By Heidi Kinsella, MA, LMHCA, NCC, ASAT
Family Counselor, Gentle Path at The Meadows
When I came to work as a therapist at Gentle Path at The Meadows, I quickly discovered that this treatment center was special and provided patients with a different kind of experience than anything I had previously known. Dr. Patrick Carnes is a world-renowned authority on sex addiction and treatment and the primary architect of the Gentle Path at The Meadows program. He believes that we need to diagnosis and treat all addictive disorders, as well as mood and personality disorders. Dr. Carnes’ methodology is integrated with The Meadows Model, to address sex addiction and trauma concurrently. This approach is groundbreaking and provides patients with comprehensive care that gives them the opportunity to have quality, long-term sobriety and a happy, productive life.
When I was nine years old, my mom got sober then became a drug and alcohol counselor. It was the mid-70s, and the chemical dependency field was just developing. The common belief at that time was that the addiction must be treated before any other issues could be addressed; this belief continues and is a paradigm that many treatment centers still use.
I remember hearing stories from my mom, or her friends who worked in the field at the time, that their patients were often engaging in sexual activities in the bushes. The counselors would simply tell them to stop without reasoning that there may be another addiction that needed to be considered. This was a time before research showed that the same chemicals that light up the pleasure center in the brain, when using drugs or alcohol, do the same thing for process addictions, like sex, gambling, shopping, work, and eating. The counselors had no way of knowing that their patients may have been getting high in a different way, right there in treatment.
As I work with the patients at Gentle Path at The Meadows, I think to myself, “I wish this kind of treatment would have been available when I got sober in 1989.” Our patients do rigorous work creating a timeline depicting their addictions and mood disorders. They also participate in The Meadows’ signature Survivors Week to identify trauma that may have influenced their need to numb their feelings through maladaptive behaviors that eventually led to addiction.
I know for me, recovery has been like a game of “whack a mole!” I addressed my chemical addiction, but developed love addiction as I reached out to men to fill that hole inside. That addiction led me through a string of unhealthy relationships, including marrying a sex addict where I acted out with rage and experienced high levels of depression and anxiety. Even though, I was sober from my alcoholism, my life became very unmanageable, and I didn’t understand why. I was working the steps; I had the sponsor, a home group, and services positions. I was doing everything I was told to do. What I didn’t realize was that my brain was still living in active addiction because I had only addressed one of my many issues.
Eventually, the pain led me to reach out and find a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, who helped me address my trauma, depression, anxiety, codependency, love addiction and my maladaptive response to living with a sex addict. I often wonder if I had the chance to look at my childhood traumas along with my other issues early on in recovery, if I would have made different choices and avoided a lot of the chaos and pain in my early years of sobriety. I look at our patients and think, “Wow, they so fortunate to receive this level of care!” Brain science in the addiction field has come a long way, and Gentle Path at the Meadows is on the cutting-edge. However, we must not stop here—there is more work to be done and research is currently being conducted. Dr. Carnes has established the American Foundation for Addiction Research to continue this important work which will benefit our patients at Gentle Path. You can find out more information on this foundation at www.addictionresearch.com.
If you are struggling with any addiction, or multiple forms of addiction, depression, PTSD, or anxiety, we can help. Recovery is possible! You don’t have to live this way anymore. To learn more about Gentle Path at The Meadows, or if you have an immediate need, please contact us at 855-333-6076 or go to www.gentlepathmeadows.com.
By Amy Sohler, MPA, MA, LMHC, CDP, MHP
Unity is our most cherished quality. We find a greater personal freedom than any other society knows. In that sense, our society is a benign anarchy. The word 'anarchy' has a bad meaning to most of us… But I think that the gentle Russian prince who so strongly advocated the idea felt that men would voluntarily associate themselves in the common interest.
— Bill Wilson, co-founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, 1957
Written by a former active duty military personnel, currently employed at Gentle Path at The Meadows
In a world that is constantly in strife and war, we as a nation call upon the select few that have dedicated their lives in service to our country—the protectors of our freedom. Although the sound of military life may seem glamorous to some, the situations that these men and women find themselves in not only affect their lives, but the people’s lives who love them the most.
What soldiers experience in deployment will last longer than the smoke and sounds of gun fire; it is a constant memory that haunts you when awake and terrifies you when asleep. The nightmares are never ending until you finally face the trauma that haunts your life.
In these dark days a soldier tries to find hope in anything he or she can, not only for themselves, but for their families; it’s the little things, things that so many take for granted in the normal hustle and bustle of life. Things like the laughter of a child, the rain pouring down, a warm thank you from a stranger, a gentle kiss on the check, and even the wind on your face can for a second take away the gnawing pain in your heart. But even in these moments the things you did, the things you’ve see, the lives you impacted, the faceless terrors you encountered, hide in the shadows constantly reminding you of those memories, of that pain, every day.
However, in the midst of all of this pain and hurt, service men and women stand on the military values: Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Self Service, Honor, Integrity and Personal Courage. Finding a place that shares in these values and longs to see lives changed is hard, but it is an important part of healing and a necessary path that we must walk on. I asked myself several times how important it was for me to face my demons, and the answer was always “Very.” Waking up in a cold sweat—my best friend sitting there worrying, trying to make the nightmares leave—I realized that trauma doesn’t just change your life, but all the lives of the people you love most.
