co-dependency counseling

Joy Training for the Addictive Brain!

Joy Training for the Addictive Brain!

Joy training for the addictive brain? Yes, it’s possible I’m happy to say. I was at my brother Lee’s 12 Step N.A. meeting when he got his 1 year chip. Yeah Lee!!  There were 100 people in the room celebrating each other for their hard work to stay sober from 1 year to 28 years.  It was amazing to see and feel the hope, love and JOY in the room.

Holiday Family Coping Strategies: Know How & When to Draw The Line

Holiday Family Coping Strategies: Know How & When to Draw The Line

The Holidays are HERE and when families get together there is joy and struggle. We want things to be perfect, loving, happy. But, sometimes old buttons get pushed, painful patterns of communication come to the surface, again, and feelings get triggered that lead to the "excuse" to cope by drinking or using another substance. There's an old saying that our parents install our emotional buttons and our children and close loved ones push them. I think of emotional buttons that get pushed as opportunities for healing. Yeah.

Does Smoking Pot Effect Your IQ?

Does Smoking Pot Effect Your IQ?

Does smoking pot affect your IQ? Yes, if you start smoking under the age of 18. A study from New Zealand's University of Otago of 1,000 people IQ tested and followed from 18 to 34 showed that people who smoked and became dependent by 18 had an average drop of 8 points.  Unfortunately, quitting didn't remove the problem researchers reported.  (Modesto Bee, Tue. 28, 2012)  

Internet Porn: Best Sex Ed for Teens?

Is Internet Porn the best sex education for teens? I hope not. According to research by TopTenReview, the average age at which a child first views porn online is 11. Another survey published by Psychologies magazine in the U.K. found that one-third of children surveyed had seen online porn by age 10.

Why are parents still not talking to their children about sex? My parents didn't talk to me either and I ended up a pregnant teen. Talking to your kids about sex is uncomfortable, embarrassing, etc. So, what? Is supergraphic internet porn how we want our children to learn about sex? And, believe me, they're not going to tell you they're watching it.

If you're looking for an informative tell-it-like-it-is Ted Talk to share with a young adult child of yours try: Makelovenotporn.com by Cindy Gallop. Watch it first. The website shows 10 myths about porn and their real world comparisons. For example: Myth: All women love to have men come on their face. Real world: Some do, some don't. It’s a non-judgmental, lighter way to see the distortions porn promotes.

As a therapist and woman I'm sad that internet porn has negatively affected so many relationships. I know four women that have ended relationships because of their husband/partners porn addiction and unwillingness to change that behavior. I'm not talking about clients, but friends and acquaintances.

Internet porn is not the Playboy, Hustler or adult store of yesteryear. This stuff is live and action oriented and for some highly addictive. Mari Lee, a therapist who specializes in sex addiction in the Los Angeles area, said in a training I attended, that if cocaine creates a chemical high in the brain 100 times what a drink of alcohol does, porn creates an effect 1,000 times that of alcohol. Now we know why porn can be SO compelling and addictive.

As a Certified Addiction Counselor for 25 years I’ve seen how difficult this behavior is to break. More so than other addictions? Maybe. The brain gets rewired with the intense activity. Normal sex then feels like what? A lukewarm version. For healthy sexuality to feel normal again, the brain and behavior have to be retrained and re-sensitized to normal sexual sensitivity and sensuality. That takes time and practice. Twelve step programs like S.A.A. ( Sex addicts anonymous) are available in most cities now and help break the addictive cycle. A good place to get help is:  www.sexualrecovery.com. Or, google S.A.A. 12 step groups in your area. 

Lynn Telford-Sahl holds a Masters in Psychology with a Holistic Specialization from John F. Kennedy University in Orinda, CA. 

Feel free to use all or part of this blog as long as you list my name, website and contact information.

Lynn is the author of Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom.

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Make a Spending Habit, Break a Spending Habit!

Feel like a hamster on a never-ending-habit treadmill?  Losing weight and keeping it off has always been tough. But bad spending habits can be just as challenging and destructive. Now there are Apps like Urge or Make a Habit, Break a Habit to make it easier to stay on track.

What kind of bad money habits do you have?  Are you an unconscious spender? Do you go to the mall and two hours later have bags of purchases and you can’t really remember what exactly you paid for them?  Are you an unconscious spender or secret shopper? And, I don’t mean the kind that’s hired by Safeway to check up on their customer service. I mean, do you sneak your purchases home when your husband is busy and hide them so you don’t feel guilty, or get grilled? Do you struggle to maintain a budget or is budget a behavior you resist with all your might?

