“And there I was… with no option left as he contemplated his own existence. I wish there could have been another way. But it’s always the same- the only way to deliver anyone out of deep pain is to reach deeper, without reservation, into our own…”
Overdoses, homelessness, contracted illnesses chronic conditions, broken homes and families, loss of employment and loved ones, isolation, degradation, demoralization of self, declining physical and mental health, and an unceasing sense of hopelessness are the few but common dark realities of addiction. They are usually the frightening experiences of many who say they have hit bottom and are fortunate enough to have another opportunity of recovery. Yet, while these situations may be intensely shocking to witness second hand, the scariest situation is subtle in nature but surpasses any of the horrors mentioned above. It quietly lurks within the addicted person’s mind but is responsible for many of the destructive consequences brought upon by continued drug use.
The scariest thing about addiction is when the affected person takes on a Democratic Disease State (also known as Denial by Right) a term coined by Terrance Gorski to describe a form of denial and rigid mindset bordering delusional thinking that conveys “I have the right to destroy myself, it’s my life and my body and no one can stop me.” The attitude the addicted person takes on is a defensive but detached one where passive interventions are ineffective and dismissed. Often, this form of denial precedes a relapse resulting in drastic circumstances such as overdose. Denial by Right is often the last resort of tactics used by the affected person to escape the responsibility of getting help- a last ditch effort to avoid confronting the discrepancy of believing they are in control and the contradiction of their current reality. The addiced person becomes uncomfortable with this contradiction when confronted by loved ones or professionals and rationalizes his addiction to alleviate psychic tension (cognitive dissonance) as one would a ‘bad tattoo’ through declaring “it’s my life, it’s my body.” This form of denial is what fuels chronic relapse leaving everyone confused and helpless. Denial by Right signals to everyone that there is a need for a more direct and well thought out plan to get the person help-it is equivalent to a medical team in a crisis unit doing everything they can to keep the patient alive.
So what can be done?
- Families should make sure all who are supportive are present and reiterate bottom lines (for more on bottom lines click here.
- Seek profesional and legal advise on involuntary petition for substance abuse treatment (known as Marchman Act in Florida)
- Seek professional help for guidance and suggestions on how to handle the person refusing help or demonstrating this form of denial. Professionals specializing in addictions use interventions aimed towards reducing denial and other defense mechanisms.
Irving Cabarcas, LMHC, MCAP, ICADC
Gorski, Terrance. (1999). http://www.tgorski.com/clin_mod/dmc/denial_checklist.htm.
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.
Wholeness is not perfection. Wholeness is the life that springs forth out of the acceptance of our strengths and weaknesses-our talents and imperfections. If we want to take a step towards peace, we mustn’t wait until our flaws have been shed and our characters are refined. Instead, let’s make use of both our assets and liabilities to influence and heal those around us. It is a proven fact- your liabilities have the potential to touch life at its most profound level. I have found in times of crisis, when the life sitting across from me was slipping away into the depths of despair, it was not my intellect, rather the common thread of experiencing life’s struggle and challenges that paved the way to providing hope. Every person, no matter how broken, is a potential catalyst for change. Let no time be wasted on getting rid of personal defects before you decide to help someone. Often the burdens we so wish to be rid of are our most sacred treasures- the instruments by which souls are newly awakened.
When it has crossed a man’s mind to put an end to his own existence, he should be aware that three things eagerly press him. 1) He hopes to escape his feelings; 2) He hopes to escape his circumstances; and 3) He hopes to escape himself. “Suicidal” can then be perceived for its true meaning: a call for a person to change and recreate themselves. When we hear someone say the grievous words “I want to die”, they are expressing an intense plea for a new reality. Unfortunately, many have misperceived this sign as a want to end their physical lives. Our feelings of despair can serve as the point where we make the decision to leave the old self behind and embark on a journey towards living a deeper and more meaningful life.
For help, click here.
When we think of sex addiction, we tend to picture the sexually starved man or woman roaring their way through a plethora of steamy encounters with an ending bliss and satisfaction. Another perception depicts the after hours stranger lurking in the shadows, taking multiple glimpses of women through voyeurism and exposing the genitals to unknown passersby. Although these depictions may be considered behavioral traits of sex addiction somewhere along the spectrum, they serve more as general stereotypes that produce more harm than good. Many sex addicts do not know they are sex addicts because although they have experienced consequences they feel as though they do not fulfill the above or similar descriptions and tend to rationalize their behavior with justifications of sex as a healthy expression, not causing anyone else harm, or satisfying a natural urge where a man obliges to his inclinations and a woman pursues her independence and freedom in a chauvinistic society. I tend to shy away from such debates as I believe everyone must come to the conclusion of their sexuality through an honest and self-searching appraisal. Also, such arguments are irrelevant when discussing sex addiction because as you will see, sex addiction is an interpersonal illness. Whatever the outward behavior is, it stems from an impairment in the area of connecting with others. Before asking any questions on the topic it is vital to understand what sex addiction is in the first place.
