Episode 33

The Guardian Initiative for Veterans and First Responders, Part Two

September 25th, 2022

Kira Arrillaga: Welcome to Addiction and the Family, “Episode 33: The Guardian Initiative for Veterans and First Responders, Part 2.”

Casey Arrillaga: How has addiction affected your family?

Female Speaker: It robbed me of my father.

Female Speaker: Addiction's affected my family in absolutely every way.

Male Speaker: It has caused a lot of turmoil.

Female Speaker: It goes back to what I understand is at least three generations.

Female Speaker: It robbed my daughter of her mother. It robbed my mother of her daughter.

Female Speaker: Addiction has made our family quite challenging.

Male Speaker: Addiction has affected my family tremendously.

Male Speaker: It's affected my relationship with my sister where I wouldn't – I'd go for months without talking to her. It's a very difficult thing for everybody involved. It doesn't just affect the one individual. It's a disease that affects the whole family.

Male Speaker: Addiction is spread not only genetically through some of my relatives and I assume ancestors.

Female Speaker: It's generational.

Female Speaker: I think of him every day.

Casey Arrillaga: Welcome to Addiction and the Family. My name is Casey Arrillaga, and I'm a clinical social worker and addiction counselor at both Windmill Wellness Ranch and InMindOut Emotional Wellness Center in Texas. I’m the author of the books Realistic Hope: The Family Survival Guide for Facing Alcoholism and Other Addictions and Spirituality for People who Hate Spirituality.

Kira Arrillaga: I’m Kira Arrillaga, addiction counselor intern and recovery coach at Windmill. Casey and I were in our addictions together for over ten years and have now been in recovery together for almost twice that long.

Casey Arrillaga: I've led hundreds of family workshops, but just as important is that Kira and I have lived the experience of being family to addiction as both children and adults.

Kira Arrillaga: Join us as we offer experience, strength, and realistic hope about how you and your family can find recovery together. This is the second of a two-part series on the Guardian Initiative for first responders and veterans. We’ll hear from Erika Unberhagen, founder of the Guardian Initiative at Windmill Wellness Ranch and a 15-year law enforcement veteran in recovery. Erika talks about some of the issues that come up for families when a loved one who is a veteran or a first responder struggles with the pressures and traumas that those careers can bring. She weaves in her own story as a law enforcement officer and talks about why recovery and support are so important for everyone in the family, not just the person who is most obviously struggling. All this and more after a break to hear from one of our sponsors. [Commercial] Welcome back. Here’s Casey’s interview with Erika.

Casey Arrillaga: Erika, welcome back. Thank you so much for when we met last time and talked about a lot of the issues that come up around military, veterans, first responders. What I want to do today is talk about the kind of issues that come up for family members in those relationships, what family members should know, and what vets and first responders should know about their families and some of those dynamics.

Erika Unberhagen: Yeah, absolutely. Once again, it’s a topic that is near and dear to my heart. I think a lot of times, we tend to focus on the problems of the individual rather than actually stepping back and taking a look at how those problems are affecting that individual’s system, so family members. It could include their mother, their father, children, their spouse, friendships even. There’s this idea that we come together and we work and that individual works to heal from trauma and some of the things that they’ve experienced in the course of their careers, but the families typically aren’t really included in that process. Then what happens is we take this individual that has all of these new wonderful coping skills and has processed through feelings and trauma and chaos and life difficulties and they feel balanced. They feel emotionally stable and ready to take on a life in recovery, but then they go home to the same environment from which they left, and that environment oftentimes is impacted by that trauma so the client who is now functioning well goes back into the family where there still exists dysfunction as a result of the response to their loved one’s struggle with mental health or addiction.

Casey Arrillaga: What would you want to say to those individuals and to their family members about that?

Erika Unberhagen: It is just as critical that they receive help, that they receive information, that they have resources that they can utilize.

Casey Arrillaga: This is the family.

