This is part two of my conversation with Jeff Jones.
Jeff: The idea of the community largely is to create a safe space for family members to be able to hear a lot of different information, talk with one another about who has tried what, what has been helpful when, and for family members to make their best decision for them. Because what I have seen that has happened over and over again is family members stay in isolation until it’s so bad, it’s so dangerous, it’s potentially life threatening here. And when they reach out for help they’re met with maybe calling a call center. Or they’re met with a sales process and they’re vulnerable. They’re making decisions when they have the least amount of blood flow to the part of the brain that can make the best decision; that can look at the context, understand all the different factors that are contributing to their particular situation and make the best decision for them. So, the community is about people making the best decision for them. It’s about them coming up with a recovery message that is unique to their family.
Bill: So, it’s important for them to get involved real, real early at the first signs that there’s a problem.
Jeff: It’s optimal. It’s not the normal way our standard of care is set up. Because our standard of care is set up for families to try to deal with this problem themselves. And what I want families to know is the culture, our culture is not designed to minimize addiction. Addiction happens, all kinds of different things happen, and those stressors that happen in the culture trickle down to the family to deal with. What I’m advocating for is for families to see this and just within their own family structure to incorporate protective factors that actually minimize their vulnerability to addiction – minimize the whole family’s system vulnerability to addiction. Is that making sense?
Bill: It’s very clear, very clear. Let’s talk about where someone’s listening, they either are in a family, they know a family where addiction is present. Regardless of what stage they’re in, whether they are getting this wakeup call early in the process or late at the point where they, as you so clearly communicated, are either going to be facing a 911 call, or a call line, or a sales process. I loved how you said that. Boy, that is the last time in the world you want to be making decisions about how many thousands of dollars to spend to deal with a crisis situation is when you’re in this fight, flight, or freeze situation where everything is just imminently threatening. Like you said, the blood is not flowing to the part of the brain which would be…well, you know the brain better than I do, I’ll bet. What part of the brain has the higher thinking capacity?
Jeff: The cortex.
Bill: Yes. The pre-frontal cortex. Not the reptilian brain?
Jeff: Not the reptilian brain and not the limbic brain or the emotional brain. Like you said, when the nervous system is in fight or flight, generally the majority of our blood flow is going to be going to the emotional brain or the reptilian brain. It’s like our decisions are going to be made from that place…emotionally, or from a place of I need what I need when I need it, period.
Bill: Yes. Yes. You have blinders on.
Jeff: Yes, exactly.
Bill: Wherever the family is then, if they’re ready to be helped, there’s a place that they can go to sign up for this program. And is that on your website?
Jeff: Yes, it is on my website. I refer to it as the deep community. The professionals that I contract with for this very robust platform they have what they call deep community, so I use their language about this community. And they have the technical expertise to be able to have all of these features that I’ve just talked about.
Bill: You’re talking about this deep community. Who are you referring to when you talk about experts? I’m not asking for names, but what do they do?
Jeff: They have a university-type platform, and they have the technical expertise to pull the pieces together where there are six chat rooms in one community. Where people can sign up anonymously, where they have the flexibility to change their level of engagement to have their picture shown or not, or to type in a question.
Bill: I see. So, ou’re talking about a panel of experts that have built the technology to be able to support your programs. Ok, but you are the expert that offers the support for the families and the person that’s recovering.
Jeff: I do the community chats twice a week. I’m on there two hours a week. The Friday chat is just for family members’ questions. Anybody who has a question can come in there and ask the question. Depending on how many people are in the community, other people can respond to how they’ve answered that same question for themselves and what has worked for them and what has not worked for them. And why I see that as so important is because there isn’t any silver bullet, one answer for everybody’s situation. I think it’s really, really important for people to get to a place where they make decisions for themselves, decisions that they are congruent with, decisions that really, they can fully align with. I think that is really important. It’s kind of the difference between being given a fish or being taught to fish.
We can hire someone, and there are some very good, excellent people out there that can be hired to walk someone through a process, to take them by the hand and to say, “Do this, do this, say this, say this,” kind of thing and get them out of a very chaotic situation. There are people that are really good at that. I’ve done some of that myself, but really what I think is important here is for family members to get to a place where they can learn to make those decisions themselves.
What I do is I teach this process in the community where people one – they’re aware of what all is happening around them. They’re aware of the external environment, the external stimuli, whatever is contributing to that. They’re aware of the internal impact on them. And then they go to the next step, what I call “resource”, and they internally resource themselves, and they figure out what, in the environment, do they need resourced from.
Internally, resourcing oneself could be as simple as taking a big breath. For people who have done a lot of meditation, it’s like taking a big breath, pushing out my belly. It’s like that engages my parasympathetic nervous system automatically. Biologically, that is going to start to calm the body down. When the body calms down, it’s going to be in a better situation to make best decisions for itself, which is the third process; What’s the next best step for me?
Going back to the second stage there with Resource, the external resource. I could go, “Oh my gosh, this environment! I am going to lose it here, I am going to blow up. I need to remove myself for ten minutes and calm myself down.”
To say, “I’m going to remove myself for ten minutes. I’m going to go for a walk, but this conversation is important. I am going to come back because I want to continue this conversation.”
The external resource could be just to remove themselves to calm themselves down so they can engage back into the conversation to make their next best step decision.
Bill: I’m looking at your print out and kind of following along as you’re talking about this. And when you’re talking about the three different phases, what I’m looking at on the page here is Recognize, Resource, and Realize. Is that what you’re referring to?
Jeff: Yes. Where those three circles kind of overlap one another. Outside of that with Recognize, there are some words up there. It says, “Be informed.”
With Resource, it’s “Be connected.” It’s be connected to self, and be connected to the environment and what’s happening out there.
And then Realize: “Realize next best steps.” How can I do that most skillfully? What’s the most skillful thing that I can do here?
A lot of this is pretty obvious. If we’re talking to our loved one and they just came home and they’re drunk, the best time to really have a conversation is not then. If we’re triggered, we can get pulled in to some conversation that goes back and forth and volumes of voices go up, heart rates go us, it ends in argument. We want to be able to use our full potential, our full body to be able to deal with this addiction disruption that has happened in the whole environment.
Bill: This online community that you’ve developed helps families to become skilled, to become informed, and to become connected.
Jeff: Right. Exactly. And they can start – there’s so many different ways for them to start. They can start by connecting with one another. They can start by going in there and looking at some of the family specific resources that are in there. I have thirty-some videos that I’ve made myself and some of them show the first phase of this three-phase process. And some of them are just resources that people can look at when they’re most applicable, when those resources are most applicable to where they’re at.
Bill: So if a family would like to check this out, they can make a one month commitment for fifty dollars and get online. Is that accurate?
Jeff: Kind of. When they sign up, they sign up for three months. So it’s one hundred and fifty dollars. The reason why it’s three months is because healing is a slow, gradual process.
Bill: Wait, wait, wait, what? (laughter) I want some answers now, Jeff.
Jeff: I’m sorry to be the bringer of bad news. Addiction is a slow, gradual process; we all know that. We can’t learn from one interaction, from one therapy session, from one conversation, from one pdf, from one video, but that can start the process. And once the process is started, we need to reinforce it. We need the new insight, the new information to be reinforced. That’s the idea of these community chats – that people have an environment where their new insight, new information can be reinforced in the community chats and with other people. I’m really approaching this from the standpoint of healing is a slow, gradual response. And I love your response, Bill, because that’s the response of so many people. It’s like, “Wait a minute. I want this right now, chop, chop.”
Bill: Well, that’s what alcohol used to do for me. Now! (laughter) Seriously! That’s what marijuana used to do for me. That’s what speed used to do for me.
Jeff: It’s like when we take a substance…bam! We get a change right now!
Bill: It gets me out of my pain.
Jeff: Right. And so, for family members who have been…I look at addiction as addiction disruption…so my language is a little bit different. But why I use the language addiction disruption is it acknowledges “Yes, there’s an individual at the epicenter of that disruption, but there’s also people around them that have been impacted.”
That impact is a slow, gradual process to family members changing their own strategy to deal with that impact, the strategy internally to deal with the impact to their body, and the strategy of how does this family stay connected and how do we do family together now that there’s this addiction thing in there. We need to compensate this because the addiction has come in and the addiction is challenging all the family rules. New rules are being set or old rules are being cemented into place and not challenged.
Bill: Yes, yes, yes. Those rules that Claudia Black talked about, right?
Jeff: Right. I hope this isn’t getting too deep into it, but the other thing that I’ve seen over and over is that the person in the family with the addiction is the person who feels the most feelings in the family. They are like an emotional sponge, and they have not learned how to have boundaries. How does an individual deal with all of those emotions, all of those feelings, and these emotions and feelings that aren’t theirs? Like the story I told about myself carrying the grief and pain for my whole family when I’m just a kid. Guess what? Drugs and alcohol. WhooHoo! Great solution, temporary solution to not feel.
Bill: And it’s right now.
Jeff: And it is exactly right now. The person that feels the most emotions in the family can be the person who’s the most vulnerable to addiction. Often times for them to stay clean and sober over a long period of time, they need to have boundaries with their family. The family takes those boundaries as personal. The family doesn’t really understand the larger structure, the visual diagram that I call the Spotlight Diagram that you can see on my website. The family doesn’t see the larger picture to where that whole structure is toxic to the individual newly in recovery, and they need to have boundaries to stay clean and sober.
Bill: It’s toxic to every member of the family as well.
Jeff: You’re absolutely right. That’s the way they learn to relate to one another. And that’s kind of the way they do family. And what has become kind of habitualized into “this is family.” I see addiction disruption as an opportunity for everybody to make change, not just one person.
Bill: And disruption is such a good word to use. I’ve been challenging the word “recovery” recently, because “recovery”, and maybe those that have listened to this podcast have heard me say this before, I’ll say it again now…”recovery” implies that we’re going to return to a state that we previously lived in. And when it comes to family addiction, it’s generational like your story. It didn’t just happen with this generation or even the one before. It’s been going on a long time. The experience of life in a family impacted by addiction is not something you ever want to have to return to. So, it’s not really recovery of that. So, if it is recovery, what is it? And I’d say, and this is back to maybe my version of spirituality, it’s a return to who we actually really are and never have known ourselves to be.
Jeff: And I think one of our first conversations, Bill, I think you used this word, “discovery.” It’s the potential for discovery.
Bill: So, if we combined the discovery and the disruption, that kind of lays out some expectations for folks that are going to be brave enough to have the courage to challenge the set way…
Jeff: Yes. What I want to say here is there’s a way that the larger system…cause and effect thinking is very big in our culture. What I’m doing here is I’m using contributing factors thinking to compliment
cause and effect thinking. Cause and effect thinking so often times, “my experience leads to strong positions, black and white thinking.”
Bill: Rigid, inflexible.
Jeff: Yes. “The in group, the out group. We’re doing it the right way, you’re doing it the wrong way. What you’re doing is not going to be helpful and actually, it’s going to be worse.” What I’m trying to do is to incorporate contributing factors thinking, and what that means to me is like that first example I used in Recognize: expand one’s attention out to understand what’s in the environment that’s contributing to the situation that’s in front of me right now. What are those factors? People have written books about those factors…volumes. It can get really, really complicated, but when we don’t look at it as those factors that contribute to what’s going on, it’s so easy to see it through the lens of cause and effect. If the one person, the individual with addiction, if they were to stop, the effect would be that the problem would go away. I would no longer have this level of chaos to deal with in my own life as a family member. That’s the thinking, and that thinking is incomplete.
Bill: And it’s painfully inaccurate. The family members find that out very quickly. I hear story and story and story after story after story after story, including my own about after years of addiction, the individual is now in recovery, abstinence – let’s say it that way. Is in abstinence from the behavior, the act, or the substance, or all of the above, and now the family member is “unemployed.” They no longer have the jobs that they learned to have as long as the individual was in active addiction. And now they feel displaced. It’s extremely disruptive. I sat in Alanon meetings for about six years, and I heard, more than one time I heard the spouse of the recovering person say, “I think I liked her better, I think I liked him better when he was drinking.”
Jeff: Thank you for saying that. I’ve heard a similar kind of thing, and it was said in a little bit different way and that is: there are a lot of relationships that can stay together through the addiction, but the relationship is more challenged with recovery. I think a lot of it is very similar to what you just said because often times people in a relationship can get together and connect over a substance. They go out to a bar and have some drinks and get loose. They both drink together, and that’s how they get to know one another. And over time one person sees, “I have a couple glasses of wine and my partner here, they’ll drink a whole bottle of wine and they can’t stop.” And they end up having these problems over and over again.
So, what starts out as similar behavior, the one person in the family sees that the other one is having these negative consequences over and over again, and they will try another strategy like: they will quit drinking themselves or they will quit talking about the problem or talking about the alcohol or one hundred and eighty degrees from that; they will talk about the problem and let that person know what they need to do. It can feel very shaming and blaming. It can go back and forth in argument. And when that role doesn’t work, the person can go into the helping role, or what we all know as the enabling role.
But really, enabling I see, starts as someone is trying to do their very best and come from a place of love to deal with a situation that is wild, out of control, is chaotic. They’re dealing with their relationship with love. They’re dealing with that person the same way they were years ago before the addiction had taken such a grasp on that person.
They’re dealing with a stranger and that stranger is the addicted brain. They’re dealing with them the way they did when they first fell in love for instance. It is not easy, there’s no one silver bullet answer. I know I’ve heard some people say, “Well, you just have to cut them off and let them do whatever they want to do and not control them at all.”
I think just with alcohol and that kind of theory, that definitely has had merit in some situations. But I know now with opioids and heroin and stuff like that, family members have saved other family members’ lives just by having NARCAN in the house and using it when a loved one overdoses…saving their life.
Bill: What is it called?
Jeff: NARCAN. NARCAN is something that you can get at the pharmacy. It used to be something that was injected into the arm or leg muscle. Now it is so much easier to use…it’s a nasal thing that will reverse overdose.
Bill: I’m noticing we’ve been going for an hour now. Can you believe it? We’ve been talking for an hour. And we could talk about this I suspect, for days.
Jeff: I know. I know.
Bill: I’m probably going to ask you twenty episodes down the road here to maybe come back and talk with me again.
Jeff: Thank you very much for having me on, Bill. I really appreciate it. I really appreciated you were on my podcast, and you were talking about your own kind of exploration in what’s your recovery based in, what are the strengths, what’s real there for you. And in some ways, I’m doing a similar kind of discovery process.
Bill: You’re brilliant. I think what you’ve discovered and developed is absolutely brilliant, and I really believe it could make a huge difference for thousands, maybe millions of families all over. Before we wrap up completely, let’s give some guidance to the family member or the addict who is considering some of the things we’ve talked about and thinks, “Maybe it’s time. Maybe it’s time to start moving in the direction of turning this thing around.”
What would you suggest? What’s a good first step for anybody?
Jeff: Well, a good first step for anybody is to sign up. The other thing is that people can, before they sign up, if they are reticent or have some question, they can reach out, they can schedule a phone call with me. But signing up is a first step. I think what’s really important for family members to know is that this is a marathon, not a sprint. And there is hope, but it’s like they can’t put all of their eggs into one basket and assume that just because my loved one went to detox or went to treatment, that it’s like okay, now we can go back to normal. They can’t go back to normal. Going back to normal is problematic thinking.
Bill: Well, it doesn’t exist. Normal requires the addict to be active. That’s very limited thinking where the focus is on the individual. For the family member, and I certainly used to have this attitude myself before I discovered that I had a problem with my family origin, was “I’m not the problem. What are you looking at me for? You go to counseling, and once you do that, everything’s going to be just fine.”
Bill: That’s the song. That’s the song we sing. So how does somebody get a hold of you, Jeff?
Jeff: thefamilyrecoverysolution.com is my website. There’s a lot of information on there that can help people kind of navigate their first steps. Not everybody is in the exact same situation, but coming into the community can help them to get resources, to have different conversations about the potential different solutions that they have in their role.
Bill: At a similar level to this conversation that you and I are having that people can listen to, your website also offers some preliminary orientation as to what the problem is and what the solution is, I take it, without having to sign up.
Bill: And then they can call you, and your phone number is on the website. Would you like to give the phone number now?
Jeff: The phone number is 720-314-3543. People can call me, that’s fine. Scheduling a call on my website is optimal in that I know I will be available.
Bill: Okay. Anything else that I haven’t asked you about that you’d like to say before we sign off for now?
Jeff: No. This has been a great conversation. I really appreciate it. Thank you very much.
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.
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Claudia Black, Ph.D.
It Will Never Happen to Me – Growing Up with Addiction as Youngsters, Adolescents, Adults
© 1981, 2001 by Claudia Black