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Nearly six years ago, my brother stumbled on to a busy road while he was “black out” drunk.  A car traveling around 40 mph hit him head on.

My phone rang late that night.  It was my sister telling me about the accident.  My brother had been life-flighted.  She was on her way to the hospital.

My first response:  “Well sh*t.  Do I pray for him to live or to die?”

My second response:  “Call me when you get there if I need to come.”  This wasn’t our first “Burk is in the hospital” call or even his first time on life-flight.

From the outside it doesn’t make sense for me to not immediately jump in the car and head to be with him.  But that’s the world of addiction.  Near death too many times to count.  Him forgetting it ever happened and continuing to do the same things that consistently and repeatedly landed him in the back of an ambulance, in an ER, or several times in the ICU.

There’s this word thrown around all.the.time when referencing the world of addiction.

Enable.

The definition:  to give someone the authority or means to do something.

When it’s tossed around in the world of addiction someone will say “You’re enabling them” or “You can’t enable them” and on and on.  The essence–if you help them, in any way, you’re helping them sustain their addiction.  You’re allowing them the means to continue drinking or continue using drugs or continue whatever addiction it is they have.

I remember the first time I heard Dr. Phil lecture someone about being an enabler and I wanted to throat punch him.  My question for Dr. Phil and anyone else who tosses that word around:

If your son (brother, daughter, sister, wife, dad, mom) showed up on your doorstep in a hospital gown, identifying name bracelets still on, traction blue socks from the hospital and no shoes, and not another possession to their name because someone stole their one remaining backpack of worldly goods while they were passed out, what would you do?

Would you turn them away?  Would you close the door on them?  Would you refuse to answer at all?  Would you pretend to not be home?  Would you cry?  Would you yell?  Would you be numb–to tired and weary to care in that moment? Would your heart ache or would you be filled with anger?

What would you do?

It’s a sincere question.

And the truth is, there’s no right answer.

When you’re in the thick of the addiction world, it often feels like there’s no right answer.  You’re damned if you do.  You’re damned if you don’t.

Over the years and years (and years) of dealing with my brothers addiction we ran the gamut of “solutions”.  Volunteer rehab, forced rehab, pineapple picking in Hawaii, hard labor fishing crew in Alaska, rehab in the mountains, rehab in the city, jail, compassion, anger, tough-love, coercion, good-cop, bad-cop, guilt, limited contact, open contact.

We.tried.it.all.

And guess what–nothing worked.  Nothing.  He never “got better”.  He never stopped (for any significant period of time).

He just got worse.

You know another phrase that makes me cringe–“they have to hit rock bottom before they get better.”

You know what I think my brothers rock bottom is?  Death.  Truly.  I think he would die before hitting rock bottom and “recovering”.  So when someone says “You can’t enable him”, are my choices help him or let him die?  Or maybe somewhere in between?  Help enough to keep him alive but only that?  If I truly believe death is his rock bottom, then what?

We were in the middle of a “tough love” phase when my brother was hit by the car.  Our family went through varying degrees of willingness and ability to “help” (in quotations because was it helping or hurting–no one can even answer that).

Some addicts disappear and go do their thing.  That was not our case.  You know the song “the cat came back, we thought he was a goner.  But the cat came back; it just couldn’t stay away.”  That was my brother.  He stayed close.  He always came back.  He continued showing up on our doorstep, calling our phone up to 50 times a day, sleeping in our yards.  He knew we’d never be able to completely cut him loose and forget about him.

He’s family.  And family takes care of each other.  But that’s the question.  If we keep rescuing and aiding, is it actually helping?

My brother showed up at my parents house the day he was hit by the car.  He was drunk.  And there were boundaries we were trying to keep (how easily those boundaries often blurred and became muddy–unclear).  No using at their house.  You can’t come in if you’re drunk or using.

So we took him to a nearby area with a sleeping bag so he could sleep it off.  Sounds awful, right?  Dumping my brother in a field so he could sleep off his drunken stupor.  We could have let him in.  We could have made sure he was safe.  But there were “rules”.  We can’t enable.  That’s what the experts say. That’s often what we believed.  And sometimes I still believe.  Addiction is a whole lot of gray and not a lot of black and white.

Late that night, he got up.  He certainly had no idea where he was.  He walked.  And he ended up on the side of a busy road.  And then he walked IN to the road.  The car didn’t even have a chance to hit their brakes.

Somehow he lived (he’s got more lives than a cat).  One shattered leg, the other broken.  A broken shoulder, bruises everywhere, swollen abdomen (it was huge) and a bleed in his brain–traumatic brain injury.  No one expected him to live.  People don’t survive things like that.  But he did.

The next few months were a living hell.  For him.  For my parents.  For all of us.

What if we hadn’t dropped him in that gully?  What if we had let him in even though he was clearly violating the rules?  How would that have changed things?

We were trying not to enable.  That backfired big time.  Sometimes death isn’t always worst-case-scenario.

But had we let him in, who knows what would have happened the next day?  We knew we couldn’t keep doing what we were doing and watching him destroy himself.  His life was in shambles.  And he was making my parents life a living hell.

The point–there are no right or wrong answers.  Is it enabling or is it just trying to keep them alive while we feverishly cling to hope?  Hope for healing.  Hope for life.

For some, tough-love is the way.  For some, compassion.  For some, turning them away is the only solution.  For some, letting them in is the only solution.

No right.  No wrong.  Just.plain.HARD.  Either way.  No easy decisions.  And very rarely decisions that are confirmed as good ones or right ones.  Always doubting.  Always wondering.  Always second-guessing nearly every single decision.

I have no answers, but I have all the compassion in the world.

And if I decide to let my brother in when he shows up on my doorstep in a hospital gown and someone calls me an enabler, so be it.  He’s my brother.  And though I didn’t let him sleep at the house (I’ve got kids and using drugs around my kids is not a decision I ever question), I fed him, I found him clothes, I rounded up a new backpack, I found shoes and then I drove him to the homeless shelter.  Because there was no hand-book to handle that situation.  There was no right.  There was no wrong.

If you’ve never had to deal with addiction with a loved one, consider yourself incredibly lucky and withhold judgment.  If you’re an addict, be kind to yourself. If you love an addict, do the best you know how and hang in there.  Although it often seems bleak, there is always hope.  Always.

  • Debi

    I love this post! I love you and your beautiful parents! The questions still pop up in my mind what could’ve should’ve would’ve we done to save him?
    Thank you for speaking mg the truth and for being so honest and open! It feels like an epidemic to me.. drug addiction. Maybe I’m just more aware since Dustin’s death… my heart will never judge another’s choices regarding their family members battles! It’s a freaking nightmare… the end!
    Love youReplyCancel

  • Sarah jane

    Thanks for sharing this Lindsay.ReplyCancel

  • Stacey Stephens

    Thanks for writing this. My brother is also a drug addict/alcoholic. It has been SO hard like you described. We have definitely struggled with the word “enable.” I truly don’t think people understand how hard it is when the “addict” is someone you love. My brother has 2 beautiful kids and I always have hope that things may one day turn around. Thanks again for the honest post.

    Stacey (from your photo class😊)ReplyCancel

  • Dave

    Thanks for helping me see what I’ve put my family through. They went through hell. And yet I’m still alive because they never gave up. I sort of have my shit together now, meaning instead of heroin or pain pills I take Subutex every day to manage my opiate addiction. I’m able to function and live normally for the first time in years. I don’t go in and out of the E.R. because I can’t control myself, I don’t pass out and drown in my own vomit (thank God mom walked in and called 911. Anyway thanks for your honesty. This is mine.ReplyCancel

I’ve been trying more lately to take more photos with my “good” camera (my dSLR).  I’m sure you’re familiar with the phrase “the best camera is the one in your pocket” and while I appreciate the sentiment and understand what it means, I’ll always argue the best camera is the BEST camera.

I let myself slip in to the habit of only using my phone camera.  Don’t get me wrong.  I love love love my phone camera.  And as far as phone cameras go, it’s a really good camera.  But.  It’s not better than my dSLR.  And I dare say it will never take better quality photos than my dSLR (at least not in the near future).

So I’m consciously picking up the high-quality camera more and consciously photographing our Every day lives more.  Because it matters to me.  And it is 100% worth the effort.  I’ll never regret taking 2 extra minutes to get the good camera out.

As a tip, I leave my camera out on my desk.  My kids know not to touch it and surprisingly it’s one of the few things they actually obey.

My challenge to you. If you have a dSLR, dust it off and get it out.  Put it on your counter or somewhere you’ll see it often.  And make a little extra effort to document the every day lives of your family using not just your phone, but your nice camera sometimes.  I am positive you won’t regret it.

And now for some snow pics.  Because it’s January.  And it’s cold.  And it’s snowing in Utah more than it has in years past.  If it has to be cold, it might as well be snowing!

I took all of these with my Canon 5D Mark II with a 70-200mm lens.  And I took them from my door because it’s cold outside and I don’t do cold very well.  Total cold baby.

