Neglect This and Recovery is Just Temporary!

Neglect This and Recovery is Just Temporary!

Without assisting people with addictions to develop a high level of self-esteem all treatment for addictions are just temporary fixes. Eventually the same or another addiction will develop to cope with the pain of low or no self-esteem/love.

Addictions are merely maladaptive behaviors that are chosen to cope with the internal psychic pain associated with low or no self-esteem/love. Although they do provide varying degrees of relief, all they are really doing are masking and diverting attention from the pain. As with all behaviors, when they are done repeatedly will become firm habits. When those maladaptive habits involve the use of chemical choices to produce that relief, physical addictions can and do develop.

The problem with most current methods of treating addictions is the assumption that the addictive behavior and associated chemical dependence is the problem rather than viewing it as a symptom. The current emphasis on medically assisted treatment (MAT) certainly will block the use of specific drugs choices and will open a window where long-term solutions can be explored without contending with daily physical cravings. Unfortunately, without enhancing the client’s self-esteem, this is just a high stakes, expensive game of whack-a-mole. Block the opioid, that’s nice. What about all the stimulant choices, the psychedelic choices, and the non-chemical choices such as compulsive sex, over-eating, work, gambling, compulsive exercise, dieting, etc., etc.

The non-medical treatments and programs for recovery from addictions, including the 12-Step ones,  that are focusing on the chemical or behavior of choice without addressing the underlying need to blot out the pain of low/no self-esteem/love are to a lesser degree still doing an incomplete job. They are teaching more responsibility and better coping skills, but if they neglect assisting the development of a high level of self-esteem/love they are missing the point and their clients will eventually miss the mark.  Regarding 12 Step programs, they provide a very supportive, positive environment, and working the Steps very effectively prepares a solid foundation, unclouded by past emotional baggage for one to then work on developing one’s self-esteem. Unfortunately, developing self-esteem/love is not directly addressed in the Steps, nor anywhere else in those programs, so their members are still at risk for relapses and the switching of addictions.

©2018, rev. 2020, Jason Wittman, MPS, CATC-IV, ILAADC

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the "About the Author and the copyright information is included.]

*About The Author*

Jason Wittman received both his B.S. degree in business management and his Master of Professional Studies in Counseling Psychology from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He is a Certified, Level IV, Addictions Counselor ( CAADE #155970-IV ) a Licensed Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor (LR01700815) and an Internationally Certified Clinical Supervisor. He is also a Certified Hypnotherapist and a Certified Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Jason has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach since the middle 1980s. Currently, his practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com focuses on coaching and advising business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions to work and live at their exquisite best. He is a recognized expert in teaching and guiding his clients through the "getting-on-living" stuff including enhancing their self-esteem/love that only emerge as issues after the focus is no longer on figuring out how to stay clean and sober.  

He can be contacted at http://Stage2Recovery.com, jason@stage2recovery.com or 213-804-4408

Why labeling a decision return to old behaviors as “Relapse” is counterproductive to the behavior change process.

Why labeling a decision return to old behaviors as “Relapse” is counterproductive to the behavior change process.

The standard definition of “relapse” is a return to an active disease state after a period of remission, sometimes referred to as recovery. The problem with all these terms when they are used in the context of addictions is that they are being used to describe a condition that is primarily a very ingrained habit as if it was an incurable disease. For the sake of this discussion, I am defining an addiction (including an alcohol one) as a mal-adaptive behavior chosen by individuals to cope with emotional pain that, through both repeated usage and the initially pleasurable aspects of the behavior, becomes an ingrained habit. When those behaviors utilize substances that are physically addictive and painful to stop fit makes that habit even more ingrained.

The process of becoming addicted starts with personal choice. There was some sort of unfulfilled need within individuals that seemed to be satisfied by their initial experimentation with the behavior. At that point, there was a choice to continue that behavior because it was producing the desired relief from their internal pains. With any behavior, repeated use will eventually signal to the Inner Mind (subconscious) that the behavior is normal and natural so the Inner Mind will adopt it as the standard operating procedure and will produce that behavior on cue. At that point, the behavior is now a habit. The longer that habit is practiced, the more ingrained it will become. What started out as a choice has now become an automatic process and will stay that way until another choice to the contrary is made.

Because some of these habitual behaviors involve substances that are physically addictive with real withdrawal symptoms associated with stopping their usage, this whole process of behavior change has been labeled by the medical world as a disease and all the disease metaphors have been applied to it. There are actually two things going on here, a physical addiction and an ingrained habit that have been conflated into one disease concept.  Because of that the focus becomes treating a disease rather than of changing a habit. Also, by using disease metaphors, especially the “incurable” ones, it is a set up for returning to the old behavior. The meta-message for the term “relapse” is that going back to old behaviors is a normal and natural part of the cycles of recovery That might be true for cancer, but with the changing of ingrained habits, it is just a convenient excuse for choosing to return to a former behavior.

Because I believe that what is usually labeled as failure is really just feedback that something was missing in a previous attempt, so some new learning needs to be learned. By labeling a decision to pick up an old habit again as relapsing, instead of as a conscious decision to abandon a responsible course of action for an acknowledged poor one, is only useful to eliminate self-blame and shame of making a lousy decision. The problem is it is a set up for future repeats of those lousy decisions. There is no shame in owning having made a poor choice, learning how to do things better, and choosing to do those things, no matter what.

Looking at this entire process from a habit change point of view

  1. Through progressive, negative experiences that can be associated with what was here-to-fore pleasurable activities, a realization emerges that continued practice of the behavior is producing an unmanageable life and that something needs to change, though how to do that might be a mystery.
  2. They made a choice to stop the behavior and seek a better solution and as long as there is a hope that that will happen, they will stay stopped. This is actually a very powerful choice because normally the Outer Mind just carries out the automatic programming of the Inner Mind. When that programming is producing nothing but continued grief, the Outer Mind overrides that programming and stops the behavior.
  3. As they learn new and more effective ways of dealing with those inner hurts and as the time since the last practice of the old behavior increases, the Inner Mind starts to get the message that these new behaviors are the normal and natural thing to do and that becomes the new ingrained habit.
  4. So what explains the process of returning to the old behavior?
    1. They get a stray thought of “wouldn’t it be nice to do……….”
    2. They choose to ignore all their past history and their Inner Voice that knows and tells them that this is a foolish move. Part of this choice might be that they have not gotten enough good feelings out of this new behavior change process fast enough to satisfy their need for relief, so they give up prematurely.
    3. They choose to continue through all the precursor steps that eventually result in doing the old behavior again.
    4. They choose to use.  To excuse this choice by labeling it as a relapse, as if some evil disease grabbed them and caused them to do things they didn’t want to do, is a less than useful description of this process. It fails to recognize the ability to choose one’s behaviors. It totally ignores that God gave us the powerful ability to learn from past experiences and to choose to do things differently. That is the process of becoming a responsible adult
    5. The final prevention step would be to explore what added change in thinking or behaviors might be needed to ensure that any possible cause for reverting to old behaviors would be eliminated. With the root cause of all addictions being low or no self-esteem/love, the chances are that redoubling the efforts to build a great self-evaluation of one’s being, ie, self-esteem/love, would be the best solution.

A very important takeaway is that people will gravitate towards happiness and away from pain. Most behavioral choice is driven by that principle. When people make the choice to stop their destructive habits they are doing so in a quest for a new happiness. The “attraction” reference in the AA Traditions is all about selling new people on eventual happiness. The laughter and success stories in the meeting are the best demonstration of that happiness. The problem is that if newer people do not quickly experience those feelings in themselves, the pull to disregard the bad times and chase the temporary happiness of their former behavior can drive them to once again choose to relive their past. For all people new to this process, it is a race against time to ensure that they get to the point where their new great feelings will override any stray “wouldn’t it be nice…” thoughts. In early AA, there was a push to do all 12 Steps in the first couple of months. I think they had it right. Added to that, of course, the enhancing of their self-esteem/love will make this a totally winning process.

© 2019, rev. 2020, Jason Wittman, MPS, CATC-IV, LAADC

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the "About the Author and the copyright information is included.]

*About The Author*

Jason Wittman received both his B.S. degree in business management and his Master of Professional Studies in Counseling Psychology from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He is a Certified, Level IV, Addictions Counselor ( CAADE #155970-IV ) a Licensed Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor (LR01700815) and an Internationally Certified Clinical Supervisor. He is also a Certified Hypnotherapist and a Certified Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Jason has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach since the middle 1980s. Currently, his practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com focuses on assisting business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions to work and live at their exquisite best. He is a recognized expert in teaching and guiding his clients through the "getting-on-living" stuff including enhancing their self-esteem/love that only emerge as issues after the focus is no longer on figuring out how to stay clean and sober.  

He can be contacted at http://Stage2Recovery.com, jason@stage2recovery.com or 213-804-4408

Preparing for Arthroscopic Rotator Cuff Shoulder Surgery

The following suggestions are offered as a result of my experiences of having this, Rotator Cuff operation on each of my shoulders, first the right one, and then the left. Fortunately for me, I am a social worker who habitually thinks 6 steps ahead and plans for all anticipated contingencies because the amount of information on preparing for surgery that was given by the surgeon was minimum. He is a great surgeon (he actually invented the standard tool that they use for this procedure!) but when I asked him after the first operation why they don’t at least have a nurse brief patients on what to expect and plan for, he said the insurance wouldn’t pay for the session. So here are my recommendations based on being the patient. I am not a doctor (although I can play one on TV), so my recommendations carry a lot of weight. Remember the MDs haven’t had the experience or they would do more of what I am about to do.

Pre-Operative Suggestions:

1. Get your doctor to write you a letter to the Dept. of Motor Vehicles (they actually have a form to fill out) requesting that you get a temporary disabled placard. Although they are going to tell you that you shouldn’t drive for the first month until your sling is off, if you are normally a one-handed steering type driver, you will have no problem driving after the first three days or so (unless you are taking lots of pain killers). I drove to the surgeon’s office to get the stitches out a week after both operations. If you don’t think you want to drive, also get him/her to sign the form for the transit company (MTA) for a disabled bus pass.

2. Make sure that you have enough ice packs so that you will be able to continually have your shoulder packed in ice, 24/7, for the first two days. You will be discharged from the out-patient surgery with an ice pack, but that will not be enough unless you have an ice machine. I didn’t plan ahead for this the first time and had to get my son to go and buy a couple of 2 pound bags of frozen peas, which actually make for the best ice packs. Costco (and probably most drug chains) sells a pouch with Velcro straps and a very flexible blue ice pack inside Not all blue ice packs are flexible when frozen. If all you can find are the stiff ones, when they are about half frozen, shape them into a curve that will wrap around your shoulder.

3. Practice doing everything with the other hand from the side that is being operated on, before the operation. For things that you are used to doing automatically, such as wiping yourself, you are going to have to teach the other hand, step by step, how to accomplish the task. I am right-handed. The tougher time was the first operation because I had to teach my left hand how to do most things. I was surprised, though, when I went through this step prior to my second operation, how many things I regularly do with my left hand, like reaching for things.

4. If you wear contacts, make sure that you have a pair of glasses with up to date prescription lenses because putting contacts in, for most people is a two-handed operation.

5. Think out the getting dressed process and practice it one-handed. I suggest you buy shoes that have Velcro straps instead of laces. The same goes for belts. Belts with military buckles will work because the hand that is in the sling can hold the buckle while the other hand pulls on the loose end. You might have to thread the buckle in backward from how you usually wear it.

