Insights Into Family Recovery
A very special guest, Lisa Smith, opens up about her enlightenment towards becoming a Certified Family Recovery Coach, and how she is now helping families fight addiction together.
Lisa opens up about why she shifted into a completely new career, helping those families struggling with addiction.
Lisa compares the two different approaches she has experienced while walking through having a son who was in active addiction; the one before learning how to manage this hard situation, and one after.
How she overcame the fear
Lisa gives her insight into connection, relationships, and kindness and how these concepts are intertwined with recovery.
Lisa explains the Family Recovery curriculum she has developed
You’ve got to be able to separate the behavior from the person. It requires you to not take the behavior personally when the behavior starts to happen that you wish didn’t happen. This concept really helps to get to a place where you aren’t being led by fear. It’s not something that is easy, and it certainly isn’t something that comes naturally as a parent, but allowing them to walk their path and establishing the connection, communication, and kindness helps the family to get to a place where the individual understands your intentions.
hello and welcome to another episode of finding peaks i’m jason friesma chief clinical officer of peaks recovery to my left chris burns president and founder of peaks recovery hello and to my right uh very special guest lisa smith uh family peer recovery coach or peer family recovery i never know which order to put those words in but um lisa’s uh joined us uh lisa i met with you i don’t know a few months ago you came to our office and said i’m doing this thing and you got to check it out and um and i was immediately struck by your passion and your uh desire to help families of people who are struggling with recovery and i was i was wondering if you’d be willing to kind of talk about well a where that passion comes from let’s start there right well i’m a mom of a son who is in recovery but has struggled for several years with substance use disorder and so i have walked a difficult path in with our family and and the disease of addiction affecting everybody in our family so that’s kind of and where i started on this journey of working with other families yeah can i ask the following question that okay cool um and then how i i feel like you become the person that you needed during that journey maybe and and could you talk to that a little bit yeah i did so my son struggled for several years went through several treatment programs and was successful in the treatment programs and we would go to family weekends and we went to several that were really great and you know we felt hopeful and like we had our son back and in looking back at the time i was unable to identify this but in looking back you know we would see growth and progress from him and we were in the same place and we had not necessarily changed anything because we didn’t necessarily think we needed to change anything and you know he was the one who was using substances and we had a healthy family and this was his thing so
the last straw was the day i call it the day i went from seeing it black and white to seeing in color because i actually believe that that’s what happened i was surviving my life and my son was in active addiction he was living in our home things were not going well and he walked out of our house one day and i turned around and said
i’m not gonna sink on the ship and two things happened one was i had to take a hard look at myself and kind of save myself and do some hard work and the second piece of that was all of the information that we had been given and therapy that we had and coaching that we had and resources that we had didn’t sit well with me and my heart as a mother and frankly they weren’t working you know sort of a rock bottom approach calling us enablers and um it just really didn’t feel like that’s how i wanted to mother my son and um so i had to ask myself a question it was not a very good day in my life i said uh gosh my son might not make it and am i okay with the last thing he heard saw and felt from me and that was probably the hardest day of my life because the answer was no i wasn’t okay with it and um that’s when i dove into finding a better way and i found a lot of data that spoke differently than than what we had been given as resources um by very well-meaning people who just didn’t have the bandwidth to support us as a family system so um you know i really kind of dove into a compassionate empathic connection approach with my son and he did not return to our home for another about five months but every single day that he was out and in active use he we had contact with him because we changed our approach with him and i would say that living in our home we did not have that same contact with him um and in that five months he felt loved he knew he was loved i think you know my son knew he was loved like deep down you know we were a loving family but the expression of love and kindness was not being given to him and um that’s when everything changed yeah that’s huge and i actually remember the the last family program you were in and i was running and you said something that’s just coming top of mind right now you said what i love about peak’s recovery and this was when we were extended care he said different than the last programs we’ve been in you guys don’t kick the can down the road with respect to the client make it somebody else’s responsibility but when you said that and now that i’m sitting with you at the time we certainly kicked the can down the road a little bit with respect to the family and i think you picked up that can and brought it in and said hey i got this opportunity to really be connecting in this and it was just something that popped up in my head when you were talking right there and now i think with peak’s recovery and you involved the can doesn’t get kicked anywhere it stays purposeful and present in a real direction