Wishing you knew how to use your dSLR a little better??  THIS is where you can learn and a perfect place to go if you want to take better photos with your dSLR AND your phone camera.

So December flew by.  Ridiculously fast.  And suddenly as if without warning January is here.  Oh, dreaded January.  I won’t even sugar-coat it.  I really hate this month.  Doesn’t seem to matter what I do, it’s just not a month I care for.

Here in Utah it is frio.  That’s Spanish for insanely cold.  I think it’s like 2 degrees outside right now.

On to the point of this post.  I inadvertently really stepped up my reading game in 2016.  I read.  A lot (for me anyway).  It wasn’t really anything intentional–no goals on how many books I was going to read.  I just really needed to read.  So I did.

Thought I’d share some of those books with all of you.

This image has the screen covers of all the books (the ones I could remember–I think I got them all) that I read this year.

good books to read

Fifty-two books.  It’s almost like I planned it.  But I really didn’t.  Just ended up working out to be a book a week.  Some I read in a few days.  Some took me several weeks.  Chasing the Scream was a hard book for me to get through, but I’m so glad I stuck with it.  It’s a book about the war on drugs and it definitely has me pensive about the drug war and it’s ineffectiveness.  If someone you love suffers from a drug or alcohol addiction, I highly recommend that book.  It’s controversial but he has some good, valid points.  Food for thought.

I don’t know if I’m alone in this, but I’m sometimes reading up to 5 or 6 different books at a time.  Just depends on my mood to decide which one I’ll read on which day.  Does anyone else do that?

In 2015 I read a TON of business type books (and really liked the book Will it Fly this year).  This past year I laid off the business books and did more easy pleasure reading.  I’m drawn to memoirs, historical fiction, or anything based on “truth” (that’s in quotations cause we all know memoirs are based on memory–not necessarily truth–but they’re still really, really good).  I also read a few more novels this year than I usually do.

I like almost all of these books.  A lot of really really good ones.

There were just a few I wouldn’t recommend to a friend (Room being one of them–I really did NOT like that book).  And I didn’t include any books I quit reading (there were probably 5 or 6 of those).  I’ll give a book about 100 pages and if I’m not in to it, I’ll quit.  I’m fine being a book quitter.

Some of my favorites in no particular order.

  1. Shoe Dog.  This is a memoir by the creator of Nike.  I didn’t know any backstory to Nike so I was completely fascinated by this book.  Seriously SO good.  I was already a fan of Nike–I’m an even bigger fan now.  It’s amazing it has become the company it has become.
  2. The Sound of Gravel.  One of very few books in my life that I honestly couldn’t put down.  I read this in one day (which is crazy fast for me–I’m not a fast reader).  This is a memoir of a woman who was born in to a polygamist family.  It’s crazy!  And riveting.
  3. The Orphan Keeper and A long way home (now made into a movie called Lion) are both eerily similar and both super interesting.  One is a novel (based on a true story) and one is a memoir.  Both are about young boys who have a family but end up in orphanages and get adopted in another country.  Then as adults they track down their families in India.
  4. A Man Called Ove.  I actually bought this book a few years ago and tried a few different times to read it and couldn’t get in to it.  Sometimes I think it’s just timing.  I tried again this year and ended up LOVING this book.  Love love love.
  5. For the Love.  I’ll read ANYthing Jen Hatmaker writes.  She’s easily one of my favorite authors.  I really wish she was my neighbor.  We’d get along.
  6. The Magnolia Story.  I’d never heard of Chip and JoAnna Gaines or their show Fixer Upper when I started reading this.  I loved their story, their personalities and now I’m a huge fan!

Those would probably be the books I’d recommend first.  But there were SO many good ones this year!

Right now I’m reading “My Grandmother asked me to tell you she’s sorry” and “QB: My life behind the spiral” (Steve Young’s memoir) as well as “Dot com secrets”.

What good books did YOU read this year (or any year for that matter)?  I’m always looking for good books.

If you want some more book recommendations, check out these thirteen books that inspire better, more meaningful living.    Or you can read more book related posts in the Worth Reading section.  I also post about books I read on Instagram.

Here’s a question I get asked a lot–What online backup company should I use?

We’re going to get to that in just a second.  But first, if you haven’t read the post “7 mistakes you’re making managing your photos (and how to fix them)” I highly recommend you go read that first!

 

{Stick with this post to the end and you can get a free month of backup service for your computer}

On to the question.  The reason this gets tricky is because every single persons situation is unique.  We all manage our photos a little differently just like we all clean our house a little differently or have different systems for doing laundry or meal plan (or don’t meal plan–why is that so hard?) and cook dinner differently.

