Friday, February 17, 2017

Some Wounds May Never Heal - Part 5 of Addiction is a Family Disease

Sometimes life leaves you with an open wound rather than a scar 

This truth is a painful one to learn and a lesson I wouldn't wish on my worst enemy. Unfortunately, when you have someone in your family struggling with substance abuse, whether actively using or in recovery, there is a 50/50 chance an oozing wound will be your new reality. While my family's injury scabbed over during the last seven months (PRAISE GOD!), I've met countless others still sporting gaping, bleeding sores.

All the devastation and utter heartache of watching someone you cherish destroy themselves stops once they change their trajectory and head down the road to recovery, right?

Not always.

In fact, the journey of sobriety is just as difficult and painful for all involved as when your loved one was actively using, yet for different reasons. The emotional impact hits both the former user and enabler hard. The challenges faced by both include:
  • Feelings of guilt for mistakes and bad choices
  • Looking back over the past and yearning for a "re-do" button that will never appear
  • Listening -- really listening  -- to what our loved one is feeling no matter how much it hurts to hear the truth
  • Dealing with core issues of what triggered the behavior
  • Anger at wasted opportunities/time
  • Financial/health/living arrangement struggles
  • Retraining the mind to focus on healthy ways to deal/cope with stressful situations, rather than returning to previous habits
  • Letting go of the "old" and welcoming the "new" by practicing forgiveness

There is no chance for healing if you continue to poke the injury

Notice the last bullet-point in red. For me, it has been the hardest issue to tackle. Why? It wasn't the struggle to forgive--that was the easy part. We're all human and susceptible to mistakes and bad choices. It's called life. No, I struggled with tossing away the old habits. We waited so long, prayed, hoped, begged, cajoled, yelled and cried, beseeching the Heavens and our addict to get help and when he did, we found ourselves in unfamiliar territory. So many years had been spent behaving, acting and reacting in certain ways it was a jolt to the system to steer the course of our lives in another direction.

Old habits and feelings are embedded inside our psyches and they don't like the idea of leaving! Just like remaining clean is a daily struggle for our loved one, enablers struggle with not falling back into the old ways of thinking. Examples:

  • Flinching when the phone rings; heart rate skyrocketing as we assume something is wrong
  • Bringing up past mistakes/issues/difficult times when they've already been addressed and apologies given and accepted
  • Interjecting our opinions/desires/wants/needs/hopes/dreams onto our loved one and expecting them to act/feel the same way we do
  • Stepping in to "fix" a problem rather than let our loved one take ownership and solve it on their own (even if they fail--they learned)
  • Letting the "worst case scenario" control your thoughts when confronted with something your loved one does that you perceive as a step-back to their former lives
I can't count how many times during the previous seven months I caved and let the old worries and fears rise to the surface. One particular incident still haunts me because of the look of sadness on my son's face. The thin trust bubble we'd worked so hard to cultivate and grow popped--and not because I caught him in a lie, but because I jumped to the wrong conclusion.

That moment changed my perception of this journey. I realized that if I didn't learn to release my tight grip on the past we could never move forward. I needed to alter my view and see him as the new man he'd become, not the old one I'd coddled and enabled for years. It also was the reason I refuse to refer to him as a "former addict" or "recovering addict" because, at least for me, that particular nomenclature still tethers him to the past, and he isn't that person any longer.

I'm sure there are those who will disagree with me about the above statement, and they are certainly entitled to their opinion. After a lot of thought and prayer, it dawned on me that by continuing to label someone by their past, we are dooming them to the same future. It's no different than saying "former liar" or "former adulterer" or "former thief."

We all make mistakes and bad choices in life. Do you want your past transgressions to be what defines you? I certainly don't, and I suspect most of you feel the same way. I know my loved one doesn't and he fights the good fight each and every day to continue learning and growing into the new man he's worked so hard to be, so I refuse to pick at the sores of his past. 