specifically with the families in care now we’ve always done a great job with the client we’ve always been really client centered and i think since you’ve come on board it’s really given us an opportunity to really be intentional with the family system and i think to your point that’s when we introduce compassion and that’s when we diffuse shame and really create some verbage um that can be connecting in nature and not shaming because that’s how i got sober too it was kind of that that rock bottom approach that all or nothing and it doesn’t necessarily have to be that way in the way that you speak so brilliantly to your son is an active addiction but you’re communicative and you’re connected i just think that’s the power of compassion that’s the power of insight and family systems loving their loved ones into recovery it’s really cool yeah and similar to you know there’s multiple paths to recovery for people in addiction there’s also multiple paths and meeting somebody meaning a family where they are today um and having resources and tools so that they can live in their values and their intentions which is not necessarily the same as mine for my family my son had to not be in our home um you know he was not healthy for us to be at home and that doesn’t have to happen um i wish that i had done the work earlier because maybe we wouldn’t have had to get to that place but you know meeting families in their anger in their pain today and giving them the tools that maybe they use today or maybe they use next week or maybe they use in four months um just like people in recovery it’s very much the same path um and yeah i i think that’s really important yeah most definitely can you tell us about a time where you did it different like were you you went on your own path uh with your son and his process where you had this opportunity to either respond in the way you used to respond or respond in your new way yeah because i think a story would i think help yeah definitely well um this was not necessarily when he was in active addiction all the way i have stories there too but this is a kind of a big one um my son was in sober living in boulder and um it was a pretty controlled sober living environment like kind of right out of inpatient sober living so still a lot of safety nets and he had been there uh two or three months and was not wanting to be there anymore wasn’t connected with the the people and it just you know when looking back it probably wasn’t the best place for him at that moment and he called us facetimed us actually and we answered my husband and i and he had his mask on and it looked like he was on an airplane and um so we kind of looked like where you where are you going and he said well i um yeah i bought a one-way ticket to salt lake city and i left my sober living can you go get all my stuff that i couldn’t fit in my one suitcase so um yeah we were that was a moment where we could have definitely and i wanted to react in a way that was not have would not have helped him but instead we asked him the phrase what do you need in place for your recovery to be successful and he just answered and he had thought about it he really had and um and so we said okay and then you know subsequently we said what do you need from us to support your recovery how can we help you and he was able to tell us you know i need help i need to find a therapist i need to do these things and i’ve contacted this other sober living in salt lake and you know can you talk to them and um so we walked with him on his journey that he chose he was not in active use so it was a little bit easier to support him in that i mean he was potentially making healthy choices and had good intentions but that could have gone a whole different direction um and probably nobody would have blamed us for it going a different direction um so that i i would say that’s an example of just saying you know this is your journey and we’re gonna we’re here for you we’re here for you and we’re gonna help you make this work um if your intentions are recovery and that’s always been our message is we will support you in recovery how did you figure out how to deal with your fear right because i do think your initial responses were fear-based right where it was like i’m feeling afraid so i need to really control and maybe even micromanage your son’s life and so how did you pivot away from fear maybe so there’s a concept that is um hard and it’s called radical acceptance right so um and it i i work on it daily um and it’s it’s the idea of accepting reality not necessarily behavior not not actions not um you know yeah just not actions but we’re here so i had started to and my husband as a family we’ve all this isn’t just me um this is a system thing had already done that work of accepting well we have a son who is not what we thought not who we thought was going to be but this is who he is and he’s actually really great and um
that takes i think it takes daily work because you’ve got to be able to separate the behavior from the person in order to do that and um also it requires you to not take the behavior personally um when behavior starts to happen that you wish didn’t happen um like getting on an airplane and and moving without telling us
so i i would say that concept really helps to get to a place of not leading by fear it’s not something that um is easy and it it certainly isn’t something that comes natural as a parent you know you get scared like wow that’s i have the answer and it’s not that um but allowing them to walk that path and establishing that connection and that communication and that kind nist which i think is actually an extension of love like expression of kindness is an extension of love of course you’re a parent of course you love your child of course you’re married of course you love your person but um expressing kindness is an extension of that and
that’s where i you know establishing that