Erika Unberhagen: This is the family. We provide all these things to our clients while they’re here, it is just as critical for the family members to really have the same resources. Even though they may not have and probably were not on deployment with their loved one, oftentimes that loved one comes home and they’re very different. They change because of the trauma, because of the things that they experienced. A couple of things can happen. Either that person shuts down completely so now the family member is left wondering what happened, how can I help them, they feel helpless, their loved one doesn’t want to talk about it. That person may come back from a call or the deployment or an assignment where they’ve got a lot of anger that they’re dealing with and sometimes that individual will go home to their family and talk about the things that they experienced, which in turn can actually create secondary trauma. This person is describing what they dealt with on that call or they’re talking about what they dealt with while they were on deployment and family members can also be traumatized from that but they don’t have the resources typically to deal with that. Not only are they now trying to fix their family member, they’re doing it to the degree that they don’t recognize that they themselves have incurred damage as a result of whatever it is that has created this problem.

Casey Arrillaga: That’s such a big thing that we talk about on the show is family members getting recovery, family members needing resources, because like you said, somebody comes back from deployment or they are struggling with things that they’ve seen as a first responder, people will often look at that and say that person could use some support. That’s relatively new, though, in military and first responder culture, but it exists even if it’s, we say, in a [07:15] state, but so often people don’t even think to ask does the family need support.

Erika Unberhagen: Exactly, and that’s one of the things that I love about Windmill Wellness Ranch and the Guardian Initiative. It is definitely something that we take – it is just as important for the individual to be healthy and whole as it is for the family members to be healthy and whole. It’s kind of two-fold, right? It’s important for that individual to be able to finish the program here and go home feeling well, feeling stable, now has the tools to handle life and has worked through trauma, anger, depression, stress, anxiety, all of those things that tend to come with these types of career fields, but if they return back to an environment of dysfunction, it can actually subvert their recovery because you’re taking somebody that’s healthy and whole and placing them back in an environment that, not intentionally, but became toxic as a result of that individual’s health problems or addiction issues. Then the other part of that is it really is just as important for the family member to heal for their own healing. They deserve that healing, too. They deserve that attention. They benefit from learning coping skills and being able to talk about what it felt like when their family member came home a different person or what it felt like when their family member came home and they could see pain written all over that person’s face but they felt helpless. They couldn’t do anything about it. Sometimes depending on how the trauma comes through and how it’s expressed or dealt with with the individual, the family members may have gotten to the point where they feel like they have to walk on eggshells because they don’t want to set their loved one off and they don’t want to say the wrong thing. They feel like everything needs to be perfect so their loved one doesn’t get upset or angry or completely loses control. They begin to take on this onus of responsibility. It’s my responsibility to make my loved one well. It’s my responsibility to make sure that the kids are behaving, I’m behaving, the house is in perfect order. It really creates a significant amount of dysfunction within the family, because at this point, the entire family is struggling. The kids are struggling. They don’t understand why mom or dad has changed. They don’t understand why mom or dad has come home and they’re angry or they’re depressed or they’re completely shut down or isolating. They don’t want to talk. They don’t understand why mom or dad is drinking to the point of being intoxicated or using drugs. Kids recognize things that we don’t often give them credit for. They typically recognize drug use and alcohol use long before we give them credit for the ability to see. The same thing with the spouses, they’re stuck in this place where it’s like, how do I help my loved one? If you look at it, it’s this cause-and-effect thing that takes place. People that are driven or feel called to or gravitate toward careers in the military or careers as first responder, these are typically high speed, low drag, they themselves have usually – there’s one common characteristic, right? They’re the helper. There are a lot of different reasons for why that takes place, but the important thing, I think, to look at is that they have this really strong drive to help other people, serve their country, help their community, help other people not to suffer, not to go through things that they’ve been through, they want to make the world a better place. They’re the helper. They’re never the helpee. Then they go home and the family members now become the helper to the detriment of receiving help themselves. They’re so busy trying to make it right for the person that they love that they neglect, and oftentimes it’s not really intentional. They’re so busy and so dedicated to trying to help their loved one function that they lose the capacity to function in a healthy manner. At this point, it is not uncommon for the loved one to become the addiction. There’s this issue of codependency that takes place. I need to fix my husband. I need to fix my wife. That literally becomes the primary focus. The entire family begins to revolve around this idea of fixing the person that’s broken or damaged or sick or addicted or drinking or angry or shutdown, whatever that looks like for that individual, to the point that they will literally neglect their own lives, their own wellbeing. Spouses will stop going to school or they’ll take jobs that are less stressful and require less time so they can spend more time at home trying to help their loved one. Spouses are now the ones that will go into the bedroom or the bathroom or the shower and cry so that nobody else in the family knows that they’re struggling. They don’t want to share that because they don’t want to cause more harm, in their minds, cause more harm to the person that they’re trying so desperately to love and help. That in and of itself can create a lot of damage for that person. Now, they don’t have somebody that they can go and talk to or they don’t feel that they have somebody that they can go and talk to. That’s one of the beautiful things about what we do here at Windmill within the Guardian Initiative is we provide that space for families to not only talk with each other about what they’re struggling with so that they don’t feel alone, that they also have that additional support, and they themselves are worthy and deserving and are receiving information on how do I cope with this situation? How do I cope with my feelings? What do I do when my husband or wife doesn’t want to talk to me and I feel like they’re shutting me out? How do I handle that? How do I handle the stress, the immense amount of stress that I’ve been under for so long while I’m trying to be the glue that holds this family together? This gives them a safe haven so that they can come in and talk about those things, open up about those things, hear the experiences of other people, know that they’re not alone. The beautiful thing that happens within that process is that they themselves receive healing, which they are just as deserving of as that loved one who initially came into treatment to heal.