It's time they healed.

May God bless each and every one of you, and your loved ones struggling down this path. Stay strong, faithful, and most of all, humble. Open your arms wide and embrace your loved one today with all the love, kindness, support and forgiveness our Heavenly Father offered you.

If you do this one simple thing, the healing of the wound begins, and soon, the scar appears.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Review of Unveiled and Interview with A.D. Trosper

It has been way too long since I hosted the talented Audra Tropser on my blog, so when I heard she had a new release, I was excited and begged her to drop by for a visit to discuss Unveiled. 

Let me share my review of this book, followed by the interview:  

A.D. Tropser is known for creating detailed, fascinating worlds, ranging from ones where dragons fly to peeking behind the veils of time and space. I have read all of her books and enjoyed them all for her attention to detail, vivid descriptions and memorable characters.
Unveiled is yet another winner. Audra’s creative mind went into overdrive as she weaves the story of Jo and her sister as they journey down a new path—one that neither young woman had a clue existed.

Jo was my favorite character because she is the perfect embodiment of strength and vulnerability. When her entire existence is flipped on its axis, the way she handles the unbelievable is tinged with biting humor and lots of snarky comebacks. When the “unveiling” happens, the reader is transported into a world that would terrify most, yet Jo embraces it with gusto.

Mystery, fantasy, intrigue and a touch of romance make this book a must read for lovers of the YA/Paranormal. 

When did you realize writing was your passion? 

I have always loved writing and telling stories. I wrote a lot of things that were never finished when I was kid. A lot of that fell to the wayside when I had my own kids. As a mother of two, working part-time and going to college full time, writing for fun just didn't happen. Then, in my late twenties, my husband helped me rekindle my love of writing and boosted my confidence that I could write an entire book. I've now written and published six full length novels, one short prequel, a children's Christmas story, and also written for three anthologies. 

What drew you to YA/Fantasy/Paranormal genre? 

I have always loved the YA genre. As a kid reading Christopher Pike, all the way up through adulthood, I have had a love of YA. Though I do read some that don't have fantastical elements, prefer stories with magic and supernatural elements, especially if they have some romance in them. So it felt quite natural to branch out into that after writing epic fantasy. 

What message do you hope your readers take away from your work? 

If there are messages in my work, I am unaware of them. If the curtains are blue, it's because they are blue, no other reason. I write the stories that invade my brain and that I enjoy writing. 

You have a fantastic imagination and a real gift for creating other worlds. What do you attribute that to? 

In Kindergarten, my school was a ways away, but on nice days, my mom would walk me to school. I was barely six years old and I spent one of those long walks with my mother, spinning a tale about a chocolate chip cookie that escaped its jar and tried to take over the world before a young boy managed to wrestle it back into its jar. The day was saved just as we arrived at the school. I guess if I could attribute it to anything, it would be my parents letting me prattle on (and being genuinely interested in my little stories) from a very young age.

You recently took on the challenge of formatting your own books and designing the covers. Why? 

Having someone else doing all of that work was not only cost prohibitive, but also just wasn't working out for me. I tend to be a little OCD about details and I need to be able to work on those myself so everything can be tweaked exactly how I want them, even if that means regenerating files 20 times until it looks exactly how I want it to. I used to be intimidated by the idea of formatting, but ended up finding the process quite enjoyable. Doing these things myself means I don't have to deal with any dishonesty, timelines that don't match mine, and I can make sure my files are done when I want them done.

What’s the one thing about being a writer that drives you insane? 

Marketing. I hate marketing, I'm not very good at it, and the introvert in me has difficulty stepping out of the shadows to push my books in any meaningful way. 

What’s the one thing about being a writer that drives you to continue on the journey? 

The characters. If I don't write them, they will get revenge. They show up in my head, introduce themselves, and start telling me about themselves and their backstories. And they absolutely will not shut up until I agree to write them.