Sex addiction is an intimacy disorder in which the natural sexual instinct is misused obsessively and compulsively to improperly cope with internal and external occurrences that lead to negative consequences. For example, engaging in sexual acts to relieve or block out feelings of loneliness, anger, sadness, fear, and uncertainty falls into this category. External circumstances in conjunction with these elicited feelings may be used as a way to escape the reality. Gaining a promotion, getting a demotion, an argument with the significant other, stressors of daily living and responsibility may lead to acting out behaviors. Addictive behaviors may also be used to numb or suppress painful unresolved memories such as abuse and first hand accounts of trauma. We all understand that no man is an island and connections are needed for ongoing wellness and healing. When a connection (healthy relationship) is missing, the addict will always attempt to connect with something unnatural–the human mind is resilient in this way. When ways of coping encompass compulsive masturbation that robs time spent with family or a useful project, when pornography takes the place of intimate conversations and sense of relating, when soliciting sex workers leads to legal, health, marital, financial, and/or spiritual impairment, we must look a little closer at what these behaviors entail and why they are used in replacement of sustaining more fulfilling connections.
“During the dark night there is no choice but to surrender control, give in to unknowing, and stop and listen to whatever signals of wisdom might come along. It’s a time of enforced retreat and perhaps unwilling withdrawal. The dark night is more than a learning experience; it’s a profound initiation into a realm that nothing in the culture, so preoccupied with external concerns and material success, prepares you for.” ― Thomas Moore,
We would all like to believe that the ending of our drug use signifies the dawn of bliss and enlightenment. Abstinence has often been perceived as a time where one immediately obtains clarity in a Utopian state of interpersonal stillness. This is not so with the addict, for with early recovery comes an ocean of uncertainty and inner turmoil. The reemergence of long suppressed emotions present themselves tenfold in every waking moment. Along intense fear, the addict grieves his drug and if he is committed to change, he will mourn it like a close friend. After all, his drug was what brought comfort, assurance, belongingness, and escape. Once the addict gives up his “acting out” he immediately finds himself in this transitional phase, an impenetrable voided state that symbolizes the in-between of a tumultuous past of active addiction and a clouded murkiness of uncertain possibilities in the future. In this place he hears or sees little and his only weapon is his ability to feel his way through the darkness.
In recovery no road is the same. While all share a common problem, the path to obtaining a solution is quite unique. There are many who have found recovery and although they share their experience with others, they can’t quite fully describe their ‘turning point.’ This is because this kind of change cannot be explained or taught. This experience can only be felt. Many who have gone down this road will understand this kind of obscurity. The transitional phase becomes clear in the heart but breeds confusion in the realm of logic. The addict that stands here will face loneliness from leaving the old life behind. Departing from old friends means attempting to make new ones which can be difficult due to an addict’s limitations with forming healthy friendships. These bonds take time–changing habits, lifestyles, and rituals take time. The interim is characterized by doubt, self-pity, depression, and fear. It’s surprising that few people realize that more devastating for the addict than using is abstinence.
I once heard someone say that the human race can be compared to a spaceship going thousands of miles an hour and none of us really know the destination. This can apply to early recovery in which addicts suffer from a common malady– facing an uncertain future but it is that uncertainty that paves the way to humility and enables reliance upon each other through the obscure phase of abstinence. The fact that you are not alone in the darkness, that others have gone through similar bottoms, that you can openly share on events you once thought you’d take to the grave, and are accepted for your brokenness rather than what you think you should be-serves as the guiding light in finding one’s way through the dark.
The greatest determinant in overcoming anxiety is not based on the type of pill we ingest, but on the type of perspective we choose to acquire and maintain throughout our lives. Change is occurring at every moment whether we desire it or not. It is as present and with us as air, and yet we often resist it. The degree of resistance to any circumstance equates the degree of anxiety experienced. Often, the onset of anxiety serves as a signal indicating that change is occurring.
Reframe your perspective on change and anxiety. Change is natural and necessary for all of creation-often occurring for the benefit of the individual and the greater good. Anxiety is the sign that this is happening to us. Embrace and enjoy the experience!
For steps 1 and 2 on anxiety click below: