Todays Date:
Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Monday, July 28, 2014

For Love & Money

By Debra L. Kaplan, MBA, MA, LPC, CMAT, CSAT-S

(The following article is excerpted from For Love and Money: Exploring Sexual & Financial Betrayal in Relationships, by Debra L. Kaplan. For Love and Money was published in 2013 and is available on Amazon and other online booksellers.)

When two people come together under an emotional and erotic cosmic trance, the one question they most likely don’t ask is: “What do I value most about being in a relationship?” This makes sense, given that our brains are hijacked by the hormonal and chemical rush of lust and attraction. Hopefully those conversations do occur, but later, after the lustful phase known as limerence subsides and the rose-colored glasses come off. This is where the relational currency begins to develop.

Sex Appeal as Currency

Currency is generally thought of as a form of economic or monetary exchange (i.e., money). But currency needn’t be pieces of paper or coins accepted as legal national tender. Currency can also be the emotional and sexual cache a person brings to a relationship. This type of relational currency speaks to what we value, our relational strengths, and the ways in which we communicate our values and strengths to a loved one. In other words, relational currency is the acts and statements used to express love and affection in relationship.
In the early phase of connection, when we are star-crossed lovers, we don’t barter in deeper relational currency, the proverbial life questions about what we truly value, or at least we are not likely to do so. These questions tend to surface about our romantic partner much later, often under a cloud of exasperation or relational disconnect. How is my partner showing up in our relationship, how does my partner express love and affection, and what does my partner value in the relationship?
We also ask these same questions of ourselves, albeit less often. In what ways am I showing up in our relationship, how do I express love and affection toward my partner and what do I value in the relationship? I often hear these and other statements in my work with couples:

  • He may not be very handsome, but the truth is that I married him for his money and he married me for my looks.
  • If he would only tell me that he even cares about me or loves me I wouldn’t feel so alone. But at least I get to live a rich lifestyle.
  • My friends are so envious that I’m engaged to a successful and handsome man. They tell me that it’s normal to be afraid about marriage and that I have nothing to complain about. But they don’t know that he is insecure and when things get rough, he drinks and takes off to the bars with his friends.
  • My wife stopped having sex with me years ago. So should I have stopped paying the bills?
  • Sure I know that he drinks, looks at porn and goes to strip clubs. Don’t all men do that? Besides, I love to spend money and I’m not prepared to give that up.

In 2010, Dr. Catherine Hakim, a British sociologist, presented a theory on what she called “erotic capital.” Hakim wrote, “Erotic capital combines beauty, sex appeal, liveliness, a talent for dressing well, charm and social skills, and sexual competence. Rather than degrading those who employ it, erotic capital represents a powerful and potentially equalizing tool — one that we scorn only to our own detriment.”1
In other words, the use of sex, sex appeal, and beauty as currency in courtships and relationships has long been a part of mating and dating. Prostitution, for instance, dates back to at least 2400 B.C.2 Controversial or not, Hakim’s perspective clearly identifies a longstanding tool of relational influence. Putting the matter as simply as possible sex appeal has always been, either overtly or covertly, used as relational currency, and this is likely to continue ad infinitum.

‘Til Theft Do Us Part

Money is also used, rather routinely, as currency in relationships. This is an all too common theme in sessions with couples. One particular session comes to mind.

“I make the money and you spend it.” Chuck said to his wife Katie. He was self-righteously angry, and all too happy to express his anger to a sympathetic ear and audience — me.  “I don’t remember vowing ‘til theft do us part,’” he added. “I don’t remember that we actually decided this. So maybe this was one of your unilateral marital decisions you made while I wasn’t looking.”  “Sorry you weren’t there, Chuck.” Katie retorted. “You must have been ‘burning the midnight oil’. Or is that burning the midnight oil with your colleague?”

That brought the discussion to a screeching halt, and we sat in silence. I tried not to smile at the dark humor Katie sometimes wielded when she was particularly hurt.

Given that Katie had asked for a crisis session and they were here to discuss Chuck’s latest infidelity, I was a bit surprised that they’d veered off on this money-related tangent. And yet I wasn’t surprised at all. Chuck and Katie had married 14 years ago in better times. The economy hadn’t yet eroded their life savings, their house had not come under the threat of foreclosure, and Chuck’s smoldering predilection for escorts and inter-office affairs hadn’t yet surfaced. Now money was tight, and both were spending it recklessly – Chuck on illicit sex, Katie on clothes and home furnishings. Both partners had been wielding the couple’s strained finances as a weapon for quite some time, so it was inevitable that we’d finally get around to this topic.

As is common for many in relationships, one of the partners comes to therapy in hopes of resolving an issue that has become problematic, perhaps even hopeless — in this case Chuck’s infidelity. Chuck was aware that Katie was unhappy and that she wanted to come to therapy to discuss his cheating. But in moments such as this, the therapist’s office becomes a de facto safe zone for what I call the relational rummage sale, meaning that eventually everything in the relationship ends up displayed — or as it was — flayed on the table. Once “safely” inside the therapy room, a partner or spouse drags out all the stuff that’s been stored for years in his or her emotional attic. Out comes the debris: long-standing resentments, fetid secrets, dashed hopes and disappointments that were, in their day, prized treasures and celebratory relational jewels.

For Chuck and Katie, this couldn’t have been truer. Katie had called and scheduled the appointment to “deal with Chuck’s latest sexual betrayal,” but when the door opened and the opportunity to expose unsung grievances presented it was game on. Resentments that had been festering for years were suddenly out in the open, ready to be picked over, looked at, discussed, and hopefully, in time, discarded.
Several minutes passed while Chuck and Katie sat in silence, avoiding even a glance at the other. Finally, Katie glanced anxiously at me, looking for some sort of sign that would communicate to her, “Go ahead, you have my permission to continue.” My silence was intentional. I was curious as to where this session was really heading. Suddenly Katie forged ahead.

“What do you mean ‘til theft do us part? If you mean that I spend the money, I do. That’s my job, isn’t it? I’m the one at home with the kids. I get them set for school and take care of the doctors’ visits, clothes, you know EVERYTHING. And everything is also what I gave up in order to stay home and raise the kids. Well, I’m tired of that. I’m tired of doing everything! I buy the food, keep the house, manage everything, and all you do is go to work and apparently screw around with any woman that will have you, and then you come home and sit on your ass like you’ve fulfilled all your daily requirements!”

Katie turned toward me and told me that Chuck had no idea about half of what went on at home, as if Chuck himself was not inches from her and within earshot of that very gibe. At this point I finally interjected. “I’m confused. I thought we’re here today because of Chuck’s infidelity. Is that the case? Or are there more pressing issues?”

Money Matters

According to a national telephone survey conducted in early 2012 by Harris Interactive for the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), financial matters are the most common cause of discord among American couples.3

Twenty-seven percent of those who are married or living with a partner acknowledged that disagreements over money are the most likely cause of a spat, causing an average of three arguments per month. Financial matters topped the list, beating out children, chores, sex, work, friends, and every other potential bone of contention. “According to the survey, much of a relationship’s financial conflict can be traced to a failure to communicate about money matters. Amazingly, 55 percent of the people surveyed admitted that they do not set aside time on a regular basis to talk about financial issues.”

About the study’s findings, Jordan Amin, chair of the National CPA Financial Literacy Commission, said, “Money is a lightning rod for conflict in relationships because it’s a sensitive topic and each person brings a different perspective based on their past experiences. It’s critical for couples to communicate openly and regularly about financial matters in order to establish a common language around money and move toward shared goals.” Unfortunately, most couples, like Chuck and Katie in the discussion above, do not heed Amin’s advice. And when they don’t, financial matters can create silent resentments that manifest badly in any number of ways.

It seems logical that if financial matters are the primary source of discord among couples, then relational currency should be the primary avenue for exploring how couples relate. In my practice I have found this to absolutely be the case. The simple fact is that couples arrive at a relational medium of exchange, whether they know it or not. This relational currency is based on their individual values (both conscious and unconscious).

The fact that everyone has values is not in dispute. What is up for discussion is what those values are, and whether they’ve become the proverbial tail wagging the relational dog. Discovering what each partner values – really values, and is ultimately seeking in marriage or relationship and then negotiating for it — is paramount to relational success or failure. I have often shared with clients that in relationships there are two types of information: the information we need to know and have yet to ask for, and the information we already have yet choose to ignore. Actively discovering, accepting, and dealing with a person’s relational currency is difficult to do in the limerence of early sexual and emotional discovery. Most of us enjoy basking in the excitement and exhilaration of a promising relationship. When we ignore obvious information or continue to avoid asking important life questions, this promising relationship is threatened from the outset.

