This wave grows in volume and influence and soon several waves connect, as they spread across the state and the nation. 

You see, adult children desire to be reconnected to their families. Families desire to be connected to other families. Communities long to connect to other communities. We were created to belong in community.

Reach out. Learn to communicate in ways that speak care and candor, love and truth. Learn to live in the hard of living with the hope of living. 

Don’t be afraid to tell your adult children: ” You belong to me. You are not me, I don’t want you to be me. I see you for who you are, and I am proud of you.” 

Tell your adult children, “you be you, while you allow me to be me. And, while we are being ourselves—let us truly learn LISTEN to each other. Let’s get to know each other. We might have known each other as mother and child… but let me hear your adult voice.” 

My name is Johnnie Seago and this is my mission:  I want to change the world, by connecting one family of adult children at a time. Whose job is it to connect the child to the parent?

It is MY job—I am the mom and I am out to change the world.

What are your thoughts on this world changing goal?

Upcoming articles in the series:

Part Two:

How changing the world through connecting adult children to their parents changes the world of divorce and poverty

Part Three:

How changing the world through connecting adult children to their parents changes the world of body image, abuse, and abortion

Part Four:

How changing the world through connecting adult children to their parents changes the world of addiction, anxiety, and depression

Part Five:

The world: How far can the revolution go?

The Hardest Part of the Story

But what happened then?

When did it all change?

How was he turned around?

Where did the circumstances change?

What stories about your past do you like to tell?

What stories about your children do you enjoy over and over?

We learned in high school that most stories include three parts: a shiny beginning, a messy middle, and a concluding ending.

Our shiny beginnings might begin with a glance across a crowded room or the first day of college. A not-so-shiny beginning might begin with the longing for a baby or a lonely daughter away at college.

As we jump to the happily-ever-after of those beginnings we see a ring, a diploma, a birth announcement, and a great group of girlfriends backpacking across Europe together. WOW! Super stories!

But wait! Aren’t we missing the best part?

I love telling how our first born daughter and I are “Me and Mini-Me.” Although we live several hours apart and do not talk or text each other every day we are ALWAYS there for each other. She is back in school to become a midwife, running a construction company, and rearing six children. I am publishing a book, directing a nonprofit, and mentoring lots of women. Yet, if either of us “puts out the Bat-light” we drop all obligations to be there for each other. Happily ever after, right?

But did I mention that when she was 11 she had to sleep on my floor for six weeks and be “glued to my side” because I could not trust her out of my sight? She had lost all privileges to self monitor. Honestly, I wanted to lock her in a closet till she turned 16. She wanted to BE in a closet till she turned 16 just to escape me. Obviously, there was nothing else to do but be inseparable until we learned to live with and love each other again. Makes perfect sense, right? Not at all. Most good stories don’t make sense in the “messy middle.” But in the happily-ever-after she saw that she couldn’t run me off and I saw that she needed Momma especially when she didn’t want one.

The messy middle was the best part of the story.

Brene Brown calls the conversation we often embrace in the Messy Middle, “The Rumble.” Recently, I have been involved in two different Rumbles. I initiated one and one was initiated with me.

John Maxwell, in his book Leadershift, instructs us that when it is time to have a difficult conversation, you might start with, “Are you aware…?” That seemed to work well with my rumble with a son who really did not realize how far off the path of his goals he had strayed.

Brown’s favorite line is, “The story I am telling myself is…” which is the line I used to explain to my husband how I felt when he started a rumble about our drifting and failing communication.

Whatever word, phrase, story or cue we need to use to get into the “let’s get messy and WORK THIS OUT!” the happy ending is worth the messy middle.

Where is the messy middle with your adult children right now? How can you work through it? What trick would help you?

Telling Their Story

The stories of their past affirm their present. Tell their stories!

Tell me a story about when I was a baby.

Tell me about the time you stayed up all night because I wouldn’t sleep.

Tell me how I was the prettiest baby you ever saw.

When our kids were little they never got tired of stories about themselves. They were the hero of every story we told. They still can be!

When Rachelle was five-years old she had a tyrant for a gymnastics coach. I was afraid of her! You see, my first born daughter could charm me into letting her off from doing almost anything, but she could not charm Miss Lorna. Miss Lorna, the world’s hardest coach, declared to the entire dance studio that Rachelle was going to perform a back flip at the recital. Rachelle couldn’t back-flip. She fell every time. She cried when she fell. I cried when she fell. We wanted Rachelle to quit the back-flip.

