This is a guest post by Tracy Winchell who shares the HEART Check Journaling method.
Parenting a teen or young adult who is struggling with a chemical addiction is exhausting, isn’t it?
Fearing the 2:00 a.m. phone call.
Wondering if you’re helping or hurting the situation.
Wrestling with misplaced guilt and shame of your part in your child’s struggles.
A recent post by Cathy Taughinbaugh shares sage advice for parents in the midst of a storm of anxiety, fear, and dread.
In What Advice Do You Have for Parents, Cathy shares three pieces of advice from Dean Dauphinais.
The third point especially resonated.
In summary, Mr. Dauphinais expressed the importance – necessity, really – of working one’s own recovery.
So many parents and loved ones of people afflicted with addiction don’t realize that their own recovery is just as important as their child’s. In fact, it might be more important. If you are a physical/emotional wreck, you will be unable to help your loved one in any positive way. Instead of one healthy person is available to help one sick person, there ends up being two sick people, neither of whom can help the other.
5-Minute Daily HEART Check
One of the most important skills I’ve learned through recovery is the ability to untangle my thoughts from my feelings, and then to communicate those thoughts and feelings to others – appropriately.
PRO TIP: Knowing when to share our thoughts and feelings and when to keep our lips zipped is an essential skill. There are times when I need to share my thoughts and feelings with someone, but not the person who may be triggering my feelings.
I learned how to untangle my feelings and thoughts, and I learned a safer way of expressing those thoughts and feelings as a direct result of the HEART Check method – a journaling habit I learned from Celebrate Recovery The Journey Begins: Growing in Christ While Helping Others – Participant’s Guide Revised Edition 4, by John Baker.
This method, by the way, is recovery-agnostic. Work your recovery in whatever context is safe for you. There’s a reason there are so many 12-step flavors, right?
Part of the genius behind this method is that it’s book-ended by community and accountability.
It keeps us from isolating, which is terribly dangerous.
The HEART Check is comprised of five questions:
n Accountability Plan
You’ll need someone you trust to help you devise a plan for what to do when:
You answer YES to three to five questions in one day.You answer YES to three or more questions several days in a row.[/li]For me, the process looked something like this when I first learned to use the HEART Check method:
Yes to 2 questions: Deep breaths, prayer, and either calming music or something positive and upbeat, depending on whether I was too amped up or too lethargic.Yes to 3 questions: add text, my accountability group, to the previous stepsYes to 4 questions: take a walk and call my sponsorYes to 3 or more questions for a few days in a row which was a warning sign that emotional wellbeing was headed in the wrong direction.Set a meeting with my sponsor or therapist to try to figure out what was triggering me externally or internally.[/li]
After having worked this exercise four or five days a week for about three years, I discovered that I was – consistently – only saying yes to one or two questions occasionally.
Why HEART Check Rocks
For me, this system has been instrumental (along with meds, counseling, and working the 12 steps of recovery) in breaking the cycle of overloaded cortisol levels because:
I was forced to stop and take an account of how I felt in five areasI had made a commitment to my accountability team, to be honest with myself and with them about how I was feeling.I shared my results when appropriate. It felt ridiculous the first dozen or so times I reached out, but then it was a huge relief to know I didn’t need to carry the burdens alone. I was loved and accepted, even celebrated because I was being honest and working hard to get better.Tracking my responses, talking through my thoughts and feelings, and recognizing patterns helped me understand many of the root causes of my anxiety and to either eliminate them or neutralize them.Ultimately, the cortisol levels in my brain started to normalize (I presume because I don’t have data to support this) through drug therapy and behavior modifications (think, less sugar, more exercise) and changes in my relationship with the world (letting go of resentments, accepting that the world is – at best – indifferent to me), and my relationship to my Creator (God loves me as I am)
Ultimately, the cortisol levels in my brain started to normalize (I presume because I don’t have data to support this) through drug therapy and behavior modifications (think, less sugar, more exercise) and changes in my relationship with the world (letting go of resentments, accepting that the world is – at best – indifferent to me), and my relationship to my Creator (God loves me as I am).
Trying to do fear and anxiety alone – in my personal experience – is incredibly dangerous – which is exactly what I was doing until I used this exercise to:
Capture my thoughtsLabel my feelingsTake action before my emotions explodedShare my thoughts and feelings safely and appropriately
The most liberating part of this process is finally figuring out I didn’t need to navigate my emotions and fears alone.
For months before discovering the HEART Check method, I had the people in place to help me – therapist, psychiatrist, minister, physician, and family.
However, until this 5-minute daily ritual, which helped me learn to get out of my own head and to share my burdens, I had no idea how to leverage my support group to help make a dent in my anxiety.
Full disclosure: This isn’t one of my daily journaling habits anymore.
However, when I sense my anxiety levels are rising, I resume the HEART Check for a few weeks, until I untangle my thoughts and feelings and am able to articulate the underlying issue to my health care team and develop a plan for righting my body chemistry.
Decide – with someone you trust – what constitutes a warning sign.
Is it two yesses in a day?
Commit to an action plan that will help calm you. Ask your friend or professional counselor with whom you feel safe to help you create your plan.
Taking a walkDeep breathsCalling a friendPlaying catch with your pupScratching your cat behind the earsPlaying soft, instrumental music
Keeping It Real
Keeping it real here – I’ve never been the parent of a teen or young adult in crisis.
I’ve never been in your shoes.
I cannot imagine the pain and fear of what you’re going through.
But Cathy has a tremendous network of women and men just like you who have endured – and are surviving.
The recent blog post that curates the best advice from professionals who have endured – or are trained to help you navigate this storm – strongly suggest that your child has a greater opportunity to come out the other side if you take care of yourself.
And the HEART Check exercise is a tool that taught me how to figure out how I felt and what I was thinking, long before I exploded in uncontrolled rage at a stranger – or a loved one who had no clue what was really bothering me.
Try the HEART Check Method
If this is something you’re interested in trying, I’ve created a free guide to help you get started with a HEART Check
If you’d rather hop on a call to talk about journaling or anxiety (I’m no expert about anxiety, but I’ll be glad to listen), send me an email and we’ll schedule a call.
Please remember – and this community won’t let you forget if you hang around long enough – you’re not alone in this struggle.
Peace be with you and yours.
Tracy Winchell helps people navigate change. In the past three years, she has navigated the loss of her job and a close friend. She is the host of the Reboots Podcast at RebootsPodcast.com, where she interviews people about navigating change. Tracy actively practices the 12 steps, recovering from unresolved grief, self-doubt, and perfectionism.
By: Guest Blogger
Title: Heart Check For Parents Of Struggling Teens
Sourced From: cathytaughinbaugh.com/heart-check-for-parents-of-struggling-teens/
Published Date: Fri, 07 Apr 2023 02:55:37 +0000
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