Failure and Success

-2.jpeg

In our relapse prevention group the question of success and failure often arise. Many clients
struggle with the feeling of failure as a consequence of relapse, feeling crippled with shame.

I do not believe in success or failure. I believe in experiences. Some more enjoyable than others, but all of them opportunities to learn and expand as a person. The terms success and failure are a creation of ego and a social barometer of a value of a person and their choices. I moved away from the labels many years ago.

Relapse is not failure. It is a deeply shaming to attach the judgmental term to a disease and the
process of recovery. This belief keeps people from seeking help once relapse has occurred and is a breeding ground for the internal torture that cripples’ addicts from ‘coming back’. Shame is the universal haunting of the addicted mind and the most powerful kindling for the raging fire of self-hatred and regret that follows a relapse episode.

We need to move away from viewing relapse as a failure.

When guided by a trusted professional, relapse can be a turning point in a person recovery.
What is viewed as a failure or a setback can be the greatest lesson in a person’s life which in
turn, can lead to lifelong sobriety. There is no shame in relapse, only an opportunity to learn.
Full Circle is a safe and inviting place, for clients to return for help, guidance and inspiration. If we can can make it as simple and gentle to return to treatment or self-help programs, by dispelling the belief of success and failure, reducing shame, addicted men and women will return and will begin again.

In my 24 years sober I have learned that I can never sit in judgement of another’s path. I believe that my spiritual and professional purpose is to keep the back doors to recovery as wide open as the front. My many years working in the treatment industry, have shown me, that although I may not be able to understand the journey of another, I am in no position to question it but rather help guide through the emotional mine field and help find the life lesson.

Some of the most considered successful people I know, are the least I admire and equally, some
who are considered failures, those who struggle and continue to fight for themselves, are my
greatest teachers. Once I let go of defining my experiences, both professionally and personally,
as successful or failures, life became a playground. A wide-open space to try new things, take risks, to say yes to opportunities that are terrifying and to fall down and get up again. I have said yes to every opportunity that has presented itself along my way, no longer afraid of failure but open to the challenge to face my fears, be brave and learn humility. I take no pride or shame in the outcome of any of my adventures, in life or career.

No longer defined by the terms and labels, I am truly free, to live large and be brave. Since letting go of any attachment to the outcome of my choices, or how others view me, life has become am arena of endless opportunities. I hope to inspire others to say Yes. To be unafraid. Take risks. Be uncomfortable. Be brave. Play, Struggle, stand still and hurt, take chances and through all of life’s experiences, evolve into people who simply, inspire others to live. Relapse is not an end but the beginning of someone new. I will stand my post, without shame or pride, hold the doors of recovery open and keep the fire of hope burning. Come home. We are waiting.

If success and failure, are illusions, what would you do with your one life?

Sober and shameless, Kw

Full Circle's Outpatient Relapse Prevention Program

Full Circle's Outpatient Relapse Prevention Program is an individualized addiction treatment service for men and women in the tenuous early months of recovery from alcohol and drug rehab. Lead by Kristina Wandzilak and Paul Mara, LMFT, a licensed therapist, with a specialty in relapse prevention, the RPP is an alternative to traditional outpatient treatment programs. Focused on the intricate, complicated and challenging issues of early sobriety, the service provides extensive recovery care while building and maintaining active lives. This program is offered in Marin County, just North of San Francisco. RPP is completely customizable, and can align with even the most challenging client schedules.

The Full Circle Relapse Prevention Program Includes

  • One private session weekly with a Full Circle Recovery Care professional.
  • Two educational/process groups weekly-Tuesday and Thursday 630 to 830pm
  • All scheduled and random drug testing. We require a minimum of two drug tests weekly.
  • 24-hour staff support.

The Full Circle Therapeutic Support Group and Drug Testing Service

Full Circle’s therapeutic group program is a monthly service offering education/process groups coupled with twice weekly drug testing and. The TGA is a clinical solution for individuals who have strong continuing care plans and are wanting the added support of a therapeutic group experience. Focused on relapse prevention and facilitated by Kristina Wandzilak, CAS, CIP and Paul Mara, LMFT, the service is a valuable addition to long term treatment plans.

Please call the office directly 415 202 6255 for further questions and admissions.

substance abuse treatment

Do Interventions Really Work?