What Are We Really Fighting For?

During their therapy session, Chuck and Katie sparred about sexual infidelity and money. However, as the therapeutic process unfolded over the next few months, other underlying needs and values (relational currency) came to light. As it turns out, twenty years earlier, when Chuck and Katie were dating, Chuck was quick to point out much of what he so adored about Katie: her quick wit, her ability to hold her own in negotiations with her male business colleagues, and her needless/wantless stance. What he kept secret at that time, only revealing it in a therapy session, was that he’d also been attracted to Katie’s youth, as she was 10 years his junior. Reading between the lines it was easy to deduce that part of Chuck’s relational currency was: I’ll provide the salary if you keep providing the looks.

Katie’s relational currency was slightly different. Early on she was enamored with Chuck’s lithe social ease and his ability to make conversation in any situation, be it in business or in a social realm. Katie valued this part of Chuck’s life because it extended social standing. It was also Chuck’s established financial success that Katie found so appealing. As time passed, however, Katie seemed to forget that Chuck’s success in business is part of what made him so attractive to her in the first place. When the financial crash began in 2008, their finances were greatly impacted and it was clear to me that this major financial upheaval had as much to do with her anger at Chuck as his serial infidelity.

It seems that Katie and Chuck’s values, their relational currency, became over time deficits and aspects of mutual disdain. I knew that if they were to ever find their way back to their early relational roots, both would have to work at being honest with themselves, honest with the other, and sharing equally in the heavy lifting of therapy. Regardless of the internal work to be done, external distractions and Chuck’s readily apparent (to me) sexual addiction would need to be dealt with immediately.

Below is a short list of life questions I pose to couples as they begin their individual and couples work in therapy.

Questions for yourself:
• What do I value in a relationship?
• Do I ask for what I need and want?
• How do I express love and affection in my relationships?
• How do I show my love and affection to my partner?
• Do I express my love for him/her in a way that s/he values?

Questions about your partner:
• What does my partner really value in a relationship?
• Is my partner emotionally available in the ways that I need
    and want?
• Does my partner express love and affection in the ways that
    I need/want?
• How does s/he show his/her love and affection for me?
• Does my partner express his/her love for me in ways that I value?

Debra L. Kaplan, MBA, MA, LPC, CMAT, CSAT-S is a licensed therapist in Tucson, Arizona. She specializes in attachment and intimacy, complex traumatic stress and sexual addiction/compulsivity; issues that are often rooted in unresolved childhood trauma. Debra is a Certified EMDR clinician and incorporates advanced EMDR protocols in her work with trauma and addiction. Debra lectures internationally on trauma and addiction and authors articles and blog publications. Her book, For Love and Money: Exploring Sexual & Financial Betrayal in Relationships was published in 2013.  

For more information visit 
debrakaplancounseling.com or email: info@debrakaplancounseling.com

Six traits you may have in common with the addict

By David Sack, M.D.

In this age of political correctness, even the most tolerant among us looks at criminals, homeless people, addicts and other “outsiders” with an air of consternation. It’s “them” versus “us,” and somehow it feels safer that way. But if you take a closer look behind the stigma, you may be surprised to find that you have more in common with a drug addict than you think. 
Do any of these traits sound familiar to you?
#1 Impulsivity “I want it and I want it now.”
Addicts aren’t alone in their insatiable desire for immediate gratification or their appetite for risk-taking. Most people have felt that twinge of “gotta have it” thinking that is reminiscent of adolescence. Have you ever racked up a credit card balance you knew you couldn’t pay? Taken a pill to feel better when your problem could’ve been addressed in other ways? Or turned to get-rich-quick schemes or plastic surgery to reach your goals faster? Even something as innocuous as a daily coffee habit, a penchant for cupcakes or an obsession with work can help you instantly relate to the plight of the addict. Just about everyone has a hole to fill or a pain to soothe, but not everyone has the internal resources to manage those impulses without settling for the quick fix.

#2 Perfectionism 

“Failure is not an option – and anything less than perfection is failure.”

Perfectionism isn’t limited to the people who seem to have it all. Addicts who have experienced one failure after another can be as idealistic in their mindset as the successful businessperson. Neither gets where they are through moderation, but rather through harsh self-criticism, impossibly high expectations, and an underlying belief that perfection is both possible and necessary.

#3 Grandiosity 

“The world revolves around me.”

Think you’re hot stuff? Maybe you are, or maybe you’re thinking like an addict. Addicts engage in magical thinking, creating a fantasy world where they get everything they want and are more important than everyone else. Although it often masks low self-esteem, another characteristic common among addicts, this inflated sense of self comes off as arrogance and allows addicts to push people away.

#4 Difficulty Connecting with People 

“I don’t need anyone.”

Most people feel a strong need for attachment and connection with other people, but some deny this need by isolating themselves. They make excuses for skipping social gatherings, blame others for their struggles and would rather stay home than face the world. As a result, they (often unknowingly) search for connection through drugs, sex or other destructive behaviors.

#5 Power and Control 

“I call the shots.”

If you’ve been told you’re a control freak, you’re in good company. Addicts often try to control people and things to compensate for a profound feeling of powerlessness. Rather than taking responsibility for their own actions and choices, they shift the blame to others.

#6 Difficulty Managing Emotions 
“Feelings are so painful, I’d rather feel nothing.”
When faced with stress, anger or emotional pain, do you   (a) do nothing;  (b) try to feel better through exercise, talking with a friend or some other activity that makes life more tolerable without any negative consequences; or  (c) do whatever it takes to make it go away?
If you answered (a), 
you may have learned from a young age that avoiding feelings was safer than working through them. 

If you answered (c), 
you may be tempted to escape through drugs, alcohol or other addictive behaviors rather than managing emotions in healthy ways. Either way, your coping skills could use some fine tuning.

Perhaps you’ve never struggled with traits or behaviors that in any way resemble addiction. If so, you are a rare breed. For the rest of us, focusing on our similarities rather than our differences can inject a dose of empathy into the national dialogue on addiction. 
And for that, your inner addict will thank you, and so will the 23 million addicts who are in the fight of their life.

David Sack, M.D., is board certified in psychiatry, addiction psychiatry and addiction medicine. Dr. Sack currently serves as CEO of Elements Behavioral Health, a network of addiction treatment centers that includes Promises Treatment Centers, The Ranch, Sexual Recovery Institute, The Recovery Place, Right Step, Promises Austin, Lucida, Journey, Sundance, and Clarity Way. www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com

Life after Treatment: How to Develop an Exit Strategy

Printed with permission The River Source - 12 Step Holistic. www.theriversource.org

If you were recently treated for a drug or alcohol addiction, this may be your first sober summer in a long time. Summers are often difficult for recovering addicts because of the increase in barbecues, picnics and festivals where alcohol is a main attraction. It does get easier over time, but in early recovery, it can be difficult to know how to enjoy the summer and be with other people without falling off track. One thing that helps is developing a solid exit strategy.

An exit strategy is essentially a predetermined plan that you create to handle a situation that you’re uncomfortable with. Say that you are invited to a barbecue at a friend’s house, and you decide to attend. Your friend assures you that there won’t be much, if any, drinking going on, so you feel like it’s a safe bet. But, several hours into your stay, a group of old friends show up with alcohol in hand, and it makes you uncomfortable. This is where you would follow your exit strategy and remove yourself from the situation.
An exit strategy is necessary for all recovering addicts. You learn in treatment that you don’t have control over what others do, so it’s likely you will be in some situations that may initiate temptation and make it difficult to stay on track with your goals. Even though early recovery is the hardest, you will have to go beyond your comfort zone sometimes, and you need to be confident that you can handle uncertain situations.

How do you go about creating an exit strategy? Here are a few pointers. 

  • Practice saying ‘no.’ As you start to attend more outings, you’ll need to learn how to say ‘no.’ When you’re direct and assertive, people won’t question your decision. Practice in the mirror and then with your loved ones. When you’re out with friends, you’ll know what to say if you’re asked for a drink.
  • Have a support person on call. When you go out, always have someone to call. This could be a friend, family member or mentor from your 12-step meetings. If you feel uncomfortable at any time throughout the night, you can call or text this person and have them pick you up.
  • Be prepared to walk out. One thing about recovery is that YOU matter. Now is not a time to try to impress or appease others. If you’re feeling tempted, you need to leave. You don’t owe anyone an explanation. It’s not worth risking your sobriety.
  • Know your limits. As you venture out more you’ll learn about your limits. You may attend a party and find that you were ready for that step, or you may find that the situation was uncomfortable. The goal is to keep learning from your experiences and choose to be with people and at places that won’t hurt your recovery.
  • Download an app. There are numerous apps that can be downloaded straight to your phone to offer support and motivation for staying sober, such as the 12 Steps AA Companion that maintains a running sobriety calculator. Other apps have inspiring quotes and relaxation techniques.
  • Increase your recovery tools. If you’re able to leave the situation right away and avoid temptation, you may not have any regression in your recovery. But, sometimes seeing old friends, hearing a certain song or being in the presence of drugs or alcohol can make you more likely to relapse. If you are feeling tempted, increase your recovery tools. Talk to other recovering addicts online, attend an extra support group or spend more time meditating. This is a normal part of long-term recovery; some days you’ll need more motivation than others.

