"In desperate love, we always invent the characters of our partners, demanding they be what we need of them, and then feeling devastated when they refuse to perform the role we created in the first place." - Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat, Pray, Love)
In Facing Love Addiction, Pia Mellody outlines how childhood trauma creates relational patterns of love addiction and love avoidance in adulthood. Love addicts "invent the characters of our partners." We enter relationships from a wounded child ego state, believing that we are less-than and making up a fantasy about our partners. We make ourselves completely vulnerable, we tell ourselves that we are "bad" when our partner pulls away from us, we become needy, and we act out-of-control. We demand that our partners become what we "need." Often, we look at them to give us the love that our parents did not. As a love avoidant in relationship, we become the "character" that is expected of us. We enter relationships from a better-than position, we act invulnerable, we demand perfection, we are needless, and we attempt to seek control by creating intensity to feel alive. We get our sense of worth from taking care of someone we perceive as needy, but we resent him or her for it.
At The Meadows, patients often ask me what a "normal"relationship looks like. Of course, this is relative to the individual's experience of what is "normal." And it begs the question: What do functional adults do in relationships? What do recovering love addicts and love avoidants do? How do we date again? In order to address these important questions more completely, we are introducing a new workshop. It will help patients explore what a healthy relationship looks like by first tracing their own relationship histories and then considering what they want in potential partners.
First things first, sobriety must be established from any addiction that is present. Patients also must begin to examine their childhood traumas and identify whether they were abandoned or enmeshed in their families of origin and how this impacts their current relationships. Then we identify how they operate from a love-addiction or love-avoidant relational cycle. Often patients will tell me about how their partners have wronged them. In this process, participants begin to discover how they have re-created their own families of origin in their relationships and can understand what they bring to those relationships. Before someone can be intimate, he must begin the process of loving himself and knowing who he is. In our dating workshop, we will start by studying an individual's value system. In active addiction, people live outside of their values, so we want to remind them to reflect on their values. This way, they can begin to live in integrity and choose partners who have shared values. Next we have a patient define what is non-negotiable, negotiable, and "gee, it would be nice if..." about a future partner. For example, if you are a sober person, a non-negotiable may be drug use and "gee, it would be nice if he was 6 feet tall." Examining values and what is non-negotiable is important because love addicts are notorious for abandoning themselves to be with partners. This exercise helps them gain understanding of who they are and what they want.
The next step is to clearly define the impact that sobriety has on dating. Just like we define our sobriety when we get sober, we must have a plan when we enter the single world. This plan should include specifics, such as how many dates per week, how much phone/text contact, when physical contact is okay, how to discuss sobriety, social networking contact, etc. In essence, we are establishing boundaries. It may be helpful to have the patients set an intention for their dating experiences and future relationships. For example, they may say, "It is my intention to be myself while dating."
The goal is to be a functional adult when dating. This means entering relationships from a position of equality, with realistic expectations. We are authentic, we maintain our lives outside of the relationship, and we are mindful of our partner's walls in addition to our own. As the relationship progresses, we acknowledge our disappointments and feelings of overwhelm, and we communicate. The goals are to resolve conflict, negotiate, and repair disharmony while acknowledging our own childhood woundings that may be surfacing. We also bring our sober living skills into our relationships. The idea is that we enter relationships with self-esteem, boundaries, reality, willingness to express needs and wants, and a commitment to moderation.
Lastly let us remember love and respect. To quote Pia Mellody's book The Intimacy Factor, "Love is a continuum that ranges all the way from respect to very warm regard, the latter of which most people call "love." For many years, I mistakenly thought that if I loved someone, all I needed to do was to continually have a deep sense of warmth for him. Although that deep sense of warmth is basic, there are also other degrees of love that have to do with the condition of the relationship. As we experience the truth of another person, that person may be difficult- human. We might naturally feel fear, pain, and shame - not exactly pleasant. I had the idea that if I felt these unpleasant emotions, I was not loving the other person. And early on I actually wasn't, but as I got into recovery, I began to feel something healthy in its place. I learned to recognize another ingredient, and that was respect."
First we respect and love ourselves, then we practice respecting and loving others.
The concept of "wellness" has gained popularity in today's media and has played a major role in the treatment of trauma and addictions. The word suggests a state of well-being, a balance in the social, emotional, occupational, spiritual, physical, and intellectual aspects of life. At The Meadows, the newly renovated Wellness Program is structured to help patients make choices to build a more successful lifestyle.
Frequently, those suffering the effects of trauma and addictions make poor choices that result in an imbalance in one or more areas of life. Addressing this imbalance has been an integral part of The Meadows' treatment program for the past 34 years. Developed by Pia Mellody, The Meadows' model focuses on the interplay of core issues throughout our development that have culminated in unmanageable symptoms or an imbalance in our lives. The five core issues - self-esteem, boundaries, reality, dependency, and moderation - form the foundation for the treatment program. If patients learn to make good choices in their lives, they will learn to esteem themselves, establish appropriate boundaries in relationships, live lives of moderation, accept their imperfections, and take responsibility for their needs and wants. They will be in a state of wellness.
Wellness Coordinator Courtney Berg will initiate the program by conducting an individual interview with each patient during his or her first week. A wellness questionnaire will be completed, and a medical doctor will be consulted in constructing a wellness plan consistent with the patient's treatment plan and physical condition. The Wellness Coordinator will monitor the wellness plan for each patient through regularly scheduled meetings and progress reports at weekly treatment team meetings.
Patients will begin each day with a walk around campus on a newly marked walking path. Monitored by the Wellness staff, this activity will serve to start the day "on the right foot." The walk itself is low-impact and appropriate for all levels of fitness. Those who are very fit will gain from the camaraderie and team building. Those who are not so fit will begin to build confidence and physical fitness.
The Meadows has historically offered tai chi and yoga. New offerings will include water aerobics, pilates, deeper forms of meditation, and expanded expressive arts activities. Saturday mornings will feature animal and equine therapy.
New programming will include a weekend Grief Workshop, Dating in Sobriety Workshop, Mindfulness in Recovery Workshop, 12 Steps in Recovery, Expressive Arts Experiences, and specialized lectures on the Brain and Trauma, Mind-Body-Spirit Connections, and The Role of Meditation in Treatment.
In a series of brief articles, beginning below, Pia Mellody illustrates how living The Meadows' model has brought balance to her life.
In beginning the draft of my fifth book, I find myself continuously re-examining the relationship between body, mind, and spirit. In doing so, I have become even more acutely aware of the spiritual battle that rages between the ego and the soul. This topic becomes more poignant as I watch The Meadows' treatment model continue to gain worldwide recognition as the "spiritual model for the treatment of trauma and addictions."
Treatment at The Meadows has always been all-encompassing, addressing the body, mind, and spirit. Treating the body through our Wellness Program contributes to the healing process. Treating the mind through readings, lectures, workshops, and group interactions leads to healing through a shift in cognition's role in our lives. Treating the spirit is about treating spiritual impoverishment; different forms of spiritual practice include, but are not limited to: meditation, tai chi, yoga, and following 12 Step practices. These, in effect, engage the patient in spiritual balance.
Looking at the role of ego in the spiritual battle, I see it as attached to "I," "me," and "my." Self-examination can reveal how the ego has been destructive in life processes. If the ego is too powerful, the individual cannot see how it's creating misery. Our treatment goal in this scenario is to get the patient to self-examine what he's doing via his own self-destructiveness. The ego is attached to the body and naturally seeks pleasure. Our senses lead us to addictive processes and compulsions to seek pleasure and thereby medicate ourselves. When we use substances (alcohol, drugs), processes (sex, gambling), or people (love addiction), ultimately we will experience misery, as we are self-medicating.
When we cover our soul with our ego, we lay the foundation for spiritual impoverishment. We have buried our value, power, and abundance. The soul, in this scenario, plays a pivotal role; it remembers that we - and others - have inherent worth.
