It is well known in the area of addiction that the disease does not thrive in a vacuum. Rather, addiction can best be understood as a family and communal problem where interactions and ways of relating either strengthen (enable) or diminish addictive behaviors. The saying “no man is an island” applies greatly to the disease of addiction in which every member of the addict’s life is in a reciprocal toxic relationship with the affected loved one. However, it is important to caution against blaming or imposing guilt on oneself. Instead, the enabler would benefit from empowering him or herself to bring enabling to a halt and work towards developing healthy relationship patterns in recovery. The first step is awareness of enabling.
5 Signs You Are Enabling:
- Placing the addict’s needs before your own. Your priority is worrying about how the addict is feeling while neglecting your own needs and wants.
- You ignore the problem. You overlook the negative consequences, hoping by ignoring them, they would go away.
- Lying to others in order to cover up for the addict. You make excuses for their behavior or call their work to call in sick for him.
- Difficulty expressing emotions or identifying your own feelings. Because covering up has become habitual, you have forgotten how you feel. You also hide your feelings out of fear that expressing them may upset the addict.
- Blaming. You blame other people on the addict’s behavior. You avoid confronting the addict but the frustration remains. You choose “safer” targets to blame and ventilate anger.
Here is how you can begin to break the cycle of enabling:
- Do not clean up after the mess. Refusing to tend to fixing the consequences communicates responsibility and urgency in the addict.
- Empower yourself. Do not allow the addict to place you in compromising situations. Set boundaries and make a list of healthy and unhealthy behaviors. Strive for the healthy and avoid the unhealthy behaviors.
- Set bottom lines. Write down what you will support and will not support. Reiterate often why you need to do this for yourself.
- Obtain accountability and support through attending support groups (AL-ANON). It is important to always know you are not alone.
Enabling can be a very difficult habit to break. Recovery highly depends on the addict’s loved ones ending their enabling and communicating the need for treatment. If you are struggling with enabling, we are here to help you find ways to help your loved one. Call us now.
Trauma drastically alters the senses. And then it dulls them. With the passage of time, trauma can hinder victims from both fully experiencing emotions and tactile sensations, depriving them of establishing healthy relationships and a sense of belonging. This is often brought on by dissociation- a survival mechanism used by victims who psychologically “check out” to avoid any continued danger. This strategy is subconscious, meaning it’s automatic and mostly done without the awareness of the survivor. The default mode of behavior and presentation is often detached, melancholic, guarded, and listless. The person is chronically withdrawn from life, people, and events while being unable to fully feel sensations. The ability to taste, listen, touch, smell, see and feel feelings is significantly impaired, leaving the victim disconnected from the world and him or herself. Often, a victim is unable to identify what they are feeling or how they should feel during a situation and will develop a set of stereotypical behaviors that they think are appropriate. They will smile but there is no joy; they will cry, and no tears; they will even play the role of the energetic socialite but lack enough life to convince anyone.
So, how is all of this relevant to addiction? Well, those who have experienced trauma want to connect as any healthy person would, they want to feel, and they eagerly want to love and be loved. However, they are cut off from doing so by the same mechanism that protected them from experiencing painful memories and/or ongoing trauma. In their yearning to feel, the victim will often seek out substances and behaviors (objects that do not represent an immediate threat of danger nor remind them of the assailant) that will enable them to sense something no matter how destructive the act or substance is. This desperate attempt is the strategy by which the victim uses to jolt himself back into life. So, through our eyes the victims are killing themselves, but through theirs, they are actually surviving the best way that they can. Survivors who are struggling with an addiction are dying to live, they are dying to feel through engaging in a fabricated relationship which satiates the starved soul. The addiction becomes the only way, although erroneous, to feel anything.
With roughly 50 to 66 percent of people with Post Traumatic Disorder (mental health disorder some people develop after experiencing a traumatic event) simultaneously struggling with addiction, it is vital to treat survivors with an actively involved compassionate approach that focuses on safely reaching into the withdrawn parts of the self through a genuinely loving relationship that gradually introduces them to re-experiencing the world. Effective therapy in this area is one that works with the goal of giving the survivor the opportunity to fully experience- to completely feel- their own lives.
Irving Cabarcas, LMHC, MCAP, ICADC
If you or anyone you know is dealing with trauma and/or addiction, we can help. Contact us here.
