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Make ‘Em Thirsty

May 29, 2012 by Sharron Cosby

The creamy tri-flavored delights—chocolate, strawberry and vanilla—nestle between a banana cut in half, like three peas in a pod. Sugary syrup loaded with walnuts cascades over the frozen mounds. Clouds of whipped cream adorn the concoction. And the crowning touch—a maraschino cherry.

How about this? You go to a movie theatre and open the lobby door. Your sense of smell explodes into overload as the aroma of fresh-popped popcorn assaults your nose. Before going to the movie, you promised yourself, “I will be strong. I will not buy popcorn and drown it in melted butter.”

Let’s try one more. The sun beats hot as you cut row after row of grass. Sweat runs in streams from your hair and onto your face. Perspiration soaks your shirt. Finally finished with the yard work, you trudge into the house, flop down on the couch and turn on the television. The first commercial that comes on shows a glass filled with ice cubes. Slowly the actress pours a soda into the glass. It trickles over the ice in slow motion until the glass is full. Lifting it to her lips she takes a long drink. Satisfied, she looks into the camera and licks a solitary drop of soda off her lip.

Each scenario creates a hunger or thirst for something we don’t have. We look at the dessert and think, “Wow! That looks so good, I think I’ll get me a banana split.” The fact that we’ve been dieting for two months is pushed aside dreaming about the tempting culinary delight. The lure of ice cream, whipped cream and nuts is too tantalizing to turn down.

Our approach to recovery should be as enticing as banana splits, popcorn and icy cold soda on a hot day. Whether we are the addict working the Twelve Steps or the family member supporting a loved one, others who are searching for a new life apart from addiction can look at what we have and say, “I want that.”

We do that by “making ‘em thirsty” for a life free of addiction. We show those around us that working the steps isn’t for sissies; it’s tough work that is well worth the effort. In his book, Getting Your Loved One Sober: Alternatives to Nagging, Pleading and Threatening, Dr. Robert Meyers addresses ways in which families can change their lives. He shows how setting boundaries with the addict allows natural consequences to fall into place, hopefully causing a change in behavior.

Dr. Meyers’ approach is basically positive reinforcement. He encourages the addict’s family to make personal lifestyle changes, even if their addict chooses not to quit their controlling behavior. Meyers encourages the family members to strengthen themselves emotionally, mentally and spiritually, making the prospect of recovery attractive to their addicted loved one.

You may be the only tangible example of what recovery is all about. Live your life each day so that it creates a thirst and hunger in those around you.

Banana split, anyone?

They Called Me Ugly

May 19, 2012 by Sharron Cosby

“She’s the ugliest girl I’ve ever seen.”

That one sentence changed the course of my life in the length of time it took to come out of my eighth-grade classmate’s mouth. He will never know how his words affected me and how I viewed myself from that day forward. He and the friend he said it to probably don’t remember the event, but I do—like it was yesterday. I remember what I was wearing and where I was standing when the words ripped through my heart like a launched rocket.

Sometimes we sling words around like Frisbees, not considering where they will land or who they will hurt when they do.

As teenagers my son and his friends called each other names as they played football or other activities. They would laugh, calling out, “You’re an idiot!” or “What’s wrong with you, Ugly?” I cringed as I recalled my own experience with a hurtful comment. He assured me that it was all in jest, but those labels could do unseen damage the boys would never admit.

What about the words we speak to our children or spouse? Do they build up or tear down? Do we inadvertently wound them with a careless comment? Is the tone of our voice inviting or biting?

Remember that a child cannot process an adult’s intent when making a comment. The child can’t reason away a hurtful statement, ignoring the stinging barbs. They take it personally and often internalize it. Believe me, it can reshape their view of life and have devastating results.

When our children or spouse are embroiled in an addiction, caustic words spew effortlessly, burning like battery acid. They are often spoken out of frustration or anger, but they wound and hurt regardless of the reasons they are said. If our loved ones repeatedly hear they are a “no good loser addict” or “a lousy bum” or any number of demeaning names, they eventually tire of trying to rise above the moniker. It’s easier to be what we say they are.

Our addicts are often unable to filter unkind words. Their ability to reason and understand may be compromised. Using positive statements could have a life-changing effect on their self-perceptions. Look for something constructive your addict does and speak words of affirmation; even if it’s nothing more than, “You are thoughtful to call when you’re going to be late getting home.”

I was at a restaurant waiting for a friend, and a woman passed by my table. Our eyes met momentarily, and we smiled at each other. As she walked past again, she stopped and said, “Excuse me. Are you a model? You are beautiful, and I just had to tell you.”