But.  There are some questions we can ask ourselves and a list of things to look for to help us make the decision of what online company to choose to backup our computers and photos.  A pretty important decision if you ask me.  My memory is so bad that if I lost all my pictures, it’s basically like I never existed.  I remember nothing.  Which is why taking photos and printing photos are so so so important to me.

My first question:  If you got on your computer one day and realized ALL your photos were missing, how much would you pay to get them back?

I’m just guessing your answer is “a lot”.  You’d probably pay a LOT of money to get all those photos back.  Now keep this in mind when deciding what online backup system works for you.  Instead of having to pay a lot of money to try and retrieve lost photos (I payed over $1000 once to recover photos from an external hard drive I didn’t have properly backed up), paying a small monthly fee won’t seem so bad.

Also keep in mind that even if we’re willing to pay a lot of money to try and recover photos, those photos won’t always be recoverable.  I think we sometimes have a false sense of security hearing the stories of people whose photos were recovered.  For each of those, there’s a story of someone who lost years and years of photos and memories. It’s far better to get them backed up in a reliable way than hope that some smart tech person can recover them for us for a pretty hefty fee.

Here are some things to look for when deciding what online company to use:

  • How much is the monthly fee
  • Is it unlimited
  • Is there a file size limit
  • Are images compressed at all (quality reduced)
  • Can you also back up external hard drives or just main computer hard drive
  • How is their customer service
  • What’s their reputation for recovering lost data

I did a lot of research and reading and comparing and debating (and more debating and more research and more comparing) when I was trying to decide what company to go with and it can be overwhelming to say the least.  I know a lot of people get so overwhelmed they end up not choosing anything.  Please, please, please don’t do this.

For me, I wanted something affordable, unlimited, no compression on my photos (you never know when I may need to print one of those babies billboard size), no file size limit, and external hard drives had to be included (I have several external hard drives I need backed up as well).

I also wanted somewhere that I knew someone who had actually used the system to recover something.  It’s one thing for a company to say they’re properly backing up your computer.  The proof comes when you actually have to utilize it and recover something.

There are several really good companies that would meet all these requirements.  In the end, I chose Backblaze (I’ll tell you exactly why below).  I have several photographer friends who were already using Backblaze and two of them had used the recovery program to retrieve lost files.  That was important to me.  Knowing they’d actually recover the data should it be lost (my luck of hard drive failure is ridiculous).

Backblaze features include:

  • $5 a month (so so so worth it)
  • unlimited file storage
  • no compression of your data (quality not compromised)
  • includes any hard drives you want backed up (note you have to plug them in at least every 30 days and go on the system to say you want them included in the backup–they can help you figure this out)
  • great customer service
  • NO cost for restoring data (I’ll explain this below)

I’ve been using Backblaze for a few years now and during that time I had my iMac hard drive crash.  At the time I wasn’t using Time Machine (first preference now for data retrieval of the main hard drive) so I used Backblaze to recover ALL the data.

what online backup company should i use

A few months ago my main external drive (the one with ALL my photos) also crashed.  I had most of the photos on Dropbox, but a few files weren’t so again I used Backblaze to restore ALL the lost data from that 3 terabyte external hard drive.

To recover photos, you can do them file-by-file and download a zip file from Backblaze.  Or, if it’s a big recovery, you pay $189 for them to send you an external drive with all of the data on it.  You can keep that drive OR you can put the information on your own external drive, mail the Backblaze drive back within 30 days and they’ll give you a full refund.  So data recovery is essentially completely free.

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Side note.  Sometimes people complain about having to pay for backup storage.  Are there free services out there?  Yes.  But.  Free is never free.  Keep in mind that if you aren’t paying for something, the saying goes–you’re the product not the customer.  You get what you pay for.  And paying for backup storage is worth it, especially at $5 a month.

 

Now, I don’t recommend ONLY relying on an online Backup company to keep your photos safe.  I have a checklist of the process I recommend (which you can access on this post).  But.  This is where I would start RIGHT NOW.  Your photos don’t need to be organized.  You don’t have to DO anything.  You just sign up for the backup company, it starts automatically backing up your computer (which can take several weeks), and then continues to backup your computer without you ever having to do anything again.  You don’t have to remember to do anything or do anything manually.  It just does it all for you.

Get this in place and you can definitely relieve some of the worry about losing all your photos.

If you use this referral link, you can get a free month of service.  Anyone can sign up for a free trial period.  Then, if you decide to buy (have to use this link to sign up in the first place), you can get 1 free month.

If you choose not to use Backblaze, totally fine too.  There are plenty of good companies out there to choose from.  Just choose one of them.  Today.  Trust me on this one.

