Category Archives: 12-Step Recovery Wellness

Stumbling Blocks Can Be Useful!

 

stepping stones“The only difference between stumbling blocks and stepping stones is how we use them.” Anonymous

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Stop Digging

stop digging

“If you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you need to do is to stop digging.” Will Rogers.

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Problems and Solutions

bigger solution

The more you think about the problem, the bigger the problem gets; the more you think about the solution, the bigger the solution gets.” Anonymous

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Live for Today

yesterday. tomorrow. todayRemember yesterday, dream of tomorrow, but live for today.” Anonymous

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God Speaks. Anonymous

God speaks

“God speaks to us all a little differently, hoping we’ll tell each other.” Anonymous

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The Best Way Out Is Through!

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The best way out is always through.” Robert Frost

email: agentledrlaura@mail.com                                         Telephone: (615) 464-3791

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Smoking as an Addiction

One in a series on addictions. You can see my different writings on the topic here.

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I had my first cigarette when I was eight or nine years old and was addicted to smoking from the age of 14 on up. I used to smoke three packs of cigarettes per day. I have quit smoking 5 times, once for fourteen years. I quit this last time fifteen years ago.

In my fantasies, I enjoyed smoking. In reality, I coughed in the mornings and all day long. As the cost of cigarettes increased I resented the money I spent. As an addict, I gave up the power of choice and spent money on cigarettes that I actually wanted for other areas of my life. I burned holes in my clothes, and I was forever chasing the elusive pleasure of that first cigarette.

Frequently you hear smokers talk about wanting to quit smoking. I personally do not know one smoker who actually wants to continue smoking. If you are a person for whom smoking is simply a bad habit, you simply need to find the smoking cessation program that matches your usual and natural way of doing things.

There are many approaches to quitting smoking. You can purchase over the counter products, go to your physician for assistance with prescription medications, use programs at your local medical group, contact the American Heart Association, or Google the American Cancer Society. All these approaches have value and work for people.

If, however, when you honestly want to stop smoking, you find that you cannot, we will talk about the addiction model as it applies to your inability to quit.

If you are addicted to smoking, you will find that the normal approaches to quitting will not work for you long term. You can quit. And quit again. And then quit once more. The problem is staying cigarette free. For the true addict, there will always be one more tempting situation. And eventually, once more justification to pick up smoking again.

The disease model, instead, suggests that you have a high risk for addiction to the chemical nicotine based upon your personal heredity. Instead of a bad habit, you have an allergy to the nicotine that causes you to feel better when you smoke. This is an abnormal reaction compared to many other smokers. Some people have a bad habit, others are addicted.

The story of how I started smoking after fifteen years of not smoking illustrates many aspects of addiction. My late husband was in hospice care at home. This means I stayed home to take care of him twenty-four hours per day, seven days per week. My windows were open to the cool spring and summer air California air. Open windows unknowingly left me vulnerable to the second-hand smoke of my neighbor. My neighbor, who only smoked outdoors on her property directly underneath my windows. This exposed me to the chemicals related to addiction.

I began to think of smoking. Dream about smoking. My hand would lift up as if I had a cigarette in it.

Enter the fact of tolerance.  Her second-hand smoke was impacting me as if I was smoking myself. And tolerance meant that after a time, I needed more and more of my drug of choice to reach the same effect. Eventually, I gave in and bought cigarettes for myself which led to the progression of consequences.

One day, I began coughing, choking, and having trouble breathing. Finally, I was smoking like I did when I quit the last time.

And social consequences: People don’t like it when you smoke around them and they are rather vocal about it. You cannot smoke in their homes, at work, or even most places. You are required to stand outside in the rain, sleet, snow and heat.

Now there is denial. Denial is a mental defense against reality. It’s both the way you protect yourself from harm and the way you prevent yourself from solving your problems. For me, this took a form of defiance.

“I can smoke if I want to”, I thought.

“There are worse things I could be doing!

“After all, I have just lost my husband!”

I justified my behavior.

And then there was the flying in the face of all evidence to the contrary, “I can handle this. I can smoke and quit.”

Finishing with the whistling in the dark defense, “One day I’ll quit.”

These days there are 12-step programs for most addictive behaviors. Smoking is one of these. You can visit Nicotine Anonymous. They have face-to-face, internet and telephone meetings available to anyone. They have a program for living without cigarettes.