Changing our habits is not easy, but with practice certainly achievable. We need repetition to build awareness. Like poor spending habits or money management, food, weight and exercise habits have been particularly tough to change long term.  Behavorial Modification programs are getting positive attention again and are based on making small incremental changes that build progress over time. You may be surprised to know that Weight Watchers is basically a behavorial modification program and it’s one of the most effective.

For those of you that have a money problem, try Urge which “prompts users to hold off on impulse purchases to hit budgeting goals.”

As an addiction counselor for over 20 years I love the new Apps. Check out NY Daily News Addictions & Answers for Lynn's tips on Compulsive Shopping. They make paying attention and taking a pause from cravings and impulses so much easier than will power alone and they work because they improve on the principles of good ol’ 12 Step Programs – support, feedback, slow steady changes and the good feelings that come with healthy change.  (The Perfected Self by David H Freedman, The Atlantic June 2012)

 

5 Easy Steps to Train the Addictive Brain For JOY

Joy training for the addictive brain? Yes, it’s possible I’m happy to say. I was at my brother Lee’s 12 Step N.A. meeting when he got his 1 year chip. Yeah Lee!!  There were 100 people in the room celebrating each other for their hard work to stay sober from 1 year to 28 years.  It was amazing to see and feel the hope, love and JOY in the room.

Addicts and those of us in the addiction field know that negativity, stress and fear are part of addiction and that recovery includes good coping skills.

Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness says that the brain’s thinking naturally skews to the negative. “The brain is velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive.”

The brain has a “negativity bias” and that’s good for survival.  Those happy, joyful, la la people apparently didn’t make it because they didn’t see and respond to the dangers of life.

BUT, this negativity bias makes it harder to find JOY in our adult lives. Not kids – kids ARE happy for the most part. It’s sad to say, but we grown ups have to WORK at JOY.

Twenty-five years ago I went on a quest for JOY when I recognized my own tendency to react to stress, be run by anxiety and negativity. That led me to The Course In Miracles. Another time.

The other truism is that “what fires together, wires together.” To counter the natural negativity of the brain and CREATE more JOY it takes practice, practice, practice.

Here’s a simple practice that if you’ll do over the next 30 days will lower stress and anxiety and increase happiness. (*Abbreviated from Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson)

Take In The Good

1)   Notice what you’re thinking or feeling without changing anything. Notice your body. Breathe and begin to relax.

2)   Think about a strength you have or recognize protections such as a friend nearby. Notice that you’re all right, right now.

3)   Bring to mind one or more things you’re grateful for or glad about. Think about something that makes you happy.

4)   Think about one or more people (or a pet) who care about you. Feel appreciated, liked or loved. Be aware of your own warmth and caring for others.

5)   Let this sense of peace or contentment weave together and rest. Imagine moving through your day with this sense.

Practice for 30 days a 3 or 4 times a day for 20-30 seconds at a time.  Brain research shows that this type of practice counters the negativity bias of the brain and increases feelings of contentment, peace – even JOY.

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You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Lynn Telford-Sahl, M.A. Psychology, Certified Addiction Counselor, National Speaker & Author of Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom, writes the blog for addictionmodesto.com from her 25 years experience and research in the addiction field. 

Wealth Addicts: Is There Ever Enough Money?

How much money is enough? There's never enough! If I ask people how much money will make them happy many say: "Just MORE." How much more? They don't know. The quest for more money without a specific number or goal keeps us acting like hamsters on the wheel - running, running, running toward MORE and often away from meaning, purpose and happiness.

Sam Polk, author of the NY Times article, "For the Love of Money", is a former hedge-fund trader whose last bonus was $3.6 million and it wasn't enough. Sam grew up with little, but in his new career cwas soon making millions. Over the years, his goal was to make a billion dollars and he truthfully admits money meant power. Sam says his "wealth addicted" co-workers are like "alcoholics driving drunk and are responsible for the ever widening rift between rich and poor." Remember McDonalds C.E.O., Don Thompson, with an 8.5 million bonus and a brochure for his workers about how to survive on low wages? Addiction anyone? (NY Times Jan 19, 2014)

Sam's awakening came through his bosses and co-workers who were endlessly greedy and never satisfied. He says we are letting money addiction drive too much of our society. Sam, was lucky because as a recovering addict he recognized the signs of addiction - always looking for the next high, doing whatever it takes to get that high - including lying, cheating, stealing, denial of how your behavior is affecting yourself or others, emotional numbness, emotional isolation. 

