Todays Date:
Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Drug Use Surges Among Baby Boomers

Reprinted with permission from Promises

Addiction rehab centers across the U.S. are seeing more of an older demographic than your typical troubled teen or young adult — baby boomers.
According to a new government study, addiction rates among baby boomers are on the rise. Substance addiction among men and women in their 50s and 60s comes with its own set of challenges, both for the therapist and the recovering addict.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health sponsored by the U.S. government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, among adults aged 50 to 64, illicit drug use has grown substantially — a trend that the report attributed in part to “the aging — of members of the baby boom cohort” born between 1946 and 1964.
For adults aged 50 to 54, the rate more than doubled from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 7.2 percent last year.

For those aged 55 to 59, it more than tripled from 1.9 percent to 6.6 percent.
“Among those aged 60 to 64, the rate increased from 1.1 percent in 2003 to 3.6 percent in 2012,” the report added.
Besides age, there are a number of key differences between boomers and young adults suffering from substance addiction. For one, the majority of boomer drug addicts have been long-time users, often for several decades. The drugs that are most commonly abused among senior addicts are also slightly different. Users in their 50s and 60s are more likely to suffer from alcoholism and addiction to cocaine, while younger users are more likely to suffer from addiction to prescription stimulants. Addictions to prescription painkillers, such as Oxytocin, are on the rise across all age groups.

Boomer Addiction Statistics

The study looked into the rates of drug use among those between the ages of 50 and 60.
Some of the study’s key findings are:

Four million baby boomers suffer from substance abuse/addiction
About half of all baby boomers have experimented with illicit drugs
Nearly 5 percent, or 4.3 million, of adults 50 years and older have used an illicit drug in the last year
About 26.2 percent of new addictions started in the last five years among baby boomers involved cocaine
Following close behind cocaine, about 25.8 percent of new addictions in this age group involved prescription drugs
Nearly 75 percent of baby boomer admissions to rehab centers are for addictions that began before the age of 25
Illicit drug use among this age group has increased by over 3 percent in the last eight years

Why the sudden increase in baby boomer rehab admissions? 

There are likely several reasons. The boomer generation is facing new stresses and pressures. As they reach into their 50s, these people are facing a number of health issues that often require multiple doctor visits and prescription drugs that could, if not used as directed, lead to addiction. In addition, women in this age group are going through menopause, which can cause depression, insomnia and other issues. Other pressures come from caring for both aging parents and older children. And as this generation continues to age, the inevitable and heartbreaking deaths of family members and friends become more of a reality.
Perhaps one of the biggest stresses of all is the poor economy of the last five years. Suddenly burdened with caring for family while dealing with potential health issues and the uncertainty of retirement in a stagnant economy, it’s no wonder that some members of the baby boomer generation feel compelled to self-medicate with drugs to lower their stress levels.

New Challenges

Caring for an influx of new, older addicts presents challenges to rehabilitation facilities and programs. In only a few short years, the baby boomers will be the largest demographic in the U.S., meaning that rehab centers will need to prepare ahead of time to ensure they have enough room, as well as trained staff to serve the needs of older addicts. “The good news is that they may seek us out,” says Marvin Seppala, the medical director at the Hazelden Foundation, a rehab facility that caters to seniors. “The bad news is, I’m not sure we’re ready for them.”

Unlike their younger counterparts, baby boomers struggling with addiction are more likely to be taking multiple prescription drugs for their health, making it not only difficult to identify a prescription addiction to begin with, but also making treatments such as replacement therapy more complicated, due to the possibility of interactions with current medications.

Because underlying health problems are more common in baby boomers, both housing and treatment programs must be tailored to better suit their needs. Older clients suffer much more from severe withdrawal symptoms, and often have other health concerns to worry about at the same time. Also, people with substance abuse disorders, even if they have only recently taken up the drug, are more likely to suffer health consequences as a result, making timely treatment more important than ever.

Despite the challenges of treating a growing number of addicts among the boomer generation, experts remain hopeful that these addicts can experience a successful recovery. Better treatment programs, as well as new senior rehab facilities popping up around the country, are sure to help. Treating older addicts can also be made easier thanks to the overall strong work ethic and family-oriented mentality of this generation.
If you have a loved one who may be in need of help from a pattern of substance abuse, consider contacting your local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.), a family counselor or a local intervention specialist who can help start the healing process.
Promises Treatment Centers is a CARF-accredited, dual-diagnosis addiction treatment center specializing in treating a wide variety of addictions, such as alcoholism, cocaine addiction, prescription drug abuse, and marijuana abuse. Call 855.236.1345 and visit www.promises.com

Holiday Hoopla Can Intensify All Addictions, Including Sex and Love


For men and women who suffer from sex and/or love addiction, the holidays present the following dangerous combination:

An increased number of emotionally challenging situations from which there can be a desire to “escape”
Extra free time for slips and relapse (via time off from work or school)
A culturally influenced background encouraging unrealistic expectations of “joy and happiness”
In essence, heightened emotions related to difficult family dynamics and numerous other factors make the season a more stressful than usual period, and this can feed into the chronic, progressive disease of addiction. Active addicts often experience escalation in this timeframe. Even addicts firmly grounded in recovery can revert to old patterns, especially if they stop attending their 12-step support groups, reaching out to supportive friends and family, and actively working their program of recovery.

But Everyone Else Seems So Happy…

The mere mention of the November/December holidays can evoke nearly universal visions of Norman Rockwell-like nostalgia – families gathered around pine-scented trees, candles burning night after night, tables weighted with endless goodies, hot cocoa topped with miniature marshmallows, and one tone deaf uncle or another cluelessly belting out holiday songs to grandma’s foot-pounding piano accompaniment. And everyone in this scenario is overflowing with joy, peace, love, harmony, and the spirit of giving. For some blessed families, this picture may actually be a reality. For the rest of us, though, the holidays typically fall at least slightly shy of this romanticized perfection, a fact that can be especially vexing for individuals already dealing with the challenge of addiction.
For people whose lives are dominated by relationship or sexual addiction (or any other addiction), the holiday season is an obvious set-up for slips and relapse. The justifications and rationalizations that every addict employs to one degree or another are particularly strong at this time of year, as there are endless reasons to feel frustrated, disappointed, lonely, or simply let down by love and life. Feelings of resentment, isolation, disappointment, and loneliness help grease the slippery slope of relapse. Some addicts (re)engage their addiction to escape the pressure of “being present” with family and loved ones; others act out as a way to cope with the disappointment of an idealized holiday that never actually happens. For men and women who struggle with problematic sexual and romantic behaviors, this time of year is rife with perfectly justifiable “reasons” to act out.

Sex Addict as Escape Artist

Let’s examine the two very distinct types of addict mentioned above. First up is the escape artist, the person who literally cannot abide the “life on life’s terms” reality that the holiday season forces on us all. This addict will show up for holiday functions, but as soon as he or she can reasonably depart… Whoosh, they’re out of the door and into the oblivion of addiction. Consider the words of Steven, a now-sober sex addict:
The beginning of the end of my sexual acting out was a Christmas Eve that’s now hard to forget. My sister and her kids lived about an hour away, and I drove to their house for dinner and midnight mass. My parents drove in, too, so the whole family was there. My sister made a fantastic meal, as always, and her young kids were crazy excited that Christmas had almost arrived. Me? I picked at the dinner, twitchy, sullen, and withdrawn, anxious for the evening to end. I knew I was behaving badly, but I couldn’t stop myself because I truly wanted to leave. Church was even worse. At one point my mother whispered, seemingly out of nowhere, “Why are you so angry?” I’m not sure how I responded, but I remember the question. As soon as church was over I was out the door and in my car. Back on my own, where I felt far more at ease, I drove around until I found a prostitute who brought with her the gift of crack cocaine. The next morning at breakfast it was back to my sister’s house to unwrap gifts. Thing was, I hadn’t slept, I hadn’t showered, and I was still wired from all the coke. As soon as the presents were opened, I told everyone I didn’t feel well and I left. But instead of going home and to bed, I called around until I found more drugs and another prostitute.

For this type of addict, the holiday season is a nuisance, filled with parties and family gatherings that try to push the individual back into reality and force him (or her) to be present – both of which he (or she) would prefer to avoid. After all, addiction is all about escape and dissociation from life stressors and uncomfortable emotions. Addicts engage in their addictive behavior because they want to “feel better,” which actually means they want to “feel less.”

Dealing with Disappointment

The second type of sex or love addict is the man or woman who sets impossibly high goals for the season in the misguided hope/belief that a perfect holiday will alleviate his or her obsessions and make everything right in the world. This individual lives in the fantasy that this year, unlike so many years past, he or she will be surrounded by loving family and friends who will set aside their differences, forgive past transgressions, and get along swimmingly.

Consider Jane, a wife and mother struggling with her addiction to romantic intensity:
Last year before the holidays rolled around, I took some time out from my endless search for love by getting out of the romantic chat rooms and off of websites like Match.com and Ashley Madison so I could prepare for a holiday of reconnection with my husband and family. I planned everything down to the last detail —  tasteful decorations, delicious food, perfect presents, the whole nine yards. On Christmas Eve there would be caroling around the neighborhood, and on Christmas morning our family would light a fire in the fireplace, eat cinnamon buns and drink hot chocolate, and then open our presents one at a time, savoring each and every special gift. Unfortunately, reality is not always what I would like it to be.
My husband John refused to go caroling, the kids ripped open their presents while I was still in the kitchen making coffee, and they complained about almost every gift they received. Then John started yelling at the kids for being selfish, I started yelling at him for yelling at the kids, and pretty soon I’d had about enough. So I left home for a drive with no particular plan in mind except calming myself down. Yet without much effort or thought I soon “found myself” in a cheap motel room hooking-up with a married guy I met on my smartphone Ashley Madison app. Apparently, his Christmas morning didn’t live up to expectations, either. Even though I was filled with shame and felt terrible for leaving John alone with the kids on what was supposed to be an extraordinary day for all of us, I was absent for several hours. It was like I couldn’t stop myself.
For this type of sex and love addict, the holidays — viewed as a cure-all way to re-establish love and family connection – can easily become a reason to act out sexually. The simple fact is no spouse or family can live up to the idealized expectations placed upon them by an addict eager for excellence (and escape), and when they inevitably fail in their duty of perfection, the addict ends up hurt, resentful, disappointed, and ready to act out.

Holiday Checks and Balances

For individuals in or out of recovery a mindfulness check-in – perhaps even a written check-in later read aloud to a good friend, therapist, or 12-step sponsor – can be especially helpful around the holidays.
Useful questions to ask yourself include:

  • Am I feeling isolated, lonely, sad, or angry as the holiday season approaches?
  • Am I keeping any sexual or romantic fantasies, ideas, plans, or behaviors a secret?
  • Have I recently contacted former hookup partners or lovers, drug using friends, or drug dealers?
  • Will I “run into” past or potential sexual partners at a holiday celebration or event?
  • Do I have idealized, possibly unrealistic expectations about the season or any upcoming events?
  • Am I prepared to handle holiday disappointments, letdowns, and the like?
  • Am I feeling impulsive or obsessive?
  • Am I resting, eating well, and generally taking good care of my physical, emotional, and spiritual self?

It is especially useful at this time of year for individuals already in sex or love addiction recovery to talk to their sponsor or a supportive friend in recovery about whatever it is they are feeling, to step up support group attendance, and go back to the very basic, early recovery advice that has worked in the past such as, “Just do the next right thing,” and, “One day at a Time.” If you’re not in recovery but know you have a problem with compulsive sexual or romantic behavior and/or addictive substances, now is a great time to reach out for help. The best holiday gift you can give to yourself and to your loved ones is the gift of healing and sobriety. Making an appointment with and talking to a licensed (sexual) addiction therapist is the perfect first step. You might not “get well” in time to fully enjoy this holiday season, but with a little hard work and dedication you can ensure that future holiday seasons are filled with genuine intimacy and joy – even if you and your family never quite achieve Norman Rockwell perfection.

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of Clinical Development with Elements Behavioral Health. A licensed UCLA MSW graduate and personal trainee of Dr. Patrick Carnes, he founded The Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles in 1995. 
He is author of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men, and co-author with Dr. Jennifer Schneider of both Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn, and Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age and the upcoming 2013 release, Closer Together, Further Apart: The Effect of Technology and the Internet on Sex, Intimacy and Relationships, along with numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters. www.sexualrecovery.com


Help Teens Make Smart Decisions

The more you know about prescription drug abuse (and the science behind it), the more you’ll want to help your friends (if you’re a teenager) or students (if you’re an educator) learn the facts and make smart decisions. NIDA developed the tools to help you get the word out and make a positive difference in teens’ lives.
The Facts and Activity Guide for students and teachers will support you in your efforts. Downloadable posters, buddy icons, and more Downloads will make it fun to help teens avoid prescription drug abuse.
Prescription drug abuse is a big problem among youth across the Nation. Among youth who are 12 to 17 years old, 2.8 percent reported past-month nonmedical use of prescription medications (that is, without a doctor’s guidance). In fact, according to the 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey, prescription and over-the-counter medications are among the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders, after alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco. When asked how prescription narcotics (opioids) were obtained for nonmedical use, more than half of the 12th graders surveyed said they were given the drugs or bought them from a friend or relative.

The Problem

Teens are making the decision to abuse prescription medicines based on misinformation. Teens abuse drugs for a number of reasons, including to get high, to treat pain, and because they think it will help them with school work. Teens often don’t realize prescription drugs can have dangerous short- and long-term health consequences when used inappropriately (e.g., using someone else’s medication or taking their own medication in a way other than prescribed, such as a larger dose or more frequently).  

A New Initiative

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is reaching out to help stop this troubling problem among teens. “Prescription drug abuse is not new, but it does deserve continued vigilance,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “It is imperative that as a Nation we make ourselves aware of the consequences associated with the abuse of these medications.” Whether you are an educator, mentor, or student, NIDA encourages you to use materials provided by PEERx to learn about prescription drug abuse and to spread the word about its effects on health.

About PEERx

PEERx was created to provide educators, mentors, student leaders, and teens with science-based information about the harmful effects that prescription drug abuse has on the brain and body. Information sharing is a collective effort; therefore, NIDA is asking you to take the information provided on this Web site and raise awareness among teens in your community about the dangers and effects of abusing prescription drugs.
Many features of this site can be used to help generate ideas on how to raise awareness among the teens you encounter daily. Learn the science behind prescription drug abuse in The Facts. Get helpful tips for teachers and student leaders on how to engage teens actively through homework assignments or extracurricular projects in the Activity Guide. Use fun downloads for teens to help spread the word among friends and classmates in Downloads. 

Somebody to Love

I had a nasty neighbor who regularly picked fights over all kinds of issues. People drove too fast past her rural home; her neighbors partied too loud; vandals were supposedly stealing from her water line; trees encroached on her property line; and on and on. She took in tenants, most of whom lasted no more than a month. Most people cringed when they saw her.
Yet over time as I got to know Maude, I discovered something quite beautiful about her. She took in stray animals and cared for them with impeccable love. Dogs, cats, deer, goats, birds, and a turtle that would have otherwise suffered or died in abusive homes or the wilderness found a healing sanctuary on Maude’s property. I watched her feed her critters, cuddle them, talk to them sweetly, and carefully tend to their wounds. She was like a saint—a true inspiration to behold.

Dean Martin sang, Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime. People who otherwise live in psychic darkness find a ray of light in loving one person or one population. Many people who have difficulty loving people love animals. I led a seminar in which a fascinating theme emerged as participants revealed themselves. Nearly everyone in the group was wounded in human love, but they all had deep love relationships with their pets. Everybody needs to love somebody sometime.

One of my heroes is the great scientist Nikola Tesla. Like many geniuses, Tesla had certain eccentricities. Rather than being involved with a relationship partner, he was a loner and channeled his creative energies into his inventions and service to humanity. Yet Tesla did have a love relationship with a pigeon. In his Manhattan hotel room, Tesla daily welcomed a flock of pigeons to his window ledge, fed them, and made them his confidants. He was particularly fond of one of the pigeons. He nurtured and petted her and, I imagine, told her things that he did not tell people. He needed someone to love.

Most people are on a lifetime quest to be loved. We seek love from anyone who might stimulate within us that wonderful feeling. We go from relationship to relationship, marriage to marriage, job to job, home to home, ardently seeking the experience of love. We believe that if someone would love us enough, we would feel safe and worthy.

But for most people the quest for love remains just that—a quest, rarely or never fulfilled.
Marianne Williamson made a brilliant statement based on her understanding of A Course in Miracles. She said, “It is not the love we do not receive that hurts us. It is the love we do not give.”
Her point cannot be overstated. The best way to receive the love we yearn for is to give it. Giving love rewards us more richly than receiving it. The love we give fulfills us as it passes through us, regardless of if or how it is received. As the famous St. Francis prayer affirms, “It is in giving that we receive.”
As we move through the holiday season, we have many opportunities to practice giving love. I don’t mean simply putting a dollar in the Salvation Army basket. I mean with family members who irk us, annoying co-workers at the Christmas party, and with sales reps who tell us that the gift we ordered is delayed. Those are the real opportunities of the holidays.

This holiday season we can evolve from being love seekers to love expressers. D.H. Lawrence wrote,

“Those that go searching for love only make manifest their own lovelessness, and the loveless never find love, only the loving find love, and they never have to seek for it.” 

You cannot simultaneously be a love seeker and a love finder. Even if you have been a love seeker for many years, you can instantly become a love finder. Then you will find everything you have sought inside yourself.
I had an annoying neighbor like Maude. Just out of college, I was living with several guys, and Mrs. Ryan did not cotton to us. She complained constantly and clearly did not want us next door. Then one evening I went to a lecture on positive thinking. The teacher asked us to take one person who irked us, and send that person love. Mrs. Ryan came to mind, and I was able for a few brief moments to tap into the place inside me that thought fondly of her.
The next morning Mrs. Ryan approached me in my garden. “I just want to apologize for giving you boys a hard time, “ she said. “I know I have been an irksome neighbor. I’m sure you’re really nice guys, so I’d like to get along with you from now on.” And so we did.
 was stunned. The only difference in our relationship was that I had sent Mrs. Ryan genuine love for a few moments. Behold the power of true love. We all need to get it, but, more important, we all need to give it.

Alan Cohen is the author of Enough Already: The Power of Radical Contentment. IFor more information about this program, Alan’s books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com, email info@alancohen.com, or phone (808) 572-0001.

Understanding Trauma, Abuse and Deprivation

The purpose of this article is to give meaning to the word Deprivation. Many times when we share our childhood stories we talk of the trauma and abuse of our experiences and can be unaware of the resulting deprivation that occurred. The 12-step program of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) was established for men and women who grew up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home. The consequence of being raised in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home undoubtedly leaves adults to face recovering from the effects of trauma, abuse and deprivation. To face it, we must first understand it.

Defining Trauma and Abuse

Trauma is damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event that shattered a personal assumption. It is an extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. Trauma is defined by the reaction of the survivor of the event and varies between peoples experience to the event. Examples are: accidents, surgeries, death, violent events, and so on. Abuse is a form of mistreatment where there is intent to cause physical, mental, or emotional pain or injury. Abusive events include: domestic violence, name calling, threats, confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, or being denied integrity, dignity, self-worth, value or esteem, and many more.

Understanding Deprivation and Attachment Difficulties

When we experience abuse and/or trauma, we not only interpret the attack of our psyche, but we also experience the loss of our ability to be attached. When an attachment is expected and then broken deprivation occurs in our psyche. Examples are a child neglected by a parent, or an abusive spouse. As the receiver of abuse and trauma we often times struggle with wanting to correct the attachment separation. We comply with the abuse in order to hopefully find a path of attaching, to be accepted in order to belong. As we review our life of trauma and abuse, the age we were abused and or traumatized defines our ability to attach in a healthy manner. If separation occurs early in the first few years of life, the broken bond leads to disturbed emotional bonds later in life. As an adult, it can lead to aggressiveness, being ‘clingy’, social maladjustment and issues with attachment and detachment as an adult. 
As adults we tend to look at the past and tell ourselves to “Get over it” or “It was a long time ago.” As we grow intellectually, we’re able to see and express our experiences of trauma and abuse. I add the word deprivation because we need to discuss the attachment difficulties that occur with trauma and abuse. A child neglected or beaten can be an adult fearful of intimacy. A child who can only comply with the abuses of life develops a fear of rejection and abandonment as an adult. A person living with domestic abuse lives as an abusee, trying to figure out what to do to be loved. All three examples send the message, “If I can just …, then I’ll be loved.” 

Healing Through Healthy Attachment

The truth is trauma and abuse result in deprivation and the inability to discover healthy attachment. How many of us go to Co-Dependents Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous or any 12-step program seeking attachment lost as a result of the deprivation we experienced in our history of trauma and abuse? 
We are born to be relational and in order to be relational we attach to others; creating the sense of being loved. Learning attachment is learning to face our fears, mainly our fears of intimacy and rejection. Learning to be vulnerable to ourselves and then with others is risky. It carries with it the fear of rejection or the fear vulnerability will give the other something to use against me, which is fear of being intimate. The second step states, “Came to a believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” is a measure of hope. From the view of trauma, abuse and deprivation, the power greater than us requires that we resolve our deprivation, and learn to attach to a higher power. 
If I am a person who has experienced trauma and abuse in my life, and live today in deprivation, then attachment to a power greater than me is critical for long term recovery. By recognizing our fears and acknowledging our deprivation, we can recover by learning to attach. First, internally attach to the child we were, finding comfort in knowing we did nothing wrong. Next, find God, a higher power, a power greater than ourselves to achieve sanity or soundness of mind in recovery. By understanding the deprivation resulting from trauma and abuse, we can also practice vulnerability and learn to have relations with healthy attachment. 

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 www.npccaz.com/

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Away from the cooling fall air, a fire crackles in the fireplace and the table is set with candles and neatly folded napkins..... 

The fragrant scent of turkey and dressing wafts through the room, enticing all those who have passed up lunch to wait for its arrival.   The announcement is proudly made from the kitchen and only after an appropriate number of kudos and ah’s does everyone gather at the table to give thanks on this special holiday. We give thanks for the program, our host and host and the fine table set before us. Some offer thanks for their successes and the challenges all of which provided new opportunities for growth. Yet, we can miss giving thanks for the greatest blessing of all — the gift of each other.

There is infinite wisdom in your conscious and unconscious choice of those with whom you create both partnerships and friendships. They are each individually a mirror and reflection of your soul. Just as there are colorful, creative and intricate dishes set upon the table, there are also colorful, creative and intricate choices in our friendships and mates.

They reflect back to us both who we are and who we are becoming. 

After you have taken in the scents and visually enjoyed the culinary delights set upon the table, perhaps you can take a moment to reflect on the diversity and beauty in your choices of life partners and friends seated at the table. Let me share what my picture looks like on Thanksgiving.

Somewhat removed from the flurry of dishes being passed I can usually sit back and first notice my son J.D. He is the part of me that still thinks all things are possible, sort of an “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” kind of guy whose commitment got him through earthquakes and rainstorms to make sure I was OK. We both know no matter what the obstacle, we would be there for each other.
Across the table my friend Jan scoops potatoes on to her plate and I think of how her childlike antics put me more in touch with the child inside of me who never learned how to play. My inner child was too busy dealing with an alcoholic mother and an abusive father until Jan came into my life and gave my inner child permission to come out. Before Jan, my inner child was hidden and hesitant, too fearful to play with anyone.

At the end of the table sits Elaine, talking a bit too loud and acting a bit too self-assured. She is the part of me that was still afraid she is not quite enough and over compensates for her uneasiness in groups. Beside her sits Randy. Randy reflects back to me the spiritual side of myself. He reflects my Higher Self, that knowing part of me that is connected beyond words and explanations to the Divine.  
At the other end of the table, my friend Lauren carries on an in-depth philosophical conversation with David. Lauren reflects the part of me that spirals with intellectual exploration and thrives on unanswered questions. David!  Ah David, the part of me that still wonders who I might have been if I had had what I didn’t have as a child. Then there are my other two children Lauren and Mia. Lauren is the creative part of me that loves making things and being artistic. Mia is the part of me who is profoundly on the path to Spirit and loves the challenge of learning. At one end of the table, you may have a mate. That’s the beloved person in your life who constantly reflects back to you, the parts of you that are beautiful, lovable and worthy of being cherished.

This incredible group of people, even as it changes, always reflects back to me my own soul’s growth in living color. There sitting at my table was the perfect picture of all the ways I had chosen to grow and not grow. Each person at that table was my teacher, my guide and I was grateful for their courage and willingness to be part of my life lesson.

Each one had made the decision to enter the process of relationship with me. Each was willing to look at the ways in which he or she closed down, defended against and opened again to all we might share. Thanks to their courage and mine, we were all learning a great deal about ourselves. I have often said that I know I could go to sit on a mountain and achieve enlightenment. In doing so, I would not be helping the world a wit, nor would I have any inkling of how my own human soul was evolving. Until I enter into relationship with each of these precious people, I have no way of knowing about my judgments, my invulnerability’s, my fear, my need for sameness, my openness or my courage.

I am constantly amazed at how once we become conscious and aware, life speaks to us so clearly. There are no coincidences, no accidents. There is only life, trying repeatedly through each relationship to teach us more about ourselves. Perhaps this Thanksgiving, you too can begin to see with a more conscious vision as you sit at your holiday table. Perhaps, you will quietly accept that each person before you is an integral part, a perfect reflection of who you are. 

Perhaps, you too will silently give thanks. We live in the greatest experiment ever created. This is a place where we each get to create the realty we most desire and where we can, without judgment or reward necessarily, we learn the lessons we came here to learn; the ones that evolve our own soul toward the person we each know we can become. What a delicious experiment this is and how much greater does that make this moment! Better yet, if you are grateful, say it to everyone aloud, even those teaching you patience. Moreover, from all of us have a great Thanksgiving!

Sexual Co-Addiction: Out of the Silence

He cheated on me ...... with scores of women.” 
“She’s addicted to porn.” “I see it progressing and I’m afraid.” 

“He keeps telling me painful information and I can’t handle it but get out either.” “Her therapist says she’s working on it, but how do I know?” “There were signs all along but I didn’t want to see them. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t enough.”

Sexual co-addiction devastates the partners, parents, and children of sex addicts. Patrick Carnes’ 2001 book, Out of the Shadows, did much to increase understanding of compulsive sexual behaviors as addictive. In 2011, the movie Shame shed some light on the lot of sex addicts, as did this year’s Thanks for Sharing.

Information for the partners, relatives, and friends of sex addicts is harder to find. The Twelve Step fellowships that offer a recovery program for people affected by another person’s compulsive sexual behavior seem to be one of the country’s best kept secrets.
That’s not because sexual co-addicts and codependents aren’t out there, and it’s not because they aren’t in need of help. We saw a hint of what happens when spouses cheat when Elin Nordegren allegedly chased Tiger Woods with a golf club. When she divorced the problem, many of us assumed she was going to be fine.

