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  • Writer's pictureTanya Cook, CAI

Walking Through the Fear of Our Messes

The Early Years of Our Messes!


I used to think I was the only one amongst my friends, neighbors, co-workers that was dealing with addiction in my own family. Over time, I came to learn that this simply was not true.

Did you know that according to the United States surgeon general, 1 in 7 people in the USA will experience Substance Use Disorder (SUD) in their lifetime? And sadly, only 10% of them will receive treatment.

My family looked like the All-American middle-class family living in the suburbs of Houston. We were raising four sons, and had no delusion that raising these four sons would be a cakewalk. However, we never dreamt that addiction would come into our lives and our home like a wrecking ball. But it did, and it did so in spades!

You see, two of our four sons have SUD. Is it the odds of probability (two out of four), or are they just two of the nearly 21 million Americans that have at least one substance addiction? I mean when they were young, the stats that we were concerned about were the percentile in which they would rank in high school, college, or sports. Certainly, anything other than whether or not they would be one of the more than 700,000 Americans who would die of overdose during the almost 15 years that we were in the thick of our battle.

The truth is that two of my four sons fell into the statistics of the approximately 2.1 million Americans who have an opioid use disorder. They also fell into the 886,000 of Americans who used heroin at least once in 2017, the 494,000 Americans who were regular heroin users, and the over 25% who became addicted to #heroin. But thankfully NOT one of the over 15,000 Americans who died from heroin #overdose in 2017. #AllTheGloryToGod #TodayIsGood

Four All-American Sons - Two With Substance Use Disorder

So how did I walk through the fear of our messes in my family? The short answer is a lot of prayer and a lot of faith! And I quickly learned that faith required #action. I did all the things for my sons…30, 60, 90 day and even long-term treatment programs. Sober home living…even as long as one year. We tried traditional 12-step programs, non-traditional programs, faith-based programs, and yet relapse seemed to always come knocking at our door, time and time again. Quite honestly, I became so weary and saddened to have to keep sending my sons away.

Were all these efforts a lost cause? Certainly, not! I now tell families that going to treatment multiple times is like starting with an empty toolbox, adding tools to the toolbox, sometimes losing a few along the way, but always pushing forward to regain lost tools and acquiring a full set of tools that leads to a lifetime of #recovery. And the same is true for family.

For many of the years that we were in the battle, all of my focus was on my sons. If they could get better, I would be better. If I could somehow #fix them, I would be fixed. As with thinking I was alone in this journey, this too simply was not true.

The truth is, I started with an empty toolbox too, and I needed to work my own recovery. The beautiful part is that through the years I was able to fill up my toolbox with tools that will help me with all areas of my life; not just dealing with the messes of addiction in our home.

I needed to allow my sons to work their own recovery program, and I needed to look inward and work on my own recovery. I had to evaluate my own vocabulary and communication style, and speak to them and treat them differently. I am not proud to say that sometimes my words were harsh and damaging; although this was part of my own learning and healing. Today, things are much different. Today, and just for today, things are good!

I read something today that sums up the place in which I came before I surrendered myself to my own recovery, and subsequently what became my passion.

“There comes a point where it all becomes too much. When we get too tired to fight anymore. So, we give up. That’s when the real work begins. To find hope where there seems to be absolutely NONE at all.” ~ Christina Yang

Wow! How true is that for me. I was beyond tired, and it was at the moment that I surrendered what was never in my control in the first place that I found my passion.

So, what became my passion? Helping others through the fear of their messes. Becoming a trained and certified family interventionist. This work is the most rewarding work I’ve ever done. And I have to say that with each family I work with, I GET more than I GIVE!

The truth is, families (all families) are very complex. I work with families from all walks of life, and yet they have more similarities than they do differences. Especially as it relates to communication, the way they cope with trauma, crisis, and substance use disorder.

Families and individuals tend to go into self-preservation mode. I get it…I did it too. And this can be terribly unhealthy to the entire family system. For generations to come...

I have worked with families that worked tirelessly to hide monumental family secrets. Secrets that were not only enabling the disease of addiction, but also contributing to really bad behaviors. Nobody wants to air their dirty laundry, and yet what we fail to realize is that we ALL have dirty laundry and the very people we are shutting out, may be the very people that can help us heal.

My favorite part of working with families is storytelling. I love to bring as much knowledge and as many people as possible together to look at the entire family of origin.

My precious MamMaw. She walked through our messes with us. And she held the KEY to our past!

Why is this important? Because bringing together generations of people is the key to our past and to our future. It paints a picture. It’s the pieces of the puzzle that can bring understanding and empathy, were understanding and empathy are absent. It allows us to remove the shame and blame from a situation, and see things for what they really are. It is the foundational pieces from which we can start the healing process within the family system. And most importantly, it is the place where families begin to communicate again, or in some cases, for the first time!

It is truly a beautiful thing to witness breakthroughs in a family. Sure, sometimes it is baby steps, but nonetheless, when I hear two parents say, “this is the most conversation we’ve had with our son in years”, I know they are making great progress. To see a young girl who has been absolutely resistant to even a conversation about her drinking agree to go to treatment…well, that’s plain out a #WIN! To see a family step back, look at the generational trends, patterns and trauma, and turn their anger into love and support, that’s when their messes turn to healing!

So, if you are in the middle of the messes of addiction in your family, know these things. One on One….Addiction Wins! You must come out of the isolation in which you are likely living in, and involve family, community, and trained professionals so you may get out of your messes. And last but not least, giving up really just means to SURRENDER, LET GO, and LET GOD!

For more information about individual and family intervention services, please reach out today!

Listen below to my son's story of Opioid Addiction. #PeopleDoRecover

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