6. Make sure that you fill the prescription for pain killers before the operation. Here are a couple of suggestions on pain killers:

– Vicodins, the drug of choice of most surgeons, is very, very constipating. With my first operation, after the second-day post-op I was so constipated that I decided it would be better to have a hurting shoulder than the constipation so I stopped the Vicodins. Lo and behold, there was no pain. For the second operation, I asked for a less constipating drug and was prescribed Tramadol HCL 50mg. As you will read in the next item, I can’t tell you if they are less constipating but the MDs said they are.

– Based on my experience the first time, for the second operation, I didn’t take any pain killers at all and religiously kept the shoulder iced for a solid two days. I did not experience any pain other than a very mild sensation as if someone had moderately punched me in the upper arm. I would have the prescription filled and on hand and only take them if you actually do have severe pain.

Post-op Suggestions:

8. They are going to insist that you have someone take you to the hospital and pick you up. How you get there isn’t important. What is important is that someone picks you up. Your arm from your neck to your fingertips is going to be numb and non-functional and you are going to be woozy from the general anesthetic. You also are going to need someone to stay with you for at least the first 24 hours because you won’t even have the use of the fingers on your operated side for the first 9 or so hours. I won’t spoil the surprise, but notice how the anesthetic wears off your fingers. An interesting phenomenon. I made sure that I had cooked enough food for the first two or three days so I could easily microwave them.

9. Ask your surgeon to write you an order for a second sling to be used after the second week when you are sleeping. I found that keeping my forearm bent at my waist 24/7 eventually started to give me physical problems. I was getting shooting pains in the muscles of the forearm. I found that sleeping, on my back, with the arm at my side alleviated the forearm pains. The problem, though, it that the upper arm still needs to be immobilized, and the solution is the following sling: It is made by Pro-Care. Model # 79-96820 It is called: Shoulder Immobilizer with Removable Straps. It Velcro’s around your waist like a weight lifting belt and has separate straps that Velcro around the upper arm and a second one, you won’t need to anchor the wrist at your waist.

10. A week after surgery you will visit your surgeon to have the stitches in your shoulder removed. If you were not able to get that second sling before the operation, this is when you scream for it. My insurance paid for it, but it took a week for them to do it so better get it done before the operation.

11. Physical Therapy. This is the key for you to make a full recovery of the use of your shoulder. If you do not attend or if you do not do the homework exercises and stretches your physical therapist suggests you do, you will end up with an always hurting shoulder that will not ever have a full range of motion. If you follow the directions, six months later or less, you will be fully functional. The stretching does hurt. As my Tai Chi Master said, “No pain, no gain!” Plow through it, breathe into it and you will get through it and thrive! My therapist suggested I get a cane so that I could push up my operated arm’s hand wrapped around the handle with my good hand at the bottom of the cane. (Strange sentence, I hope you go the picture).

Well, that’s it. Hoped this has helped. Once you have been through the experience, if you have additional comments or suggestions to make this guide better, please send them to me at jason@Stage2Recovery.com

Go break a leg! (Is that an appropriate way to say good luck before a surgery?)

©2011, rev. 2020,  Jason Wittman, MPS ~ http://Stage2Recovery.com

Stop the World !!

Stop the World!!                                                                                                                              ~ Lessons from when the Universe hits the Pause button ~

Currently, I, you, and the world are in one of those Stop the World moments, literally!  The Universe has stopped the world dead in its tracks and put all our lives on pause.

It reminds me of a Broadway musical from a long time ago, “Stop the World: I Want to Get Off” that featured a somewhat pathetic character, Littlechap. It follows his life from birth to death in vignettes. Each of these segments ends with a significantly painful or traumatic event in his life and is punctuated with his yelling out, “Stop the World!” and then he walks to the front of the stage and talks to the audience about the event and introduces the next phase of his life that he is pivoting into.

