Posted by: gtcounseling | April 12, 2010

An Adult Child’s Drug Addiction

Hello,

I am having a difficult time with my daughter, who is a drug addict, 41 years old and having a baby anyday now. She has two children from her marriage I take care of, like driving them to school and cooking supper because the father works. My daughter will not talk to anyone in her family and I believe she is ill in the head due to her drug usage. She supposidly has not been using lately, but her drug of choice was crack cocaine. I have tried calling her and I am concerned about her and she is angry, resentful and blames me (her mother) for everything. She sees her kids on the weekends and I think she tries to manipulate them to her way of thinking. Sometimes I cry a lot and I get angry and I can’t help it because I still love her. It seems as though she don’t want any part of her loving family anymore and I don’t know what else to do.

Hello Sue,

My heart goes out to you in your struggle to love and relate with your adult daughter in a healthy way and what that all means for you and your family and her daughters as well. It’s by no means an easy situation. The best thing you can do for  her is to continue to treat her as an adult under an umbrella of ‘tough love’ and be there for her when needed, but without enabling her in her disease. As you have probably found, this is a tough balancing act that requires a lot of stamina, energy, boundary setting, some measure of grace and a lot of prayer. The key is to also take care of yourself in the process to avoid become burned out, depressed, overwhelmed and more.

Substance users will generally do and say anything in order to feed their habits unless they are in some type of recovery program. You didn’t mention if your daughter is or not which would certainly be to her benefit if she was.  Maybe her husband can be an influence to get her to consider a treatment program even if its as basic as attending NA or AA. There are also Al-Anon type recovery support groups for family members dealing with substance users that are a valuable source of support to help fasmily members learn to be strong and keep that  balance while setting healthy limits on the relationship. I encourage you to find out all you can about Al-Anon and Codependency issues and these groups availability in your local community. There are also a lot of resources online about it Codependency and more, even online support groups to get you started. There is nothing as helpful and strengthening as walking the path you’re on with other parents struggling with the same issues and their adult children. Through them you can gain a lot of wisdom, understanding, support and hope for your journey. I would also recommend reading books for parents of adult substance users and anything else that would help you remian strong and confident in your stance such as Love Must Be Tough, by Dr. Dobson, Boundaries, by Cloud and Townsend, etc. Your online support friends can share additional good book recommendations as well.

I know you’re in a tough spot and being their for your granddaughters is wonderful Sue. I pray for the best outcome for you, your daughter and the rest of your family going forward and that you all findstrength and trust in God’s guidance in your lives.

Regards,

Carole L. Miller, LCSW-C

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Posted by: gtcounseling | March 27, 2010

An Unexpected Pregnancy

Dear Ms. Miller,
I’ve been stressed out. I think I’m pregnant but my boyfriend don’t want to talk to me because he thinks I cheated on him. The last time we had sex we used a condom so I’m wondering how this could be. I’m really scared because I don’t know what to do. I need your help.
Thank You,

Stacia

Hi Stacia,

Well, the first thing to do that would help the most is to determine if you really are pregnant or not. Thinking you are but not knowing for sure isn’t doing much good and sounds like it is only increasing your anxiety and fear. My advice is to get tested and find out for sure. It may turn out that you are not and your worries are unfounded. However, if you test positive and realize that you are pregnant you’ll be in a better position to fully accept the pregnancy and begin to deal with what that means in your life. You and your boyfriend will then have to face it together if he is willing. If not, you will have to face it yourself. It does little good to worry about it though until you know for certain.

I also believe that saying you ‘don’t know how this could be’ after the fact is not being honest with yourself. All forms of birth control are not 100% effective and condoms have one of the lowest rates of reliability due to the fact they can have small ruptures or simply break during intercourse. Going forward, it’s best to be honest with yourself and admit that if you decide to have sexual relations regardless of what form of birth control you use that the possibility of getting pregnant always exists. 

Each of us  needs to be aware that all of our actions and choices have consequences and sex is no different Stacia. As a young woman choosing to have sex prior to marriage, you need to be wise and be aware that you are choosing a risky behavior that can end up in pregnancy and/or disease. That’s just stating the facts and as much as it’s hard to accept it is the truth. The best thing you can do for yourself is to learn to make wise choices that don’t place you at risk.   I hope things work out for you Stacia, and that if are going to face a pregnancy that your boyfriend will come along side you and help you. 