It’s necessary to have a firm strategy in place. Removing yourself from a potentially toxic situation can help you stay on track with your goals and prevent relapse. And, you also learn to practice proactive thinking rather than reactive thinking. It’s skills like these that will ultimately allow you to lead a clean and sober life.

Intelligent Programming

By Alan Cohen

While in Japan I met an American woman who had been living in that country for twenty years. I asked her how long it had taken her to learn the Japanese language. “A couple of years,” she answered. “But I still don’t understand everything. Just the things that interest me. For example, I can watch documentaries on television and understand every word. When the game shows come on I have no idea what they are talking about.”

Her selective learning demonstrated to me that we each have the capacity to tune our minds to things of value and to screen out everything irrelevant. The world is filled with all manner of subject matter and intention. You have the power to understand what is of value to you and screen out everything that doesn’t match your intention. A significant part of personal growth is finding the confidence to let in what belongs to you and release all else.

My dog Munchie was an excellent teacher of selective sifting. When I took him to the beach he would wander off in search of interesting smells and people. I would call him many times, but he would just stay on his mission. I thought he was hard of hearing, so I would go and fetch him. Then one day I opened a snack in a cellophane wrapper, the sound of which resembled what Munchie heard when I opened the treats I gave him. At a distance of twenty yards, amid the sound of waves and people on the beach, he heard the tiniest crumpling of cellophane and he came running back. He heard what was important to him and responded instantly. “A man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.” Likewise, dogs.

You can use the principle of selective sifting to generate intelligent programming with your children and friends. When your children misbehave or your friends act unkindly or want to go places you prefer not to go, do not engage with their negative behavior. If you resist it, you will only reinforce it. Pay no attention to “silly game shows.” Consider foolishness or banality a foreign language that does not register with you. When your children, spouse, or friends show up with positive behavior or activities that stimulate you, reinforce that behavior with the kind of attention you would pay to a brilliant movie. When they behave amiss, withdraw your attention. Soon they will learn that if they want your presence and support, they will need to walk on the brighter side of the street.

The most powerful currency you have at your disposal is your attention. The concept of “paying attention” reveals the key to its wise use. When you pay attention to something, you are investing in the stock of that commodity. You are saying, “This is important to me. I want more of it.” The concept of “interest” also bears crossover between the reams of finance and consciousness. When you are interested in something, you earn interest on it. What you put in comes back to you increased. Take care what you pay attention to and what you are interested in. You will get more of the same.

The Internet is a great metaphor for how we make choices. The Internet reflects the entire gamut of human consciousness. Everything that anyone has ever thought of is posted on some website somewhere, from the sublime to the ridiculous, the uplifting to the sordid. You get to choose which realm you will participate in by way of the URL you type in. It’s all there. Visiting a website is like visiting a realm of consciousness. You decide what aspect of totality that you receive. If you have your own website, people must know your URL to visit it. They must have the key that enters your consciousness.

Choose your URL wisely, metaphorically speaking. It makes all the difference in the people with whom you engage.

Groucho Marx said, “‘I find television very educating. Every time somebody turns on the set, I go into the other room and read a book.” He also said, “Television is where you let people into your living room that you would not otherwise let near your house.” When you watch a TV show or movie, read a book, or have a conversation, you are participating in a level of consciousness. If that consciousness is rewarding to you, dive in. If not, dive out.

I haven’t watched television in over five years. I watched it every day and night when I was a kid. I could recite the schedule of every evening show on every channel. Five years ago the local TV stations switched from analog to digital broadcasting. Oddly, the digital signal does not reach the rural side of the island where I live. We never bothered to sign up for cable or satellite broadcasting. We don’t miss TV in the least. Now Dee and I watch inspirational and educational videos in the evening. We have more to talk about and we sleep better.

There are fabulous shows being broadcast and meaningless shows being broadcast. You will watch the ones you understand. As a spiritual being, you understand brilliance. Invite people into your living room by choice, not default.

Alan Cohen is the author of I Had it All the Time: When Self-Improvement Gives Way to Ecstasy. Join Alan and other renowned teachers in Maui this December 7-12 for an extraordinary Course in Miracles Retreat: Coming Home to Love. For information about this program, Alan’s books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com.

Freedom for Free

I really want to be free! Sometimes, I think that means an island with a high back chair and sea breezes. At other times, I think it means getting off the grid and dropping out of the chaotic, greed based society we live in. However, since doing either would present a certain set of challenges for this agey, sagey lady, I have been exploring how to feel the breeze inside, right here, right now.
In my world, soon after I ask for clarity I get that palm to forehead thump. Clarity arrived this time in the awareness that while dealing with a broken leg and other arduous challenges that had stolen my energy and joy in the past few months, I rediscovered that breezes on the inside are still possible. This awareness was a huge gift and ah-ha that arrived after I drove to Sedona with my granddaughter, to see another agey, sagey healing woman, Mariane Parisi. From the moment I walked in to her healing space, the connection was palatable, rich and refreshing.

There was an instant reunion of spirits and for the next two hours we soared in revelation and acknowledgment of having found a piece of ourselves in each other. There was no judgment, no evaluating of worth, no positioning, posturing, one-upping or editing — no hold out or hold back on the truths we shared. We told stories abut the most embarrassing moments in our lives, our failings and our ferociousness. 
We laughed and we cried together in joy. And I knew…the thing that frees my spirit is authenticity and genuine connection. This is a nearly a lost art, in a world where even our closest relatives all have cell phones and computers grafted to their hips. How can this be when clearly the way to freedom is deeper and closer!
The way to freedom is to have the courage to sit in the middle of every inclination to shut down and protect, hide and lie, pretend and pose, and choose to open…more. Real is so much more inviting. Insight, loving kindness, compassion and caring are the paths to freedom, yet these are the things we fear the most. They require being vulnerable and a willingness to feel.

A couple of easy steps on the path to freedom are to disconnect from the electronics and busyness. Don’t panic…just a few minutes each day will help. It’s about quiet time to reflect on what you truly want for your life. Ask yourself if your next step is going to take you there and identify what you are really feeling inside. It’s a time to ask where have I withdrawn to protect myself and what have I allowed to make me afraid? Every emotion will arise and that simply means you are a healthy human being who is capable of feeling everything from rage to rapturous love and respond to all of it with reason and safety. Feelings are not what we need to fear. Our response to them is what matters. By sitting with the feelings, we learn to relate to them from a place of safety and freedom without over reacting. A feeling is just a feeling. It’s what you do with them that matters.

Another step that will help move you to freedom is to always tell the truth. 

The truth does not need to be delivered with a sledgehammer, which is what most of us think of when we think of being excruciatingly honest. “Oh I can’t do that, it will hurt someone’s feelings.” So we lie…about our weight, our age, our feelings, our lack of feelings…okay everything.
If you stop a minute and just ask yourself how many white or darker lies you have told during the last week, you may surprise yourself. Everything from “No, I’m not mad at you,” to “Tell her I am not home.” We do it even though each of us is certainly capable of hearing, “This is not a good time for me to talk right now. Can I call you back tomorrow?” Or, “Yes I am feeling irritated right now but I am not clear why, so let me think about it and I will talk with you tonight when I figure it out.”
Connection is the path to freedom and meaning — connection to yourself and your feelings and connection to your path and the steps along the way. And incredibly important are the connections to those special spirits with whom you can dance in truth and meaning. So what are you waiting for? Freedom is waiting.

Dr. Evan is a life/soul coach in Arizona working with individuals, couples and corporations.  She  specializes in relationships, personal and professional empowerment, compassion and consciousness. For more information 602-997-1200, email drdbe@attglobal.net or visit www.DrDinaEvan.com.