It was a huge success due to its wonderfully poignantly funny script, great acting, and memorable lyrics, still sung today including, “What Kind of Fool Am I.” I believe, though, that it also struck a chord with most of its audience because it reminded them of the many segments of their lives and the times when they would have loved to shout out, “Stop the World!” and take a pause to reflect, regroup,  and figure out the next course of action. I know that is what I remember every time I hit a juncture in my life.

Sometimes those moments have come due to my doings or the doings of those around me, like a business that goes out of business. At other times it is caused by things totally unexpected, out of my control and unappealable, such as a near-catastrophic auto crash I sustained about a year ago that totaled my van, which after the van stopped spinning 180 degrees and doing a 360 degrees side roll, landing back on its wheels, I was able to shut off the ignition, undo the seatbelt and walk out of. Deprived of my means of transportation and somewhat disabled by hip and joint trauma, I had a Stop the World moment, which allowed me to reflect on my life, both personal and business, as it was just prior to the accident, evaluate the merits of continuing where I left off or choosing to pursue a new course. I chose the latter and returned to my passionate, first love. I restarted my private counseling practice from which I had digressed in favor of chasing what turned out to be a dead-end non-opportunity.

I have been noticing that there are three different ways people are dealing with this virus caused pause. The first two are very unproductive and potentially tragic. They either sit and do nothing, depress themselves and vegetate or more tragically, they become full of fear and panic over things they most likely could prevent by following the safety guidelines.

The third way of dealing with these current crises involves looking at it as a gift of a mandatory time out given by the Universe. It is a rare opportunity to take stock and review our lives as we were living them prior to this pause, and to evaluate the merits of continuing as is or making some mid-course corrections.  Then we have the rarer luxury of being able to, uninterruptedly plan and gear up for the next episode of life.

So here are your choices. You can sit there and grumble, moan, and groan about what a raw deal you have been dealt, not being able to work, to go to your meetings, having to semi-isolate, and the like OR you can engage in high drama and go into a panic about how you are going to die even after you have self-isolated for the 14 days OR you can become generatively proactive and use this time to gear up for your amazing future.

When faced with setbacks and what normally are perceived as doom and gloom events, I have trained myself to first, take a couple of nice deep breathes, slowly exhaling each of them to get in a relaxed, unstressed state, and then ask two critical questions that get me on and keep me on track:

The first one is, “OK, now what?”  The tone and delivery of this question is one of genuine curious inquiry. (The other way of asking this is the totally unproductive, self-victimizing, “OK, now fu*kin’ what!!!!) Asking this in a curious way puts me in creative planning mode with usually great results.

The second question once I have finished the above creative process is, “Now where was I?” which puts me back to the reality of the current footwork that I was engaged in, just before I digressed into future thinking. That one-two punch is my secret sauce for exquisitely walking thru all adversity, misdirection and temporary dead ends and then quickly getting back on track.

So what are you going to do to capitalize on this enforced study hall in which you find yourself?

©2020, Jason Wittman, MPS, CATC-IV, ILAADC

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author” and the copyright information is included.]

*About The Author*

Jason Wittman received both his B.S. degree in business management and his Master of Professional Studies in Counseling Psychology from Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He is a Certified, Level IV, Addictions Counselor), a Licensed Advanced Alcohol & Drug Counselor, and an Internationally Certified Clinical Supervisor. He is also a Certified Hypnotherapist and a Certified Practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Jason is in private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 35 years. He coaches and counsels business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions to, work and live at their exquisite best.His specialties include enhancing self-esteem/love, increasing self-confidence, and building successful relationships.

He can be contacted at http://Stage2Recovery.com, jason@s4mm.com or 213-804-4408

The 10 Steps for Turning Your New Year’s Resolutions into Accomplished Wins

The 10 Steps for Turning Your New Year’s Resolutions into Accomplished Wins

Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV

Here we are at Resolution Time again! This is the time of the
year when we ritualistically take stock of the year almost over,
to assess our accomplishments and make resolutions for the
coming year. Too often we find that the new resolutions we are
making for the coming year have a deja vu feeling about them
because they very closely resemble last year’s resolutions that
were never done. That is a very depressing way to start a new
year! If you can relate to this, here is a proven method to
ensure that a year from now you will be celebrating your winning
Year.

