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Feb 14

It takes over your life. It’s something that’s easy to get into and almost impossible to get out of. It’s something that, if you’re not careful, can come to define you and your worldview and the way you see life. Books upon books have been written about it, all filled with stories of how marriages were ruined and lives destroyed from the submission to it.  Once it’s gotten a hold of you, it’s life consuming. 


I’m talking about an addiction to internet pornography


My addiction to internet pornography started when I was around 9 years old.  Surprised?  Many people are. 

 

I was on the bus with my friends.  One friend in particular, “Andy,” had always been the rebellious, wild one of the group.  What he said and did had a big effect on me, as did what he thought of me.  Whenever he would say things about female body parts and how attracted he was to them, I was all ears.  I got interested and began to look for ways to see for myself.  Then I remembered that anything you needed could be found on the computer.  So, as an ignorant, hormone-driven, socially influenced 5th grader, I got on the computer and typed, “Boobs” and then “Hot girls” into the Google.  

  

What I saw after that had an immediate snowball effect.  As Ron White says, “Once you see one girl naked, you want to see them all naked.” So the snowball began rolling, and, I got better and better at typing into Google specific search terms to find more and more explicit photos and videos that were free.  I became familiar with promising websites.  It didn’t take long for me to become obsessed.  


Every time my parents let me stay up a little bit later to instant message my friends—which was a big thing at the time, I would sign off—tell my friends I was being forced to go to bed, make a crack at how oppressive parents were, and then get on Internet Explorer.  I was given an AOL account as a tweener but my parents put such high restrictions on what I could do, that I hardly used it.   They also put a software blocker on our Internet Explorer that took me about 5 minutes to figure out and work around.

 

I was a quick learner.


However, this is where the story gets interesting. Due to the snowball effect, I was getting into worse and worse stuff. Our computer was fairly old, and it didn’t have the best virus protection in the world, so our hard drive quickly became filled with downloaded images and things that I didn’t really want the rest of family knowing about. However, I had apparently signed myself up for a pay-per-view website.  It wasn’t until a month later, when a $1000 bill came in the mail, that I had realized my error.  


My parents had absolutely no idea. 


So the bill comes, and I get the heart-sinking call downstairs to where my father is sitting at the computer looking through the history of where I’d been on Internet Explorer.


I did my best to cover it up and play dumb, but I was busted.  From then on, it became not only a battle with myself, but also against my own family—mainly my parents.


But in addition to getting in trouble, I learned a valuable lesson that night:  how to delete the history from the history bar.  I developed a careful procedure to search, always being sure to cover my tracks carefully, deleting the history and emptying the cache of cookies.


The guilt was overwhelming.


I got better and better at hiding it and finding times to be on the computer.  I would sometimes get up in the middle of the night or wake up super early, making sure first that my parents were asleep.  You see how controlling it was?  One time, when our Internet was down, I resorted to going into my closet and using my cell phone to get onto the Internet to get my pornography fix.  That came back to bite me too, because cell phone bills are much more specific than Internet bills.  (To this day, my parents will still not allow me to have Internet/Wi-fi capabilities on my phone, and I'm pretty sure I might be the only one in the United States that doesn’t have it.)


Pornography changed the way I looked at women. Before porn, I saw women as friends and equals.  As I got deeper and deeper into it, I began to see women as the same objects I saw almost every night on my computer. I tried to keep it under control, but as we grew, the girls started to take on the form of the girls I lusted over at night.


I’m now in college.  I’ve had my victories and my defeats. I'm still fighting it and sometimes it seems, with no end in sight.  I’ve talked to many people about it, and I’ve been given practical applications of what I should do about it, but I just can’t shake it.   

I still feel a massive amount of guilt every single time I do it.


What I Know Now:


1.     I’m not alone.  For the longest time, I thought I was the only guy dealing with this.  When I finally got the courage to tell some close friends, I found out they were struggling with the same thing.  You’re not alone, and your parents love you.

2.      Viewing pornography can have a snowball effect on you. Once you pop, you just can’t stop. And once you’ve seen one thing, you want to see more and you want to see it again and again and again. 


3.      The lens through which I see the world has been greatly affected by this addiction. Even as I'm writing this, I'm looking around the library for the prettiest girls. Now I'm not necessarily lusting over them, but I admit I don’t see women the same anymore. It’s a very objective view, and something that I'm not proud of, but also something I don’t know how to change.


4.     My parents wanted to help. I admit I thought they were just out to get me at first, but what young teenager doesn’t? I felt they were ashamed of me. That wasn’t true at all. They loved every part of me, and wanted me to be the best I could be.  And they recognized that in order to maximize my potential, I couldn’t be controlled by pornography like I was.  I owe all the control I have over it now, however miniscule that might be, to them loving me through this.   


5.     My addiction impacted my siblings.  I destroyed more than one computer and my addiction caused my parents to put even tougher blocks in place.  Often, those programs they installed to block my pornography use, made doing research for papers and homework tough for my brothers.  I thought they were ashamed of me, and wanted me out of the family. However, it was quite the opposite. They knew what I was going through and were very sensitive to that.


6.     I needed to take the lead in my controlling it.  I put in place a computer program that sends a weekly report to five men I respect (including my dad) and who hold me accountable.  Every week, these men are sent a report of all the web sites I visit.  So, whenever I am tempted, I think about these men and whether or not I want to disappoint them.  That pause in my actions has made a huge difference in me being able to control it. 

 

To parents, here are some things to look for that may indicate your son or daughter is struggling with pornography addiction:    

1.     If your child begins to act very skittish whenever the mail comes, whenever you call them from another room, whenever you’re using the computer they use or whenever you’re in their room, he may have a problem with Internet pornography addiction.

2.      If your child’s happy-go-lucky attitude suddenly turns sour. For me, the overwhelming guilt and depression (because I thought I was the only one) was, at times, too much for me to handle. I had always been a very fun-loving kid but when pornography took over, I turned into something I never intended to be. I took offense to things that usually didn’t bother me and I looked for the negative things in people as opposed to the positive.


Advice For Parents: 


1.      If and when you find out your son has been viewing pornography, DO NOT ignore it or think “boys will be boys.”  As I said above, the habit snowballs.  If you’ve caught him, he already has a problem.  Start talking to him now and get him help.  Now.

 

2.     Advice-wise, parents, please try to understand what your son is going through and don’t just lecture.  After the first of many bills came in the mail, my parents could not understand why I couldn’t just give up on everything and just not do it anymore. My father had gone through something similar, but not nearly to the measures I did.  It was miserable. They sat me down, told me how bad it was, and how I needed to get it under control. I could sense their anger and frustration and heard the shame in their voices.  That tore me up inside and didn’t help. If anything, it made it worse.


3.     Advice-wise, parents should skip the heart-to-heart chats.  After my parents lectured me, I was sent to my room.  After a while, my father would come up and talk to me heart-to-heart, man-to-man. It seems like a good idea, but at that time, I was still feeling the intense guilt and shame (some of which came from them).  I wasn’t listening.  I just sat there, nodding occasionally, waiting for the time when he would get up and leave.  I know that it was more for him than for me, and that he desperately wanted to be in my life as much as possible and be my go-to man (which he still is), but it didn’t help. At that time, I resented my parents because pornography gave me an attitude that blocked out all the great things they were doing for me. 


4.     Lastly, just be there. Let your child come to you.  The guilt is unbearable and your child will want someone, anyone, to be there for him. Let that person be you. Be the light in his life and the strong foundation off of which he thinks that he can build a secure future.  You’re his parents, and he knows that.  He’s in an intense fight that’s impossible for him to win on his own, so you have to be there to be his reinforcements. However, you can’t just charge in, hoping to be the hero of the day. You have to wait for him to call you. He has to want to stop.  The wait for my parents was agonizing because you want to go in and fix everything and take his pain away.  But you have to wait. It’s vital. 


Otherwise, he might just think you’re trying to protect your name or your reputation as opposed to his.


Blake lives in the Cleveland-area. 


More content on Pornography Addiction


   

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

Nov 07

I have been collecting addicts all my life … starting with my mother. 


But it wasn’t until I was over 40 that I learned what I needed to know about myself, the people I’ve loved, and the seemingly infinite kinds of addictions we face, simply because we are human.


When I was a little girl, my mother was diagnosed with a bone disease in her gums that was eventually treated successfully. However, in the aftermath of pain, her doctors prescribed morphine. This was the mid-60s, and having read much about the research and trials of drugs at the time, I don’t think family doctors were aware of the powerful hold that opiates have on “normal” people – that is, people who were not known drug abusers.  My mother quickly became addicted. Not in a made-for-TV-movie kind of way – no one at the time was even aware of her struggle; not even her. But over the years and looking back, she recalls it with a shudder.


After school, my brothers and sister and I knew to tip-toe into the hushed house through the back door. My mom would be sleeping deeply, escaping her pain.  I never once heard the word “addiction” or even “problem.” She was just my mom. It was what I knew, and I loved her.


As a teenager, my first real boyfriend was a high school golden boy. Sure, he drank beer every weekend, but back then, when the drinking age was 18, what senior football player didn’t? Still, there were signs even I couldn’t miss: the time he saw me driving with one of my guy friends and came to my house later that night – angry, drunk, he banged on my bedroom window so hard it smashed into a hundred pieces.

During a school homecoming pageant, he had had so much to drink that when he had to answer the obligatory “Mr. America” question, he mumbled something and swiped at the stand-up microphone so that it teetered dangerously on the edge … much like he did before stomping offstage.  

 

I dated him on and off for two years, never even considering his behavior a “problem.” It was high school; most people thought we were all just “typical teenagers.”  I loved him as only a girl can love a boy for the first time; I felt grown up when he brought me roses scented with apologies.


Throughout my late teens and 20s, I had at least four boyfriends who were (looking back) functioning alcoholics – some better-functioning than others. And yet I never saw their behavior as serious trouble or grounds for dismissal. Part of the reason is that I was happily enjoying my own version of partying. I drank at parties, danced at clubs, stayed up all night, too. It wasn’t unusual for people to start slurring their words, make fools of themselves, or even pass out.


That’s one of the biggest lessons I learned about those of us who choose addicts: We Don’t Notice. We’re just not that aware or self-actualized. I think back on some situations and wonder how in the world could I think that was normal?


When I was about 26, a boy I’d been dating for about six months told me he was going to an AA program in Colorado. I knew he drank too much, slept too late, worked too little. But at the time, I had no idea how much courage it took for him to enter rehab – and to tell me. I wished him good luck and he invited me to visit him a week after he finished the program.


And I did. I flew across the country never once even reading about the AA program or how it was likely to affect him. I expected him to be just as fun as he always was -- just without a drink in his hand.


Naïve? Definitely. But that is hardly a valid excuse. Immature? Unthinking?? More accurate, but still not excusable.  How could I have been so vacuous?


Once in Colorado, I saw quickly what a huge mistake I’d made in coming. He was angry, confused, and still going through withdrawal. It took two days of tears and confusion to call Delta and pay an exorbitant fee to fly home early. Even then, I didn’t stop to consider the nature of my boyfriend’s addiction or alcoholism. I just moved on to the next one.

And in fact, I married one. A brilliant love-starved man who had been trying to numb out his pain for more than half his life.