Sentiments We Should All Say More Often

By Joyce Marter, LCPC

All too often, we take the people we love the most for granted: our lovers, family members, friends, and children. We forget the enormous power of our words, as we carelessly lash out when under stress. We stick our noses in our laptops and smartphones, assuming our loved ones know what we are failing to verbalize, sometimes until the relationships are disconnected or damaged beyond repair.
Make a choice to consciously nurture your relationships with verbal communications of love. Be kind and sincere. Ask open-ended questions with an open heart. Listen empathically and non-defensively. There are no conditions, no strings, no expectations, and no manipulations. Simply, love to love.
Sprinkle your relationships with these loving sentiments and watch them blossom:

I am here for you.
Thanks for all you do for me and all the ways in which you add value to my life.
How are you? Truthfully, fully and completely — how are you, really?
Tell me about your dreams.
Tell me about your fears.
Tell me about your beliefs about life, love, the world, etc.
I am thinking about you.
I appreciate you.
I care about your feelings.
You are important to me.
I made a mistake and I’m sorry. I sincerely apologize. Please forgive me.
I value our relationship.
I am grateful and fortunate to have you in my life.
What can I do to support you?
How are you feeling about our relationship?
How are you feeling about me?
The qualities I love about you most are: _____.
I notice and really appreciate your efforts and growth in these areas: _____.
What’s most meaningful to me about our connection is: ______.
Great job! Nice work! Well done.
These are the ways in which you have touched my life and made me better: _____.
It’s an honor to know you and to be close to you.
I want the very best for you.
I cherish the following experiences we’ve shared: _______.
I trust you. I trust in our relationship.
I forgive you. I let go of my resentments.
These are all of the wonderful, positive qualities I see in you:  _____.
Your greatest gifts and strengths are: _____.
I respect you.
I respect your decisions even though they’re different from mine or what I’ve recommended.
             You’re free to make your own choices.
I support you in any and every way that I can.
 I believe in you.
 I lovingly and trustingly give you the time and space you need.
You can achieve anything you want in life.
You are special. You are divinely and uniquely YOU.
You are free to be your authentic self in the context of our relationship.
I welcome you to be honest and truthful with me.
I desire to have/maintain an intimate and loving relationship with you.
You elicit the following positive emotions and feelings in me: _______.
You are not responsible for me, for my bad behaviors or my poor choices.
What would you like from me or from our relationship?
 It’s not your fault. I don’t blame you.
I support you in taking care of yourself.
Your feelings are understandable, normal responses to everything you have been through.
I do not expect you to be perfect. I absolutely understand you are a human being.
I acknowledge my areas of needed improvement including ABC, and am working on them by doing XYZ.
It’s important to me to know and understand you.
 I come to you with an open heart and an open mind.
I love you fully, completely — exactly as you are.

Romancing the Drink

In the early days of my drinking I was in it for the pleasure. I always imagined myself a sophisticated Myrna Loy type (from the Thin Man movies) leaning against a bar at New York’s Plaza Hotel. I’d be elegantly dressed, holding a fluted glass of champagne, with tons of friends in the room — laughing, dancing with everyone drinking till the sun came up. The fantasy included a handsome, dashing guy in a tux, sweeping me off my feet. All fun — and no repercussions. Oh, the power those old movies had over me. How romantic it all looked. 

But that never happened. Whenever I drank, I got drunk.

Being determined not to follow in the footsteps of the disease I grew up with, I worked very hard at trying to figure out a formula where I could drink and not suffer from the blackouts, hangovers and the awful consequences which are part of my story. No matter if I stopped for a day, a few weeks or a month, the result was always the same — I was thrown out, blacked out and persona non grata. Still my romance with alcohol continued anyway — that’s delusion. 

By the time I got to the big city and really had the chance to drink at the Plaza’s Oak Bar, I wasn’t standing against it — I was more likely passed out — on, or under it. I was there only once, and it went on the list of another place I was not welcome. By the way, there was no dashing man in a tux, I was not among friends, I was far from elegant and when the sun came up it was always the same… “what did I do?” “how did I get home?” “is there anybody I can call to ask what happened without wanting to crawl under a rug first?” That’s not very romantic.

I am grateful I no longer have to live that way. Was the dashing guy in the tux a metaphor for what I was truly seeking all along? Maybe. 
Maybe, it’s the connection with my Higher Power, the fellowship of people who are just like me, their genuine kindness and understanding; and a program and book that offers a way to live my life authentically. 

Four years into recovery I met my debonair guy. We were blessed with 17 wonderful years trudging the road together. Rich, poor, sickness, health and everything in between... our commitment to sobriety first, then each other — that’s when the true romance for life began, and by the Grace of God it will never end.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Nothing Short of a Miracle

A conversation with Barbara Nicholson-Brown by Allen Nohre

I recently interviewed Barbara Nicholson-Brown, the editor, publisher and owner of Together AZ because I wanted to learn about her journey and passion for the newspaper. More than 15,000 copies are distributed each month to Arizona’s leading treatment facilities, counseling centers, behavioral health providers, college campuses, sober living homes, physician offices, therapists in private practice, and Twelve Step fellowship halls. Together AZ is a major source of help for those who are struggling with alcoholism and drug addiction, as well as support for those who are progressing in recovery.
I especially wanted to know how Barbara and her late husband, Bill Brown, the founder of Together AZ, were able to successfully sustain and deepen their respective recoveries working side-by-side and coping with deadlines and business challenges.

Barbara and Bill were married in 1994, three years after Bill started the paper. They co-published the paper until 2010 when Bill died at the age of 68. Bill’s death threw Barbara into agonizing loss and grief. In her honest and candid way, she shared with me how she was able to cope, sustain her recovery, and keep publishing the newspaper.

Barbara is also the founder of The Art of Recovery Expo, the one-day, free public event held each September at the Phoenix Convention Center. The first Expo was held in 2005 with 2,000 people attending. Last year, over 6,000 people attended, along with 100 sponsors and exhibitors who provided information for visitors on the resources and many avenues that are available for help with all addictions and behavioral health issues.

Allen: You are a unique champion of recovery for people in the greater Phoenix area. How did this happen? 

Barbara: It is nothing short of a miracle. I got sober in 1990 from alcohol and drugs, and by the grace of God I was given the opportunity to start my life again. I met Bill at a Twelve Step meeting. We were both babes in recovery. He was the publisher of what then was called Recovery Together. I had recently moved from New York City and did graphic design and production for a tech magazine in Scottsdale. I thought the content of Bill’s publication was great, but the design and layout could use some help. I asked if I could assist with the newspaper, and began as a volunteer.

Allen: Bill started the paper in 1991. Why did he want to publish a newspaper on alcohol, drugs and recovery?

Barbara: Bill was newly sober when he came to Phoenix from Virginia in 1989 to live at Progress Valley, a men’s sober living home. His life before sobriety was filled with lots of money, wild living and success, and he lost everything to alcohol. He was a man who lived large, but by the time he arrived in Arizona, he had $200 in his pocket and one suitcase. He didn’t have a car, and his first job in sobriety was as a bus boy at a downtown deli. He needed to start his life over from the ground up, and as he did, his recovery kept progressing.

He had a lot of questions about addiction and recovery, always searching for answers. It was probably a “God thing” that he wanted to publish something to help other alcoholics and addicts, and their families understand this disease.

Allen: You met Bill in 1994, fell in love, got married in 1995, and began working together on the paper. You brought to the venture a background in design, layout and production as well as your experience with addiction and recovery. Describe how you merged your professional skills and life experience.

Barbara: When I first got sober, I was a bit of a snob. I thought because I wasn’t drinking, I didn’t need to continue to change and grow. Fortunately, I had a great sponsor and my sobriety has grown through the years. So many people have gone on before me, so I learned early on, if I wanted what they had, I needed to do what they suggested. I could not go off in my own direction and do it my way, because my way never worked.

Allen: I assume that producing a popular and financially viable newspaper can at times be stressful and threaten recovery. How did the two of you handle that?

Barbara: It was a bit of a power struggle in the beginning. Bill used to call us the two “street kids,” one from New York and one from Chicago — both of us emotionally damaged, fearful and over confident at times. We battled about cover stories and layout. It was very difficult for him to let go because he had created this.

Allen: It was his baby.

Barbara: It was. I came in and wanted to change things and it took us some time to figure out how to work together as professional people. We always talked about recovery and what would be of interest to people. Some of the questions we asked were: “What are people in recovery struggling with? How do you rebuild relationships? How do you regain trust from others?” These were our issues and we felt others may also have similar questions or challenges.

Allen: The stress didn’t threaten recovery?

Barbara: Never. While it exposed our weaknesses to one another it also enhanced our recovery. We had a very important rule that neither one of us would tell the other how to do their recovery program. That was something we lived by — each of us responsible for continuing our own recovery.

Allen: Probably a lot of couples could benefit from that rule.

