Why I’m an Addiction Therapist

addiction therapistAs an addiction therapist, I hear many stories of struggling with food, sex, pornography, or alcohol and other drugs. I recently wrote a short essay as a part of an application to an online training program in harm reduction from the Center for Optimal Living in New York.


It briefly tells my story and illuminates my passion for helping those struggling with addiction through compassionate, relationship-focused treatment. I thought I’d share it here with you.


My Journey with Alcohol

In 2003, I returned home for the holidays from an exhausting first term at graduate school. I was introduced to Johnny Walker by my accomplished, smart, and successful stepfather and stepbrother, who were everything I wanted to be at the time. For many years afterward, I drank anywhere from 2 to 6 drinks a day as a way to cope with stress, anxiety, and to numb myself from the shame I now realize I wanted to avoid. I was in my own therapy for most of the next thirteen years, and while I was very ashamed of my drinking, I did not want to quit or reduce my drinking.


Throughout this time, I greatly appreciated my therapists’ approaches to my drinking: they made it safe for me to think about my drinking, to consider how I felt about it, and respected my freedom to choose. I realized that I had the ability to make different choices and felt empowered to consider possible goals, including quitting. Eventually, I did choose to moderate my drinking on my own, and with the passage of more time I decided to be entirely abstinent.


The Profound Impact of Genuine Compassion

My journey of changing my relationship with alcohol would have been very different if my therapists had been confrontative about my alcohol use. I would have experienced this, as I believe many who use substances do, as a familiar and painful demand—to submit. The likely outcome? I would have felt all the more ashamed as my rebellion via drinking continued. Instead, my therapists cared more about me than my drinking; my relationships with these healers were the vehicles to my profound change.


Furthermore, my experience as a therapist has led me to believe that harm reduction and its principles are a desperately needed alternative to the treatment of substance misuse and compulsive behaviors.

Substance users long for a relationship in which they can be truly known and understood, often for the first time. That they never had such a relationship is often the reason, in my experience, that they have needed to turn to a substance or behavior to manage their feelings. Harm reduction views the therapeutic relationship as the agent of change.


Healing Addiction through Connection

As a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, I frequently work with individuals who have turned to compulsive sexual behaviors and substances as way to cope with unimaginable trauma, neglect, and loss. The community of professionals who treat sexual addiction largely view addiction as a disease, and thus the community and those it serves would be greatly helped by the paradigm and relational approach of harm reduction.


The traditional understandings of addiction are slowly changing, and the field of sex addiction needs to experience this change. The Center for Optimal Living’s harm reduction training program would assist me in forging a relational model for the treatment of compulsive sexual behaviors and substances.


Live near Ventura, Camarillo, or Oxnard, CA?

I’d love to connect.

Contact me today to get started.


Jeremy Mast

Jeremy is a licensed marriage and family therapist (CA LMFT90961) in private practice in Ventura, California. He helps those struggling with drugs, alcohol, and out-of-control sexual behaviors awaken to new possibilities for their lives. He lives with his wife, son, and cat in beautiful southern California.

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