October is ADHD Awareness month and for people without Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder it can be difficult to grasp what it feels like for those who do. Individuals with ADHD may hear people flippantly say, “Everyone is a little bit ADHD” or dismiss their experience without compassion. However, contrary to popular misconception, ADHD is not a new term nor a medical fad. The medical condition was first mentioned in 1902 by British pediatrician Sir George Still who described “an abnormal defect of moral control in children.” He noticed that some children were unable to control their behavior the way a typical child would but were still intelligent.
As my daughter does her recovery work from drug and alcohol addiction and anxiety, I too work my recovery through Al-Anon.
I won’t go into details of how my daughter and I both came to this point because I’m guessing many of you are already familiar with the scenario— failing grades, arrests, court appearances, isolation, detachment, and on and on.
I spent many fear-filled nights of insanity sleeping with my phone next to me waiting for that call parents fear most… Was she in jail again? Was she in an accident? Did she overdose? Was she dead? I received one of those calls. My daughter was in such a bad place that she couldn’t even finish her last semester of college.
Finally, I gave in to my fear, checked my ego, and accepted the help of many friends and family. With mixed emotions of anger, pain, shame, and guilt, I put aside my resentment of being forced to face my daughter’s issues, and on a Sunday morning her intervention team showed up at her college rental house. To say things didn’t go as planned would be an understatement. The well thought out plan of getting her to agree to go to treatment failed; she would not go.
I left the intervention feeling defeated and numb. What now? As hard as it was, I tried tough love and cut her cell phone service off and thus lost total communication with her. However, she still had our family dog, Bailey, at the rental house.
Little did I know that Bailey would be the link to finally getting my daughter into treatment. Late one night I received a call from my daughter’s roommates; Bailey was sick and they couldn’t get a hold of my daughter (no surprise). I went to pick up Bailey and had an enlightening heart-to-heart conversation with the roommates who were just as concerned about my daughter as I was. This unfortunate course of events (Bailey rebounded) helped me to formulate a plan to convince my daughter she needed treatment.
Four weeks following the unsuccessful intervention, my daughter was on a plane to treatment. She was fortunate to have some of the best treatment service available and after five months, a few relapses, and with the grace of God, she is now home.
While my daughter was in treatment I knew I had to do something for myself, so I found an Al-Anon group and started going. I knew that what I had been doing in relation to my daughter wasn’t working, and my hope was that through Al-Anon, I would be able to find new tools to help me get through these new challenges I was facing.
I’ve learned so much from the Al-Anon fellowship and hearing the experience, strength, and hope of others dealing with the disease of addiction. By working the 12 Steps through Al-Anon I have learned that I am powerless over the disease of addiction; I didn’t cause it, I can’t control it, and I can’t cure it. With this new knowledge, I fearlessly let go of the control I so tightly held onto in the hope of changing my daughter. Fear still creeps in, and when it does, I have learned to let go and let God. It’s one day at a time but I am committed to not letting fear define me, my life or my choices.
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You often hear people say that Americans live in a celebrity-obsessed culture. We tend to view being famous— or even just generally well-known— as the height of achievement. We sometimes also assume that once you’ve reached the height of fame you leave all “regular people” problems behind. “If you’re a celebrity, you have a lot of money, and if you have a lot of money, you can make any problem go away,” is often the belief.
Then, when celebrities hit a rough patch in life and fall, proving themselves to be all too human, we can be less than empathetic: “They have everything! Why would they risk throwing it all away like this? What do they have to be depressed about?” the water cooler chatter often goes.
Michael Phelps’ recent feature story on ESPN’s SportsCenter, is a touching and important reminder that no one is completely immune from the effects of childhood trauma. No amount of talent, money, or recognition can take away the pain that’s rooted in your past. As a matter of fact, oftentimes the spoils of success can further complicate those issues. “I have all of this, so why am I so deeply unhappy? Why do I still feel worthless? Why do I only want to drink more (or party more, hide away more, or work more) even though I know it isn’t healthy?”
The bad news is that no matter who you are, you can get caught up in the downward spiral of depression and addiction. But, the good news is that no matter who you are, you have the power to overcome your depression and/or addiction. Sometimes, all it takes is the courage to stand up, like Michael Phelps did, and admit that you are struggling and that you are scared. There’s nothing shameful about asking for help.
If you think that you or someone you love needs help right now, give us a call at 800-244-4949.
If you spend any time at all on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr, chances are that you’ve heard of Pokémon Go, the smartphone-based augmented reality game that is taking the world by storm. You’ve probably seen many exclamatory posts from players of that game about snagging “gyms” and hitting “Pokéspots” along with many pictures like this one…
… and thought, “What the heck are they talking about?”