Once you’ve learned to live without your drug of choice, Recovery Wellness Coaching can help. This type of coaching will help you focus on the rest of your life, your goals, dreams, and plans.

Contact me to grow your life:

Email: agentledrlaura@mail.com

Telephone: (615) 464-3791

Available by Skype and Conference Call.

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Violence Addiction

narrative-794978_640I spent years researching the actions of perpetrators to understand enough to help my clients answer the “WHY” question. Anyone who has ever been victimized by a perpetrator of violence asks the “Why” question: “Why did they do that to me?”

The tragic but freeing answer is that it wasn’t really done to you. It wasn’t personal. There were really no traits in you that caused this violence to be done to you. You, as victim, could have been any available person. There really are no personality, physical or behavioral traits specific to you that caused you to be a victim. You were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and crossed the path of someone who needed to hurt you.

As I researched these subjects, I decided that there is a continuum of violence addiction. You can visualize this as knots in a long string that stretches across the room. Smaller knots are on the south side of our room and represent things like assault and battery. These knots grow larger as we walk across the room: rape, child abuse, serial battery, murder, serial rape, and serial murder.

While not technically physical violence, I always added con artists and burglars to my list as they are such personal crimes…leaving an emotional violence on their victims. I can imagine con artists getting the same kind of high from their crimes as the murderer does. Depending upon the extent of their robbery, the con artist and burglar are nearer to the middle of this continuum.

Like all other addicts, the violence addict grew up with relatives in their extended family tree who had varying addictions. This leads to physical heredity, not emotional behavior. There is a common myth that most perpetrators were victims themselves when they were children. Notice I said myth. And research does show that most people who are violent did come from terribly abusive homes. However, in my opinion, when we look more deeply at the information, the experience of child abuse is not the cause of future abusive behavior.

Instead, I think it is much more productive to look at the same disease model used to explain all other addictive behaviors. A violence addict finds early in life that he or she feels smarter, more powerful and actually invincible when they throw their emotions at another being. While it may sound strange, this is the allergy.

Normal people do, at times, loose their tempers, speak rudely and behave badly to others. However, most people react to this personal loss of control with feelings of weakness, shame and distress. Contrary to a normal person, the violence addict experiences this initial loss of control with feelings of power, aliveness, and vitality. At some point in a violence addict’s early life, they find that harming another FEELS GOOD to them.

As children, they harm small living creatures like bugs. As they grow, they begin harming bigger creatures like neighborhood pets. This is the beginning of tolerance. Tolerance continues to mean that the substance or behavior that leads you to feeling high stops working. Most addicts increase their substance or behavior. Violence addicts increase the size of their victims, the intensity of their actions and the riskiness of their behavior.  At this point, some violence addicts add rituals to their actions to increase the likelihood that they will experience their high.

All addictions progress in the following areas: Tolerance and consequences. There are social, employment, family, legal, and personality consequences for violence addiction . As the addict increases their addictive behavior, they change. You cannot continually and compulsively harm others without changing inside yourself. Eventually, an addict, any addict, will step outside the confines of a normal life and remove themselves from all human assistance.

Like all addictions, the violence addict has his or her own defensive system. I think that it must be quite difficult for a person to be harming others and deny to themselves that they are doing anything different from the norm. So, a violence addict must somehow mentally distort reality to make it okay for them to take actions that are obviously against normal moral code. They justify their feelings and behaviors. In my readings, it seems that they fantasize, devalue others, ascribe omnipotence to themselves, and develop grandiose fantasies.

There are no self help groups for violence addicts. To my knowledge, there are no effective treatments for violence addicts. In fact, so far, the best we can, as a society, do for a violence addict is to lock them up and protect ourselves.

I have written other articles on the topic of identifying violence addicts, con artists and people who lie to you online. See the list here.

If you have responses to my writings, have questions, or just want to share your thoughts, you may post them in the box below. I’d love to hear what you are thinking.

If you want to shake off the impact of a violence addict from your life, change your relationship pattern or achieve your relationship dreams, contact me.

Email: agentledrlaura@mail.com

Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Sex Addiction

Benjamin_West_-_The_Cave_of_Despair_-_Google_Art_ProjectPeople who do not approve of sex and free sexual expression often confuse a wide range of sexual pleasures with addiction. This is especially true for behaviors that might be a little exotic.