Working as an interventionist for the last 23 years, I have been a maverick in the field, swimming against the current “surprise model” so much the center of many reality shows and the media. I don’t believe in subjecting unsuspecting addicts to surprise attacks. All my research, studies and practice have continually reinforced the belief that addiction is a family disorder. We need to move from the idea that we’re treating addicts as flawed individuals to an approach that recognizes that addiction is a family disease.

I specialize in an open and inclusive model of intervention. Where, with coaching, the addicted person does become aware of the intervention. The message being that we as a family are ready for change, and we would like you to join us, but with or without you, we are moving forward.

My main problem with the surprise method is that the process is entirely addict-focused, with the whole family’s health hanging on its most dysfunctional member. I do not want the success of my interventions--and the health of my clients--to be contingent on the choices of the most impaired person. There was a time in my career that I considered getting a person into treatment a great success but I’ve learned over the years that this is actually the easiest part of my job. The real challenge is working with the families. There can be one person drinking and many people affected by addiction. Why create an intervention for just one person when the whole family is hurting and needing help? I consider it a successful intervention when I have a family who is looking at their caretaking and enabling behaviors and at their own relationships with the addict and asking themselves, “How did we get here?” “What is my part in this?” “What can I change in me that will benefit my life and my family?”

Families and partners play a major role in the progression of every addiction. Behind every addict is a codependent, and the main thrust of my job is to collapse the codependent inter-family structures that allow addiction to progress. Often driven by misguided love and loyalty the codependency will cripple the addict and splinter the family. Trying to control and contain addiction will result in many lost and unhappy years. Families don’t have to wait for their addicted relatives to decide to change their lives. They have power to influence the lives and decisions of their loved one. Families can create an atmosphere of curiosity by changing their behaviors and reactions to the addiction. Families are engaged in a sophisticated and deadly dance but when family members decide to change the ways they interact with troubled members, addicts will shift their behavior in return.


I’ve come to understand that underneath the massive weight of addiction is a lost, hurting, terrified, good and decent person. The skill of a great interventionist is to be able to access that person quickly and effectively. I don’t think that surprising a person with their closest friends and family is the way to begin a trusting relationship. It is my job not just to get addicts help but also to inspire change and it’s my calling to ignite the small flicker of light that is buried deep within every addict. And I begin this connection by being honest, up front and respectful.

With the invitational process, 95 percent of the time, the addicted person will join the intervention day but in cases where they don't, the intervention continues as it is as much for the family as the addict. Families do not have to suffer with addiction; they can heal, with or without, their loved one. We look at addiction, codependency and enabling and caretaking behaviors. If the addict agrees to treatment, he or she leaves as soon as possible. If help isn't accepted, we talk about how the relationships in the family will have to change. Either way, treatment recommendations are made for each member of the family.

"Aftervention" – a copy righted concept -- is when we come back together, once the addicted person and the family have completed their treatment plans. We look at how far they have come as individuals therefore creating a healthier family system that is in recovery. Aftervention is a beautiful time of reflection and commitment moving forward.

While working as an interventionist is not always easy but it is fulfilling and I consider a great privilege to have spent half my life helping addicts and families. I am fueled and driven in this endeavor by my hard-earned personal experience with addiction, education and my great passion for addicts and their families. Recovery is possible and families do heal, change and grow.

I meet people and their most broken, create a connection and help illuminate the way out. I have a front seat to watching the most extra ordinary stories of redemption. I am humbled and forever grateful for this career that has taken me on great adventures and to the door steps of some of the most exceptional families. Like the faint smell of a beautiful perfume that lingers in the room, long after the person is gone, so it is with every family I have ever worked with. I carry on my heart a piece of every intervention: I am changed. I am stronger and I am wiser for this work. I thank every family that has trusted me enough to open your door and lives to me, you are my greatest teachers and I am better for having met you.


Sober and shameless, Kw

The Gunshot

thumbnail.jpeg

I was at a neighborhood BBQ with our children. While the hamburgers were grilling, John was loading the gun. As my son opened his soda, John was laying himself on the bed. As my daughter ate her ice cream, John texted’ I love you’ to each of us. And as the band began to play, he put the gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Like an earthquake, powerful enough to roll concrete, the gunshot echoed through the hot sticky air, and fell onto us, deep within, where the heart beats, and breaks, and aches, changing our lives, forever.