Ironically, at the time, I had a rather successful job in sales. As we were headed to the gym to quit the back-flip and Miss Lorna, my car stereo played my weekly motivational message:


Attributed to Dr. D. H. Groberg

Whenever I start to hang my head in front of failure’s face, 
    my downward fall is broken by the memory of a race. 
A children’s race, young boys, young men; how I remember well, 
    excitement sure, but also fear, it wasn’t hard to tell. 
They all lined up so full of hope, each thought to win that race 
    or tie for first, or if not that, at least take second place. 
Their parents watched from off the side, each cheering for their son, 
    and each boy hoped to show his folks that he would be the one.
The whistle blew and off they flew, like chariots of fire, 
    to win, to be the hero there, was each young boy’s desire. 
One boy in particular, whose dad was in the crowd, 
    was running in the lead and thought “My dad will be so proud.” 
But as he speeded down the field and crossed a shallow dip, 
    the little boy who thought he’d win, lost his step and slipped. 
Trying hard to catch himself, his arms flew everyplace, 
    and midst the laughter of the crowd he fell flat on his face. 
As he fell, his hope fell too; he couldn’t win it now. 
    Humiliated, he just wished to disappear somehow.
But as he fell his dad stood up and showed his anxious face, 
    which to the boy so clearly said, “Get up and win that race!” 
He quickly rose, no damage done, behind a bit that’s all, 
    and ran with all his mind and might to make up for his fall. 
So anxious to restore himself, to catch up and to win, 
    his mind went faster than his legs. He slipped and fell again. 
He wished that he had quit before with only one disgrace. 
    “I’m hopeless as a runner now, I shouldn’t try to race.”
But through the laughing crowd he searched and found his father’s face 
    with a steady look that said again, “Get up and win that race!” 
So he jumped up to try again, ten yards behind the last. 
    “If I’m to gain those yards,” he thought, “I’ve got to run real fast!” 
Exceeding everything he had, he regained eight, then ten… 
    but trying hard to catch the lead, he slipped and fell again. 
Defeat! He lay there silently. A tear dropped from his eye. 
    “There’s no sense running anymore! Three strikes I’m out! Why try? 
I’ve lost, so what’s the use?” he thought. “I’ll live with my disgrace.” 
    But then he thought about his dad, who soon he’d have to face.
“Get up,” an echo sounded low, “you haven’t lost at all, 
    for all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall. 
Get up!” the echo urged him on, “Get up and take your place! 
    You were not meant for failure here! Get up and win that race!” 
So, up he rose to run once more, refusing to forfeit, 
    and he resolved that win or lose, at least he wouldn’t quit. 
So far behind the others now, the most he’d ever been, 
    still he gave it all he had and ran like he could win. 
Three times he’d fallen stumbling, three times he rose again. 
    Too far behind to hope to win, he still ran to the end.
They cheered another boy who crossed the line and won first place, 
    head high and proud and happy — no falling, no disgrace. 
But, when the fallen youngster crossed the line, in last place, 
    the crowd gave him a greater cheer for finishing the race. 
And even though he came in last with head bowed low, unproud, 
    you would have thought he’d won the race, to listen to the crowd. 
And to his dad he sadly said, “I didn’t do so well.” 
    “To me, you won,” his father said. “You rose each time you fell.”
And now when things seem dark and bleak and difficult to face, 
    the memory of that little boy helps me in my own race. 
For all of life is like that race, with ups and downs and all. 
    And all you have to do to win is rise each time you fall. 
And when depression and despair shout loudly in my face, 
    another voice within me says, “Get up and win that race!”

From the back seat my tiny girl stated, “Momma, I’m gonna do a back-flip.”

She didn’t nail the back flip at the gym that day. She didn’t quite finish it off at the gym the day after that either. But she did do it at the recital.

As Rachelle ran off that stage into Miss Lorna’s arms, even the drill sergeant had a tear.

You know the best thing about that story? As I retold it to her this week… my baby girl (who has six kids of her own) REALLY needed to remember it this week.

What stories do your kids need to remember? Dig ’em up!

Communication: Listening

John Maxwell teaches the LADDER of listening. How do you rate yourself when you are speaking with your adult children? 

Last week I stated:
Frequency of communication can vary with every family and every season.
Instead of focusing on HOW OFTEN 
FOCUS ON: 
WHAT should I communicate with my adult children?
And just as I was about to press “PUBLISH” 
I got this text:
Am I ever gonna hear your voice again? It has been 40 forevers!
 

Back to the drawing board.

 
 
Rule #1 in dealing with adult children: 
Just as you figure it out
 the rules will change. 
When they were teens asking lots of questions and ‘checking in’ were being nosey and irritating–now they want us to check in and ask questions. 
 

What is the trick to keeping up with what my adult kids need to communicate with me?

Listening Skills

 

 
This appears to be so simple and it is anything but easy. 
 