I think the difference between wealth addicts and the average American, besides the money, is that wealth addicts are power seekers and most middle-class Americans are happiness seekers. Money does provide power - especially in large amounts, but it can't provide happiness.  "Money can bring pleasure, but it will never provide JOY." Robert Holden, of Happiness Now.

Most of us aren't wealth addicts. But be aware of that push to always want MORE money. My advice is to figure out how much money is enough for you. My enough number is $80,000 a year. Harvard Researchers and authors of Happy Money state that after $75,000 more money does not increase happiness - AT ALL!!

Lynn Telford-Sahl, M.A. Psychology, Certified Addiction Counselor, Certified Money Coach, author of Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom, National Speaker. Lynn has a private practice in Modesto, CA and specializes in treating addiction, anxiety, co-dependency and family addictive concerns. As a Certified Money Coach she works to identify top money challenges and create positive strategies to move forward.  

 

 

Pills for Problems: What To Do Instead

Pills for problems - can't take just one. Pills, pills, pills. By pills I mean Vicodin, Lortab, OxyContin. So many pills for so many problems. Got pain? Feeling sad or blue? Not happy enough? Or, do you just want to get high? Take a few pills.

As an addiction counselor I've seen the number of folks with pain pill problems increase over the years.

"Prescription drugs account for about three-quarters of all drug overdose deaths in the United States, with the number of deaths from narcotic painkillers, or opioids quadrupling since 1999, according to federal data." (Modesto Bee 10-25-13)

We know painkillers can be appropriately prescribed and used, but we also know there's a lot of street selling or these same drugs. I would say most of the clients I've worked with that are taking painkillers aren't getting them through their doctors. They get some pills at a party, then they raid their parents pain prescription bottle, then they start buying them off friends or the street or ordering online if they have the money. 

Here are a few assessment questions and suggestions for slowing down or stopping.

1) Be honest with yourself first about how much you're taking a day and for how long. 

2) Talk to a friend, family member about what's going on - how much you're using and for how long. If you're not willing to do this, you're probably not ready to get help.

3) If you don't have a SAFE family member or friend to talk to, find an addiction counselor, or go to 12 Step meetings like Narcotics Anonymous. You can find them listed online. 

4) Before you go stop using here are some SAFETY guidelines:  Talk to your doctor about your usage and that you want to stop or wean yourself.  Going cold turkey is dangerous - I don't recommend it.  iI you've been using for a number of months and want to wean yourself do so with your doctors help, or talk to your counselor.

5) 12 Step Meeting Suggestions:  Go to 6 meetings before you decide if you like them or not. You don't have to speak if you don't want to. Just say I pass. Pay attention to the positive things said in the meeting. Focus on getting 1 thing out of the meeting that is helpful for you. If you keep attending and following the program you will make new friends and you will start to feel different.

6) If 12 Step meeting aren't working for you then check out Out-patient treatment, In-patient depending on the length of time and dosage you've been taking or Long Term Sober Living Environements. These are community based, inexpensive treatment options to help people develop a schedule, have daily support and education about their illness.

7) Opioids affect the feel good chemicals in the brain so once you've stopped using it takes time for the brain to heal - 4-12 months. I know. During this time exercise helps you feel better. Eating well is helpful. Not eating to many sweets will help. You can also try Amino Acid therapy as recommended by another addiction expert Julia Ross in her book Mood Cure.  Amino acid therapy helps you feel better.

8)  Stress and anxiety increase in early recovery so check out my FREE 7 1/2 Tips to Reduce Stress & Anxiety - they're easy and short audio tips that come every couple days and help you practice stress reduction.

Email me with questions - lynntelfordsahl@gmail.com

PTSD & Relapse Prevention – Emotional Freedom Technique Will Help!

Relapsing is really hard and not any fun. Going to 12 step meetings, having a sponsor, all those things help but sometimes you need more.  Emotional Freedom Technique is a weird little technique millions have used to help themselves feel better fast. You really can tap yourself to what feels like freedom because you have a way to reduce cravings, stress or anxiety - all releapse triggers.

