In a recent TED Talk, journalist and author Johann Hari suggests that “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong.” He argues that most people in our society see addiction as a simple chemical dependency, when it is actually the result of a failure to connect ─ with family, with friends, with the community, with God, or with a larger sense of purpose.
His ideas are proving to be somewhat controversial in the recovery and addiction communities, not so much because of his basic premise, but because of his assertion that these ideas are “new.” (The studies he sites have been well known to psychologists and addiction professionals for years.) He does also seem to oversimplify, in some ways, what is often a very complicated and nuanced problem. And, he calls for the legalization of all recreational drugs as a possible solution, an idea which always sparks a strong debate.
In spite of some of the questionable aspects of his speech, at The Meadows, we do agree with his core principle: that disconnection─ with peers, with communities, with one’s sense of self and/or with a higher power ─ can play a major role in triggering addiction and other behavioral issues.
One of the most important goals we have for our patients at The Meadows is that they learn how to become interdependent. The Meadows Model, developed by Pia Mellody, names dependency as one the four core issues that must be addressed before a person can make a full recovery from addiction or mood disorders. Doing so requires one to reconnect with the child he or she once was. Being too dependent comes from not having needs and wants met as a child. Being anti-dependent comes from being shamed for having needs and wants as child.
Becoming interdependent means learning how to balance your own needs and wants with those of others. If you are interdependent, you are able to ask for help when you need it, help others when they make a reasonable request, and say “no” when necessary to prevent yourself from stretching yourself too thin and becoming resentful.
Without interdependence, there is no recovery. As an addict, the ability to rely on others for help and emotional support, and to give that help and support to others, is critical to staying sober. Without the tools to make and maintain these connections, recovery is impossible to sustain.
Step 11 in the 12 Step Model for Recovery requires the addict to find a connection with a higher power:
“Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understand Him, praying only for knowledge of his will for us and the power to carry that out.”
In most cases, addicts have either always struggled to connect with God, their Higher Power, or their sense of purpose; or, in some way, they got disconnected along the way. Recovery is about getting connected or reconnected.
Jim Corrington, Director of The Meadows Outpatient Services, likes to use the analogy of an orange extension cord to explain:
An orange extension cord is useless and without purpose when it’s hanging on the wall. You have to plug it in to a source of power to give it potential. It does not reach its full potential until you plug something else into IT. So, too, an individual must stay plugged in to their source of power, AND, stay connected to others around them to reach sobriety, and with it, their full potential.
Addictions manifest in those areas where people are disconnected but seeking to connect. “Faulty wiring” caused by childhood trauma can make it difficult for them to connect with others or with their sense of purpose, so they end up trying to fill the gap with substances or unhealthy behaviors.
At The Meadows, we take a holistic approach to healing that helps patients to reconnect through their minds, bodies and spirits. Therapy sessions and workshops allow them to find out how they became disconnected, to work on ways to build better relationships with others, and to learn how to nurture themselves. Our new brain center helps them to address any dysregulation they may be experiencing in the brain and nervous system. And, physical activities like Yoga, Tai Chi, equine therapy and ropes courses, allow them to gain even deeper insights into themselves.
If you or a loved one are struggling with an addiction or a disorder and are seeking ways to reconnect, we can help. Contact us for more information.
According to a recent report from the Centers for Disease Control, the rate of heroin-related deaths has quadrupled in the past 10 years. Of people surveyed between 2011 and 2013, nearly 663,000 said they had used heroin in the past year; 379,000 said they had between 2002 and 2004.
Scott Davis, Clinical Director at The Meadows, says that the path that leads to heroin addiction is often different than that of other drug addictions. In many cases, it begins with a prescription for an opioid painkiller, such as hydrocodone or oxycodone. (In others, it begins with prescriptions for Benzodiazepines, such as Xanax or Ativan.)
“A lot of the people who are coming to us with opiate addictions don’t necessarily fit the mold for most addiction. They don’t typically have the family history of addiction or the long-term dependence on the drug that you see with many other addicts.” “That doesn’t mean that they don’t have trauma, or that their family doesn’t have issues—in fact, they may have issues which exacerbated their dependence on the drug and made the addiction more likely—but, they might not have otherwise found themselves addicted had they not been prescribed an opiate as a pain killer.”
