How does one start to convey the sadness sown by a life of addiction? For transparency, let’s get a few things on the table before going too far.
I grew up in a farm family where my parents worked very hard, long hours, and some would say were “workaholics”. My sister died at age 23 going home from my farm to hers when her car was smashed by a drunk driver. My close friend whom I’ll call “Jane” was married to a farmer who loved booze, but found a new path to health, reconciled their marriage, and sadly he died too young. I don’t drink alcohol, and never have because I love to dance with a clear head and be in control of my behavior.
Now you know my backstory, let me share my concerns as a farm family coach about booze abuse on the farm.
Many people have addictive personalities, and if they don’t abuse alcohol, it may show up in other forms like perfectionism or working too much. I am not a psychologist or counselor, but I have been coaching long enough to pick up some red flags in conversations, that lead me to ask tough questions.
I’ve found two books, recommended highly by the adult child of an alcoholic, and I suggest you run to buy them if you are suffering with the effects of addiction.
“It will never happen to me…growing up with addiction as youngsters, adolescents, adults” by Dr. Claudia Black. This edition also deals with other addictive disorders such as drugs, money, food, sex, and work. The other helpful resource is “Adult Children of Alcoholics” by Janet Geringer Woititz.
Why bother reading these books? They last. They linger. They can be shared with other family members. You can create your own learning experience in the privacy of your home to figure out how to get outside help for your situation.
My friend “Jane” had no trouble firing off a list of helpful insights, which I will share here:
“You need to understand that this situation of “things are not working” did not happen overnight. It has taken years for this co-dependency to develop and become a way of behavior. You are tired of walking on eggshells. You catch yourself saying, “it is my job to fix the person with booze issues.” You are taking on what is not yours to take on.”
Some people never get to the realization that something needs to shift, but you have likely been given some “wake-up calls” to pay attention, what Jane and I would call “divine intervention”, so that you cannot put your head in the sand anymore. Some folks choose unhealthy ways to cope, like isolating themselves from friends, and they do feel powerless. It is difficult to reach out beyond the family for help, but you need to find help for yourself through a group like Al-Anon, and for the booze abuser.
During the new months of the New Year 2015 you’ll find many stories about making goals or resolutions for a change in behavior. My question is, “What needs to change in the addiction department on your farm this year?” Is it time for you to call for support for living with an alcoholic? Might you be ready to leave for a time to have a “redemptive separation” until the unwanted behavior is extinguished with new habits? These are hard choices, but I have seen them work in farm families.
Sometimes we choose to avoid the struggles, but hard times and storms tend to mold us into resilient people who come out on the other side much stronger and wiser.
Consider what you really want to live a healthy and happy life on your farm.
What choices are your responsible for?
What assumptions are you making?
What path might be waiting to be explored that you have resisted exploring?
What is the best thing that could happen if the abuse ended?
Who do you need to call today? Perhaps it is time to seek counseling or therapy to help you deal with your anger, pain, and grief.

Be open as a friend and neighbor to hear the stories of farm families that are looking for answers to dealing with abusive habits on the farm. Learn who the helping folks and professionals are in your region. Let’s all work towards healthier spaces to work in agriculture, and happier family teams.

Elaine Froese, CSP, CAFA, CHICoach writes from her farm in southwestern Manitoba. Her coaching expertise is only a phone call away at 1-866-848-8311. Cozy up this winter with one of her 3 books available at

Fixing Your Time Stress Mess

60 minutes

Workaholics will discover helpful strategies for managing their time stress. Gain understanding for the tensions of your age and stage on the farm. Learn why some problems are not solvable, but just need to be managed as polarities. Self-renewing people are joyful and productive producers.


