A wise Mind Presented by Sabino Recovery S1 ep 7

In this episode of A Wise Mind, presented by Sabino Recovery, host Sam Zimmer sits down with Carver Brown, a Love First Interventionist and a certified Recovery Coach and Trainer with the Connecticut Community of Addiction Recovery (CCAR). Carver is also a Structured Family Recovery Counselor and a Grief Recovery Specialist certified with the Grief Recovery Institute. Carver studied under Deborah Jay, author of the book It Takes A Family. Sam and Carver discuss the book and the role that family plays in treatment. The two touch on their own personal experiences with family, recovery, and the importance of a family support system when a loved one is going through treatment.

Episode Transcript:

Sam Zimmer: Welcome back to A Wise Mind podcast. I’m your host, Sam Zimmer, as you guys know, and today we have the pleasure of being joined by Carver Brown with CAS recovery. And among many other things, Carver is a structured family recovery counselor. And that’s the topic that we’re gonna be talking about today um, you know, the family and kind of how it plays a role in recovery. Is there anything else that, you know, you want to cover when we do this Carver?

Carver Brown: Well, you never know. I mean, we’ll just kinda see where this thing goes. But I love structured family recovery. I was working at a treatment center in South Mississippi and there was a lady who was coming in to talk about family recovery. They said, do you wanna sit in on this? And I said, absolutely. And so I went in and she starts talking about this thing and I start answering her questions. You know, I’m like, I was hearing something I had never heard before and it started making sense to me, why I was so inept at trying to get families into recovery. I was asking them to do too difficult a task I came to, I came to realize.

Sam Zimmer: Yeah. And I think that’s something that a lot of people have to learn as they go through this journey with a loved one who’s going through recovery is that there’s a lot of stuff on my side of the street that I need to clean up too.

And, you know, certain ways that I can be supportive to that person. And, um, a lot of people don’t really realize that before they get going on that road.

Carver Brown: Well, it is, and it becomes a lot about outcomes, you know? So the way it was first explained to me, as I’m sitting in on this in-service is she starts talking about, uh, outcomes. And, you know, she says, you know, these days, and this was, this is now I’m going back almost 15 years. And, uh, this is in South Mississippi, very much 12-step land. And so she’s talking about 12-step recovery, and she says, you know, the numbers of, of the people who go into 12-step recovery and manage to stay sober the first year without a slip, these days is a woeful 5%.

And, you know, I could feel the truth of that really sink in. And she said, of course, people that go to treatment do better. Now there’s all kinds of treatment programs. There’s very short treatment stays. There’s detox only. There’s wonderful places like Sabino that are doing cutting-edge therapies and looking at trauma.

But then there’s other programs that are, you know, I mean, just the reality that are more insurance based and just, you know, don’t have the resources available and insurance companies are continuing to cut back.

So the point is taking all of that into consideration and looking at outcomes across the board. You know, we’re looking at somewhere around 27 to 30% of the people that attend treatment stay sober the first year without a slip now, now then look at this, there’s a subgroup, there’s a subgroup that enjoys 85 to 90%, very carefully documented recovery rates for five years without a slip. Who in the world could these people be? And what could we learn from them? Well, these are the doctors, the airline pilots, the judges, the attorneys, these are the professionals that have a slightly different approach. First of all, of course, there’s licensure issues, you know, and a lot of people will focus first on the licensure part of it.

And that’s true. They have a lot at stake in staying in recovery. At the same time, it’s argued that we all have a license of the quality of the relationship that we have with the people that we love the most. And that’s at risk, that relationship is at risk if we don’t maintain our sobriety.

But the other side of this is when you examine how the protocol that these folks go through. First of all, those people have a case manager, somebody they’re gonna meet with on a regular basis and review their recovery plan and their appropriateness. They’re gonna be required to go to 12-step meetings. They’re gonna be required to get a sponsor. They’re gonna be required to get a mentor that’s in their work of choice. They’re going to be, uh, attending industry-only meetings of recovery. They’re also gonna be required to attend an annual event. Families usually are invited to those and what all of that activity represents is a team approach to recovery.