Rat park was an experiment performed to show that with the proper connections (love, affection, and attachment) an individual with issues of substance abuse could remain sober. Basically, the idea is that in the proper environment, and with enough positive reinforcement and stimulus, an individual wouldn’t have the need to use substances.
I used to work with addicts. However, I am not here to write about addiction, getting off or on the wagon, nor rehab. I am here to talk about…
If you have a baby and He or she is deprived of connection, affection, security or love, there is a chance that the baby will have difficulty learning and integrating these emotions in their lives. If we think of nature vs. nurture and focus on the environment (nurture) than we see the pivotal role that the environment plays in an individual’s life.
Put a rat in cage, they’ll get bored. Put a human in a cage and confine them with little or no social interaction, they’ll get bored. Try sitting in a room without your phone and only the four walls, while you still have freedom, there’s a chance you’ll get bored. (Question: why do you need the phrase four walls?)
Put other rats in the cage, other humans in the cage and other humans in that small room, you won’t get bored, at least not right away. We need others in our lives to feel connected. To identify ourselves, sure it can come from introspection, but even then, to what do we measure ourselves to.
Granted, some people live off the grid, away from society and electronics in the hopes of finding some emotional stability in isolation. And I guess that works for them but here is an example of where connections at an early age are crucial:
I once saw a client who early on was in and out of foster care. His parents abandoned him. His biological siblings were taken away and his few foster families were ridden with horror stories. He never had the sense of belonging, attachment, or security. So, he grows up and finally as he begins to settle into his adult life he finds great difficulty with other humans. It causes him anxiety; he is always in survival mode and has trouble getting close to anyone.
The concept of connections is a theory as is its importance. But, the next time you are out, count how many people are on their phones. Originally, I wrote this article to discuss rat park but I believe it is more about the importance of finding connections away from social media. Sit with your feelings. Step away from a play form filled with a la carte emotions to choose from of what mask you want to wear. Or don’t. Either way, understand this:
If the opposite of addiction is connection,if the opposite of anxiety is confidence, if the opposite of depression is contentment, then perhaps we can benefit from looking at our own rat park for a second. Set boundaries in your life. Understand who and what you want in life. Find a real connection with another human. Living off the grid seems romantic at times, especially with what we see on t.v. but at least for me- I’d rather have a conversation with someone in person to share my ideas with, to be vulnerable, and to be loved.
By Noah Goldberg, RSWI, MSW
It’s good to get away often. It quiets the voices that tell us we are small and limited. I have discovered in moments of isolation, after the pangs of loneliness had subsided, long after I was written off as done for, that within me was a poised and powerful giant capable of rising, flourishing, and transforming the world.
Ever wonder why your goals and big projects never get accomplished? “I’m not depressed” you tell yourself… “I have a decent job” and “ I get along with people.” But when it comes to accomplishing a specific goal or setting yourself to create something new, it seems to always get pushed to the side or left incomplete. Fear, you say? Discouragement? Too busy? Well, we all experience these feelings and circumstances and yet there are those who maintain a resiliency in the pursuit of their dreams while others fall short of ever achieving them.
Instead of falling into despair, let’s examine the role of pleasure and its effects on our drive to pursue goals and overcome challenges. The pleasure principle is the inherent drive in a person to seek pleasure and avoid pain at all costs. The effort placed in seeking and avoiding takes great energy. As matter of fact, it’s a basic survival skill evident in both humans and animals. Once a person has been filled or satiated with pleasure, the drive to accomplish, pursue, overcome, and take on any circumstance is drastically reduced. For example, let’s say you’ve you haven’t ate all day. All you can think about is food and what you’re going to eat and how you’re going to go about getting the food. However, once you have ate and are full, the mind becomes content and sends the message “I am good, I can rest- no need to pursue anything.” We are left in this state until we start feeling hungry again- and the cycle of pursuit continues. Now imagine what happens to our desire to pursue new projects and levels of aspiration when we are excessively indulging in seeking pleasure. More often than not we’re left in a state of complacency- telling ourselves we are satisfied while falling short of our potential for success. When the opportunity of developing a product/business, approaching a person we’re attracted to, or starting a new routine to better ourselves, the drive has been quenched with the pursuit of trivial pleasures and we are unable to push through fear and uncertainty.
In no way is pleasure a negative thing to be avoided. It is natural to hunger and seek satiation. The danger lies in overindulging, resulting in complacency and unfulfilled potential. I believe everyone is responsible for taking an honest assessment on making the connection between lack of success and time spent in overindulgence of pleasure.
