The Power of Storytelling: Charlene Strong’s Story of Transformation

I love stories. A great storyteller can transport you to places you have never been, can touch a place within you that seemed lost, or can inspire you in ways you might never guess.. A great story can take you on a journey but also reminds you of what is important in your life right now. My favorite place for great storytelling is an organization called The Moth. The Moth is a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the art and craft of storytelling. They sponsor a free podcast that relates some of the best stories from their storytelling events.

My Go-To for Inspiration: The Moth

The Moth is one of my “go-to” sites when  I’m needing to get reconnected with what’s most important in life. I save their podcasts for those moments when I’m feeling distracted, disconnected, defeated, or just overwhelmed. I’ll go for a walk, put on my headphones, and listen to The Moth. Most of the time I emerge from the end of the walk in a better place, having stepped out my personal drama for a bit, and reconnected with a larger perspective on life.

 

This blog post was inspired by one such story, that of Charlene Strong. Charlene tells her personal story of how heartbreak led her to reevaluate her life and dedicate herself to advocacy for equal legal protection for LGBT families. Her story reminded me of the dearness of those in my life and the importance of nurturing and protecting my relationships with those around me. It also connected me with how pain and loss can sometimes be a catalyst for tranformation. I hope you enjoy and are also touched by Charlene’s story.

Here’s the video version of her story.

Here’s the audio version of her story.

Aimee Mullins on the Beauty of Adversity (and Human Cheetah Legs)

“If we want to discover the full potential in our humanity, we need to celebrate those heartbreaking strengths and those glorious disabilities that we all have…it is our humanity, and all the potential within it that makes us beautiful.” – Aimee Mullins

As a therapist, I sit face to face every day with people’s suffering. And regardless of what form that suffering takes, whether that be trauma, a psychiatric diagnosis like “depression” or “bipolar disorder,” or a physical disability, a very common experience is that people feel “broken” or “defective” in some way because of their suffering.

Enter Aimee Mullins. Ms. Mullins is an internationally renowned athlete, model, and actress. She is also someone who was born with a medical condition called fibular hemimelia which resulted in having to have both of her legs amputated when she was a year old. I came across this inspiring TED talk she gave in 2009, in which she talks about the beauty and potential that lies within our common humanity. In addition to the absolutely amazing and beautiful prosthetics she has helped design (think cheetah legs and exquisite wooden legs with handcarved vines running throughout them), I was struck by her story of adversity bringing beauty and meaning to life. Adversity is an inevitable part of life and our culture may sometimes make us feel ”broken” or “defective” because of it. But within adversity, as Amy Mullins says, we can also find “… our humanity and all the potential within it that makes us beautiful.”

Help! My Loved One Won’t Stop Drinking!

If you’re reading this post then most likely you are a family member, partner, or friend of someone who’s drinking concerns you. You’ve most likely tried everything you can think of to help this person seek treatment:  nagging, pleading, threatening, leaving, staying, bargaining, contracting, and much more. Perhaps you’ve thought about signing up for the T.V. show “Intervention” on A&E, or staging your own intervention for your loved one. Maybe you have given up and no longer interact with your loved one; you have cut them out of your life completely. It may feel like you have used every tool at your disposal and yet, you are still fighting the same battle. Luckily, there is a new research-based approach to helping family members get their loved ones into treatment and to take back their lives from a loved one’s substance or alcohol use. This new approach is called Community Reinforcement and Family Training (CRAFT, for short) and it is starting to gain traction in addiction treatment.

The version of CRAFT that is practiced today originated at the University of New Mexico by Robert Meyers, Ph.D. and colleagues. Research on CRAFT shows that about 70% of families who go through the training are able to successfully engage their loved in treatment over the next year.  CRAFT also helps family members improve their own lives, whether their loved one ends up seeking treatment or not.

What is CRAFT?

CRAFT is an approach that works with family members, partners, friends, or employers of people using drugs or alcohol (in CRAFT, the term Concerned Significant Others, or CSOs, is used) to do the following:

  1. Help the CSO learn non-confrontational ways of breaking the person’s pattern of substance use;
  2. Empower the CSO to live a life not centered on the person’s use of or consequences related to the person’s addiction.

You are not to blame, but you can do something to help

  1.  You ARE NOT responsible for your loved one’s use of substances. You may be involved in situations related to your loved one’s use (e.g., getting into arguments with your partner) or the consequences related to his/her use (e.g., picking them up from the bar), but you did NOT make your loved one use substances. Your loved one is responsible for his/her behavior, just as you are responsible for your behavior. You CANNOT make a person drink or use drugs.
  2. At the same time, as a loved one of someone who uses drugs or alcohol, you have access to a wealth of knowledge about this person’s patterns of substance use. Also, you are a source of potential rewards for the person using substances. Your time, love, and attention are valuable resources that can help shift your loved one’s relationship with substances and with you.

CRAFT is non-confrontational

Unlike the interventions conducted on A&E’s show “Intervention,” family members in CRAFT do NOT use a confrontation to persuade their loved one to enter treatment. Instead, family members learn to recognize their loved one’s patterns of use and their own unintentional participation in these patterns. Family members learn how to stop their participation in these patterns in ways that keep them safe, set appropriate boundaries, and are consistent with the type of partner/daughter/parent/employer/etc. they want to be. For example, a mother will learn to stop arguing about her son’s drinking and instead, calmly express her desire that they not talk about this issue while he is drinking and then leave the situation to pursue a more rewarding activity (e.g., calling a friend, taking a bath). Additionally, CRAFT empowers family members by helping them engage in self-care and pursue their personal values and goals. For more information about CRAFT, stay tuned to this blog.

Resources on CRAFT:

To find a local CRAFT therapist for you or a loved one call 503-610-3370 or go to www.soberfamilies.com

Here’s  great self help book which summarizes the approach called: Get your loved one sober:  Alternatives to nagging, pleading, and threatening.

HBO’s Addiction had a show on CRAFT called:  CRAFT: An alternative to intervention.

Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions (CASAA):  http://casaa.unm.edu/craftinfo.html

Website for Dr. Meyers with information about CRAFT:  http://www.robertjmeyersphd.com/craft.html

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