Regards,

Carole L. Miller, LCSW-C

Posted by: gtcounseling | March 26, 2010

Raised by a Bi-polar Parent

Hello Grace,

I am 17 years old and I am a teenage mother. When I was growing up my mother was bi-polar and I believe her disorder affected me. I have big trust issues and have issues with being independent. I recently moved out on my own while trying to graduate from high school. I also have created most of the problems in my relationship with my child’s father due to the personal issues that I have. I’m not really sure what I am asking for. I guess I would really appreciate some guidance.

Thanks, Erin

Hello Erin,

I’m glad you wrote in Erin and you’re certainly no alone in your feelings and struggles. Growing up in a household with a mentally ill parent is hard on family members and can create numerous kinds of dysfunctional relationship and communication patterns that get passed down to the children. And, now you are also a single parent yourself, though it sounds like you are doing pretty well with being on your own and finishing school. Kudos to you for having great goals and investing in yourself and your child’s future.

Being the child of a bi-polar parent can certainly cause you to grow up fast Erin. And, there are varying degrees of impairment that can accompany the condition. You mentioned that you struggle with trust and independence, two very common characteristics that adult children from dysfunctional family backgrounds deal with. Your trust issues may stem from growing up in a household where you were not able to fully trust that your mother, your main caretaker and who you fully depended on as a vulnerable young child, would be there for you in all the ways you needed her to be, i.e. physically, mentally and emotionally. If children don’t have stable and predictable attachments in a family it  can wreak havoc in their life and stunt healthy development and growth in key areas. 

And, the child who grows up experiencing that she can’t trust her main caretaker to protect, nurture and provide for her becomes conditioned to believe that people in general may not be trustworthy at all. This then sets the stage for a struggle between being ‘independent vs. dependent’ as an adult. A young adult often feels pulled between those two extremes without having learned that there is a healthy middle ground. What’s most helpful in this case is to learn to become interdependent with others in life through learning to have health relationships.

These types of struggles, learning to trust and to be interdependent, take hard work, practice and time to overcome Erin, but are well worth the effort for a happy life. My advice to you would be to seek out healthy friends and family members  who can be good role models and a support system for you. You might also consider getting help through a trusted professional to help you sort through things, heal and grow. You are likely to find that as you trust, embrace and work with other people who are safe and healthy, that the healing and learning process is truly a gift that continually blesses over a lifetime. In going forward Erin, remember that all it takes is to keep putting one foot in front of the other in the healing journey. I wish you all the best going forward!

Sincerely,

Carole L. Miller, LCSW-C

Posted by: gtcounseling | March 11, 2010

How Accessible is Online Counseling?

Grace Tree,

I have a question. At present, do you have clients residing in Pakistan and receiving your online counselling services?

-Sajal

Hi Sajal,

Thanks for inquiring about our services. I do counsel people in many places around the world such as Europe, Asia, Middle East, Australia, Canada and more, and for a wide variety of life issues and personal struggles. The nice thing about online services is that you can connect over long distances and professionals like myself can provide services for those who may not have local access treatment services where they live. Other benefits include the relatively quick availability of services online as well as the level of privacy involved for the client. And, many individuals who receive online services through Grace Tree share very positive feedback on all aspects of Grace Tree’s services. I hope that helps Sajal. If there are any other specific questions you have please feel free to contact me via e-mail links provided on my website.