Brief encounters—different outcomes. Choose your words wisely.



Letting Go

May 12, 2012 by Sharron Cosby

In the May 2012 AARP Bulletin actress Kathleen Turner wrote an article entitled, “The Art of Parenting.” In it she asks, “When do you start letting go? When, and how, do you stop parenting?” Both are good questions with no easy answers.

I’m not sure if mothers ever completely let go of their children. Even when they are “grown and gone,” we tend to wonder what they are doing, if they’re okay, if they’re eating properly—you know, the things mothers worry about. Worrying isn’t parenting.

Parenting is simply defined as “the raising of a child by its parents” (The Merriam Webster Dictionary). That definition doesn’t really describe what a parent does. What is raising?

Raising implies upward growth. We raise corn or beans from seeds planted in the earth. The farmer tends the plants with the expectation they will produce corn and beans. Raising children is much like caring for a crop. We nurture our children over the course of many years, feeding and clothing them, making sure they receive proper nourishment—physically, spiritually and emotionally—anticipating they will mature into responsible citizens.

Parenting is getting up in the middle of the night to hold a sick child or feed a baby a bottle. Raising is sitting beside your child struggling with homework as you continue to encourage and help find answers to the questions, modeling sticking with a problem to find a solution. Parenting finds you on a sidewalk running alongside a shiny new bicycle, teaching your child to ride without training wheels. Raising is cheering your little one when they fall off and want to quit, instilling an “I-can-do-this” mentality.

Raising is attending church or synagogue together, providing a spiritual foundation that will be an anchor in life’s tough storms. It is modeling kindness, respect and helping one’s neighbors. It’s a father going to work every day, teaching a balanced worth ethic to his children. Raising a family is full-time work with few vacation or sick days.

My children are now on their own, making decisions most of the time without my input; that is how it should be. I trust their father and I raised them well, and we are blessed to watch them grow their families, repeating the cycle of life and love.

If parenting is about the tasks of taking a child from baby bed to college graduation, that’s probably when it ends, on graduation day; when the child can stand on his or her own two feet and make their way in the world.

Letting go? Never.

Rough Roads Ahead

May 4, 2012 by Sharron Cosby

After many hours of sweating, grunting, and pain a mother’s newborn child lies in her arms. The wonder of holding the baby that for months caused nausea, swollen ankles and sore ribs from constant kicking is overwhelming. “My precious little one,” she coos softly, “I’m so glad you are here. What fun we will have playing with dolls and toys. I love you, my baby girl.”

As the mother caresses her new baby and her husband proudly looks on, thoughts of having bad days with their little princess are far away. They only see the potential for fulfilled dreams.

What happens when this pink bundle of promise reaches puberty? All bets of a rosy future are probably off. How did that effervescent charmer morph into a belligerent, rebellious pubescent monster? Perhaps she made it through puberty unscathed, but the teenage years were straight from a horror movie. What happened?

Unfortunately, the doctor didn’t include an instruction book for raising the pink promise. There were no road signs posted along the childhood roadway warning “Rough Road Ahead.” That’s part of being a parent: we often wing it, taking situations as they come. We can turn to our parents for advice, friends, co-workers or maybe the person standing in the grocery store checkout lane. Sometimes you take help where you find it.

But, the modern parent can prepare for rough roads by planning ahead. Here are few suggestions for arming yourself against bumpy days:

  • Invest in your mate. Your children grow up and leave home but your spouse doesn’t. Continue to build your relationship. It has been said many times that the best gift parents can give their children is to love one another. Model love for your children.
  • Build a foundation through a local church or synagogue. Having the support of your spiritual family will encourage you through dark days as you parent your children.
  • Establish family goals and expected, acceptable behaviors. As your children mature, discuss with them the values you cherish and demonstrate them in your daily life. Walk your talk.
  • As your children grow, listen to their conversations, their music, and their friends. Be aware of what outside sources are influencing them and monitor their accessibility to these influences.
  • Meet the parents of your children’s friends; at a minimum, have phone conversations in which you establish ground rules for acceptable behaviors. Discuss your beliefs on alcohol, drugs and sex. If the parents allow underage drinking, you may want to reconsider allowing your child to spend the night at their home.
  • Love your child in spite of their choices. This doesn’t mean you approve of bad behaviors, just that you love your child. The knowledge of being loved may be the one thread that holds your child together during the tough times.

Rough spots are inevitable. When they come, remember the precious bundle once cuddled in your arms…



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