The usual way of dealing with resolutions is in terms of goals
and goal fulfillment. That is a set up for failure.
Unfortunately a list of goals or resolutions is little more that
a list of dreams and wishes. The problem with dreams and wishes
is that they are usually made with the unconscious idea that
they will be completed via a magical cure or miraculous
fulfillment of them. That must be what they are thinking because
rarely when folks make a list of resolutions and goals to
accomplish do they attach to them the concrete steps needed to
take them to completion. That dooms them to failure.
I propose a new way of making your resolutions this year. I
propose that you adopt the sports metaphor and view each
resolution as a possible winnable game worth playing. Let’s look
at them the same way you would look at fulfilling one’s desire to
win in a sport or a game of mental or physical skill —
baseball, for example. Here are the steps necessary to win at
the game of baseball (assuming you never played but resolve to
do so):
a. You would first question if the resolve and desire was strong
enough to give you the energy and stick-to-it-ness to persevere
through the process of learning and acquiring the skills to win.
Do you want to play the game because of an inner fascination
with it or are you doing so because it will satisfy someone
else’s desire for you to play the game. If it is the latter,
your chances of learning and winning are slim. Even if you do
win, it would be a hollow one and looking back, wouldn’t seem
like it was worth the effort.
b. Assuming that you really, really have a strong desire to
learn and win, the next important step is to decide what part of
the game, what position, you want to specialize in. To do that
you might have to try out all the positions to get a feel for
which ones you have a natural aptitude and as important, which
ones you enjoy playing the most.
c. Having figured out the position, such as “pitcher,” you then
need to acquire the skills of the game.
d. It is very important, at this point to make sure to work
through all your inner game issues and conflicts (thinking “I never was
too good at sports”) that might sabotage your best intentions.
e. Next comes getting the proper equipment and joining a team.
f. And finally, continuing to evaluate how you are doing and
what more needs to be done, learned or practiced to get to the
win at the game of pitching in a baseball game.

Didn’t I leave something out of this scenario? Would you ever
think you would be able to effectively accomplish all that
planning, learning the skills, practicing and evaluating the
progress of becoming a winning baseball pitcher without having a
coach? Not likely! Sure, you probably could arrive at the skill
and knowledge needed to win, given much time and
experimentation, but are you willing to spend years
rediscovering what’s already known? If you are willing to do
that, that’s nice, but you would be playing a different game,
the game of reinventing the wheel. With sports, having a coach
is an accepted part of the equation of winning. Most champion
sporting figures, as well as champions in all walks of life have an
expert who teaches them the game and coaches them as they apply the teachings,

