Are you worried you might be in an addiction?
· Do you rely on alcohol, drugs, or food to cope with the pain in your life?
· Are you questioning how much casual sex you’re having or how much porn you watch?
· Is gambling starting to deplete your bank accounts?
· Do you have an obsession with a person you can’t seem to get out of your mind?
There’s no need to feel ashamed about the possibility of having an addiction. Tens of millions of people suffer from addictions in the United States. Addictions are ways we act out our unresolved trauma—attempting to medicate the emotional pain associated with hurt and fear. Addictions can even be passed down in families—sometimes having a genetic component.
I have worked for many years with people suffering from a number of different addictions: food, sex, alcohol, drugs, work, and even addictions to other people (i.e. love addiction). My experience with addiction therapy includes working extensively in hospital settings, partial treatment centers, and a sober living home. I have also studied personally under some of the preeminent addiction specialists, including Patrick Carnes and John Bradshaw.
Rest assured, if you have an addiction, you are not alone. Addictions are very treatable with the right help but can lead to much bigger, even life-threatening problems if left untreated. Addictions affect people from all walks of life: lawyers, doctors, business people, construction workers, mothers, fathers, etc. People needing addiction treatment have been well documented among the famous who have come out publicly about their struggles: Betty Ford (famous for starting the Betty Ford Clinic for substance dependency after a prescription drug addiction), James Taylor (heroin), Oprah Winfrey (cocaine, men, food), Bill Clinton (sex), Robin Williams (cocaine), Danielle Radcliff (i.e. Harry Potter - alcohol), Johnny Depp (alcohol), Jimmie Hendrix (heroin)—the list goes on.
How do I know if I have an addiction?
The definition of an addiction is that it is a behavior that makes your life unmanageable in one or more areas of your life. This can mean many things. Common examples of life situations that become unmanageable if you’re suffering from an addiction are: an inability to perform at work, difficulty caring for children, problems with keeping your house in order, your health is suffering from substance abuse, contracting STDs from anonymous sexual encounters, trying multiple times to stop using your substance of choice but continually going back to it, patterns of raging or attacking others, your finances are out of control, thoughts of suicide, legal trouble because of an addiction, losing relationships, jail, hospitalization, inability to create loving relationships, etc.
What if none of these problems apply to me?
Even if none of the listed symptoms applies to you, you may want to take a closer look if you suspect yourself of having an addiction. Many people are termed “functional addicts.” That is, they have an addiction but are essentially able to keep their day-to-day lives together. Some addicts are even very successful financially. However, in reality they usually suffer from depression, anxiety, or other mood issues that are a direct result of the addiction. They also tend to suffer from chronic unmanageable issues in their relationships.
Do I have to go to a twelve-step program if I have an addiction?
You do not have to do anything you are unwilling to do. While it is true that twelve step programs are very successful treatment programs for addictions, they are normally used in conjunction with therapy. People often begin their addiction treatment with therapy, and see later on if a twelve-step program is appropriate for their problem.
What can you do to help me?
When working on an addiction I will help you identify what the underlying fears are you are acting out so they can be dealt with consciously and stop being acted out unconsciously in an addictive manner. For instance, if you are feeling alone or isolated this may be a primary reason you reach for drugs, food, sex, alcohol, gambling, or whatever the addiction may be. Once the underlying feelings are identified we will strategize with tools to help you take care of yourself and your feelings in a safe way without relying on an addiction. While different people respond to different forms of addiction treatment, some tools we can use are: coming out of hiding through Humanistic talk therapy in which you will be held in a space of unconditional positive regard to heal and repair past trauma.
Self compassion exercises used during therapy to self-soothe through the discomfort. This would include three main components:
Mindfulness meditation will allow you to sit with the fear or pain without going into self negating stories. The ability to be with feelings without sinking into shame is a major movement out of addiction. The second piece of Self-Compassion is to recognize how connected you are to others because of your addiction as opposed to isolated. Isolation is a major contributor to addictions. The third component of Self-Compassion is Kindness. If you are in an addiction it is likely that you have an inner dialogue that is very fear based and can even be quite cruel. Learning to replace judgment with Kindness is a major movement out of the need to self medicate.
Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) exercises are another tool you can use in your addiction treatment. EFT is used for reducing cortisol levels in your bloodstream and decreasing stress. EFT, or “tapping” is a recent development in psychology and is being widely used in the treatment of mood disorders.
We will further help you identify a support group you can rely on when triggered to act out on an addiction. It is important to form community support while struggling to heal from an addiction. We could consider a 12-step program if that is something you want to investigate.
We will develop your sobriety plan to identify those triggers that lead to you acting out. We will then identify what coping skills to access when you are triggered and reach for your “drug of choice” (i.e. food, sex, drugs, alcohol, gambling, people, etc.)
If left untreated, addictions can be very toxic to your well-being and in some cases even life threatening. Addictions are common throughout our culture but millions of people have recovered successfully from them with the right addiction treatment. You can too!
But you still might have concerns…
How long will it take to recover from my addiction?
It is generally not helpful to get too concerned with time when it comes to recovery from addiction. Everyone is different when considering how long recovery takes. As is commonly said in addiction treatment, “take your recovery one day at a time.” That said, with the proper help, it is likely you will start seeing some significant immediate results when working with me.
I just don’t think anyone can help.
Once you start addiction treatment you will be surprised to find how common they are and how well understood they are. People often feel that their addiction problem is somehow different or worse than everyone else who suffers from an addiction (i.e. a person has a belief in terminal uniqueness). I can assure you your problem is not unique or unusual and it can be very effectively treated if you are willing to do the work.
I’m scared to admit I have a problem.
Entering therapy is an act of courage. You have no reason to feel ashamed if you suffer from an addiction. The addiction is just a deeply wounded part of yourself crying out for help and healing. You can give yourself that help and you deserve it.
You Can Recover
If you are ready to take the first step toward healing, give me a call at (310) 854-2043 for a free 15-minute phone consultation and we can discuss your needs to see if I can help. You can also e-mail me at the link below.