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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Journey to Recovery

Living proof that the human spirit can overcome the toughest of obstacles


Over 23 million people in the U.S. are directly affected by addiction, and 90 percent of them have no idea what to do about it, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. Addiction may not be curable but it is treatable. 
 Millions of people around the world have managed to live clean and sober lives. Doing this may be difficult but it is certainly not impossible. The Art of Recovery Expo is proud to share the story of Brenda Combs and her road to recovery, which led her to becoming a successful Grand Canyon University doctoral graduate. 

Fifteen years ago, Brenda called bridge in the rough, industrial part of downtown Phoenix home. During the brutal summers and dreary winters, Brenda had to scrape by and continued to live as a shell of the person that she truly is. Getting hooked on drugs including, crack-cocaine led her to put up with, and undergo the worst and most difficult phase of her life. 

Her addiction trapped her and slowly took her further and further down. For ten years she lived an existence that sent her to a place some people think of as impossible to be redeemed from. But even over a decade of hard times, bad choices and substance abuse can be overcome. Brenda broke free and she is proof that anyone willing to walk the road of recovery is capable of finding a path that works for them. 

Change is never easy but when someone decides to seek recovery and they are willing to achieve this, nothing will hold them back. Brenda is a symbol of perseverance and proof that this drive and hunger for a better life is rewarded with success. 

Founder of the Art of Recovery Expo, Barbara Nicholson-Brown, wanted to bring Brenda’s story to the public during Recovery Month as a beacon of hope. The Expo is a place where people hoping for recovery and their loved ones could go and find resources that would help them understand the process. This annual event provides support and presents attendees with information on treatment options along with positive solutions. 

Everyone is encouraged to come to the Expo, this venue can be especially important for families affected by addition, as it is may be easy to shut out a loved one who has fallen into the hands of addiction. With appropriate information and knowledge families and friends can be a key in the recovery process. Brenda’s family is a huge part of her new sober life. 
Brenda grew up in a middle-class family in Arizona; she was not born into a drug filled environment. As a mother, her experience has given firsthand knowledge of what kids are confronted with. Youth are now facing a vast and growing drug landscape. It is important now more than ever for parents to keep up with society and understand the dangers children are up against. But not all parents or family members know how to help prevent substance abuse or know how to support a loved one that has just arrived home from rehab. 
The Art of Recovery Expo is a safe, non-threatening venue for everyone to get the answers, support and resources they seek. Barbara is a passionate individual who believes being an addict and seeking help shouldn’t be a shameful process. The Expo offers an opportunity to learn without judgment. 
As a preview to the Art of Recovery Expo on September 21, Together AZ brings you a special Q & A with Expo Keynote Speaker: Brenda Combs.

What was your family life like growing up? 
I was blessed that I was raised in a very spiritual home with both a mother and father. I think this was very significant in my later years having both parents. I was a single mother for 9 years and I can really appreciate the fact that I was very blessed with my parents and siblings. 
I had and still have the best Dad in the world and all through my turbulent years I never found a man who was like my Dad. No one compared to the sweet gentle soul of my Daddy. 
My brother and sister were very close in age and in their relationship, but I often felt detached and lonely. I dealt with issues of discrimination at school, bullies on the way home and feelings of insecurities within myself. My younger years were very difficult in terms of inner peace and happiness. These feelings followed me into adulthood. So it is not surprising that I would turn to drugs to mask my feelings. 

Was there a specific issue that led to your downward spiral? 
I felt like I didn’t really fit in with anyone or any group. I struggled with my self-image, self-esteem, and a lack of self-confidence. I wanted to be liked and loved. And perhaps I was but I either could see it, or didn’t recognize it. I was in and out of relationships both good and bad. In and out of rehab. In and out of jail. Everything changed when I developed a long term close relationship with cocaine. Crack cocaine. This relationship led to a 10 year love affair that left me homeless living under a bridge. 

When you left Flagstaff for Phoenix, what was going through your mind? 
I was homeless in Flagstaff when I came to Phoenix with a gang that was not only selling and using drugs but also running a credit card scam. I was so delusional about my addicted lifestyle and homelessness; I looked at this as an adventure until the leader of the group was murdered. Shortly after that I was shot in a drive by shooting. Over the course of next few years I was stabbed, raped, beaten, overdosed, attempted suicide and lived under the 7th Avenue bridge. 

At what moment did you decide you needed to make a change? 
My life changed the day I woke up in an alley on a couch next to a dying cat and realized that someone had stolen the shoes off of my feet while I was sleeping. It was a 115 degrees and I had to walk down to the park where the rest of the homeless community were gathered in order to get a pair of shoes for my feet. By the time I reached the park my feet were burned, cut, and bleeding. That was the life changing moment for me. I fell to my knees in the park and prayed for the first time in 10 years. I later turned myself into my probation officer, who in turn gave me hope and encouragement. 

Why do you think this moment came so far down the road and not sooner? 
I think it took me longer to reach my bottom because I was fearless, and most of the time I felt like my life was a movie and that any day I would wake up and it would be over. I had lost the ability to feel. After surviving all of the trauma that I had endured, I felt like I would never make it back into society and die in addiction. I learned how to hustle and went into survival mode. 