And finally, I began to learn. My first year of marriage was like going to grad school for enablers. I began to understand what part I played, and why being in a relationship with an addict felt like coming home. I learned that I loved more like a parent and less like a partner –an addict-magnet for sure. I also learned deep hurt and a loss of self I had never experienced before. Addicts’ energy can be all-consuming; they are narcissistic in a way that leaves little room for anyone or anything else. They are not selfish in a typical way, but in a way that says, “Nobody’s pain is as bad as mine. Nobody understands me; my problems are unique. I am fucked up beyond repair, and I don’t deserve love.”

And that is what makes me love them all the more. I was addicted to addicts! To the way their need made me feel. That is the quintessential enabler.


 My husband went into rehab just a few months after we separated after 13 years of marriage.  And I began my “doctorate” in learning. I went to family therapy, Nar-Anon groups (for families with loved ones who are addicted to drugs), Narcotics Anonymous (NA) and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) support groups and meetings.  For the first time I was supportive of my husband without being co-dependent; I believed in him without needing to control the outcome.  I was no longer filled with fear.


But an addict who goes into rehab enters a new life. The leaders of AA suggest they not associate with old friends. They go to AA meetings every day, or several each day or night. They make new friends in the program, and their life becomes working the program. It may not be perfect, but it has the best record for rehab of any program out there.


I remember at one of the NA meetings, I was given a booklet of quotes from people who had been through the program. There is one I will never forget.  A wife of 20 years whose husband was in AA said, “It’s not surprising to me that so many marriages fail when one partner goes into rehab; what is surprising to me is that any of them makes it.”


My marriage didn’t make it, but my husband did. Is making it, I should say. It’s an ongoing endeavor.


Addicts are individuals. I only know what I know from my personal experiences. But I do know they are not “all bad” or “worthless.” They are, as are we all, deserving of our love and compassion.


Ginger Emas is a freelance business writer, the mother of a 14-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has written for Skirt! magazine, More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media.

 

For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

These days researchers and writers like to boil all maladies down to the biochemical level.  The medicalization of all things sure makes life simple: if it’s just faulty brain chemistry, then there’s eventually going to be a pill for it.  


But there is no pill to erase the feelings that grip Katherine’s gut when she walks into her childhood home for Thanksgiving.  The Marlboro stench of the old curtains, the worn areas on the carpet, the heaviness on her mother’s hips and in her voice, the back bedroom filled with unopened boxes from QVC shopping binges, her father’s palpable misery about his job, the bathroom where she first learned to throw up… 


These are all powerful triggers for Katherine’s addictions.

 

After a year of therapy, she’s made great strides. When she first arrived, she had a successful corporate career and a decade-long battle with bulimia.  Over the months as her bulimia improved, other addictions seemed to grow stronger: on-line shopping, cigarettes, endless pots of coffee.  


Each addiction is her attempt to manage a deep and abiding angst.  She discovered that dread and deep sadness were, in fact, her normal way of moving through her world.


So we began to connect the dots.  


Her father always hated his job but felt trapped due to her mother’s shopping addiction; buried in unnecessary junk, she kept the family in perpetual financial peril.  Her dad made it a point to let everyone in the family know on a daily basis that he was suffering at work FOR THEM. 


Trapped in their own misery, they saw hope in their bright and athletic daughter: they decided to turn her into a soccer star. They had big Olympic-sized dreams for her. They forced her to play for an abusive coach who screamed, shamed and taunted his players, especially regarding their weight.  He singled out Katherine and was especially hard on her, forcing her to run extra laps and humiliating her in front of her teammates. Her parents spent all extra money on her soccer career, but this was THEIR dream for her, not hers.  Since she was clearly miserable, they called her “ungrateful” and a “spoiled brat”… and she believed them.


“What is wrong with me?” she thought.  “I am such a bad kid.”


Her primary experience in her childhood home was a gaping hole between what she needed and what she got.  And she did what most kids do: she took it personally.  “It must be me.”


It was during that time~ miserable in her body, abused by her coach, pushed by her parents~ that she started throwing up her food.  Trapped in a body and a family and a life that did not fit, she discovered ways to go numb.  It was purge or go crazy.  


As we explore the meanings and functions of her addictions today, she is learning that she’ll need to do for herself what her parents could not:  discover and meet her true needs. This is no easy feat since she is “waking up” in a corporate career which is so far from her inner self.  Going to work feels like standing on that soccer field, a character in her parents’ script: she continues to feel the need to go numb.


Like her mother, she shops compulsively on-line and keeps herself financially off-balance. Like her father she suffers in a job she hates because she feels trapped by the part of her that won’t stop shopping. Cigarettes and caffeine provide the artificial energy to push her through her day.  

  

To Katherine, Sick, Miserable, Addicted and (most of all) Stuck is Normal.


After a year of weekly sessions, she recently admitted her true heart’s desire, warning me first not to laugh or tell her she’s crazy. “Dina, I really want to be a therapist. People always ask me for advice with their problems and I think I have a really good perspective.”  I wasn’t surprised by her admission; she is sensitive and compassionate, a natural care-giver.  

 

So we started to explore the possibility of a radical life-shift.  What if she stopped shopping compulsively and saved her extra money for graduate studies in something that was actually fulfilling to her? 


“How could I ever be around my family?” she asked. 

 

When she goes home now, her guard is up.  She will not make eye contact for fear of being sucked into their abyss.  But by Day Two she is back in her old bathroom, throwing up.  The legacy of her family is addiction: to change and be happy will feel like a betrayal, an abandonment of all she knows.  I remind her that healthy families encourage their children to build happy lives: dysfunctional families need their kids sick and stuck so they will never really leave. 


Katherine’s next task will be to explore her fears about steering her life in a direction of her own making.  There will certainly be a “cost” in terms of further separation from her family.     


Addiction is always more complex than biochemistry. It’s tougher than just changing behavior. Beneath addiction is anxiety; below the anxiety are core beliefs about the self that may need to be revealed and challenged.  This is why the journey towards true healing requires many more than 12-Steps.   

 

Dina Zeckhausen is a nationally-known clinical psychologist and author who specializes in treating eating disorders and body image in both adults and adolescents. She is a weekly columnist for ShareWiK.com. You can visit her on the web at dinazeckhausen.com and MyEdin.org.

 

More Dina Zeckhausen articles, click here

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC  

Dec 19

Just because you stop drinking and/or using drugs doesn’t mean you stop acting like a drunk or a substance abuser.  I had totally stopped drinking but my alcoholic behavior hadn’t stopped.

 

I was a dry drunk.

 

Addicts are the unhappy bearers of many reprehensible characteristics: selfishness, impulsiveness, restlessness, and irritability, to name but a few.  All those characteristics stayed with me long into physical sobriety.  When these character traits remain after the substance abuse stops, you have me:  A dry drunk. 

 

It took me four years of sobriety to figure this out.

 

I've sat in countless Alcoholic Anonymous meetings while “chips” were given out (“chips” are pins given out celebrating and marking the passage of time of one’s sobriety), and heard, “Chips represent the duration of one’s sobriety, not necessarily the quality of one’s sobriety.”  That simple message flew right over my head.  I thought the more time you spent sober, the easier life got and the better you became as a person. 

 

On the night I accepted my “chip” for four years of sobriety at my home group meeting, I told my story, and then several of my friends in the group said very nice things about me:  “I’m a great friend,”  “I’m kind and caring and giving,”  “My recovery is a true miracle.” 

 

But when one friend—a well-respected member of the group known for his wisdom—noted my “tenacity” and said that despite all the troubles I continued to have and the depth of the unhappiness that I still experienced, I never, ever broke down and had a drink.  His kudos were quite complimentary but also a wake-up call.

 

Why am I as unhappy now as I was before I quit drinking??

 

The mistake I made is obvious.  I quit going to AA meetings on a regular basis shortly after I had a year or so of sobriety under my belt. As time went on, I didn’t return to drinking.  And, as the cravings to drink went away, I was able to abstain in situation after situation. 

 

But I stopped working on everything else.    

 

Twelve Step programs are pretty much guaranteed to work…contingent upon one’s commitment to work the program every day.  Quitting drinking is just the first step in successful recovery.  Full recovery requires constant spiritual, mental and emotional growth.   As I stood back and looked at the way I was living day to day now, I saw my growth had stopped when my drinking stopped.  

 

Everyday I go to work as a personal trainer and help people lead healthier, better lives. I care very much about each of my clients.  Yet in my personal life, I continued to hurt those closest to me. 

 

Shortly after the meeting marking my four years of sobriety, I hit another type of rock bottom—a rock bottom that didn’t involve any substance abuse at all. I reached a new level of unhappiness and emptiness and had pushed everyone I loved away.  I was still living life wildly, like a drunk – manipulative in personal relationships, unwilling to make sound choices, interested only in what I could do to keep my life exciting by creating chaos—making impulsive choices I knew would lead to disaster—lying, betraying people in order to feel “alive.”

 

I hadn’t replaced the alcohol with anything at all; I just fed my addiction in different ways. As a drinking alcoholic, I wasn’t able to enjoy life or maintain any healthy relationships. As a dry drunk, the same was true.

 

Throughout the sober-but-dry-drunk years, the one healthy thing I did do everyday was pray and work on a relationship with God. I do believe that it was my continued searching and ultimately the grace of God that prevented me from relapsing.  But I didn’t permit this growing relationship with God to change my hurtful behaviors.  Bottom line?  My time of sobriety meant very little because the quality of it was, well, no quality at all.

 

I went back to my home group AA meeting on a regular basis, and fortunately my loving AA friends made me feel like I was just coming home after a long trip.  I asked a dear friend from the group to take me through the Big Book and the 12 steps again. They both have entirely new meaning to me now.

 

I start every day with a prayer, asking God to help me be patient, kind and humble.  And I also ask Him to stay present with me every moment.  At the end of the day, I thank God and admit to Him anything I’ve done or felt during the day that wasn’t kind, or was self-serving.  I always have something to admit to God—I guess I can’t expect perfection—but it seems like every day I get better and better at living a peaceful, more spiritually connected life.

 

The Promises of my program of recovery are coming true and I can now look forward to a life that is happier and more peaceful. Life will never be easy—something I thought would happen as soon as I stopped drinking.  But the way I perceive and approach my problems has changed—and that brings more peace than I have ever experienced before.

 

At my five-year anniversary meeting, I will tell a different story.  I have a new and important message to share with members of AA who are listening—especially to those who are new to AA.  I won’t tell you the story that led me to end my substance abuse.  I will tell you, instead, how I remained in the prison cell that defines addiction until I realized I was a dry drunk.  I will warn others of the dangers of being a dry drunk.  I will, more than likely, cry.

 

My journey into this new phase of my sobriety has led me to feel infinitely more proud and strong than I ever have before.

 

Anne is a recovered alcoholic who works as a personal trainer, inspiring others to take charge of their health. She lives in Atlanta. 

 

Click here to watch Anne share her personal story of alcoholism.  Click here to watch Anne share her personal story of recovering from emotional eating.    

 

©2010 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Dec 19

My name is Dale Kuehne and I am an adrenaline addict.

 

I’ve learned the hard way that adrenaline is as addictive as cocaine. My body wants a fix today and will every day for the rest of my life.  My therapist tells me that if I want my life to be long, I have to resist the overpowering urge to give in. 

 

There is no “cure” for this addiction. 

 

But I’ve lately discovered there is a path that brings healing.

 

The path called love.

 

Sadly, I’m not sure I have the courage to walk that path.

 

It scares me.  Deeply.

 

Why?

 

It is not a solitary path.

 

You cannot walk this path alone.

 

This confession may strike you as beyond odd. 

 

“Who in their right mind would want to walk alone, if healing is available?”

 

Who indeed.

 

The problem is my mind is not right.  My soul is not right.  My body is not right.

 

My body doesn’t want healing.  It wants a fix. 

 

My mind tells me healing is not possible.

 

I am emotionally disconnected, and something within desperately wants to keep it that way.

 

My heart, however, speaking to me in a still, small voice, is telling me to take the path.

 

Why am I so afraid to obey my heart?

 

I’m afraid of confronting the overwhelming pain and shame caused by childhood trauma.

 

My trauma occurred at the time I was unable to understand its personal impact and what to do with the pain.

 

Trauma is personally overwhelming, because we are not designed to handle trauma by ourselves.

 

I didn’t know that.

 

I dealt with it in a solitary way, but the pain overwhelmed me.

 

So, I did what any morally upstanding rugged individualist would do; I self-medicated with the social acceptable drug called adrenaline.

 

There are many trauma treatments.  I opted for adrenaline. 

 

The high that accompanies an adrenaline rush drowned my pain.

 

My adrenaline rush comes when I am involved in high achievement.

 

I started this treatment in my teen years and never stopped.

 

I channeled my energies into being REALLY nice, REALLY educated, and REALLY productive.

 

Achievement dictated every aspect of my life, including relationships.

 

I viewed all my relationships as tasks.  For me relational achievement meant being REALLY nice to the other.

 

It never occurred to me that being nice is something I can do, but love is something only “we” can do.

 

So rather than take time to slow down and be in love with my family and friends, I poured myself into achievement in order to generate the ever-increasing amount of adrenaline needed to numb the pain.

 

I lived for decades in a sleep-deprived, relationally deprived, and physically unhealthy way as though the laws of physics didn’t apply to me.

 

Last year physics took over and I emotionally crashed. 

 

In order to save my life, I had to slow way down and deny myself adrenaline.

 

My addiction is so acute that I can’t do this by myself.  Fortunately I have a team of people that won’t let me go back there.

 

Today I feel better, but it is of little consolation.

 

I’m told I look better, but that is of little consolation.

 

I still crave adrenaline.

 

Recently I discovered a path of healing I never knew existed.

 

Now I see it and I am scared. 

 

Of what?

 

Love.

 

Until now I thought love was a task.

 

I thought love was a command to carry out.

 

It turns out that love is not a task, but a state of being, and it is a command that can only be fulfilled with others.

 

Love is a state of being that we can only enjoy in relationship with other people and God.

 

Love is not something “I do,” but something that only dwells in relationship.

 

What so horrifying about that?

 

The gateway to the path says that in order to walk it, I have to love myself. 

 

Why?

 

Love is an activity involving our entire being, and unless I am willing to love myself enough to give others the gift of myself (as opposed to my achievements), I cannot love.  By myself I can only counterfeit love.

 

What is so hard about loving myself? 

 

I haven’t loved myself since the trauma.

 

The trauma defiled me.

It became me.

 

I’ve been trying to escape from me ever since. 

 

Yet I can neither escape myself nor heal myself.

 

When it comes to the wounds of trauma, we cannot heal ourselves.  Only love heals such a wound, and love is only found in healthy relationships.

 

Relating calls us to a gradual opening of our mind, heart and soul to the other and ourselves.  Love can only heal us if we allow love, through others, to access the wounds within us.

 

I am 52 years old and I now see that humans are made for relationship.  We are made for love.

 

So here I stand at the crossroad of love. 

 

To take this path I only have to love myself enough to take the first step.

 

My family and friends have their hands and hearts open to me, I just need to love myself enough to step into their arms and allow them to carry me down the path.  The path has always been there, but now I see it.

 

Will I live what I believe?

 

That I am made in the image of God and loved by God and therefore I can love myself?

 

My name is Dale Kuehne and I am an adrenaline addict.

 

I stand at a crossroad and wonder which path I will take.

 

Adrenaline or love?

 

Love rescue me.

 

Rev. Dale S. Kuehne, Ph.D. is the author of “Sex and the iWorld. Rethinking relationship beyond the age of Individualism.”  He is the Richard L. Bready Chair of Ethics, Economics, and the Common Good and founding director of the New Hampshire Institute of Politics at Saint Anselm College.  He serves as pastor of Emmanuel Covenant Church in Nashua, NH and is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. 

 

Read other columns by Rev. Dale Kuehne here. 

 

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

The holiday season is here and, whether you celebrate Hanukah, Kwanzaa or Christmas, you most likely have been bombarded with all the stresses that come with the season. It’s easy to turn cookies, eggnog, or wine to help make those family gatherings, office parties and gift-giving more tolerable. While the sugar rush may make you feel better in the short-term, these coping mechanisms are not good for your physical or emotional health in the long-term.

 

Excessive and uncontrollable consumption of food, alcohol or drugs can lead to an addiction which can have devastating effects on the individual and his/her family and friends. Many of us are not addicts, but willingly admit to consuming an extra piece of pie or holiday alcoholic beverage to help ease stresses or cope with an awkward situation. The pie – while delicious – will spike your blood sugar levels causing a “feel good” feelings before those levels crash leaving you irritable and hungry. Holiday alcoholic beverages are often chock-full of added sugar and syrups, and can often have more calories than your meal! They can also dehydrate you which causes headaches and fatigue that can last much longer than the time it takes to consume the drink.

 

I challenge you this holiday season to be mindful of your food and beverage choices. Be sure to fill up on protein and vegetables before sampling a (small) piece of dessert. And if you want to enjoy a holiday beverage, be sure to limit the quantity and drink plenty of water before and after to avoid dehydration. Try to avoid eating and drinking mindlessly as well – take three deep breaths before consuming food or drink to ensure that you really need what you are about to put into your body.

 

You can also take this one step further - try a new addiction. I am speaking of that addictive feeling of gratitude that comes with giving.  This is the time of year when some people need an extra coat, a thoughtful gift or a warm meal. These simple things can mean everything to a person or a family in need. Go out of your way to give a little more, even if you are overwhelmed with the holidays, too. In doing so, you'll be pleasantly reminded how addicting it can be!

 

Dr. Elizabeth Ricanati is the mother of three children and founding medical director of The Cleveland Clinic's LifeStyle 180 program.  She is a regular columnist for ShareWIK.com 

 

More Dr. Elizabeth Ricanati articles, click here

 

 ©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 2010

I have participated in one intervention in my life. It was sad and uplifting, and I recall the simultaneous feelings of power and powerlessness. Happily, my very dear friend has defied the odds to date.  He has been ‘clean’ for quite some time now.  
 
But let me tell you, there were a lot of years in there that were touch and go, to say the least. It felt very much like I had lost my old friend. He was immersed in a world that had nothing good to offer him, and was daily robbing him of anything worth living for.
 
Addictions like that don’t happen in a vacuum.  For him, there were clear life circumstances that led to loneliness and depression, loss and disillusion.  From my perspective, he started to use drugs and sex to feel something – anything – that would replace an inner hopelessness.  It started as a misguided way of seeking stimulation and spiraled out of control.
 
When a small group of us recognized that our friend was in serious trouble, we joined forces to intervene—but in truth, we had no idea what we were doing.  We didn’t know that such a thing as an ‘addiction-ologist’ existed – we were grasping at straws. We met with him directly and reached out to his family. We thought there was a plan, but there were differing opinions about the level of support he really needed.   Let’s just say it wasn’t a quick fix. The crisis continued for another year or so.  He hadn’t hit rock-bottom, yet.
 
During my friend’s crisis I had ample opportunity to think about my responsibilities as his friend. Addiction doesn’t only happen to an individual, of course, and if you’re willing to step outside of the realm of judgment, then there is a lot to learn about human behavior and relationships.  I learned most about staying power and forgiveness.
 
Severe addiction causes a lot of pain and guilt – and not just for the person with addiction. As much as I wanted to see my friend reclaim his life, it grew difficult over time to stay engaged and committed to our friendship. I was always concerned, but I had to strike a balance between staying connected and keeping a safe distance.  He was clearly self-destructing.  I didn’t feel comfortable around him and couldn’t let my kids visit his home.  It’s sorta like trying to save a drowning person – if you really want to help, you can’t get too close or the drowning victim will drag you under the water with him.
 
In all honesty, it’s hard not to get disgusted with addiction.  When you don’t suffer from addiction, it’s easy to forget that addicts are not willfully making terrible choices – there is an underlying issue that is interfering with sage decision-making. Interfering in an epic way.
 
So, the challenge for me was to stay – to stay connected to my friend, to be a friend to him even when he was unable to be a friend to me, much less to himself. A life-long friendship is much like a marriage – that whole “better or worse” thing can be hard as hell.  But, usually, when a friend is in trouble and behaving badly, that is when they need you the most.
 
Staying engaged was an intense practice of Don Miguel Ruiz’s second agreement, “Don’t take things personally.” [Don Miguel Ruiz is a New Age spiritualist who has four agreements aimed at preserving one’s integrity, self-love and peace by absolving oneself from the responsibility and problems of others.]
 
In order to stay connected, I had to get to the point that I was ready to let him go if that was his choice—even if it meant that he would never talk to me again.  It wasn’t about me, or whether he was listening to my ‘advice.’  I had to figure out how to respect him as a person without judgment despite his incredible absence of good judgment.
 
That practice of staying was a huge life lesson for me. It was painful to love and support someone even when he was making really awful choices. It was hard to stay connected without being so close as to put myself at risk.
 
The other lesson for me, besides testing my staying power, was about forgiveness.  I had to learn not to indulge him, not to enable him, but to forgive him his humanness – to love who he was as a person, despite his behavior.
 
It’s hard to find forgiveness for someone whom you think should know better. It was hard not to see him as incredibly selfish, willfully hurtful, and just a lousy friend.  Forgiveness after his recovery was not the challenging part.  It was forgiveness while in the throes of addiction that was a true test of my integrity.
 
So, here’s what I know: having someone in your life with an addiction offers opportunities to learn to help without enabling, to support without saving, and to care for others without sacrificing yourself.  
 
It is not easy for anyone involved.  But two perspectives offer a lot of assistance:  focus on staying committed to the person without getting too close, and finding forgiveness for the person while holding his behaviors as intolerable.
 
My friend has rediscovered his sense of purpose and is living life again, fully. With pure joy I celebrate his successes as he continues to slowly climb out of that deep hole.  His happy ending was hard-earned, and he continues to work for it every day. For my part, at least I know I tried to help … by being a friend who challenged him, encouraged him, stayed with him (if not too close), and accepted his humanity.

 

Elaine Taylor-Klaus is a Life, Leadership and Executive Coach and the founder of Touchstone Coaching.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist.

 

Read more articles by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here.

 

©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC 

 

 

 

Mar 13
The last year and a half has been about relearning how to live life as a couple with my husband, Greg as well as individually. I always thought we had a decent marriage with normal problems, but that there had to be more. In January of 2009, God began the process of showing us the abundant life we were both missing. We both trusted in Christ at an early age and had grown a lot over the years, but had settled for far less than what God wanted for us as His children. 

I was devastated to learn of Greg’s struggle with sex addiction and how it eventually led him to commit adultery. Greg lost his job as worship pastor and the life we had known for 11 years came to an end. It was extremely difficult in those early months, as our lives were completely turned upside down. I had idolized Greg for years and I believe God allowed my idol to fall - in order to restore and heal him, but also to get my attention.

In counseling, not only did I learn about sex addiction, but I also began learning about co-dependency and how it had developed over the years in ways that were extremely unhealthy. I found that it ran through most all of my relationships, not just with Greg. Whenever we had conflict in our marriage, my goal was to get Greg’s approval and for us to be in agreement about whatever the issue was. I didn’t believe we could be at peace with each other if we agreed to disagree. I often felt like a “caged animal” so I would end up apologizing just to end the conflict and restore the peace (now I know it wasn’t true peace). I didn’t believe that what really mattered in those moments was if I was pleasing God. 

I have always known that I was a people pleaser, but I never knew just how much damage it does to constantly say “yes” when you so desperately want to say “no.” I never wanted to say no, or be honest about my true feelings because I was always worried about hurting someone else’s feelings. At least that’s how I rationalized why I had agreed to do things I didn’t want to do. There was another aspect to my people pleasing that God has shown me and that is pride. I liked being known as the one who will always come through for people. If I’m honest and say no, people might get angry with me. In recovery I’m learning that when I’m not honest with others, I am actually a liar who is trying to control them and how they respond to me. I am learning that I can be honest and speak the truth in love. Even if others reject me or get angry, I will be ok! I am not responsible for how others respond to me. It is so freeing to really have confidence in Christ and trust in Him! 

You may be going through something just as traumatic as what I have experienced. There is hope! The work is hard and there are days I want to quit. Recovery is our life and we are committed to it until God calls us home. Our life is so different than it was just a year and a half ago, but I wouldn’t go back either! 


What I Know Now:

-If you feel something is wrong, you don't need to wait to seek help until you know something major is wrong.
 
-If your spouse doesn't want to get help with you, you can seek it on your own. Getting healthy yourself is your responsibility.

-Once you seek help, find a support group. It critical to live in community and to have a safe place to share daily struggles and victories. 

-Trust God to work in your spouse, especially when you don't see the results you would like. You're not going to change them by trying to control them.

Stacey and her husband, Greg now help other couples heal from the pain of sexual addiction.  

©ShareWIK Media Group, LLC
Jan 30

It is a cold and wet Sunday afternoon, and though we are strangers, we are joined for the moment as we watch people we love play tennis on a soggy court. 


When she says she’s a second grade teacher, I immediately ask, “If you were to tell your second-graders that you are giving them something that will make them:  


--cough


--feel like throwing up


--possibly become unable to live without it


--over time make them very, very sick


--make the people around them sick 


--what would they say?” 


She looks at me with certainty and says, “They’d say I’m crazy.” 


With a high-minded “thought so” running through my mind, I explain why I am asking.  As I say I want to write a great “stop smoking” column, one that will really ring true and help people quit, her face grows sad. Very sad. 


She shares that her dad was a life-long smoker; her mom was collateral damage, caring for her father tirelessly as he slowly succumbed to the lung cancer. Yet even with the lung cancer, an oxygen tank, and a wife who was exhausted by caring for him, he could not, would not quit smoking. 


And then, my new friend says, her mom, the loving caretaker who had waited on her dad hand and foot throughout this cigarette-induced decline, “up and died before he did!” 


“We were all stunned. I got a call from my sister expecting her to tell me dad had died, and I just crumpled when I found out it was mom. She had worn herself out totally. Just went to sleep and didn’t wake up. He had to go into a nursing home where he could not smoke, and died two months later. So cigarettes – his smoking cigarettes – really killed them both,” she says. 


I ask questions about her parents; what her dad did for a living. Secretly I want them to be uneducated and not good people. Why, I am not sure. But guess what? They were highly educated, loving, wonderful humans who spent their lives in service to the diplomatic corps. Her dad became hooked on nicotine as a young soldier, when, during WWII, cigarette companies made sure the soldiers had them. 


“You know,” she says, “I think the nicotine companies knew even then that it was bad for people. I know that years ago, when they had a chance to make cigarettes safer, or to make them more addicting, they looked for ways to make them more addicting.  They are evil,” she says with a sad scowl. 


I tell her I’ve been stewing on this topic for days, that I was grateful that when I smoked in my late teens and 20s, I somehow did not become hooked. 


I tell her about my thoughts during church that morning, thoughts about people who work for cigarette companies. “Do they hold leadership positions in their churches or synagogues? Do they serve on committees that visit ‘the sick, the friendless, and the needy’ and if so, how do they square visiting people who are dying of lung cancer, and then go back to work to sell cigarettes the next day?” I ask. 


My new friend and I talk more about her second graders, and wonder what will happen to them between now and when they hit ninth grade or so, that will make them go from thinking cigarettes are disgusting and horrible, to thinking that they are cool, and that they will be cooler if they smoke. 


We talk about peer pressure, of course, and a little about how the human brain develops, and how lucky the cigarette manufacturers are that the time when kids are trying cigarettes is the time when their brains are most susceptible to becoming addicted to substances, and their ability to make good judgments isn’t formed until they’re in their twenties. We talk about the irony of that: kids are tempted by substances when they’re least able to defend themselves, and then many are hooked before they are able to even get to the point of being capable, physiologically, of making such life-and-death decisions. 


I tell her a little about my book, “The TurnAround Mom.” Her eyes don’t glaze over, so I tell her about dealing with multi-generational addiction and abuse, and stopping the cycles that seem to repeat themselves in some way, no matter how smart or hardworking we are, unless we go back, clean out the sadness, deal with it all, and become conscious of how we are repeating the past.  And then, if we truly want change, how we must work to make our actions match our intentions, so our children SEE a different way of being.   


“Maybe by seeing us live another way, they become more likely to live another way. And the good news is, it’s never too late to start trying,” I say. 


She likes all of that, and takes a bookmark about my book. And then we talk a little about our marriages, and how we were both working to help our families eat healthier, especially our husbands. 


She becomes a little wistful when she says she truly wants to help her husband lose weight, and that he is trying. “But,” she says, “It is just so hard for him to lose weight when he’s not smoking.” 


She knows she’s powerless over his addiction, and I know I may sound like a know-it-all in this piece. And I will tell you that I obviously do not know it all. Because if I did, I would have already come up with the SUCCESFUL message – the message that would always work for myself and everyone else – that says: 


---Treat your precious body with respect. Treat others with respect. Love yourself and love your neighbor as yourself.


---Do not smoke, or drink, or use food/substances/behaviors (spending, sex, gossip, work, toxic relationships, overcommitting, etc.) as comfort, because if you hate what addictive substances and behaviors do to you, you will be all the more devastated by what they do to your children. 


Child see; child do.


Though it begs to be broken, “Child see; child do” is a law of the universe.


We pay it now, or our children – and grandchildren – pay it for us.



 


Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available at Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/TurnAround-Mom-Addiction-Survivor-Family--/dp/0757305962/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1317756315&sr=8-1




Read more articles by Carey Sipp here..

 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



Feb 25

It’s a pretty safe bet that I’ll never get a tattoo.


Were I to get one, however, I would choose, from that vast storehouse of life-affirming and life-giving rules I need to keep in front of me at all times, a favorite verse from Proverbs; Proverbs 4:23.  It reads, in The Life Recovery Bible,


             Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.


This one verse is so eminently tattoo-able because it can save our lives, and the lives of our loved ones. Truly internalized, it reminds me/us that whatever I/we give our hearts to is where our lives go:


·       Give your heart to pursuing one big party, and your life will become about partying and its almost-always-ugly aftermath.


·       Give your heart to work, and there you’ll be on a Friday night, slaving away, with your family – if you have any left – long gone other directions.  


·       Give your heart to a person who is toxic for you, and, as we saw 24/7 following the death of Whitney Houston, the result is dangerous and deadly.


It is heartbreaking to think that someone so incredibly gifted, who was reared in the church and seemed to be so surrounded, as a child, by love, could self-destruct at such an early age as Whitney Houston did two weeks ago. Equally as sad: that her daughter seems to be on the same path.


I think there must have been big a hole in Whitney Houston’s soul when she met that sly Bobby Brown. A hole that got bigger and bigger the further she got from her roots in her family and her church.


She was successful, beautiful, on top of the world, but lonely. In one interview that was replayed, she talked about how she got lonely when she was at one end of the bed and Bobby Brown was at the other end, and that they “'got' each other’s loneliness” so they could be “lonely together.”


Whew. Two souls with a lot of money, talent, energy, and time on their hands. One who’d been immersed in spirituality as a child. Another who loved intensity and breaking rules. And even though she was five years older, Whitney Houston allowed herself to be led, seduced, and brought under a spell that ultimately took her away from all things she’d once considered holy. 


The conflict in her soul must have been one of the things that exhausted her so. The conflict about the way she was living her life, and exposing her daughter to these self-destructive behaviors.  


This is a stunning teachable moment here for us parents. And I am being incredibly presumptuous, but I believe Whitney, who shared the song “Jesus Loves Me” as the last song she ever sang in public, would want us to use her life as a teachable moment. For some reason I think she would want us to tell our children to guard their affections. Just as Kevin Costner said in a tribute at her funeral – a tribute that was as beautiful, moving, and instructional as almost anything I have every heard or read – “I think Whitney would tell you, little girls wanting to become singers. Guard your bodies and guard the precious miracle you have.”


And I think now, from Heaven, Whitney Houston would add, “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” 


So many times I’ve thought about sending my book, The TurnAround Mom, to the movie stars whose faces I see plastered – when they’re plastered – on the covers of the supermarket tabloids. Whitney, Britney, Courtney, and the dozens of other celebrities along the way whom I’ve thought could benefit from it. Not that I have all the answers, of course, but I've been told by many counselors that it is helpful because it is written in a way that is relatable. It’s shared in small bites with stories that help people feel the pain a child feels when he or she is immersed in the insanity of having a parent addicted to alcohol or drugs. And it offers real, practical, and proven solutions.


I have given my book to countless women with whom I’ve met as I’ve volunteered at treatment centers over the years. And I hear from some of them from time to time, telling me that it is still helping them. One woman who bought it the book recently wrote that as she's moved over the years, "it's been the last thing I pack, and the first thing I unpack" as she keeps it by her bed and reads it daily.


Of course I have to keep reading it myself, too. Because, dang it, as I close in on my 56th birthday, I forget things more easily.


So here’s the promise part: I am going to start sending this book to the celebrities giving their hearts to self destruction, on the chance that one of these women with so much influence on others will read it and use it to help keep their own children from experiencing the pain of growing up with an addict, and maybe recommend it to others who look to her as an example.

Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for it affects everything you do.” was among those that were the basis of my book.


It might not have done any good, but I wish I could have shared Chapter 7, the chapter on relationships, with Whitney Houston. It begins:


“If you believe you are precious, you will not allow someone to treat you as if you are not. If you have a daughter and she sees you abused, she’ll think that’s how women are treated by men. If you have a son and he sees you abused, he’ll think that’s how men treat women, or how spouses treat each other in general. This is life-and-death important. The old saying, “what children see, they learn. What they learn, they practice. What they practice, they become,” doesn’t have to be true. If you grew up in a home where people didn’t respect each other, forgive that wound and vow to make a difference today. First, respect yourself. Then follow the good old Golden Rule: Treat others as you would have them treat you."


I need to share this, because I cannot share it if I am not willing to live it. Sharing it makes me accountable to others. It helps me to remember it. Otherwise, as I am becoming more and more forgetful as I age, I may have to have that verse, and a few other choice basics, tattooed to my wrist.


Since forgetting is even more painful, maybe it is a safe bet that I am headed toward a tat. Or two.



