Tools in the toolbox of CHANGE!

Discussion in 'Parent Emeritus' started by Childofmine, Mar 13, 2014.

  1. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    I find myself thinking about my own tools and also suggesting tools to others. It's become my feeling that if we don't have defined tools---that we recognize and deliberately decide to use every day---setting aside time for those tools, then we keep on doing the same things.

    It just stands to reason that if we can't create different "neural pathways" in our brains (I'm reading When the Servant Becomes the Master, and it talks about creating different neural pathways---actual pathways---of different actions), we won't/can't do anything different.

    We will just keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting (hoping, praying, begging for) a different result. The very definition of insanity.

    It also seems to me that there are different tools for different points in the journey. Some are the tools we begin with---like a nap, a gratitude list, a walk, one Al-Anon meeting. Some are the tools in mid and later journey, like a trip, working the 12 steps with a Sponsor, writing and reading this site daily, keeping a daily journal. Sometimes we have to go back to the beginning, and keep it simple. Other times we are ready and have the inner and outer resources to go further. I find myself cycling through different tools on different days, depending on my physical, emotional, mental and spiritual state. Sometimes I just have to take a nap, I am so spent with this. Other times, I can read a Buddhist writer so is taking me to a completely new place in learning to live with uncertainty.

    What are your tools?

    I am finding that my tools grow and change and some of the things I am doing---like my blog for Lent about getting rid of 40 things a day for 40 days---are turning into tools. Who would have thought that? I just started with the nagging, growing feel that my closet was completely out of control. Now, it's growing beyond that simple start.

    A few weeks ago, I read a post where someone talked about reading the book Simple Abundance. I knew I had that book somewhere, although I had never completed it. I ran around the house and found it on a bookshelf. Now, I am keeping it out and visible. I have started it over again. It's a daily meditation and it is packed with relevant things for me. In the foreward, author Sarah Ban Breathnach says: "During this time of profound introspection, six practical, creative and spiritual principles---gratitude, simplicity, order, harmony, beauty and joy---became the catalysts that helped me define a life of my own. One morning, I awoke to the realization that, almost imperceptibly, I had become a happy woman, experiencing more moments of contentment than distress." This book was published in 1995.

    So. My precious 24 year old son is a drug addict and is homeless right now. He has been on the street for 30 days tomorrow. He doesn't have a job. He doesn't have a place to live. If he gets arrested again he will go to prison for four years. He is not in recovery or working a 12-step program. He talks some of the talk of change, but there isn't much action. I love him very much but I can't hitch my wagon to his any more. If he takes some solid steps forward (not talk but action) for a while, I will be there to help. Right now, my help comes in the form of saying I love you, I know you can do it, and I'll bring your mail to the shelter If I get any. Let's keep in touch.

    So. I am talking about cleaning out my house at a time like this? Yes, I am. I know, it sounds crazy on the face of it. But somehow, it is much, much more than cleaning out a house.

    I am so grateful to be in this place. I want more of it. And I believe it's about finding, committing to and using, the tools of change.
  2. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member


    I love that we are so often in the same place in our journey. I just posted on Recovering's thread about staying healthy, about being mindful of what we ingest. Of the recent posts one of the ones that has stuck with me is Cedar's about watching the sunrise in no place the place of watching sunrise. That stuck with me as a tool. I like your tool of writing things down to make a plan of responses. I like everyone's tool of checking in here and being honest. I like the idea of everyone sharing tools!! Lets keep at it!

  3. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    My biggest tool is self care. I may have come from behind on that one to begin with, having not learned that in my childhood.

    The mind/body/spirit connection makes the most sense to me, to approach my Self with the idea that I will honor all the parts, certainly my body with exercise, healthy food etc. and my mind, learning ways to be calm and not behave in the habitual ways..........and the heart, making sure I have support, that I place myself in loving and caring environments............which has often meant for me to make changes, to let go of people and circumstances which do not honor me and where I don't feel loved...........and spiritually, to have a connection with divinity, to have a sense that there is a bigger picture operating here, one in which I don't control or even know about, but that I can trust, that I can move over and allow to take over...............letting go of fear as much as I can. Being kind. Being kind to others and being kind to myself.

    The tools in my toolbox are primarily self care and support. When I am operating with those then I can easily focus on myself, make good choices, see clearly, feel good, make adjustments and deal with the inevitable bumps that arise.

    Years ago when I asked one of my all time favorite therapists what spiritual and psychological health was she said, "living within the paradoxes of life and not going crazy." Well, that made a lot of sense to me. Balance. Harmony. Clarity.
  4. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    Right now I would say my tools are this place and making time each morning for prayer/meditation, journaling, and an uplifting book. I have a "portable tool" that I keep at hand, a list called "Ready to Get Involved? Read This First!" I tend to have a short memory on the bad stuff when I am in rescue mode. A list of some of difficult child's past bad choices and the fallout from them puts things into perspective for me. It doesn't necessarily mean he will make bad choices again, as there is always hope. But it is at least a reminder to me of past similar situations to get me to pause before I rush in with my "mommy blinders" on.
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  5. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    Oh my gosh, Alb! I love this. Do you have this in your purse or on the bathroom mirror? Tell us more about this.
  6. Echolette

    Echolette Well-Known Member

    that is fantastic!
  7. SomewhereOutThere

    SomewhereOutThere Well-Known Member

    This forum is absolutely a place to come to for wisdom and strength when my kids, mostly 36 right now, is not in a good place. It is always a high stress time for me with the words "If blah blah blah happens, I won't need to live anymore. I'll just kill myself." Such scary words. This time it's because he's uncertain of the stability of his job...and if he can't work there, he'll be destitute for life and homeless and he can't leave the state because of his son and, on and on and on and on. Just hearing nasty talk to me then "I'll kill myself" is something I have to constantly deal with because I have no doubt he has it in him to do it.

    I use a lot of what all of you are doing, in a combination. I even go to Twelve Step groups (Al-Anon mostly) even though the problem is less alcohol and more mental health because the Twelve Steps are so darn GOOD to hear and to learn and to work. I meditate and and self-helping myself into mindfulness and a big fan of practicing radical acceptance and looking at The Serenity Prayer before I leave my house every day. It is in a frame on my wall to remind me of it's wisdom.

    When I get scared because I just know one day 36 will kill himself, I go to the gym and work out. I eat healthy. I force myself to stop my "baaaaaaaaaaaad" thoughts by saying "STOP!" either out loud or in my mind and thinking about something pleasant.

    I have conversations with myself too:
    Me: He says he'll kill himself all the time. He never does it.
    Me: But he could.
    Me: And worrying about it will help you how????
    Me: It won't.
    Me: Will it even help one little bit?
    Me: No.
    Me: Can you control him?
    Me: Nope.

    The self-talk often slows my heart down so I can experience calmness and tap into my "wise mind."

    In a way, and I don't know if any of you feel this way, 36 is to me like a child who has a chronic illness that could be terminal. He may not be a stellar human being. He may not be anything near what I'd dreamed about when he was born. He may tick me off half the time. But he's my son and that doesn't stop me from loving him. So I have to find ways to detach, detach, and keep detaching...for my own mental health and for the sake of my other loved ones who need and want a healthy me in their lives.

    Not easy.
  8. Albatross

    Albatross Well-Known Member

    COM, I keep it on my computer and keep a copy in my purse. It started out as an index card that I made after I reread some of my journals and kind of grew from there. If something significant happens I add to it. I add "good" stuff and "neutral" stuff too, so it's not *just* a gripe list. It helps me to have the facts at hand, a date when something happened, etc.

    MWM, I know just what you mean about the chronic illness way of looking at it. difficult child can carry himself into such dark places with very little provocation. Fortunately some little piece of serendipity has always come along to bring him back, so far. I so agree with you, we can't NOT hurt when we see them in this darkness but it doesn't do any good to go in there with them, so finding ways to maintain a loving distance is so important.
  9. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Another huge tool I just thought of is LAUGHTER. I am so fortunate in that my SO is a very funny guy and my girlfriends are also funny, they all can make me laugh. If I can laugh about something, I can heal, I can get better, I can make it. Laughter has gotten me through my crazy life, it has helped me in ways really nothing else is a healing salve that changes everything. I feel so grateful for the ability to laugh, to laugh at myself, to laugh at the world, to laugh at the absurdity of life, to laugh at what I can't change..........

    Tonight I had dinner with my best friend. I was telling her the shortened version of my difficult child tale of woe. Jail, food stamps, a women's shelter, homeless, the jalopy of a car, the cats, all of it............When I finished my serious account, she looked at me absolutely straight faced and said, "you must be so proud."

    She and I laughed so hard, so uproariously and for so long, tears were running down my face. It was such an incredible release. (and she really is a compassionate lovely person, and very funny with her 'dark' humor..........I love that about her)

    So, yeah, I would have to add laughter as a major tool in my tool box.
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  10. nlj

    nlj Well-Known Member

    My tools?