Of all the horrific experiences you survived, which was the toughest? 
This is a tough question to answer. They were all tough. From being shot in a drive by shooting, raped several times, beaten, stabbed, burned with cigarettes, to eating from the dumpster. 
The lingering flashbacks of being raped probably took the longest to deal with. I eventually went to CASA (Center Against Sexual Abuse) for therapy. 

Re-entering society as a productive individual is something many attempt to do and fail. Many lose their life to this struggle. What was your motivation to not only succeed, but to succeed on your first attempt? 
I had been in and out of jail, rehab and halfway houses throughout my homeless journey. What helped me re-enter society was listening to someone who was clean and had been in my shoes. I made the decision to take suggestions from someone who had been through a program and completed it successfully. 
I realized that my way: was not, did not, and was never going to work. So I listened to advice and I put everything into motion. If I was told to go to meetings, I went. If it was suggested to make amends to others, I did. I did EVERYTHING that was suggested. I came to realize that others around me were clean, happy and had peace; of which I had none. Following simple suggestions and instructions helped me overcome my feelings and issues and helped me return to society. 

You are a symbol of inspiration and perseverance; you motivate others to seek a better way of life even when it seems impossible. What is the key to breaking free from an addiction? 
I believe the key is first admitting to yourself that you have an addiction. The next thing is to realize that you are not alone. Then you have to want sobriety more than addiction. You must be willing to listen and listen and listen. Take suggestions and apply them to your situation. Be honest with yourself at ALL times. You have to make the right choice daily and do the right thing even when no one is watching. 

What do you want your son, your students and those who look up to you to understand and take from your life story? 
What I want people to take away is that absolutely nothing is impossible. If you believe in yourself and your ability to do your best, you can overcome anything — including addiction. Everyone is capable of achieving greatness. It boils down to how much you want it. What lengths are you willing to go to get it? Also a big part is being open and willing to share/help others. The odds were against me to overcome 10 years of homelessness and addiction, but I did. The odds were against me to go back into society and be productive. The odds were against me to ever reach a level of success but today I, Dr. Brenda Combs, Ed.D., I beat those odds. Nothing is impossible. 

What is the message you personally want people to take from the struggles and victories your life consists of? 
Everyone is intelligent and capable of reaching their goals and making their dreams come true. I want people to look at the life they are living and if they are not happy and at peace, I want them to stop, look, listen, and then make a different choice; a different decision. People need to realize that they already have what it takes to be successful. They already have inside of them what it takes to beat addiction. They were born with these gifts and talents. They just have to realize that they can live the life they dream about— one step, one moment, at a time. They too can beat the odds and live of life of peace and serenity. 



I Believe in Myself 

I believe in myself and my ability to do my best 
I am intelligent. I am capable of greatness 
I can learn, I will learn, I must learn 
Today I will listen. I will think. I will reason 
Today I will make the best choices 
and my life will be 
A reflection of those choices 
Today I will read, I will write 
I will learn to work with it, love and value others 
I won’t give up when to give up would be easier because 
I am too smart to waste today 
People are too important to forget today 
And life is too precious to do it any other way 
So today I will make the right choice 
And I will do the right thing 
Even when no one is watching 

©Brenda Combs 2008 

The Morning Program Provides Hope for the Homeless

By Allen Nohre, Terros

Four days a week at 7:00 a.m., 30 to 35 men and women, who have slept on the streets or in homeless shelters, line up outside the Terros Together Programs in downtown Phoenix. They are just a few of the estimated 14,000 individuals experiencing homelessness in Phoenix and surrounding communities according to the Department of Economic Security.
They arrive to participate in the Morning Program, a one-hour risk reduction presentation and group discussion, followed by a hearty breakfast. Last year, over 250 homeless people took part in the program and 7,500 breakfasts were served.

Reaching Out and Connecting
The Terros Together Program has been providing preventative services for HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STI) in Maricopa County for 25 years. Services include education, outreach and testing for people who are at risk for disease or currently infected with HIV and/or syphilis. The Morning Program recognizes that the homeless are vulnerable to many dangers, including exposure to HIV and other STIs; this is especially so if they are abusing alcohol or drugs.
The presentation and group discussion in the Morning Program is led by a Terros program specialist. Topics include information about communicable diseases, how to protect against infection, testing, addiction, community resources and many other health and risk issues the homeless are facing.
The program has provided hope and connection for participants. James and Johnny are examples of participants in the Morning Program who have been inspired to change their lives and end their homelessness.

James Had a Good Job
James came to the Morning Program nearly three years ago at a time of deep despair in his life.  He was well employed as a driver of an eighteen wheel tanker truck. He transferred his job from San Francisco to Phoenix so he and his wife could be closer to her family.  Because of the transfer, he had less seniority and when the recession hit, he lost his job. The loss of his job was a big blow emotionally, as well as economically. While still coping with being unemployed, James’s wife died suddenly from a brain aneurism. The two enormous losses were simply too much for him to handle and he couldn’t find the ability to cope.
James said, “I couldn’t deal with it, and I started drinking and doing drugs. Soon, I was living on the streets. All I had was a bicycle and a cart. I was hungry and began going to the Terros Morning Program.”
The group discussions, which everyone must attend before getting breakfast, began to give James a sense of hope and direction. “Finally, after attending many sessions and enjoying breakfasts, I decided I was done with drinking, drugs and being homeless.” James took many steps to get his life in order. Today, he is employed at the Together Program as an HIV/STI prevention specialist. Brin Scott, Together Program Director, says, “James has changed his life, he is an outstanding employee, and because of his own experience, he is able to inspire change in the lives of others.”

Johnny: Homeless for 15 Years, Now a Volunteer
Johnny is another man who has greatly benefited from the Terros Morning Program. When interviewed, he spoke freely about his fifteen homeless years and especially about his new life off the streets.
Johnny grew up in Texas and was working in a ship yard in San Diego when he slipped into a homeless life of living on the streets. For six years he was homeless in San Diego and then moved to Phoenix where he lived another nine years on downtown streets near Central Avenue.
I asked him how he stopped being homeless. He said, “I simply got tired of hanging out, drinking and living without a home. I attended the Terros Morning Program and liked what it did for me and other homeless people. Then I decided to help out by becoming a volunteer in the program.” It has been four years since Johnny decided to stop drinking, stop being homeless and become a volunteer.
The most important part of Johnny’s life is his on-going connection with the Terros Morning Program. Four days a week he arrives as a volunteer by 6:00 a.m. and spends the morning with duties like making coffee, helping prepare breakfast for 30 or more hungry people, washing trays and helping cleanup after the people who used to be his street buddies. Now Johnny is not only off the streets and living in an apartment, he belongs to an important community where he is making a valuable contribution to others.
Ronnie Wilborns, Program Coordinator, works closely with Johnny and applauds him for his important contribution to the program. “Johnny is an invaluable volunteer. He is my right hand and does whatever needs to be done. He is also an example for others that it is possible to get off the streets and create a new life. He is one of the best volunteers I have ever had.”
Most people living on the dangerous streets of Phoenix or in a temporary shelter want to end their homelessness and find a better life. The Terros Morning Program is one of many agencies and services helping the homeless end their homelessness by “inspiring change for life.” Visit www.terros.org


Tuning in to Consciousness

The process of identifying and evaluating our basic beliefs has four steps:


  • Paying attention to thoughts and feelings in reaction to a situation,
  • Paying attention to the facts of a situation,
  • Identifying the belief through which we screen the facts,
  • And evaluating the pros and cons of a particular belief.


You can discover your beliefs by thinking through your reactions, thoughts, feelings, and behaviors to a particular situation. When you can sort out your reactions from the facts of a situation, the belief through which you perceive any situation becomes more visible. When this happens you can begin to evaluate its accuracy and usefulness. The process starts with paying attention to what we feel and think.

Paying attention
Paying attention to what we are feeling and thinking is the easiest way to identify a belief shaken by the trauma developed as a result of addiction. A shaken belief will lead to changes in our thoughts, feelings, and actions. Suppose you experience a rush of thoughts such as, “I better not answer my phone,” “I can’t imagine leaving my apartment”, “that person behind me in line yesterday made me nervous when he talked to me.” These types of thoughts are frequently in our minds as a result of “the day after” we have acted out in our addiction.
By having these thoughts, it is easy to feel anxious, fearful, even panicky. It might help to stop and notice clearly that “I’m feeling very scared,” or “I’ve been afraid lately.” What does it mean that you’ve been afraid lately? What does this say about you? You may conclude, “I am not safe.” This conclusion may feel like fact, but it is an impression of one or more situations that may or may not be accurate. That is why it is useful to next sort out the facts of a situation.

What do you know for sure and what are you assuming about it?

When you conclude that “I’m not safe,” it will feel true, like a fact. However, it is a “belief.” A belief, after all, is something we believe to be true. It is important to stay alert to the evidence. Questions to ask yourself may include:

Does your belief match the current facts, and what are the facts? Can you separate them from what you think they mean? What assumptions are coloring the way you interpret what is going on in your environment? Many of our assumptions are the result of our guilt and shame. Much of our fear in early recovery also develops a belief system that frequently is not based on fact, but may have been attached to fear and/or guilt.
Facts include things that were said or done, things that are observable. Facts do not include anything about meaning, motivation or intent — all of which are generally unspoken and open to interpretation.
If you can see the difference between the facts of a situation and your reactions to them, you should be able to identify a belief that leads you to interpret the facts in a particular way.
Beliefs are often so automatic we do not take time to notice what they are. You can become aware of your beliefs, evaluate their accuracy, and examine their effects on your life. Understanding beliefs and bringing them into consciousness in this way can be especially helpful for people who have experienced trauma.
Beliefs fit the facts of experience, but several different beliefs can fit the same set of facts. It is important to think through a belief in light of the factual evidence, but that should not be the only consideration. If you believe you are safe only inside your house, you will mostly stay inside, thinking that will be safer than driving. How much safer, and at what cost? If you stay in your house, it may be harder to get other essential needs met, such as those for intimacy and support. You may become depressed if you isolate most of the time. Do you feel you must give up one need in order to get another one met? Most beliefs have both advantages and disadvantages. If your beliefs have more advantages than disadvantages, you are tuning in to your own consciousness; but if they tend to hinder rather than help, you almost certainly have other, better choices when you learn how to notice them.

Do you rate your beliefs as hindering you more than helping? If so, you may want to entertain the possibility that other meanings might fit. It can be easy to miss seeing all the facts, especially those that don’t quite fit the belief.

When there are two interpretations that fit the facts equally well, you can choose the one with the most advantage for you.

While no one can always choose to change the facts of life, we all have some choice when it comes to how to interpret those facts. Our 12-step meetings, sponsors and peers are perfect for helping us sift through our thoughts. The 12-steps are designed to do exactly that and  provide us with a platform to continue to evaluate and grow in our recovery by putting everything in perspective.

Who Me? Angry?

By Mike Finecey, MA, LPC, LISAC

You make me so angry!” Have you ever gotten so angry that you’ve said something you’ve regretted or walked away hurt and disappointed? Do you repeat the same old argument over and over again with the same result? While the subject of the discussion may change, the results are the same; anger, hurt, pain, regret. Does the anger reach levels where fear prevails or safety becomes compromised?

What is Anger?
It’s been suggested that anger is simply externalized fear. The internal feeling of fear is externalized and expressed as anger to mask one’s vulnerable emotion of fear. Fear of losing something one has, or fear of not receiving something one wants. Anger, can be a place where addictions are born. How old were you when you discovered anger worked or didn’t?
Did you notice when anger was present, people backed up and you learned anger protected you from getting hurt? You may have learned anger could be scary, or anger wasn’t allowed and something to be avoided if we were to feel safe. The question is, does anger or avoidance of it protect you from pain?

Overt vs. Covert Anger
Often times anger is expressed openly; therefore we know when someone is upset. An openly angry person is expressive, can be loud, vocal, destructive to self and others and outward in their emotions. This is referred to as overt anger. On the other hand, some people may not be aware of their anger or express it openly at all. They are more manipulative, passive, sly, or gossip and watch what happens. This is referred to as covert anger. When you’re angry do you express it openly or stew about it and get even later? We can do both depending on who we’re near, our significant other vs. our boss for example.


How do you score?
Are you with someone who has anger or are you the one with it, such that, on a scale of zero to ten, where anger is expressed at an eight or more? This is to be measured by the person receiving the anger, not by the one who is angry. The one who is angry has control of the anger and may believe this powerful emotion is at a much lower scale. If you accept you have anger issues needing to be resolved, ask someone close to you to rate it. If your anger is typically zero, one, two or three, its healthy anger and about what’s happening now. When anger reaches the eight, nine and ten level, it’s unhealthy. People with higher scores are dealing with issues of history. High scores of anger tend to be about past events and not what is currently happening.

Fighting To Be Right vs. Fighting To Not Be Wrong
Anger is fear. Fear is False Evidence Appearing Real. Anger experienced on a scale of eight or more is not driven or caused by the person receiving the anger. It is you experiencing an event, similar to an event that happened in the past. This is “your side of the street”. Healthy anger has a scale of zero to three, not eight to ten. When you’re angry, are you angry and wanting to be right or are you angry and wanting not to be wrong?
Fighting not to be wrong, implies you know you’re wrong and don’t want anyone to know it. Fighting to be right requires the other person to be wrong and no one can win. Fighting to be right will result in rejection by one or both. Those with a fear of rejection get to prove they’re right, yet ultimately will be rejected.

Treating the Fear
If anger is fear, then what causes our fear? Anger at an eight or higher can be an emotion from your life story you’ve never found a way to control. When you hurt and can’t control it, you use anger to protect. What is the emotion that you’ve been unable to control? To know this old emotion is to understand the trigger of your own addiction. To know that you have a fear from your history that you can’t resolve gives you the opportunity to re-parent yourself and resolve it. In the meantime, recalibrate anger to a scale of three or less. When you reach a three, take a time out to take care of yourself and the emotion you’ve used anger to control.
Twelve-step work, specifically the 4th, 5th, and 6th steps, are designed to assist in this self-examination. Conducting a complete moral inventory will shed light to one’s character defects and fears, identify wrongs, and highlight healthy options for future behavior. Additionally, countless people in recovery benefit from outside assistance from professionals. As you trudge the road of happy destiny, embrace all available to you. Proceed on this journey with open-mindedness, willingness and honesty. As a result, you’ll discover who you are, why you are who you are, and what to do with what you’ve discovered!

Michael is the co-founder and Clinical Director of North Pointe Counseling Center. Michael holds a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, and a Bachelor of Science in Electronic Engineering and Technologies.
Visit http://www.npccaz.com/

Meet Your Master Teacher


You are missing it! You could be missing all the fun, all the excitement and all the gifts. Most of us go through life from circumstance to circumstance and person to person without realizing that we are missing the most precious gifts that life has to offer.
We just monotonously get up, go to work, come home, occasionally see friends, go to meetings and wonder what it’s all about and why am I really here?

Okay, here’s your answer.