Casey Arrillaga: It’s beautiful. What other resource do you recommend for people if they find themselves in that position as a family member, somebody who has been through trauma, military, first responder, any of that stuff?

Erika Unberhagen: I do know that there are support groups out there for dependence particularly, like through the military realms, but like I said, we offer that support here. There’s material that they can read if that’s something that they want to do. I know that one of the things that is included in the Guardian Initiative is this idea of love languages. If you put it into context with trauma, the loved one who’s come into treatment, prior to treatment, their love language may have been I don’t want to share what I experienced because I don’t want to hurt the person that I love. I don’t want to cause them harm. I know it’s messing me up. I don’t want to mess up my husband or my wife, or God, definitely not my kids. They’re shutting down, in their mind, is actually then helping their family members so the family member is not traumatized, but the family member doesn’t understand that. What they see is the family member shutting down and oftentimes the message that is relayed is my husband or my wife doesn’t trust me enough to share their problems with me. It’s really important to open up those dialogs of conversation. Again, that’s something that we do within the Guardian Initiative where we’re doing group work with the individual and the family member. To be honest, one of the largest support for family members is really the ability to talk with other family members that have been through similar circumstances, that have learned or found ways to live their life in a healthy manner where they’ve actually been able to experience healing in their family. That’s really one of the largest resources that then again through Windmill Wellness, through the Guardian Initiative, they also have the opportunity to speak with mental health professionals and bounce ideas off of them, learn new ways to deal with the things that they’re experiencing, learn the different love languages and what does that look like. I know that, for me, I’m retired from law enforcement, I did 15 years, I’m medically retired, and my love language is my husband tells me that he needs a drill, I go out and buy the most expensive drill there is. That’s my love language. That’s how I show him that I love him. My husband’s love language is he likes to hold hands and hug and cuddle. I’m still not real comfortable with that, actually a large part of it from my own life experiences. I have the luxury of understanding the idea of love language because of what I do so I was able to sit down, talk with him, and we were able to identify what one another’s love languages are and then come to a compromise. Okay, you can hug me but don’t continue to hold me, if I say, “would you please let me go,” please don’t take that as personal. I’ll hold your hand for two minutes, just don’t expect me to hold the hand the entire time we’re in the store because I like to have my right hand free. That’s something that a lot of people that have been in the military or first responders will understand, but it’s just as important for that family member to understand that. There are some phenomenal books out there.

