Master Juggler!

By: C.W. Stratton

How Many Responsibilities are You Juggling?

“Life is a juggling act that sometimes requires that you drop everything.” ~Linda Poindexter

Life is full of transformative experiences. Many of us may not realize this, but even at this very moment, as you read this, the beginning of a transformative experience is occurring.

We have experiences in our lives where we are not fully present or totally involved. 

Living in our modern society where rushing is the norm, many of us need to be Master Jugglers. 

We think the more responsibilities we juggle, the more essential and accomplished we are.  

Unfortunately, we end up trapping ourselves when we only judge our worth by our responsibilities. 

 Stop for a Moment

In recovery, we must take a healthy risk by stepping away from these things, for a moment, to see what we are actually doing. Others can see us juggling, and they may applaud us, or even go as far as throwing something more into the mix to see if we can continue juggling. 

We become so excited by the applause and cheers, about how good of a job we’re doing, many of us are incapable of saying “enough” or “it’s too much.”

 When We Feel Overwhelmed

In many instances we don’t talk about the overwhelmed feelings because we are fearful of letting others down or we may feel if we were to stop juggling, everything would “fall” apart, or we’re afraid that we’ll return to the destructive behaviors we have worked so hard to stop. Remember that in recovery, the promise is “freedom.” 

In this sense, we define freedom as the state of not being imprisoned or enslaved. Typically, we equate being imprisoned or enslaved to active addiction. Now that we’ve made a conscious decision to be a part of the recovery process, our continued efforts should also show other ways in which we imprison ourselves. 

When You Juggle, It’s Hard to See Anything Else

Going back to the analogy of the “juggler,” he/she seems poised and focused on the task at hand, even as spectators throw more objects for them to continue juggling; still, the person is locked-in, and experiences, “myopia.”  

This is a term usually referenced medically; on the eye. In this case, it’s a lack of foresight or imagination. Meaning, we don’t see anything beyond what’s in front of us, just like the juggler.

Juggling and Busy Are Not Recovery 

Dangers can arise if we continue this process in our lives, using it as a way to protect us from returning to old behaviors. You know the thinking, “If I stay busy, I’m good” or “I don’t have time to think about using or not.” 

These are the messages we convey to us that can inevitably hurt our recovery. 

Staying busy doesn’t equal recovery, just like treading water doesn’t mean you’re swimming.

We feel we are in a safe zone when we have many responsibilities that we hope will distract us from the real fears that exist within us. We juggle things, people, obligations, and our recovery to feel productive, like: 

  1. Job (s); some of us work multiple jobs.
  2. School
  3. Relationships
  4. Being a wife or husband
  5. Parenting
  6. Peacemaker
  7. The voice of reason for friends who are struggling
  8. Going to meetings
  9. Personal recovery

Lighten the Load Before You Drop Everything

These are just a few. In many cases, we are trying to juggle them all at once. This seems like a heavy load to carry, but we feel this is essential to our continued efforts to stay clean/sober. We can juggle all these things for a time, but we will have those moments when we are alone and realize we have a lot on our hands. 

However, we wouldn’t dare say this to anyone because we have become so attached to the responsibilities that it begins to define us and our recovery. We have moved further away from the freedom that we seek.

Mixing Up and Juggling our Perspectives

Stepping away for a moment is essential to obtain a better perspective on our lives and our recovery. Acknowledging the need for reflection in our lives can bring about a transformative experience. Speaking to people who have multiple jobs has always been interesting. When I’ve asked if they need to do extra work for financial reasons, many have stated that they just enjoy work. 

Is it a joy to work 12-16 hours a day and not leave time for self-care?

Eventually, they go back to the statement, “I like to stay busy.” This isn’t to say that every person who works multiple jobs, in addition to other responsibilities, will fall short in their recovery, this is about awareness and being honest with ourselves about who the Master Juggler really is.

Me Time and Letting Go

“Letting Go” has been a statement used in the recovery process. We try to leave the other person or situation and allow them to experience what they must. It’s true when we try to juggle too much, as well. 

Sometimes we have to let something fall to gain something greater. 

Me Time is a valuable tool to use in our recovery. The transformation occurs when we get the courage to “let go” of the thing that has burdened us and not allow us to grow in the recovery process. 

We may not know precisely what that thing is, but we must, once again, step away to see our circumstances clearly to embrace the transformative experience fully. 

The experience is enlightening, and it even takes a massive weight from us. It’s like the “Ah-ha” moment. This isn’t something to fear; it’s something to embrace. When we do this, we will truly begin the path to Freedom.