Through the exit wound of his beautiful head, splattered not only a 6’4 man with electric blue eyes and a smile that would light up a room, but the annihilation of my life and the lives of our two children obliterated in a split second. The coroner said John felt no pain. The pain he did not feel, was sprayed all over me and our children. Everything I knew about myself and my life, my children and family, my marriage, the future, the past, were vaporized instantly. With the pull of a trigger, my world was blackened never again to be the same.

John was liquid in my hands. I tried to hold onto him but he slipped through my fingers. I tried to pull him back from the blackness that was taking over his life. Right in front of my eyes, his light dimmed until finally he looked dark and hallow. At times, I could have sworn I could see straight through him.

The children slept in my room on my floor for months after Johns death. I would listen to them breathe in and out and wonder how I would I ever make sense of this. Once they were asleep I would sneak out of the room and would sit straight up on the couch in silence staring at the family photos that hung on the wall. Each picture documenting a picture-perfect time in our family’s life and they were mounted perfectly in frames, like a fucking pottery barn catalog. I would rock back and forth begging for daylight. The nights were a thousand hours long. The silence of the house was screaming at me and I could not escape the looping memories of John that raced across my mind. Like a movie stuck on play… over and over again.

In the light of day, I could not escape the truth of my life. I would be standing in line for a bagel and a kind friend, or colleague or another school family would offer their condolences and I would fell as if I was drowning, standing still, in the middle of the shop. My feet going numb as the blood began to run cold, creeping up my body, freezing my torso, squeezing the air from my lungs, and finally immersing my whole body in grief. Breathless, fighting for air, no one able to help me as I drown in plain sight.

I picked up Johns ashes from the morgue. He was in a cardboard box placed in a large paper bag, that was very heavy. And, as if I was leaving Safeway with groceries, I walked down the steps of the funeral home, with the father of my children in a shopping bag. In that card board box not only held the body and bones of a 6 foot 4 man, but the ashes of 12 years of marriage, two children, two dogs, years of laughter, love, struggles and a short lifetime of together. It was stunning how a whole life could fit in a small box in a large shopping bag.

The road from despair and anger to healing, at times, felt impossible and unbearable. In the beginning, I wanted to die and I burned with anger that I had to live a life I never asked for. I stood on the barren landscape of my life, and as far as my eyes could see there was no hope or light on the horizon. With my two children at my side, looking to me for direction and reassurance, I felt incompetent to guide and heal them. It was like they were burning alive, engulfed in the raging fire sparked by the back fire of his hand gun and I could nothing but watch in horror.

My choice became clear. I had to exist of expand. I chose expansion. With John’s blood dripping from my hands, I had to figure out a way to collect my children in my shaking arms and move forward. Inch by inch.

I was thrown into the journey of grief, even though I did not choose to embark on this path. I have come to learn that grief is not a feeling but a state of being, ever changing. It is a new universe in which I find myself living. The journey has been encased in despair and the darkest sadness, I have ever known. The kind that buckles me at the knees and paralyzes my body, helplessly lying motionless on the floor. I have learned how to get up, for the children, even though everything ounce of me wanted to disappear. I have felt a helplessness that has left me breathless; sitting by my sweet children hearing their agony, as they nearly spilt in two, with a pain no child should ever feel. I have learned that the grief journey also includes a joy and sweetness to life that is only offered to those who have faced the wrath of tragedy and healed.

We have figured out how to be three instead of four. I have learned to accept Johns death even though I don’t agree with it. I have found my husband dead, the most beautiful parts of him, his humor, kindness, loyalty and his dedication to his family and the complete and perfect love for his children, splattered against a wall. Digging desperately through the ashes of his suicide I have come to discover a wisdom blessed upon us, that allows us to be more sensitive, insightful and better armed to face the world and all of its bittersweet wonders.

As for me, I remember him and smile. Sometimes I still long to hear his voice. I long to sit with him and simply talk about the children. I have never known a pain so big and vast it actually steals my breath making it hard to stand. Only held up by the love of family and friends, have I emerged through the dark, still standing. I have come to accept and love this life and his choice to go home, far sooner than I ever imagined.

I realize that John never belonged to me, or even our children. He was always in the care of something far greater than us. His journey, although brief, was meaningful and his impact on the world, timeless, as our children are a living testament to his life’s purpose. I know he is still with us; watching, loving and guiding. Sometimes, in the middle of the night, when the house is still, If I close my eyes and listen hard, I can hear his voice, bringing tears to my eyes and a tender smile across my lips.

Introducing Paul Mara, LMFT, Relapse Prevention Therapist

number1.jpeg

Paul Mara has a Master’s Degree in Clinical Psychology and is a Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist in California (MFC48003) since 2008. Paul brings strong therapeutic leadership to the Full Circle team and offers compassionate and directive care to our relapse prevention clients. His primary areas of training and practice are focused in diagnosis, education, treatment planning and treatment of substance abuse disorders, dual diagnosis disorders, relapse prevention and family therapy. He has worked in a variety of private and non-profit inpatient and outpatient treatment settings. With years of experience, Paul is committed to guiding Full Circle clients through the difficult early months of sobriety, as they live their way into long term recovery.

Exposing and Embracing Addiction:  How to Overcome Secrecy and Shame and Live with Freedom and Self-Love

b3.jpeg

I have had the privilege of being interviewed for an online speaker’s series with 20 other respected leaders in the addiction field on the subject of shame and addiction. It is no cost to anyone who would like to join and listen to the interviews.


Learn how to heal shame, when you join me and 20 experts in the field of addiction and recovery beginning February 26, 2018, for “Exposing and Embracing Addiction” a complimentary interview series hosted by my friend Beth Osmer—recovering addict and alcoholic, hypnotherapist, and Shamanic practitioner.


Shame is the universal haunting of the addicted mind. Beginning with a core belief that we are deeply flawed and imperfect.  Shame is the most unbearable of all human emotions and I have watched people drink themselves to death in a desperate attempt to escape the suffering of shame. Finding the feeling nearly impossible to bear, it propels addicts and alcoholics to drink and use in order medicate the burning self-hatred deep within. The drinking and using will create consequences, which only proves our deepest fear, that we are unworthy, and in turn creates more shame. It is a regenerating cycle and will lead to a very dark and hopeless state of being. The shame spiral can be a lifelong and progressive cycle.


I believe that alcoholics and addicts die of shame and secrets and healing the shame is the most effective treatment and medicine for the disease of addiction.


We are not born with shame. It is accumulated through a life time. The process of healing and recovery is not a journey toward something or somewhere but a return back to the beginning where we are shameless and free. Once we heal those deep wounds, life becomes a playground, where the possibilities are endless. We can love, laugh, play, fail and face life, head up and chest forward, without defining ourselves by the sand castles we build. In a shameless life, there are no successes or failures, only experiences, where we learn, grow and change.


If you no longer had to define yourself by the shame that haunts you, how would you author the rest of your life? Who would you be? What would you do? And how would you live this one life we have been granted?


Please join me and reserve your spot at no cost: https://goo.gl/TcsCSW

When you go to the link above and join us for this powerful series of conversations with addiction experts, you’ll get practical advice, tools, and strategies to stop healing shame.
Specifically, you'll learn:

  • How to have compassion for yourself.
  • How a person may unintentionally perpetuate the “Secrecy and Shame Spiral”.
  • How addiction and self-love are intimately connected, and strategies for working on.
  • How you feel about yourself.
  • How to find the courage to reach out for help.
  • A variety of specific strategies and tools for recovery, ranging from the Law of Attraction to the 12-Step Process to mindfulness practices, hypnotherapy, etc., so you can utilize the ones that most resonate with you.

Join me for “Exposing and Embracing,” starting February 26, 2018. https://goo.gl/TcsCSW


Sober and Shameless,
Kristina Wandzilak

"Intervention" A Misunderstood Process

-2.jpg

I have spent the last 22 years practicing intervention all over the world and have met some of the most extra-ordinary families. The love and acceptance, I am greeted with on the door steps of strangers, continues to humble me, decades later. Connected by addiction and the fierce fight for the ones they most, we partner together and go to war against the disease. I have witnessed the greatest acts of blind faith by the families who have trusted me enough to open their homes and lives. Holding their breath, standing on the edge of their greatest fears, they offer their loved ones into my care. Even after all these years, it is a reasonability I accept with the greatest sense of humility. Having worked with hundreds of families and thousands of addicts, when asked about their most painful consequence of addiction, the most common answer is the effect on their family. The deepest regrets and shame of addiction can be traced directly back to the loss of family and the distant memories of laughter, home and love. Addiction is a disease propelled by shame and secrets, and is a breeding ground for the most unbearable feelings. As families gather, sitting around dining tables, bittersweet feelings and brutal realities and the truth of family addiction becomes undeniable.