Traumatic Stress and addiction go hand in hand. Pain seeks relief and relief can come in many forms; alcohol, pot, vicidin, sex. You name it, people have used it to distract themselves from pain. Post traumatic Stress Disorder was first named after Vietnam veterans came home traumatized from war.

Here’s how Emotional Freedom Technique might help you:  If you struggle with staying sober, if you keep relapsing after a regular amounts of time – 90 days, or a year or if you have particular triggers, say, fights with a spouse that give you a good excuse to get drunk,  overreacting to anger or pain, or stress or anxiety that fuel cravings then seriously consider learning  Emotional Freedom Technique.

Emotional Freedom Technique is easy to learn and super effective to release anxiety, stress or upset and it's faster than traditional therapy. As an addiction counselor I’ve used EFT for 15 years with my clients on everything from childhood trauma to car accidents, to snake phobias, to driving phobias to simple anxiety or migraine headaches. One client reduced migraines from over 20 a month to less than 5. EFT was developed by Gary Craig, an engineer. He simplified an older process called Thought Field Therapy.

As an addiction counselor I LOVE that once learned I can send clients out the door with the instructions on how to use EFT in hand and they can go home and practice on real life situations that push their buttons. What that means is say you’re about to pick up the kids from your ex and you’re feeling anxious – you can spend a few minutes tapping to relieve anxiety. Or, let’s come back to relapse – you’re having a craving so you spend 5 minutes tapping and bring the craving down from a 9 or 10 to a 3 or 4.  Having an easy to use tool makes relapse is less likely - of course, you have to use it.

For more on Emotional Freedom Technique check out Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Anxiety (there's a FREE Mp3 download bottom of page) and/or go to www.emofree.com or call me for a FREE 15 minute Consult to see if EFT is right for what's bothering you.

Cory Monteith - Just Another Sad Addiction Statistic?

My cousin Kim was up in July for my sister Lane's memorial. My smart, sweet, difficult sister who died at 56 from alcoholism. Kim and I were lamenting about Lane's death and Cory Monteith's. Sad, very sad. Cory's death touched a national chord and Lane's our personal one because we have a family riddled with addiction. I’ve also worked as an addiction counselor with clients struggling with alcohol and drug recovery for 25 years.

Tragedy strikes every day with thousands of other alcohol or drug related deaths a year. The National Council on Alcohol & Drug Addiction states 2.5 million a year die from alcohol. Three hundred and twenty thousand young people age 15-29 die each year worldwide.

Addiction is not just a deadly disease but an expensive one. It costs Americans more than $500 billion a year in lost earnings, accidents and crime. The state and federal governments spending $15 billion a year.* That's not including all the emotional devastation to families and friends.

The long-term sobriety failure rate is estimated at 70% according to Dr. Harold Urschel, author of Healing the Addicted Brain. I am very sad to say that statistic hasn’t budged much since 1985 when I was training as an addiction intern.

What has this addiction counselor learned in the last 25 years? That the old model of in-patient and out-patient treatment, for those that can afford it or who have insurance that will cover it, is a very small part of the solution. What happens after a 30 day stay is essential to long term recovery.

The standard treatment recommendations are basically: In-patient or out-patient program for 30 days, after release attend 90 AA or NA meetings in 90 days, get an AA/NA sponsor, don’t drink or use, keep stress to a minimum, get therapy if you can, work the 12 steps with a sponsor and consider that relapse is part of recovery. My sister went through 3 treatment programs and was sober 5 years at one point.

The new standard of care needs to include longer stays at inpatient facilities or sober recovery homes depending on the length of the addiction, the substances used and family support. I recently had a long term heroin addict come to see me. I recommended a long-term (90 days – 6 months) sober living program because he’d already been through a 30-day treatment program. I also recommended he be on one of the anti-addiction medications such as Suboxone or Subutex to help prevent cravings and begin to repair the brain. If this young man follows these and the basic recommendations of his program he has a much better chance of staying sober.  

We collectively need to do a better job treating alcohol and drug addiction. We took smoking addiction from 50% of the male population in the 50s to only 20% today. We did that with early childhood prevention and education, Public Service Announcements, warning labels, and smoking cessation programs funded by the Federal Government and physicans talking to their patients. We can do better with addiction treatment and we must!

(*Source: article: Healing the Addicted Brain from Advances in Addiction & Recovery – Official Publication of NAADAC- Summer 2013 Vol 1, No 2, Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom