Reinforcing Behaviors

Drug use is hard work. Aside from obtaining something illegal, navigating life while feeding an addiction involves a lot of time, money, consequences and lies. One might think consequences alone should be enough to encourage recovery. For an addict, it’s usually just a minor setback. Overall, if drugs require so much, and are so bad, why would one work so hard to continue use?

Anything that increases the likelihood of repeated action is called a reinforcer. Whatever the user obtains mentally, physically, or emotionally after drug use, is the positive reinforcer that drives the hard work. Ultimately, we must find a way to compete with it.
Punishment is typically the first go to, but consequences may drive further use. The guilt, shame, or anger that follows the punishment gives the addict another reason to use with the result of feeling good again. This is not to say that we are to blame, but we may have to adjust our thinking.

Using positive reinforcement to drive change involves ignoring the bad and rewarding the good. This concept may seem ridiculous as good behavior is expected of your loved one. But if hard work goes unnoticed and unrewarded, what’s the point? Afterall, what may seem easy to one may be hard work to another and hard work should pay off.
Ignoring the bad is best executed by removing yourself or something from the situation. This is as simple as no longer pointing out the bad behavior and walking away. If you’re reading this, your loved one probably already knows you’re not happy with the drug use. The daily reminder is not going to encourage change.

Rewarding the good behavior is self-explanatory. The reinforcer does not have to be costly, or time consuming, sometimes it’s as small as extra TV time before bed or choice of restaurant for next night out. Find what makes your loved one tick and prepare for such instances.

Keep in mind that however you use positive reinforcement you are competing with the feelings that result from drugs. If your loved one does not like cookies as a reward, there will be no interest in the positive behavior required to obtain one. There is something out there for everyone that can replace drug’s “positive” effects.

If you would like to learn more about this topic,  check out Winning The Fight’s list of recommending reading. A donation is made to WTF from each purchase made from our website. Beyond Addictiona guide for families, teaches reinforcement as the driver of change and other ways science and kindness help people change.

Lori Youngblood
11/13/18

Lori Youngblood is a recovering drug addict. Her mission is to help others gain knowledge about the disease of addiction.

What Path Are You On?

Have you ever read a Choose Your Own Adventure Book? The story is written in second person and assigns the reader as the main character. He or she is then given the ability to choose the path the story embarks on; similar to life. Although the details may change from one path to another, the basic plot, an adventure, stays the same. We’re born, we live, and we die.

According to Addiction Center, there are over 20 million people in America battling substance abuse. With a population the size of Texas, this results in almost half of society experiencing the lifelong journey of addiction or recovery with a loved one.  At Winning The FIght, heart wrenching stories are shared leaving us all asking “What Next?” Although there is a basic guideline to win the fight it’s not a one size fits all. All the twists and turns of life leave us in different seasons facing different versions of sometimes the same obstacles. It is important to stop and reflect on where your path is currently trucking before making any major decisions. Everyone’s story ends the same; it’s the path that takes us there that’s unique.

Lori Youngblood
11/6/18

 Lori Youngblood is a recovering drug addict. Her mission is to help others gain knowledge about the disease of addiction.

What’s Your Story?

The Five W’s of Sharing

If you are breathing, you have experienced a miracle. Some have seen the dead come back to life and some are lucky to get a warning for speeding. Whatever the dynamic, sharing personal experiences brings strength and hope to others. Below are the Five W’s of sharing. Use them to discern your storytelling.

Who do we talk about? Try to keep sharing personal. It’s never a good idea to talk about someone else’s experience unless given prior thumbs up. Sharing your story is faith building and we don’t want to take that away from someone else. Who do we talk to? Share with those in need of hope. With life’s challenges, hearing someone’s tale to the end of the tunnel may be all the fuel needed to keep on fighting.

What do we tell? Leave out the rated R details unless they can be used for good. For instance, if a friend is confused by their son’s behavior while in his addiction, sharing personal stories of the like can help separate what is her son and what is part of the addiction.

