addiction help

Guest Blog - Belle Robertson*

Guest Blog - Belle Robertson*

Guest Blog - Belle Robertson
The sewer, the manhole cover, and the forecast is sunny

Quitting drinking is like getting out from underneath a manhole cover. It’s a big, weighty thing that threatens to slam back down on us if we aren’t careful....

Gambling Addiction: Are Casino’s Creating Addicts?

Gambling Addiction: Are Casino’s Creating Addicts?

Casino’s are a place of fun, right? They are if you are a recreational gambler. For gambling addicts they are like the street corner where the heroin user or meth addict meets their dealer. Just like drug dealers, casinos have ways of increasing the desire and dependency of their customers....

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.

Check out / for resources and blogs.

(209) 492-8745

lynntelfordsahl@gmail.com

 

 

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)

 

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

Dr. Drew Pinsky: Not Responsible for "Celebrity" Deaths?

Is Dr. Drew Pinsky is responsible for the celebrity death of Mindy McCready, a 37-year-old country singer who appeared on his "Celebrity Rehab" television show?* No, not fully, but certainly he is partiaily responsible. Like Dr. Phil who has clients on TV for entertainment value, so does Dr. Drew. Dr. Pinsky says he hasn't seen Ms. McCready in years so he's not responsible. I get it. Am I responsible for a client of mine who leaves counseling and later starts using again? I'm not legally responsible, but in my heart it feels different. That heart-ache is part caring, part over-responsibility and part helplessness about the nature of addiction, treatment and recovery. I imagine Dr. Drew has similar feelings.

What's the real problem Dr. Drew is faced with? A national television show means it's in the spotlight.The spotlight shines very brightly on the good and the bad and the ugly.That's what makes these types of reality shows popular. People love the drama and the trauma. But while dating shows can cause hurt and pain, addiction is a volatile, dangerous subject, a risky subject to address on national television. People die from the disease of addiction every day. (approximately 40,000 from alcohol in 2010 alone). That's not Dr. Drew's fault, it's the collective responsibility of the medical and therapeutic community that our treatment approaches haven't changed much over the last 30 years. 

So what's a celebrity Reality Show Star like Dr. Drew to do? Keep talking about addiction. Keep talking about the reality of what it takes for people to get and stay sober. Continue talking about the fact alcoholism and addiction are diseases that need to be treated, not judged as a morality issue. Keep talking about the abysmal recovery rates and the lack of prevention, early education and lack of money for treatment options for poor and middle-class folks with no insurance. Talk about the effective medications now available like Vivitrol, a once a month injection that cuts the high of alcohol (like antabuse) and reduces cravings. Use the platform and use it to help educate and move us toward better treatment. Using the limelight to educate as well as entertain is Dr. Drew's responsibility.

 

 

*NY Times article "Where Rehab TV Meets Reality" June 9, 2013

 

 

 

Losing My Sister to Addiction

Losing my sister Lane to addiction - there isn't a tougher subject I could write about. Both as a sister and as an addiction counselor  for nearly 30 years. Addiction is a a killer. It's a disease that touches nearly every family so I write this for myself, but also for those of you that know what it's like to be in the trenches - no matter which side of the ditch you're on.

Usually I write from a safer professional distance about helpful addiction tools and topics but today I write from a deeper personal place. My sister died from alcoholism May 17th 2013 at the age of 56. If you have experienced the loss of a loved one or fear losing a family member, you'll understand from the inside out what I'm talking about when I say there was a mixture of emotions when we got the call that she was gone. I felt relieved, anguished, sick, sad, angry, resentful - because once again there was a mess she was leaving someone else - often me - to deal with from her illness and the choices or lack thereof. 

Lane was artistic, bright, bold and so beautiful. One time she placed a personals ad saying she was "drop dead gorgeous" a phrase I wouldn't have had the brashness to say about myself even if it was true - believing that it's better to under promise and over deliver. But that was Lane.

When I was 4 our parents brought her home from the hospital and placed her in my arms.  It was an incredible moment to look into her face and be filled with wonder about having a sister and what that would mean. By the time she was 2 and had moved into my room the glow had begun to fade. Though we had our moments of joy and closeness, there was a wall of depression and angst that followed Lane throughout her childhood and right into adulthood. Her gifts were many but she had trouble connecting with others and with herself. No doubt her troubles came partly because of parental addiction and due to divorce and being shipped around to relatives.

By her thirties Lane was struggling with alcohol and then began her attempts at sobriety - 3 treatment programs, but not much AA or therapy to bind the learning. Diagnosed as bi-polar disorder she eventually went on disability and lived a financially marginal life. But for many years she was fulfilled by the simplicity of her life and the challenge of her art. I knew her art would be her legacy. As I've shared about her passing, I've heard story after story about others losses - a daughter to heroin at 30, a brother at 41, a sister at 38. 

I'll end on this note - I don't believe the addiction profession has done a good enough job with treatment.  It's complicated and I have more to say about that subject. Also, society has been too slow to release the judgment that addiction is a moral problem rather than a true disease. To Lane and all those that have died too soon, and struggled too long and to us who are on the journey with them - Blessings.....and may the light that shines brightly in our loved ones, find peace.  (Free Mp3 20 minute overview Intentional JOY & Stress Busting Guided Imagery for Peace http://www.addictionmodesto.com/

 

 

Addiction and The Fear of Change

I remember when I quit smoking. I was 30. I’d been “trying” to quit for 2 years. Trying is like deciding, but not taking action. Actual change requires action.