Casey Arrillaga: Yeah, you recommended one, The 5 Love Languages Military Edition. I got a chance to look through some of it. There were some really cool stuff here. You were talking about how the spouse can use, for instance, words of affirmation, one of the love languages, and looking at how can I show up for my spouse who’s been through military trauma with that. There was a quote in here from one of the spouses saying I came to understand that this war experience is now a permanent part of who they are. When I hear them talking about it, I can recognize they’re talking about themselves and their identity, not just a thing that they’ve been through and what that shift looks like and what words of affirmation might look like for somebody who’s been through that sort of thing. Would you mind speaking to that?

Erika Unberhagen: Absolutely, when a loved one that’s been in the military or has been or is a first responder and they’re sharing with their loved one something that they experienced and how that made them feel, the most important thing, to be honest, is just to be present, to listen, listen empathetically, give that person an opportunity to share on what they’ve experienced, how they’re feeling about it. Then also letting them know you’re not alone. I am here for you. I am here any time that you want to talk. You can say things like it sounds like that was really difficult. I’m really proud of you for what you did within the course of your career.

Casey Arrillaga: I noticed you outlined a particular part in here around kind words. Do you mind talking about that section of the book and maybe what made it stand out for you?

Erika Unberhagen: Yeah, so if you don’t mind, I’d actually like to read this passage. It’s a very short passage and we can talk a little bit about what that actually looks like and mean. “Love doesn’t keep the score of wrong. Love doesn’t bring up past failure.” That’s a really important thing to keep in mind, not just for the person that has been through treatment or is in treatment, but it’s also important for the family members to understand as well. We all, at some point, have probably been guilty of being angry at something and then pulling in something that happened six weeks, six months, six years, ten years, 15 years ago, but one of the things that we really work on with family members and the client is learning how to live and function well in the present. When that individual returns home after being in treatment, it’s okay to ask questions about the past, but I think the problem presents when that individual is constantly brought back to the past. You remember that time that you got so drunk at the neighbor’s house that you kicked the dog, that kind of thing. Living in the present, that’s a recovery skill. You learn how to live well in the present versus being tethered to the past. As long as you’re tethered to the past, it’s really difficult to move forward in life. If I continue this passage, “None of us is perfect. In marriage, we do not always do the best or right thing. We have sometimes done insufferable things to our spouses. We cannot erase the past.” That’s actually something that we work on with people when they’re in this program. I can’t erase somebody’s memory, traumatic or not. I’d love to but it’s not possible. It’s the human brain. What we do is we help them to look at those memories from a different perspective and to not have that high emotional content associated with those memories. “We can only confess to the degree that it was wrong. We can ask for forgiveness and try to act differently in the future.” One thing that I work with clients on [20:28] is also very much translatable to family members is we can apologize. I apologize for X, Y, and Z, but when I’m apologizing, I can admit that it was wrong, but when it comes to addiction, I can’t promise my family member that I will never – and I think that’s something that family members want to hear. Do you think you’re ever going to drink again? Do you think you’re ever going to use again? Do you think you’re ever going to get angry like that again? The best response and one that we really work with clients on here is to be able to say, “I’m going to make every effort not to, but I can’t guarantee,” because we can’t predict the future, right? I can do nothing more than mitigate the hurt it may have caused my spouse. When I’ve been wronged by my spouse and she has painfully confessed and requested forgiveness, I have the option of justice or forgiveness. If I choose justice and seek to pay her or him back or make them pay for their wrongdoings, I am making myself the judge and my loved one the felon. At that point, intimacy becomes impossible because the trust is completely broken. If, however, I choose to forgive, intimacy can be restored. We’re not just talking about sexual intimacy. We’re talking about the intimacy that takes place within family relationships in deeply meaningful trusting relationships. They are so critical to live in a healthy family dynamic. Holding that individual accountable, we work with them to help them take responsibility for their actions. If they continue to live in shame and guilt, the odds of them remaining in recovery are fairly slim because those are the types of things that trigger people to want to drink or use. The family members can support that individual by saying things like, “I see how hard you’ve been working to be in recovery. I see the amount of work that you’re putting into recovery. I love the fact that you’re going to these meetings to keep your recovery going,” and really acknowledging the things that they see they are doing now versus the things that they were doing in the past. It’s not just the individual that heals from that but the family unit as a whole, because at that point, the family, not just the person in the recovery, can begin to move forward.