Where should we share? Try to share your story in appropriate places. Anonymity is important for addicts because of the stigma that can be placed upon them. There are support groups in most towns that provide a safe place to share with people that also want help or want to help. Setting a meeting time and place with a trusted friend or relative to ensure comfort and privacy is another great option.

When should we share? At any given point in your journey you may feel the need to share. Whether you’re at the beginning of a trial or experiencing freedom, your story is important and can help someone else.

Why story telling? Some say the past should be left where it’s at; in some instances that is true. Be wary of allowing the past to seem like just a dream. If we forget how hard we fought for the miracle we experienced we are likely to repeat past mistakes.

We were never intended to live this life alone. When we share our journey with others, it allows God to fulfill His purpose of using what was intended for bad for His good.

Lori Youngblood
10/30/18

Lori Youngblood is a recovering drug addict. Her mission is to help others gain knowledge about the disease of addiction.

Family Roles

For a family to function, each member has a role to play. Not exactly, but traditionally, the mother provides nurture for the family, the father provides financial security, and each child is encouraged to learn and grow. Even in the modern-day family, where the variables are different, the foundation is still there. Someone goes to work, someone cooks the meals, and so forth.

When addiction strikes a family, each family member’s purpose may shift to ensure functionality. In a perfect world, the addict would attain the treatment needed to find sobriety. Meanwhile, the other members would work collectively and evenly to fill in the missing role, experiencing change for just a short time. Since addiction is such a strong and explosive disease, this is rarely the case. More commonly, each loved one will take on multiple roles or bounce between a few for an extended period of time while ignoring the emotional pain caused by addiction. We can all learn to perform a different “job” in the home, but this will not provide healthy emotional longevity the family unit needs, with or without the addict. If a positive end result for the family is desired, it is imperative to identify these dysfunctional roles and to tend to the emotional pain that accompanies addiction in the family.

Center stage is The Victim (chemically dependent). As charming as a girl scout selling cookies, he or she will manipulate any situation and every person possible to keep the addiction fed. The whole world revolves around this family member. It’s perfectly planned that way to ensure an endless supply of people to blame for the problems caused by drug use. The addict continues to use to cope with all the issues caused by everyone around them.

Meet The Scapegoat (or problem child). Not to be confused with the addict, he or she is busy acting out, and breaking rules, giving the drug user something to hide behind. The root issue for the scapegoat is usually negative feelings caused by lack of attention due to the rising problem addiction has caused in the family. Naturally, since the addict needs this member to take some of the heat so he or she can continue to use, the cycle continues for both the problem child and the user.

Then there’s The Forgotten (or the Lost One). This family member tends to isolate, fantasizing about another life and attaches to things instead of people. The addict needs this member out of the way just as much as the scapegoat is needed for distraction leaving the lost one feeling hurt and rejected. With the forgotten behind closed doors, more time, energy, and money is left for the addict on demand.

The power source, The Chief Enabler (protector of the family). Without this member’s hard work, the world may find out addiction is alive in the family’s dwelling and life is not perfect after all. The chief enabler seems to have it all under control, carrying an almost conceited sense of how hard he or she works to maintain an appropriate appearance for the family. Sometimes claiming to be the martyr of situations, most of the cause is self-inflicted. The addict will typically turn to this family member to soften any blow that comes along with addiction making it easier for he or she to continue the drug use.

Saving the day, The Family Hero (caretaker of the family). The one responsible for the positive morale that’s left in the family. The parents can hold on to a sense of “we did something right” by this member’s achievements. The Hero makes it easier for the other dysfunctional roles to be played by fulfilling certain responsibilities in the home that are no longer met by the original doer.

Clowning around is The Family Mascot. Making light of any situation, this person turns to laughter for medicine and shares it with the other members aplenty. Although a break is needed from the constant turmoil the family experiences, the hyperactivity can prevent the family from focusing on a plan to repair the destruction the disease has caused.