People who are affected by someone else’s sexual addiction know better. Depression, obsession, rage, shame, isolation, and misery haunt codependents of sex addicts. They question their value, their attractiveness, and their intelligence. They act out with their partners to appease or control them, and they fail. They suffer from sexually transmitted diseases. They lose their jobs, self-respect, and sanity. Even after divorce or estrangement, the difficulties continue. Many people leave a sexually addicted partner only to find another, and in some cases, another, and another. Even if the next person is not an addict, the shame and fear still make it impossible to have a healthy relationship next time around.

It’s hard to find resources because no one talks about it. It’s a problem that elicits shame for the thousands of people who struggle with someone else’s sex addiction. They often come into recovery believing  the sex addict in their lives wouldn’t cheat, or rack up bills at strip clubs, or break the law if only they were smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, whatever enough.
Sometimes a sexual codependent is the partner of a family doctor, pastor, or politician, and their fear about exposure of sex addict prevents any disclosure or recovery. They remain locked in silence.
Therapists, social workers, doctors, and clergy of people affected by someone else’s sex addiction sometimes don’t know how to help even if that person is brave enough to speak out.

Recovery from sexual codependency has been possible for many through a Twelve Step fellowship called COSA, which has supported people for 30 years.  Many newcomers find immediate relief from the awful isolation by meeting others who are facing the same problems. Often for the first time, new members get to talk to someone who understands. Many come having found it was not safe to talk to family or friends who have told them anything from “Leave the bum” to “You made your bed- lie in it.”

Everyone in COSA has a story. They come from comfortable homes, or they live in poverty. They are men or women, straight or GLBTQ,  all races  and religions. The sex addict in their life may be addicted to porn, be involved in multiple affairs, or darker behaviors. The sex addict might be their parent, partner, child, boss, employee, patient, client, or friend. Some members are sexual abuse survivors or rape victims who have no sex addiction in their family. Many sex addicts are COSAs themselves who may have been affected by someone else’s sex addiction long before their own acting out began. Anyone with significant contact with a sex addict is affected, because addiction is the only disease that so deeply affects people who don’t even have it.

All these people come into COSA and they listen to the similarities because they need the help of the people who have come in lost and broken like they are, and they see hope and help.
Members say they learn in meetings that someone else’s addiction is not about them. They can learn to trust themselves. Some leave the sex addict, and some find recovery with the sex addict.
COSA has seven meetings in Arizona, in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. The COSA Annual Convention will be held in Los Angeles from May 23 through May 26. The Convention will include meetings, workshops, and speakers.

For COSA meetings in Arizona, see http://www.cosa-recovery.org/states/Arizona.html.  All meetings are open only to those whose lives have been affected by another person’s sexual behavior.

Claudia M

I’ll Tell Who Ever I Damn Well Please

In the documentary Anonymous People, actor Kristen Johnston sits on stage and openly tells the audience, “I’ll tell whomever I damn well please that I am in recovery.”
I feel the same way and have for years.

Without even knowing it. I felt the stigma of being a ‘flawed’ woman when I first got sober. While everyone around me knew it, my addiction told me it was “our secret.” Even though I felt weak, afraid and despised my behavior I was chained to the dark side. Walking into my first 12 step meeting over 23 years ago I was certain everyone was going to point their finger at me adding to my shame. Oh, how wrong I was.
It took time, patience, guidance and understanding — that I am one of the many who have the disease of addiction.

Through the years I’ve witnessed a growing movement of people who are speaking out and stepping out of the shadows.

Why do we do this? 

How else will people know that continuous recovery from addiction is real? That people like you and me can lead successful lives; we work, we marry, we raise families, and we love, we laugh and we show others that while this deadly disease cannot be cured, it can be treated.

Deeply entrenched social stigma and mass participation in widely successful anonymous 12-step groups have kept recovery voices silent and faces hidden for decades. The vacuum created by this silence has been filled by sensational mass media depictions of addiction that continue to perpetuate a lurid public fascination with the dysfunctional side of what is a preventable and treatable health condition. Just like women with breast cancer, or people with HIV/AIDS, a grass roots social justice movement is emerging.

Courageous addiction recovery advocates have come out of the shadows and are organizing to end discrimination and move toward recovery-based solutions.
The moving story of The Anonymous People is told through the faces and voices of the citizens, leaders, volunteers, corporate executives, and public figures who are laying it all on the line to save the lives of others just like them. This passionate new public recovery movement is fueling a changing conversation that aims to transform public opinion, and finally shift problematic policy toward lasting solutions.

Please join me on November 14th at the Shea 14 theatres in Scottsdale. The movie will screen at 7:30. Tickets must be purchased in advance. To get yours, go to http://gathr.us/screening/5843.

See you there!

Friday, October 4, 2013

From Relapse to Recovery

By Allen Nohre, Terros

“The road to Recovery often goes through the little town of Slip, the bigger city of Relapse, towns and cities that are sometimes visited more than once.” 
The recovery from addiction is complicated and I wanted to learn more about the journey from relapse to recovery. I decided the best way was to listen to people who have taken the journey. Sarah and Marie (not their real names) openly shared their stories with me. I learned that the experiences are sometimes harrowing and no two journeys are alike. MapQuest doesn’t provide directions or shortcuts. The road to Recovery often goes through the little town of Slip, the bigger city of Relapse, towns and cities that are sometimes visited more than once, before arriving for a long stay in Recovery. Every person’s trip to Recovery is unique but the paradox is that we can still learn and grow from these journeys and especially from Sarah and Marie because we are all seeking to improve our lives. 


Before I met Sarah, I had some erroneous ideas about addiction and relapse. I assumed a relapse was a slip back to the same old behavior after a period of abstinence. Sarah, a successful professional woman, began recovering from her excessive use of drugs and alcohol twenty-eight years ago. With the help of intensive outpatient treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous and her recovery program, she stopped using alcohol and drugs and has never used again. But she did relapse after all that time. How could that be? She explained it. “I switched addictions and gambling became my drug of choice. I gambled during my years of not using alcohol or drugs and I thought I had it under control. I would go to Vegas and Laughlin, as well as local casinos. Gradually I became obsessed with gambling. The high I got when I won money at the slot machines was the same wonderful high I felt from alcohol and drugs years ago as a teenager and young woman.”

Relapse Was Building

The emergence of Sarah’s new addiction didn’t happen by coincidence. “My relapse into gambling began when I stopped following my drug and alcohol recovery program. I wasn’t using, but I wasn’t doing those things critically important for me to live a life of recovery. I kept my gambling obsession a secret, stopped talking to my sponsor, quit going to recovery groups and, most importantly, I wasn’t honest with myself or anyone else. I was clean and sober from drugs and alcohol, but I was white- knuckling it and I wasn’t in real recovery. I ignored the things that made my recovery possible and because of my addictive personality, my gambling spiraled on me.” 
Sarah financed her gambling with payday loans, credit cards and cleverly orchestrated it so that she had extra money in her paycheck by decreasing her withholding taxes. She managed to keep her job, pay her rent and other bills, but she was drowning in debt.

The Turning Point: Walk of Shame from the Casino

Gambling ended for Sarah when her debts and dishonesty drove her to her knees. She describes what she calls, “My loser walk from the casino to my car for the last time.” She had seven payday loans, credit card debts and owed the federal government $25,000 in back taxes. It was time for a new recovery. Sarah began her recovery from her relapse by starting an intensive outpatient treatment program. She went to Gamblers Anonymous, found a new sponsor, attended a women’s support group and returned to a substance abuse recovery group. “My original sobriety date was twenty-eight years ago. My new sobriety date, the one that really counts, is four years ago.” 
To reinforce her new behavior, Sarah officially banned herself from casinos by voluntarily registering for “self-exclusion” with the Arizona Department of Gaming making it illegal for her to be in a casino. She said, “I could be arrested for trespassing in a casino, even if I only went there for the crab legs I so enjoy.” 

Typical Relapse?

I learned more about relapse and recovery when I said to Sarah, “Your relapse is not typical.” She emphatically disagreed with me saying, “Yes, it is typical. Addiction is not about drugs. It is about your mind, your mind’s craziness and its obsession to get high with your next drug or your next one hundred dollars. My thoughts controlled me like a monkey on my back.”
And there is more. One year into her current recovery program, Sarah decided to deal with yet another addiction — food. “I ate for pleasure and to fill the void.” She was greatly overweight. She is now a hundred pounds lighter and besides being much healthier, she feels great, looks great and likes the freedom of making good eating choices.
Sarah’s relapse was a painful and costly setback for her, but she is an example of how a person can get back on track in the direction of positive change. She is an inspiration for those who have setbacks by showing us that failure can be temporary. 

Preventing Relapse: Triggers

Relapse prevention is an important focus of TERROS treatment programs. One of the relapse prevention strategies is identification of “triggers.” A trigger can be internal emotion like anxiety or depression that historically leads to destructive behavior. Or, a trigger can be something external that creates an irresistible temptation. The addict’s goal is to have insight into the catalysts and learn to avoid them, or at least, manage them.
Sarah avoids triggers that are a potential problem for her. As innocent as it might seem, she doesn’t participate in raffles, no matter how good the cause. She doesn’t buy lottery tickets and she has taken action to prevent going to a casino, even if only for those delicious crab legs.