    Looking after myself, not feeling guilty any more if I put myself first occasionally.

    Losing myself in a good book, daily exercise, getting out most days and visiting my favourite cafes alone now and again, valuing those members of my family who provide positive energy in my life and not taking them for granted, not feeling guilty and to blame for his lifestyle choices, not regretting what might have been but just accepting what is, having something to look forward to, and the main thing for me ... being proactive about dealing with insomnia and taking steps towards improving my sleep patterns, which involves not allowing worry about him to fill my head in the early hours of the morning.
  11. tryagain

    tryagain Active Member

    Meaningful work, be it paid or voluntary, is a great tool for me. My job happens to also be something I love doing and totally lose myself in. It also involves others. I find it's really true that in helping others, we forget our troubles for a while.

    No one has mentioned this, but my anti-depressant is quite a tool! The one I take is perfect for anxiety. It involves just enough short-term memory loss that I forget what I am supposed to be worrying about, lol.

    Prayer and meditation-tools I can't do without. And naming my blessings-being glad for what I DO have that brings me peace and happiness.

    A "carpe diem" attitude-seize today-it is really all we have...
  12. in a daze

    in a daze Well-Known Member

    Reading...about addiction, mental health etc.
    Getting together with family and friends is a BIG help for me.
    My therapist.
    This website!
  13. greenrene

    greenrene Member

    I haven't read this whole thread, but what a great idea to have a place for everyone to share tools! Talk about synchronicity - that's exactly what I'm working on in my journey right now. After reading the first post I went to Amazon and ordered 3 books (to add to my growing pile), including Simple Abundance.

    What I'm trying to focus on mostly these days is first off, self-care - I was recently diagnosed with diabetes (my gestational diabetes didn't go away this time, darnit!), and I have to learn to be my own top priority! Second is personal spirituality - after growing up in a truly awful cult-like fundamentalist Christian church, deciding that it couldn't possibly be the "one true church" that it claimed to be, then leaving that mindset but having NO IDEA where to turn and feeling like my spiritual self had died... I'm learning that my spiritual self hasn't died; she never really developed in the first place because she was so beaten down in her formative years.

    Some days I'm still just trying to get through the day - par for the course when caring for an infant! But I'm still seeing my therapist weekly, I'm feeling stronger, and I will make it!

    Just FYI - for some reason, husband and my mother in law have decided to withdraw difficult child from the TBS in June. I could write a novel about how I feel about this, but suffice it to say that I think they're dropping the ball and doing difficult child a HUGE disservice by not allowing her to complete the program and graduate. Thank goodness there is a plan to enroll her in another boarding school - the new one is much closer, but it's not as "therapeutic" as the one she's at now. I would welcome her back into my home with open arms if she could live here and be a functional member of our household. But at this point she's not ready, and she won't be ready in June. There's nothing I can do or say to change their minds. These days my goal is also to not go into PTSD mode thinking about it.

    Thank goodness for my truly wonderful therapist, and also for this board. I know I'm not officially in the "Emeritus" category with difficult child, but I've been learning so much from you ladies that I can use in the future with her, and in my life in general. You guys are awesome!
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  14. pasajes4

    pasajes4 Well-Known Member

    This board, my daughter, and today I was reminded of the support and love of my church for my son. It amazes and moves me that even when the members of this board are struggling with crises in their own lives, they are able to reach out to others.
  15. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    As we start looking for tools---actually seeking them out---to help us move to a new place as we learn, most of the time very, very slowly, that we aren't going to be able to control, manage, fix or love our difficult child out of his or her difficult child-ness, something amazing happens.

    We start finding tools. It's proof of one of my favorite and key beliefs: Anything you focus on will bring results. (that's OUR focus on OUR lives, not on somebody else's life).

    One of my newest tools (and I've barely scratched the surface) is the writings of Richard Rohr---here are a few gems. He has a lot of YouTube stuff as well---short and long. He is uplifting to me because he gives some reasoning behind why bad things happen. What the fruit of those can be and might be. I want to know that. I want to study that. I know something good is happening within me as I walk this road. He helps to put it in perspective:


    Franciscan priest, writer, speaker Richard Rohr on March 20, 2014: "Unless you let the truth of life teach you on its own terms, unless you develop some concrete practice for recognizing and overcoming your dualistic mind, you will remain in the first half of life forever, as much of humanity has up to now. In the first half of life, you cannot work with the imperfect, nor can you accept the tragic sense of life, which finally means that you cannot love anything or anyone at any depth."