You are here to wake up and I am going to tell you how to do that. It may seem a bit weird at first, but stay with me. You’ll be glad you did.
First, you need to understand that this planet is a school. If you are here you have graduated to what I call a Human Arts Degree. What that means is that the Universe is giving an unparalleled opportunity to bump your consciousness up to a level and frequency that will get you into Higher Consciousness College where you get to make decisions about your future that are amazing. So, how do we graduate this level and school? The first thing, you want to understand is that you are going to class everyday whether you acknowledge it or not.

Life is the class and every circumstance and person in it is your teacher. Let me explain.
That wonderful partner you have, whom you are trying to change because you want him or her to be more like you, is providing and exam on your tolerance for difference, your need for sameness and your level of acceptance. How are you doing?
That job you hate but just can’t leave, well, that’s a test about your level of courage and willingness to accept change. It’s also about giving yourself what you deserve in this life and not wasting your choice to be born.

All those nasty criticisms about yourself that come from the back seat of your consciousness are exams on self-acceptance and self-love. You get to tell them to be still and let them know a better way to support you. They are probably mimicking mom or dad.

That tattered homeless man you cursed at and wished would just get the hell out of your way is a teacher on your level of humanity and compassion.

That extra, unexpected expense you had this month with the car is a test on your level of trust and belief in yourself. Chin up, look behind you at all the things you have already overcome.

The person at work, who drives you insane with his lack of integrity and personal responsibility, is all about your boundaries and your decisions to be who you are in spite of what anyone else may be doing.

That sweet young thing who keeps taking advantage of you and draining your bank account is testing whether you will respect your own boundaries or continue to sacrifice your self and your safety for something that isn’t really love.

That friend who continues to lead you down the wrong path and encourage you to make the wrong decision is testing to see how long you are willing to ignore the wisdom inside of you, before you step into your own power.

That house that fell through is teaching you that the Universe has your back even when you don’t think so because soon you’ll see the plumbers truck in the drive as you go by.
You’ll get the gift of deeper understanding when that job you wanted falls through and later you find out the guy who would be supervising you is a lot like your Dad, who never gave you credit for anything.
Those classes you couldn’t get in to are teaching you to trust your wise mind because the Universe has another path in store for you that you will love.

Are you staring to get the picture? 
Every single event in our life and every person in it is a master teacher — if we are awake and open to the lesson. Being born and coming to this planet is not about anyone else. It’s all about you and how much you want to grow in any given lifetime. All the choices are yours. No there are no grades. There is no punishment. There are no rewards. There are only consequences. There really isn’t even any hurry. You get to graduate when you are ready. You have all the power and you get to decide who you want to be and what you what to do with this precious life you chose. After all, you chose the curriculum. In case you didn’t get the impactful point of that last statement…congratulations, you are the most powerful master in your own life.

Changing Chemistry in Synthetic Drugs Poses Challenges for Law Enforcement

Law enforcement officials and prosecutors are finding it difficult to win convictions against makers of synthetic drugs, who are constantly changing the chemistry of the products to stay one step ahead of the law.

The Wall Street Journal reports the synthetic drugs known as “bath salts” can cause reactions ranging from hallucinations to extreme paranoia or the feeling of burning skin, causing some people to tear their clothes off. In order to convict a synthetic drug maker, officials must prove the person sold the drug, and that the drug was substantially similar to a specifically banned substance, the article notes. All a drug maker has to do is make small chemical changes to the products so they are not considered “analogues,” or chemical compounds that are similar to banned drugs.

In June, the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and authorities in three other countries announced the arrests of dozens of people involved in trafficking designer drugs such as bath salts and synthetic marijuana. In the United States, the enforcement operations took place in 49 cities, and targeted retailers, wholesalers and manufacturers. The operations included more than 150 arrest warrants and almost 375 search warrants.
“There’s no way that the DEA can keep up with the sophisticated chemists around the world who are making this stuff,” Timothy Heaphy, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Virginia, told the newspaper. Heaphy’s office won a bath salts conviction earlier this year, only the second such prosecution. One of the prosecutors at the trial, Joe Platania, added, “The bad guys know what we do and they just tweak another molecule. They’re changing faster than we can write our names.”

When local DEA offices issue warning letters to convenience stores and retail shops to stop selling bath salts, many store managers say they didn’t know the actual uses of the product.

The Subway Experiment

My friend Jenny owns a Subway sandwich shop in a large city. When local teenagers began to loiter near the entrance to the shop, Jenny politely asked them to leave. When they continued to show up, Jenny contemplated how to clear the walkway for patrons. Finally she set up some speakers at the doorway and played classical music at the shop’s entrance. Within minutes the teens scattered as if a stink bomb had been dropped in their midst.

Every interaction is based on the Law of Attraction, symbolized by Velcro tape. Velcro works when two sets of fibrous hooks catch onto each other and bind together. When one set of hooks becomes old and worn, they become flaccid and straighten out until they no longer catch and hold. End of match, end of sticking together.

The flip side of the Law of Attraction is the Law of Repulsion. Actually there is no repulsion; either things match and they stay stuck together or they do not. Repulsion is more accurately an absence of attraction. The teenagers at the sandwich shop were attuned to one frequency, while the classical music represented another frequency. There was no match, so the teenagers decided to go elsewhere to a place that matched their frequency.