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“A joy to work with, heard loud and clear. When the farmers laughed or asked a great question, I knew they were listening and really wanted to learn from her. Her tips were easy to understand. It was just about understanding that conflict happens, and to have the confidence in yourself to ask for what you want. In the glowing review from farmers after her presentation, I knew they had heard that loud and clear.”
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“I wanted to say a HUGE thank you for your virtual kitchen table chat with Arlan Academy. My wife and I signed up as it was exceptionally relevant to our current journey with potentially transitioning to her parents’ farm. The session was able to cover so many aspects of these crucial conversations and hearing you speak to both sides of the conversation was eye opening for my own perspective on this topic. It seemed to be very well attended and sounded like there were many other people who would echo my thoughts and feelings on it.”
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Don Forbes, Forbes Wealth Management
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Annessa Good, FCC Transition Specialist, Alberta
“Elaine Froese truly is the Farm Whisperer. With her big heart and stern resolve, she guides families through uncharted waters and helps them arrive safely at their desired destination. She has been there, done that, and has helped hundreds of families come out on the other side. With your family and your farm legacy on the line, you owe it to yourself to start this conversation. You do not need to do it alone. Let Elaine Froese guide you through. Your legacy is being written day by day. How will you be remembered?”
Tracy Brunet, Host of The Impact Farming Show & CEO of Farm Marketer
“You speak like you’ve been sitting at our kitchen table! You know our family issues well. I am feeling more comfortable understanding what we now need to do. Elaine Froese is real.”
Audience Member,
“I attended the meeting you spoke at in Stratford Ontario recently. We held an emergency family/farm meeting today because of issues that I had enough of. We used a 'talking stick' like you recommended and wrote a chart of rules. The rest of the family thought the idea that we needed a meeting was worth rolling their eyes over, until we got started. The younger ones were quick to clue in that they now have an opportunity to be bluntly honest. The older ones took a bit longer to believe they could truly say what they think. In the end, the meeting needed two sessions because there was so much to talk about… and so many things people didn't realize were a big deal to the others. Your lessons and encouragement have given us the tools we need to get to a better place in our relationships and our business. Truly thankful.”
Kim Martin, Dairy Farmer, Ontario
“Helped me develop my framework to start having constructive and meaningful conversations around the farm.”
Tennille Wakefield, Farm Partner
“Some great lessons, Elaine! You continue to do some remarkable and potentially life-changing work.”
James Mitchell, Principal, Conversations Consulting
“Our family had a good farm meeting yesterday afternoon. Your Fairness video was a great topic of discussion. One of the action items after the meeting was to have my two non-farming siblings watch the video before the next big meeting they are involved with on the farm. It will be a great conversation starter as we catch them up on our current plan. As they are younger, we also hope it will help them to ask new questions that may not have been on their mind.”
G.G., Farm Family Legacy Coach, Alberta
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Laurianne Osmack, Financial Planner / Partner, Doell Osmak Wealth Management
“She has a sense of “knowing” quickly what is happening in the family dynamic. Her messages to her audiences drive home what needs to be done next to solve the complex issues of farm transition and conflict resolution.”
Audience Member,
“Eye-opening. Excited to open the door of communication with my spouse and farm family.”
Ashley Hoppe, Farm Partner
“The Strong Farms, Strong Families session gave farm families an opportunity to meet face to face with Elaine Froese... hear her own story, experiences and skill set. From this information packed session and related materials, families could identify areas of success in their journey and other places they need assistance. The greatest take away was that participants could see that Elaine Froese is someone they can trust with the things that they hold most precious.... their family and their farm.”
Nancy Atkinson, Nobleford Ag Society, Alberta
“Elaine’s real-life scenarios help her audiences know they are not alone, knowing there are creative solutions to help them get the life on the farm they have always wanted.”
Audience Member,
“A long time female client who had refined the art of procrastination was so moved by the end of your presentation that she accepted your permission to “drop the bananas.” She contacted me soon after for an appointment to do some planning which included the selling of the family “Century Farm.” A very, very emotional decision on her part that was not likely to have occurred without your presentation.”
Don Forbes, Forbes Wealthy Management
“I just have to say… that your work is amazing and I have never forgotten your teachings from our session in Williams Lake at TRU. It is super important work. I know so many people going through the trauma of succession. I hate to use that word, but I was an “out-law” and know it can get terrible. I continue to forward your emails on to others. Keep doing what you do! You are amazing. You kind of walk into the fire regularly… and with a smile. Proud to have met you.”
Megan, BC Rancher
“As my husband and I eagerly started the course we were optimistic and excited to be taking this next step in our Farm Transition. We were starting to question ourselves and whether or not we were just being selfish and greedy, and if this Farm Transition was still an option for us. We barely got through the first Module and were already having such a huge relief. As we moved through the modulus there were so many times that we just sat back with our hands in the air and thought YES. My husband and I would smile with relief because all of the concerns that we have been struggling with were relevant and came up in the modules. We really enjoyed the course and are excited to move on to the next stages to find our farm resolution.”
Shannon Gilchrist, “Get Farm Transition Unstuck” online course participant
“My hubby farms with 2 brothers and parents, and it’s become a really toxic place. No communication, no respect, etc. Twelve months ago, my husband’s brothers told him they don’t want to work with him anymore and offered him a pay out. His parents did nothing to stop it! He had no choice but to leave. Three months later, we moved off the farm and into town. He has been offered heaps of jobs and is now truck driving and carting hay and grain. We have tried communicating with his parents about what happened but they are not interested. So basically my hubby has lost his family. Very sad but we as husband and wife are overall in a good place and moving on to create our own life. Please continue on with all your wonderful work in helping families on the farm. I continue to tell any farmers I know about you, that they must ‘google’ you, and read your books.”
Donna, Farmer, Australia

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