We’ve all had bad reviews. If you could sit down with the person who wrote the one that tore at your soul, what would you say to them? 

I haven't had a review that tore at my soul. Bad reviews don't get to me  for two reasons: 1. I write and publish because it makes me happy, if it makes readers happy too, that is icing on the cake. 2. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, and even if that opinion is that my book is a pile of garbage that isn't even worth the lighter fluid it would take to set it on fire, that's okay. They have a right to that opinion. 

Knowing what you do now, if you could go back to the moment you completed your first book, what advice would insist you listened to? 

Editing. Pay for the editing from a good editor, and to shop around until I found an editor I could trust and who would mesh with me and my writing, not just take the first one that came along. Thankfully, I now have a great editor that I adore and who meshes well with me. 

What do you like about your editor? 

She speaks my language, a mix of sarcasm and frankness. One of my favorite notes she left in the file for Unveiled was, "WTF is this? You've written like six books and you wrote this sentence like this? You can do better than that, fix it."  I burst out laughing, reread the sentence, and she was right, it sucked, lol.

What inspired you to write Unveiled?  

Jo showed up in my head and proceeded to tell me about herself. Then she rolled out one of the scenes in the book in perfect detail (while I was trying to fall asleep mind you)
and then waited, tapping her foot in impatience. When it took me a minute to answer, she snapped, "Well?" Of course, I agreed to write her. The interesting thing is, this is the first time I've ever written in first person. I sat down the next day to write out the scene she'd shown me and it started coming out first person. I tried to switch it to third because that is how I've always written. It was like I was wrestling with myself, I would go back and shift the first couple of paragraphs to third person, but when I started writing again, it once again came out first person. Finally, Jo said quite clearly, "This is my story and you will write it how I say to write it, damn it." So Unveiled is in first person, as will be the other books in the Raven Daughter series.

Tell us about the main character. 

Jo (her name is actually Josephine, but she hates that name) has been incredibly fun to write, she is strong but a little broken. She's sarcastic, flippant, irreverent, loyal, caring, and determined. She can be grumpy and unfiltered, but she also isn't afraid to admit when she's wrong. She is probably my favorite character out of all that I have written. Except maybe Kellinar from the Dragon's Call series, he's another favorite, but Jo definitely ranks right up there with him.

Here is the link to Unveiled: (it's a universal link, so no matter what country a person is in, it will take them to their Amazon store rather than defaulting them to the U.S.)

The Blurb:

“There will be many hands against her, for almost as many reasons as there are hands.” 

Thrust into a world she never knew existed, Jo discovers she’s anything but normal. She was born to be a reaper, but her father’s crimes have already stacked the deck against her and she must prove she deserves a place on that side of the veil.

When souls start disappearing from the rolls, she’s persuaded into making a decision that sends her away from her new home and into the company of the powerful and dangerous, Caius. It’s a journey that reveals the secrets of Jo’s full heritage. One that leaves her wondering who she can trust and struggling to stay alive.

Dragon's Call:

The Bound Series:

Monday, November 14, 2016

Enabling - The Part We Play - Part 4 of Addiction is a Family Disease

(Image courtesy of

ENABLING:  The  Part We Play

The hand is held out yet it's dirty, because that is exactly what we do when enabling our addicts, even though we don't realize it. We aren't helping them, we are enabling their addiction.

How many of you at some point and time have done any of the following things? 

  • Went searching for them in the middle of the night?
  • Searched their vehicle looking for alcohol or drugs?
  • Paid their bills because they didn't have money (since all their money was spent on alcohol or drugs)?
  • Made excuses for them to family and friends?
  • Bailed them out of jail?
  • Paid their court fees or fines?
  • Helped them find a job?
  • Bought them a vehicle?
  • Walked on egg shells around them afraid to trigger an outburst?

I've accomplished all of the above except one (searching in the middle of the night) numerous times over the years. With every single act, I thought I was doing the right thing--the loving, supportive thing--for my addict. These are all things we have done that are considered enabling behaviors. They are all things our addict can do for themselves yet they won't or they don't because we do it for them!