Juggle One Thing and Day at a Time

Most jugglers begin with a couple of things to see if they can handle it or to get a rhythm to keep going. Over time, the juggler adds items, after they feel they have mastered the first things

As recovering people, we tend to take the opposite approach by beginning with the most difficult. As a result, several things occur:

1. Things are taken away from us (not by choice).

2. We lose specific responsibilities due to neglecting them.

3. We burn out and just give up.

4. We become too overwhelmed and drop everything.

5. We say “what’s the use” and return to the destructive behaviors.

A true Master Juggler knows how many objects they can keep in the air, and then catch. We have to have the same awareness in our recovery. 

What’s Right for You?

What can we reasonably carry out on any given day? 

Just because the other juggler has eight items in the air, doesn’t mean that it will work for you. It’s like the old saying; what got me clean, may get you high. 

An essential aspect of the transformative experience is to acknowledge what you can handle and embrace it.

This is not a competition or a race, and our goal is to live life to the fullest and experience with every fiber of our being. 

For us Master Jugglers, One Object At A Time. For All of Us, One Day at a Time. 

Calling All Family Members

By C.W. Stratton

“Alcoholism and other addictions aren’t a spectator sport. Eventually, the whole family gets to play.” ~ Joyce Rebeta Burditt

Addiction affects the addicted individual and impacts the family and those who care about them as well. As many of us know, addiction has an insidious way of restructuring the family and family systems. Family roles become confusing, and the members seem to stumble over one another, figuring out how to fix the problem. Making attempts at fixing the problem creates even more dysfunction within the family dynamic. Families respond to addiction in numerous ways. However, typical responses are listed below:

  • Ignoring the Problem
  • Taking a Harsh Approach
  • Accommodate The Individual
  • Enabling
  • Giving Up
  • Try To Live “Around” The Situation
  • Denial
  • Lack of Trust 

Many families, particularly parents, have a habit of blaming themselves for the individual’s addiction, and blaming statements hinder families in becoming well-informed and aware of the aspects of addiction. Families subconsciously take ownership of the behaviors that the addicted individual displays.   

Some Blaming Statements

Parents blame themselves in various ways. Here are some typical statements made: 

  • I didn’t provide the love they needed
  • Maybe I gave them too much
  • I should have been more attentive
  • Maybe those kids weren’t so bad and I should have let them hang out with…
  • I’m a terrible parent/spouse
  • It’s my fault; I moved us to this neighborhood

 There Must Be Something I Can Do!

There are those families that take a “power and control over the addict” approach. Although they may believe they are in control of the situation, in all reality, they are as out of control as the addict, but for different reasons.  

Parents will attempt to restrict the individual’s movements, withhold financial help, spy on the individual’s every move from cell phone calls to social media activity. The family spends a considerable amount of time spying and watching the individual’s movements, and in the process, they become just as ill as the individual.   

Those families become accustomed to this way of living and never realize that the addicted person still controls their activities, behaviors, and feelings. 

Some Protective Behaviors and Statements of Families

Other families become so fearful of what the individual may do that they transition their thinking and behaviors into protecting the addicted person from harm, without realizing that they may prolong the addiction and increase the risk of overdose and death. Some common behaviors and statements include:

  • I give them money so they don’t commit a crime.
  • I’d rather they use here; at least, I know where they are or what they’re doing.
  • I have to bail them out of jail because that’s not a good place.
  • I can’t tell the rest of the family what has been going on.
  • I’ll take you to get your alcohol/drugs because I don’t want you using the car.
  • Just don’t bring the stuff around here.
  • Call me if you’re too high to get home, I’ll pick you up.
  • One parent lets the individual come home only when the other parent isn’t present.
  • Don’t tell your father/mother I gave you the money.

With these behaviors and statements, families feel that they have control of the situation. However, knowing what the individual is doing and protecting them from harm doesn’t provide an avenue for the individual and family to get better. It enables the addicted person to continue the behavior and not have an opportunity of seeing the dangers and damage they’ve created. 

Their Fixes Aren’t Working on Me!

The addicted individual will guilt loved ones into accepting their actions or even threaten self-harm to get what they want, often to continue using. There still exists the illusion of control for the parents or spouse despite the evident chaos. Families adapt to the addicted individual, which makes it comfortable for that person to continue using. Even though enabling isn’t the family intent, this is often the outcome. 

When the Addict Wants to Fix Themselves

There does come a time when the addicted individual experiences a crisis or a consequence that begins to put things in perspective that may result in the person contemplating the need to make changes in their lives. Some life-altering experiences include: 

  • Loss of family relations 
  • Homelessness 
  • Loss of employment 
  • Health concerns 
  • Criminal justice involvement

Sometimes the individual becomes “sick and tired of being sick and tired.” When the addict decides to make changes, the family systems experience another adjustment. 

While the individual may no longer be using, some family responses during active addiction remain during the recovery process, and families often have a hard time understanding their new role.  