    “We do not think ourselves into new ways of living, we live ourselves into new ways of thinking.”
    Richard Rohr

    “All great spirituality teaches about letting go of what you don’t need and who you are not. Then, when you can get little enough and naked enough and poor enough, you’ll find that the little place where you really are is ironically more than enough and is all that you need. At that place, you will have nothing to prove to anybody and nothing to protect.

    That place is called freedom. It’s the freedom of the children of God. Such people can connect with everybody. They don’t feel the need to eliminate anybody . . .”
    Richard Rohr
    This is a quick overview/definition of what Rohr means about the two halves of life:

    In Falling Upward, Fr. Richard Rohr seeks to help readers understand the tasks of the two halves of life and to show them that those who have fallen, failed, or "gone down" are the only ones who understand "up." Most of us tend to think of the second half of life as largely about getting old, dealing with health issues, and letting go of life, but the whole thesis of this book is exactly the opposite. What looks like falling down can largely be experienced as "falling upward." In fact, it is not a loss but somehow actually a gain, as we have all seen with elders who have come to their fullness.
    • Explains why the second half of life can and should be full of spiritual richness
    • Offers a new view of how spiritual growth happens?loss is gain
    • Richard. Rohr is a regular contributing writer for Sojourners and Tikkun magazines
    This important book explores the counterintuitive message that we grow spiritually much more by doing wrong than by doing right--a fresh way of thinking about spirituality that grows throughout life.


    Rohr talks about the first half of life being about acquiring, security, finding our mate, working, etc. and the second half of life, after all of that is done, is truly about finding ourselves. It is a book about true maturity. It helps make sense of where we have been---all of us---in dealing with our difficult children, and I also think it is very hopeful for many of our difficult children.

    Out of great pain can come great growth. They, who have been to the depths, can also grow to this amazing place.

    Great tool for the journey.
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  16. recoveringenabler

    recoveringenabler Well-Known Member Staff Member

    Thank you COM, your source is a wise man. Seems as we "boomers" approach our older years, we are changing that landscape in our perceptions of how to age.

    I personally straddle that line between the 'real' world and the spiritual.....I can see that clearly with my difficult child with my mothers heart connected to her in some intrinsic way along with my inner knowledge that recognizes she is on the path of her destiny, her own spiritual path which doesn't look like mine and I may not understand. It seems it is a tug of war between a human need to control based in fear and a spiritual desire to trust, to trust life, to trust a Higher Power, to trust myself. To trust in the order and design of the Universe that has nothing to do with what I am doing, but everything to do with my learning how to 'BE' and have love in my heart.

    I used to think that love in my heart for others was the key to a strong connection to a spiritual way of life.........however, as I have gotten older I recognize that that love has to begin with loving myself. The Buddhist guideline of loving kindness and doing no harm includes doing no harm to myself, with judgments, blame, expectations, fears, all of it. It also means turning that compassion onto myself. My observation is that when we are younger our focus is external as opposed to internal. Turning that light inward can lead to a richness and wholeness which can't seem to be accessed well in the busyness of life. We have to make time for that, time for ourselves and time to connect with our interpretation of divinity.

    I agree about the first and second halves of life, and for me, finding ourselves has everything to do with loving ourselves, accepting ourselves and honoring ourselves. I believe as we go deeper into ourselves to learn that, our connection to our difficult child's changes dramatically and we can let them go into their own fate and trust, no matter what it looks like, that they are safe in the hands of a higher power. That is a large life lesson and those of us on this board are on the fast track of that growth.
  17. Childofmine

    Childofmine one day at a time Staff Member

    I also subscribe to this blog which sends a link to my inbox. Here is today's post---a good one that is hopeful for US. Another tool...