Let's define the difference:

Helping is doing something for someone else that they are not capable of doing for themselves.

Enabling is doing things for someone else that they can and should be doing for themselves.

Once we understand the part we play in the enabling process, we can choose to break the cycle or we can choose to continue to enable. If we don't choose to change then we need to understand that our addict will not change either....we are the enabler, our change is the key! Not the answer, God is the answer, but we are the key! Are we more addicted to loving our addict then we are to loving our God? Do we really believe that He is capable of loving and caring for our addict more than we are? If so, then we need to shift our focus from worrying about our addict to entrusting our loved one to God. When we stand in the way of the Almighty, we stand in the way of God working in their lives.

God may let your addict suffer consequences of their choices before He gets their attention,  but isn't that  what  we want--for God to get to get their attention?

Hebrews 12:11 states: "Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby."

As a mother, the hardest thing I ever had to do was let go and entrust my child to the Lord. Stepping back into the shadows, I had to learn to come to terms with the battle raging inside his mind wasn't one I could help or shield him from no matter what I did.

It is still a daily struggle for us both to not slip back into old habits.

The monster known as addiction latches on tight inside our addict's mind and fights like crazy when trying to slay it. The mental struggles our loved one goes through during the detoxification and rehab process are beyond painful to watch.

They are downright gut-wrenching.

However, it can be accomplished, just like the old adage about eating an elephant one bite at a time. The journey is long, treacherous and full of stumbling blocks yet worth every single step.  

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Control and Blame Game - Part 3 of Addiction is a Family Disease

Trying to control it

As family members of addicts, we often try everything we can think of to get our loved one to stop drinking or using drugs. We feel responsible for making sure they are okay and that they have everything we feel they need. This usually leaves us feeling frustrated. We tell ourselves that surely there is something we can do, but the reality is, the addicts themselves can’t even control it.

So how in the world are WE going to get them to?

If the addict is not ready to reach out for help, guess what? Our efforts to try and force them to admit they need help usually cause more issues. Only when the consequences of their addiction become painful enough will they reach out for help. Unfortunately, we can’t force them to get help and there is not much we can do until they realize they have a problem and reach out for that help. We can however step back and hand the controls back to the one who CAN control it. By doing that, we relieve so much pressure that we have put on ourselves from trying to control what only God can control—the heart of the addict.

Unwanted behaviors and attitudes are a reflection of what is in our heart. (Luke 6:45b)" ... his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart"

We need to look at the heart because repentance that is real happens because of changes in their heart.

(lsa 16:7) “...God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart”.

(l Thessalonians 4:4)
“That each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable.”

Blaming yourself

Someone does not always become an alcoholic or addict because they were raised in a dysfunctional family. Addiction is not necessarily caused by emotional wounds. It also has nothing to do with will power, strength of character, or intelligence.

Addiction is a physiological genetic allergy- hereditary predisposition involving brain chemistry. There is now ample scientific proof and research data to support these facts.

Addiction is a disease.

Alcoholics/Addicts try to blame their drinking or using drugs on circumstances or others around them—including their family. Don’t buy into it! If they are truly an addict, they are going to drink or use drugs no matter what we say or do. It’s not our fault. How we deal with it though is our fault!

We must start recognizing how powerless we are over this disease.

We were powerless to do anything any different than we did. We were doing the best that we knew how with the tools that we had. We can't go back and change anything so worrying about it doesn’t help!

As long as we are holding onto the guilt and shame, it means that on some level we think we had the power to stop it. We didn't! Only God can change the heart of an addict. Blaming yourself only prolongs you from seeking the help that you need to get.  Coming to terms with the fact that your loved one is an addict and recognizing that you are an enabler, allows for you to move forward and get the help you need. Just like the saying goes you must put your oxygen mask on first before you can assist anyone else with theirs.