They no longer feel in control; they no longer feel needed. When these feeling bubble up, the parents can then feel jealous of new recovery options like meetings and sponsors, or they are unwilling to establish trust again. 

Family Statements and Behaviors During Recovery Process

Not every family responds the same when the addicted individual enters the recovery process, but reactions occur. However, almost all family members are unsure of their role. 

They often feel lost, confused, or become so overbearing toward the individual that it strains the relationships even further. When the family does not know what new actions and responses to use or hasn’t gotten help for themselves, they tend to maintain some of their past thoughts.

  • Are they clean?
  • They look high, but I’m not sure.
  • When can we trust them? 
  • Where are they going with those new friends? 
  • The family searches the rooms when the addict is gone. 
  • The family still hides valuables.
  • They haven’t asked me to take them anywhere; what are they up to? 
  • How do we interact and relate to this new person? 
  • They haven’t asked to borrow money. Is that a good thing? 
  • Is there someone looking for them because they haven’t left the house all day?
  • Who are these new people they are hanging around? They look shady.

The now recovering person experiences difficulties initially due to the ongoing mistrust and lack of confidence that the family has regarding the individual making changes in their lives. We know that families want the best for the individual but are unaware of how to support and encourage the person and their changes. 

Fixing the Whole Family

Addiction is a family disease in which all members need to find ways to heal. Only identifying the addicted individual as the issue within the household isolates the person and doesn’t provide an opportunity to expose the exact nature of when, why, and how things occurred. 

For families to reunite or become a unit again, all parties should take the time to look at themselves and ask the question; am I helping fix the situation or contributing to the problem?

This question may be challenging to answer. If you are a family member in this situation, look at what’s going on and think about how important the addicted individual is to you.  

Addiction must be exposed; hiding it only prolongs the use and the possibility of more destruction. We are battling a severe epidemic in our communities and the rest of the world. It’s time to fight for ourselves and our loved ones.  

It is a matter of life or death. Addiction is a family disease. Let’s heal together.

Know Your Family Resources 

There are self-help groups and additional counseling for family members of the addicted person, which can help on so many different levels. Family Resources: 

Resources for Families Coping with Mental and Substance Use Disorders | SAMHSA

Addiction Resources and Help for Families | Hazelden Betty Ford

Support Groups for Families of Drug Addicted & Alcoholic Persons (

Addiction: Is There An Answer? 

C.W. Stratton

There are many reasons that an individual starts down the path of addiction. People have studied addiction, looking for ‘the answer.’ Many of us acknowledge that not a single reason equates to full-blown addiction. 

The many studies, theories, opinions, and research around the subject still have many people scratching their heads, resulting in assumptions about the cause. Some things that are known to be contributing factors include:

  1. Genetic Factors
  2. Environmental Factors
  3. Psychological Factors

Although these are significant factors associated with addiction, we still wonder – why do people use? 

If we look at genetics as a contributing factor, the gene identified within the person doesn’t eventually fire off at a moment’s notice. The person decides to use a given substance; despite never being a user of substances. People don’t wake up one morning and say, “I’ll go to the liquor store and start drinking every day,” or, “I think I’ll find the neighborhood dope dealer and become a regular customer.”

The environmental cause doesn’t mean the person “catches addiction” like you would catch a cold. However, poverty, lack of educational opportunities, and poor role models all contribute. 

We have to look at the individual’s psychological makeup to determine why someone would use substances and become addicted. 

I know, I know, these three factors can be viewed deeper, including research and study outcomes. However, each of the three categories has a common denominator – feelings and emotions. 

Whatever The Reasons, There Are Feelings And Emotions 

You know feelings – those things that we do our best to guard and to avoid discussing. But beyond more research, there are reasons we know. People use to change the way they feel. Whether it is to change their feelings or to bury the feelings, they are having. We hear this most often talked about in recovery support meetings, too.  

The way we deal with feelings often dictates how our day will be and how we respond or react to different situations.

Feelings and Emotions Challenge Us

Feelings and emotions also challenge our commitment to the recovery process.  A feeling is an emotional state or reaction. At the same time, emotion is a natural, instinctive state of mind deriving from one’s circumstances, mood, or relationship with others.  In many instances, the two tend to be confused with one another.

Reflecting on the internal reasons people engage in destructive/addictive behavior, feelings or emotions often fuel their thoughts and actions. A good example is that feeling of inadequacy. We may feel inadequate in specific settings or situations.  

However, some people feel inadequate in most situations, no matter the circumstances. 

These people may yearn to have this feeling quieted, especially as they see their peers presenting as confident, secure, and comfortable in those social situations. 