If you feel that you are not living up to your potential and are unable to remove that mysterious obstacle that stands in between you and your dreams, I urge you to honestly ask yourself how much time and energy is being wasted on feeling good. Perhaps it is overeating, alcohol, drugs, sex, relationships, or social media that you struggle with. Make a decision today to either reduce indulging in them or cut them off altogether and place the energy and drive to accomplishing your goals.
Can you think of any pleasures you or someone you know may be excessively indulging in and how this is affecting your or their ability to succeed?
Irving Cabarcas, LMHC, MCAP, ICADC
You wake up after a restless night of hearing the sound of your voice, the inner judge, chirping crickets, thunder and rain. You walk outside and you can here the chirping of birds, children playing on the sidewalk and the sound of cars, the sound of movement. You forget about the twisting and turning during the night and resume your day.
I am not a music therapist, nor do I have enough information about how music therapy can be effective but I can describe how music over the years has has an impact on mental health. Music, time and time again, has helped shape political movements, cross boundaries created by racism and has shaped its way in and out of culture. The blues which seems to be a paradoy of one’s depression sheds light to a difficult situation. Country music, a way of dealing with the difficult times of working in the South under the hot sun. Rap/hip-hop- a need to express the African American culture in a way that originally was based on rhythm and poetry to express the anger of systematic and culture racism. Punk rock- anger at government, the rules and the political climate. And Pop music , a celebration of freedom and happiness.
Of course those are all of my own opinions, but if we are to ever say that listening to AC/DC or Ozzy Osbourne’s ” Suicide Solution” led to deaths or suicide, can’t we also have a discussion how those same artist have helped others feel a sense of belonging? Imagine you don’t play sports but you can relate to the captain of the soccer team by his taste in music and talk about music the way he talks about the World Cup.
Unfortunately, this is not an entry about what sounds or songs to listen to when you are feeling depressed or angry. My personal list would be too long and I truly believe music is that one thing that is subjective. I might like rap and country and you might be the one out of many who say “I listen to everything except rap and country.”
Is the speed of sound quicker than the speed of thought? I don’t know, but the next time you have trouble falling asleep listen to the noises outside of your inner speech and see what happens. There is a category of “break-up songs” for a reason.
I will leave you with this. There was a study done in China for pregnant women on bed rest during times when CDs were being used. To summarize (the link is below), the pregnant women who listened to the music seemed to have an easier time, got off bed rest, and reported a decrease in depression. I don’t know the evidence behind it but as a therapist and a musican I believe in both as tools to help heal.
By Noah Goldberg, RSWI, MSW
Imagine for a second you cut yourself while cooking. A deep cut, with a cold sharp blade. After about a week, you look at the wound and you begin to tell yourself how careless you were, how pathetic you were for letting yourself get cut. You tried to treat the wound yourself only to find out that you’ve made it worse. Then, you try to go up to a stranger in desperation who tells you to go away because it’s disgusting. At that point you feel like a victim to your own lack of awareness dealing with the trauma of a deep wound and you purposely throw out all the kitchen knives so that you’re not reminded.
In trauma, there are some similar concepts.
Victim. Something bad happened to you.
Trauma. Something bad.
Survivor. Something bad happened to you but you somehow got through it.
There is plenty of information and topics about trauma. I will cover only the surface by talking about the narrative, safety, and guilt.
When working with survivors of trauma it can be difficult, yet critical, for the survivor to tell their story. Trust and the feeling of safety are key within the therapeutic relationship in order for trauma work to begin. When trust and safety are established the elephant in the room can be taken off the wall and discussed.
Working through the narrative of the trauma can be a difficult subject. There are clinicians who struggle in this work because of the severity of the stories and the amount of empathy it can take to help someone who discusses the horror stories of their lives. As important as it is for the survivors to feel the space to communicate, it is important for the clinician to work through their own narrative and reflect. Telling the story is key to healing
While we (clinicians) know and understand the symptoms of trauma, there is a symptom that is rarely discussed and that is the symptom of guilt. There is a lot of self-blame from the survivor. The hindsight in domestic violence is an example:
“Why didn’t I leave? Why did I stay?” Are two very difficult questions that seem to be asked when looking back, and if they are not processed, the individual can lead to more guilt, blaming themselves for both questions.
Like I said, trauma it is hard work. Telling your story, whether you are a survivor in therapy or a clinician in supervision, working through the story, the narrative, and the guilt is important in allowing the space for the work to begin.