Intervention is a misunderstood process. The word will often conjure up frightening feelings, resulting in families postponing the call for help. Trying desperately to control and contain the disease, families suffer from many lost and unhappy years. Crippled with feelings of helplessness, despair, self-doubt, fear and misguided loyalty, families will delay asking for help. Sometimes, waiting too long. Addiction is a fatal disease and it takes countless of lives every day. Some of the brightest and most sensitive people, I have ever known, are extinguished from the planet, far too soon.


Intervention is a highly respectful, honest, and often the greatest gift of love, a family can offer. I know this, that deep inside, hidden in the soft under belly of addicts, there is a primal desire to survive and live. The act of intervention is accessing the piece, of the person, that wants help: the part that remembers the authentic self and where the flame of hope flickers. I know that addicts do want recovery, but are lost in the darkness of the disease and need the way out to be illuminated. Desperate for guidance and connection, the addicted will follow when lead by a caring, knowledgeable, safe professional.


Recovery begins when the path to safety is shining brightly and the doors of safe refuge are held wide open. Full Circle Intervention will guide your family home.

 

Sober and shameless, Kw

Good Morning America

-1.jpg

My mom and I have been invited to New York by Good Morning America to do a live-in studio interview this Thursday February 8.

We will be interviewed about our experience as an addicted family, family recovery and our
book The Lost Years: Surviving a mother and daughter’s worst nightmare. It continues to
humble me that our book and story has touched so many lives. 25 years ago, my mom, after trying everything to save me, finally made the decision to let me go. I’ll never forget the day, I showed up at her door, after once again, disappearing through the window in my bedroom, not to be heard from for weeks, saying “you are no longer allowed in my home or life until you are living a life of recovery and if I never see you alive again, I want you to know how much I love you” And she closed the door.

I wish I could say I got sober that day but it wasn’t until 3 long years later, beaten, hungry and cold, laying on the floor of a homeless shelter, that I became motivated to change. Our healing took years and writing our book was a cathartic experience and healed deep wounds in both of us. I have had the great privilege of traveling the country with my mom sharing our story to countless of families who are inspired by her strength and recovery. I stand next to her on stages, large and small, and bare-witness to the power of her words as they fall upon the beautiful nameless faces that have come to hear her speak.

I believe, it is not the adversities that come our way that define us, but what we choose to do
with that adversity. Although, I cannot say I am happy that addiction infected my family, I can
say, I am very proud of what we have chosen to do with it and how we use our experience to
benefit others.

Thursday morning, in front of 8 million viewers, we will share our experience, healing and hope. One of the greatest gifts of my recovery is being next to my mom as she talks about her recovery and inspires countless of families, to love enough, to let go. My mom is the hero of my story and I am very proud to be her daughter


Sober and shameless, Kw
.

 

Greg Loiacono and The Mother Hips

In Full Circle's continued effort to offer many different aspects of recovery, we had the great pleasure of hosting Greg Loiacono of The Mother Hips for a music therapy group. Greg is in long term recovery from addiction, a certified addictions counselor, and has traveled the world clean and sober sharing his music and inspiration to countless of fans and followers. As the founder of FC and a women with over 23 years sober, I have come to learn that there are many paths to enlightenment. Sobriety ultimately, is a journey of recovering the best pieces of ourselves and a returning home to the heart and living a truly authentic life. Music is a universal language and thread the binds every culture on every continent. I was moved to tears, watching Greg and our clients play music together, laughing, crying and absorbing the invigorating vibrations of music. I extend my deep gratitude for Greg's wisdom and experience, both in recovery and as a man who has spent his life inspiring a whole generation of people, through recovery and music. Sober and Shameless, Kw

A New Year and A New Website

Happy New Year 

2016 has come to a close and 2017 is upon us. With new resolutions and hopes for a bright year, we begin to walk forward into the visions created for ourselves. I continue to look forward to guiding and walking beside all the Full Circle clients and guests, as dreams become the new reality. Sobriety is a bittersweet journey of recovering all that was lost to the murderous disease of addiction and it is the greatest privilege to bare witness to the deep and profound changes that happen in early recovery. Thank you for trusting Full Circle to spark the light of clarity and ilumminate the way home. 

With the new year, Full Circle Addiction and Recovery Services has a new website. Please visit our site and call the office with any questions about our services. http://www.fullcirclerecoverycenter.net

The Full Circle Team wishes you a happy and blessed new year. 

Sober and Shameless,

Kristina Wandzilak, CAS, CIP

Founder and President