Archives for Recovery
Over the course of the last several years, I’ve written repeatedly about the ways in which technology can both facilitate and exacerbate addictions. For instance, drug addicts can purchase and abuse “prescription” medications through the Internet, set up buys with local dealers via text messages, and learn about certain parties – events at which drugs are likely to be prevalent like raves, ragers, and smoke outs – on social media. Meanwhile, compulsive spenders avoid the mall (where friends and family might see them overindulging), choosing instead to shop secretly on Amazon, Overstock, eBay, and other online shopping meccas. Similarly, compulsive gamblers often skip the casino and the track, preferring to engage with their addiction in private via online poker sites, digital bookmakers, and other gambling outlets. And then we’ve got sex and love addicts, nearly all of whom struggle with online porn, social media, dating sites, hookup apps, and all sorts of other digital sexnologies.
For the last five years (at least), Jerry, a handsome 36-year-old office manager, has put the search for sex ahead of all else – even though he’s not having any in-person sexual encounters. Instead, he looks at and masturbates to hardcore pornography for several hours each weeknight and all day on the weekends, and occasionally he engages in mutual masturbation with strangers via webcam. Until a few years ago he tried to also date in real life, usually going out with nice women who were interested in a long-term relationship. He says that he really liked one of them, but that he was never really present with her and she eventually broke things off. He admits that on their dates he was usually more focused on going home and going online than on her. As it turns out, she broke up with him because she thought he was cheating on her (and in a way he was). That was three years ago, and Jerry has not been on a date since. He has tried several times to quit using porn, and sometimes he manages to do so for a day or two. But before long he feels depressed and lonely and he goes back online as a way to escape the pain. Recently, he’s started using his office computer to access porn during work hours – a situation that he knows will not end well. And yet he continues.
All Work and No Play... Jack a 52-year-old divorced high school guidance counselor, after a stint of inpatient substance abuse rehab, had nine months sober from both alcoholism and marijuana addiction. In addition to working 8 to 5 every weekday, Jack kept a journal, meditated daily, and attended at least one twelve step meeting each evening. He also met with his therapist once per week and his twelve step sponsor twice weekly. Until the eight month mark of sobriety, he was riding the “pink cloud” of early recovery - that blissful time when many recovering addicts feel so relieved to finally be addressing their longstanding problem that, no matter what comes their way, they feel generally positive and cheerful about themselves and the world.
Because I sometimes find that the issues therapists deal with differ by region, I like to chat with men and women at the forefront of our profession in various areas of the country. Among these clinical leaders is Jeff Zacharias, Owner, President, and Clinical Director of New Hope Recovery Center in the Lincoln Park area of Chicago. New Hope primarily serves Chicago’s LGBT community. Jeff also has a private practice in Lincoln Square. He specializes in the treatment of all forms of addiction, with a focus on sex and love addiction. Recently I spoke with Jeff about the issues he commonly sees in the Chicago area, and how he and his colleagues approach treatment to those particular challenges.
Escape versus Connection Alcoholics and drug addicts don’t drink and use to feel better; they do it to feel less. In other words, addiction is a disease of escape and dissociation from stress and other forms of emotional discomfort. This means that substance abusers don’t get drunk or high because they’re looking to engage with other people, they do it because they’re hoping to avoid the turmoil of other people. Nevertheless, our very human desire for connection that is present from birth onward remains in effect. As such, drug addicted individuals typically do want to connect, even though they are desperately afraid of the trauma that might ensue.
Cindy Feinberg is a recovery coach and addiction case manager in New York City. She and her staff are committed to helping addicts and their families move toward recovery and a better life. She coordinates on an ongoing basis referrals to treatment specialists (treatment centers, therapists, interventionists, sober companions, MDs, and the like), at the same time managing all other aspects of care appropriate for a client and the client’s family. I have been so consistently impressed with both her intervention and recovery coaching ability that I wanted to share a bit about her world with you here.
Dealing with Shame and Vulnerability Few places call upon people to be more vulnerable, more often, than addiction and behavioral/mental health treatment settings. Complicating matters is the fact that people who enter treatment for addiction or any other highly destructive psychiatric disorder are nearly always filled with shame - feeling as if they are inherently flawed, defective, less than, and unworthy. Sharing about these feelings and the incidents that led to them is incredibly painful, and, as such, these individuals would usually rather eat dirt than talk about them. As therapists, of course, we understand that shame thrives in darkness but withers in sunlight. In other words, we know that the best way to reduce the power of shameful feelings and incidents is to have them witnessed and understood when surrounded by safe and supportive others.
Shame is the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging. - Dr. Brené Brown Training the Trainers In early November, forty addictions and mental health staff from Elements Behavioral Health facilities nationwide gathered at The Ranch treatment center near Nashville, Tennessee for three days of intense and rigorous professional training. Our goal was to experience and learn the new Daring Way™ shame resilience curriculum, which is based on the extensive research of Dr. Brené Brown. Among the delegation were senior therapeutic staff members from Promises Malibu, Promises Professionals Treatment Program, Promises Young Adult Program (West LA), Malibu Vista, Promises Austin (formerly known as Spirit Lodge), The Ranch, The Sexual Recovery Institute, Lucida, The Right Step, and The Recovery Place. As a result of this effort, each of therapists in attendance is now certified as a Daring Way™ Facilitator Candidate (CDW-C). In short order these clinicians will become fully certified Daring Way™ Facilitators, and the Elements family of treatment centers will wholeheartedly incorporate the Daring Way™ shame resilience curriculum into its ever-growing family of treatment programs.
Not long ago the New York Times published a rather vitriolic article titled “An Intervention for Malibu.” For the most part, the Times chose to denigrate the 35 state-licensed drug and alcohol rehab facilities located in the small, upscale seaside village just outside Los Angeles. Much of the contempt centered on the fact that media vans and crews consistently clog the Malibu streets, with shutterbugs and TV crews alike hoping to catch the likes of Lindsay Lohan or Robert Downey, Jr. stumbling into or out of yet another treatment center. Residents of the town just plain don’t like the press swarming their ultra-swanky neighborhood, and I can certainly understand that.
Mars vs. Venus - in Recovery We have long known that there are significant differences in the ways that men and women think, act, and relate. To a large extent these differences are neurobiological in nature as male brains and female brains show significant structural differences. For starters, the brains (and heads) of boys and men are about 9 percent larger than those of girls and women. The extra brain matter in males is mainly white matter, the part of the brain that transmits signals between brain cells. At the same time, males have relatively less of the corpus callosum, a structure that allows the left and the right sides of the brain to communicate. (Generally speaking, the left brain controls logic, analytical thinking, and objectivity, whereas the right brain controls intuition, synthesis, and subjectivity.) It seems the male brain has more connections to nearby cells, but less connectivity between the two hemispheres; vice versa for females. These basic structural differences explain, at least in part, some of the readily observable differences in male and female behavior.