The outside appearances are vast among the family members affected by addiction. When the masks are removed, emotional scars from the disease appear. To keep the vicious cycle of the dysfunctional family from continuing, each member must uncover the painful feelings he or she experiences. Once the emotional root of the action is acknowledged, the family can start taking steps towards functioning in a healthy manner again.

Lori Youngblood
10/9/18

Lori Youngblood is a long term recovering drug addict.  Her mission is to help others gain knowledge about the disease of addiction.

Stigma

The nail wounds on Christ’s hands and feet have appeared on worshippers including St. Francis throughout history. These marks are referred to as “stigmata”. In this case, some may view “stigma” a positive thing. The fact is the marks have been used to label someone for something done by another person. This does not mean St. Francis is Jesus. In the later years, the Greek and Latin used it to describe a mark or brand labeling a slave or the inferior. Today we use it to describe misconceptions concerning a certain person, group, or subject that arise from a lack of education. Regardless of the point in history the term has been used, it is a mark, either seen or unseen. Have you ever been affected by a stigma? I can honestly say that not only have I been the victim of a stigma, but I’ve also been the culprit.

Although I have zero hard evidence leading me to this reaction, it never fails that I reach for my car door lock at a red light when I spot a panhandler.

My brain immediately judges the person based off what society has portrayed the homeless as. If I had the opportunity and took the time to educate myself on the person’s life story, my reaction would likely change. I might

discover the person has a mental illness, has bad luck, a drug addiction, or maybe their yearly income is triple mine. Whatever the reason, it’s unlikely I’m going to get high jacked by them.

On the other hand, I usually do not introduce myself for the first time as a drug addict in recovery. This is not because I am ashamed but because I do not want to be labeled as part of the stigma held against drug addicts. During the process of job searching I have no choice. The negative legal effects I carry from my drug abuse have left a mark that employers will always consider during the hiring process. However, I get out of jury duty every time. The lack of education leads people to think all drug addicts are selfish, lying, immoral thieves. The truth is these are merely effects of drug use that come from the improper solution to an underlying issue.

For every needle used there is a suffering heart. If, as a society, we continue to look at drug addiction as a moral failure, then we continue to ignore the true cause of the use. With proper education and resources, many casualties from addiction could be avoided.  Join WinningTheFight! on October 13, 2018 in Stompin’ The Stigma 5K to help eliminate the stigma and judgment associated with addiction and mental health!

Lori
10-2-18
Lori Youngblood is a recovering drug addict.  Her mission is to help others gain knowledge about the disease of addiction.

Motivation

In the beginning, before door dash and microwaves, the human race had to hunt for food. They were highly motivated by the “if you don’t work you don’t eat” way of life. We’ve come a long way since then, but it comes at a cost. If so much can be obtained before hard work than what’s the point of getting off the couch today? The drug addict is similar to the humans from the ice age as he/she is highly motivated by the unbearable cravings to feed addiction. If life outside of drugs was this hard maybe, we would all have the motivation of our ancestors. In a time where a day is like a thousand years and a thousand years is like a day, we must rediscover what motivates us.

Start off with a personal mission statement. What is your purpose here on this Earth? If you have a clear understanding of your why, then it will be easier for you to stay on the righteous path. If you are married, having a marriage mission statement is the next goal. The only way two people can run the race of life together is if the finish line looks the same for them both. A family with children should adopt a family mission statement. Involve each individual to include everyone’s personal goals and aspirations. When trouble arises, a solution can quickly be found if everyone shares a common ground.

But what about the rebellious child? Since motivation can’t be forced onto others, what are we as parents supposed to do? Stop the enabling. This does not mean we cannot buy gifts for special occasions or pay for dinner when going out. It means we allow our adult children to be a week late on rent if responsibilities haven’t been met, have our teenagers work part time for gas money, and teach our little ones to pick up after themselves. It may seem unnatural to say no the next time your adult child asks to borrow money but long term, motivation is gained to prevent the situation from arising again.

