Here’s What I Wish I’d Said on My Recent Podcast Episode

alcohol treatment familiesIn early May, I was in Phoenix for the annual symposium for therapists who treat individuals struggling with problematic sexual behaviors and their partners. I was presenting on harm reduction at the conference on a panel discussing alternative paths of recovery that may not include 12-step recovery groups. I was thrilled to bring harm reduction to the field of sexual addiction and recovery.

 

While I was there, I spoke further with Jackie Pack, the facilitator of our panel. She invited me onto her podcast Thanks for Sharing to talk more about harm reduction. A couple of weeks ago, Jackie graciously hosted me and we talked about harm reduction, its benefits and rationale, and how it can help those struggling with addictive behavior and those who love them.

 

We covered a lot of ground, but there are some things we didn’t get to or that I wish I’d said more clearly. Here’s the rundown.

Healing Shame (Part 1 of 2)

healing shameShame. 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.

What to Do When Therapy Gets Hard

when therapy gets hardSo 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.

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.

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?

How to Get Over Your Past

Have you ever wondered why therapists seem to care so much about it was like for us as kids? That is, why are therapists so interested in our childhoods? While not all therapists focus on what's happened to us in the past, many therapists do pay...

Read More

Afraid to Quit Drinking? Here’s the Real Reason Why (Part 2)

afraid to quit drinking (part 2)Afraid to quit drinking? You’re not alone. In part 1, I reviewed some very common fears about quitting drinking or about moderating your drinking. I suggested that there’s a deeper reason behind all of these common fears: Our fear of change.

 

See, there’s a voice in all of us that tells us that we can’t do something, that when we think about doing something new or different, gets nervous, anxious, or scared. This voice tells us the same “emotional truths” over and over again. It’s trying to protect us from re-experiencing hurts from our childhoods but it’s not helping us anymore as adults.

 

In fact, it’s keeping us stuck. That voice is known as the ego. But what’s up with the ego? And why is it so important to look at what the ego’s up to if we want to change our drinking?

Afraid to Quit Drinking? Here’s the Real Reason Why (Part 1)

afraid to quit drinkingI always joke that I had to go to seminary to learn to drink.

 

In the fall of 2003, I moved across the country to go to Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California. I was anxious and scared but also thrilled to be starting graduate school. I was starting a theology degree and wanted to dive in. So what did I do? I signed up a a Biblical Greek intensive; I for the next 2 1/2 months, I studied nothing but Greek. All the time.

 

It was as exciting and brutal as it sounds. By the end of the term, I was exhausted and stressed as my perfectionism had been in full swing for months on end. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was on the hunt for some way to relax, to not feel so damn wound up all the time.

 

Christmas, 2003. Enter Johnny Walker, stage left. Thus began my long, storied history with alcohol. It took me years and years, but I finally learned to change my relationship with drinking.

 

I tried to cut back so many times. Countless times. And each time, I was discouraged. I thought it was hopeless. But the real story?

 

I was terrified to stop drinking.

Two Types of Psychological Trauma

two types of traumaWhen doctors and health care professionals talk about trauma, they’re referring to experiences that have led to injuries to the body, right? When therapists and mental health professionals talk about psychological trauma, we’re referring to wounds of the mind or heart.

 

That is, trauma is anything that causes an emotional injury. Any emotional pain that we feel is the result of trauma. We all have emotional pain because we all have experienced trauma.