October 14, 2013

For every person who has a substance or process addiction – such as alcohol, other drugs, sex, pornography, shopping, or gambling – there are many people in their lives directly affected by the addiction of this important person. Certainly parents and siblings are affected along with other relatives. Partners and friends are affected as are co-workers, teachers, employers, and neighbors. Even strangers may have an interaction with the addict that has a powerful and lasting affect on them.

I can not provide an exact number of persons affected by the addictive use of an individual. That would vary case-to-case. But suffice it to say there are a number of people who experience the ripple effects of the addiction. Years ago in my clinical practice, I was explaining Al-Anon to a client. “Al-Anon is for family and friends of alcoholics,” I stated. To which she responded, “Then everyone should be in Al-Anon.”

Her comments spoke of the prevalence of knowing and/or living with someone with an addiction. I appreciate her wise understanding and honesty.

The addiction of someone else can easily draw our focus away from our own center. The excitement, drama, and concern brought into our lives by the addiction of someone else can disconnect us from our very self. What we needed to do for our self today was dropped. What we had set as a clear and healthy boundary for our self was disregarded by either the other person and/or by our self. What we had told our self would never happen again happened.

Care for our self as we live with addiction and recovery from addiction is imperative. To be able to bring and maintain that healthy focus on our self is the cornerstone of our recovery from the codependency that can have us, as the subtitle of Disentangle describes, losing our self in someone else. Disentangle is designed to help in this process of healthy self connection and growth offering ideas and skills in Facing Illusions, Detaching, Setting Healthy Boundaries, and Developing Spirituality.

Making this change to balanced care for self as we care for others is a major shift in our way of being and a necessary one for the healthy recovery of both the addict and those of us affected by the addiction of someone else.
Daisy, my Border Collie and heroine of My Life as a Border Collie: Freedom from Codependency, turned 17 years-old this past April 15th. We don’t really know her birth date as she was a stray dog, but working with the best estimates of her age when we found her, she is at least 17 years old now. All of our dogs have been strays, so for years we have made April 15th the dogs’ birth day.
Being 17 years in human years, Daisy is anywhere from 84 to 90 years old in dog years. Her veterinarian describes her as a “ninety year-old dog.” Daisy continues to do well for her ninety years. 
I have wondered what I wanted to say to you about her birthday in addition to announcing this wonderful achievement of age to those of you have been readers of My Life as a Border Collie.And it has come to me to say that she and I both have reached this landmark by living one day at a time.
Over this past year as I finished writing My Life as a Border Collie and as we released the book and went on tour with it, I constantly found my self worrying about whether Daisy would live long enough for me to accomplish each of these goals: “Will Daisy die before I finish this book?” “Will Daisy die before I get back from the book tour?”  And then as I returned home, “Will Daisy die before Christmas?” “Will Daisy die before she turns 17?”
This is not a healthy way for me to think or to live, and I know it. To be preoccupied with things so out of my control is a waste and a bother. It is unnecessary worry. It is not living in the present. I do my part to keep Daisy alive and then I have to let go to the natural flow of life.
So each time that worry about Daisy making it to the next milestone came up for me, I did my best to quiet my thoughts, let go of what I could not control, and as Daisy’s veterinarian has said to me a number of times recently, “Enjoy her, Nancy.”
Yes, I am enjoying Daisy one day at a time when I am living in my recovery.
There was, lying on the floor of the veterinarian’s treatment room. Not Daisy. She was doing quite well with the procedure Dr. Keating was performing on her. Iwas the one overcome by it all and dysfunctional at that moment: a codependent in relapse.
As you know from reading My Life as a Border Collie: Freedom from Codependency, Daisy is a very important creature in my life, a long-time, loyal companion and a teacher of mine. She will be seventeen years-old on April 15th and she is doing well for her age.
Sometimes I am doing well for my age in recovery and sometimes I am doing not as well.
Daisy has warts of some sort which grow in various places on her body. The procedure Dr. Keating was performing was shaving some of Daisy’s fur from around one of these growths on the side of her face close to her ear. There was no emergency about any of this, and both Dr. Keating and Daisy were doing well with this slow, tedious process.
It was I who slowly and surely became overwhelmed by it.
One could say that of course a novice to medical procedures involving blood and bad smells and possible pain might be overcome by such close involvement as I had there. Dr. Keating had asked me to be the one to hold Daisy on the examining table, and I did have my face and eyes right on what she was doing.
But I also had my heart and soul right on what she was doing as well. I don’t like to take Daisy to the veterinarian in the first place, not because of the care she receives – which is excellent – but because I am so afraid that something is going to be wrong with her that I didn’t know about or because I don’t want to stress her.
I said to my husband about it all, I just didn’t know if Daisy, at her old age, could handle a procedure that would contain her in ways she doesn’t like to be contained and that might frighten her. Monty and I laughed as he said back to me, “And you were the one who couldn’t handle it.”
Yes, that is correct. Halfway through the procedure I was overcome by heat and felt like I was going to faint. Dr. Keating called in her assistant immediately to take over my job and had me sit in the chair. I held my head down low. She wondered if I was having a heart attack, and I reassured her I was not. She wondered if I should get down on the floor to be completely safe, and I did as the floor had much appeal at that time.
And so there I was lying on the floor of the treatment room looking back up at Daisy on the examining table doing well as Dr. Keating and Trisha completed their work.
My level of over-concern for Daisy had taken me over. I had moved from being helpful to being a distraction and a problem in this process. As I had allowed my heart and soul to worry about how Daisy was going to do with all of this, I failed to simultaneously pay attention to my self. I had not taken off my coat as we started, adding to my getting hot. I watched what Dr. Keating was doing way more than I know is good for me to do. I kept feeling impatient and restless for Daisy who I imagined felt that way but did not show it. I wanted this to be over with – I thought for Daisy’s sake but really for mine.
At the end of My Life as a Border Collie I tell a final tale about Daisy and I that highlights there being a fine and important line between us, that fine line that us codependents can be challenged by in our relationships: the line between where I end and you begin; the line between where you end and I begin.
There in the veterinarian’s treatment room I blurred that line so thoroughly that my body acted out my enmeshment and took me to the floor.
A lot of help I was!