We humans like to be comfortable. We like the familiar. Change represents the unknown. Who will I be as a non-smoker, non-drinker, recovering drug user, or conscious eater?  I don’t know. Scary. But, also exciting.

When a new client comes for counseling and wants to quit the behavior that’s causing problems I ask sometime during that session how motivated they are. “On a scale of 0-10 (10 most motivated you can be) how motivated are you to make a change?”  If someone doesn’t answer 8, 9 or 10 then our work is about helping them understand why the number is where it’s at and how to increase their motivation, even by half a number. Often change is less scary and more achievable when it’s baby steps rather than big leaps.

Another helpful way to know where you’re at with change is the “Transtheoretical Model of Change”.  Briefly the stages of change are:  1) Precontemplation: You don’t know the problem exists  2) Contemplation: You’re thinking about the pros and cons of change 3) Preparation: You’re nearly ready and talking about it 4) Action: You’ve made the change  5) Maintenance: New behavior practiced for 6 months. Slips still a risk. (From Dr. Oz’s “Goal Power” article in Time Mag 9-17-12)

If you have an addictive behavior assess where you’re at using the motivation question and the change model above.  No judgment. Just notice. Then ask: What would I need to think and do differently to increase my motivation?  Change may be scary, but so are the same old problems day after day. By the way, I’ve been a non-smoker now for 30 years. 

Feel free to drop me an email and let me know your situation and how it’s going.  lynntelfordsahl@gmail.com  

Saying No with Love to Family with Addictions Not Easy

Michael Jackson died from addiction a few years ago. All that incredible talent subsumed by an addiction fed by his doctors. Which is not to say Michael wasn't responsible for his own decisions. He also died because no one in his circle could say "no" to him. Certainly his doctor was unable to say "no." Jackson died from years of escalating abuse of prescription medications. One morning, one shot, one pill too many and on that particular day his system had had enough and went into arrest.

Jackson's addiction and death is sad for millions, but no more sad to me than my mother dying of cancer due to her cigarette addiction. Or my brother, who in four years has gone from middle-class salesman and homeowner to barely getting by, but sober. Or my sister, who is in her last months of struggling with alcoholism. I have said "no" to giving money to her except for food, to letting my brother live with me once he'd relapsed, to my mother taking care of my child when she was drinking. I know it's not easy, I've been there. What's most difficult is to say that no with love and compassion. Minutes ago I got to exercise a loving "no" with my sister. Sober yesterday, we planned a movie afternoon. Drinking today, I sadly declined as I choose to not be around her when she's doing so.stressedwoman

Addiction is not just to the hard stuff, but to what I call the "lite" addictions and what Steve Bhaerman refers to as "weapons of mass distraction." We seem to need a buffer between ourselves and the stresses and upsets of daily living. Anything from hours of TV, to cruising through the fast food drive-in on the way to Starbucks, with a few hours of shopping to top it off. We Americans love our distractions, temporary though they may be. But, take a breath, (one of my favorite buffers) because JOY and freedom are available to create a pause button to "lite" addictions with easy to learn body-mind strategies that I'll be sharing in the weeks ahead.

Addictive America Pt. 2: The "Lite" Addictions

Are all Americans addicted? Of course not. However, there are many that are "addictive."  Meaning they have what I call "Lite" addictions.  These normal Americans do a little shopping when stressed, work compulsively when anxious, or drink a couple glasses of wine a night to relax. In my book Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom I explain and explore why we are so addictive and give strategies for coping with stress. One example is the TARA process below.

Addiction can be thought of on a continuum. Imagine a line across the page and at one of the line are those that have no addictive behaviors and at the other end are those whose lives are unmanageable or out of control. Most people that have addictive issues, sit somewhere between those two end spots. 

Stress or anxiety escapes such as a glass of wine (or 3 or 4) or a hit of pot, or shopping, or food, temporarily distract us from life problems, but don’t solve anything, and don’t deal with the underlying feelings. If you find yourself relating, take a breath, and try to be nonjudgmental. There are ways to to cope with stress, upset and life in feel better ways.

 What’s The Solution?

There are three strategies I’ve been teaching for 20 years that help to quickly and easily reduce the stress and anxiety that are under most addictions. I’ll talk about others in future blogs, but let’s look at Touch, Accept, Release, Action today.

Touch, Accept, Release, Action – Imagine you’ve just been fired. You’re stressed, angry, hurt, sad, afraid – lots of emotions boiling away. You have this irrational desire to go shopping. But that's crazy - you can't afford to. What do you do with all those feelings instead? A healthy way of “processing” (therapist term) is to stay present or with the feelings and really FEEL them. You know how your 3 year old will bug you until you give her attention? Well, our emotions are a bit like that. When you pay attention and go into them, rather than resist or avoid, the intensity often lets go and you feel better. This doesn’t change the situation, but does soften the upset. Once you feel more relaxed, the brain can come up with creative solutions and there’s less craving for the temporary relief of shopping. 

The TARA strategy I developed allows you to identify what feelings are underneath the upset in a quick, easy format. New brain neuroscience research shows that just naming emotions is often enough to feel better, but we have to know how.

For FREE PDF of TARA contact Lynn at lynntelfordsahl@gmail.com For a quote from Lynn in NY Daily News article about compulsive shopping:  http://tinyurl.com/c3sfzv6