No matter the life stage your child is in, be supportive with your presence by listening, encouraging, and maintaining interest in their daily lives. The fruit from these practices will naturally flow from generation to generation and our society will learn to hunt again.

Lori
9-16-18

Lori Youngblood is a recovering drug addict.  Her mission is to help others gain knowledge about the disease of addiction.

How Do I Love Thee?

I could count the ways, but would you feel loved? Although romantic, some require more than poetry, or words of affirmation to feel it.

Gary Chapman devised five communication tools to apply to relationships; Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Receiving Gifts, Acts of Service, and Physical Touch. What’s the catch? It’s not one size fits all.

Some people need to hear it. Words of Affirmation comes in more forms than poetry though. They could be anything from “I love you” to “Great job!” Be mindful that negative words can have the opposite effect on this personality type. Apologies help but do not erase completely with this loved one.

Time is everything, and sometimes you don’t have to say a word. This person desires Quality Time from those they love. Life can get busy, so this can be challenging. It is important to set aside time to spend with this personality type because it won’t matter what else you do, they won’t feel loved without it.

We all love gifts, right? Some of us need gifts more than we need spoken words or time. It’s not necessarily the price value of the item but the thought behind the process. If this is your love language, take note who you communicate to with it. Receiving gifts does not say “I love you” to everyone.

Saturday mornings are my favorite. My husband is off work which means he’ll serve me breakfast in bed. This Act of Service tells me who I am and what I do is appreciated. I feel so loved by this. Be mindful not to speak this language to the wrong personality. Although everyone can appreciate a good deal, it could lead to frustration if not coupled with the desired communication tool.

The love language Physical Touch might land your mind in the gutter. Love making can be included if referring to your partner, but it also includes all types of physical touch. A hug, handshake, or pat on the back can go a long way with this loved one and nothing can take its place.

If you want to become the Shakespeare of love, study the Five Love Languages by Gary Chapman in one of his many books about the subject. There’s one for every relationship in your life!

Lori
6-28-18

Lori Youngblood is a recovering drug addict.  Her mission is to help others gain knowledge about the disease of addiction.

Keep It Simple

“Keep it simple Sally,” my dad would say. I remember asking him who Sally was and he’d reply, “Anyone can be Sally!” As I got old enough to read the smoke-stained signs hung on the AA walls I realized Sally was not spelled S-T-U-P-I-D. Although the word changed the meaning stayed the same. I finally understood why we were all Sally but didn’t like being called stupid.

When written correctly, in expansion form, the acronym K.I.S.S. does not include a comma between the words “simple” and “stupid”. The principle originated through the US Navy in 1960 for aircraft design to be made basic enough for any mechanic to repair. “Stupid” simply refers to the relationship between the problem and the resolution. No matter the difficulties of life we face, K.I.S.S. can be a step towards resolve.

An initial reaction comes in the form of feelings when our brain processes a situation. We must then decipher what we have control over and choose to be proactive or reactive. Proactivity is about initiating change and usually brings positivity. Reactivity is usually based off emotions and although can be positive, it typically won’t bring positive change to a situation. If we focus too much on these emotions, we can get caught up in drama which complicates everything. Taking the time to choose the way we respond to life’s ups and downs can lead us in a positive direction.

Focus on the facts. The fact is the universe consists of billions of stars and galaxies. If we try to understand this, it can cause complicated feelings based on what “could” be. It’s easy to get caught up in the theories of others but the reality is unless you’ve been on a rocket and seen the end you can’t explain it. Focusing your thoughts, feelings, and actions on the facts can help keep you from reacting based off your emotions.

Take it one day at a time. “Do not worry about tomorrow, it will take care of itself. You have enough to worry about today.” (Matthew 6:34).  Looking to the future for planning purposes or setting goals is healthy. Worrying about tomorrow can cause fear and dwelling on yesterday can bring shame. Don’t waste today on the past or future because time is something we can never get back.

