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Over the past few weeks the pressure of personal issues has become overwhelming. Between family and friends either receiving very bad health news or being close to the end of their lives, it seems like the weight is growing.  I remember this feeling when both my sons were active in their substance misuse. There were days, weeks, months that stretched into years of this feeling.  At times being afraid to say it could not get worse because of the fear of not being able to take one more thing. 

The other day I was talking to someone about this. I was sharing how PAL brought sanity back to our lives and, eventually, with the help of good counselors and doing what I needed to do, I felt that burden begin to lift.  Although neither of my sons were getting better, I was.  I even remember saying to a counselor that I just wanted to find joy again in my life, but I just could not find it.  He said, “it never left, you are the issue.” He went on to talk about how my focus was on everything wrong and that I had essentially lost any sense of gratitude in my life. It was true. When I began working on that and applying what we were learning at PAL, things began to change for me. I started enjoying what I was doing that day at that minute. I started realizing that in most cases the phrase, “it could be worse,” applied, so there was no sense in spending all my time focusing on what I could not change. 

During check-in time at our PAL meeting a few weeks ago, someone said, “You know what, all these things I’m learning to help me with my son, apply to all the relationships in my life.”  This statement took me back to when I remember someone else saying that ten years ago at a PAL meeting.  It was true, learning to treat people like an adult, healthy responses not reactions, the list goes on and on.  It’s amazing to witness people “get better,” it’s amazing to see people start enjoying their lives. I am so thankful for all that we learned and for all the people who walked alongside us on this journey.  

Now that we are a full month into 2023, I pray this will be a year that PAL can reach more and more people.  Please consider volunteering as we have various projects we sure could use some help with.  Click HERE to sign up to volunteer with PAL. If you are interested in knowing more about starting a meeting as a facilitator, please reply to this email and we’ll get you more information.

As things started to pile on these past few weeks and I kept hearing more and more bad news, I started to pull out the tools I have learned over these past years and put things back into perspective. My friends have been a tremendous encouragement and I realize how much PAL truly has helped me even beyond dealing with my sons.  I hope this newsletter brings more valuable information to you in your journey as we press on.


Kim Humphrey
CEO/Executive Director
Guest Blog: Is accepting the same as condoning? 

Our regular counselor blogger, Josh Acevedo, is on a break so we are bringing you perspectives from a PAL Facilitator. 

We talk often about acceptance in our PAL meetings. Acceptance is also spoken of frequently in substance use treatment programs as well as in AA meetings.

On page 417 of the fourth edition of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous it says, “Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today. When I am disturbed, it is because I find some person, place, thing or situation-some fact of my life-unacceptable to me, and I can find no serenity until I accept that person, place, thing or situation as being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment. Nothing, absolutely nothing, happens in God’s world by mistake. Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober; unless I accept life completely on life’s terms, I cannot be happy. I need to concentrate not so much on what needs to be changed in the world as on what needs to be changed in me and my attitudes.”

When I attended my first PAL meeting, the facilitator handed me a card with the acceptance quote and encouraged me to read it several times a day to comfort myself. Initially, all that I could think of was “how will I ever accept this situation?” I couldn’t understand how I would be able to accept that this was the way my sons chose to live without feeling as if I condoned the behavior.

This question continues to present itself regularly at PAL meetings and with parents I walk alongside. The first implication that I hear from parents is they feel that if they accept their child’s substance using lifestyle then they are agreeing that it is ok with them if their loved one uses substances (i.e. condone the behavior). In regard to what we are dealing with as parents and family members, to accept simply means that we accept the truth of the situation – we have a son or daughter with substance use disorder. To condone in this situation would mean that we allow and/or agree that the behavior is ok with us to continue.

In my own situation I decided to let my sons know that I was working on accepting the way they were choosing to live even though I would never condone the use of illicit substances.

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Needing something more

My husband and I just celebrated 42 years of marriage.  We have one child together – a son – and I have a bonus daughter who was 4 years old when we got married.

My son was always spontaneous and loved going fast on go karts and quads. He loved his dog who always followed him when he went riding.

My son started smoking marijuana at a young age. When he was 14 years old, the police caught him smoking marijuana and he used the stereotypical excuse: “I’m holding it for a friend.” He eventually went on to do opioids and other substances.

He has been in and out of jail since he was 16 years old with the longest stay being two years (this has happened several times).  He has been to treatment six times – five times through the court system and one time on his own.

I was always enabling him by giving him money, believing his lies (because that was the less painful route), hiring lawyers and doing anything that I thought might save his life.

I found PAL on a local news channel who was interviewing a PAL facilitator. I had never heard of PAL and have been long-time member of Al-Anon, but I knew I needed more. I called a friend of mine who was going through a similar situation, and we started going to PAL meetings.

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Living in grace, forgiveness

While I labored intently in my single-minded zeal to stay intoxicated, lost in my disease, so many important individuals were left in the dust picking up the pieces I’d so recklessly broken along my path. Lately, I’ve noticed myself reflecting on this more than usual – this trail of misery that followed me wherever I went, and with whomever I interacted with in those dreary days. 
These thoughts of the past can carry with them a sharp tinge of regret and shame. I’ve had to learn over the years to live with the fact that for a long time my abhorrent behavior and actions directly resulted in a great deal of emotional pain, stress, financial loss and general crisis in the lives of friends and family who cared for me. 
It’s easy to get lost in those thoughts at times. But, in doing so, we risk falling into shame spirals or self-defeating behavior that completely diminishes our usefulness to others in the here and now. I found myself in one of these situations the other day. Through a casual conversation with a neighbor, I was inadvertently reminded of a situation from my past that I winced at (some shame is obviously still associated with the situation). 
I dwelled on it for a moment and recognized myself sliding backwards into a self-defeating thought process but was quickly reminded of the beauty of recovery. I have been freely given a spiritual toolkit which allows me to address these issues. I was reminded of what I had endeavored early on in recovery to do everything I could to make a situation right – to make amends. I had not only trod the path of forgiveness but had put actionable works behind it in an effort to rectify the damage I’d done. 
That, in and of itself, is all I could do. I cannot change the past or turn back time. I cannot reach back into those vestiges of memory and extinguish every ounce of negativity that may associate itself with those thoughts. Maybe a modicum of that will always exist within me and today I realize that that is acceptable. Today I take pains to live in recovery, healing and spirituality in an effort to better myself so that no one else will bear the brunt of my negative actions. 
I take solace in this. I find peace in it. I find that God has a way of working in our lives to assuage that guilt and shame when we take steps on our own accord to make things right. He provided me with so much strength in those moments. Of course, I’m not perfect. Of course, it’s a journey. Of course, it’s a path to tread, to learn and to grow. To be better versions of ourselves, the best we can, at any given time. 

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