Casey Arrillaga: That’s really beautiful.

Kira Arrillaga: Let’s take a break to hear from one of our sponsors and then we’ll hear the rest of Erika’s interview about families and the Guardian Initiative. [Commercial] Welcome back. Here’s the rest of Casey’s interview with Erika.

Casey Arrillaga: Where has this come in for the healing within your own family as you went through law enforcement career and came out of it?

Erika Unberhagen: Again, I had a pretty different love language. That was definitely a component of that, from earlier experiences but also my career in law enforcement, I’m just not a very touchy-feely person when it comes to hugs and all those things that some people, including my husband, like to do. Being mindful of that is really important for me, but also recognizing that I was married previously to the same individual when I was in law enforcement than I was when my journey into addiction began. I would either shut down or blow up. I had two speeds. I would come home and sometimes my husband would ask me, “Honey, how was your shift? How was your day? How was your night?” and I’d grunt. That’s all I wanted to say. I just wanted to be left alone. I didn’t want to deal with it. I didn’t want to talk about it. I didn’t want to screw him up. I really just wanted to be left alone. I can look back and remember seeing the look on his face was one of concern. I could see that his wheels were spinning. He was trying to figure out what to say or what to do to help me feel better, but he didn’t know what to do. Then the other speed was anger. I would come home and he’d say, “Honey, how was your shift?” and I’d blow up at him, and of course, not just about the shift, but then I’d blow up about other things. Why the hell is the house so messy? Why didn’t the kids put their stuff up today? Why didn’t they get their homework done? Taking all of this emotion that I had experienced during the day that I had to keep repressed because I’m on the job. I can’t let this out to our citizens so I’m going to go home and I would let it out at home, which creates a lot of damage. It really damaged the trust because my husband then really did have to walk on eggshells because he never knew what version of me was going to walk through the door. Not intentionally, but my actions placed him in a state of crisis because now he’s assessing me for threat. I assess people for threat for a living and now I’ve created the situation where my husband and my children are having to assess their wife and their mom for her threat potential. Is mom going to shut down and go off and just not talk to anybody and close the door and be quiet or is mom going to see that the remote control is not where it belongs in the kitchen table and she’s going to lose it? They were constantly having to walk around my current emotional state.

Casey Arrillaga: How did you all start to move through that?

Erika Unberhagen: We didn’t. That marriage did not survive. I can look back on it now and I absolutely understand that he finally had to make the decision that was best for him, was best for the children. I was not stable at that time. He did try to help me the best way that he could but he had no resources. He had no help. I wasn’t seeking help. I was actually still saying I didn’t need help. I could handle this. I’ll just handle this on my own. I was a big dog. I planned on staying on that porch. I did that to the detriment of that marriage. What I can talk about is my marriage today. I have learned that it is important for me to let my husband know how I’m feeling when I come home. If he asks me, “How was your day?” I may tell him it was a great day, but I may also tell him there were some difficulties. We’ve actually sat down and I’ve, for lack of a better word, I’ve coached him just like I talk to family members about how to be there for them, how to be present. He’s wonderful with following what we’ve talked about. He’ll ask me things like, “Would you like some space? Do you need some time?” and sometimes that answer is yes. Because we talked about it, he understands that this is not because I don’t want to spend time with him. It’s because I need to decompress and recenter myself. Then other times, knowing that he’s there, he places his hand on my shoulder, he’s physically present for me, and that’s really all I need to feel comfort and love and support. He will ask me, “Is there anything that I can do? What can I do?” Sometimes I tell him, “Really nothing, just be here for me. I just kind of need to work through some stuff but I’ll be okay [28:34] for 15 minutes just to find my center.” Then other times, we sit down and we talk. It was really sad for me today or I’m feeling angry about something. Just knowing that he’s there is huge and me allowing him and being comfortable enough for him to be there is just as important.