So it’s way too important for any one of those folks, you know, there’s just too much on the line. And so they create this team. Now the thing that Deborah Jay presented in this lecture that I attended was what would happen if we could do the same thing for a family, what if we could create a team out of a family to support and do exactly what you said, shine the light of recovery on the family member.

 Let them take some, some responsibility in their own recovery path, whatever that may be. And then come together with the person of concern after an appropriate time that they could share their recovery journeys together. And that’s what the book, it takes a family by Deborah Jay is all about.

Sam Zimmer: Yeah. And I’m, I’m really glad that you, you mentioned, you know, sort of near the beginning, the statistics of the success rates. So my first treatment experience was at one of those insurance driven 30 day kind of programs, kind of like one of those cookie-cutter programs. And the statistic that I learned while I was there was that one in 13 people that are in a residential treatment center for 30 days will stay sober for a full year.

And I think what they meant by that was 30-day programs that were much like the one that I went to that, you know, there wasn’t a lot of talking to the family. There wasn’t that wraparound level of care, that team approach that you mention. And, um, you know, it makes sense that those success rates and those percentages just skyrocket when a different approach is taken, because there’s more accountability, there’s more support. There’s more skin in the game. You talked about those, you know, my relationship with my parents, right? If I, if they’re more involved and they’re giving me concerns and holding boundaries, I mean, that’s half the battle is teaching parents like my mom didn’t know how to hold a boundary with me. You know what I mean?

She, she loved me too much, you know? Right. So sometimes they need a little, a little coaching to say, okay, maybe that thing that you’ve been doing this whole life, isn’t the best thing to keep doing. Let’s try something else. Let’s try a little tough love or whatever it may be. So, you know, hearing you talk, it just kind of reminded me of my own journey and how my whole family kind of had to evolve with the process cuz it wasn’t that first time I wasn’t one of the 1 in 13, if you didn’t catch that, I was not, it took me a couple more times. Because you know, it’s just tough when you don’t have the right approach.

Carver Brown: Well, it is tough. And, you know, it’s, you’re right. There just isn’t as much in the way of resources for the families and the level of engagement for families.

You know, when I was working, I worked for a treatment center in Mississippi for a long, long time. And I would, we would do a weekly family week and I would talk to the families, encourage them to, you know, this was a substance use disorder, primary, uh, facility and a 90-day facility. Only 90 days you had to commit to, 90 days where they wouldn’t accept you.

Right? Yeah. And so, so it had pretty good outcomes. And, uh, and so I would meet with the families and I would talk to them about, you know, get into your own recovery. You know, how many of you would ask them, how many of you don’t raise your hand, but how many of you in your heart know that you would do anything to improve the chances of a beneficial outcome for the person you love so much?

And if you’re one of the ones that says in your heart, you’re willing to do anything, getting into your own recovery is the anything. That’s it. And, and so I would, you know, move them into Al-Anon into therapy and try to do that. And just invariably, I was asking them to do too much. There’s a notion in Deborah Jay’s book, where she talks about tiny tasks, you know, take a big project and break it into smaller tinier tasks.

So one of the things that we do in structured family recovery as is outlined in the book, It Takes a Family, is we don’t ask families to just jump in and join an Al-Anon meeting. We ask the first thing is just find out where they are in your area. You know, just do some research or find out where the therapists are in your area and just come back and report on what you find.

So take the big complex thing and turn it into something more doable. Because I can get ’em to do that right. To do the research. Then by the second week we’re asking ’em to, to then, well, why don’t you just engage, like find the meeting that’s closest to you at the time that’s most appropriate and you don’t say anything, you know, you can just slide in and just listen and, and report back on what your impressions were.

You know, what was the topic that was shared or what impressions you had. And, uh, and this is a way to take something complex and make it into simpler steps. What do you think about that?

Sam Zimmer: Yeah, well, it reminds me, um, so I’m seeing a lot of this through stories I’ve heard from my parents as they went through.

It’s been seven years since I’ve been sober. So

Carver Brown: Congratulations.