The 10 Steps to Win the Resolutions Game
So now looking at your new, New Year’s Resolutions from the same
perspective as we just did for winning at sports, here are the 10
steps to playing your resolutions to win this year:
1. List your Resolutions in terms of winning a game, using the
following format: “I want to win at the game of __________
(doubling my income, cleaning out the garage, etc.) by
__________(a specific date) and answer the following questions
about each one you just wrote:
2. Make sure that you have described your Resolution in a way
that you know exactly what is the outcome you desire. The
following are the guidelines for developing a well-formed
outcome.
a. State it in positive terms. The mind drops the word
“not” out of sentences, so saying, “I do not want to be so
judgmental this year,” is heard by the mind as “I do want to
be…….” Much better to say, “I want to be more accepting of
others this year.”
b. State what it is that you can accomplish by your authority,
by your actions and with the resources that you have or can
acquire. Resolutions that require other people to do something
is a set-up for failure.
c. Use descriptive words that relate to the senses (seeing,
hearing, feeling words). How do you see the outcome; what would
you or others be saying when you achieved it; how would it feel
to get it? Avoid generalized or abstract words. “I want my
property to be more secure,” is way less effective than, “I will
install a video surveillance system.”
d. Contextualize your outcome.
Specifically, in what context do you picture the outcome –
where, with whom, when, and how will you get it?
3. Is this game winnable?
4. Did you give yourself enough time to realistically accomplish
it?
5. Assuming it is winnable, is this game worth playing? Will
winning this game be important to you? Do you really want to or
need to win this one? Is it winnable but really someone else’s
game that would be worth THEIR PLAYING rather than you? Is it worth it for you
to play it for them? Answering “no” to these questions are
indicators of non-starters or, at most, winnable games
(resolutions) begrudgingly played and not a prescription for
having fun. Having fun is the real reason for playing and
living, isn’t it?
6. Do you have the skills and resources to accomplish the
resolution? If not, you need to alter the finish date to have
enough time to get your act together? What are the steps you
need to do to accomplish and win this game?
7. Are there any parts inside you that are either subtly or
screamingly suggesting that either you can’t win at this game or
you ought not even attempt this one? Until you address their
concerns and satisfy them, they will sabotage your best efforts
and create failure.
8. Remembering that the environment always wins!Do you have
all the tools, working space, equipment and
positive support of friends, family and/or business associates
you might need to win this one?
9. As you progress towards the final end date of the game, how
are you going to know how well you are progressing and what more
do you need to do to end up with a win? In other words, how
are you going to keep score of your progress and make the
required mid-course corrections?
10. Would it be helpful to have a coach that could co-create with
you, and when needed guide and teach the necessary skills, to
have this be a winnable game worth playing? (Hint: Probably!)
Having a coach IS the winner’s edge!

Working this process with each of the items on your list of
Resolutions will allow you to weed out the ones that are just
hope-for-things, other people’s hope-you-do-for-them-things, and
the not-realistic-to-win-at-things. That will leave you with a
list of winnable games (aka resolutions) AND a plan for winning
them. This will ensure that next year at this time you won’t
just be celebrating a New Year. You will be celebrating the
successful conclusion of a Winning Season of Your Life! (I  will be         celebrating too, because I only win when youwin.)

©2006, rev. 2020, Jason Wittman

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information are included.]

*About The Author* Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com focuses on coaching and advising business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions, to work and live at their exquisite best. He is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. He has his master’s degree from Cornell University in counseling-psychology and is certified as a drug & alcohol counselor

Endurance is the Key to Winning The Parents Game

[Although this article was originally written for my parents of teens clients, the message is equally applicable to just about any caring relationship, so if you don’t have kids, just substitute a relationship that applies to you, like your partner, your employees, your clients, etc.]

Endurance is the Key to Winning The Parents Game

 I recently read a very short yet very important book , “The Dip,” by Seth Goden. Although it is written mainly for business people, the concept totally applies to parenting of teenagers. Seth postulates that in most enterprises there is a period of time before winning or success happens when it seems like nothing is happening and that future effort to achieve success would be in vain. He labels that period, “the dip.” He contrasts that with other similar feeling situations, “The Cliff,” where the enterprise is about to crash and burn and “The Cul-de-Sac,” a dead-end situation that no additional effort will ever produce results. He explains that in the latter two conditions, quitting is the appropriate action to take because it frees people to then go and find a winnable game to play. In contrast, for truly winnable games in business and life, there is a period where we do the footwork and pay the dues until success and winning happens. That period can be lengthy.

Since all three of the situations feel the same when we are in them, the skill comes in being able to determine which is which. When it is determined that we are truly in a Dip, that’s when perseverance and endurance becomes the critical skills to prevent quitting before the miracle. He quotes a famous marathon runner who sets in his mind the conditions that must happen before he will quit a race. The runner does this because otherwise by the 23rd mile, all the regularly occurring things like thirst, fatigue, muscle aches and the like will be used by his mind to manufacture a plausible reason to quit. Using that as an example, the author says that conditions where quitting ought to be the option of choice need to be set before the endeavour starts. If and when it is time to quit, the quit need to be premeditated and planned out. Quitting should never happen at times of high emotion because rational courses of action are never made well at those times.