Casey Arrillaga: Beautiful, I want to circle back around to something we were talking about earlier, support groups for family members, finding other people that have been through similar things. I imagine through social media, and I don’t know this, that there’s going to be Facebook groups and things like that, but I’m also going to just put a plug out there for the two big groups that I know of. I’m mentioning both of these because they have different approaches. One of them is the 12-step group that’s Al Anon.

Erika Unberhagen: Yes.

Casey Arrillaga: The other one is SMART Recovery group, SMART Recovery family and friends. Both of those, and by the way, they’re not competitive with each other nor are they contradictory. There are things that you can do both. They both have online presence, phone presence, in-person meetings depending on where you are, SMART Recovery less with the in-person meetings, Al Anon more so, but a lot of great resources there.

Erika Unberhagen: I’m going to circle back as well. We were actually talking earlier about the family members can literally become addicted to the loved one. What’s beautiful about SMART Recovery for family members and Al Anon, which is for family members, is to help them recognize maybe these maladaptive behaviors that are taking place as a result of their loved one’s mental health struggles, it provides them with instant community, fellowship if you want to use that word, community if you prefer that word, but it gives the family members an opportunity to go to a place and talk about the things that they’re dealing with at home. There is a former processing that takes place by being able to openly share, but you’re also in a position where you can ask question. For people that either are going through this experience with you or have been through this experience in the past, what are the things that worked for you? My husband or my wife, they are shutting down or they are blowing up when they get home. How do you manage that today? How did you manage that? They get feedback from other people that have been or are still in similar circumstances. Just like it’s critical for an individual that has been in treatment or mental health issues or addiction particularly that they continue to have that support through other SMART Recovery or 12-step program [31:04] recovery, something along those lines, AA, NA, it’s just as critical for the family members to have that support as well. The beautiful thing when the entire family is involved in this extended support fellowship is it literally creates space for the family to heal and really grow together as they are on the recovery journey together. It’s not I’m over here and I’m over here. You can actually grow through recovery at the same time while getting your independent needs met.

Casey Arrillaga: That is an amazing thing. I will say to people who are working on the recovery on a growth path together, amazing things can happen. You can still show up in these groups even if your loved one is not seeking recovery, whether you are someone who’s recovering from addiction yourself, you don’t need your family to go through the groups. In the same way, if you’re a family member of someone with an addiction, you don’t need them to be in recovery for you to go to these groups, whether you’re the parent, the spouse, the child, the friend, the boyfriend, the girlfriend, whatever. These resources are available to you. I’m going to take a moment and just throw in a little plug here that one of the things I love at Windmill is that we actually have our alumni come back to these groups. We have, for instance, this morning’s family workshop, I think I counted eight to ten people coming in online or in-person who had been to Windmill themselves or had a loved one be at Windmill. Whether the loved one was still in recovery or not, they could still show up and say, “Hey, here’s what’s going on for me,” and then they can share that experience with the people who are brand new to recovery. Many family members come into the process with no idea that recovery is something they should even apply to themselves.

