Welcome to the Recovery and Discovery Podcast with Bill Tierney, Episode 8.
You are listening to the Recovery and Discovery Podcast with Bill Tierney, Mindset and Recovery Coach, where Bill interviews individuals about their experiences and ideas related to addiction recovery.
Please welcome your host, Bill Tierney, Mindset and Recovery Coach.
Bill: Jeff Jones, thanks for joining me this morning. Everybody, this is Jeff Jones that we’re going to be having a conversation with. Jeff is the creator of The Family Recovery Solution which can be found at: thefamilyrecoverysolution.com .
Jeff and I got connected through a mutual friend. I’m a part of a mastermind group on Friday mornings that has been getting together for several years now. And when I mentioned to that mastermind group that I was creating a podcast to talk about addiction and addiction recovery issues, one of the members of that mastermind group suggested that I talk to Jeff Jones. He and I have had now a couple of conversations and I gotta’ say that Jeff’s philosophy and Jeff’s ideas about recovery, his approach to recovery are fresh. I think a lot of people need to know about Jeff’s position on this and what he sees and how he sees things. And additionally, there’s so much more that I want to learn from Jeff about not only his experiences as a therapist and a counselor in mental health and addiction recovery services, but also just the overall philosophy and approach to how to help not only the addict that’s trying to recover, but the family members and family and friends of addicts that are so impacted – and employers, too, by the addict.
So without further ado, Jeff Jones, welcome to the podcast.
Jeff: Well, Bill, thank you very much for having me on. I appreciate it a lot. I’m excited for this conversation. Thank you.
Bill: One of the things that we learned I think maybe in the first conversation was I was looking at the stubble on Jeff’s beard, and I said, “You know, I’m guessing we’re about the same age.”
Turns out we’re four months apart. My birthday is your mother’s and your birthday is a few days away.
Jeff: Oh yeah…that’s right. I remember.
Bill: Well, a couple old guys here coming to you with lots and lots and lots of experience and theories and concepts and ideas and lots of curiosity, I think, on both our parts.
Shall we just dive right in, Jeff?
Bill: Let’s first learn from you about what got you interested in the first place with working in this field.
Jeff: Yes, sure. When I became a therapist, when I got a Master’s Degree, I was kind of blown away with all the options, with all the possibilities and potential. What I really wanted to do was to focus and go deep in an area that was important to me. And the first thing I did was to look at my own family. There’s addiction in my own family. I got more and more curious about that so that became an area that I learned more and more about: families, addiction and eventually trauma. And so that’s initially what got me into this focus. And I have my own family story, of course.
Bill: Do you feel comfortable sharing that story with us?
Jeff: Sure. And as you say, I am not a spring chicken, so the story can go on and on. In a real concise way, though, I grew up in a family where I experienced the trickle down of addiction from my grandfather, to my mother’s trauma, to me essentially carrying the grief and pain for the whole family. Like in psychobabble terms that’s intergenerational transmission.
In reality, at seven, eight, nine years old, my grandfather showered more love and attention upon me than I had ever had in my whole life. It was incredible. It was wonderful for me. And at the time I didn’t really know he was an alcoholic. I didn’t even know that word. But when my parents took my sister and I to Kentucky Lake every summer for a couple of weeks when I was seven, eight, nine years old, I saw changes in the family that other than I was getting all this love and attention from my grandfather, I saw some other things that were so different than my experience being in my own family. One was that my sister and my three female cousins did not get that love and attention. And another thing that was really pretty obvious is that my mom, who is a very competent mom, when we went to Kentucky, she like de-compensated. She was in the background. She was quiet, she was mousey. My dad was nurturing her. Those were all things I would never use as characteristics of my mother, except in Kentucky.
That’s kind of like a story and it expanded from there, but that’s kind of the heart of the story. I kind of thought when I became a therapist and I learned more and more and did a lot of my own work, I really saw how I had been impacted way more than I ever imagined. And I was thinking, “Oh, my goodness!”
You know there are so many people who have been impacted way more than myself, it’s like: is there a way before them to first, see this impact that they’ve taken on through no fault of themselves, and then, is there a way for them to, once they see this, to naturally start making changes that can be of benefit to themselves and to the whole family.
Bill: I’m madly writing notes here…questions that I have. You said when you began to get your education and learn about this, when you became a therapist and did your own work – I want to ask you about that. What is that when you say that, “I did my own work?”