Feelings Fuel Our Decisions

“Preaching at people about behaviours, even self-destructive ones, did little good when I didn’t or couldn’t help them with the emotional dynamics driving those behaviours.”― Gabor Maté, In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts: Close Encounters with Addiction

Feelings and emotions are known to drive our decision-making. Being controlled by these is dangerous and detrimental to our recovery. The following is a partial list of complicated feelings and emotions and may lead a person back to use.

  • Anger
  • Anxiety
  • Being Overwhelmed
  • Depressed
  • Excitement
  • Frustration
  • Guilt
  • Happiness
  • Inadequacy
  • Insecurity
  • Shame

We can add many more because it doesn’t matter what we are experiencing, but our response to it is most critical. 

We’re going to have many feelings and emotions, and the root of these often comes from outside sources, which means we can control how we respond and whether we choose to return to active addiction because we don’t like the way we’re feeling. 

Active Addiction Can Stop If We Don’t Relapse

Being reactive to situations that arise in our lives places us at greater risk for relapse. And, when this does occur, we often realize that we should have handled a given situation differently and not reacted to our feelings and emotions. 

As a result, we may continue to use substances after that relapse. If we are lucky, we will get another opportunity to recover. It takes weeks, months, and even years for some to get back into recovery. The delay in returning to meetings or reconnecting with those who had previously supported us isn’t always connected to the obsession and compulsion to use; it’s sometimes centered around the guilt and shame that we acquired along with way. 

Guilt and Shame Keep People in Active Addiction 

These two feelings can destroy the core of an individual, especially as it relates to recovery. We are ashamed to let those know we returned to active addiction. We become consumed with guilt about our actions. Often, we’ll think that if we don’t go back to those meetings, everyone will assume we’re going to other meetings. 

We say to ourselves, “I’ll never go back to that meeting; maybe I’ll try to hold on and make it seem that everything’s alright.” As we continue with these thoughts, the delay in returning to the very place that has saved us and provided a new life for ourselves becomes even greater. 

I Know That Feeling and Emotion

Over time, we can get to a place where feelings and emotions no longer dictate the directions in which we go. Being able to name specific emotions and feelings as they arise is critical in this process. 

Many have the instinct to run and hide when certain emotions or feelings emerge. The running or hiding sometimes manifests as acting out in some way.

We either turn on others, but most importantly, we turn on ourselves. Reflect on a time where an outside source provoked intense feelings or emotions (someone disrespected you, hurt you, or embarrassed you), and the automatic thought is to lash out or react in some way. 

When we don’t address the matter head-on, our behavior tends to display, “I’ll show you, I’ll hurt me.” We do something destructive that will only impact our lives and not affect the other person – that’ ‘turning on ourselves.’

Feelings and emotions will always exist; we won’t be able to avoid them as they surface. Managing them and acquiring healthy ways to respond are most important. We must begin working through them and fully experience the feeling and emotion to understand better what it’s all about. Or to find out why we respond and react to certain things as we do. Everyone doesn’t react to a given feeling or emotion that same way. 

Go Ahead and Feel It

Some subconsciously talk themselves out of an appropriate response by going back to the “default” response. We return to what’s familiar but not necessarily comfortable. Look at what your given “default” response is, then assess the results of it. I’m sure we can find “fault” with the “default.” 

Many of our responses to situations are related to our belief systems. Our belief systems have affected us on many levels. We learned these from one another through observation, imitating, and modeling. From the beginning of our lives, we know how to respond to certain situations based on how others have. 

We adopted this to the point that we believe this is just who I am and how I am. My position is that it’s only an excuse not to do the work to get a better outcome of what we are seeking. This is an example of how our beliefs can impact our recovery.

Your friend, family member, or spouse tells you “no” to something, or they are critical toward you about an action you have taken. We believe that this person is mean, doesn’t know what they are talking about, or doesn’t want us to succeed in this process. 

Then we get angry, upset, hurt, or even embarrassed. What we tend to do is curse, slam doors, stop talking to the person, and even go as far as to use substances. The domino effect (from beliefs to feelings to actions) can be catastrophic. This example is an activating event.  

Feelings and Emotions Activate the Events

 We have allowed many events to control our feelings, emotions, and actions. We have made them responsible for how we think, feel, and act. Now, it’s time to return this control to ourselves.

Recovery helps people get a different perspective on their lives. This process isn’t just about “not using” substances; this also requires an internal transformation. 

We have responded to many things in ways we have regretted and wish we had a do-over. Learning from the outcomes of our reactive and impulsive behavior of the past is crucial. We are not perfect, but to measure the quality (not quantity) of recovery, we must look further within. 

Internal battles do not have to last a lifetime – we can bring peace to our recovery, and peaceful is a feeling and emotion that’s worth working towards.