helps us get to a place of him understanding where our intentions are yeah i thought that’s great for sure and then in working with it’s so difficult too because ultimately what happens in that and i think you defined it quite well is i think as families too we’re actually called to do our own work yeah and really do that because what you spoke so eloquently to was not being triggered when my son presents a behavior that i don’t agree with and just staying tried and true throughout that and extending kindness even a step further which is so difficult in family systems when you’re met with a behavior that you just adamantly disagree with and so i just think that’s so cool can we extend silence in the midst of chaos extend kindness in the midst of chaos i think that was just explained better than i’ve heard it explained probably ever so i really really love that thank you yeah so one of the activities that i do with families is establishing personal values and i think you know unless you’ve been through um like therapy school degree stuff you don’t necessarily like in engineering school they don’t you know have you sit down and identify your personal values so you know sometimes you just don’t even know your intentions of living and identifying those values then understanding that your values are yours and your person has different values your spouse has different values your friends have different values they may overlap but um your values are yours and that’s how you show up to life that’s how you lead in conversation in relationship and then that can then extend to how to set boundaries with somebody because it then boundaries become about protecting your values and your intentions as opposed to manipulating outcomes which i certainly was guilty of setting boundaries and manipulating outcomes i want to ask you one question because it’s just coming up when you’re when you’ve been talking this whole time you know the the old or kind of what we would consider the archaic version of interventions yeah how do you feel about that system and the way that it’s set up were they sit down and they bring everything that this person loves front and center and they wage it against them and they say and i’ve seen there’s some efficacy to interventions in certain scenarios but what you so um eloquently explain what that’s can be counterproductive could you explain that a little bit yes i disagree with that just personally i feel like it’s very shame driven and shame-based i understand that at times the fear of somebody dying is at the forefront of that kind of intervention um and so i’m not going to say that there’s never a place for that um because sometimes you have to pluck somebody out of a scenario that is imminently dangerous um but i like to say that with connection comes relationship comes influence so connection equals relationship equals influence and that influence you know when recovery professionals tell families that um you know you can’t choose recovery for your person that is a hundred percent true but what i disagree with is that there isn’t a follow-up of there can be influence and there absolutely can be but the influence can only come if relationship and connection is occurring at the same time and that’s really hard to to go to a mom and say that you don’t have connection or influence of course you have connection and influence with your child um but is it that’s where the love and expression of kindness kind of comes in is the expression of connection and um relationship influenceable or influencing um so yeah i think that that’s
influence is way better than a shameful approach to forcing recovery which you can’t force i mean you can force treatment i guess right but you yeah um for a day exactly until they walk out yeah and then which we haven’t experienced that um yeah or a week and it usually goes a week but um yeah but you can’t force a mindset shift and the understanding when families can really understand stages of change and what their role can be in those stages if someone’s in pre-contemplation
you can do a lot of planning and you can do a lot of connection um and a lot of acknowledgement of where they’re at to create that connection but there’s not you can’t force something you can’t force it and you can’t extend that kindness if you’re not connected right ultimately and then you lose it all anyway right and that’s i think sometimes where people get really comfortable on the streets it’s like well my family had this intervention i didn’t agree now i don’t have a family anymore and now i’ve been on the streets for 15 years and so i wonder if that’s a microcosm of some of you yeah definitely and so interesting with the example i gave of my son ending up on an airplane he didn’t tell us ahead of time and we said like we could have helped this go a little smoother um and you know he was like i was afraid to tell you so even in that length of time that we had really worked on um that connection and kindness with him he still was afraid of our reaction but i will say that our reaction in that that moment when it could have gone a very different direction and then subsequently with him establishing himself in a new city and independently a hundred percent i believe that if he were struggling he would reach out to us and ask for help i i know it i know 100 and i couldn’t have said that a year ago and he’s been in recovery for 15 months so over a year um but i i couldn’t say that a year ago that he would have reached out to us so it’s it takes time and it takes work and um you know one thing that i think is super important for families to understand is yes you didn’t cause this and you didn’t um you know in most instances in many instances um didn’t cause this and you didn’t ask to be put here but again going back to that radical acceptance you’re here and um so you’ve got a couple different ways of approaching it um and one is more compassionate and more connecting and more able to produce an outcome of influence than the other um so you know kind of stepping back for a second and doing that hard work is um i think the payoff is great yeah well i i think it takes a tremendous amount of courage too yeah because i do think