Barbara: It took time and some professional help, but it worked for us. He wasn’t my sponsor and I wasn’t his. We couldn’t say to each other, “You need more meetings, or you need to call your sponsor, or you need to...” We needed to learn how to listen to one another and respect each other’s opinion.

Allen: Bill died from cancer in 2010 at the age of 68. You lost your life companion and your work partner. How did you stay sober and what gave you the desire and courage to continue publishing?

Barbara: This has been quite a process. I had no idea what grief was until Bill died. I read about the stages of grief from shock to acceptance. Believe me they don’t come in order. I think I was in shock for months just going through the motions with a determination to keep the paper going. I told myself I could not miss an issue; and, I didn’t. There wasn’t an Expo that year; it would have been too much. Staying sober wasn’t a problem. I never once thought about drinking. I had tons of support from my friends in Twelve Step programs, and family and friends who were surrounding me — just letting me be me.

And then, all of a sudden, the shock wore off! Bill died in April, and in July, “my egg cracked.” It happened while I was in Nordstrom’s. I don’t shop there much, but Bill loved it. I walked in the store and had a panic attack. Suddenly, I realized Bill wasn’t there with me. He really was gone. I ran through the mall, got to my car, and shaking so badly, I was barely able to drive. When I got home, I fell apart lying on the floor screaming and crying, and the pain I was holding in started to release. Many people had told me, “Barbara, you are strong. You can handle it.” I wanted to be strong, but I couldn’t hold it together anymore. That was the real beginning of my grieving process.

Allen: Through this stage of panic and unraveling, were you still doing the things to keep yourself in recovery? 

Barbara: I went to more meetings, talked to my sponsor more, and prayed more. Yet, I was full of fear realizing for the first time that Bill was never going to come back. It brought me to my knees and closer to God. When I look back on it, the process was an extremely unique and personal spiritual experience, yet the most emotional pain I have ever been in.

Allen: How did you deal with the panic attacks?

Barbara: My panic attacks and insomnia continued for several months. I needed to get help. I remembered a physician, an addictionologist, who was at Bill’s memorial service, and he said, “If you ever need anything, call.” At the time, I thought, “What would I ever need you for?” Luckily, I had his cell phone number and called him at 6:30 in the morning, and saw him in his office that very day.
I was fearful of taking any medication, as is true for many people in recovery. I had heard years ago, alcoholics and addicts couldn’t take anti-depressants or anti-anxiety medications. Believing that, I chose to suffer. But, it got so bad I made the call and asked for help. In his office, I was all wound up telling him what I would and would not do. He listened patiently until I was tired enough to listen, and then he said, “Who’s the doctor here?” He is an addictionologist, as well as a psychiatrist. Finally, I relaxed and began to trust him.

This is important because there are people in recovery who aren’t qualified to tell another person what to do on this matter of medication. I truly believed I couldn’t take any medication for my anxiety and my lot in life was to suffer with panic, anxiety, and sleeplessness. But the medication calmed me, and I was able to sleep. The medication I take is not addictive, I don’t have panic attacks, and my recovery was never threatened.

Allen: Let’s go back some twenty years. I believe you were living and working in New York City. You told me your years of drinking were pretty wild, crazy — even dangerous. What do you know now that you didn’t know then?

Barbara: I didn’t know much then. Now I know that as many people as I lied to, I lied to myself the most. I truly am an alcoholic and I absolutely cannot have one drink and walk away, no matter what I tell myself, or what tricks I used to drink and avoid getting drunk and blacking out. It is not possible for me. I can’t control it. It controls me. I had 24 years of bad drinking and bad living.

Allen: Why did you move from Chicago to New York City?

Barbara: I went to the American Academy of Art in Chicago, and my passion and talent lies in art, painting abstracts in oils. I got married young and my husband and I wanted to become pot farmers. We were young, silly, and the marriage only lasted three years. After that, I floundered around with no purpose, drinking a lot and working to support my addiction.
I moved to New York City in 1982 and began working in my brother’s graphic design firm. It was an exciting time. He was my mentor, and I was learning the business. It was thrilling living in New York and going out anytime, day or night. But the boss had rules like, “I don’t want you coming to work with a hangover or drinking on the job.” To make a long story short, I screwed up and was fired within six months. With a huge resentment and not many options, I found a job in a restaurant where I waited tables and assisted at the bar. Those were not pretty years for me. Eventually, I found a career in advertising. I loved it, lots of late nights and late drinking. That is why I love the show Mad Men. It’s right on target with what went on.

Allen: And the drinking continued?

Barbara: It sure did. There was a little span of time when I stopped drinking completely after I woke up from a blackout and was black and blue with scraped arms. The hardest thing for an alcoholic coming out of a stupor is to ask someone what happened. Shame kicks in. I looked like I was dragged across Broadway Avenue in the center of New York and that’s exactly what happened. I fell off a curb and even though I weighed only 110 pounds, nobody could pick me up. My friends had to drag me off the street and literally carry me to my apartment because no cab drivers would stop for us.

So I told myself, “This is it, I‘m never drinking again.” For a while I didn’t, but I did switch to drugs. It was the 80’s and cocaine’s heyday. Valium was my new alcohol, and in my mind, I was sober because I wasn’t drinking alcohol. I continued to feed my addiction anyway I could.

Allen: When did your nightmare end?

Barbara: I went back to drinking in 1989 and the last time I drank was a horrible night, a really bad drunk. I was scared to death, didn’t want to live and didn’t want to die. The following evening, my younger sister called and she said, “If you don’t get help now we’re all done with you.” And she slammed the phone down so hard I can still hear it. That was my moment of clarity, maybe it was divine intervention. After she hung up, without thinking about it, I immediately called a sober girlfriend I had been avoiding her for years. That night, for the very first time, I said out loud, “I’m an alcoholic, help.”

Allen: Then what happened?

Barbara: She came to my apartment and spent the evening with me and said she was taking me out the next day. It was Father’s Day, a beautiful Sunday in New York. I didn’t know where we were going. We walked down to the Jacob Javits Convention Center where there was the 50th anniversary celebration of Alcoholic Anonymous. As we walked through the doors, I saw what seemed like thousands of people and it scared the crap out of me. The feeling I had when we walked through the doors was that everyone was going to turn around and point at me and say, “Oh, there you are!”

That was my first meeting. I was in a fog and my friend with 14 years of sobriety, made me stand up — she pushed me out of my chair — to identify myself as a person within my first 24 hours of sobriety. That is when this journey began, June 17, 1990, my sobriety date.

When we left that meeting, she gave me a copy of the Big Book and said we were going to a meeting every night. She was a great first sponsor who had me on a short leash. I went to meetings every day for eight or nine weeks until the day I moved to Arizona.

Allen: What did those meetings do for you?

Barbara: At first, I was so into my denial I was hoping I would learn how to drink without getting drunk. But, I found out I never had to feel the way I’d felt, ever again. I could stay sober 24 hours at a time. Something occurred during those weeks within my spirit and my mind. I realized I was done. I could not do it anymore.

Allen: You told me a friend had once said you needed to get out of New York and you called your parents who were now living in Arizona and they didn’t want you to come out here. This time, with nine weeks of sobriety, you did move to Arizona. How did your parent’s react when you showed up? 

Barbara: I think they were on edge. During my childhood years, my mom was the alcoholic. I was always so embarrassed by her behavior, especially at family gatherings. One day mom was really drunk and I remember telling my younger sister I would never be like her. But I have the same disease.
As soon as I arrived here in August of 1990, my mom handed me a local AA meeting list. By then, she had been sober for over 12 years. And they had rules too — get a job, an apartment and a car within 90 days or you are out… and go to a meeting a day! It was humbling to move in with them as an adult.

Allen: In addition to the newspaper, you put on the annual Art of Recovery Expo for the past nine years. What gave you the idea and motivation for this event? 

Barbara: Bill traveled to many conferences throughout the year, which were strictly for professionals in the world of treatment and recovery. I wanted to have a day for Arizonans to be able to come to a venue where they too could find out about the many resources and options available. There are so many services that provide a variety of help and care. Recovery is not one size fits all. I wanted to get information out to the public for help right now or in the future. Even nine years ago, the stigma about addiction and alcohol was still holding many people back from getting help.

The Expo is a non-threatening venue. It is free. No names are taken. People can come in and talk to professionals, listen to speakers, attend workshops and ask questions such as, “What is happening today in the world of recovery? How can we help each other? How do we educate our kids on the dangers? How do we talk to them about making the right choices?” Parents, as well as kids, need to be armed with information. And family members need as much help as the person who is struggling with the addiction. As we know, this is a family disease.