(1 Peter 4: 12 )  - “Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to  test you, as though something  strange  were  happening to  you.”

(John 3: 17 )  - “For God did not send his son into the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.”

***Notes from Ashley***

I am a control freak in every aspect of my life, including the life of my addict. I tried everything under the sun to wrestle the control addiction had over my loved one.

I failed.

You will too.

The battle isn't ours to fight. Those of us who love an addict are relegated to the sidelines, yet that doesn't mean we can only helplessly watch with our hands tied. This is the time for fervent prayer.

The blame game is another disturbing aspect of addiction. We look back over the places we could have done things differently. You know what I mean--the "If I would have just done" or the ever-popular "If I could just go back and change this..."

You can't.

Blaming choices someone else makes for their lives on yourself is a complete and total waste of time. It festers like a tainted boil inside our hearts and minds. It won't help your addict ONE BIT, and it certainly won't help YOU. Of course, saying (or typing) the words is much easier than actually putting them into action in your life. I know because the blame game tape STILL pops up on occasion. Like an old song  you hate that randomly plays on the radio, the lyrics "It's all your fault" replay over and over.

Will it ever end? The continual pangs of regret, remorse, anger, guilt, sadness and fear? Doubtful. Even if your addict has been clean and sober for years, the old scars still ache sometimes. Just as our addict must learn to live with their piles of mental baggage, we must too.

Stay strong, keep loving your addict in healthy ways, and make sure to take care of your mind, body and soul!


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Ruined Wings takes flight!

Addiction stole everything Callie loved. Will she let it take her life, too?
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Mark your calendar for December 12, 2016!

Ruined Wings is raw, real and a terrifying journey into addiction. A must read for every parent.” – Elaine Raco Chase, bestselling author

Seventeen-year-old Callie Novak is on the cusp of changing her life as she warms up for the final heat in the Women's 1600 meter track and field competition. While she sets a new state record, her family's worse nightmare is just beginning.

When tragedy strikes the Novak family every reader will feel the pain of grief, the perils of drug abuse, the despair that leads to a shocking downward spiral and the strength that’s needed to overcome addiction.


Addiction isn’t just about the voluminous issues experienced by the addict. Like ripples in a pond, addiction affects everything—and everyone—around the addict. Nothing remains untouched as the disease, like a virulent plague, destroys relationships, friendships,employment, childhood, parenthood and marriages. Don’t believe me? Take a few minutes to read this staggering piece from CNN.
According to the article (source figures provided by the CDC from number of deaths from drug poisoning vs. other causes, 1999-2014) “Drugs now kill more people than cars, guns. Drugs are the leading cause of accidental death in this country. Fatal overdoses surpassed shooting deaths and fatal traffic accidents years ago. For perspective on how fast drug deaths have risen, Anderson said, consider the sharp rise in heart disease in the early half of the 20th century. It took about 50 years for the rate of heart disease to double. It took drug deaths a fraction of that time.

I wrote this novel from the perspective of the addict. Callie's heartbreaking journey into the ugly world of addiction is a fictional glimpse of how the disease rips apart lives and families. If you love someone struggling with addiction, as I do, I pray you'll find hope and strength while reading Callie's story.

Andrea Emmes has signed on to narrate the audio version and the amazing Sabrina Stewart (Executive Producer of Foreseen) has already optioned Ruined Wings for a film adaptation. 

Ruined Wings releases December 12, 2016 and is available for preorder in ebook format on Amazon, B&N, Kobo and iBooks. The audio version will be on Audible and iTunes. The book will also be available in hardcover (link coming soon). 

For those of you struggling with the intense emotions of loving an addict, I invite you to visit my blog. With the permission of Families in Addiction (Hot Springs, Arkansas) I post each weekly lesson geared toward helping the family members of addicts cope with the overwhelming heartbreak caused by the actions of our addicts.  
Copyright © 2016 RMSW Press

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