  • Susan

    Thanks Lindsay!!! 🙂 Very helpful!ReplyCancel

  • Rachel

    Does Backblaze just allow you to back up files from one computer, or would my family also be able to back up to my account?ReplyCancel

    • ltross17

      Rachel, you can get it for multiple computers but I think you have to pay for each computer.ReplyCancel

If I’m being totally honest, I’m kinda sick of buying things just to buy things.  Presents that don’t mean much and will quickly be forgotten.  Gifts for my kids, my husband, my family, my friends.  I’d much rather give them something that they’ll care about.  Something useful.  Something they’ll want to hold on to.  Something I won’t regret buying and they won’t regret getting (who else is insanely tired of clutter?).

So in the spirit of giving, I thought I’d share a few ideas of meaningful gifts you can give to those you love using Photographs.  Because who doesn’t love photos?!  It’s one of the rare things on this earth everyone loves to look at and something people want to hang on to.

ONE.

We’ve really tried to cut back on buying our kids things just to buy them things.  They don’t need much and honestly, they don’t ask for much these days (maybe because I never take them to the store and toy commercials are a thing of the past–sweet mercy).  Now each year for Christmas, we give them a stack of photos and supplies to make their own photo albums.  Or you can make the albums together.

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You can read all of the details of how we pull this together HERE.

This year I’m going to do it a little different for my girls and get them these “All About Me” books they can fill out and mix in photos with the pages.

 

TWO.

Parent gifts can be tricky.  And I try real hard to think of things that will matter to them.  If we can make my mom cry, we know we did good.  A few years ago for Christmas, I had all my siblings print off 150-200 photos of their family, we combined all the photos and made a few photo albums for my parents.  They rarely get to see the day-to-day photos we take of our families or even the vacations we take so this was a fun way for them to get to enjoy those photos.

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You can read all the details of how we pulled this all together HERE.

These ended up being really fun for the whole family to look through.  And it’s a gift that can continue through the years and just add more photos and albums each year.

 

THREE.

I love these mini-clipboard calendars from Persnickety Prints.  They’re different.  They’re small so you could put them anywhere in your home or office.  And they’re cute.  You could use photos you have, screenshot photos from a friends or family members Instagram account or take some from Facebook and use those.

(photo credit–Persnickety Prints)

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FOUR.

Make a quick photo book for a friend or family member from a vacation you went on together or an event you participated in (or they participated in).  A race, a one-day adventure, a birthday party, etc.

I ran the Spartan race with my husband and several friends and put together this Photobook using Snapfish.  I let the software auto-fill the photos so it didn’t take very long and used a coupon code to get a huge discount on the book.

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You could also make a small Photo Book through Persnickety Prints with photos from an event (or any photos for that matter):

Funboothsession2 Funboothsession

 

FIVE.

Take a screenshot of a friends photos on Instagram and make them a little album, book, or prints.

A small 4×4 album filled with square prints:

(photo credit Beckyhiggins.com)

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A set of square prints from Artifact Uprising to keep in a little box and display:

(photo credit Artifactuprising.com)

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Or make them a display with the photos to put on their wall (details on how to do this HERE):

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SIX.

Give the gift of Chatbooks.  If someone has an Instagram account and isn’t using Chatbooks, this is a GREAT gift. But.  You don’t have to have Instagram to use this service.  You can link it to your “favorite” photos in your photo albums and once you hit 60 photos, the book comes to you automatically.

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You can read all about Chatbooks HERE or visit their website here.

 

SEVEN.

This isn’t exactly photos (but you take photos to create it so….), but a book with all your favorite recipes would be a great gift!

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All the details on how to create this are HERE.

 

EIGHT.

If your kids or someone you’re gifting to have an Instax Mini Camera(or you’re getting them one), these albums and accessories for Instax photos are AWESOME!!  They take the Instax photos, then they can slip them right in these albums and use the Instax Project Life cards to finish the album off.

(photo credit Beckyhiggins.com)

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Some of these will obviously take a little work, but anything worth doing usually takes some effort.  I am not sponsored in any way for any of these products.  These are just things I personally do and think make excellent gifts.

 

**If you want some ideas for the person in your life who loves taking photos (aka the photographer in your life), you can find some ideas HERE.

**If you’re interested in improving your photography with your phone OR your dSLR, definitely check out THIS!!!  (This would also make a great gift for someone wanting to make their photos better).

**Want to display more photos in your home?  Here are some photo display ideas I’ve done in my home.

 

If you haven’t already, come find me on Instagram (@ltross)!  I share lots of stuff there too.

 

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