Allen: What do you want people to know about why you keep publishing Together AZ and coordinating the Expo?

Barbara: I want them to know there is an amazing life out there without drugs or alcohol. It’s about living from your heart and not being ashamed. If we are addicts or alcoholics, we are still God’s kids — and we must help one another. The recovery community, whether located in self-help groups or treatment programs, is a shining light.

Allen: Finally, what is most satisfying about publishing Together AZ and putting on the Expo?

Barbara: I feel I am doing what I was put here to do — helping another person live a good life. And it keeps me sober. I’ve been blessed. I never thought in a million years I would celebrate 24 years sober.
It would have been easy for me not to be here, either by my own hand or someone else’s. There is a divine plan. We try to control our lives but our Higher Power, or God, or whatever you want to call it, has greater ideas. No matter what comes our way, it is possible to stay clean. I think one of the biggest barriers for any addict or alcoholic is asking for help. So far, it has been extremely fulfilling and satisfying to give back. That is what it is all about. Bill always said, “Good things happen to drunks who don’t drink.” He was right.

Allen: What is the date and place of this year’s Recovery Expo?

Barbara: We are back at the Phoenix Convention Center on Saturday, September 20, 2014 from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm, and as always the admission is free to the public. Our keynote speaker is Tara Conner, 2006 Miss USA, and Recovery Advocate. We hope everyone will attend.

Allen: Thank you Barbara for sharing your amazing life and thank you for what you do for the people of Arizona.

Allen Nohre is a staff writer at Terros, where he interviews clients who have inspiring stories of overcoming personal challenges and finding better lives for themselves and their families. 
 At Terros, we inspire change for life. Through our core values of integrity, compassion and empowerment, we help create life solutions for children, families and communities. For information and assistance, call 602-685-6000 or visit www.terros.org

Xanax Addiction

Xanax — one of the most widely-abused prescription drugs in this country. As prescriptions for this highly addictive drug rise, the rates of abuse and dependence increase.
Xanax is a benzodiazepine in the sedative-hypnotic class of drugs. Generally it is prescribed to treat panic disorder, post-traumatic stress, some forms of generalized anxiety or social anxiety and some phobias. Like other sedative-hypnotics, Xanax is also prescribed for difficulty falling asleep. Benzodiazepines are central nervous system depressants, and like alcohol, work to slow down the brain’s activity as well as block the “alarm system”, which is responsible for excessive levels of anxiety.
Although it may be prescribed legally by a physician, abuse and dependence can occur. For many it is highly addictive.
Crushing and snorting Xanax has become more widespread, making the dangers of this drug even higher. When snorting the effects are felt faster. Abuse among teens is on the rise, as they have easy access out of their home medicine cabinet if a family member is prescribed them as a PRN or as needed.
Xanax bars (known as zanies or planks) are 2mg elongated bars that can be split or quartered. People who are abusing Xanax may take multiple bars at a time or combine them with alcohol or other drugs. One of the effects of a Xanax high is memory loss, causing the user to forget they taken the drug or how much has been ingested. This can lead to overdose.

Signs of Abuse

Indications of abuse are taking higher doses than prescribed, without a prescription, and for the sole purpose of getting high. A person abusing Xanax may exhibit slurred speech, decreased motor coordination, impaired memory, sleepiness, lethargy and lightheadedness. Xanax, especially in larger dosages or combined with alcohol (which is extremely dangerous) can provide a crippling high similar to being drunk, which is achieved quickly, within 5-10 minutes of taking it.

Signs of Dependence

Physical dependence can occur within just a few weeks of taking the drug regularly, even at prescribed dosages. According to the DSM IV-TR, tolerance is one of the hallmarks of dependence. Tolerance develops as the body adjusts to the presence of the substance and requires more of the drug to achieve the similar effects. Once there is physical dependence, withdrawal effects can be felt when stopping the drug immediately. If you are taking a Benzodiazepine, you must consult a doctor before discontinuing the drug, as stopping the drug abruptly will lead to seizures and potentially death.

Xanax dependence tends to develop slowly over time and without the user or family members noticing. However, once a dependence or addiction exists, one will begin to appear “checked out” or “zoned out” frequently.

Xanax Detox

Stopping Xanax or any other benzodiazepine once there is physical dependence can result in seizures, suicidal thoughts and even death, so stopping should be done with medical involvement. Xanax addiction often requires a detoxification period which can last 5-10 days and is done in a medical setting under a physician’s care. Following this, one may, depending on the severity of the addiction, opt to go into a residential treatment facility or intensive outpatient treatment program. Abstinence from all mood and mind altering drugs will be necessary during this recovery process. Ideally constructive coping skills will be learned that will aid in handling anxiety so that addictive drugs are no longer needed.
If you or your loved one is struggling with an addiction to or is abusing prescription drugs, seek help immediately. Prescription drug abuse is dangerous.

Shame & the Empty Life

By Robert Weiss, LCSW, CSAT-S

In her excellent and highly recommended book, Daring Greatly, Dr. BrenĂ© Brown defines shame as “the intensely painful feeling or experience of believing that we are flawed and therefore unworthy of love and belonging.”
In other words, shame is the inherent belief that we are not good enough, and we never will be good enough, regardless of what “good enough” might actually be. Brown also tells us in Daring Greatly that shame is ubiquitous, and nearly everyone experiences it to some degree. In fact, the only people who don’t experience shame are people who lack the capacity for empathy and meaningful human connections (i.e., sociopaths).

One way to understand the concept of shame is by thinking of it as the opposite of self-esteem. For example, those with a stable, positive self-image tend to feel more confident, to be more willing to express themselves openly, and to take healthy emotional risks. Conversely, people who carry a deeply felt sense of shame live in fear of being exposed as unlovable and unworthy. Unsurprisingly, shame-based people avoid the risks associated with being open and assertive, fearing they might (re)experience rejection, abandonment and the like.

Both of these deeply felt experiences — self-esteem and shame — are the outcome of early parenting and social experiences. Loving, attentive, engaged and accepting caretakers tend to raise children with high self-esteem and minimal shame, whereas children raised by inconsistent, abusive and/or neglectful caretakers tend to feel less worthy of love, validation and attention — all of which speak to an internal sense of shame. And the earlier in life that your emotional needs are neglected and/or inappropriately responded to, the more likely it is that shame will be hardwired into your adult self-image.
In therapy sessions I often hear addicted clients and trauma survivors talk about the “tapes” that play in their heads, or the “committee” that lives between their ears and holds loud conversations about their many shortcomings. When clients talk about things like this, I know that that they are expressing shame. Most often the primary shame message my clients hear equates to: “You’re not worthy (of love, success, validation, support, a loving family, etc.), so why bother trying?” And when that’s the main message bouncing around a person’s psyche, that individual is much less likely to open up and fully express his or her true self. As such, these folks generally live lives that are less meaningful, less rich, and less interpersonally rewarding than they otherwise might.
In short, shame-based people deeply fear taking the risks needed to be fully known and intimate, thereby avoiding any potential of being rejected, let down or abandoned. They stay in their shell, not understanding that being vulnerable, open, and “seen” by others is the only genuine path to feeling loved, intimate, connected, creative and all that other stuff we crave. Simply put, a person who is driven by fears of rejection and humiliation tends to avoid intimacy, because being vulnerable (the path to intimacy) feels too scary. Yet none of life’s positive, rewarding connections can really take place without allowing oneself to be fully known. Even worse, many shame-based people become mired in addiction, violence, isolation, anxiety, depression, dysfunctional relationships and various other manifestations of deep emotional pain.

Shame vs. Guilt

In modern society most people seem to think that shame is a good way to keep people in line. The thinking seems to be: If people experience a bit of shame, they are less likely to “act out” in ways that harm themselves or others. This is actually not true. In fact, the opposite occurs. Rather than motivating positive change, shame prevents it.

If this seems counterintuitive to you, that may be a result of confusing shame with guilt. The two feelings are related, but quite different on a very meaningful level. And I’m not just playing the semantics game here. Basically, the internal message that a shame-based person consistently hears is, “I am bad,” whereas the message a person feeling guilt hears is, “I did something bad.” This distinction is incredibly important. A shame-based person feels that he or she is inherently defective and nothing can be done to change that, so why bother trying. As a result, he or she will almost assuredly engage in problematic behaviors or experiences that reinforce this negative self-image. Conversely, a person who feels guilt is someone who recognizes that he or she has done something that violates his or her moral code, feels bad about it, and works to behave differently in the future. Guilt and shame are equally powerful, and both will drive future decisions, but the two cars are pointed in opposite directions.
Self-protective, avoidant, shame-based behavior shows up in many forms. For example, some people attempt to protect themselves from further pain, loss, abandonment and rejection by blaming someone or something other than themselves for their unhappiness. Others withdraw, isolate, or put forth a false front to ward off any potential reinforcement of their shame. Some become addicts, avoiding the pain of shame by numbing out through addictive substances and/or behaviors (gambling, spending, sex, etc.) Others become aggressive, lashing out either physically or verbally, essentially making those around them feel as miserable and ashamed as they themselves feel. Still others seek to feel connected and appreciated by becoming disingenuous people pleasers, always taking care of others (and therefore feeling useful and important) but never directly asking for what they need (never taking any emotional risks).