Regards,

Carole L. Miller, LCSW-C

Posted by: gtcounseling | March 3, 2010

Living by Truth

Hello,

I’m a freshman and I made the varsity soccer team last week, but I also suffered an injury when someone crushed my big toe. At first I thought that it was just bruised and the X rays confirmed that it wasn’t broken. I had an infection that had started though and spread half way up my calf. I was still extremely swollen and sore I didn’t practice a few days. But when I got to practice today and my high school coach who is very pushy confronted me and asked me what was wrong, I became intimidated and said that I had a hairline fracture on my big toe which is not the truth. I thought I could be out then for 2 weeks or so. So, I had to go to the trainer who said that for a hairline fracture you’re normally out for 6 – 8 weeks. But since my high school coach is in contact with my club team coach whom I told the truth to about the infection and I need to sit out until the skin heals up and the swelling dies down, now I have two different stories and I’m going to start practicing with my club team this week. So how can I not practice with my high school team then too? I was thinking to do high school practice too but they think that my toe has a hairline fracture and that would mean it only took a week to heal? That’s unrealistic. So, my question to you after this confusing background story is what should I do that results in the least amount of punishment/damage to me, my family, my coaches, my teammates, etc? Also one idea I had was that I could tell my high school coach that I had a follow up with the doctor today and he said that I am healed but that sounds suspicious. I don’t know what to do. Please help me. I know I’m stupid and lying is a terrible thing but I was afraid. That doesn’t give me any right to lie though and I’m sorry I did. I am so mad at myself. What can you suggest?

Rosalynn

Hi Rosalynn,

It sounds like you’re in a real predicament with your recent choice to lie about your health concerns. You initially lied about your toe being fractured because you thought t was the best way to handle things in a moment of pressure and uncertainty. You felt threatened by your coach’s attitude and demeanor toward you so you reacted quickly in the moment. Sometimes we do that, we just react hastily when making split decisions and falsify things or stretch the truth because of what we perceive to be a threat whether real or imagined. But, it can quickly come back to haunt us. I am glad you wrote in because your letter is a good reminder for all of us, adults and teens alike, about the importance of having standards and living in the truth.

It’s pretty much human nature to act on instinct to protect ourselves when we feel threatened which comes from a ‘feeling’ reaction on a basic level. And, it happens to all of us if we’re honest with ourselves. It sounds like what you need to do now is learn from this and can turn the situation around. It’s my belief that the best thing to do is to be honest with your coaches and such about the truth of your health situation and offer a simple apology. You can simply tell the truth on why you felt the need to lie in that you were scared, worried, etc., but now believe the best thing to do is to simply tell the truth, put your error in judgment  behind you,  and move forward from here. You have the power to make the wrong right and most coaches and adults understand that teens are in the process of learning about life, making difficult choices, handling feelings of worry and fear and so forth. My bet is that if you tell the truth and how scared you felt at the time, that most would be forgiving. And while there may be some anxiety and fear involved in facing your coaches and coming clean, after it’s over you will feel much better and relieved, and also stronger in spirit, after having done the right thing. I wish you the best going forward Rosalynn in making good choices and hope that your foot heals soon!

Sincerely,

Carole L. Miller, LCSW-C

Posted by: gtcounseling | February 27, 2010

Infidelity – Rebuilding A Marriage

Dear Ms. Miller,
My husband and I just reconciled after being separated for 18 months. He left our home because he was having an affair, which turned into an ongoing relationship. The problem is that he continues to have anxiety attacks about not seeing the other woman. He says that there has not been any contact on either side in any way for 6 weeks. This makes me feel angry and hurt all over again. What can I do to help us, he says he wants our marriage to work because he loves me and the children. Any suggestions?
Robin

Dear Robin,
It has to be very hard to be in your shoes right now and I am glad you wrote in for support. I can easily see how your husband’s anxiety issues affect you, and I imagine that they stir up all kinds of feelings, thoughts and concerns. And, you are certainly entitled to your feelings of anger, pain, sadness, frustration and more. Though much of your anger is likely (and understandably!) directed toward your husband, it may be counterproductive to expect that you two can work out all the issues involved together. While there are times you’ll both need to address the issue openly together and process things, it would really benefit both of you to allow yourselves time apart to process your unique, individual feelings regarding this intensely painful and emotional matter. Though you certainly need to communicate and work this out as a couple, you need your own space as well and I cannot stress this enough. This may require that you build time away from your family into your schedule to do so and take care of yourself, and if necessary you should seek professional therapy for yourself, and/or marital counseling for you both. It sounds like your husband may also require professional intervention given your brief description of his symptoms. Issues of betrayal and rebuilding are often very difficult for couples to manage on their own and professional guidance and support can be a marriage saver.

Also, it’s very likely that all of your loyalty and trust toward your husband has been severely damaged by this affair. It’s going to take a lot of difficult work to restore it. A lot of people have a tendency to continue to re-persecute their mate every chance they get by continually bringing up the affair and betrayal. Though your husband will have to prove he’s sincerely dedicated to you again, it’s also going to require a true willingness to accept him after what happened and work together. If you want to stay together it’s going to take a lot of grace, time and patience. Your husband should also be willing to address issues of being totally accountable to you and understand how important that is to working things out.

As for your husband’s anxiety issues, the important thing to keep in mind is that you cannot change your husband or make him feel a certain way, and it is unrealistic to expect that his feelings for this other woman will just magically go away right away. However, as he does the work he needs to regarding his feelings and honestly addresses the issue, his anxieties are likely to subside. Just as you have to work out your feelings and concerns, he has to do the same. If he is truly recommitted to you and loves you as he says he does he should be willing to do whatever it takes to heal your marriage. Fully acknowledging and addressing his issues are a big part of doing so. With all the feelings you’re experiencing it’s likely to be hard for you to support him, but the best thing you can do is encourage him to seek the help he needs while not neglecting yourself.

I hope that I have been some help to you Robin, and that you and your husband both find it in your hearts to work things out and save your marriage. Please contact me again if I can be of any further service to you.

Sincerely,
Carole L. Miller, LCSW-C

Posted by: gtcounseling | February 27, 2010

Help With Eating Disorders

Dear Ms. Miller,
I am a student currently in my last year at University. I’m 21 years of age. I am suffering from eating disorders and I fear that I might be headed towards a depression. I feel like I am weak, ugly and extremely vulnerable, all of which I am the exact opposite of. I have always been the strong, independent beautiful figure that people use to see. I can’t tell anyone. I can hardly admit it to myself. While trying to sleep tonight I realized that I could die from my eating disorders. I want to make it through this last year and have a great life I just don’t know how to go about doing that any more. I feel like everything is a mess. I have no family or friends with me because I changed countries and now I just feel helpless and alone. You’re my only hope. I hope you can help me.
Sarah

Hello Sarah,
You are right to be very concerned about your condition because eating disorders are very serious and can be life threatening. Right now you sound very fragile and desperate Sarah. While you fear you may be headed toward a depression, it really sounds like you are already there. I strongly recommend that you get professional help. It would be very helpful for you to see a medical doctor for a complete medical evaluation and confide in him/her about your mental health needs. Now that the semester year is in full-swing, school stress levels are likely to make you even more vulnerable. It sounds that somewhere inside you, you believe that you are competent, smart and strong, even if it’s a struggle for you to embrace that right now. I encourage you to draw on those strengths from deep inside and seek the help you need. It’s very tough to be in a different country and feel so alone too. But, if you continue to keep things to yourself and remain isolated you will likely continue in your self-destructive patterns and behaviors Sarah.

In addition, Many University campuses have student counseling centers which offer a wide range of services and even specialize in helping students with such personal issues. Student counseling centers are well equipped to deal with such issues because they are fairly commonplace among people your age Sarah. You are not alone. Many college students, young women and men alike, struggle with eating disorders, depression, school stress, achievement issues and expectations, anxiety issues, substance abuse, and more. A University center can be very helpful in guiding you down the right path, linking you with other service providers, suggesting community support groups, and may even provide you with some free services or for a very low fee. A counseling center’s main function is to serve the University’s students, and they always take into account each individual student’s overall health, functioning and financial situation. So, don’t let anything stop you from getting the help you need. Once you get the help you need things will get better.

Sincerely,
Carole L. Miller, LCSW-C

Posted by: gtcounseling | February 27, 2010

Coping With Spouse’s Eating Disorder

Dear Grace Tree,
My wife has been battling with an eating disorder for about two years and she is getting worse. She has been in an outpatient program and a six-week inpatient eating disorder program. After the programs she appeared to have improved a little but now she has began to do the purging again and she hardly eats. I have tried everything and she refuses to do any more programs. I feel helpless and this is stressing me out because I am watching my wife literally disappear in front of my eyes. What do I do, is there anything I can do as her husband because I think I have had enough and I am on the verge of leaving her.
Thank You,
Chuck

Hello Chuck,
It sounds like your wife is seriously ill, and I truly sympathize with you. Eating disorders are one of the most difficult addictions to overcome. However, it’s not impossible though. I think you’re feelings of helplessness are certainly understandable and a good descriptor of how you’re feeling because you cannot help your wife unless she wants the help. She has to decide that for herself, as you know sine she’s been through this cycle before. Unless she is actively suicidal or her health is at a critical point, there is not much you can do for her beyond further encouraging her to seek help if you see her encountering problems as a result of her behaviors and attitude.