You don’t have to get rid of people you don’t like or harmonize with. Simply strike a clear, strong keynote of the frequency you value. If the other person can match that frequency, he may shift to meet you at the frequency you broadcast. If he cannot match the frequency, he will go away. You don’t have to struggle or manipulate to make him go away. You just have to stand firmly in your desired reality.
At a seminar I presented in Greece, a woman named Georgia reported she had been married to a man who was emotionally abusive. “I told my husband I wanted a divorce, but he refused to give it to me,” she recounted. “So I decided that even if he didn’t love me, I would love me. I would give myself the kindness and caring I had been seeking from him. So I wrote myself a love letter telling myself how beautiful, valuable, and desirable I am. When I read the letter I felt so attractive and affirmed that I wrote another one as if from a man who was deeply in love with me. I continued to write myself passionate love letters every day for a few weeks.

“Then one day my husband found one of these letters. Since it was unsigned, he assumed it was from another man. He came to me waving the letter in his hand and told me, ‘I can’t compete with this—you can have your divorce!’”

In order for Georgia to stay in a situation that dishonored her, she had to dishonor herself. Part of her believed that she deserved emotional abuse or that a better situation was not available. So her husband and marriage mirrored that belief. When Georgia realized, “This can’t be it” and she began to give herself the love she was missing, her frequency changed. She was now broadcasting on the wavelength of a loving relationship, no longer a match to the lifeless frequency to which her husband had been tuned. At that point he had no choice but to meet her at the new frequency or leave. In this case he chose to leave. In other cases a partner might shift.

If you are seeking to shift a relationship or any dysfunctional situation, do not attempt to dictate or force how the other person should act. Simply establish yourself in your desired energy and let the Law of Attraction take care of the details. Sometimes when a coaching client wants to leave a relationship, I tell her, “Just get clear on your ideal relationship and start living it. Be the person you want to be in relationship. Don’t put a name or face on your ideal partner. He might be your current partner, or someone else. The more you dwell in your ideal scenario, regardless of the other person’s behavior, the more power you have to manifest your ideal situation.”

Rewarding desired behavior will get you much farther than punishing undesirable behavior. In a college behavioral psychology class, the professor had a habit of pacing back and forth in front of the classroom while he lectured. So the students tried an experiment on him. Whenever the professor lectured from the left side of the room, the students paid attention to him, took notes, asked questions, and laughed at his jokes. When the teacher stood at the right side of the room, they paid no attention and gave him no reward for his lecture or his jokes. It didn’t take long before the professor was lecturing exclusively from the left side of the classroom.

As we enter the new school and business season, the universe will reward you for being who you are — but you must be who you are before the universe can reward you. Establish yourself in the energy you value, and you will get more of it. Like the Subway loiterers who headed for the hills, anything not a match to you will leave of its own accord. Then you will be left only with people and situations who are playing and listening to the music you prefer.

Alan Cohen is the author of many popular inspirational books, including Enough Already: The Power of Radical Contentment. Join Alan for his acclaimed Life Coach Training to become a professional life coach or incorporate life coaching skills in your current profession and personal life. For more information about this program, Alan’s other books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com, email info@alancohen.com, or phone (800) 568-3079 or (808) 572-0001.

Women and Prescription Drugs: The Gender Gap Tightens

By David Sack, M.D

Women are catching up to men and, for once, it’s not good news. Decades ago, addiction was thought of as primarily a man’s disease. Alcoholism, for example, affected roughly five men for every woman in the 1980s. Despite the fact that women are twice as likely to die from alcoholism, by 2002 the ratio had shifted to 2.5 men to every woman.

In the past few decades, we’ve seen the same trend with prescription drugs. Although men still fall victim to prescription drug overdose more often, the number of women losing their lives to prescription drugs rose 400 percent between 1999 and 2010 (compared to 250 percent for men), according to a recent study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Every day, 18 women die of a prescription drug overdose in the U.S. That’s five times more than 10 years ago.

A Drug of Choice Among Women
Forty years ago, pain was widely under-treated with prescription painkillers reserved primarily for cancer or end-of-life pain. In 2001, there was a campaign to make pain the fifth vital sign, prompting health care professionals to assess and manage pain in the same way they would take a patient’s temperature or blood pressure. Now the scales have tipped the other way and, in some scenarios, pain is being over-treated with addictive medications even when non-addictive approaches would suffice.
Why are women, in particular, succumbing to prescription drug abuse? Women’s fondness for prescription drugs has a long history, reaching back to the 1960s and 70s when”Mother’s Little Helper” (Valium) was over-prescribed to help women cope with the pressures of motherhood.
Today, prescription painkillers are a drug of choice among women, in part because women are more likely to suffer from chronic pain. This could explain why women ages 45 to 54 had the most dramatic increases in drug overdose deaths in the CDC study. Women are more often prescribed painkillers and for longer periods of time than men. In fact, women are 50 percent more likely than men to leave their doctor’s office with a prescription, even if they have the same condition.
The majority of overdoses occur when prescription painkillers are combined with other depressants like alcohol or sedative hypnotics like Xanax or Ambien. Because women are twice as likely as men to have anxiety and 70 percent more likely to have depression, they are more often prescribed antidepressants and anti-anxiety medications, increasing their risk of dangerous drug interactions.
Whereas heroin or cocaine use carries a stigma, prescription painkillers have an air of legitimacy. People assume that if it’s legal and prescribed by a doctor, it must be safe. What many people do not realize is that prescription opiates are almost indistinguishable pharmacologically from heroin.