    "Someone mentioned recently what a big smile I had. I responded, ‘Yes, I have a lot to smile about…’ Then I thought about how that wasn’t always the case. There were many days and weeks that would go by with no sign of a smile. This was during the depths of the dark time with my child’s struggle with addiction. I was consumed with worry and obsession about her well-being. I did not find joy in anything, even when there were good things going, because my heart ached with despair. But as I reflect, over time that changed. As I got healthier and realized that I was not in control of the outcome of another person’s life, I began to regain my own. I went from reacting to the day to day crisis to being proactive and in control of my boundaries and my time. This began to give me peace of mind, serenity and sanity.
    It’s hard to imagine that you can be happy if your child is not happy. But it is possible to disconnect from the sinking ship that is their addiction and swim to shore. Once I started to get perspective and take care of myself, I realized that if I got stronger and healthier I could be in a better position to help my daughter. It is like the airlines when the flight attendant tells you to put the oxygen mask on yourself first then help your child. It is the best analogy, how can you save them when you are suffocating yourself? As parents we love our children so much that we would do anything to save them from harm. But the very act of helping a loved one in addiction can, sometimes, have the opposite effect and help keep them in their addiction. I am glad that I am smiling today. I have a lot to smile about…my family is in a good place, my daughter is clean and sober. I am grateful for the happiness that I have and I know that just for today I will enjoy and feel grateful."

    You can register to receive posts here:
  18. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    There is a wealth we never knew of, inside ourselves. It seems so strange, but we need a way to see all the beautiful things that we are, a way to become aware of all the plenitude of wonderful paths we might take.

    It's like we are living with blinders on.

    It seems to me that the parts of ourselves we are most familiar with are the parts which have been judged "okay" ~ whether because they have been pushed and punished into shape or because they have never been tested.

    But there is so much more to us than those non-controversial "okay for public viewing" parts.

    I think that as we survive the destruction of our "this is what a family is" that comes with loving a difficult child child, we begin to wonder what else wasn't true about what we always believed.

    It gets to be a hunger, to see.

    If you were to go back now and read something that held value for you before, you will realize that you see it in a whole, new way. It's an amazing thing, to note your own enlargement in that way.

    I like that, Child. I think we are the ones who change. It is just as you said about the urge toward simplicity, about the urge toward letting go. It began as part of an unfocused vision that sort of landed in your closet. From that physical beginning, from that landing, the idea of simplicity and gratitude is taking over all aspects of your life.

    That sort of thing happens to me, too.

    It's the strangest thing.

    Makes me want to believe in some multi-faceted purpose; makes me want to believe in God.

    I am reading this one again, too. How is it possible that we can change everything about how we interpret ourselves from words on a page in an old book? Yet, we do. We continue to change, level through level, through level.

    I wonder where the bottom is. I believe we may be bottomless, altogether.

    Maybe this accounts for my recent fascination with underwater life, the deeper the better. With outer space, with the idea of limitless space, of tiny protons and neutrons and how everything holds together.

    I know! What a weirdo!


    I love that you posted this. My heart was caught by the phrase "define a life of my own". I think that is what this time feels like, for me. There are ten thousand directions to see in. I am aware there are possibilities, are aspects of self and other I don't even have an awareness of. If we turn toward them, though? We breathe life into that aspect of ourselves and it comes through, full blown.

    That is why I began saying "yes". A few months back, I decided to say "yes". I decided to give what I was able to give. Not money, necessarily. Time, thought, effort, awareness. The most amazing things are happening, through that decision.

    I am being presented now with generosity toward self. It is an interesting place to be. Some of the things I think I wanted, I don't want, once I have them. Other things, I am not getting and wishing I had. I find myself taking joy in things I got because I needed them on a practical level, and never really wanted them, at all.

    I am learning how to accept ~ and even, maybe, to celebrate( ?) my frizzy, graying, waist length hair. the messiness of it, I mean.

    I am like, going around messy, and being okay with that. I think I look good. This has never happened, before. I always thought I looked bad. I am seeing different things in myself, am seeing myself differently. I am seeing that same way when I see other people now, too.

    I love it.

    Everything sort of shines.

    I do, too.


    Mostly my tools are quotes. I write them on index cards and have done that, for years. I love poetry when I stumble across it. Most lately, Rumi and Pema Chodron.

    Joel Osteen has been of incredible influence, both for me personally, and for how I see my family, my children, my potential. I see differently through his eyes.

    This site, of course. I never can figure out how we do what we do, here. Growth is a living, palpable thing in every one of us.

    We are so fortunate.

  19. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Love this.

    I like this, love the imagery of honoring the self. It makes me think of that old John Lennon song, about the only love you make being the love you took, first.

    Ha! I love this! This is so funny, Recovering. She must be an amazing friend!

    I love it.


  20. Scent of Cedar *

    Scent of Cedar * Well-Known Member

    Hi, Greenreen


    I've been wondering how you are. So nice to see you, again.

    Give your baby an extra cuddle from all of us. Did you know we call one another "Board aunties"?