We’ll leave it to some of the many explainers available online to give you the finer details of this phenomenon. For our purposes, suffice it to say that Pokémon Go is a game that uses the GPS capabilities on your smartphone to create a virtual world full of imaginary creatures that appear on top of the real world around you. So to play the game, you have to actually walk around, explore places, and look for Pokémon to appear through the screen on your phone.
Many Pokémon enthusiasts have said through social media posts, that the game is helping to improve their mental health. Those struggling with depression seem to be most likely to tout the game’s benefits, saying that it’s motivated them to go outside, get some exercise, and socialize with others.
Some research does seem to indicate that games can help people become more motivated and more resilient when facing day-to-day challenges. The two regions of the brain that are most stimulated by game play, the reward pathways and the hippocampus, are the same regions that tend to be under-stimulated in the brains of people who are clinically depressed. So, people who are struggling with depression may often feel better when they are playing games like Pokémon Go and others.
It’s important to note, however, that relieving the symptoms of depression is not the same thing as “curing” the depression. What also is unclear in many cases is whether the game is truly improving the depressed person’s overall mental health, or if they are simply trying to self-medicate with the game.
People who live with unresolved trauma often self-medicate in multiple ways. Many addictions we treat in The Meadows programs, from drugs and alcohol to sex and pornography can be described as attempts to self-medicate. Turning to substances, processes or behaviors (like, gaming, gambling, or sex) to soothe the symptoms that result from your trauma or depression can be dangerous.
If you use Pokémon Go to “escape” from your pain or discomfort, to block negative feelings, or to avoid facing your problems head-on, you may end up making things worse.
In order to truly recover from depression, you have to uncover the root causes of any negative beliefs you hold about yourself and the world. Often, they are rooted in childhood trauma that needs to be addressed and resolved before you can truly experience long-lasting recovery.
Otherwise, the relief you originally experienced from the game will start to fade, and the more depressed you feel the more time you will spend playing the game. The more time you spend playing the game, the less time you’ll spend addressing the real problems that both cause and accompany your depression. In the worst cases, you may end up struggling with a full-blown gaming addiction. Get Help for Depression
If you’re experiencing symptoms of depression, and playing Pokémon Go has helped you to feel a little more hopeful and a little more like yourself, that’s great! But, it’s important not to rely on the game alone for relief. Recovery from depression requires a multi-faceted approach to treatment which can include therapy, neurofeedback and biofeedback techniques, trauma work, and sometimes medication. The Claudia Black Center for Young Adults at The Meadows (and all of The Meadows programs) offers all of these options at their treatment centers in Arizona, along with a thorough assessment to determine which might work best for you.
Give us a call today at 855-333-6075 or send us a message through our website to learn more.
By Amy Levinson, MA, LASAC, CSAT Candidate
Evening/Weekend Therapist at Gentle Path at The Meadows
Suicide…the ultimate ‘unmanageability’ of untreated addiction and depression. All addictions reside in the same place in the brain—the limbic system—and all are related to dysfunction in the pleasure-reward pathway. This older part of our brain keeps us alive; it’s all about seeking pleasure and avoiding pain. The pleasure, reward process is what an addiction tries to do; however, it never works ultimately.
For individuals in the throes of untreated co-occurring addiction and mental illness, the survival instinct goes awry; seeking pleasure turns to doing whatever it takes to avoid pain—even if it means the unimaginable, the ending of one’s life. The result of all addictions is a severing of the neural networks to the frontal cortex; that which makes us human, where logic, reason, judgment, creativity and spirituality live. The place in our brain where we are open-minded and willing to utilize recovery tools, people, fellowships, relationships, community, and faith to avoid pain.
As a recovering sex addict, I used to call my unmanageability ‘the black hole of doom.’ It awaited me around every corner. I experienced this anxiety as a tight ball in the pit of my stomach that never left me. I would do anything to not ‘feel’ it and my ‘acting out’ served that very function…until it didn’t, and my life became completely unmanageable.
Dr. Patrick Carnes frames the unmanageability of addiction as “experiencing severe consequences due to sexual behavior and an inability to stop despite these adverse consequences.” In Dr. Carnes’ book, Don’t Call It Love, 1991, he states that 72% of sex addicts reported suicidal obsession and 17% attempted suicide.
The function of all addictions is to mood-alter away from this black hole. The end game of untreated addiction and depression is that dark place where no amount of mood-altering will fill that black hole. A fatal disease, addiction…if left untreated.
Here at Gentle Path at The Meadows, we call this black hole ‘trauma,’ or anything that was ‘less than nurturing’ that you experienced growing up. We treat the root cause, the symptoms, and the unmanageability at the same time. You are supported with acceptance, warmth and assistance in dealing with your core beliefs that spring out of this trauma. You are educated, challenged and given the opportunity, the tools and the ability to change your perspective, thinking and ultimately your actions. As a result, that black pit of doom is dispelled; it cannot stand up to the light of day. Recovery is a gift you give yourself…the gift of life over death.
Those suffering do not have to die and neither do you.