Equal Use, Unequal Consequences
Women are catching up to men in the rates of drug abuse and addiction, but the numbers don’t tell the whole story. Drugs’ negative effects strike women harder and faster than men. For example, alcohol does as much damage to women’s bodies in four years as it does to men’s bodies in 14 years.
Drug abuse escalates into addiction more quickly in women than it does in men, even when using the same (or smaller) dose, largely because of physiological differences such as women’s slower metabolism and ratio of fat to water in the body. These differences cause women’s bodies to hold onto drugs and alcohol longer, increasing the risk of health complications.Women are also more likely to use prescription drugs in combination with other drugs; hence the high overdose rates.
Even though they need treatment much sooner than men, women generally are slower to get help. Stigma, especially against addicted mothers, and responsibilities for child-rearing partly explain this treatment delay. Once they get help, women have comparable abstinence rates as men and may even relapse less often.

A Multifaceted Response
Prescription drug abuse is not a men’s issue or a women’s issue, but a health issue -one that requires a multifaceted response. State prescription monitoring programs help, but they can be burdensome for health care providers and patients and some patients work around them (for example, by crossing state lines to get multiple prescriptions).
Health care providers have a responsibility to prescribe painkillers appropriately, to educate patients about the risks and benefits of each treatment option, and to monitor patients for substance abuse and mental health issues. Patients have a responsibility to use prescription medications as directed, to tell their health care providers about other medications they’re taking, and to dispose of unused medication properly. On a fundamental level, we need a shift in our collective mindset that recognizes that the quick fix (in this case, pills) isn’t a fix at all, but the start of a new set of problems.
Need help with substance abuse or mental health issues? In the U.S., call 800-662-HELP (4357) for the SAMHSA National Helpline.

David Sack, M.D., is board-certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. He is CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, a network of mental health and addiction treatment centers that includes Promises, The Ranch, Right Step, The Recovery Place, The Sexual Recovery Institute, Malibu Vista, and Spirit Lodge.
Visit www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com.

Sex Addiction and Co-dependency

Sexual addiction never exists in a vacuum. The individual that’s closest to the sex addict, whether that person is a marriage partner, significant other, or child, also suffers. When one person in a relationship is a sexual addict, the other partner and/or parents are negatively affected by the addiction. While children impacted by a parent or parents’ sexual addiction pose special requirements for safety, this article concerns the main partner of the sexual addict – otherwise known as the codependent.

How Codependents Suffer
As codependents, they often sacrifice their own friends, personal integrity and values in order to avoid being rejected by or upsetting the sexual addict.
As the relationship deteriorates due to the partner’s lies, compulsive sexual behavior, extra-marital affairs, inappropriate or excessive sexual activity, emotional aloofness, lack of intimacy, financial difficulties, loss of friends, perhaps loss of job and legal difficulties (arrest for lewd conduct or other sexual misconduct), the codependent falls deeper into a pit of their own web of tangled emotions and behavior.
Often the codependent and the sexual addict have a background of dysfunctional family. One or more parents or siblings may have been alcoholics or substance abusers, compulsive gamblers, had an eating disorder, or have been sexual addicts themselves. Either the codependent or sexual addict or both may have been sexually abused or the victims of domestic violence as children.

Typical Codependent Characteristics
The codependent exhibits certain characteristics that intensify the longer the behavior of the sexually addicted partner continues. Generally, the codependent’s behavior begins as a natural reaction to a situation that is not normal to the marriage or partnership. That is, the partner without the addiction cannot understand what happened to the relationship, where it’s gone off course, and seeks to restore the balance in whatever means possible.

These characteristics are also unconsciously enabling behaviors, thus permitting the sexual addict to continue his or her addiction.

Denial – What do individuals usually do when confronted with something that they find morally reprehensible, inconceivable and impossible to accept? The natural instinct is to deny the problem exists. Denial is one of the first reactions to a partner’s sexual addiction, just as it is to any other addiction. Both the addict and the codependent deny the problem long before anything constructive can be done to address it.

Rationalization – Coincident with denial, the codependent seeks to rationalize the partner’s behavior — and his or her own. How the codependent acts in response is often the only way they know how. They’re operating on gut instinct, survival mode for the relationship. “I can’t help it. I love him. I have to be here for her.”
Inability to know what’s normal – Over time, the codependent ceases to recognize what’s normal and abnormal about the relationship or the behavior of the sexual addict. As the situation continues, the patterns become entrenched. It may become normal for the sexual addict to have piles of sexually explicit material all over the house or to stay out all hours of the night, to “work late,” or other behavior. The codependent doesn’t want to rock the boat, and therefore believes the lies the sexually addicted partner spins.
Intense fear – The codependent cannot bear the thought of the relationship dissolving. The resulting intense fear over the potential loss causes the codependent to react in wholly inappropriate ways to any signs of change. He or she may fly off in a rage, burst into tears, or seek to constantly please the sexually addicted partner in order to protect the status quo – dysfunctional though it is.
Constantly seeking approval – If only the codependent could be a better person, maybe his or her partner wouldn’t stray, would stop all the sexual compulsion, love them more. In a frenzy of activity designed to elicit approval from the sexual addict, the codependent slips deeper and deeper into the quagmire of self-loathing and doubt. Why doesn’t anything work? Why can’t the sex addict stop? Why can’t he or she love me for myself?