Moving From Shame to Grace

Shame thrives in secrecy but withers in the open. For example, one study of rape and incest survivors — people who understandably experience great shame — found that not discussing the traumatic event(s) can actually be more damaging than the actual event(s). The same research also found that when traumatized and shame-based people share their traumatic stories and experiences, their stress levels decrease and their overall physical health improves. Still, nobody ever wants to talk about their shame. And why would they? After all, shame is something most people try very hard to avoid feeling and experiencing. As such, the natural response to shame is to hide it. Unfortunately, in the secretive darkness, shame not only festers, it grows.

As mentioned above, shame-based people fear being vulnerable. They avoid revealing their true selves because they’re terrified of the reaction they might receive. 
That said, talking about shame is not nearly as dangerous as keeping it under wraps. Undeniably, opening up about shameful thoughts and events is difficult and painful, but the more we talk (with safe, compassionate, nonjudgmental people) about why we avoid being fully known (our shame), the less power it has. When shame-based people can share their stories with supportive and empathetic people, they tend to feel more connected, worthy and alive. Essentially, when exposed to love and acceptance, shame loses its grip. In short, developing shame resilience is a process of reaching out to supportive others and experiencing empathy. It is no surprise to therapists that when traumatized, shame-based people share about their most difficult experiences — the events that cause them to feel defective, unworthy, and unlovable — even long after the fact, their lives get better. Period.
Sadly, shame can’t be avoided. At the wrong moment, just when we’re feeling vulnerable, it can hit us no matter how careful we are to surround ourselves with loving people. Plus, a life well-lived is one in which emotional risks are regularly taken despite the fact that, at times, the result may be less than optimal. The good news is that a person can develop shame resilience. Shame resilience requires courage and a willingness to be open and to risk not being heard or understood. No matter how frightening that may seem, it is always worth the effort. If you are interested in learning more about vulnerability, shame and shame resilience, I highly recommend reading not just Daring Greatly, but Healing the Shame That Binds You by John Bradshaw and The Intimacy Factor by Pia Mellody.

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 has developed clinical programs for The Ranch in Nunnelly, Tenn., Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu and The Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles. He is author of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men and Sex Addiction 101: A Basic Guide to Healing from Sex, Porn, and Love Addiction, and co-author with Dr. Jennifer Schneider of both Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn, and Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age and Closer Together, Further Apart: The Effect of Technology and the Internet on Parenting, Work, and Relationships.

Paying It Forward Backwards

By Dr. Dina Evan

Dr. Evan is a life/soul coach in Arizona working with individuals, couples and corporations.  She  specializes in relationships, personal and professional empowerment, compassion and consciousness. For more information 602-997-1200, email drdbe@attglobal.net or visit www.DrDinaEvan.com

Some have misunderstood the concept of paying it forward. It’s supposed to be only the good stuff; the gifts of spirit like a book that moved you, a coffee or egg McMuffin at McDonalds for the guy in the car behind you or perhaps a compliment. Today however, to most large corporations, especially the drug companies and to many individuals, paying it forward means a total lack of responsibility by pushing your responsibility forward onto someone else.
I have osteoporosis. The drug that was recommended to me is Prolia. I was flabbergasted this week to discover that a single injection of that drug costs $900.00! How is that even possible? It’s possible because the drug companies know you need it and they can therefore ask any outrageous price they want for all the drugs they manufacture and push the responsibility for increasing profits on to us. How else can they pay those phenomenal bonuses?
Similar attitude of the V.A., right?
There is very little motivation in major corporations, city, state or national governments to cut waste, close ineffective programs or stop ludicrous pay hikes and bonuses. Instead, they just gouge more. Gas prices mysteriously rise as summer approaches and the public plans driving vacations for no apparent reason. $4.00 to park downtown for one hour! Increasing water bills and taxes are just the tip of a malicious iceberg. The most critical issue facing the companies and institutions that our nation depends on is Integrity. Today’s business world and our government are riddled with scandals resulting from the deterioration of principles, values and a lack of integrity.
Corruption is contagious and we have an epidemic when it comes to lack of responsibility and values. However, it isn’t only the big boys. Individually we do the same thing. Our boss gives us a hard time so we go home and take it out on the kids. The car in front cuts us off in traffic so we lay on the horn for the next guy. Dad makes us feel inferior so we pass that along to our spouse. We start getting afraid about money so we conveniently forget to give back that extra $5.00 we shouldn’t have gotten to the cashier.
We have somehow lost the realization that who we are individually and how we respond to what life brings us, is all that matters. It doesn’t matter what you drive or who you know. You can’t take all that stock in your portfolio with you so who cares if you are on an “A” list or “B” list. The only thing that matters, is your integrity and willingness to be responsible for every decision you make in your life. Integrity means the state of being whole and undivided…against yourself.

Remember my favorite story about Gandhi? 

It’s is one in which a mother brings her child to him from a long distance away and requests that Gandhi tell her child to stop eating sugar. Gandhi sends the mother away and asks that she return later. The mother does so somewhat disgruntled. She again takes this long trek, child in hand to Gandhi and asks again, ”Please tell my child to stop eating sugar.” Again, Gandhi sends her away and tells her to return yet another time. This goes on. The mother is becoming angrier every visit. Finally, exasperated, she returns for what she has decided will be the last time. This time, Gandhi does as she requested and he tells the child to stop eating sugar. The mother is outraged. She demands of Gandhi “Why Mahatma did you make me return so many times on this long, arduous journey until you finally told my child this thing?” Gandhi, simply replied, “ I had not yet stopped eating sugar.” Neither have we. Individually we are paying it forwards, backwards and passing along the negative attitudes that have hijacked most of our institutions and corporations.
Einstein said, “Those who follow the crowd are likely to find themselves no further than the crowd. Those who walk alone, are likely to find themselves where no one has ever been before.”

Be one of these people. 

Be courageous, different and willing to restore integrity in your own life. Start by being aware of when you are about to tell that little white lie, cheat to get an advantage, exaggerate to look better. Challenge the institutions and politicians that are not standing in their integrity. Refuse to be led by following. Listen to your own wise mind and sweet spirit and make a choice to stand in your integrity. It may not change the government or the VA but it will change the amount of joy in your own life and in the lives of those you love. What better way can you think of to claim and to celebrate independence!

SMART Recovery

By Duane Mantey

For many of us who have struggled with addictive behavior, a cookie cutter approach to sobriety simply doesn’t seem to stick- the statistics for relapse are well known and quite frightening. What we often see are many attempts at recovery, false starts and relapses. A rather predictable pattern of use followed by tremendous guilt, short recuperation, and then another round to forget all about the ‘failures’. They call it the cycle of addiction, many of us are familiar with this scenario. This is my story of how I broke that cycle- using SMART Recovery.

Some years ago I reached a place in my life that was a fork in the road, it was literally a “not do” or “die” time. As I sat in the hospital bargaining with the darkness and with my concept of a higher power, and needing to make sense of it all- I made this decision ‘to live’ ViVRE. It was out of this determination, this purposeful ‘change of plan’ that my long term sobriety was finally set, as was this new found hope I still carry today. But I still needed a support system to make it stick.
At the time my therapist recommended an inpatient program as I definitely had the pedigree of someone at risk of relapse.  I opted (out of my natural stubbornness) to instead create my own hybrid program of recovery. I figured if I put enough effort into it I could make it work. The thought of going into an actual treatment program scared the hell out of me. So instead we co-created my own treatment plan. I realize this is an atypical situation, but it is what happened and for me it was what after many years of trying, finally worked.

The first weeks were tough, my therapist recommended that I at least give a couple of 12 step or CMA meetings a try, even though I had a strong aversion to it, if for no other reason to surround myself with people on a similar path. However the traditional meeting environment - it just wasn’t for me.
But as I was determined to get well, I kept up with my program- continued my counseling. We worked with what he called the ‘Cognitive Approach’ to recovery, we talked about concepts in CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) the basis of SMART Recovery.  We discussed tools such as the ‘hierarchy of values’, the cost/ benefit analysis and ‘the stages of change’ to measure my ambivalence. He also recommended I do some of my own research into SMART Recovery- a program designed as a 12 step alternative approach to recovery.

