Addiction and the Impact of Trauma

addiction impact of traumaIf 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.

How Alternative Addiction Treatment Can Work for You

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.

What I Learned About Our Need for Connection from My Son’s Meltdown

need for connection

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.

Get to Know Your Shadow for a Better Year in 2019

get to know your shadowSomeone 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?

Making the Most of “Dry January” (Especially If You Keep Drinking)

dry januaryPerhaps 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.

If You’re Looking for Substance Abuse Treatment in Ventura County, Read This

substance abuse treatment venturaIf you love someone who is struggling with a drug addiction or a substance use disorder, chances are you’re in crisis mode. Most likely, something has happened—again—that’s prompted you to seek out addiction counseling for your loved one or family member—again.

 

You’re scared for your loved one. Probably, you’re feeling anxious, overwhelmed, and lot a little resentful. “Why does this keep happening?” you say to yourself. “He needs to really work his program this time. He didn’t work hard enough last time.”

 

Meanwhile, you wonder if you’re codependent. At least, that’s what most of what you’ve read says. You struggle with the line between supportive love and destructive caretaking. So much of what you do seems to alienate your loved one. And he’s not getting any better. After all, this has happened before. Will this time be different?

 

The good news is that yes, this time can be different.

Create Your Optimal Use Plan

optimal use planThe New Year is right around the corner. Many make resolutions to change their relationship with alcohol or a substance, resolving to use it less or not at all.

 

Maybe you’re working on this already. If changing your pattern of using or drinking is important to you, perhaps it’s time to consider creating what’s called an optimal use plan.

 

An optimal use plan is a hypothetical plan or vision that you can create on your own, with the help of a loved one, or ideally a therapist. It’s a “working plan” that will help you name your goals for your drinking or using and includes strategies for how to achieve them.

 

So how do you create one? Let’s dive in.

Master Your Recovery Mindset

master your recovery mindsetIf you’re in trying to change your relationship with alcohol, a drug, sex, porn, or some other addictive behavior, you know it’s not a cakewalk. I want to walk you through an exercise today that will hopefully call attention to recurring thoughts that might be getting in the way of you reaching your goals.

 

I’m going to try something different here. I’m going to ask you to notice your first reactions to the statements that I’m going to give you. But in order for it to work, you have to promise to pause after you read each statement, taking note of what you’re thinking.

 

So don’t read on until you do that, okay? But first, a few words about why this is important. Let’s dive in.

Changing the Conversation with Your Addict

changing the conversation with your addictIf you’re in recovery, and especially if you frequent 12-step meetings, it’s not uncommon to hear about the “addict” in each person who struggles with addictive behavior. Often, using this term in this way refers to that part of the individual that wants to use, act out, or wreak havoc in some other way that is harmful to others.

 

I completely understand, then, why when I hear folks use this term in this way, they’re trying to prevent that damage from happening. They don’t want to lie anymore. They don’t want to hurt their partner with the “addict’s” hurtful words. And they really don’t want to use or act out.

 

So why am I about changing the conversation with your addict?

Navigating Family Gatherings When You’re in Pain

tips for navigating family gatherings when you're in painDuring my drinking days, there were holiday seasons when I was really struggling. I remember being so anxious about what was going on in my life and so ashamed about my drinking that I really didn’t feel like talking to anyone.

 

With the holiday season upon us, so are the joys unique to this time of year. But if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, if you’re reeling from an intimate betrayal, dealing with an addiction, or whatever, the holidays can be a tough time of year.

 

Family gatherings can present challenges. How do you deal with your family, who may have contributed to your pain in the first place? How much do you tell about what’s going on for you? Let’s take a walk through some ways of navigating family gatherings when you’re in pain that might help, no matter what’s going on in your life.