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Libba's Lightbulb Theory, posted 10 Dec 2005 11:29 PM by Thom Forbes, www.elephantonmain.com


I had an extremely illuminating conversation with Libba Phillips, the founder of Outpost for Hope, this morning, about the astounding amount of under-represented missing and unidentified persons in this country, and the hellish lives they and their families lead. The exact number is impossible to determine, but we were extrapolating seven-figure numbers based on what is reported. These are often people whose families have forsaken them, or have lost track of their whereabouts. Or they are running away from abusive families themselves. They usually fall into the many cracks of our social services and criminal justice system and, because of co-occurring illnesses that are not treated, are often preyed upon by pimps and drug dealers.

In the middle of our conversation, Libba offered "Libba's Lightbulb Theory." I think it is as good an explanation of why families who expect people who are addicted and/or mentally ill to suddenly "get it" and "make good decisions" about their lives are disillusioned, at best. Here's how Libba put it:

"Let's say you go to the hall closet to get a new bulb to put in a lamp. You walk back into the den and replace the bulb and turn on the switch. The light doesn't come on. So you check to see if the light bulb is good, and you make sure that you put it in right, and you check the cord to make sure that it's plugged in, and you test the circuit box to make sure you haven't blown a fuse. All of those things have to add up in order for the light bulb to go on. But it doesn't. The true source of your problem, it turns out, is the wiring. The wiring is the source of the power. If the wiring doesn't work, that's the source from which choices come from, and the ability to make good decisions, and the ability to move forward with some type of hope for a positive outcome."

"Many time families have the feeling that the light is going to come on, but if the wiring in the brain isn't right, if the chemistry has been altered by disease, it's just not going to happen unless that wiring can be fixed."

Are you a family with a lost loved one?  We invite you to take a look at our Family Resource Kit that includes critical 'Now What?" Recovery Planning guidelines.  Being prepared for what to do after a person with mental illness and/or co-occurring substance abuse issues has been located may be the key to your success story.