Marvin Kimble: I’m Marvin.
Burr Cook: I’m Burr.
Marvin Kimble: And this is Balboa Horizons podcast. We got Burr Cook here. Burr, tell us a little bit about yourself before we jump into some questions. Tell us your credentials, where you come from, your background.
Burr Cook: Sure. Thanks Marvin. Well, I’m a registered nurse. I’m a CADC II certified counselor. Also a nationally certified addiction counselor and a certified intervention professional. I’ve been in the healthcare field since 1975. That’s when I started going to school and working as an intern. And I’ve been working in the addiction field for approximately 16, 17 years now. I’ve worked in several different jobs, everything from admissions to counselor, program developer, family program facilitator, right up to executive director.
Burr Cook: So I’ve had lots of different jobs. Even did some marketing.
Marvin Kimble: Very cool. It’s good to have you with us today. At Balboa Horizons we get calls all the time from family members trying to help their loved ones. They’ve been drinking or using heroin, taking prescription pills. What kind of advice can you give them when they’re seeking the early steps of getting their loved one out?
Burr Cook: Well, I think it’s important for families to get as much education on addiction and recovery. And to have as much information about what’s really going on in their loved one’s life. Quite often what I see is family members, what they know about what’s going on is information that they’ve gotten from their drug abusing loved one. And most often, that information is self-serving and skewed.
Burr Cook: So it’s important for families to educate themselves and then seek guidance. And what we’ve learned is that when families are kind of caught or stuck in this series of behaviors and circumstances that are affecting the entire family, it’s important that they reach outside of the system for help. And help from somebody who’s not emotionally attached to the problems that this family is experiencing.
Marvin Kimble: Gotcha. So as far as approaching a family member as a mom or a dad, is there any kind of tips or tools that you have from your experience in doing this that they would be able to approach their son or daughter, their loved ones who’s suffering, clearly?
Burr Cook: Well sure. The simple answer is be honest, be clear, be direct. Some helpful hints would be don’t try to start a conversation in the midst of an angry, anger or an argument. And don’t start a conversation when you don’t have time to actually get into a discussion. Quite often what we see is the system when it’s impacted by something like substance abuse, can easily become a defensive system. And it’s very easy for defenses to come up and quite often the conversations can get very volatile and reactive. And we want to be responsive. For parents, parents in particular, telling your loved one what they need to do, often it falls on deaf ears. You may be giving the best advice in the world but what your loved one is hearing is nagging.
Burr Cook: And addicts and people abusing substances are very good at creating an environment where open conversations and open communication is not okay. And they have a variety of ways of doing this but at the end of the day the message is we’re not going to talk about this. And of course that’s no way to start having solutions. So it’s important that they are able to communicate. You want to do it at a time where there’s not a crisis going. Right after a crisis, approaching somebody, again, in a very calm, direct way, and being honest about how this is affecting them as a family member. And to a great extent, let your loved one know what you are seeing.
Burr Cook: Again, every family is different.
Marvin Kimble: Even the definition I’m guessing of crisis could be different.
Burr Cook: Absolutely. And there’s always crisis somewhere and families get caught up in a short term crisis focus. And many times after the crisis is over they see no need to take it any further until the next crisis. But somebody’s actively using and they’re not actively seeking help or doing anything meaningful to get help, there will be another crisis.
Burr Cook: Too often families are afraid to get into any kind of conflict. It’s very traumatizing living with substance abuse.
Marvin Kimble: Well, let’s talk about that. It’s like this big elephant in the room that no one’s talking about. How do you draw that line, those boundaries, to set with the addict or the alcoholic?
Burr Cook: Yeah, that’s a great question. When it comes to boundaries people need to get some education. When we’re growing up nobody says hey we’re going to work on boundaries. We learn our boundaries from watching the people we grow up with and that’s our understanding. Parents in particular, that’s who we work with mostly but spouses and siblings as well. They need to find out what their boundaries are for them. In other words, what are they comfortable with, what are they uncomfortable with? And for those they’re uncomfortable with, those are signs. Whenever any kind of uncomfortable feeling comes up, that might be a good indication that a boundary does need to be set.
Burr Cook: But the boundary has to be for you. What I generally see in families that haven’t gotten help is they try to set boundaries for the addict, and that’s usually the way that comes out is manipulation and control. So it’s good if you think of a boundary as this is for me, this is what’s inside my hula hoop and what my needs are. And then be able to express those needs. And sometimes people are going to step over your boundaries and it’s good to know what sort of course of action you might take if that occurs. We’re talking about consequences here for when your boundaries are violated.
Burr Cook: So you need to have a clear course of action. Boundaries are not anything to be taken lightly and I always encourage families to start small and work your way up. Again, you don’t want to set this in a contentious environment. This needs to be thought out and getting some help with setting boundaries can be very helpful. Families, they often feel isolated and alone with this problem, and they’re not alone. Lots of people are going through this. When people have a support group, like a peer support group and they’ve gotten some education on things like boundaries, it can be very helpful in setting the boundaries.
Burr Cook: So it’s kind of do your own work so to speak. And to know that there are no quick fixes, and also to cut yourself a break. You’re going to make mistakes. Mistakes are essential to learning. So learn to not take yourself so seriously and in many respects not take the addict so seriously. Obviously somebody who’s engaging in seriously harmful behavior where we are acutely concerned with life and death issues, well you need to act and act fast and decisively.
Burr Cook: But more often than not people live with this for a very long time. And so to fix it is going to take some time. So you want to be armed with some education, some guidance and support.
Marvin Kimble: Great. Great advice. One last thing before we go on the first annual podcast for Balboa Horizons, if someone is out there struggling and you had one thing to say to them, what would you say?
Burr Cook: For the addict struggling?
Marvin Kimble: Be it a family or an addict. Or both.
Burr Cook: Well, you know, if you’ve been dealing with this for a while it’s important to know that until somebody hits a bottom and by that I mean a point where they’ve recognized this as more than they can handle, more than they can cope with, bigger than them so to speak, it’s important that they reach outside for help, outside of the family quite often. Families that can take care of issues like this and have their own interventions and address this in a meaningful way, very quickly, they do. Those aren’t the people we run into.
Burr Cook: We run into the people that where this has gotten out of control and the addict has lost control. Quite often families feel out of control because they are so powerless to do some things. So very important that they reach outside the system for help.
Marvin Kimble: Okay. Well thank you for that. In doing this with families in addiction you run a family workshop every Thursday here at Balboa Horizons. You want to put in a plug in for that?
Burr Cook: Sure. Every Thursday evening from 6:30 to 8:30 PM we have a family recovery workshop and it’s for the family. It’s a place where people can find out they aren’t alone and be with other families that are dealing with the same things and get to meet some families who are maybe a little bit further down the road than them. It’s very good at instilling hope in the new families that show up. And people share what they’re learning and they share skills. They get a chance to talk about what doesn’t work and what has been working for them.
Burr Cook: But most of all, they get support. Support with some education and some guidance. They keep coming back so I know that it’s valuable to the ones that have shown up.
Marvin Kimble: Well, you know Burr, we appreciate your time. Thanks for coming in.