The disease of addiction can cause many complications in life that can lead all involved down a path of destruction. Taking a moment to KISS each situation can lead us down the easier and softer route.

Lori
8/20/2018

Lori Youngblood is a recovering drug addict.  Her mission is to help others gain knowledge about the disease of addiction.

Going Nowhere Fast

Have you ever filled up your gas tank and taken your car around town with no specific place to go? Minutes turn into hours and next thing you know you’re out of gas and back where you started. We waste time, money and energy like this on and off in our lives and sometimes it’s ok. Sometimes we need to drive around and clear our thoughts. As long as it is a rejuvenating break in the plan we’ve charted out for our lives it is a positive thing. If it’s a break from nothing, then it’s a one way ticket to nowhere land. It is easy to get caught in this trap if you fly by the seat of your pants.

We’re all given a certain amount of time on this earth. It’s important to take it one day at a time but we should all have an end in mind. With a flexible plan including goals and aspirations, we have a final destination that keeps us from wasting gas. Along with a personal plan, we should have a family plan. Stephen R. Covey explains in the 7 Habits of Highly Effective People that a family plan can be simplified into a single mission statement that gives your family a vision of where you are going and how you are going to get there. Without this, we can be swept away by society’s values and ideas of what life should look like.

No matter where you are in this journey called life, it’s never too late to make a plan. Do not look back on time past unless there is a lesson to be learned. Moving forward, what is it you want to bring to the world? What do you want to accomplish? Each person is made perfectly unique which results in many varieties of what a mission statement can look like. When combining yours with another, both persons should be willing to compromise while focusing on common goals. What is our purpose? What is our why? When children are added, each one should have a voice. If done properly, he or she will value the family’s mission statement and will be willing to use it as a guide in life. As the years go by changes can be made to accommodate life’s twists and turns. And as children grow into young adults, they will want their own plan.

Life is overwhelming and there is no pause button. Without an idea of purpose, or plan, anyone can derail. When keeping our goals in perspective we have an end in mind. It keeps us off the path to destruction or gives us something tangible to rely on if and when life’s troubles arise. Incorporating each family member in this plan gives everyone a purpose. Where are you going in life? If you’re not going somewhere, you’re going nowhere.

Lori
Lori Youngblood is a recovering drug addict.  Her mission is to help others gain knowledge about the disease of addiction. 
8/13/18

The Power of Endurance

Brett O’Keefe died at age 18 from an accidental mixed drug overdose. If you’ve heard his heart wrenching story, you’ve probably wondered how the family survives. Winning The Fight! is part of the answer.

We as humans are promised that we will never be given more than we can handle. This seems quite unfair to families that have experienced such tragedy as the O’Keefe’s. Yet every day, here they are, somehow, surviving.

“For everything written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope.” Romans 15:4.

When I think of the word “endurance” physical activity first comes to mind. If you’re a marathon runner, you know it’s the runner’s high that carries you through to the finish line. Just when the pain of running is no longer bearable, endorphins are released into the brain. The supernatural power supplies the strength to endure the pain. As human beings we are all hardwired with this “fight or flight” built in us. Although the science may be different, emotional endurance is some of the same. The instant (but temporary) gratification that comes from giving up is a temptation we must resist when emotional times are the hardest. Keeping your purpose and end goal in mind will help push you through this.

If physical endurance is the product of pushing through the hardest of times athletically, then emotional endurance can be the product of pushing through the hardest of times mentally. “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” While holding onto the serenity prayer, we must allow ourselves to walk through the grieving process whenever faced with tragedy. You cannot move forward until you’ve acknowledged the pain you are currently enduring and work through it. Without this, we cannot fulfill God’s purposes in our lives. Winning The Fight! is the product of a grieving family that held on tight to the serenity prayer and found endurance to fight. With faith they have taken their tragedy and use it to help educate and provide encouragement to others battling the disease of addiction.

Lori

Lori Youngblood is a recovering drug addict.  Her mission is to help others gain knowledge about the disease of addiction.