It is not so. This is not addiction. Instead, sexual addiction is a compulsive behavior that leaves the addict in a state of total degradation and absolutely no satisfaction.

If this group of addictive behaviors did not include despicable behaviors targeting unwilling victims, these afflicted would be sad. I’d feel bad for them. But it does involve harming others.

I, in no way, shape, or form, condone sexual crime. My experience and work have always been with and for the victims of sex crimes. I studied the behaviors of sex addicts to gain information for my clients.

In this article, we will not be discussing sex. We will be discussing addiction. Remember that in the disease model of addiction, first, we have heredity. A sex addict can look at the history of his or her family and see quite a few relatives with one or more addictive diseases.

This leaves the future sex addict with a high vulnerability to any addictive disease. Personal history and unique biology lead the sex addict to experience sex in a manner that is different from most people.

This is very important to grasp. For the potential sex addict, sex acts of varying sorts, initially leave him or her feeling dynamic, powerful, important, free of life’s problems, and infinitely capable. In this addiction, sex and the behaviors around sex function like a drug. This is the allergy to the chemical or chemicals produced by sexual behaviors.

Some people worry that the good feelings they get from sex, intimacy, and touch ARE an addiction. They can be. But they also can be just plain fun. Addiction has more to it than fun and your body’s reactions to sex, affection, and touch.

As with all addictive behaviors and diseases, you have the issue of tolerance. It is here that problems begin and you get into serious trouble, eventually as perpetrators with the legal system.

Tolerance means that acts and behaviors that gave you your original high stop working. You lose those blissful feelings that they achieved in the past. You develop a tolerance to your behavior of choice. It takes more and different to achieve the high you seek.

You can visualize tolerance from the following image. Fifty years ago, in one of my college psychology classes, the professor was showing us how rats are trained to press a certain bar to obtain food. The rats learn repeatedly that they will be fed their ration of food by pressing that bar. When the food is withdrawn, the rat doesn’t get it. In this analogy, tolerance is equal to no food for the rat and no high for the addict.

So, the rats press the bar over and over again. Then this poor rat presses the bar faster and faster and faster in a true personification of compulsive behavior.

This is today’s metaphor for the fact of progression. Once any addict reaches the point of tolerance, it takes more and more of his or her drug of choice to reach the same high. More and more compulsive behavior. Like all addicts, sex addicts increase their acts or the riskiness of these acts until you leave the relative safety of legal behavior and their own moral code.

Then you face personal consequences that increase over time. Social, family, relationship, employment, spiritual and legal consequences all increase as their disease progresses.

As with all addiction, sex addiction comes with a built-in defensive system designed to keep you imprisoned in your own destruction. Sex addicts daydream grandiose fantasies of success, baldly deny reality, treat the other people around them very badly, blame others for their behavior, joke about their situation, intellectualize, and rationalize both their behavior and their life situation.

Sex Addicts Anonymous says that a sex addict experiences the following:

  • “Powerlessness over addictive sexual behavior.”
  • “Resulting unmanageability of his/her life.”
  • “Feelings of shame, pain, and self-loathing.”
  • “Failed promises and attempts to stop acting out.”
  • “Preoccupation with sex leading to ritual.”
  • “Progressive worsening of negative consequences”

Once, early in my counseling practice, my local police department invited me to sign a contract to treat child victims of sex crimes in our city. As part of this contract, one specific police officer demanded that I have at least two sessions with a perpetrator of sex crimes. This grandfather, a multigenerational perpetrator, insisted that he was the victim and wished to only talk about his childhood. He was in complete denial of his situation and the impact of his behaviors on his daughter and granddaughter.

Personally, I felt like I was in need of a long shower after that conversation. There was nothing sexy, appealing, desirable, admirable, or compassionate in his behavior.

This was an article discussing sexual addiction. If you are questioning your sexual behaviors, there are several twelve step recovery programs. Sex Addicts Anonymous has a website where you can read more and find out about meetings.

If you have been in a relationship with a sex addict, life coaching can help you change your relationship pattern. That way you can experience love, touch, intimacy, and sex without being harmed.

Like all addictions, life coaching can only help sex addicts AFTER they have ceased sexual acting out and worked a 12-step program. This means that they have a sponsor, are actively involved in meetings, worked steps and live a life incompatible with addiction.

Contact me to change your relationship patterns:

Email: agentledrlaura@mail.com

Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.

Relationship Addiction/Codependency

dreaming_13687618944Originally, the concept of relationship addiction or codependency developed with the growth of Alcoholics Anonymous. The wives of the men trying to sober up formed a separate organization they called Alanon. From the very beginning, there was a conflict of ideas and needs. One group gives you suggestions regarding how you can help your impaired relative. The other focus is how you can help yourself.

There is a third issue with relationship addiction. I wrote about that here: Is It Love or Is It Addiction?

The people who write about co-alcoholism from the ‘help your relative’ point of view will talk about enabling or rescuing. Enabling is something you do that might help you feel better but also helps your impaired relative continue in destructive behavior. The advice you will be given will help you stop doing whatever you are doing that might support another person’s problems rather than their solutions. There is no guarantee that your changes will actually help that person stop their addictive behavior. It might, but then it also might not have any impact at all.

There is no guarantee that your changes will actually help that person stop their addictive behavior. It might, but then it also might not have any impact at all.

I favor the ‘help yourself‘ point of view. Relationship addictions involve giving parts of yourself away that you cannot afford to lose. If this allows another person to behave destructively, then you are in fact enabling them.

However, sometimes you are giving parts of yourself to others that do nothing for the other person. Here you are only hurting yourself. In other circumstances, a person might be giving to others and not harming themselves. Outsiders might suggest that you are enabling, but you are not behaving from an addictive place.

You can be in addicted relationship to your husband, wife, mother, father, sister, brother, son, daughter or any person in your life including your boss or employees.  What happens is that you begin giving to the other person usually because they really need your help in some way for some issue or problem they have.

But problems develop which now cause you anxiety in relation to them and their issues or behaviors. So you start giving to them or taking care of them to relieve your own anxiety. And before you know it you are addicted to giving to and taking care of another person. Loving then becomes codependency.

People sometimes ask me: But what about my religion and charity? Isn’t it the right thing to do to give to and help others? Before you know it, they assert, all good things will be classified as a disease!

There is a vast difference between healthy charity or charitable behavior and relationship addiction. Remember with addiction we have the following characteristics: The disease model, heredity, allergy, abnormal reactions, tolerance, progression, consequences, and denial. You can read about that here: Addiction and the Disease Model.

In the disease model, you have addictive behaviors in your relatives going back throughout your family tree. In relationship addiction, you almost always have grown up in what is known as a dysfunctional family with chemical dependency, family violence and/or personal experiences with being abused as a child. This leads to a life filled with unpredictability and personal feelings of anxiousness.

Somewhere along the line, you learn that if you take care of the people involved in these dysfunctional behaviors, you can feel and sometimes be safer. But, like all addictive behaviors, your caretaking does something more for you than it does for others. It gets you high. That is the allergy.

Like all addictions, you develop tolerance. You need to do more and more for other people to achieve the same feelings of peace and calm. The consequences you experience for your behavior progress along with your tolerance. In relationship addiction, you begin with exhaustion and loneliness and progress all the way to a form of emotional and often financial bankruptcy as you give more than you have inside you to others in an ever increasing fashion.

Finally, you lie to yourself about your behavior as well as the consequences of your relationships. Like all addicts, you avoid personal awareness of what is happening to you.

If you are concerned about your relationship with someone who drinks, you can contact Alanon Family Groups.

If you are concerned about your caretaking behavior, you can contact Codependents Anonymous.

If you are concerned that you are addicted to relationships and love, you can contact Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous.

It has been my experience that people who actively work a 12-step program change their lives. When I worked in my private practice as a therapist, I watched people participate in therapy AND go home to work on their issues using their program tools and steps. They grew and solved their problems at a massively different rate than people who just came for therapy or didn’t need a 12-step program.

The same is true for life coaching. People reach their goals and dreams by working on them. People in 12-step programs have more tools to use to work toward their goals and dreams. 12-step Recovery Wellness is life coaching for people who want to use all the resources possible to reach for the stars.

Contact me to begin your own journey toward living your dreams.

email: agentledrlaura@mail.com

Telephone: (615) 464-3791

©2017 by Laura Coleman, Ph.D.  All rights reserved.