What kind of a soldier would I be if I didn’t protect those I love? Without facing my demons, how can I overcome them? Without overcoming them, how can I truly be free? Without being free how can I fully live in love, life, beauty and everything else this world has to offer away from the wars I faced? So I have the choice to face it, putting a new example on the idea of personal courage and self-sacrifice, still holding true to those values that I swore to honor and respect and carry with me as part of the uniform I wore.
Every day military personnel put on that uniform, tie up their boots and head into the fire fights that await, battles by our side, with our families praying at home, dreaming that one day their loved one will come home safe. However, even at home these individuals are not fully safe from themselves and the memories that torment them with every breath. But there is hope for a better life, and there is a future once the smoke fades and the ringing of the bullets dies.
The importance of healing from the effects of war can make or break the rest of your life. Support is rare, and it’s often hard to find a positive place to work out the battle wounds—a safe place to heal with no judgment. However, it does exist and there is hope. When searching for a safe place to do my own work, I was urged to look for someone/some place that holds my same values—sage advice.
It’s called LIFE, it’s called FREEDOM and it’s what we fight everyday to defend, so it’s time to fight for ourselves and our families by taking back our FUTURES.
The Meadows is honored to provide behavioral health and substance abuse inpatient services, with an emphasis on trauma, PTSD, and addictive disease disorders, to active duty military members, retirees and dependents of the TRICARE West Region. The Meadows has a long history of working with TRICARE beneficiaries as a non-contracted provider. We are tremendously proud to help serve the health care needs of service members, veterans, and their families, and would be happy to help determine eligibility and benefits that can be utilized at The Meadows. We are committed to helping military beneficiaries and partnering with all aspects of the TRICARE healthcare alliance. For more information, call us at 800-244-4949 or go visit our contact page.
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.
By Heidi Kinsella, MA, LMHCA, NCC, ASAT
Family Counselor, Gentle Path at The Meadows
You find out that your husband has been having sex outside of your marriage. This has been going on for a while; you feel sick and like you’ve been run over by a truck. If this betrayal wasn’t bad enough, his elaborate lies and storytelling have left you doubting yourself. There are moments when you feel crazy. Even though he has been caught, he continues to lie! Unbelievable!! How is this possible? You are angry, betrayed, tired, and just want the craziness to stop! You say to yourself, “Even if I could forgive the affairs, I can’t live with the lying!!! Why doesn’t he understand that???”
I have heard this story over and over again while working with partners of sex addicts. Unfortunately, I have also lived this nightmare in my own life as part of my own journey which brought me into this field.
As sex addiction develops, the addict learns to compartmentalize his life. He has his life with his wife, family, friends, and work; that life is real. He loves his wife and kids and enjoys spending time with friends. The problem is, he has another life that has been made completely separate from his life with you. It is the life of his sex addiction.
This separate life is secret, and it must stay that way in order to protect his addiction. If anyone found out about his behaviors, his addiction would be threatened; if he were made to stop, he would feel as if he would die. He needs this behavior to live, yet the behavior is hurting him.
He feels so much shame for what he is doing, but yet, he can’t stop… He just keeps on going despite the shame, the pain, and the consequences. So, he creates a web of lies to protect the addiction which become an integral part of his addiction. The lies roll out of his mouth before he even realizes he is lying. He has become a master at deception.
Living with this aspect of sex addiction is confusing and very painful. Sex addicts are so good at lying that they can convince you that the sky is not blue and that you are crazy for thinking it is. We call this “crazy-making”, and it is. It leads us to feel crazy and doubt our sanity.
At Gentle Path at The Meadows, we shine a light on the addicts’ secrets and have them talk about the behaviors they thought they would take to their grave. When you talk about these things, it takes away the shame and allows the addiction to come out into the light where the healing can begin.
We realize our patients have created a secret life and lie to protect themselves, and we call them out on it. We push them to tell the truth and teach them that staying sexually sober and telling the truth are critical to earning the trust of their loved ones. They must tell the truth, no matter what. We teach them that they need to do what they say they are going to do – period. We let them know that sometimes the addict can stay sober sexually, but his marriage may still end because he can’t quit lying. Learning to tell the truth MUST be part of the recovery process.
I had a client once who promised not to deposit any checks without his wife present. A check came in the mail for $5.00, and he figured it would be okay to deposit it since it was such a small amount. Of course, when his wife found out about the deposit, she was livid because if he couldn’t be trusted on small matters, how could he be trusted on large matters? She was right. He needed to learn to honor his word in all areas.
This question is difficult to answer because each addict’s process is slightly different. For some addicts, the lying flies off their tongues before they realize it. These individuals find themselves saying that they are at the grocery store when they are at an auto part store when they feel it doesn’t matter where they are. They will need to learn to know themselves and when they are about to lie, so they can stop themselves before it happens.
We teach strategies at Gentle Path at The Meadows, so our patients know when they are about to lie. With these skills, they are able to make the choice to tell the truth or to catch themselves quickly and correct the lie by saying, “I am sorry; that was a lie. I was at the auto part store.” Other addicts will catch themselves later in the day and then fess-up. We teach them the importance of coming clean about the lie, despite the consequence. If sex addicts are to stay sober, and if they are to earn their loved ones’ trust back, they must learn to tell the truth.
Every journey begins with one step. To learn more about the Gentle Path at The Meadows or if you have an immediate need, please contact us or call 855-333-6076 or go to www.gentlepathmeadows.com.