Recently, I collaborated with Evo Health and Wellness in Venice Beach to talk about sex and porn addiction and how we might think about addiction. Evo asked me a few questions, which I respond to below, and they answered a few of my questions about addiction.
Should he have any contact with the affair partner now that the affair is over? Shouldn’t she cut her affair partner out of his life and stop talking to him altogether? How can I get him to stop talking to her?
After an affair, the couple is in crisis. They’re struggling to adapt to their new reality now that the affair has been exposed.
The hurt partner is reeling from this world-shattering news. She’s often traumatized and angry, while also struggling with the desire to scour phone records, check his phone, and other responses intended to help her feel safe after a massive betrayal.
The partner participating in the affair is often remorseful and desperate to save the relationship.
In instances like this, it’s a matter of course that the affair is over, that contact with the affair partner will not continue, and that both partners are all in the save the relationship.
This week, I received the exciting news that I’ll be participating in a panel discussion about sex addiction, approaches to treatment, and how best to help clients needing support with these issues. I’ll be talking about treating sex addiction with harm reduction psychotherapy.
The conversation will take place at the conference for the International Institute for Trauma and Addiction Professionals in Phoenix in May. It’s going to be a great chance for mental health professionals on the front lines of out-of-control sexual behavior treatment to compare treatment options and philosophies.
But this panel is so important and exciting because it’s evidence of a growing number of voices in the addiction field who think a bit differently about how to help those struggling with addictive behaviors, including sexual behaviors.
I thought I’d briefly compare the traditional approach and the harm reduction approach as I consider my remarks for the panel. I’m very much thinking out loud here as I continue to evolve and grow, so I invite you to be a part of the dialogue in the comments below.
Shame. Shame is pervasive these days, as are our attempts to banish shame from our existence. We try desperately to rid ourselves of shame and will sometimes to anything for a moment’s respite from that awful, heavy feeling.
Just for a moment, consider what comes up for you when you read this word.
Maybe you’re concerned about someone you love. Maybe you’re curious about your own shame and what to do about it. Maybe you’re even now trying to put out of your mind what you tell yourself when you feel shame so you can read this post.
If so, you’re not alone. Shame sucks. I would know; it’s a part of my story too. And I often get asked about how shame can be healed. It’s a good question, and one I’ve never quite felt I can answer fully in sessions.
While healing is never easy, finding your way out of shame is possible. Before we dive into that topic, though, we need to understand what shame is and how it affects us.
So you’ve started therapy, and it’s actually going pretty well. Maybe you’ve been going for just a couple of months or a few years. You’re working well with your therapist feel you’re making good progress. The counseling seems to be helping. Things are humming along.
Then, whether gradually over time or all of the sudden, there’s a shift. Life gets really hard. Almost unbearable. And so does therapy.
Wait a minute. Weren’t things supposed to get better? Why now is the terde hitting the ventilateur?
It’s important to understand that I’m speaking in generalities here, and painting with broad strokes.
But often there’s a really good reason why therapy gets hard. It means you’re doing the work. Here’s what I mean.
If you’ve read other blog posts I’ve written, you’ve probably learned by now that I think that people use substance and sexual behaviors in problematic ways because use these addictive behaviors often solve emotional problems. They help people feel better, or, as is often the case, to feel less.
For instance, problematic addictive behaviors can give people a break from their relentless, shame-driven inner critic. They can help chronically depressed people feel more expansive and alive. They can help people detach from feelings that are too painful to experience. The list goes on and on.
People use substances and sexual behaviors such as pornography and masturbation to address whatever personal vulnerabilities they have when nothing else seems to work. Often, they’ve learned through early direct exposure or modeling that porn, substances, or another addictive behavior can help.
But what causes these personal vulnerabilities in the first place (and we’ve all got issues, OK?)? Trauma.
Koorosh Rassekh, MMFT, is a licensed therapist and founder of Evo Health and Wellness in Venice Beach, California. His mission is to break the stigma around mental health and create a world of healthier people, families, and communities.
I recently connected with Koorosh and invited him to share about how he helps his clients change their addictive behavior. Read more about my collaboration with him about sex and porn addiction here.
1) Evo’s website states that you respects “where you are and where you want to go.” What does this mean for how you think about and treat addictions?
Taking inspiration from one of my mentors and one of Evo’s key advisors, Dr. Gabor Maté, I would say that Evo understands that addiction is never the primary issue. It is a secondary response to something deeper happening for a person – trauma, marginalization, the impact of being different, bullying culture, rape culture, etc. When people suffer, they turn to whatever is available to address their suffering. With substances, people often use as a coping mechanism, and this coping mechanism becomes a problem within itself.
This is not my son. My son is much cuter. #sayseveryfatherever
My three-year-old had an epic meltdown yesterday. “Game of Thrones” season 8 epic. The huge battle scene in the “Lord of the Rings – The Return of the King” epic. Metalllica’s Black Album epic. And for that matter, the Beatles’ White Album epic.
The morning started off well, actually. Our family has been a bit stressed as we’re getting back into the groove of things after the holidays, as so many of us are. The Missus started school again this week and left very early yesterday for school. We had all enjoyed spending more time together during her holiday break from her studies, especially my son.
Saying goodbye to her when she leaves in the morning has sometimes been very hard for my son, so I was a little surprised yesterday when there were no tears at her departure. “Goodbye!” he said, smiling and continuing to play. She kissed him goodbye, then me, and wished us both a good day.
Someone recently recommended to me a book called Owning Your Own Shadow: Understanding the Dark Side of the Psyche by Robert A. Johnson. He was an author and a Jungian psychoanalyst (more on what that means in a second). I’d heard of his works when I was in high school. Unfortunately, he died this past September, which made the recommendation a timely way to remember him.
It’s a primer on the unconscious mind, or what Carl Jung called the “shadow.” But what is the shadow? Each of us have a part of ourselves that we don’t know about, that’s outside of our awareness, and yet is very much a part of our being. Knowing about this part of ourselves is so important because the shadow has ways of showing up in ways that, well, we least expect.
Not so sure? Studies indicate that the unconscious mind influences an astounding 90% to 95% of our actions and behaviors. But how? And how can you bring your shadow into the light so that you can have a more fulfilling, meaningful New Year?
Perhaps you’ve seen articles and posts floating around on social media this time of year about Dry January. If you haven’t, Dry January is a one-month challenge to abstain from alcohol created by Alcohol Change in 2012. About 4 million people participated in 2018, and maybe you’re trying to decide if participating this year is right for you.
After all, January is a time of resolutions for the coming year. Many people use Dry January as a way to help them reevaluate their drinking, especially as drinking typically peaks during the last few weeks of the year around Christmas and New Year’s.
There are plenty of articles out there like this one to help you figure out if you want to participate in Dry January or not. If you do decide to keep drinking, here are some other ways to participate so that you can make the most of your Dry January.