Kevin Costner’s eulogy at Whitney Houston’s Funeral : 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/tvshowbiz/article-2103103/Whitney-Houston-Funeral-Kevin-Costner-delivers-heartbreaking-eulogy-friend-Whitney-Houston.html#ixzz1nKIzaShU

  


Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available at Amazon.com http://www.amazon.com/TurnAround-Mom-Addiction-Survivor-Family--/dp/0757305962/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1317756315&sr=8-1

 

Read more articles by Carey Sipp here..


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Mar 12

This may sound strange, but I actually have a couple of really good memories from when I broke my wrist in December 2005. I had been walking one of my dogs when she decided to take off after a squirrel. We were right in front of our house, in the middle of the street. She was so strong and quick, and so surprised me, that I spun around and fell on my left side.


I had never broken a bone before and I could not believe the pain. I just laid there for a few moments until my husband suggested that I get out of the street. I got up somehow and was so dizzy I had to lean against the mailbox for a minute before coming into the house. My wrist was swelling up, but my husband had to convince me to go to the hospital emergency room. Like I said, I had never broken a bone before and it took me a few minutes to realize the gravity of the situation.


At the hospital, I begged for some strong painkiller – and I have a high tolerance for pain. Fortunately, a hand surgeon we were familiar with was on call and that night he operated on me. I remember waking up from the surgery feeling great. No pain. I had been sleeping so well.


So what, you may be asking, are the good memories? The doctor gave me a prescription for oxycontin, a strong narcotic painkiller, and I truly appreciated it. It didn’t take me long to understand why it has become the “street drug of choice.” Before I finished the pills I was prescribed, I was already cutting them in half to ensure that I would have them as long as possible. I don’t remember whether I was able to get any refills, but I knew that my doctor wouldn’t keep prescribing them for me.


Since then, of course, we have heard on the news several stories about well-known people actually getting addicted to oxycontin. I am not at all surprised. I’m also not surprised that no doctor has prescribed this drug for me again. After my last few operations, doctors have prescribed oxycodone, which is a milder pain reliever. I don’t achieve the same dreamy effect of the oxycontin, but I know that these can be addicting as well.


How do I describe it? The pills sort of take the edge off of things. Yes, they relieve pain, but they also lift my mood. 


At some point after my diagnosis of cancer, and after I finished all my required rounds of chemo therapy, I started seeing a therapist. I knew I had to work through the emotional repercussions of this diagnosis. I was diagnosed with incurable, but treatable, cancer. I was slowly beginning to understand that I would be living with this chronic disease the rest of my life. 


I don’t remember exactly when, but I remember telling the therapist about the uplifting effects of taking a painkiller I was taking after some surgery. I wasn’t taking the pill so much for pain, as for the mood it helped me achieve. And she pointed that out to me very quickly. That was when I realized that I needed a mild anti-depressant. I had never taken one before; I’ve always been a very positive person. But my reliance on a pain reliever to help my mood convinced me that it was time.


This last week I was reminded of all of this because I ran out of the oxycodone that my doctor prescribed for me after my recent surgery. I immediately tried to get a refill, not knowing whether the doctor would even agree to another prescription but in any case, it was the weekend, and I wasn’t able to get more pills immediately.


I realized that yes, I was experiencing some pain and the drug certainly relieved it, but the real reason I wanted more pills was to lift my mood in the evenings. I had to question myself: perhaps I need a higher dose of my anti-depressants? I don’t know, but so far I don’t have to answer that; I found a few supposedly expired pills from a previous prescription. And that has helped me get through the weekend.


I watch the news about celebrities dying of drug overdoses and the fact that Americans take way too many pills. I am not ignoring these facts, but I do understand why it happens.


Jan Jaben-Eilon is a long-time journalist who has written for The New York Times, Business Week, the International Herald Tribune, the Jerusalem Report and Womenetics. She was a founding reporter for the Atlanta Business Chronicle and was international editor for Advertising Age before she fulfilled a lifelong dream of moving to Israel. Jan and her Jerusalem-born husband have an apartment in that city, but live in Atlanta.

 

In November 2006, she was diagnosed with late stage ovarian cancer and has kept a blog on her cancer journey since December of that year. Click on: http://www.caringbridge.org/visit/janjabeneilon

You can read Jan’s blogs here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Mar 23


Brilliant, funny, dear, kind, sensitive, and grief-stricken to a fault.

 

Many alcoholics –  and the people who love them – are  just plain terminally grief-stricken. Not the healthy form of grieving we go through when we’ve lost someone we love. I am talking about an all-encompassing grief for self.

 

I only know about this because I have been there myself. Right now, someone who is in this grief is in my prayers.

 

Her grief is palpable. Her grief over her past. Her future. Her failures. Her successes that weren’t enough. Her having had some sobriety and losing it. Her losing her sobriety and not being able to get it back. Her relationships going south.  

 

So I watch her family ride the grief roller coaster – soaring to unbounded heights of joy and anxious expectation when she is sober. Then all plummeting again six feet under, when she drinks. She finds, in her drink, momentary comfort and the next reason for self-loathing. They find greater ammunition to doubt her ability to ever succeed. Their fear feeds her fear; her fear feeds their fear. It is a cycle. A downward spiral.

 

Guilt also runs this spiral. Guilt and shame and blame. They are all based in fear – a lack of faith that God forgives and wants us to forgive ourselves – that keeps this tragedy circling. We, as humans, remember, and torture ourselves, taking others with us while God keeps forgiving and yearning for us to forgive each other, and most of all, forgive ourselves. God forgives, plain and simple. Asking for and allowing that forgiveness means surrendering control; it means surrendering our own self-important "pride in reverse" of obsessing about how horrible we are. When we spend our time beating up on ourselves, it is still self-will; it is still self-centeredness.

 

This is big stuff: allowing that forgiveness and having the faith to allow it means there is no need to dredge up the past. God forgave it. No need to get anxious about the future. God has it. No need to stay focused solely on ourselves: God wants us all to help each other. There is someone for everyone to help.

 

Others affected by this grief are in my prayers: A dear friend called yesterday to tell me that her father – a longtime drug and alcohol abuser – had succeeded in this, his most recent suicide attempt.

 

His God, in his mind, could not forgive his infidelities, failures, and relapses, his not measuring up.

 

His God, in his mind, was not big enough to love him no matter what; not big enough to embrace his humanity; not big enough to allow him to trust the therapists and medications and treatments that would have helped ease his depression (anger turned inward) and terminal grief. He did not believe that somehow, somewhere, there was someone who could have benefitted from his incredible sensitivity, compassion, and talent as an artist. I have no idea whether or not he ever asked for forgiveness, or trusted that he was forgiven. I just know that she is having a hard time explaining grandpa’s death to her children.

 

And so my friend is grieving the for-real death of her dad, who, despite glimmers and shimmers of being present, sober, and healthy through the years, had been, in many ways, dead already by ongoing returns to alcohol, drugs, and self-grief. She and I will visit soon; we’ll do some grieving and some celebrating of his life.

 

Springtime brings a bittersweet grief for many. As life is bursting from every inch of earth, many feel despair over their own lack of life, youth, rebirth. Springtime is a big time for suicides and relapses. It is also a time for turning old earth under; asking for new life. Giving up our own ego-driven self-remorse -- self-grief -- to allow all manner of forgiveness to give way to a new way of life. It is possible. I know. I have seen it happen thousands of times.

 

If you have an addiction challenge, Alcoholics Anonymous has been a source of help for millions upon millions of people, worldwide. Online meetings and information are available at www.aa.org

 

If you are affected by the addictions of others, Al-Anon, a support group for family and friends of alcoholics, is also a source of experience, strength, and hope for millions of people worldwide. Visit www.al-anon.alateen.org

                                                                                         

You, and the people who love you, deserve at least a chance at a life free of self-grief. People who once thought that they, too, had nothing to offer, are very willing to help you and yours take the first step.

                   


                                                                 

Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available here.  


Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Apr 22

Loudelle Riggs Smith was a food visionary who fed my body, mind, and soul so well, that she continues, long after her death, to feed my children and me.

 

My tiny grandmother, with whom I was blessed to spend many days and nights growing up, loved nothing more than turning the riches of her little garden into a groaning board of food-as-love.  

 

She could see a little plot of land as a fount of all blessings, and take that vision to reality with her precious seeds from the prior year’s garden, her rake, hoe, trowel, pie-pans (to keep the birds away) and the fastidious attention of someone who deeply, truly, madly loved the earth and the mysterious opportunities growing from it. I think that came, in part, from her being part Cherokee Indian, and her having fed so many children during the Great Depression.

 

As soon as she could each year, my grandmother would get at the dirt with her mule and plow. A hard two or three days later, I could FEEL her thrill at having those rows splayed open, ready to receive her precious seeds or seedlings. There was so much promise in that dirt!

 

Thinking back, I don’t doubt that she said a blessing over them as she carefully buried each seed or seedling in the dirt made richer by the special mix of stuff she had composted throughout the winter.

 

I am remembering this from 50 years ago, that she composted before composting was cool. She saved every coffee ground, eggshell, fruit or vegetable paring or peeling she had to put into the earth. Under this pungent fusion, her green babies were to be watched and tended and loved and then picked, prepared, and offered up as the fuel that would keep her family able to do their chores, schoolwork, fishing, and hunting.

 

There was so much Good Orderly Direction – God – in that cycle of saving the seed (hope) having the vision for the garden (faith and inspiration), putting her faith into work, using the seed to create abundance, and then working through the seasons of the year and cycles of the moon and the days of the week (except Sunday, of course), and the hours of the days to produce the produce for the days, months, and year(s) ahead.

 

There was spring for planting. Summer for gardening and harvesting. Fall for harvesting and putting up cans and jars of food for the winter, along with the seeds for the planting in the spring.  No doubt when, in a fit of rage at his father, my daddy ran away from home to join the Navy, that calm order of the seasons, and the way my grandmother was so in tune with them, was part of what he missed most. Grief over that loss was probably a big part of why he drank so much. Grief and fear.

 

I didn’t know it when I was a child, of course, but the comfort in that year-in and year-out cycle with my grandmother – all set to the music of her humming her favorite hymns, and punctuated by her Bible readings, soap operas, Sunday School lessons, and Sunday dinners – put a rhythm in my life that probably saved my life.

 

Psychological studies of Children of Alcoholics (COAs) show that those children who have at least one person who pays special attention to them are the ones who tap into the COA resilience that empowers us to be resourceful survivors.  I had three; my grandmother was chief among them.

 

Loudelle Riggs Smith paid special attention to me, to share her earth-wisdom while she gardened. I was probably a lousy helper, as I was usually much more interested in the summer litter of kittens, bugs, frogs, and fish at her place, where she and my grandfather had pecan and pear orchards, lakes, and a big pasture. But I did let in some of that love she had for her dirt and her hymns; her God and me.

 

And I did realize, many years later, that the order that came from my being with her rubbed off on me, and helped me as I worked to break the cycle of addiction that killed her son and had been passed on to me. It was a cycle that I did not want to take me or my children.

 

She might wince that my family traditions with food didn’t always include growing it, but instead centered on ordering, for my children and me, the same quesadillas and chicken soup at the same Mexican restaurant at about the same time most Friday nights.  

 

But I will say that I did think of her often as I savored the avocados, tomatoes, corn, onions, and potatoes in the soup I was so good at ordering when my children were little and time was short, and that I became pretty good at making, and making a ritual out of, as they grew older.

 

Those rituals that bring sanity and order into the lives of children of chaos help lead us out of chaos, and feed our bodies, minds and souls. A calm family food ritual is nourishment against the insanity of addiction, I believe. It is nourishment that builds the character muscles needed to make good, healthy choice; choices that bring joy to nurturers like my little grandmother, whose love of good dirt, great food, stirring hymns, and curious children, lives on in me, thank God.


Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available here. For more columns by Carey Sipp, click here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


 

May 22

 

Sometimes the clearest indicator of a family’s dysfunction is, unfortunately, illness in its children. Like the proverbial canaries in the coal mine, it’s the children who are most susceptible to the toxicity of family addiction and dysfunction. Hurt people hurt people, and literally scare the life out of little kids.


Fear – the kind of terror felt by children who live in toxic situations such as alcohol abuse, child abuse, family violence, the upheaval of divorce, concern about a parent’s depression or mental illness – impacts a child for what may well be his or her abnormally short life. 


The science to support my claim is documented in a study on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACE Study) – research done by the Centers for Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente. This study documents the undeniable link between toxic stress caused by experiences such as family addiction, abuse, dysfunction, violence, and divorce in childhood, and adult diseases such as heart disease, lung cancer, diabetes, some breast cancers, and a host of autoimmune diseases. It also shows a strong link between the adverse experiences and depression, violence, being a victim of violence, and suicide. 


Since the ShareWIK topic for this week is asthma, let’s explore how these experiences manifest themselves as pulmonary distress – the kind of distress that leads to childhood asthma and continued pulmonary issues into adulthood. To do this, I invite you to join me in being a little kid again. In being a tiny person in a tiny body. Of being totally dependent on your mom or dad or grandparents. Of looking to them for food, shelter, clothing, nurture, love, joy. Their joy is your joy. Their victories are your victories. If your mom is happy, everyone is happy. If your mom is miserable, chances are pretty good that everyone is miserable, especially you. Because if you’re a little kid, you don’t have the “filters” and distractions adults can use to deflect another person’s dark behaviors.


Adults can seek and find ways to distract themselves from their pain: a glass of wine, a cigarette, a piece of cake, a pill, the “need” to work late. Or they can create their body’s own drugs: the adrenaline rush from risky behaviors such as spending money they may or may not have, gossiping, becoming overly involved in the lives of others; the endorphin rush summoned up with sex, compulsive exercise, or a perfectionistic-driven cleaning binge. Or they can seek healthy solutions found in therapy, support groups, light-hearted team sports, a family outing or peaceful dinner, or prayer and meditation. But you, a little kid, are simply stuck. Dependent, you must stew in the toxic brew of your family’s addictions, mental illnesses, and never-ending chaos that you want to stop, but cannot. Instead, you sit in terror, taking shallow breaths through sleepless nights as the same behaviors are repeated. And repeated.


And so your frustration is not unlike the frustration a chained puppy feels as it sits in the hot sun, no water, no relief, no protection, pulling against the chain again and again, fearful and vulnerable when bigger dogs circle the yard to attack. Like that puppy, you are trapped, afraid, panting. Like that puppy’s body, your body generates all manner of stress hormones that do not go away the minute you find comfort, or even days – or years – after you’ve “grown up.”


As Peter Gergen, MD, MPH, a senior medical officer at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shares, “Scientists have documented a range of stressful events that have been associated with asthma symptoms. These include school exams, public speaking, family conflict, public disasters, and exposure to violence. Stress may directly affect the body or cause people to manage their asthma less effectively."


Dr. Gergen continues, “First, stress and anxiety can cause physiological changes that may provoke an attack. These strong emotions trigger the release of chemicals, such as histamine and leukotrienes, which can trigger the narrowing of your airway.” Gergen adds that stress can also cause people to forget their medication while at the same time stress-related hormones reduce the body’s ability to fight off colds and other respiratory infections.  “Viral infections are very important causes for triggering asthma,” he says (1).


So as a defenseless child, your toxic stew of stress hormones bubbles up when there’s fear, and seeps into your cells, weakening them. Your body is torn down at the same time it is trying to grow; at the same time your little spirit is trying to trust and love and be childlike. Your lungs need to expand. You need to be able to take deep breaths to oxygenate your blood and feed your brain and organs. But fear – the fear you feel when your mother drinks; your dad is depressed; your teenage sister cuts herself – keeps you trapped like that puppy on a short chain. In “fight or flight” mode, adrenaline constricts blood vessels; breathing is shallow. You hurt in your heart and you don’t know how to stop it. 


Maybe the swelling in your airways would have happened even if you’d been born into a family without traumatic stress. Maybe. Or maybe, like the thousands of middle class Americans in the ACE study mentioned earlier, if you are growing up in a family where there is addiction, abuse, divorce, caustic criticism, violence, etc, you are among the 28 million adult children of alcoholics terrified and stricken by toxic stress. If that is the case, you are, according to the study, almost four times more likely to have chronic pulmonary disease.


As Vincent J. Felitti, one of the authors of the ACE Study writes in his own article, The Relationship of Adverse Childhood Experiences to Adult Health: Turning gold into lead (2), “The ACE study reveals a powerful relationship between our emotional experiences as children and our physical and mental health as adults, as well as the major causes of adult mortality in the United States. It documents the conversion of traumatic emotional experiences in childhood into organic disease later in life. How does this happen, this reverse alchemy, turning the gold of a newborn infant into the lead of a depressed, diseased adult? The study makes it clear that time does not heal some of the adverse experiences we found so common in the childhoods of a large population of middle-aged, middle-class Americans. One does not `just get over' some things, not even fifty years later.


“Clearly, we have shown that adverse childhood experiences are common, destructive, and have an effect that often lasts for a lifetime. They are the most important determinant of the health and well-being of our nation. Unfortunately, these problems are painful to recognize and difficult to deal with. Most physicians would far rather deal with traditional organic disease. Certainly, it is easier to do so, but that approach also leads to troubling treatment failures and the frustration of expensive diagnostic quandaries where everything is ruled out but nothing is ruled in.”


My interpretation of what Dr. Feletti has written?  It is far easier to treat the symptom – be it asthma, a stomach ache, a backache – than it is to address and heal the root cause: whatever it is going on at home that could be evoking the anxiety that is the likely trigger to illness.


Again, I know adverse childhood experiences are not the cause of ALL asthma and childhood illness. And, as an advocate for children of alcoholics, and as an adult child of an alcoholic myself, I must raise the question: What if pediatricians would ask about what’s going on at home? What if they would recommend a course of action that would help the parents create a home life with more joy and less terror? What if their prescription pad said “Mom: 90 AA meetings in 90 days; Dad: cut up the credit cards, quit spending, and catch fireflies with this child for 30 minutes each night for the next three months; Grandma: take an anger management class MWF and a yoga class on alternate days”?


Perhaps then caring for these heart-sick children – these innocents trapped and vulnerable in their own families – would lead to a society that works to reduce the toxic stew that drains, strains, and causes the death of childhood when children are supposed to be children, and the early death of so many still-terrified adults.

 

Resources:

 1.  http://www.webmd.com/asthma/features/asthma-stress-and-anxiety-a-risky-cycle

 2. http://www.empty-memories.nl/science/felitti.pdf


There is help for Children of Alcoholics at 

nacoa.org 

(National Association for Children of Alcoholics)

and

  adultchildren.org 

 (Adult Children of Alcoholics World Service Organization Worldwide, Inc.)  


 

Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Her book is available here


Read more articles by Carey Sipp here.


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Jun 04

When I was in college, I’d never heard the term “binge drinking.” We used words like “hammered,” “trashed” and, well, “happy hour.”  I’m sure there were many nights when some of us had three drinks in less than three hours (the definition of binge drinking). While I've never passed out or lost time, I'm sure I've made stupid decisions after sipping something strong.


Because I used to work for a media production company that specializes in producing award-winning programming about teen issues (www.cwknetwork.com), I’ve done my share of research about underage drinking, partying, addiction, and DUI. I first learned the inside horror stories of binge drinking from a book called Smashed: The Story of a Drunken Girlhoodwhich I read years ago. Extremely well-written by Koren Zailckas when she was 24, Smashed is a memoir of her love affair with drinking -- which began when she was 14. 


Zailckas had alcohol poisoning at 16, her first black-out at 19 (when she was sexually abused), and woke up in an apartment at age 22 with no recollection of how she got there. That’s the day she stopped binging and drinking and decided to write about a life she often barely remembers. I highly recommend Smashed as an eye-opening account of what our kids – or our kids’ friends – could be up to on the nights they tell us that they're sleeping at each other’s houses. Better to be aware and paranoid and talk openly with our kids about our expectations than to  pretend it couldn’t happen to us.


Another resource I highly recommend is CWK Network’s Emmy Award-winning DVD, Shattered, the true documentary of a young woman who had everything going for her – college scholarship, pre-med, a loving family – until one-too-many-nights of drinking and driving left one person dead and irrevocably changed the course of many lives. It’s a must-see for you and your kids, before they get the keys to the car. This is definitely a case of “a picture is worth a thousand words” – and definitely more likely to be "seen and heard"  than another parental lecture. 


Another must-read recommendation is your state’s rules about serving alcohol to minors in your home. As our kids near high school graduation, there will likely be a chasm among your friends on the issue of underage drinking. Some parents will feel it’s inevitable and they’d rather their kids drink in their home than somewhere else and risk driving under the influence; some parents will hold the line at zero tolerance -- absolutely no alcohol for minors. And there will be some who aren't quite sure. The laws that govern your state might just help you make up your mind. Check out YouthBingeDrinking.com to learn the rules in your state regarding serving alcohol to minors.


Experts recommend that you exchange phone numbers and friendship with the parents of your kids’ friends, and that you share philosophies, house rules and support. Having a direct line to another parent can be the most valuable information you have about your kid. 


And finally, here's a tip many of us could have used 20 years ago, or perhaps might still benefit us (or our of-age children). If you’ve ever had a little too much to drink and thought that now would be the perfect time to send that irate email to your boss, your ex or your mother-in-law, check out Mail Goggles, a Gmail app that gives you one last chance to have second thoughts before you hit send. Mail Goggles tests your mental agility with five math questions you must answer correctly before it will mail your message, expletives and all.


If only that guy I dated in high school would use it, I’m pretty­ sure I’d never hear from him again.


Ginger is a 20-year veteran corporate writer in Atlanta, and most recently, the former national web editor at skirt!, www.skirt.com. She is a regular blogger for Huffington Post’s divorce vertical (www.huffingtonpost.com/divorce) and skirt.com, the mother of a 16-year-old son, and the author of the hilarious and helpful book, “Back On Top: Fearless Dating After Divorce.” She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist, and has been featured in More.com, Glamour.com, LovingYou.com and several other women-centric media. She has appeared dozens of local and national TV and radio shows, including as host of Book Talk with Ginger in Atlanta, Georgia. 


For more Ginger Emas columns, click here 


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC


Sexual abuse shatters and disrupts the core of a person’s sense of safety, self and worth.  The damage inflicted can influence every aspect of a person’s existence. Because sexual abuse attacks the body and soul of the victim, it can cause shame, depression, disconnection from one’s own body, distrust in others, tumultuous relationships, addiction and eating disorders.   


At the same time, human beings are amazingly resilient.  Children who are abused by the same person in the same ways may grow up and turn out very differently.  An abuse survivor may into a drug addict or she may turn into Oprah Winfrey. 


Many variables determine the course of one’s life after sexual abuse.  How a victim copes may depend upon the relationship to the abuser, the frequency of the abuse, the nature of the abuse (from inappropriate touching to penetration), the stage of development of the victim, and whether physical force was used or other insidious forms of emotional manipulation. 