Hypersensitive – Even the most minor incident or remark can set the codependent off. Hypersensitive to the extreme, the codependent either sees everything as a criticism or a sign that they have to do better, work harder, and be more understanding. This hyper vigilance is a self-perpetuating destructive pattern – the more hypersensitive the codependent is, the more negatively the relationship is impacted with the sexually addictive partner.

Loss of self-esteem – When nothing seems to work, the co-dependent feels it must be because they’re not worth it. Who could love them, since they must be unlovable?
Fear of abandonment – No matter how bad it gets, the codependent will often tolerate the sexual addict’s behavior out of fear that to challenge it will lead to the partner leaving. The codependent fears abandonment more than loss of intimacy. The irony is that by clinging more, the codependent often forces the sexual addict farther away.

Feeling responsible – The codependent often feels that they are the cause of their partner’s sexual addiction. This is similar to what occurs with codependents of virtually any other addiction. In their minds, codependents feel that they bear some major portion of the blame for what’s happened in the relationship. The fact is that they facilitate their partner’s addiction by their codependency.
Avoidance of other relationships – Friends and even family fall by the wayside as the codependent spends more and more time attending to or picking up after the sexually addicted partner. Trying to keep the truth from surfacing, or being unable to lie any longer, and submersing or denying their own identity, the codependent gradually drifts away from healthy contact with others.
Inability to see alternatives – Days turn into weeks and months turn into years and still the codependent may fail to see that there are alternatives to the situation. Even normal family functioning is compromised as the codependent is either so rigid in following through on what has become a “normal” routine, or lets things completely go in an inability to take care of the family’s responsibilities.
Hopelessness – Feeling a total failure, unable to effect any changes, fearing abandonment, and believing in his or her worthlessness, the codependent often sinks into utter despair and hopelessness.

Codependents Engage In Futile Behavior
In an attempt to control the actions of the sexually addicted partner, codependents often resort to such futile efforts as snooping and spying on their partner, attempting to police how the partner spends his or her time and/or money, endless interrogations and/or rage and nonstop arguments.

Codependents Often Have Underlying Issues
As the partner of a sexual addict, the codependent – in order to heal – has to address some underlying issues of their own. Many codependents have attachment injury, intimacy disorders, were victims of childhood trauma due to sexual or domestic abuse, had parents or siblings with addictions or have addictions of their own.

The Road to Recovery for Codependents
While the sexual addict is undergoing treatment and/or is in recovery, often it’s the partner left behind – the codependent – that receives no help whatsoever. This is disastrous, not only to the addict, but also to the codependent. Without assistance and support or some kind of professional therapy and treatment, the codependent cannot begin to change his or her distorted way of thinking. The relationship cannot, therefore, be sustained on a healthy level.

What can the codependent do?
Effective treatment for codependents of sexual addicts is available through specialized sexual addiction treatment centers, individual and group counseling, support groups, books and literature.
During treatment, the codependent learns how to express his or her feelings of anger, betrayal, pain, sorrow and hurt. In their first stages of recovery, they attend to the following tasks:
Acknowledging and embracing all their feelings of betrayal and hurt

  • Understanding addiction
  • Understanding codependence
  • Establishing safety and personal integrity
  • Developing the mind-body-spirit connection
  • Learning to understand boundaries
  • Understanding the role of codependency in their partner’s active addiction


Through individual therapy, group therapy, family counseling and 12-step support groups, the codependent benefits from a culture of support, including professional help for depression and anxiety. Women’s support groups (for female codependents) are enormously helpful in the codependent’s recovery process.
In the process of recovery, the codependent’s need to shoulder blame for the failure of the partnership or to blame the sexual addict for all the couple’s problems gradually diminishes. The focus then shifts to development of a healthy self and self-actualizing behavior. Ultimately, couples therapy – for couples who intend to remain together – help the codependent and the sexual addict through the individual and joint work they must do to work toward a future of shared intimacy, and establishing a new basis for trust.

12-Step Recovery Groups for Codependents
Codependents of sexual addicts can find support through 12-step recovery groups such as the following:
COSA – Coaddicts of Sex Addicts is a 12-step recovery program for men and women whose lives have been affected by another person’s compulsive sexual behavior. The organization has face-to-face meetings with a listing by state, as well as telemeetings and online message boards.
S-Anon – an international fellowship of relatives and friends of sexually addicted people who share their experiences, strengths and hope in order to solve their common problems. According to the site, the primary purpose of S-Anon is “to recover from the effects upon us of another person’s sexaholism and to help the families and friends of sexaholics.” S-Anon holds meetings in every state as well as international locations.

Article reprinted with permission from Elements Behavioral Health. http://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/