It seems that somewhere between high school graduation and reentry into your home as a self-reliant adult our children learn a different language. We have to PROBE for real answers to their questions and we have to learn question for meaning.
John Maxwell teaches the LADDER of listening. How do you rate yourself when you are speaking with your adult children? 

LADDER…

LOOK      at the person speaking
My kids know they do not have my full attention when I am looking at my phone. How about you?
 
 
ASK        questions to clarify their message
Recently upon hearing some about a problem from the daughter in the picture above I said, “Oh, I see you need my help with that?” My daughter was, “No, there isn’t anything you can do. I just wanted you to know.” OH!! Good thing I asked!
 
 
Do NOT      interrupt
Nothing says disrespect like trying to finish a sentence for someone else.
 
Do NOT      change the subject
I am terrible about this! My son was trying to tell me about an experience he had while he was in the Marines on Iwo Jima. Since my Dad has served there, this was an emotional topic and I knew I was going to end up crying. I tried to say something to move the conversation to Scott’s time in the service or ANYTHING ELSE. Then, it struck me that this was an emotional moment for HIM too. I stopped, looked him in the eye and listened with all my heart—as all four of our eyes filled with tears.
 
Emotions:      Check you EMOTIONS at the door when listening
The story of listening to my son WAS an emotion we could both share. Anger is NOT an emotion you want to share with your adult child. If they are infuriating you simply say, “Give me a moment. I need to check my emotions on this.”  Be the adult. Do not become angry—it is a choice.

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RESPOND      when listening! 
At the end of the conversation try to respond with a positive action (if needed) or at least words of encouragement in the particular situation. When one of my daughters was thinking of going back to school to get her midwifery degree she talked it out with her dad and I. It reminded me of a conversation I had years ago with my own Dad when I wanted to start a new venture. It was one of the few times in my life my Dad did not encourage me. Although I thought Rachelle was biting off more than she could chew with the new degree, her two jobs and six kids, I knew it was her calling. Encouraging her, I promised to edit her papers while she was in school. And yesterday she took me up on it!
Listening is one of the greatest gifts you can give your adult children.
What thoughts do you have on listening well? Please comment below.

Celebrating LOVE with our Adult Children

We avoid showing love to our adult children for fear of “doing it wrong.” We need to celebrate them. No one is too old to be celebrated and loved.

Celebrations with young children range from chaos to cute and creative. We do not seem to mind having glitter in our hair and cake frosting on the cabinet if the mess brings smiles to our delighted faces of our toddlers and preschoolers.

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Annual Easter Egg Party: one way everyone feels love…especially Grandaddy! 

I recently asked several moms of adult women:
‘Why is sending a card to your daughter so hard?” 
 One mom told me, “She is an adult now. She has to grow up sometime.”
Another two moms:
“I buy her too many presents at Christmas so I don’t need to tell her that I love her during the year. I have already spoiled her rotten. She knows I love her.”
“She has a husband to love her now. She is his responsibility.”
Growing up does not mean growing out of appreciating love and affection. 
Maybe we DID spoil them as little girls. Maybe we were too hard when they were teens–but this is a NEW DAY!

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Giving our kids a day to enjoy their spouses while we LOVE on the grands is another way to show love. Charla’s love language is CRAFTS. And boy does she show me love in this department!

 

Dear Mother,

They never outgrow the delight in knowing we adore them. They never outgrow the need to know that we KNOW they were created for greatness. They never outgrow our love.

These two stanzas, the very heart of the great poem, “The Ancient Mariner,” by Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834), sum up the lesson of this masterpiece
He Prayeth Best.
Farewell, farewell, this I tell
To thee, thou Wedding Guest!
He prayer well we liveth well
Both man and bird and beast
He prayeth best who loveth best
All things, both great and small:
For the dear God who loveth us,
He made and loveth all.
Loving our children is like dancing—we know we are not doing it right, but we have to keep listening for the music. (And try to keep our opinions of doing it WRONG to a minimum!)
 Most of us go through times of indulgence, overprotectiveness, or being too harsh and becoming bitter. Admitting one of these faults to ourselves and our children makes up the mental gymnastics of a good portion of our days. 
As a Christian parent, I have to ask myself if I am loving my child “best”–the way God loves me…and therefore the “right way,” or if I am following the culture and loving my child through permissiveness or laziness or perfectionism?
This all sounds like advice for toddlers but our role as the parent does not change,  though the physical act of day-to-day care is constantly changing.
Parents to adult children worry that they won’t get it right. The transition to ‘adulting’ our adult children may some days appear hard and some days seem very natural to us. But like dancing, we keep moving to the music and a few steps fall in line.
How do you show love to your adult children?
Do you know their love language? How important is that? 
How do your adult children show you love? 
I would love to hear your comments below or you can email me at word.with.johnnie@gmail.com