shame is such an easy lever to grab and just whether it’s name calling or you’re never going to measure up or even a shame-based intervention like that’s an easy lever to grab and you know i think rene brown says it really well that shame can create short-term change but it doesn’t create long-term change yeah like you can you can shame people into some course correction sometimes but not sustained and not at that internal change that’s a that’s a really exterior motivator um in the in the couple minutes we have remaining will you just at least to talk about um the curriculum you’ve compiled um and put together in in that four week class uh process and and the journey you take families on yeah yeah um so real quick i i want to address shame because families also oh yeah carry a whole lot of shame and and the day again the day was not a good day for me that i had to look at myself and and realize the shame that i carried um and you know the career that i was in i i kept everybody at arm’s length friends family you know other people in my profession because i was embarrassed um about how we ended up in the situation that we are in so um i think sometimes reactions of families are also shame driven um because if we put it somewhere else we don’t have to we don’t have to address it ourselves um but the curriculum i just wanted to get that in there we could spend another year yeah you’re not wrong yeah yeah right like you’re exactly yeah the family that control when you when any if you’re shaming somebody it’s your own [ __ ] absolutely i’m feeling like i’m a bad parent so i need you to get your stuff together yeah and that’s hard that’s hard to admit too yeah it really is yeah but we all have it every parent i’ve ever met self-included has a i’m a bad dad i’m a bad mom chain buttons yeah absolutely yeah um so the curriculum yeah yeah the curriculum awkward and good segue um it starts with it’s actually very intentional um in the way i move through the concept so it starts with um identifying values and really understanding personal personally where you are in your stage of change and i will say um you know speaking to someone recently at peaks actually and um about the fact that i believe my son was in a further stage of change one time i remember when i first learned about stages of change i was not in the stage of change he was because i was pretty angry and had kind of had it and um so i it was interesting for me to kind of go through an exercise of learning for the first time that there are stages of change so identifying values understanding where you are in this and what you can put in your pockets in the moment and what you can absorb and what you can change right now going through exercises about creating safe spaces and what that looks like what does it mean to create safe spaces what does it feel like how can you change small things in your conversations that do create safe space and kind of open up lines of communication then i go through understanding stages of change what your role can be in those stages because it cycles um you know and it doesn’t just have to do with addiction it has to do with everything any time you need to make a change lose weight just move anything change your career you go through those stages so understanding those and understanding the why behind the behavior how not to take it personally how the behavior is actually about something much deeper um not substance use um and then i go into what i call tools of the toolbox like things you already know how to do just need to practice it in different ways which is good communication skills listening with empathy open asking open-ended questions being able to sit with somebody and not give your input asking for green light moments looking for green light moments understanding change talk so just being able to be present and reading people a little bit better sitting with empathy understanding what empathy means and then the last step which a lot of people think should be the first step but it’s very purposeful why i have it be the last step is establishing healthy boundaries agreements and understanding the importance of self-care so my purpose for having boundaries last um usually people are like i want to do boundaries now um but my purpose for having boundaries last is if you don’t actually you you’re if you do all these other steps you’re establishing boundaries um without knowing without stating it um but if you don’t do these steps first your boundaries are probably not going to be as effective um and are going to be driven by your need for an outcome as opposed to your need to protect yourself and your own heart and your spirit yeah i get why they would want to be first too it’s like you know i’m pissed i got some stuff make some rules
yeah and there’s time for rules actually in my course i talk about rules being really only if if you’re dealing with a minor or if you’re a spouse and you have minors in the home because there has to be some hard rules when you’re talking about children um and you know or if you’re if you’re a family who has a 17 year old that’s not 18 yet and you’re financially liable for something that they could do potentially and they’re sneaking out of the house there has to be a rule around that um because you know you can be in serious trouble so most definitely well elise i i appreciate you coming on your your story informs your passion and uh your your dedicated work on creating a curriculum and um and i haven’t said it but you’ve partnered with us um to help enhance our family program um and i think it’s a wonderful opportunity for people to walk through with uh grace and with uh values and with dignity uh a process that sometimes lacks all of those things um so thank you for being on here and thanks as always chris thank you thank you thank you so much absolutely um so that’s it for this episode uh feel free to join us on facebook and instagram and twitter and uh apple podcast and anywhere you get your podcast probably thank you
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