Do You Worry About Relapse?

I asked Sarah if she thinks about relapse. She said, “Yes, I think it is important to remember where I’ve come from and the pain I experienced. Relapse is a possibility. It is the reality I live with and I’m doing what it takes to prevent it. I don’t believe thinking objectively about relapse increases the possibility it will happen. Stopping my recovery program is what will increase my probability of reverting to old behavior.”

The Good Life of Recovery

Sarah is enjoying her life of recovery and her freedom from her addictions. The seven payday loans are paid off, she pays the balance every month on her one credit card and she is on schedule with a payment plan for her back taxes. “My life is so different. It’s fun to get up in the morning, looking forward to the day and enjoying the people I work with. I have regained my spirituality and I am so grateful that every day is an opportunity to grow.”
Sarah recently turned 60. She sent out a birthday party invitation that said, “I am celebrating my birthday because I celebrate you.” Ninety people came to her party and celebrated with Sarah.

Marie’s Trip to Recovery 

Marie is in her mid-thirties, a married mother with three boys and holds down a full-time job. Before she arrived in Recovery, she spent some time in Slip and Relapse as well as a place called Prostitution. It has been a long and difficult trip but she now lives happily in Recovery. When Marie was a young girl, her mother was in the throes of her own drug addiction and basically abandoned Marie and left her homeless.
 As she recalls, “Wherever I stayed wasn’t for long. When I was seventeen my mother brought me to a house where there were drug users and women who were prostituting. I was introduced to hard drugs and prostitution and that is what I did for the next five years.”
“I call it what it is”
Marie says that not having a home, using hard drugs and prostitution was the seamless fabric of her addiction. “When I talk about my life, the hardest thing to say out loud is my prostituting.” However, Marie doesn’t deny, minimize or excuse her behavior because she has discovered honesty is healthy. She calls her behavior for what it is and doesn’t use euphemisms like “sex worker” or “escort” to minimize it or make it sound better. 

The Turning Point

I asked Marie, “What got you into recovery the first time?” She said, “My son.” After her son was born, Marie ended up in jail for possession of drugs at the age of twenty-two. Child Protective Services became involved and Marie was released from jail on the condition that she attend treatment. After completing 30 days of residential treatment, she was fortunately accepted into a women’s shelter where she was also able to live with her baby boy and continue with treatment. She says, “I was twenty-two and had no life-skills whatsoever, although I did get my GED when I was sixteen.”
 Marie met a man she liked when she was in treatment. They were married for five years and had two sons. She said, “It was a rehab romance but we were not a good mix. Our marriage was violent. He was using and I was isolated and depressed at home with my three sons. I had five brief slips, during our five years of marriage, but no full-blown relapse until I started working at a bar.” 

Conditions Ripe for Relapse

Marie’s internal condition of depression made her vulnerable to again use drugs. Like Sarah, she had also stopped working her recovery program. Then Marie added a risky external situation that was her downfall.
She took a job as a waitress in the bar where her husband hung out, an overall high-risk situation for relapse. She started doing “shift drinks” with the staff after the bar closed and then she accepted an invitation from a co-worker to snort cocaine. Soon she was smoking meth and had fallen into a full blown relapse. 
 Marie has a strong memory of important dates during the next twelve horrendous months. She left her home, husband and kids in December 2004. Marie continued to use drugs, stayed with her Mom, who, amazingly, was now in recovery and had four years of sobriety. “To pay my bills, including lawyer’s fees for my divorce, I earned money on the streets.” Her oldest son was living with her mother and the other two boys were living with their father. 
“I had walked out on everyone. On Halloween in 2005, it even got worse. I hadn’t been using crack because it is my downfall. For me it is the devil. But I did it. The next two weeks were the longest and most anguishing two weeks of my life. I felt terribly guilty that I was doing to my children what my mother did to me – abandoning them. I think my determination to not repeat my mother’s mistakes finally became strong enough to motivate me to do something. With the help of a girlfriend, I applied for admission to a halfway house. The halfway house said they would call me when they had a bed.” 
“On November 11th, I had run out of dope and fallen asleep when the phone woke me up. A lady said they had bed for me at the halfway house and wanted to know if I could be there by four o’clock. I knew they had a thirty-six hour sober requirement so I told her I was only eighteen hours sober. Still, the lady asked me if I could be there at four o’clock and I was. The next day, November 12, 2005, my second day at the halfway house, is my sobriety date.” For nearly eight years, without a visit to the town of Slip, the city of Relapse, or the place of Prostitution, that date continues to be both a landmark and a shining beacon for Marie.

The Fear of Relapse

As I had asked Sarah, I also asked Marie if she fears she might relapse. She said, “No I don’t. I can’t live in both fear and faith. It has to be one of the other. If I am fearful it is because I am not trusting God. When I start to be fearful I pray and ask what God wants. I trust that God has brought me to where I am and God is not going to let me fall on my face.”
Marie says her spiritual journey and connection with God began when she was in the halfway house and embraced the Twelve Steps of Alcoholic Anonymous. She says she found a higher power of her own creation and she likes the acronym for God, “Good Orderly Direction,” which is often an alternative interpretation. 

Marie’s Relapse Prevention

Marie’s ongoing recovery is not luck or a fluke. She has built connections with healthy people and a framework of “good orderly direction” that includes:
Attending a three-hour Celebrate Recovery meeting once a week.
Enjoying her daily talks with her sponsor.
Going to church every Sunday.
Valuing her challenging and rewarding full-time job helping substance-abusing parents restore their families.

What is Most Important for Preventing Relapse?

I asked Marie, “Of all of the things you are doing to live a healthy life, what one thing is the most important?”
Without hesitation, she said, “My relationship with God.” Sarah’s answer to the same question is, “My spirituality is my most important prevention of relapse. It is not traditional religion. It is my private connection with God and with who I am and who I want to be.”
People like Sarah and Marie, and thousands of others who know the journey, have a wealth of knowledge gained in the school of experience. When they share their experience, they open themselves to us and we get a glimpse of their conflicts and triumphs along the road to recovery. By listening to them we can apply their lessons to our lives. 

Allen Nohre is a writer for TERROS. He has held senior management positions with healthcare companies in Minneapolis, Chicago and Phoenix.TERROS is a healthcare organization providing life solutions for people, families and communities. TERROS offers alcohol, drug, mental health and primary medical care services and HIV and substance abuse prevention. 
For more information on TERROS visit www.terros.org.

The TERROS Call Center is the go to place if you need information about TERROS programs and services, scheduling an appointment or assistance contacting any TERROS site, call 602-685-6000 ext. 1950, Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM-5:00 PM.

If you have a behavioral health emergency,  please call 1-800-631-1314 or 602-222-9444.

First cases of flesh-eating drug Krokodil surface

A man prepares heroin in Zhukovsky, Russia, near Moscow. To produce krokodil, which has a comparable effect to heroin but is much cheaper to make, users mix codeine with gasoline, paint thinner, iodine, hydrochloric acid and red phosphorous.Krokodil, a flesh-eating drug which first surfaced in Russia more than a decade ago, has reportedly been found in the United States.

Similar to morphine or heroin, krokodil is made by mixing codeine with substances like gasoline, paint thinner, oil or alcohol. That mixture is then injected into a vein, potentially causing an addict’s skin to turn greenish, scaly and eventually rot away.

Dr. Frank LoVecchio, co-medical director at Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center in Arizona, told CBS5 that the first two cases of people using the drug have been reported in the state. He declined to comment on the patients’ conditions.
“As far as I know, these are the first cases in the United States that are reported,” LoVecchio said, adding that the cases are believed to be linked. “So we’re extremely frightened.”
Users of krokodil — or desomorphine — had previously only been found in large numbers in Russia, where 65 million doses of the opiate were seized during the first three months of 2011, Russia’s Federal Drug Control Service.

“This is really frightening,” Dr. Aaron Skolnik, a toxicologist at Banner Good Samaritan Poison and Drug Information Center told MyFoxPhoenix.com. “This is something we hoped would never make it to the U.S. because it’s so detrimental to the people who use it.”
To produce the potentially deadly drug, which has a comparable effect to heroin but is much cheaper to make, users mix codeine with gasoline, paint thinner, iodine, hydrochloric acid and red phosphorous. Codeine, a controlled substance in the United States used to treat mild to moderate pain, is widely available over the counter in Russia.

In 2010, up to a million people, according to various estimates, were injecting the resulting substance into their veins in Russia, thus far the only country worldwide to see it grow into an epidemic, Time reports.
The drug’s sinister moniker — also known as crocodile — refers to the greenish and scaly appearance of a user’s skin at the site of injection as blood vessels rupture and cause surrounding tissues to die. According to reports, the drug first appeared in Siberia and parts of Russia around 2002, but has spread throughout the country in recent years.

Officials at the Washington-based National Institute on Drug Abuse told FoxNews.com in 2011 that they had not heard of the drug prior to an inquiry by FoxNews.com.
Dr. Ellen Marmur, chief of dermatological and cosmetic surgery at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City, told FoxNews.com in 2011 she had never seen any cases involving krokodil, but said it reminded her of “skin popping,” or when intravenous drug users inject a substance directly into their skin due to damaged veins.

