Live Well: New book by Colorado Springs author addresses caring for those with addiction, mental health issues | Health

A decade ago, after years of teaching her clients tools and techniques about courage and resetting their lives, Pamela Brinker found herself having to put those same ideas into practice.

In 2011, after the death of her second husband to cancer, her two sons turned to drugs and alcohol to cope, unknown to her. They landed in a scary and tumultuous pit of addiction and mental health challenges from which they’re still working to heal.

Overwhelmed with grief after her husband’s death and finding out her sons were struggling, Brinker, a Colorado Springs psychotherapist and licensed clinical social worker, felt sunk with no way out. But then, she remembered something from author Cheryl Strayed’s 2012 New York Times bestselling book of advice columns, “Tiny Beautiful Things.”

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“She said we parents don’t have the luxury of despair,” Brinker said. “That brought me out of the abyss of shock and devastation, and helped me see I’ve got to use the tools and practices I’ve taught clients for years and make this work.”

Brinker’s new book, “Conscious Bravery: Caring for Someone with Addiction,” will be available for pre-order May 18 with a one-day, 99-cent sale for the Kindle version. The paperback will be released at the end of May. Go online to amazon.com or bebrave.us.

In it, she tells the story of her sons’ struggles, while weaving in her own emotions and how she learned to walk alongside her children through the wilderness of their addictions, and how others can do the same.

“They didn’t ask for what they’ve been given,” Brinker said. “Drugs and alcohol were the solution to their pain. Nobody wants to become an addict or a drug dealer. I started having greater compassion for them and saw our family as a system and said ‘we’ve got to do this together.’”

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She defines conscious bravery simply — as the ability to do whatever is needed in any given moment, whether it arrives as tiny challenges or as much larger, more stressful situations.

Conscious bravery is achieved by developing resilience via the self-care practices she describes in the book. They’re the same techniques she honed over the last decade when dealing with late-night and early-morning calls from her sons in crisis or from jail, calls from hospitals or treatment centers and unexpected visits from police or paramedics, including the first responders who knocked on her bedroom door in the middle of the night when her youngest son called 911 on himself because he was afraid of what he might do.

“I love how she tells her stories, sharing her personal experience, then gives us a very practical methodology and how to use what she’s describing. The best part is being able to take this and put it back into my life in a functional way,” said Kevin Petersen, a licensed marriage and family therapist and founder of the Chronic Hope Institute.

Brinker wants to help people develop their own tool kit before someone closes to them is in distress. Chapters detail self-care methods such as befriending and allowing feelings, becoming comfortable with discomfort, conscious breath, whole-being awareness and surrendering to what is.

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“We practice in the calm moments and when we’re in the trenches,” she said. “That’s how we train in bravery. We practice when it’s easier, so we can have these skills when we need them.”

The book is intended not only for those who have immediate family members, friends or significant others facing mental health challenges or substance dependency — it’s for all of us.

“Who doesn’t know someone with ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) or bipolar or depression?” Brinker said. “Those kinds of people are more inclined to turn to drugs and alcohol.”

Contact the writer: 636-0270

Contact the writer: 636-0270

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