Yet, there are things that you can do for yourself which may help her in the long run. You really need to take care of yourself while dealing with this. If she does turn around sometime soon she’ll need you to be mentally healthy and responsive. One thing you can do is contact some of the local outpatient programs and ask about support groups for partners of those afflicted with eating disorders and start attending. The mental-emotional support you’d receive there would be a big blessing to you and help you maintain your sanity. It’s never good to isolate oneself with the difficult problems that you’re facing, even though that’s sometimes our human tendency. You may also want to ask them about therapy for yourself at this time to maintain your strength and help you deal with your wife on a daily basis. I would really recommend it.

Short of doing those things and requesting she seek help again, there isn’t much you can do for her. And it really sounds like you are frustrated and have exhausted all your efforts. Your care and concern for her is evident too. As far as being in the verge of leaving, no one can make the decision for you to stay in your marriage to your wife. You have to really search your heart and consider things prayerfully. Sometimes if one partner gives the other an ultimatum to get help and threatens to leave the relationship, it can spur movement of the other towards getting some help. But, sometimes it doesn’t and there is never a guarantee. I hope your situation takes a turn for the better Chuck and if I can be of any further service or help please feel free to contact me again.

Sincerely,
Carole L. Miller, LCSW-C

Posted by: gtcounseling | February 27, 2010

Tragic Loss Of Parents

Ms. Carole,
My parents just died in a terrible way (murder-suicide), and now my brothers and sisters have a hard time talking to me because they say I emulate qualities that my father had, when they had no problem talking to me when they were alive and they themselves have such qualities. What could I say or do to make things better?
Kyle

Dear Kyle,
First, I am very sorry for the loss of your parents. And though your note was brief, it sounds like the rest of your family is going through such a traumatic time. My heart and prayers really go out to you all at this time.

Having great difficulties with such deep emotional pain isn’t unusual at all and I suspect that’s where your siblings are operating from right now. It’s very hard to deal with loss issues, and I think your family’s issues are really compounded by the tragic and violent end to your parents’ lives. The act committed by one of your parents is the ultimate form of family violence and really defies understanding. This makes it very difficult to deal with all the resulting feelings such as grief, disbelief, anger, pain, guilt, and more.

It’s very likely that your siblings’ difficulties talking to you are due to their inability to deal with all their feelings right now. It isn’t unusual for a family member to remind others of a deceased loved one which make interactions with that person difficult. If you remind them of your father as much as you say, it’s likely that you evoke feelings of pain and longing in them, a longing to have your parents back and for things to have turned out differently between your parents.

What can you do? The first thing you can do is for yourself, and recognize that you can’t control how anyone else feels or acts. What you do need to realize also is that their feelings are not because of you. It is not your fault and it isn’t likely a personal rejection. What you can do is simply address the issue openly and honestly with them, acknowledge their pain and feelings, and share your own. Perhaps if they’re aware of the pain and confusion you’re feeling they will be more sensitive when relating with you. You could also approach them and see if they are willing to do some family counseling together to process all the feelings and issues involved that are so debilitating and burdening. There certainly is a lot for you all to work on, and addressing things together would help everyone draw closer is support of each other. If they don’t express and interest in doing so I think you should definitely get some counseling help for yourself. It would help you deal with your own feelings and heal from your parents death. I also encourage you to contact local area hospitals and find out if they have any grief and loss support groups you could attend. Such groups can be a great source of support and healing in times of crisis.

My heart really goes out to you Kyle, and I hope that you’re able to resolve things with your siblings and get the help for yourself that you need. If I can be of any further help please contact me again.

