The epidemic of addiction is a critical issue during COVID-19. An appropriate holistic response to this pandemic must include resources for addiction treatment and recovery – including for family members and concerned loved ones.
Calls to SAMHSA’s Disaster Distress Helpline (1-800-985-5990, a 24/7 national hotline dedicated to immediate addiction crisis calls) saw calls jump 338 percent between February and March 2020. Finding community and support is more important now than ever.
Anyone struggling with a loved one’s alcohol or drug use is invited to our weekly Family Support Groups on Monday nights, which are fully virtual. It is free to attend and open to everyone, whether their loved one has gone through treatment at New Directions for Women or not.
The first twenty minutes cover family education on the disease of addiction, including the disease model, denial, co-dependency and its origins, brain chemistry, and communication. There will also be an opportunity for Q&A, and sharing of stories in this safe, confidential community. This group will be co-facilitated by Lynette Singleton, CADC II, Case Manager and Babbi Anderson, Life Coach and NDFW Community Outreach.
Babbi Anderson is passionate about giving others the tools and techniques needed to re-discover their joys and passions. She specializes in coaching family members of addicts and alcoholics. She has been deeply involved in New Directions for Women since we were founded in 1977 by Pamela Wilder, Marion Schoen, and Muriel Zink. Babbi has also been responsible for developing family support programs within treatment programs throughout the country.
Babbi joined Bruce Cook on Angels Radio on Sunday, August 16th 2020 to talk about the family disease of addiction, how family members can best support their loved one who is struggling with substance use disorder, and how family members can take care of themselves to better support the addict in their life (rather than enabling them). A full transcription of the show is included below:
Bruce Cook: This is the Bruce Cook Conversations, the second half of our show tonight on Angels Radio AM 830 KLAA. I’m Bruce Cook. If you’re just joining me, we’re going to spend the second part of our hour together broadcasting talking about another very serious subject. We’ve just spent a half an hour with Dr. Sandra Morgan from Vanguard University talking about what’s going on with human trafficking, and how we’re coming to terms with it here in Southern California, and what we’re doing to try and make it go away. We’ve got another problem that we need to make go away, and it’s more visible and it is also more in our face, really, than the human trafficking issue, and that is substance abuse. In particular, we’re going to talk tonight about substance abuse in women.
New Directions for Women is a residential treatment center in Costa Mesa, California, nationally recognized, nationally known. It’s a live-in center for women and their families, their children. It’s a recovery center to turn their lives around, to take them off of alcohol and substance abuse, drug addiction, and give them a new life, a start over, a push-the-button-and-go-forward, away from alcohol and drugs and everything that goes along with it.
It’s so rampant, ladies and gentlemen. I’m sure everybody listening tonight has a friend, a relative, perhaps a loved one, a spouse that has dealt with this or is dealing with it. It really is a national situation, so joining me now is a life coach that works very closely with New Directions for Women, and others. Her name is Babbi Anderson, and she lives here in Orange County, California. Babbi, welcome.
Babbi Anderson: Thank you, Bruce. It’s good to hear from you. It’s good to be here. Thank you so much for the invitation.
Bruce Cook: It’s my pleasure, and you know what? It’s the pleasure of everybody listening to the radio tonight, or if they’re going to join us on podcast, because I just have a feeling you’re going to impart some wisdom that may change somebody’s life. That’s what we’re all about on this conversation. Start by telling everybody who you are and what you do, and why it matters.
Babbi Anderson: Well, as you said, my name is Babbi Anderson. I have worked in and around treatment centers for chemical dependency for many, many years, more than I’m willing to tell you, and I’ve seen a lot. I have seen a lot of families, seen a lot of individuals with addiction. About five years ago, I decided to get out of the formal treatment industry and I became a certified life coach. After working for a long time in treatment, I thought I would probably work with women in transition. That was sort of what my fantasy was. When I completed the course and began to have some people come and say, “Will you help me? Will you coach me?” it was inevitably family members of people who had a chemical dependency problem, substance use.
Bruce Cook: Babbi, can I interrupt you? Let me interrupt you.
Babbi Anderson: Sure.
Bruce Cook: I don’t understand totally what a life coach is, and maybe some of the listeners don’t, either. Explain exactly what a life coach is.
Babbi Anderson: Okay. Well, a life coach is an individual who has experience and training in helping people to go through certain periods of time that are difficult for them. I think everybody listening, and probably you, too, you know that you can listen to a good friend tell you about what they’re going through in their life, and you can see it with some clarity and maybe point out some things that they haven’t seen yet and they go, “Oh my gosh, why didn’t I think of that?” or ask ‒
Bruce Cook: Absolutely true.
Babbi Anderson: ‒ them some questions. Yeah, and we can’t see it when it’s in our own life, so the life coach is really the mirror or the feedback, giving feedback about what you see that the individual can’t see. When I go through stuff, I need a life coach. I need somebody to reflect back to me what I am unable to see, and it’s almost like we’re too close to it. You can’t see the forest for the trees.
Bruce Cook: Is there a gift involved, a human spiritual mental gift? What would you say is your strongest attribute? When you’re sitting with a client or a family, and they’re describing a situation that is so troublesome, how do you cut through it? How do you know what to say?
Babbi Anderson: I do have a pretty strong sense of intuition, and I also couple that with over 40 years of experience working with addicts and families of alcoholics and addicts. I pull on my experience because I’ve seen almost everything before, but I also have a real strong sense of intuition which way to go.
Bruce Cook: Get back to what you started on before I interrupted you with a question about what a life coach does, and share with the issue of the family coming to you and literally begging for help. The whole family connection to this is so important.
Babbi Anderson: It’s very important. Family members are almost groomed to think that they can control the issue. We hear family members say things like, “If you really loved me, you would be able to quit. If you loved me, you wouldn’t be spending all our money on your drug of choice, etc.. Love has absolutely nothing to do with it. The first thing that family members need to receive some education about is that substance use is a disease. It’s a disease of the brain. It’s a disease that sets up a compulsion, and loving has absolutely nothing to do with it. It’s almost like saying to someone who has had a heart attack, “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t have had that heart attack.”
We all can see the silliness of that. But, it’s the same thing with substance use, and they usually need some help from outside the family because the family has gotten so engrained, they get hooked and then people begin to argue. It can be really devastating within the family.
Bruce Cook: That’s where an institution like New Directions would come in, as that outside source, is that correct?
Babbi Anderson: Absolutely, and sometimes even before they get into treatment, they need something like an intervention. They need someone to help the family, to organize the family and give them some direction as to what to say, how to say it, to help the person to get into a treatment center.
Bruce Cook: Is that what you do as a life coach, also do these kinds of interventions?
Babbi Anderson: No, I don’t do interventions. I have done them in the past but I don’t do them now. There are all sorts of services available of the intervention happening. There are professionals who do that.
Bruce Cook: Describe the difference between an intervention and an addiction treatment center. What is the key difference?
Babbi Anderson: Well, the treatment center is what New Directions for Women is, and I do outreach for New Directions. I also do coaching. But, I do outreach and I go let people know about New Directions, like other treatment centers, physicians, people, whoever needs to hear about what can be provided with treatment. But, at the treatment center, the individual who has substance use, in this case women only, they come in and we detox them, and we get them successfully off of whatever drug they’re on, and then they begin to go into treatment. They have groups. We address trauma, we address some underlying issues that have been perpetuating their youth and the pain that they’re in that they can’t quite face.
We help them to face and overcome it so that they can grab onto a sober lifestyle. We also believe in the 12 Steps, which is Alcoholics Anonymous, and we suggest that the family members get involved with Al-Anon, which is the sister program of Alcoholics Anonymous and also uses 12 Steps. Twelve Steps aren’t for everybody. Not everybody resonates with that particular practice, but it’s very important to have a community of people who are staying sober, wanting to have a sober lifestyle, wanting to maintain the changes. That’s very important to have that kind of a support group. They all had support groups in the bars, or at least they thought they did ‒
Bruce Cook: A different kind of support group.
Babbi Anderson: ‒ we’re not going to let them go back into the bars. We’re going to hook them up with a sober community, and we try to do the same thing with family members. Family members, I’m so, oh, I just have so much compassion for family members. They really care about this person, and they can’t understand why they can’t help them. Family members think that they should be able to do something, because they’re all doers. They’re all doers. They’re not about being, they’re about doing, “I have to do something. I have to encourage them. If they would just listen to me, I know what’s right for them.” They’re just really wanting to do the best for that individual because they care so deeply, and they get so wounded because they feel like the person who has the addiction doesn’t care about them, which is not true. Once that person gets sober, nine times out of ten they just feel terrible about what they’ve put their families through. They can see it, and just ‒
Bruce Cook: On that note, Babbi, we need to take a break.
Babbi Anderson: Okay.
Bruce Cook: When we come back, I want you to address the challenge of letting go of being a doer, and learning how to become a be-er. A bunch of other stuff we need to talk about, too. Babbi Anderson is joining Bruce Cook tonight on Bruce Cook Conversations, live on AM Angels Radio 830. We will be right back. Don’t go away.
[Commercials played, 0:48:16 to 0:51:25]
I’m Bruce Cook, ladies and gentlemen, and this is Angels Radio AM 830, Sunday night live. I call this the Bruce Cook Conversation, and tonight we are joined in our final segment by Babbi Anderson, professional life coach, and we are talking some serious stuff about addiction, especially women alcoholics, women drug abusers, and how to change the cycle. Before the commercial, Babbi had brought up a philosophical change about families being involved in trying to help a female loved one recover from a horrible situation of alcoholic or drug use, where families feel like they’ve got to “do something” to make it better. Babbi said, “Well, it’s not always about doing something, it’s about being.” Babbi Anderson, what does that mean?
Babbi Anderson: Well, there are three things that the family member needs to recognize and internalize, and that is that they didn’t cause it, they can’t cure it, and they can’t control it. Many family members think that if they just do something, they can cure it, they can control it, they can affect an outcome with their family member, and they really can’t. I talk to a number of people ‒ husbands, wives, parents ‒ who think that they did something wrong in their child’s upbringing or in their marriage, in some way that causes the person’s substance use disorder and that’s absolutely not true. It is a genetic disease, it seems to run in families. They’re doing lots of research on that now, much more than I’m willing to get into here, because I’m not a geneticist and I’m not a scientist. But, they’re doing a lot of work to demonstrate that it does run in families.
Bruce Cook: I would agree, from what I’ve heard and know, but wouldn’t you say there are triggers in life that do have a cause and effect to push someone into alcoholism, or push a woman, in particular, since we’re talking about that? It’s not only genetic, although that is certainly mitigating, but there are all kinds of ‒
Babbi Anderson: Environment, yeah.
Bruce Cook: There are all kinds of environmental influences and stress factors and relationship disasters that would push a person, yes? Wouldn’t you agree?
Babbi Anderson: Well, I think that that’s true for the alcoholic. However, an alcoholic woman comes in to New Directions and says, “Oh, I was fine until my husband died,” or, “Until I got divorced,” or, “Until my children moved out and all went to college, and I lost my purpose. That’s when I became an alcoholic.” Now, there are a lot of other women who don’t have the genetic predisposition that get divorced, their husband dies, their children leave; they don’t become alcoholics. They may have some maladaptive way of dealing with the situation that’s uncomfortable for them, but they don’t dive into a bottle the way an alcoholic woman does.
Bruce Cook: Very good point, yeah. Continue. Keep telling me what the families can do to make this better.
Babbi Anderson: The families can educate themselves about the disease of alcoholism, about what it really entails. We mentioned briefly intervention, and there was this old saying in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s that an alcoholic had to hit bottom, and they had to get to the point where they just lost everything, or lost their job, or lost their family, something that caused them to finally say, “I give up. I’m hopeless,” and then they begin to recover. They’re willing to go to any length. They’re willing to go into treatment, they’re willing to go in to an AA meeting, they’re willing to talk to their minister or their doctor. It’s the pain of that that causes them to finally seek some help.
What intervention does is it brings the bottom up. It gives the alcoholic or the addict woman a mirror to look into that their family sits and says, “This is the way that your drinking or your drug use has affected us. This is how we feel. This is how sad we are. This is how much we love you. We really want you to get help.” The purpose is to bring the bottom up and hit the alcoholic or the addict and get them to go into treatment or to seek help before they might be just left to their own devices.
Bruce Cook: If I’m hearing this right, you’re saying the philosophy of, “You’ve got to hit bottom before you can come up and turn it around,” is not necessarily helpful or healthy.
Babbi Anderson: Yes, and ‒
Bruce Cook: You don’t want to wait until you hit the bottom because then it’s too late in a lot of cases.
Babbi Anderson: Well, this is also a disease with some degree of fatality, so we don’t want people to either have wet brains or die. We want them to get help before it’s too late. If we at New Directions can be part of that, and get them to see what they’re doing, that can bring the bottom up, if you will, and hit them instead of them continuing on down until they hit it.
Bruce Cook: Babbi, we only have a couple of minutes left. Share with the listening audience, if there is somebody out there in pain, if there is somebody out there that is really tuning in to what you’re saying and wants to know more about New Directions, what do they do?
Babbi Anderson: They just have to call New Directions. We have wonderful people answering the phone, two wonderful women who answer the phones and they’re amazing. They can give you all sorts of information about New Directions and also the disease of addiction. You can ask them if they think you’ve got a problem. Describe your behavior, what you’re doing, and they can give you the answers. But, if you want help, you already know that you need help, call New Directions. If for some reason, if you can’t make it in to New Directions, they will be very willing to help you into something that would work for you. There are other treatment programs and we’re very collegial with the industry.
Bruce Cook: I find that a lot of people, especially in radio, you’re in the car and you’re not writing down phone numbers but you will remember a website. It’s NewDirectionsforWomen.org, so pretty simple, people. Just remember the website, NewDirectionsforWomen.org. You’ll look it up, and it will tell you where to go, how to call, what the number is, and who to talk to. Babbi, we have a minute left. Give us some inspiration to end the hour.
Babbi Anderson: Well, I know a lot of people who are recovered and happy and living very healthy, productive lives. I’m one of them, and you can do it. You can. Just make the call. It works. It really works.
Bruce Cook: Nobody could say it better. Yes, you can do it. Each of us has the power, especially if our loved ones or families will step in and help, as you have spent the half an hour describing.