Sam Zimmer: Thank you so much. Um, so I just, that, that dragged my memory of another time. So my parents, when they started going to Al-Anon meetings, they were kind of nervous about it. And it’s not that they were ashamed of me, um, or embarrassed about being my parents, but they were just, you know, similar to how I, maybe the first time around didn’t want to tell everybody and their mother that I was in recovery, they didn’t want everyone in their mother knowing that their son was struggling with addiction. But one of the first meetings they went to they saw one of my dad’s really close work colleagues and

Carver Brown: Wow.

Sam Zimmer: You know what I mean? So it really normalized things. And the same way I found out, you know, um, when it finally clicked for me, I was telling everybody, I was proud of the fact that I was in recovery.

People were saying, Hey, what are you doing here in Tucson? And I told ’em I’m here because this is where I got sober and blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. And then they would say, most of them would say, you know, I have a brother, I have a sister, or my dad struggled with that. All of a sudden it becomes this totally normalized thing where it’s like, all it really took was just being open about it.

And, you know, same thing with my parents going to Al-Anon and connecting with other people who were going through the same thing. Um, you know, it’s just, it’s that again, that group approach, you know, they felt safer knowing that they weren’t alone in this, that they had peers that were going through the same thing.

Carver Brown: That is so true. And you know, it’s, it’s interesting. Cause what, what came up for me, as you said, that was, there’s still that stigma out there and maybe the stigma is more powerful on parents maybe than it is on those of us. And I’m like you, I’m 18 years.

Sam Zimmer: Oh, congratulations.

Carver Brown: Thank you. Yeah. And I didn’t get to come to a nice place like this oh my gosh. I was in this little, little jitter joint, uh, in Mississippi. It was a psych unit, you know, and, uh, and I didn’t get the benefit either of, you know, family program or anything, but I was terrified. You know, I was like, oh my gosh, I don’t, my life is over.

And so, you know, I dove into recovery and you know, it was interesting because you know, there’s, I think that stigma still exists. And I think that it plays a big role in a barrier. But when you drop the veil, you know, you were saying about, you know, families that that have, you know, addiction within the family system. I can’t find a family, show me the family that doesn’t somewhere down there. Show me uncle George or somebody back there that doesn’t have mental health issues. Yeah. It’s everywhere. And it’s getting more pronounced ever and ever. And COVID didn’t help you know, I mean, most of the interventions that, that we had done prior to that had been all substance.

But now it’s starting to become more and more mental health issues. uh, we’re seeing people that, you know, anxiety and depression and just other, you know, other disorders that have materialized, due to the isolation precedent of COVID, we’re seeing a lot of people who were marginalized and coping. And then that isolation just pushed them into a place where they needed some residential care.

Sam Zimmer: Isolation will do that. You know, at least alone with my own thoughts for months on end and quarantine. If I’m not working, what I need to be doing, then it’s gonna turn out pretty ugly.

Carver Brown: It’s a crime scene up here.

Sam Zimmer: Right? A lot of people don’t have those tools. I’m just grateful. I had ’em

Carver Brown: No kidding. And we have to practice ’em. Or they get rusty and, and that’s kind of what you’re saying. I’m so glad you said that because you know, trying to maneuver the families into that notion that they need community support.

They need it because the disease wants to isolate us. The disease wants to isolate the people that love us and it’ll use that isolation to help to perpetuate the stigma and that they don’t want to talk about it. But you know, invariably, those who are willing to try Al-Anon or gosh, any of the, uh, family support, whether it’s Coda or even therapeutic work, where the therapists have some group family, you know, recovery dynamics, any of those is, is gonna be a way to break ’em outta isolation, normalize their experience to realize that they’re no longer alone and to get more transparent and open about the things that have been struggling with.

Sam Zimmer: No, I think there’s so much that a family can do to help that loved one realize that they’re not alone. Um, and I would be remiss if I didn’t share this story on this topic. Um, I apologize in advance. I get choked up because I still do sometimes.

So my dad, when I was doing my first year of sobriety, he didn’t actually tell me this, but I found out like six or eight months in, that he was doing it with me. And it was just when I found that out, I was, I mean, it was just so such a powerful thing. And my dad didn’t have an issue with drinking, but he just cut out beer and, you know, liquor and, you know, whatever at parties going out to bars with friends, cut it out completely.

And, um, and the funny part about it was he lost 15 pounds and he was like, I’m so much more productive at work. I don’t have a hangover anymore. And so I think he has cut down. He, he drinks now and again still, but, um, I think he’s reduced it quite a bit. So it just kind of goes to show, you know, you get involved only good things can happen because I’m a firm believer that, you know, drinking non-drinking all that aside, 12-step approach to, to anything can, can really help somebody. And that’s one thing my parents did is they read the Big Book front to back when I was going through it this last time. So stuff like that, learning that they read the Big Book, learning that my dad was cutting out beer for a whole year.

Um, you know, I’m sure that’s not the norm, but just little acts like that can go such a long way and help somebody feel like, all right, I got a lot of support um, so shout out dad. Thanks, Dad. Appreciate you.

Carver Brown: Well, I wanna say, I wish it was the norm.

Sam Zimmer: I know

Carver Brown: Because I mean, we could save so many lives that way. And it just, it’s touching to me. And thank you so much for sharing that because I mean, I can, I can just feel the love of your dad and I can see your dad wanting to bond with you, you know, through that experience. And, you know, this was the best way he could do it. I was, I was just thinking if you know, if you want your son to stop smoking, one good way is to put ’em down yourself. Well, I mean, your dad just did the best thing he knew to do. And he wanted to lead by example, even though he didn’t have a problem with it, but that just is so touching.

And, and then reading the Big Book that is just, that’s priceless. And they, that’s just pure love, that’s all that is, is pure love. And if we had more families, we could save a whole bunch of lives if we had more families that were as dedicated as yours.

Sam Zimmer: Yeah. Well, I’m, I know my mom listens to this and she’ll be, she’ll be very happy to hear you say…

Carver Brown: Well, shout out to you, Mom who’s listening. You guys are, you guys are heroes in recovery to me.

Sam Zimmer: So we talked about Al-Anon a little bit, but I also want to touch on the structured family recovery meetings that take place. My understanding is that there are like 50 of them weekly across the country.

Carver Brown: So structured family recovery is, is in it’s outlined in the book It Takes a Family.

Sam Zimmer: Okay. Gotcha.

Carver Brown: And so when Deborah Jay came to present this, what, what that is. It’s uh, it is meetings that the family has.

Sam Zimmer: Oh, okay. Excuse me.

Carver Brown: Yeah. So these are individual meetings that are, that are held by the family and the topics are in the book. So the way that thing works is when your person of concern has gone off to treatment.

Ideally speaking, a family program might refer a family member to It Takes a Family, to get the book. You can do this on your own, read the book they ask you to keep…to remember the thing about tiny tasks. Simple task. What they ask you to do is just read the first 34 pages of the book.

They say don’t read the whole book. Nobody will. So read the first 34 pages. And if in the first 34 pages, you think this is something that might work for you, then pick out a member of the family, pass the book to them and ask them to only read the first 34 pages. And if that person, you know, likes what they read, and is willing to give it a shot, then ask them to pass the book to somebody. And again, read just the first 34 pages.

And so now you’ve got a team together and they would ask you then to meet together as a family team. And go through the first session in the book. There is a year’s worth of meetings in the book and each meeting has a topic, they have a step that they’re gonna, uh, talk about. There are readings and there’s sharing time. And essentially what you’re doing is you’re building this sort of family, uh, recovery meeting. That’s kind of modeled after a 12 step meeting in a way there are readings in the beginning. And, and the family goes through three of these together to build the structure. And then they would invite the person of concern from treatment to join them, ideally in a perfect world, this would occur while the person’s still in treatment and even possibly their therapist could sit in with them as they joined their first structured family recovery meeting. And so interestingly, the first week’s topic is, uh, why do I need recovery as a family member? The second week’s topic is anger. The third week’s topic is resentment. You see what they’re doing?

Sam Zimmer: Yeah.

Carver Brown: And the fourth week’s topic is forgiveness. And so the fourth week is when they invite the, their, the, the family member in, the person of concern, their loved one into the meeting. And they’re gonna talk about forgiveness. And, and so by that this time, the structure of the meeting has all been arranged.

The family has, has gone through the book and they’re seeing how the meeting is. And it’s very familiar to the person who’s been in treatment because it very much is like a 12-step meeting, very much like a therapy session and topics are there. And essentially in its simplest form what’s gonna occur is that everybody is gonna check. in that week and how their recovery went. So dad might say, you know, I didn’t get to go to my Al-Anon meeting this week, but I had a therapy session and I’ve done some reading, you know, on recovery. And, um, I’m, you know, work is going, you know, pretty well. I did have a little emotional, you know, relapse, you know, the other day got a little angry, you know, but overall it’s been a good week and then mom might share, you know, I did get to go to my Al-Anon home group and I’m still looking for a sponsor and I too am doing morning meditation.

And then the family member who’s in treatment, or maybe just outta treatment can share about what they’re doing, their living recovery. I mean, everything they’re doing is about recovery. So they’ll share about their experience and then there’ll be a topic for the week to share about, and then there’ll be some, um, a step to talk about.

And, uh, and then they have, uh, they read the promises. Uh, out of the Big Book and, uh, and then they close the meeting and the structure is, is that each week the family set aside a time for them to come together and share about their recovery and to have a topic of recovery and to normalize, you know, this thing that is so stigmatized.

Sam Zimmer: Yeah. That’s all I was thinking about while you were saying that is how encouraging and loved that person who was in treatment or just came from treatment, must feel, you know, seeing their mom, dad, brother, sister, talking like they’re in the AA meeting he was in last night. If that was me, I’d be like, oh wow.

Like they care. They care a lot. And they get it. They’re using the same lingo that I know. And like, we can actually bond over this stuff, you know?

Carver Brown: Exactly. Yeah. And you know, you, you waited. If I heard you right. Waited a year. To hear that your dad had stopped drinking. Well, imagine what would’ve happened, if you’d found that about that, his commitment to his own recovery there right at the beginning.

Sam Zimmer: Yeah. No, I, I think I found out like around eight months, like you said, like it would’ve been, it would’ve been cool to know a little earlier, but it was cool.

It might…

Carver Brown: It might have, might have made a difference, you know? But, but the, but the interesting thing is you, I think you nailed it, is being able to come together. De-stigmatize this thing. Talk openly. And honestly, and, uh, I have utilized this structure with families that I’ve worked with and I have seen amazing, amazing results.

I, I was thinking about a family that we started the process and because of the consequences of addiction, the, the son had to go to prison for just a bit. And, uh, in fact for a year. And so the family made the decision. They wanted to stay together and keep going through structured family recovery. And what I did for ’em was I would type up the notes on their check-ins and I would send it to him in prison . So that he could keep up with the progress that the family was making and what have you.

And then when he got out of prison, we just kept right on with our structured family recovery meetings, and everyone has stayed in recovery and the family’s doing just great.

Sam Zimmer: That’s awesome.

Carver Brown: Yeah, it was. This thing that she [Deborah Jay] came up with is a real miracle and I encourage anybody who’s listening that might be interested in this, to get the book.

Sam Zimmer: Yeah, no, I think that’s is such an important topic and obviously, you know, that’s why, you know, we do a lot of IFS work here, integrated family systems, right? We have a family program in someone’s fourth week of treatment. Um, that lasts for four days where we invite the family out, obviously, but, um, it cannot be understated how important the family involvement is in the recovery process.

Um, it’s just the level of support that somebody feels. And I think just skin in the game, you know, knowing that these people really care about this outcome, you know, obviously has to come from inside, but a lot of times to get that car jump started, there needs to be a little family kick in the butt too.

Yeah, but absolutely it takes a family. I would encourage anyone who wants to know more about this topic and, you know, the signs to look for that maybe your loved one needs help. You know, I’m sure a lot of that stuff is talked about in the book. Um, so I definitely recommend anyone.

Carver Brown: Yeah, it really is. It, she goes into it and it’s really well crafted. She’s a good writer. She cut her teeth in the Hazleton family program. So she spent her whole career, um, working with families and just came up with, with a notion that I think has been missing, at least for me was how can we improve outcome? And one way we can improve outcomes is by creating a recovery team and the team members don’t need to come any further away than your very own family.

 And just include the people who are willing to do it and if any of the family members are not willing to do it. That’s no problem at all. We just, we work with those that, that are willing to do it. And some that can’t, or don’t feel open to doing that. That’s not a problem either. And we sure are seeing outcomes improve. And, uh, I love, I love anytime we get the family involved, you know, in the beginning, the families, when I started working in this field, the families were kind of confusing to me. You know, I, it was all about the addict, you know, for me but then when I came to understand that the families, the energy they were giving off, it was just fear and love and they were hurt and they were afraid for their loved one and understandably so, and anything that we can do to help them get the hope of recovery is real, is a positive message to deliver.

Sam Zimmer: Yeah. Something I just thought of is you. When you’re talking to somebody who’s right at the beginning of that process, like a parent, right? Who’s like my son, my daughter, they need treatment. We’re looking for places to go. What is your success rate is a big question that people are asked, right? An impossible question to answer. But now what I might tell that person is, well, If you get this book, It Takes a Family and you do your own work, that percentage is going to skyrocket from 1 in 13 or 5% or whatever the metrics show to you know, sky’s the limit, right?

Carver Brown: It really is. If we can get the families involved much the way your family got involved, you’re living proof that this stuff works and whatever method that they choose, whether it’s formulated out of the structure that comes from the book or just if they were willing to dedicate, I couldn’t tell you what it would’ve meant to me as a lad if I could have met with my family on a regular basis and just had, you know, talks about important topics, you know, like honesty and humility and higher power and, you know, all of this stuff, we just, we were so busy. We just never took the time. Now I know that we, everybody loved each other, but I think to dedicate a little time to, this is something that would be invaluable.

Sam Zimmer: Another thing I’m thinking too is, you know, obviously at Sabino, the main thing that we treat here is trauma. And a lot of times trauma is a generational thing.

 So if a family that’s loved one’s primary thing is coming to treatment to deal with trauma. Just as an example, getting involved with this would really, really be helpful. You know, a lot of times parents do to their children, what their parents did to them. And the more that they can dig into that stuff and go through their own recovery process, because, you know, not everyone turns to maladaptive coping mechanisms like drinking or doing drugs.

Some people can just grin and bear it, but it doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t take a look at that stuff. I just think it can apply to literally any kind of recovery.

Carver Brown: I agree. It doesn’t mean that they’re living their best life. And you know, I’m glad you brought that up, cuz that’s a good point. You know, I mean, if it is generational and, and trauma is real and we all have had our losses and whether it’s to do trauma work or grief recovery work, whatever it may be if the family member were to take a tact to work on their own trauma and their own grief, in whatever method that they choose fits them best. Whether that’s working with a therapist or maybe doing an intensive or, or something, or some silent retreats, or just other things, other ways that it could help to normalize the experience that their loved one is going through, who has needed residential care.

And, uh, I think that there’s healing, there’s healing and hope for the family. There’s healing and hope for those of us with substance use disorder and there’s healing and hope for families too, who are willing to engage.

Sam Zimmer: Yeah. Family needs to heal too.

Carver Brown: Yes, they do.

Sam Zimmer: Gosh, we could talk about this all day. Couldn’t we?

Carver Brown: We could I know it’s, it’s so close to our hearts. You know, you and I have lived it.

Sam Zimmer: Yeah. Yeah. Well, thank you so much for joining us Carver. This has truly been a pleasure. Um, and yeah, this is one of my favorite podcasts we’ve done yet, just because of how important it is and you know, how connected we both are to it. So I really appreciate you taking the time to come on with us.

Carver Brown: Thank you. It’s a great honor to be here. I’m so delighted to be asked to attend. Thank you so much.

Sam Zimmer: Of course, and to our listeners. Thank you for listening to A Wise Mind podcast, presented by Sabino Recovery to listen to more episodes, just search for A Wise Mind, presented by Sabino Recovery on your chosen podcast platform.

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