Sincerely,
Carole L. Miller, LCSW-C

Posted by: gtcounseling | February 27, 2010

Depression & Past Family Abuse

Dear Ms. Miller,
I was married 18mo ago at the age of seventeen. I had a very dysfunctional and abusive childhood and am aware that I carry many emotional and mental scars today as a result. My mother was an alcoholic, my mother’s husband is a drug-addict, my father went to prison and dropped contact with me when I was nine. I witnessed so much evil growing up. During the sober moments, life would actually be okay. My mother would tell me how much she loved me and how wonderful I was. But then the drinking and drugs would start again and all types of abuse would inevitably follow.

Because of my childhood, I am very distrustful and needy. I struggle with anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, and monstrous pain. Some of the time I can suppress my past and ignore it, but there are other times when it feels like a tidal wave washing over me (I should qualify that I am currently on depression meds, under the care of an M.D. and in no way suicidal).

My biggest need in life is to be loved. I learned at a young age, that if I tried very hard to be pleasing and entertaining, my mother’s “love” for me would last for a little bit longer. As a result, I always strive to please, to be everything to everyone. I generally excel in everything I do. When I was in college, I had a 4.0 GPA. I am a hard worker, working as many hours as possible and always doing the job perfectly. I usually get a raise within 3mo of starting a job. As a wife my house is clean, laundry done and errands accomplished. I try to make my husband happy by always doing the activities he wants, etc.

Deep down I know my husband loves me. Yet, without constant reaffirmation of his love, I begin to doubt it and myself. This got worse 3mo ago when I finally broke contact from my mother. Now, he is all I have in the world and the only person who loves me. I am desperate to feel loved by him, but without the constant reaffirmation all of the doubts from the past return. I ask myself, “how I can blame him? If my own family didn’t love me, how can I expect anyone else to?”I feel isolated, unloved, and alone. This is when the depression returns and memories from the past assail me.

I know my chain of thoughts and reactions are not logical. I understand that it was my parent’s lies and abuse that led me to feel this way and that I should not expect my husband to meet every need in my life. However, I cannot seem to get my conscious mind to explain this to the part of my brain that doesn’t think and just reacts.
Please help me-
Cassandra

Dear Cassandra,
When I read your story I was just amazed at how tenacious, courageous and wise you are for your young age after all you’ve been through. You are also very smart for learning about your family background issues now, and facing your pain and realizing your unhealthy needs so you can address things. You know, so many older adults do not even want to think about a lot of the issues you’ve raised! You express yourself very well too. Kudos to you for dealing with all these things as a young lady and taking care of yourself despite all of the trauma you suffered.

And, for everything you’ve been through Cassandra you sound pretty healthy and balanced in many ways. You’re able to talk about your abusive past, acknowledge what happened, and even process your neediness, people-pleasing and over-achievement issues. These aren’t easy issues for anyone to deal with and I’m very happy that you’ve taken the steps to do so. It’s also a very positive step that you’re being medically treated you for your depression and remain under your doctor’s care. You should definitely continue to do that and take care of yourself. It also sounds like you may be dealing with some significant anxiety issues and may want to talk to your doctor about that as well. Many physicians can safely treat both depression and anxiety issues concurrently.

Additionally, studies have consistently shown that the best chance for a successful outcome in treating depression and other related issues is a multi-faceted approach using both anti-depressant medication and therapy or counseling. I don’t know if you’re involved in individual therapy Cassandra, but I really recommend that you find a good therapist to help you through this crucial time in your life. While the medication will work on recovering your chemical imbalance physiologically, individual counseling will help you cope with and further process your past and the dysfunctional beliefs and behaviors that are keeping you mentally and emotionally paralyzed. Another very helpful thing you can do for yourself is to join a community support group like Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACoA) or Codependents Anonymous (CODA). Both are free community-based, 12-step support groups that deal precisely with the issues you’re describing- the neediness, people-pleasing and over achieving. The people in these groups can help you learn a lot of positive ways to begin to deal further with your issues and can help support you by sharing their experience, strength and hope. You’ll also make many new friends and find out you’re not alone in your struggles. Knowing that others have been where we’re at in life can often in itself make our own journey less painful and scary along the way Cassandra. Good blessings to you, and I hope that you’ll continue doing such a great job of getting healthier and taking care of yourself!

Regards,
Carole L. Miller, LCSW-C

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