Jeff: Right. So I got involved in my own therapy, and I also was involved in a number of different spiritual programs where I did my own work. So, this theme of the impact that I had taken on became a focus in those areas. Those areas meaning my own individual therapy and my own spiritual work. It became a focus, and the more that became a focus, the more I kind of saw how these subtle impacts from my growing up and these beliefs that I had just kind of assumed were true, actually contributed to my own defensive coping mechanisms and contributed to my ability to fully contribute in my own life; to have my own full potential type of life.
Bill: I’m interested about the relationship for you with spirituality and therapy because you’re talking about them from a place that that was a part of your…you haven’t used this word, but I’ll call it “recovery”. Would you agree with that – that therapy and spirituality are part of recovery for you?
Jeff: Yes. So I kind of see myself in what’s called “natural recovery” essentially. Natural recovery – my understanding of it or interpretation of it is my own awareness about my thinking, my actions, what I do, how I spend my time, why I do it kind of thing. Getting clearer and clearer about that. It’s like what I call the Belief System Cycle. It’s like beliefs from the past. And out of that comes my thinking; out of that comes my actions; and out of my actions come my feeling about my life situation which reinforces old beliefs. And so that cycle that I just described, when I saw more and more of how that operated in myself, I was like, “Oh my gosh.”
If other people can just see how they’ve been impacted and start to make changes here, they can have a fuller life for themselves as well as the whole family starting to make changes and healing together. When they do that, they have the potential to create conditions in their own family that are less hospitable to active addiction.
Bill: So, not the environment for addiction to grow in, right?
Jeff: Right. And a lot of families, the way they interact and just the survival strategies that they go into create an environment, through no fault of their own, create an environment that addiction can thrive in. It isn’t the family’s fault – I want to make that really clear – and again, this is my own judgment and observations, but we live in a culture that is kind of an incubator for some kind of addiction, for that belief system cycle kind of thing to happen over and over again. Whether it’s about a substance or whether it’s just about my belief on what I need to do in the world or the positions I need to take in the world to reinforce my own identity of who I think I am.
Bill: So I want to see if I’m hearing what you’re sharing accurately. So I’ve heard you refer to a couple of times, a Belief System Cycle, and what I think I understand about that is that we have formed beliefs which are the source of the thoughts that we think about the circumstances that we experience in life. So far, so good?
Jeff: We have beliefs from the past that we have acquired through just growing up. And out of those come our thinking today.
Bill: And then because of that thinking, we take actions. And those actions affect how we feel and then also produce results that reinforce the original belief.
Jeff: Yes. Exactly. We take actions with the assumption that my thinking is accurate – my thinking that comes from those old beliefs. I assume that that’s accurate when in reality, I don’t question them. And I can question them because guess what – these old beliefs from the past that are telling me I am this way or that way, or I’m better than others, or I’m not enough, or whatever the message is – a lot of times that message is inaccurate. And I know you know this for yourself, Bill, from previous conversations.
Bill: Yes, yes. And I used to believe everything I thought, as you’re describing.
Jeff: (Laughing) My hands are raised!
Bill: And what I found out from Byron Katie is that it’s a good idea to check it to see if the beliefs and the thoughts that I’m thinking are even accurate. If they were an accurate reflection of reality, I began to experience immediately, some relief.
Bill: And here’s something else I want to ask you about because yes, I experienced some relief, but I also experienced some disorientation and some upset.
Bill: How about you when you were doing your work?
Jeff: Oh, my gosh, yes. My experience of part of that disorientation and upset is I had to challenge my own identity, who I thought I was. That’s pretty upsetting and my little ego can kind of get all freaked out there. That’s where for me, the psychotherapy would really come in and support, where the psychotherapy supports the spiritual journey, the spiritual unfoldment.
Bill: Alright. So, tighten that up for me a little bit. First of all, I think it would be helpful, as I listen to you talk about this for me to understand and I assume it would be helpful to my listeners as well, if you would start by defining what you do mean by spirituality. And what is the tie-in between that and the recovery that we’ve been discussing – this natural recovery.