“This looks to me a lot like skin popping, what drug users used to do back in the day with heroin and other drugs,” Marmur said. “It just kills the skin, that’s what you’re seeing, big dead pieces of skin.”
Those large pieces of dead skin are referred to as eschars, Marmur said, leaving the user prone to infection, amputation and other complications.
Marmur said at the time that she was concerned the drug could eventually make its way into the United States.

“It’s horrible,” she continued. “These people are the ultimate in self-destructive drug addiction. Once you’re an addict at this level, any rational thinking doesn’t apply.”
Dr. Lewis Nelson, a medical toxicologist at Bellevue Hospital Center in New York, also said in 2011 that he doubted krokodil would reach the United States due to the availability of other cheap, powerful drugs such as black tar heroin and Oxycontin.
“It’s not going to become a club drug, I can guarantee you that,” he said.

Thank You

Thank you for the continued community support

The Original Self

Unconditionally loving and perfectly imperfect, without shame, unique, real, precious, one-of-a-kind, genuine, spontaneous, worthy, vulnerable, accepting of who I am, expressive of needs and wants and able to be in the moment. 

By Mike Finecey, MA, LPC, LISAC

The Original Self is the title given to the person I was born to be. The child I am at birth — unconditionally loving and nearly perfect. There are many words that can be used to describe the Original Self; unique, real, precious, one-of-a-kind, genuine.
The Original Self is who I was before I had to figure out what to do in the big conditional world. The world where I had to experience, understand and figure out what to do with negative emotions. Before that part of my life took hold, I’m able to be spoiled; wanting what I want when I want it. My emotional expression can and will be both appropriate and inappropriate as I express all feelings. I’m vulnerable and can’t survive without the nurturing and attention of another. I must rely on others to create a world that is safe, secure, consistent, and stable where I can have some control over my own environment.

Original Self Emerges
The way I have control over my environment doesn’t always have words when I’m little. I can cry and someone will pick me up, feed me or know its nap time. I put my arms out and someone will hold me. I can point and someone will know what I want. Later I learn to ask for what I want, especially if it’s at the check-out counter at the grocery store. At two, I practice saying ‘no’, just to make sure I belong. I know I’m worthy of my existence and I’m pretty much accepting of everyone. This is a time when I’m fully capable to express my needs and wants. I can say, mommy, mommy, mommy a thousand times, I can even get it myself, sometimes without spilling. I live in the moment. I spend each day being me. I’ve forgotten yesterday and don’t know what tomorrow means. I can play with pots and pans or put on a pillow case and be superman. I can dress up in mommy’s clothes and even wear her make-up. I can sleep anywhere just because I want to. After all, I am the Original Self I was born to be!

Where Did the Original Self Go?
My Original Self is who I am for the first five or so years of my life. At five or six, I enter into a phase of my life where I learn to emote what my feelings are and to have empathy and sympathy for others. Once I start school and all of a sudden there’s a new adult in town; my teacher. He or she tells me where to sit and when I’m going to have cookies. They even tell me when its nap time. The worst thing is there are a lot of other spoiled little kids; one of them takes my toy from me and when I cry they don’t give it back. At home, I’m being told to pick up my stuff and use a fork when I eat. My learning to cope with my negative emotions has begun. Ah, to be three again! In a healthy family, I will be taught and learn what to do with my new exposure to negative emotions. At the same time, I will learn how to maintain my Original Self as part of who I am.
In an unhealthy family, I may not make it to five before I begin to experience my negative emotions or I don’t have anyone to teach me what to do with them. Often times, the person who is to help me learn is the person who is causing the pain. As I grow older, I will often times lose my ability to be original, spontaneous and vulnerable. I may even take on the belief that I’m unworthy.

Reclaiming Your Original Self
In recovery, I hear statements like; “Let Go and Let God”, “One Day at a Time”, and “Stay in the Moment.” From each of these statements, I learn how to do life again as my Original Self. Letting go and letting God, reminds me to be unconditionally loving of myself and to release that which I cannot control — mainly people, places and things. One day at a time and stay in the moment, I did that when I was three.
Learning to bring the Original Self back into my adultness is all about learning to understand the person who I was always intended to be. As I’m reminded in Step 3, making a decision to turn my will and my life over to the care of God as I understand God is to allow myself to re-parent the person I was born to be. Unconditionally loving and perfectly imperfect, without shame, unique, real, precious, one-of-a-kind, genuine, spontaneous, worthy, vulnerable, accepting of who I am, expressive of needs and wants and able to be in the moment. To laugh, giggle and play, appropriately, as the Original Self — I was born to be.

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 www.npccaz.com/

Is “Thanks for Sharing” an Accurate Portrayal of Sex and Love Addiction?


Some readers may remember the film Shame, released in 2011. Shame was a gritty portrayal of an active sex addict (Michael Fassbender). The movie was wonderfully accurate in its depiction of sexual addiction. However, because it only showed an active addict at his nadir, it was somewhat difficult to watch, even for sex addicts. And non-addicted viewers often walked away shocked and appalled by what they’d seen. Now we have a new sex and love addiction themed film, Thanks for Sharing, was recently released. Rather than focusing on active addiction, Thanks for Sharing examines the next step in the process — recovery, sobriety, and the pathway toward sexual/romantic health. Happily, the film is every bit as accurate in its portrayal as Shame was — quite a feat when one considers how generally misunderstood sexual and romantic disorders are — while also being entertaining and easy to watch.
The movie focuses primarily on four recovering addicts. Mike (Tim Robbins) is fifteen years sober in both his “S” program and Alcoholics Anonymous. He is married to his childhood sweetheart, who stuck with him all through his addictions. His adult son, however, has struggled and is now also an addict. Adam (Mark Ruffalo) is five years sober from sex addiction and ready for the next step in his recovery — dating and romance, which arrives in the form of Phoebe (Gwyneth Paltrow), a breast cancer survivor and fitness fanatic. Neil (Josh Gad) is an emergency room doctor addicted to up-skirting (secretly filming up women’s skirts) and frontage (rubbing against women without their permission, usually on the subway). His attendance at 12-step sexual recovery meetings is court-ordered; he attends meetings to meet his legal obligations rather than as a way to find recovery. Finally there is Dede (Pink). Dede has just turned 30 and is new to sexual recovery, attending meetings at the suggestion of her Narcotics Anonymous sponsor, who has realized the only way Dede relates to men is by being sexual, and the inappropriate sexual partners she chooses inevitably lead her into substance abuse relapse.

Love Addiction
All of the characters in Thanks for Sharing are very different people at very different stages of recovery. Each of them is a realistic version of an addict searching for health. Perhaps the most complex character is Dede, whose drug use and sexual acting out might actually be more indicative of love addiction than sex addiction.
For sex and love addicts like Dede, romance, sexuality, and emotional closeness are more about emotional highs and lows than real intimacy. Love addicts spend their lives focused on the search for sexual and romantic partners in every situation. They live in a chaotic, sometimes desperate world of need and emotional despair, fearful of being alone or rejected. They are constantly searching for “the one,” that special person who will complete them and cause them to feel eternal happiness. Unfortunately, they are much more strongly attracted to the intense experience of looking for love, falling in love, fixing the troubled man or woman, and engaging the drama of a problem relationship than peaceful, healthy intimacy. Bored and fearful of being trapped with the wrong person, many will abandon a perfectly acceptable and appropriate situation, opting instead for yet another intense and dramatic “love” experience. Others, because they are desperately afraid of being alone, will remain in or continually rekindle a broken, unmanageable relationship. And, of course, like all addicts, these individuals have tendency to attract and glom onto other damaged people. In other words, they tend to make very bad sexual and romantic choices.
All of the above signs are apparent in Dede. At one point we see her outside her “dishrag” ex-boyfriend’s apartment, desperate to ring his doorbell for sexual and emotional validation. In a moment of clarity, she calls fellow newcomer Neil and he walks her through the situation, helping her to see that yes, the sex might be great, but then her ex will simply ignore her and want her to leave, which will make her feel alone and unworthy of love, which will make her want to use drugs, which she will almost certainly do because that is her long-established pattern. In other words, Neil helps Dede understand that if she wants to stay sober from narcotics, she needs to walk away from the ex-boyfriend. Her love addiction and her drug addiction are intertwined and part of the same addictive cycle.

Cross- and Co-Occurring Addictions
People who are cross-addicted switch from one addiction to another. People with co-occurring addictions engage in more than one addictive behavior at the same time. This sort of co-morbidity is especially common among sex and love addicts. For instance, one study of male sex addicts found that 87 percent regularly abused either another addictive behavior or an addictive substance.
Thanks for Sharing does an excellent job of presenting both cross- and co-occurring addictions. Mike is in recovery for both sex and alcohol, Dede is in recovery for both sex/love and narcotics, and it is very apparent that in addition to being a sex addict Neil has an undiagnosed eating disorder. At one point we see him binge-eating doughnuts (as a way to not act out sexually). Eventually he gets disgusted with himself and tosses that last few doughnuts into the trash. A few minutes later, however, he goes back for them. It is a sad yet eminently relatable moment, and powerfully indicative of the push-pull recovering addicts experience. They want to stay sober, but they “need” to self-medicate their emotional discomfort.
Dede’s co-occurring addiction situation — finding her way into sex and love addiction recovery via substance abuse recovery — is actually quite typical. Very often sex and love addiction in women is recognized only after a woman seeks help for another issue, usually drug and alcohol addiction or an eating disorder. In fact, many women who end up in sex and love addiction inpatient treatment programs arrive there only after they’ve been asked to leave another treatment setting (for chemical dependency, an eating disorder, depression, etc.) because while there they were acting out sexually or romantically. The Center for Relationship and Sexual Recovery at The Ranch, a gender-separate sex and love addiction treatment facility in Tennessee, actually specializes in treating women who have failed in treatment elsewhere because of their problematic sexual and romantic behaviors.

Nailing It
From a clinical standpoint, there are many things to like about Thanks for Sharing. For starters, it’s a much more watchable and enjoyable movie than Shame. As such, the general public is much more likely to see this film, and that is a very good thing. Certainly the movie has a few painful, cringe-inducing moments, but those can’t be avoided if you’re going to show the reality of sexual and romantic addiction. Plus, those “difficult” scenes are tempered with moments of humor and honest recovery. All in all, this is a movie that recovering sex and love addicts can comfortably take their friends and family to see without fear of judgment.
The movie also does an excellent job of presenting the reality of recovery. The simple truth is people don’t walk into 12-step rooms and automatically get sober. Life as a recovering addict is not easy, and it’s filled with ups and downs. In the film we clearly see this, with one terrible relapse, several near relapses, one person lying about sobriety time, and more. We even see that Mike, the group’s elder statesman with fifteen years sobriety, is far from perfect. For instance, he’s still not made amends (step nine of the twelve steps) to his son because his ego and narcissism simply won’t allow it.
The best part of Thanks for Sharing is that is accurately shows the need for social support in recovery. Very few addicts are able to establish or maintain sobriety on their own, regardless of what their addiction is. The film hammers this point home almost relentlessly, though thankfully it never gets preachy on the topic. Overall, Thanks for Sharing is highly recommended for clinicians who work with addicted clients. And what clinician doesn’t? It is also highly recommended for patients struggling with any addiction, or any sexual/romantic disorder. The film is an excellent, enjoyable, non-threatening way to educate troubled individuals (and the general public, too) about the nature of sex and love addiction, and, more importantly, the pathway to recovery.
Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of Clinical Development with Elements Behavioral Health. A licensed UCLA MSW graduate and personal trainee of Dr. Patrick Carnes, he founded The Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles in 1995. He has developed clinical programs for The Ranch in Nunnelly, Tennessee, Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu, and the aforementioned Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles. Visit www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com

The Vampire Strikes Back

While on an airplane I saw that the in-flight movie was Beautiful Creatures. Thinking the movie was a documentary on puppies or a sweet love story, I started to watch. It didn’t take long before I realized it was vampire movie, complete with pale faces and blood sucking. Oh, well. I’ll have to get my puppy fix at home.
What’s up with the rash of vampire and zombie movies that has pervaded books, theaters, and television of late?  Since fiction generated by a culture is an expression of the culture’s subconscious, there must be a message here. Here’s what I believe it is:
Our culture is filled with psychic vampires and zombies. Many people feel lifeless and needy, so they seek to extract life from those who are more alive than they are. You probably have one or more psychic vampires in your life. You know who they are. People who can never get enough attention, answers, money, sex, love, or security. No matter how much you give them, they want more. They are like black holes who can never be filled. You end up avoiding them, resenting them, or hating yourself for letting yourself be used or abused.
Yet everyone we meet is in some sense a mirror of ourselves. Each of us feels we need to get something from someone else that we do not have or cannot give ourself.  Power, money, connections, beauty, passion, fame, stability, or spirituality, to name a few.  Sometimes we just go for the jugular and attempt to hang with others who have what we want, to see what we can glean from them.  If we’re a bit more sophisticated we might strike a trade. You have youth and beauty and he has stability and money, so how ‘bout let’s give each other what the other one lacks? Or you have needs and I need to be needed, so I will be your savior. And variations thereof.  All based on the idea, “I lack and you have what I lack, so I’ll get what I need from you.”  Relationships are then reduced to a business deal.
You might feel fairly whole yourself, but you have vampires in your life. People are trying to suck from you to the point of depleting you. An alcoholic husband; a child who won’t earn his own living; a friend who has constant dramas or just won’t shut up; an employee who isn’t doing her job but you feel too guilty to let her go. And variations thereof.
In the movies the cure for vampires is garlic or a stake through the heart. That might be a bit extreme for you.  Instead, you might try a good dose of wholeness applied to you or your vampire friend. Confront the illusion that you lack or need, or that your friend does. The best way to get rid of a stray cat is to not feed it, and that’s the best way to get rid of a psychic vampire. Don’t fall prey to the idea that you are their source of good. Hold the vision of him or her as a whole, complete, strong, and capable person. Sprinkle that awareness with a generous topping of love. Appreciate and acknowledge your friend for who she is at her best, when she demonstrates independence, strength, and capability, even if those traits show up only rarely. Reward healthy behaviors and do not reinforce the sucking response.
If you tend to reach out to others to fill in your perceived gaps, get in touch with your own wholeness. Pray, meditate, visualize, and affirm your inherent completeness. No one can give you what you already have. Look within for your answers and fulfillment, and then receiving support from others will be the icing on the cake rather than the cake. Buddha asked, “If you do not get it from yourself, where will you go for it?”
The reason for the zombie phenomenon is more obvious. Look at people walking on the streets of the cities, riding in subways, and watching mind-numbing TV. Have you ever observed a child watching television? Hypnotized. Adults, the same. Our culture is fairly unsophisticated at dealing with pain. Our primary response to pain is to escape into distraction, addiction, and numbness. You don’t have to go the movies to watch zombies. Just scan your TV room.
The only cure for zombies — the living dead — is living life. To return to authentic passion. To feel our feelings, the joys and hurts, and to tell the truth about them. To honestly communicate what’s going on in our heart of hearts without denying, numbing, or putting a Band-Aid on our psychic wounds. To become more childlike in our self-expression without hiding, posturing, or censoring.  To say “I love you” when you really mean it and to not hang with people you don’t enjoy. To be who we are instead of who others want us to be. Then we stand a chance to infuse life back into the bodies that walk but do not go anywhere; speak but do not say anything; listen but do not hear.  The walking dead can be resurrected with love and intention.
This month we celebrate Halloween, when the spooks and goblins come forth. The word “Halloween” means “all hallowed evening” or  “holy evening.”  It’s the night before November 1st, All Saints Day. The shadows come up to be shined away by the light. As we bring the darkness to light, we might recognize what beautiful creatures we are after all.

Take off the Mask

It’s as if the person across from you is wearing the mask of the Joker. You feel it. You know it’s there even through the smile and glistening teeth. You see those gazed over eyes and you know that everything coming out of that person’s mouth is deliberately designed to impress, sell or deceive. We go to such great lengths to hide who we are. Are we afraid we will be judged or are we afraid we really are nothing at all? Humankind’s greatest fear is that we are simply not lovable. We hide. Yet, without even knowing it, we are hiding the greatness inside.
The world has become a huge facade. Seldom is anything as it seems, whether it’s physical, political, spiritual or intellectual. The ads show a burger that is thick and juicy, loaded with lettuce and cheese. The realty is a flattened couple of ounces of meat topped with a single round pickle in the middle along side a single splash of catsup, nestled between flattened white flour buns. That hamburger sometimes feels like life. We have metaphorical Spanks for shaping everything including the stuff coming out of Washington, but what’s a girl to do? How can you fix it, if it isn’t real?

You and I can get real! 

Get authentic. What fun it would be! We could avoid all those suppositions and misconceptions that come from trying to guess who the other person is or what he or she really wants. We could take off the masks, stop pretending. We could stop reacting or over reacting to our own negative fantasies and projections about the other person, most of which are not based on any reality. The trick is to stop be afraid of what other people think. Actually, you wouldn’t worry so much if you knew they seldom think about you at all! They are often more worried about what you think of them or what they are individually dealing with in their own life. Chances are you are not even on their screen of concerns.
When you don’t care what people think of you, there is a great freedom that arrives. It’s allows you to be spontaneous and available. We are not talking about arrogance, but rather a humility and gratitude that comes from a solid awareness of self. Just simply being who you are. After all, leadership and greatness is more about who you are than what you do.
Think Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King, Lincoln, Gandhi.
 Stephanie Rosenbloom, writer for the New York Times, says, “Authenticity seems to be the value of the moment, rolling off the tongues of politicians, celebrities, Web gurus, college admissions advisers, reality television stars. The word has been bandied about for ages, be it by politicians or Oprah, who popularized the notion of discovering your “authentic self” in the late 1990s. In recent months it’s been cited by the likes of Katie Couric (“I think I love to be my authentic self,” she said on CBS); Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (“I believe in being as authentic as possible,” she told Glamour magazine); former Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania (who on Fox described himself as “being authentic”). But, what does it really mean to be authentic and real?
The first thing it means is that you must understand that vulnerability is a great place of power. People who cannot be vulnerable, cannot connect in meaningful ways. Only a confident person can become vulnerable, receptive and open. Being vulnerable often flies in the face of our need to protect our selves at all cost. It seems counter intuitive to be open and vulnerable, but think about the people you feel safest with and most admire. Are they not also vulnerable? Sharing info about your feelings and yourself authentically creates a space in which the other person can feel safe in doing the same.
Kick sameness to the curb. Be the unique individual you came her to be and be courageously. That may mean you stand out or away from the crowd. Congratulations! That means it’s working. Most of the time, the crowd is not comprised of people who question, explore or are curious. They wouldn’t consider being different and maybe, you’d be better off not being one of them
Be up building and encouraging. See the best in others and support calling that forward. I have always known that if I am unable to see the Great Spirit in my clients, they will be unable to see it in themselves.
Be honest, even when it is difficult. Honesty provides safety. When you know what you are getting is the truth, you can make well-informed decisions about what is best for you and you don’t feel blind-sided. Be a voice above the crowd for what is just and fair. Be the pioneer who leads the way. Sameness is boring and creates a status quo that sucks the life out of growth, personal and spiritual.