Once the pills become difficult to obtain, it can be easy for a person to slip into heroin abuse. Heroin’s chemical structure is very similar to that of prescription pain medications and works in the same group of receptors in the brain. It’s also cheaper.
For heroin and opiate addicts, there are typically three levels of pain that they must overcome in order to reach sobriety: the physical pain that led them to drug, the pain of detoxing from the drug, and emotional pain that led to their addiction.
For many opioid addicts, their drug problems start with chronic physical pain. That pain is real and needs to be taken into account when developing a treatment program for the patients.
At The Meadows, we have a full-time medical doctor on our staff to help patients address the pain and the medical issues that are causing it. Patients cannot thoroughly address any underlying psychological aspects of their addiction if they are suffering too much from the physical pain that lead them to abuse drugs in the first place.
Heroin disrupts the brain’s natural opiate production process, which helps reduce pain and calm the nervous system. So, when a person stops taking the drug, he or she feels pain and anxiety more intensely than before. This makes detoxing from heroin especially painful. The Meadows highly-trained medical team, which includes a 24-hour nursing staff, can help patients safely and comfortably detox from heroin and opiates onsite. They develop a detox plan for each person that helps them to stabilize more quickly, experience less pain, and avoid some of the withdrawal symptoms they would have if they went off the drug cold turkey. Easing patients through detox makes it a whole lot easier for people to stay in treatment and stay off of the drug.
In many treatment systems, patients detox in a hospital or other setting and then go to the treatment program. Because we have the ability to help patients detox in-house at The Meadows, they don’t have to wait to begin treatment. As long as the patient is feeling well enough, they can begin attending classes and therapy sessions within the first two to three days after their arrival on campus. This makes the transition into treatment easier for them and allows them to start developing coping strategies for living without the drug right away.
While the path that led to heroin use may have begun with a need to address physical pain, the user probably soon found that it also minimized their emotional and psychological pain as well. Whatever coping mechanisms the addict had used before to manage their stress and anxiety may have fallen by the wayside, as the drug was able to do the trick much more quickly and effectively.
That’s why a key component of the treatment program at The Meadows focuses on addressing trauma, family issues, and emotion regulation. Our staff works with patients to help them identify and address any buried psychological pain and repressed feelings that may have played a role in triggering their addiction.
Many people who become addicted to heroin found their way to the drug unintentionally. Many of them may also be the only people in their families with an addiction problem, which can contribute to feelings of isolation and shame. Scott Davis says that one thing that makes The Meadows program especially well-suited for them is that there is no shame attached.
“We’re not going to tell them that they are bad people. We’re not going to tell them that it’s all their fault and that they should have known better. Because drug addiction is a disease. We’re going to look at the chemical addiction, and we’re also going to deal with the underlying issues that make this drug particularly potent for them in a non-judgmental way.”
If you think you or someone you love may have a problem with heroin or prescription medications, The Meadows can help. Give us a call at 800-244-4949 today or contact us online here.
Marie Woods, LMFT, CSAT
Primary Therapist, Gentle Path at the Meadows
When our culture hears about a person with sex addiction, often the automatic assumption is that he (or she) must like a lot of sex. In light of the nature of their behaviors, sex addicts are also often labeled as perverted, creepy, or strange.
These distorted perceptions aren’t just limited to the public, but are often among the core beliefs that sex addicts have about themselves. As patients engage in treatment and begin to understand themselves better, they often begin to realize that their behaviors are not solely about the sex itself, but about some larger constructs.
As a treating therapist, I’m aware from the moment a patient enters my office, that the symptoms associated with sex addiction have less to do with sex, and more to do with limited coping skills for what is often an intense amount of pain. This is not to say that the sexual behaviors are excusable, but it does help us to shift the focus from the stigma of sex addiction and onto its possible underlying causes.
For many sex addicts, their problematic sexual behaviors developed early in their lives as a way to deal with significant stressors or trauma. For example, compulsive masturbation often stems from a child’s early learning about how to self-soothe in a chaotic home environment. At its onset, this coping skill was not necessarily problematic. But for sex addicts, the behavior becomes problematic when they do not acquire a more expansive set of coping skills as they continue to develop. This is just one example of the many ways in which engaging in normal and pleasurable sexual behavior may develop into problematic sexual behavior.
It is important to recognize that in our most functional human state we use a variety of coping mechanisms, including positive sexual behavior, to regulate ourselves, and that is not necessarily pathological or problematic. What can become compulsive, and perhaps problematic, is when this is one of our only coping mechanisms to regulate stress and anxiety over time.
As treatment providers, we work with patients to look at both the sexual behavior itself, and also at what may drive it. Sex addicts often have an immense amount of shame around their sexual behavior, so it’s important to help them understand any connections that may exist between specific sexual behaviors and their pasts.
But, some of their unwanted sexual behaviors are more about activating a part of the brain that allows them to numb out, dissociate, fantasize, or even feel deprived in order to provide some temporary relief from their emotional pain. In these cases, we would want to spend some time focusing on why a patient may choose these ways of responding, and what other coping skills they may need to develop in order to feel better about themselves rather than perpetuate the cycle of toxic shame they experience after engaging in their addictive behaviors.
The vast majority of addicts that we work with express an adamant desire to stop engaging in the use of alcohol, drugs, and to stop acting out sexually. Many of them can also identify numerous failed attempts to stop their behavior.
Before we make assumptions about what the behaviors associated with sex addiction mean, it is worth stepping back and considering the bigger picture. Moving towards lasting change with sex addiction means that we must examine both the behaviors themselves and the stories surrounding them. This opens the door for compassion, which is an essential component of the process of healing from sex addiction.
This year, Senior Fellow Dr. Shelley Uram and Chief Psychiatrist Jon Caldwell will present at the 28th Annual Northwest Conference on Behavioral Health and Addictive Disorders. The conference is a premier training event, offering up to 20 hours of continuing education credit for behavioral health professionals. It is hosted by U.S. Journal Training, Inc.(USJT) and The Institute for Integral Development. The Meadows is a participating sponsor.
This year, a series of comprehensive seminars will spotlight trauma treatment; brain science and therapy; wisdom of the heart and mindfulness; co-occurring disorders; and treating anxiety and depression. These seminars will serve as a forum for exploring complex issues within the physical, emotional, social, and spiritual dimensions of mental illness and addictive disorders.
Among the roster of nationally recognized speakers is Shelley Uram, MD, a Senior Fellow at The Meadows and a Harvard-trained, triple-board-certified psychiatrist. Her keynote address, Trauma Treatment Evolved, will examine what happens in the brain when a person is traumatized, how this can dysregulate the nervous system and body, and the types of approaches that can help traumatized people get their lives back.
Dr. Uram will also offer a workshop called Psychological Trauma and Addiction: How Do They Connect? where she will explore trauma’s connection with addiction and discuss cutting edge treatments.
Our Chief Psychiatrist, Jon Caldwell, DO, PhD, will lead a session entitled Trauma, Attachment and Addiction: Healing Relational Wounds by Cultivating Mindfulness and Self-Compassion. He will investigate how child maltreatment can profoundly influence human development, resulting in a variety of mental, emotional, and social challenges – including addictive disorders.
For more information about the conference, visit the USJT website.
When you’ve experienced a loss ─ the death of a loved one, the loss of your health, the loss of a relationship, the loss of an opportunity, etc.─ it can be helpful to take time out to lean into your grief. It’s often difficult, if not impossible, to initiate the healing process in this way while also managing the day-to-day obligations of your life.
That’s why we offer “Healing Heartache: A Grief and Loss Workshop.” This 5-day workshop creates a safe and sacred space for exploring losses you’ve experienced throughout your lifetime. The program will help will help you understand and normalize your feelings through teachings on the cycle of grief and the patterns of destructive behavior. You also will participate in experiential exercises which will allow you to release words and feelings that have not yet been expressed. At the end of workshop, we’ll offer you the resources you need to move continue moving forward with hope and dignity.
The next workshop is scheduled for June 29 - July 3. Spaces are limited, so call our intake coordinators at 800-244-4949 to enroll today. They are available from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. MST on weekdays, and from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MST on weekends.
If you can’t make the June session, the Healing Heartache workshop will also be offered September 28 – October 2 and November 30 – December 4.
We look forward to seeing there, and to helping you on your journey to stronger relationships and a brighter future.
For more details, call 800-244-4949. Our Intake Coordinators are happy to assist you between 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. MST on weekdays, and from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. MST on weekends.