Jeff: Wow, that’s an interesting question – the tie-in between spirituality and natural recovery. For me, the tie-in is just my curiosity. I have been a curious person ever since I was little. And I think one of the reasons I have been curious is because there were so many secrets in my family. There was one thing said and then there was something else that was done, and inside I really wanted to believe what was told to me. I really wanted to believe the words. But I saw something different; I felt that something different was going on, and I doubted myself. For me, a lot of the natural recovery was my own awareness about this process, this Belief System Cycle process and this awareness of doubting myself – wanting the words that I’m hearing outside of me to actually happen – for someone who’s saying them to actually do them – to be congruent. I wanted that. And it was almost like for me to be congruent, I was looking for that on the outside. And that was a part of my identity, Bill. And then for me to actually go, “Wait a minute. I can make changes before things on the outside change for me. I can be congruent with what I say and do.”
For me, that increases how I feel about my own integrity in the world, in my own life. And that’s empowering. And that’s part of the gift that I wanted to give to others. So the whole thing of what I’ve done here with this on line family community – that’s what I’m trying to do for others – to present a new lens to look at an old family situation and to come up with new understandings, new ah-ha’s, new curiosities, to see something new and to start to question those old beliefs and those old identifications…just about myself.
Bill: I want to jump into that in a minute. I want to hear a lot more about the family recovery solution. And I’m still stuck, my foot is still stuck on my question about the tie-in with spirituality. And maybe where I’m stuck is that I’m not understanding spirituality. I have a pre-determined definition for myself of what spirituality is.
Jeff: How I define spirituality is raising my own awareness where I slow down and can look at a larger context and take it in, and I can start to make decisions based on a larger reality…something greater than just my own little ego messages. For me, the environment where I could raise my awareness the most is the great outdoors, it’s actually floating rivers. I consider myself a card-carrying member of the church of the great outdoors. I’ve taken my own boat down the Grand Canyon like five times, and the river has been one of the biggest teachers in my life actually. The river is a metaphor that I use with families to help them change how they think about addiction in the family. No family would show up at Lee’s Ferry, the put in to the Grand Canyon 275-mile river trip, with no life jackets for their family. But this unpreparedness happens with addiction all the time. So, let’s look at addiction in the family as a river journey and how we can learn some skills, how we can get prepared, how we can have a safety talk together, and how we can practice some of those skills in the boat as we’re going down the river. And when we get to those big rapids we’re going to be better prepared. And if we flip, we’re going to be with a group. We’re going to know what to do. We’re going to have support.
Bill: Wow! What a great answer! That really does clear it up for me, and I love your concept of spirituality. I love it, I absolutely love it. So, thank you. That really answers it for me.
Bill: So, let’s get into it. I’m looking at something that you sent me the last time that we talked. It talks about the problem, the solution – and quite a bit of detail and all that. So, let just kind of cut you loose, and I’ll listen and make some notes, and I’ll come back and ask you a bunch of questions after you’ve kind of walked through the overview of the problem and the solution.
Jeff: I don’t have that document that I sent you in front of me, but I know it well enough that I can easily talk about this.
One of the biggest problems that I see, and I see this problem in families, but I also see this problem systemically in addiction treatment, and I see this problem in the way money gets allocated in our system for treatment and for change. And that is: when we think about addiction, we think about an individual problem having an individual solution and that fixing the situation. The normal way that it’s thought about is the trajectory of impact of addiction and the trajectory of ideal healing.
The traditional approach is to think about it as the individual has the most impact – which they do, and then the family has impact – which they do, and then the community has impact – which they do. So the thinking is we just fix the individual. You know the definition to addiction is it’s a brain disease. So, if we can just fix their brain, then the addiction is fixed, and the family will be better, and the community will be better.
That’s a nice start. I think that’s idealistic to assume that healing in the individual will automatically trickle down to healing in the family and healing in the community. So what I’ve tried to do is to flip that trajectory around to compliment the system that we have now that focuses on the individual – to compliment that system with the community being the first level of impact.
A family recovery community that impacts the family, and once they start integrating things that they’re learning in the online family community…once they start integrating that into their own family, they start to change the structure. And the individual, whether they’re still in an addictive process, or new to recovery, or have been in recovery for years, the individual will feel the impact. It’s like a both – and solution. It’s working together. What I’m doing is focusing on the whole family. Granted, families can come in very early on and it’s a preventative strategy. I think there are gaps in our preventative services between families being in isolation, to where when families finally reach out for services, there’s a big gap there. And I think this online community fits that gap because people can come in anonymously. And that’s a huge benefit to them, getting information, connecting with like-minded people, etc., etc. But it also fits a gap with complimenting services for individuals. The family community is beneficial on the prevention end, which could be just a family engaging together, or two or three people together engaging before their loved one has even stopped using, to a compliment when their loved one is in some kind of program or process or just a self-help group, or their own therapy or any combination of those.
Bill: I love this. Let me tell you what I love about it. First of all, you answered a question I was going to ask and that is: How do families actually begin the recovery process with this idea that you have even before the addict wants recovery for themselves? The families can begin the recovery process by addressing the gaps as you described and the environment that’s being created where either addiction can thrive or cannot thrive. What would prevent a family from doing that is what Claudia Black talks about in her very old book now, “It Will Never Happen to Me,” the three rules of dysfunctional families. Rule number one is: don’t talk. Rule number two is: don’t trust. Rule number three is: don’t feel. And you’re suggesting that families actually open the doors to all of those. Let’s talk about what’s actually going on, let’s trust others, and let’s feel. And then you said it’s an anonymous online community.
Bill: Talk a little more about all that, please.
Jeff: I love those three steps from Claudia Black’s book. What I’m really doing is standing on the shoulders of so many experts and professionals in the industry for many, many years. The unique thing that I’ve done is to create a platform – this is not a facebook group. But to create a platform that families can navigate themselves and while they are doing that, they are building trust with the community. There are incremental levels of building trust. Initially, they can go in there and sign up with an alias. I have a Wednesday evening chat and a Friday evening chat. The Wednesday evening chats are recorded. They can just listen to the recordings. So that would be the first level of engagement – just listening to the recordings.
The next level of engagement is they can actually go into the community chat, and they can listen. And when they go in to the community chat, the name that they signed up with will show up in the community chat, so their name is seen. They can have their name be Donald Duck or something, but it’s the next incremental level to building trust.
The next step is they can actually go in there and use their real name – just their first name – like Bob or Bill or whatever. And then they can still just listen to the chat.
Another step is they can ask a question. They can type in a question or they can turn their microphone on and ask a question. Or if someone else in the community is talking, they can private message them and ask to talk to them in one of the six chat rooms in the community at another time, like tomorrow night at eight o’clock, for example.
Another level of incremental trust building is to turn on their web cam and allow their face to be seen. All of these incremental levels of trust building…people in the community are learning about trust building, and trust building is actually something that is a big deal in families to start to make change. They are also learning boundaries because with one person they may want one level of anonymity and with another person, who they have more history with or trust with, they may show their face and have a conversation, or use their first name or something, so they’re also practicing boundaries.
And then the other thing is how people communicate with one another and any potential conflict that arises. There’s a lot of different skill sets that families are needing to lean into and practice that they can implement into their own family. That is just like the tip of the iceberg to this whole thing. The community is fifty dollars a month. Everybody in the family can access the community by using the same user name and password. One person in the family can see a video that I’ve made to help them look at their family situation differently. If they see value in that and it reminds them of the dinner they had at Thanksgiving, and they want to share that with another family member, they can send them the log in credentials and say, “Go and see this video and once you’ve seen it, call me, because we need to have a talk about that Thanksgiving dinner. It was just wild and crazy, and this explains some things that I didn’t see before.”
Bill: Wow…this is super. This is really amazing. So, you started by talking about the online chats that happen on Wednesday and Friday. You also mention that there are six chat rooms. Can you explain that a little bit? How does that work? Why do you need six chat rooms if you have two different places and times for the chat?
Jeff: That’s a great question. Thank you. Actually, at the heart of this community is the three-phase process that I created for families a couple of years ago. There’s a chat room for families who are at each stage of that process. There’s what I haven’t mentioned is the heart of the community, this three-phased model and that families can opt-in to work together as a family online to go through this process together. That’s an option for families if they choose to so they can see the first phase of what that looks like in the community with these videos that I mentioned. Three of those chat rooms are for each one of those phases.
Bill: I see.
Jeff: And there’s one chat room where people in the community can go in there and they can actually lock the door. Then there’s another chat room which I call “The Community Show” where I have experts come in. I have a conversation with them, and the community can ask questions of that expert in real time and get real time answers to their questions.
This interview is continued in part 2, Episode #9.
Thank you for listening to the Recovery and Discovery Podcast with Bill Tierney, Mindset and Recovery Coach.
Look in the show notes for the transcription along with any links mentioned in this podcast. And be sure to check out our website, breakthroughsuccessclub.com, to learn more about Bill Tierney’s group and individual coaching services.
Finally, if you’re enjoying this podcast, please share it with a friend.
To contact Jeff Jones, go to his website, www.thefamilyrecoverysolution.com .