The Universe holds your place until you are willing to step into it…. we are waiting and ready to celebrate your arrival.    

Emotional Liberation

In our development toward a state of emotional liberation, most of us seem to experience three stages in the way we relate to others.

Stage 1:
In this stage, known as emotional slavery, we believe ourselves responsible for the feelings of others. We think we must constantly strive to keep everyone happy. If they don’t appear happy, we feel responsible and compelled to do something about it. This can easily lead us to the very people who are closest to us as burdens.
Taking responsibility for the feelings of others can be detrimental in intimate relationships. I routinely hear variations on the following theme: “I’m really scared to be in a relationship. Every time I see my partner in pain or needing something, I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I’m in prison, that I’m being smothered — and I just have to get out of the relationship as fast as possible.”
This response is common among those who experience love as denial of one’s own needs in order to attend to the needs of the beloved. In the early days of a relationship, partners typically relate joyfully and compassionately to each other out of a sense of freedom. The relationship is exhilarating, spontaneous, and wonderful. Eventually, however, as the relationship becomes “serious,” partners may begin to assume responsibility for each other’s feelings.
If I were a partner who is conscious of doing this, I might acknowledge the situation by explaining, “I can’t bear it when I lose myself in relationships. When I see my partner’s pain, I lose me, and then I just have to break free.”
However, if I have not reached this level of awareness, I am likely to blame my partner for the deterioration of the relationship. I might say, “My partner is so needy and dependent it’s really stressing out our relationship.” In such a case, my partner would do well to reject the notion that there is anything wrong with his needs. It would only make a bad situation worse to accept the blame. Instead, he could offer an empathic response to address the pain of my emotional slavery: “So you find yourself in panic. It’s very hard for you to hold on to the deep caring and love we’ve had without turning it into a responsibility, duty, obligation….You sense your freedom closing down because you think you constantly have to take care of me.” If, however, instead of an empathic response, he says, “Are you feeling tense because I have been making too many demands on you?” then both of us are likely to stay enmeshed in emotional slavery, making it that much more difficult for the relationship to survive.

Stage 2:
In this stage, we become aware of the high costs of assuming responsibility for others’ feelings and trying to accommodate them at our own expense. When we notice how much of our lives we’ve missed and how little we have responded to the call of our own soul, we may get angry. I refer jokingly to this stage as the obnoxious stage because we tend toward obnoxious comments like “That’s your problem! I’m not responsible for your feelings!” when presented with another person’s pain. We are clear what we are not responsible for, but have yet to learn how to be responsible to others in a way that is not emotionally enslaving.
As we emerge from the stage of emotional enslavement, we may continue to carry remnants of fear and guilt around having our own needs. Thus it is not surprising that we end up expressing those needs in ways that sound rigid and unyielding to the ears of others.

Stage 3:
At this stage, emotional liberation, we respond to the needs of others out of compassion, never out of fear, guilt, or shame. Our actions are therefore fulfilling to us, as well as to those who receive our efforts. We accept full responsibility for our own intentions and actions, but not for the feelings of others. We are aware that we can never meet our own needs at the expense of others. Emotional liberation involves stating clearly what we are needing in a way that communicates we are equally concerned that the needs of others be fulfilled. A component of our new communication is the acknowledgement of the needs behind our feelings.
What others say and do may be the stimulus, but never the cause of our feelings. When someone communicates negatively, we have four options as to how to receive the message: (1) blame ourselves, (2) blame others, (3) sense our own feelings and needs, (4) sense the feelings and needs hidden in the other person’s negative message.
Judgments, criticisms, diagnoses, and interpretations of others are all alienated expressions of our own needs and values. When others hear criticism, they tend to invest their energy in self-defense or counterattack. The more directly we can connect our feelings to our needs, the easier it is for others to respond compassionately.
In a world where we are often harshly judged for identifying and revealing our needs, doing so can be very frightening, especially for women who are socialized to ignore their own needs while caring for others.
In the course of developing emotional responsibility, most of us experience three stages: (1) “emotional slavery” — believing ourselves responsible for the feelings of others,
(2) “the obnoxious stage”  — in which we refuse to admit to caring what anyone else feels or needs, and
(3) “emotional liberation”-— in which we accept full responsibility for our own feelings but not the feelings of others, while being aware that we can never meet our own needs at the expense of others.

Anonymous People Interview

Anonymity on the Silver Screen
Join Together spoke with Greg Williams, producer of “The Anonymous People,” an independent documentary about the over 23 million Americans living in long-term recovery from addiction.

Tell us about your background and personal experiences that have led you to take on this project.

Greg Williams:
During my first five years or so in recovery, I was hyper-aware of feeling like I was living in two worlds — a son and student by day and a secret person in recovery by night.  I was very uncomfortable knowing that people in the recovery meetings supported and encouraged me, but outside of the 12-step rooms, I thought I wasn’t supposed to talk about how great my life was.
As a part of my Masters degree, I began to talk to people who felt the same way.  I had the good fortune of learning from people like Bill White, who is probably the nation’s authority on the history of addiction treatment and recovery advocacy.  I was taught that anonymity did not mean I couldn’t share about my recovery status publicly and advocate for others.

You’ve described the development of “The Anonymous People” as one of the most powerful learning experiences of your life.  Can you share some of that learning with us?

Greg Williams:
Last year when I put The Anonymous People out there as a Kickstarter campaign—and we received nearly double our donations goal—I thought, “Wow, there are a lot of people out there who really care about this issue.”
Throughout each step—test-driving the movie earlier this year in select markets, KinoLorber picking up the distribution rights and establishing the Gathr theatrical on demand model—I got a little more excited.
But truthfully, the most gratifying part of this entire experience was meeting and talking with people like Maetta Broadus in Kentucky who is featured in the film.  Her love and appreciation for her recovery life is infectious and I’m humbled to serve as a recovery advocate with thousands of others across the country just like her who will no longer stay silent.

“Anonymity” has been both a foundation of the early recovery movement and also considered by some to be a barrier to its progress in the future.  Can you share your perspective on this issue?

Greg Williams:
Bill White says, “We will shape the future of recovery with a detached silence or with a passionate voice.”
Throughout history, we’ve watched other movements struggle without a unifying message.  Our message is pretty simple.  We are people in recovery from a disease who now live dynamic, productive lives, just like people who are in recovery from heart disease or cancer.  But others can’t know about our disease unless we tell them.  Congress can’t know and neither can the media.
If it wasn’t for recovering people sharing their stories and advocating for treatment in the 40’s, 50’s and 60’s I very likely wouldn’t be alive today.  It is my duty to carry this forward for future generations.

Where do you see the recovery movement going from here, after both studying it and living it so intensely over the past few years?

Greg Williams:
I think the future looks really bright because we have grassroots momentum on our side.  Education and a new language is the answer to many of our pitfalls.  And we have a new action campaign, in partnership with Faces & Voices of Recovery.  ManyFaces1Voice.org is the response to the one question everybody asks after seeing The Anonymous People: What can I do to help?  This site elevates passion for recovery into the tools needed for recovery advocacy.

We understand you’ve made arrangements to help anyone interested in hosting a screening of “The Anonymous People.” Please tell us about those resources.

Greg Williams:
The concept is a brand-new, movie-going experience called Theatrical on Demand and a company called Gathr is pioneering that experience.  Anyone can serve as a movie “captain” by following a few simple steps including selecting a nearby movie theater and the day and time they’d like the film to show.  The folks at Gathr negotiate with the theater so that all a captain does is promote the screening and guarantee a certain number of predetermined tickets will be reserved.
Anyone can watch a film trailer at Gathr’s link and sign up to captain a screening.

Greg Williams is a communications specialist, addiction policy expert and, above all, an activist for the transformation of the current response to addiction in America. Mr. Williams holds a B.A. in communications and media production from Quinnipiac University. He also holds a M.A. from New York University specializing in addiction public policy, documentary film and health financing.