In my practice, I often work with adults who experienced sexual abuse as children or teens.  They typically show up for help dealing with other problems: depression, eating disorders, marital infidelity, addiction or trust issues.  It can take months or even years before an abuse history is uncovered.   When the story does come out, it is not uncommon to hear that the adults in their lives handled things worse than poorly.  In fact, their response to the abuse often compounded and deepened the damage.


·      Sherri’s mother not only didn’t believe her when she said that her step-father had molested her; her mother stayed married to him. “I had to just shut up and deal with it if I wanted to be part of the family.”


·      When Catherine’s mother discovered that Catherine had been abused by an older cousin, she beat her daughter for “bringing shame on the family.” At the time, Catherine was seven years old.


·      Ashley’s mother was well aware that her husband was raping their daughters.  Even after he’d been incarcerated multiple times for these crimes, her mother continued to take him back, setting up Ashley and her sisters for more abuse.  


These stories may seem extreme, but they are just the tip of the iceberg.  Because of their family members’ denial, narcissism, or mental health issues, these women were shown not only that the abuse didn’t matter but that THEY didn’t matter.  It’s no wonder that they have suffered from poor self-image, tumultuous relationships, addictions, self-harm and eating disorders.  


These days we know more about brain development, reaction to trauma and ways to help victims of abuse recover. We are better equipped to shore up the resilience of a victim and increase the likelihood of a positive outcome in their life, if we handle things correctly.  


In the case where adults discover that a child or teen has been abused, there are several important steps that may help ensure the best possible result for the victim: 


1.    Adults need to believe the child who shares a story of abuse


2.    The adult must protect the child from any future incidents of abuse by physically removing the perpetrator from the child’s life and/or taking legal action


3.    The victim must be told (sometimes over and over) that in NO WAY was the abuse their fault and that it was 100 percent the perpetrator’s fault (despite what the abuser may have told her)


4.    The child needs permission to experience and express his or her feelings about the abuse (through crying, play therapy, art, poetry, journaling, self-defense, etc.).  The adults’ job is to help the child learn healthy and appropriate ways to do this 


5.    While making sure the child does not feel at fault, adults should help the victim develop a safety plan in order to empower him/her to feel safer in the future


6.    The victim must be taught healthy ways to self-soothe (positive self-talk, relaxation, meditation, etc.) so she or he does not turn to addictive behaviors for comfort


Even those survivors whose family members took all the WRONG steps can still heal as adults.  Typically the path from victim to thriver involves a therapeutic intervention.  An excellent book that outlines the path of healing is Dr. Judith Herman’s Trauma and Recovery.  Herman describes a number of stages in the therapeutic process. 


Here is a brief overview: 


·      Healing Relationship: Since sexual abuse is a breach that occurs within a relationship, healing from the trauma must occur within a relationship (i.e. you can’t go off by yourself and “fix” your abuse!).  The unique boundaries of a therapeutic relationship (confidentiality, a predictable time and place, a focus on the client’s needs) can make it an ideal place for the survivor to start to heal. 


·      Safety: A client who has been abused might “test” the safety of the therapeutic relationship by pushing the boundaries.  If the therapist consistently holds onto the boundaries in a loving but firm way (unlike their parents who may have had rigid, harsh or no boundaries) then the client will start to feel safe.  They will need to believe that the therapist can “handle” their feelings without rejecting, dismissing or humiliating her.  This takes time.  Be patient. 

          

·  Remembrance and Mourning: When the safety of the relationship has been established (which may require months or years) then the client may go into more details about their story.  They may tell stories from their life that they never thought they would share. Breaking the silence and telling the entire story is very empowering, especially if the perpetrator or the family imposed silence.  Long-buried feelings of shame, sadness and anger may be felt and expressed for the first time.  The therapist can help the client accept these feelings and start to look on the child who experienced the abuse with more compassion. Grieving the childhood that they wished they’d experienced is often part of the process. 


· Reconnection: As the stories are told, feelings released and coping skills developed, the client will start to choose, create and build healthier relationships outside of the therapy office.


·  Commonality: The survivor will start to feel less alienated from the rest of the world, and they’ll experience greater connection to self, others and the web of life. 


Through this process, people can free themselves from the grip of their abuser and live a life with new meaning and purpose. They can integrate the story of abuse into the rest of their life story and put it in its proper perspective.


This therapeutic process can allow them to tap a surprising reserve of energy-- energy which used to be used repressing and numbing the memories and the pain.  Many who go through this recovery process discover creativity, productivity, generosity and even gratitude that they have never experienced before.



Dina Zeckhausen is a nationally known clinical psychologist and author who specializes in treating eating disorders and body image in both adults and adolescents. She is a weekly columnist for ShareWiK.com. You can visit her on the web at dinazeckhausen.com and MyEdin.orgFind Dr. Zeckhausen's new book, The Ultimate Tween Survival Guide to Eating Disorders: Understanding Them, Preventing Them, and Helping a Loved One, here. Follow Dina on Twitter @DrZeck

 

For more Dina Zeckhausen articles, click here.

 

©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

 

I have participated in one intervention in my life. It was sad and uplifting, and I recall the simultaneous feelings of power and powerlessness. Happily, my very dear friend has defied the odds to date.  He has been ‘clean’ for quite some time now.  
 
But let me tell you, there were a lot of years in there that were touch and go, to say the least. It felt very much like I had lost my old friend. He was immersed in a world that had nothing good to offer him, and was daily robbing him of anything worth living for.
 
Addictions like that don’t happen in a vacuum.  For him, there were clear life circumstances that led to loneliness and depression, loss and disillusion.  From my perspective, he started to use drugs and sex to feel something – anything – that would replace an inner hopelessness.  It started as a misguided way of seeking stimulation and spiraled out of control.
 
When a small group of us recognized that our friend was in serious trouble, we joined forces to intervene—but in truth, we had no idea what we were doing.  We didn’t know that such a thing as an ‘addiction-ologist’ existed – we were grasping at straws. We met with him directly and reached out to his family. We thought there was a plan, but there were differing opinions about the level of support he really needed.   Let’s just say it wasn’t a quick fix. The crisis continued for another year or so.  He hadn’t hit rock bottom, yet.
 
During my friend’s crisis I had ample opportunity to think about my responsibilities as his friend. Addiction doesn’t only happen to an individual, of course, and if you’re willing to step outside of the realm of judgment, then there is a lot to learn about human behavior and relationships.  I learned most about staying power and forgiveness.
 
Severe addiction causes a lot of pain and guilt – and not just for the person with addiction. As much as I wanted to see my friend reclaim his life, it grew difficult over time to stay engaged and committed to our friendship. I was always concerned, but I had to strike a balance between staying connected and keeping a safe distance.  He was clearly self-destructing.  I didn’t feel comfortable around him and couldn’t let my kids visit his home. It’s sorta like trying to save a drowning person – if you really want to help, you can’t get too close or the drowning victim will drag you under the water with him.
 
In all honesty, it’s hard not to get disgusted with addiction.  When you don’t suffer from addiction, it’s easy to forget that addicts are not willfully making terrible choices – there is an underlying issue that is interfering with sage decision-making. Interfering in an epic way.
 
So, the challenge for me was to stay – to stay connected to my friend, to be a friend to him even when he was unable to be a friend to me, much less to himself. A life-long friendship is much like a marriage – that whole “better or worse” thing can be hard as hell.  But, usually, when a friend is in trouble and behaving badly, that is when they need you the most.
 
Staying engaged was an intense practice of Don Miguel Ruiz’s second agreement, “Don’t take things personally.” [Don Miguel Ruiz is a New Age spiritualist who has four agreements aimed at preserving one’s integrity, self-love and peace by absolving oneself from the responsibility and problems of others.]
 
In order to stay connected, I had to get to the point that I was ready to let him go if that was his choice—even if it meant that he would never talk to me again.  It wasn’t about me, or whether he was listening to my ‘advice.’  I had to figure out how to respect him as a person without judgment despite his incredible absence of good judgment.
 
That practice of staying was a huge life lesson for me. It was painful to love and support someone even when he was making really awful choices. It was hard to stay connected without being so close as to put myself at risk.
 
The other lesson for me, besides testing my staying power, was about forgiveness.  I had to learn not to indulge him, not to enable him, but to forgive him his humanness – to love who he was as a person, despite his behavior.
 
It’s hard to find forgiveness for someone whom you think should know better. It was hard not to see him as incredibly selfish, willfully hurtful, and just a lousy friend.  Forgiveness after his recovery was not the challenging part.  It was forgiveness while in the throes of addiction that was a true test of my integrity.
 
So, here’s what I know: having someone in your life with an addiction offers opportunities to learn to help without enabling, to support without saving, and to care for others without sacrificing yourself.  
 
It is not easy for anyone involved.  But two perspectives offer a lot of assistance:  focus on staying committed to the person without getting too close, and finding forgiveness for the person while holding his behaviors as intolerable.
 
My friend has rediscovered his sense of purpose and is living life again, fully. With pure joy I celebrate his successes as he continues to slowly climb out of that deep hole.  His happy ending was hard-earned, and he continues to work for it every day. For my part, at least I know I tried to help … by being a friend who challenged him, encouraged him, stayed with him (if not too close), and accepted his humanity.

 

Elaine Taylor-Klaus coaches parents from around the country, on the telephone, to confidently help their families thrive. She is the co-founder of ImpactADHD.com, a free resource for parents, and works together with her husband, David Taylor-Klaus, in their company, Touchstone Coaching. Elaine is a regular columnist on ShareWIK.com and ImpactADHD.com, and writes for “Living Without” and "Womenetics.com" magazines. Follow her on Twitter@TouchstoneCoach and @ImpactADHD.


Read more columns by Elaine Taylor-Klaus here


©2012 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Dec 15


It’s as omnipresent as bad Christmas music: that vague sense of dread for people who’re related to an active addict at holiday time.

“I don’t know when he’ll do it, but I know it’s a matter of time before he’ll drink too much and make an ass out of himself.”

 

“I used to love Christmas. Then I married into a family with an alcoholic who manages to suck the joy out of every gathering; everyone is so worried that she’ll fall, or pass out, or cuss somebody out. Even if she behaves, everyone else is so busy trying to control everything that there’s bound to be a blowup. It happens every year!”

 

“It’s hell living with a food addict. They obsess over not binging, then they binge, and then they get mad as hell at anyone and everyone as if we MADE them eat.”

 

A solution to this family tradition of carried pain and shame isn’t what most folks want to hear. We want a quick fix and the ability to continue blaming and shaming “the person with the problem.”

 

But judging someone else, and the resulting blame or shame, fear or control, isn’t helping anyone. Especially not the co-addict, or codependent – the “para-addict” – who begins to act like the alcoholic, drug addict, food addict, or whomever, without even using the substance or taking on the addictive behavior. Addiction is, after all, a family disease, meaning everyone is touched by it.

 

I’ve heard it said that codependence kills more people than alcoholism ever thought about killing.  And I believe it. The stress of living with someone active in an addiction – be it alcohol, drugs, food, sex, spending, work, gossip, whatever – is overwhelming, unless we seek help. Even with help it is a challenge.

 

I have found relief from the effects of growing up with this pain through a support group for families and friends of alcoholics. For the last 18 years this group – with meetings online, down the street, on the phone, and all over the world – has meant respite and a reset.  I am grateful for this gathering of friends and strangers who share a common concern and learn a common solution: to keep the focus on themselves.