Although Mr. Godin did not have parenting of teenagers in mind, his theory totally applies to this very serious enterprise or game, as I like to call it, of raising teenagers. I firmly believe most parents who failed at raising their teens quit prematurely. These parents misread all the negative things that teens do to themselves and their parents, such as repeatedly getting in trouble, ignoring parental advise, ignoring their parents and worse, as being evidence that there was no chance of a successful ending or win. They felt like they were in a “Cul-de-Sac” and they quit! Parenting of teens is a perfectly winnable game when the entire teenage years and experience is understood to be a colossal, long term Dip. The win comes when they finally make it through the Dip and emerge as wonderful, responsible adults.

When I say long term, I mean it. The currently agreed upon definition of the length of adolescence by the youth worker community is thirteen to twenty four years old. My own son emerged at almost twenty-eight and many of the young people I have been working with in my youth programs since they were middle teens have taken as long.

I am firmly convinced that the main key ingredient of successful parenting of teens is the understanding that we will be there for them for the duration. Period! This is probably the one area of life where quitting is not an option. That said, there are times and situations where it might appear to your teens that you have quit because you have refused to have anything to do with them while they are participating in some outrageous act of irresponsibility. If you are doing so because you feel that is the best strategy or tactic to either get their attention or to let them have a necessary negative lesson, you are not quitting parenting. On the contrary, you are being a great, concerned parent. 

There are times when we, at parents, have to retreat and allow our kids to fall on their faces and experience the feedback that they are on the wrong road. Until they have that experience, they are not teachable. As parents all we can do is to allow the process to happen and pray that their negative experiences will teach the lesson without any lasting long term negative consequences. This is probably the worst time, emotionally, for parents and the most critical time for their kids. It is the time that many parents let those emotions run their actions and make one of two bad decisions. They either go and rescue their kids before the lessons are learned or they quit being parents. The first decision robs their teens from really experiencing the results of their actions so they never get the message that change is necessary in the way they think and do things in their lives. Without getting that message, they will never ask their parents for the guidance on how to change. I hope it is obvious how this decision is disastrous to the teen and to the parenting process.The second decision, that of quitting being a parent is even worse because that means that the teens are never going to be able to receive the parental support and guidance that they will eventually seek and need.

When working with teens on their own and when parenting my family, I thought of myself as a patient opportunist. I needed to patiently wait for those windows of opportunity, those teachable moments, when there was a request for coaching or teaching. That’s what parenting of teens is all about. There are times when those windows of opportunity might be years apart. We only fail as parents if we are not around to be parents when those windows appear.

There is an old saying that when one is knee-deep in alligators, it is very difficult to remember that the original mission was to drain the swamp. All the trials and tribulations of adolescents are just alligators. The mission is to parent them through The Dip, that minefield called adolescents and onto a wonderful adulthood. The key to persevering through this long Dip is to keep that mission always in mind, especially when all you are seeing are alligators.

©2019, rev. 2020, Jason Wittman, MPS

[Permission to reproduce this article is granted as long as this notice and the “About the Author and the copyright information are included.]

*About The Author*

Jason Wittman, MPS, LAADC, CATC-IV (aka Successful People’s Secret Weapon) has had a private practice as a Counselor and Coach for over 40 years. His practice, http://Stage2Recovery.com focuses on coaching and advising business and professional clients, who are recovering from alcoholism and addictions, to work and live at their exquisite best. He is an expert on teaching and coaching the “getting-on-living,” self-esteem building and spirituality parts of recovery. He has his master’s degree from Cornell University in counseling-psychology and is certified as a drug & alcohol counselor, a clinical hypnotherapist and a practitioner of Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP). He can be contacted at jason@stage2recovery.com or 213-804-4408