What SMART Recovery is

Some of the more salient features about SMART Recovery that are different from 12 steps or AA: it does not require steps, there are no sponsors, nor does it encourage us to self-identify as addicts or alcoholics- but its ok if you do. It does promote an abstinence model- although harm reduction is accepted in participants- as long as they are not disruptive.  SMART is an acronym that stands for –Self Management and Recovery Training. SMART is science based rather than faith based and teaches that we have addictive behaviors, and that although technically addiction IS a disease, one that re-wires the brain; to think of it as such can be self-perpetuating, and as such (for some) that belief can actually be harmful. SMART instead asks us to consider this disease “a behavior”- one that CAN be modified.
To those of you that have been helped by AA or 12 steps, understand this can work with AA or it can stand alone. It works with any behavior we would like to modify, from gambling, over eating, and for any substance. We all have different paths in life and if it helps someone change an unwanted or harmful behavior, if it helps someone to get or stay sober — that is a good thing! Take what works for you and leave alone what doesn’t. For me – and the thousands of people helped by SMART Recovery this is something that works.

SMART (from SmartRecovery.org)

“…The idea here is to learn about changing things in your life. The first thing is in understanding the problem... and how those problems work in your life. Then you learn the ropes of how to challenge stuff in your own head and get some better things working. In the third big area, you realize that you ARE worth it. Perhaps you have failed to really appreciate how valuable and worthwhile you are.
Well, that’s the picture. SMART Recovery® is a non-profit organization almost completely made up of both professionals and non-professionals volunteers, who feel there is a great need in our society for the benefits of modern scientific methods to be applied to addiction. This means helping you through a change from a destructive habit to a more rewarding and fulfilling life.”

Four Point System

Meetings are peer led and participants are the impetus of the direction the meeting goes- and unlike other types of meetings, cross talk is actually encouraged. The facilitator acts as a moderator — to keep the conversation on the subject of sobriety and keeps a “check in” moving along- there is always one who wants to over share. The facilitator also helps move the discussion toward what SMART calls a “recovery tool” which usually relates to one or more of the participants problems that were brought up in the check in.
Tools comprise one of four points or areas of interest for SMART: they are
Enhance and maintain motivation to abstain
Cope with urges
Manage thoughts, feelings, and behaviors
Balance momentary and enduring satisfactions

Today I work exclusively with the re-entry population, men and women coming out of the prison system, the cognitive approach to recovery has many advantages. First and foremost – not everyone who ends up in our program is ready for the wonderful world of recovery. Many in fact are very ambivalent about their sobriety in general (being mandated to participate). SMART can accommodate this populations needs by utilization of these tools which hit upon one or more of the above points. Some of my favorite tools for our population are – the CBA (cost benefit analysis), the ABC’s (which could be called ‘disputing irrational beliefs’ and the HOV (hierarchy of values).
This introduction to SMART could not possibly get into the specific nuances of the tools that I mentioned- or even into an explanation of the four points, to do that visit smartrecovery.org. They also have a moderated chat board- I utilized all of these processes in my own recovery. I found them very helpful and hope you may too!

Duane Mantey – serves as President of the Board of Directors for Arizona nonprofit Housing Provider ViVRE more info at: http://vivrehousing.org and he also serves on the Executive Committee for AzRHA the Arizona Recovery Housing Association which is charged with setting and maintaining standards for Recovery Housing Providers Statewide more info at: www.azrha.info 

What are the Risks?

High school seniors who are most likely to take Ecstasy are those who use other drugs, researchers at New York University have found.

About 4.4 percent of high school seniors reported using Ecstasy within the last year, Newswise reports. Males are at particularly high risk for use. The drug is also known as “Molly,” “E” and “X,” the article notes, and is popular at dance parties.

The findings, published in Substance Use & Misuse, are based on data from the Monitoring the Future nationwide annual study. About 15,000 high school seniors are included in the study. The study did not specifically ask about Molly. Since many teens may not realize Molly is another name for Ecstasy, more of them may be using the drug than the study indicates, the researchers noted.
Other risk factors for teen Ecstasy use included having a weekly income of more than $50 from a job, or more than $10 weekly from other sources. Students living in cities were at increased risk, as were teens who had used alcohol, cigarettes, marijuana or other illegal drugs.

“Ecstasy use also tends to precede use of other club drugs so preventing Ecstasy use may also prevent initiation and use of drugs such as ketamine (‘Special K’) and GHB,” lead researcher Joseph J. Palamar, PhD, MPH, said in a news release.

“Hundreds of new designer drugs have emerged in recent years, some of which were created to mimic the effects of Ecstasy,” Dr. Palamar said. “Many individuals may be ingesting what they think is Ecstasy, but it may in fact be an even more dangerous new substance.”

Real Security

by Alan Cohen

While passing through the Honolulu airport I stopped for a moment to look at some items in a shop window. A female security guard approached me and struck up a casual conversation. She asked me where I was headed, and I told her I was on my way to Japan to teach some classes. “What do you teach?” she asked.
“I help people get in touch with their passion and purpose and live authentically,” I told her.
She lit up. “Then give me some tips, would you?”
I asked her what was going on in her life.
“I’m the single mother of nine children,” she told me. “Most of my time goes to my kids.”
I placed my hand gently on her shoulder. “Is there anything you would like to do for yourself?” I asked her. “What could you do to nurture your own spirit?”
Tears came to her eyes as she showed me her hand. “I’d just like to get my nails done. That would make me feel pretty.”
I smiled and told her, “Then please do get your nails done. You’re worth it. You give so much to your kids. You deserve what makes you happy.”
The woman smiled and told me, “I guess you’re right.”

As I went on my way I thought about the fact that she was a security guard. We generally think of security as protecting our body and possessions from people who might violate them. Yet when we live in fear or a constant need to protect ourselves, we violate our spirit—a far greater injury than any that might occur to our possessions. Real security operates at a much deeper level than people who stand at the doors of banks and airports.

Oddly enough, when I returned from Japan I had another synchronistic encounter with a security guard walking through the airport parking lot. Our caretaker had come to pick us up, our family of dogs waiting eagerly in the back of our SUV. As the guard passed, he saw the dogs and told us that he missed his beloved companion dog he had to put down over a year ago. “I’m still grieving,” he confessed, the burly morphing to a little boy as he spoke. My partner Dee, sensitive to the man’s open heart, asked him if he would like to hold our Maltese, Nani. He took the little dog and began to pet her affectionately. As he did, we could see the fellow melt, on the verge of tears. He lingered in snuggling for a long time, obviously not wanting to let go of the little cutie. Finally he did, and told us, “It’s time. I need another dog. I will get one.” We wished him well as he went on his way. A Course in Miracles talks about “holy encounters.” That was one.

Real Security is an Inside Job

You can take elaborate means to lock down your home, store, or computer programs, but if you are afraid, you are insecure. On the other hand, you can take few or no measures to protect your stuff, but if you feel safe in the universe, you are extremely secure.
After dealing with a health challenge, my friend Bette decided to turn her life into a trust walk. She did things no one else would do, like leave her keys in her car ignition while the car was parked at a New Jersey mall. One day Bette picked up a young hitchhiker who told her that he had left his wife after a fight, but now he was going home to reconcile. Bette offered him the use of her new car to get home to see his wife. He promised to return the car early that evening. When he didn’t show up, Bette wondered if she had made a mistake. Finally he arrived with his wife, and both of them thanked her profusely for helping them get back together.
I am not suggesting that you leave your car with the keys in it or lend it to someone you don’t know. I am suggesting that safety and security are states of consciousness we choose. We are protected not simply by locks and gates, but by Higher Power. My friend Cliff Klein, an avid Course in Miracles student, heard someone in his Brooklyn apartment bedroom. He investigated to find that a burglar had entered through the fire escape. The man began to flee, but Cliff told him to wait. He asked the guy what was going on in his life that had caused him to break in. They had a heartful talk and Cliff gave the man some money to get some dinner. Cliff’s faith transformed a potentially dangerous situation into an altar of healing.
Bette and Cliff were ordinary people with extraordinary faith. My encounters with those security guards were ordinary moments that led to extraordinary results. You and I have the power to transform any situation, especially ones in which feel insecure, into a demonstration that we have a security team functioning at a far more profound level than eyes can see. We are always secure if we remember the Source of our well being. As the proverb declares, “Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. No one was there.”

 Alan Cohen is the author of I Had it All the Time: For information about this program, Alan’s books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com