 

By learning more about caring for ourselves; repeatedly hearing that we didn’t cause the problem, we cannot control it, and we cannot cure it; by learning to be gentle with ourselves and others, we slowly but surely begin to find some joy.

 

The support group speaks of our “turning our will and our lives over to a power greater than ourselves.”  For me, the Higher Power is the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Ghost.  And I have leaned so heavily into them of late that despite multiple challenges – each of which is enough, on its own, to evoke overwhelm – I can maintain, most of the time, “the peace that passes all understanding.”

 

The way people who’re addicted, and the people who live with and love them, change behaviors in an instant – are irritable, lash out, and seem to cast a pall over what should be a time of celebration and love – can trash your holiday or motivate you to make a change within yourself.

 

Hurting people hurt people. Hurt people hurt people. To keep from joining an addict in hurting the ones you love, take time out to nurture yourself.  Give Al-Anon or Alateen a try for at least six meetings. See if the acceptance, hope, and peace doesn’t bring you a sense of relief.

 

It can’t hurt. And it may just stop the hurting.

 

 

For more information, and to find a meeting near you, visit www.al-anon.alateen.org

 

 Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Follow her on Twitter @TurnAroundMom.


Read more columns by Carey Sipp here.


@2012 ShareWIK Media Group LLC

 


Jan 05

It seems inevitable that when a famous man gets in trouble for sex, he is immediately diagnosed as a sex addict. Tiger Woods, David Duchovny and Michael Douglas have all been “treated” for it, while the media has labeled everyone from Bill Clinton to Dominique Strauss-Kahn with the "affliction."

The truth is:

Sex addiction is nothing more than a pop-psychology creation, serving only to demonize sex, enforce moral views of sex and relationship and excuse irresponsible behaviors.

The concept of sex addiction first appeared in the 1980s, though it has its roots in the history of the anti-masturbation movement that flourished in America a hundred years ago. Masturbation doesn’t make you go blind, and sex is not a disease. But these facts haven’t stopped people from falsely proclaiming that too much sex is bad for you, too much masturbation will turn you into a pervert and too much porn will turn a person into an uncontrollable pedophile or rapist.

Sex addiction has been rejected by the American Psychiatric Association time and time again, because there is no scientific evidence that it exists.

Sex is not like alcohol or drugs, no matter how much they claim that it is. Sex has no tolerance or withdrawal effect. No one has ever died from being unable to have sex, nor has anyone ever overdosed from sex.

Does sexual desire affect our judgment? Yes, it does, but this is normal. Human sexuality is designed to make us want to have sex, and everyone has had the experience of wanting sex to the point that they get a little stupid... recent newspaper headlines can show that. But it is a far stretch to reach from this mild effect of arousal to suggesting that sex takes away someone’s self-control. To suggest this would be to imply that all people (especially men) are potential rapists.

More than 85 percent of self-proclaimed sex addicts are male. The majority of men who enter sex-addiction treatment do so because they’re in trouble with their wives for infidelity or merely for wanting more sex than she does. The list of sexual behaviors that are allegedly addictive is dominated by stereotypically masculine sexuality. Things like masturbation, use of pornography, cyber-sex, going to strip clubs or prostitutes, and even infidelity, are all behaviors that over a century’s worthy of sexuality research has demonstrated are common, if not universal, in men.

Why do these folks have a problem with male sexuality? Because our society has decided that masculine sexuality is inherently dangerous and destructive and must be controlled. In the dark ages, female sexuality was seen as the main way the devil entered women’s hearts and turned them into witches. Today, male sexual desire is seen as equally susceptible to evil. Again and again, it is male leaders, stars and athletes who are labeled as sex addicts, when their indulgence of their sexual desires creates a controversy.

It’s not just men in power who use sex addiction as an excuse. Despite the fact that sex addiction does not meet legal rules to be admissible as evidence, it is pervasively used in courts across the country. In trials of rape, sexual crimes and even divorce proceedings, the claim of sex addiction is raised by defendants as ways to plead for leniency and for sex addiction treatment in lieu of punishment. When courts succumb to pity, they are sending them for a treatment that has never been scientifically shown to have any effect, for a disorder that does not exist.

Believing in sex addiction doesn’t teach men to be responsible, to be thoughtful and conscious in their sexual choices. Instead, it teaches men that they are powerless to control their sexual desires without professional help.

Though the male libido is a powerful force, research shows that all men have the ability to control their sexual desires, if they choose to exert it.  We do need to expect  that our leaders act ethically and responsibly.

Society itself has become addicted, to using the label of addiction to explain people’s behaviors and to absolve them of responsibility. We cannot teach people to be in control of their sexual desire if we tell them that it is inherently addictive and destructive and not their fault.


Dr. Judie is a Clinical Sexologist and educator who has appeared on numerous television programs and hosted an award-winning cable television program called "Sex Talk."  A contributor to Lifestyles magazine, she also authored a sexuality column for "Senior Life," an award-winning publication of Mature Media.  She has been an interviewer for the "Better Sex" video series and serves as a talking head in the video, "Sex After 50."   Follow her on Twitter @DocJudie.


To read other blogs by Dr.Judie, click here.  


©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC

Feb 18


With all the news about concussions: the long-term impact, cumulative impact, risk versus reward in letting kids play football and crash into each other versus experiencing teamwork, hard work, the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat, I believe we, as parents and people who love children, need to think about another type of concussion, one different than the crashing of heads in football helmets, or the smacking of the frontal lobe as a soccer ball is headered by a teenaged Mia Hamm wannabe.

 

Please consider, if you will, the EMOTIONAL CONCUSSION.

 

If parents, sporting equipment companies, school systems, pediatricians, neuroscientists, researchers, journalists, and others in this debate would think about the emotional concussions suffered by children in homes run by addiction, abuse, and dysfunction, I believe we could help a lot more children.

 

I am talking about the one-in-four school aged kids who live in homes run by alcohol and drugs. If you add in the children living in homes run by some other type of dysfunction – addictions to food, sex, pornography, spending, gossip, religion, and control, plus those who live in homes where there is physical, emotional, sexual, or spiritual abuse (though addiction, neglect, and other forms of abuse go hand-in-hand) the percentage of children affected goes way up.

 

The life-in-dysfunction emotional concussion is a day-in-day-out brain bludgeoning by stress-induced hormones of adrenaline and cortisol.  It wires developing brains for flight-or-fight. It desensitizes kids to insanity and violence. It makes violent video games and school shootings seem normal. It sets people up to pass on the family legacy of dysfunction.

 

These ongoing emotional concussions set up a cascade of disasters, from trouble in school to teenaged pregnancies; from bullying to cutting; from bad choices to multiple divorces and continuous drama and upset. Unfortunately, for these children, there’s no coach or trainer on the sideline holding up three fingers or checking for dilated pupils before sending the anxious child back into the game. Kids living in the abuse of constant emotional concussions have to stay in the game. There is no time out. There are no rules forcing them to sit out part of the season. The ongoing stress of emotional concussions is their way of life, wiring their brains for hyper vigilance; arresting development; stunting emotional growth, and killing the innocence they, as children, deserve.

 

Like leopards born with their parents’ spots, these children are marked for re-dos of their parents’ lives. Think about it: the family with the single mom whose mother was a single mother, whose granddaughter becomes a single parent. The family with three or four generations of alcoholics. The family with suicides.

 

I speak for the children when I say that as much, if not MORE, attention needs to be dedicated to the study of EMOTIONAL concussions, and the PREVENTION of emotional concussions, as the attention paid to the sports-related concussions.

 

If the politicians supporting Pre-K education (which is a noble endeavor) truly want to make a difference, we have to start teaching parenting education to children when they are children. And then teach it all the way through school. And bring the parents in when the kids are young and teach the parents more about how to take care of themselves, so they are more likely to model sane and loving behavior to their children. Perhaps there is a tax credit for businesses offering parenting classes to their employees, or a requirement that parents take the classes before the children can be enrolled in the school.

 

Taking these “drain the swamp” measures could truly help solve the $80 billion a year problem.* Helping people KNOW better and supporting them can help them DO better, and help their children do even better.

 

If a parent saw the brain scans of a child stressed by a family addiction and abuse versus the brain scan of a child living in a relatively peaceful home, it might make a difference. It might help them realize that to care for their children they have to care for themselves. It might help them stop inflicting their own emotional concussions via addiction and other self-destructive behaviors.

 

This is a much saner fix than having emotionally concussed kids end up in treatment facilities, prisons, dead or able to access guns.

 

Hurt people hurt people. To stop the cycle, we’ve got to stop hurting people, especially the most vulnerable among us. 

 

* Cost Study Calls for Continued Focus on Innovative Programming Based on Estimates that Child Abuse and Neglect Costs Nation $80 Billion Per Year

 

Resources that may be a help:

 

Alcoholics Anonymous

Al-Anon

Adult Children of Alcoholics

Prevent Child Abuse America

National Association for Children of Alcoholics


 

 Carey Sipp's first book, The TurnAround Mom – How an Abuse and Addiction Survivor Stopped the Toxic Cycle for Her Family, and How You Can, Too, guides fellow “children of chaos” to create the kind of sane and loving home life that helps prevent next-generation addiction and abuse. Follow her on Twitter @TurnAroundMom.


Read more columns by Carey Sipp here.


©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC




For some, the pain of grief is unbearable. To quote a colleague --- we live in a death-denying, pain-avoiding society. To numb the pain of grief, some folks choose to have a have a drink in the evening. And then have two drinks and before long it is a fifth a day and then some. Some turn to other substances, prescription drugs or narcotics.


Alcohol and drugs thwart the ability to process events and they interfere with grief work. In the bereavement center we find that unresolved grief is common with folks struggling with drugs and alcohol – whether or not they started as a result of grief.


For some, substance use turns to substance abuse after the death of a loved one. For others, substance use already had control of their life.  Almost anything can trigger a grief reaction. Sights, sounds, smells, places, events…the list is endless. And grief is often a trigger for those in recovery. It doesn’t matter which comes first or what triggers what–the grief or the use. The bottom line is that substance use doesn’t take away the pain of grief, it only hides the pain of grief.


In addition, self-medicating grief with drugs and alcohol can have serious consequences. The user can become reckless, use deadly combinations of drugs and alcohol and engage in risky behaviors. They may come in contact with ruthless people or may isolate themselves completely.


With addiction, grievers use substances to cope. Healthy support systems are lacking. They medicate, avoid and minimize their feelings. In turn, grief is not processed and losses are not fully grieved.


Grief recovery, like addiction recovery, takes time.  Everyone’s calendar is different. And it is no easy task. In healthy grieving, the bereaved work through the pain of grief, accept the reality of the loss, and find meaning and purpose in life. Losses move from being a painful raw open wound to a memory, albeit bittersweet at times. 


Both grief and substance abuse are treatable. Some counselors believe you should treat both at the same time. Others believe you need to address the substance abuse first.  If you are struggling with these issues, please consult a professional. You do not need to suffer alone.


Please visit our on-line grief discussions groups at http://www.hospicewr.org/discussions/grief/.



Diane Snyder Cowan is the mother of two grown daughters and a national leader in using music in grief therapy, as well as the director of Elisabeth Severance Prentiss Bereavement Center of Hospice of the Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio.  She is a regular ShareWIK.com columnist. To learn more about Diane, visit her blog.

Read more columns by Diane Snyder Cowan here

©2013 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC



©2011 ShareWIK Media Group, LLC. All rights reserved. ShareWIK does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. For more information, please read our Additional Information, Terms of Use and Privacy Policy.

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