Erika Unberhagen: Absolutely, so I want to bring up along the lines of what you’re talking about Casey. There is this term that is still relatively new on the scene. It’s posttraumatic growth. Everybody has heard about posttraumatic stress disorder. Even people that have never been around stress in their life, they’ve heard of this thing called PTSD. What people are not talking about as often is this concept of posttraumatic growth. It’s the growth that takes place as a result of the trauma. Now, that’s applicable to the person that experienced trauma firsthand, whether through their military career or as first responder or in childhood or some other traumatic event that may have taken place in adulthood, but it is also applicable to family members. When you’re looking at posttraumatic growth, if you think about it, living with a loved one that is sick is traumatic by very definition. It’s traumatic. It’s chaotic oftentimes. It’s confusing. It’s fear. It’s anger. It’s the walking on eggshells. It’s feeling helpless when you don’t feel like you can help the loved one. There is this trauma that takes place. The beautiful thing about the program that we have here at Windmill for the family members and the program that we have for the family members within the Guardian Initiative is it provides opportunity for posttraumatic growth for the family. What does that look like? What am I talking about? If I go back to my own story, I’m remission from posttraumatic stress disorder. I consider myself very blessed that I have been able to experience this thing called posttraumatic growth. My resilience is better than it has ever been in my life. I didn’t grow up with a lot of positive ways to handle things. I certainly didn’t know how to handle the things that I was dealing with on the job. Through my own recovery efforts, my ability to see things differently, my spiritual growth, I wasn’t even trying to do that. That was a completely unexpected but wonderful and very welcomed side effect. Being able to look at the world with a lens that, really, I’ve never had before because of earlier things that I’ve dealt with from when I was a child plus the things that I experienced on the job, I had a very negative outlook. Today, I can honestly say that I look for the positive in everyone first. That doesn’t mean that I’m going to invite everyone into my house and hang out with them, but what it does mean is rather than looking for the negative qualities because I’m assessing for threat, today I can actually meet somebody for the first time and I’m not looking for how they might cause harm or how dangerous they are. I’m open to new ideas in a way that I never was before. I’m able to love and interact with my husband and my children in ways that I never would have been able to before. I just look at my life, myself, and the world with a lens that I don’t think I would have had it not been for the events that I’ve dealt with and the trauma and the posttraumatic stress disorder. The beautiful thing is family members can experience the same thing. They can discover this new found and even deeper sense of bonding for going through what they’ve been through and working together as a family unit to heal. It often strengthens bonds. It creates this deeper empathy and understanding and sensitivity for the people within that family and creates a desire to want to spend more time together, to actually do things like game night, which is almost unheard of these days. When you’ve gone a period of time where family is either absent or dysfunctional, recognizing healing within that family actually promotes [36:27], you want to spend more time together. That’s one of the beautiful benefits about the healing process.

Casey Arrillaga: Beautiful, we just have a couple of minutes left so concluding thoughts that you want to tell family members or anybody listening to this around the world.

Erika Unberhagen: Please know that you are worthy of healing. You are worthy of being happy. You are worthy of being free from chronically worrying about your family member. You are worthy and deserving of being well and whole. We’re here. That’s why we have the family program that we do at Windmill Wellness Ranch and the Guardian Initiative is to provide that space where family members can come in and talk about what they’ve been experiencing and learn new ways of handling life and to get their lives back under them so they can walk a little taller and maybe a little lighter as well. That’s probably what I want to say in conclusion. You’re worthy of healing. We’re here to help you do exactly that.

Casey Arrillaga: Beautiful, Erika. Thank you so much for coming back on the program and look forward to our next opportunity to talk.

Erika Unberhagen: Thank you, Casey. It’s been a pleasure as always.

Kira Arrillaga: That’s the interview. Learn more about Erika and the Guardian Initiative at windmillwellnessranch.com.

Casey Arrillaga: Thanks for being with us through another episode of Addiction and the Family. As they say in many recovery meetings, take what you liked and leave the rest. Go out and explore the possibilities for recovery in your life and give your loved ones the space and dignity to make their own choices. If you liked this podcast, please subscribe. It means a lot to us. If you know anyone else who could use what we have to offer, please tell them about Addiction and the Family. If you have comments about this podcast, have a question you’d like answered on the show, or want to contribute your voice, or just want to say hi, you can write to us at addictionandthefamily@gmail.com. We’re also happy to be your friend on Facebook and we can be found tweeting on Twitter.

Kira Arrillaga: Addiction and the Family is produced, written, and engineered by Kira and Casey Arrillaga, with music by Casey.