As I work on the new book, I will continue to share my thoughts on the rich connections between mind, body, and spirit, as well as show how value, power, and abundance affect individuals and the greater world. In the next article, I will illustrate how to truly heal through the understanding and application of the five core issues.
Self-medication and PTSD: A Path to Greater Complexity and Addiction?
Readers familiar with their own journeys or observing the struggles that loved ones endure know that PTSD symptoms sometimes demand immediate relief. Mood-altering chemicals, especially alcohol and marijuana, often provide temporary relief from anxiety, anger, depression, and other "limbic" surges. For many, alcohol and marijuana "take the edge off." They numb intense feelings, appear to quiet repetitive thinking, and afford some sleep and relief from the aftermath of trauma. In fact, in Western culture, alcohol has been a favored method of "recovering" among warriors, firefighters, and others who engage in vital but dangerous missions. Temporary relief usually comes in the form of "feeling no pain."
Actually, for a small but significant percentage of survivors, alcohol and other chemicals permit relief from the absence of feeling. In other words, getting drunk or high permits some feeling - any feeling - to break through the numbing produced by PTSD. Self-medicating is a devilishly seductive way of managing trauma. Self-medication provides temporary relief - a shortcut with the illusion of healing - but, oh, the price you pay! Alcohol, for example, will add to depression, confuse thinking, poison core relationships and, for some, set off violent behavior. For many, self-medicating will become a full-blown addictive disorder. Instead of one problem (PTSD), they now have two! Self-medication can involve food, sex, and the usual suspects: cocaine, opiates, amphetamines, cigarettes, alcohol and marijuana.
Academics and clinicians differentiate drugs from medicines: Drugs are self-administered without controls for dose, purity, etc. Medicines are taken only as prescribed (but often abused by active addicts). It's an oversimplification to say that all medicines are good, and all self-medication is evil. Many medicines cause harm; benzodiazepines and some sleep medicines can become addictive. However, in the hands of a skilled practitioner, medicines can provide much-needed symptom relief while the patient masters natural techniques that are highly effective in managing PTSD's multidimensional symptoms.
Recovery takes hard work and support. Re-stabilizing one's body and soul requires more than simple, singular solutions, sayings or insights; it is a process we know works. Self-medicating is not only risky, it is often tragic. Too many soldiers and civilians have been further injured by self-medicating. Simplistic, seductive, addictive, compulsive, and self-administered "treatments" too often result in broken marriages, broken careers and broken bodies. Life is hard enough without trauma, and trauma is hard enough outside of addiction.
The path to healing takes work, and work sometimes requires peer and professional support. John Barleycorn and Jack Daniels are not healthy supports or tools for recovery. If you are new on the journey of healing, do not be seduced by the temporary fixes offered by alcohol, drugs or other self-medicating behaviors. Recovery requires new skills. It's a process of integrating and healing, achieving and connecting - not masking, numbing or avoiding. Keep it simple and do not be intimidated, distracted or seduced by the siren song of medicating oneself.
In an Unspoken Voice: How the Body Releases Trauma and Restores Goodness
The Meadows presents Peter Levine, PhD
December 3, 2010 Austin, Texas
Trauma is neither a disease nor a disorder, but is rather an injury caused by paralyzing fright, helplessness and loss. If we enlist the wisdom of the living, sensing body and engage our innate capacity to self-regulate high states of arousal and intense emotion, we can transform trauma and be healed. We will explore the roots of addiction in unresolved trauma, insecure attachment and habitual childhood frustration. Drawing on more than 40 years as a pioneering body-oriented clinician, as well as a parallel study of stress, biology, child development and discoveries in the neurosciences, Dr. Levine shows that it is possible to live life robustly with pleasure and creativity, even in the face of the most painful assaults to our humanity- and in the face of deceptively trivial ones. From an evolutionary understanding of the source of trauma, to a spiritual dimension of how we as human beings can be strengthened by traumatic healing, this journey unfolds- if we learn to attend to the "unspoken voice of the body."
This presentation will teach participants the following:
• To recognize the biological and naturalistic roots of trauma and their implications for treatment.
• To explain how sensate awareness is an important vehicle for regulating high arousal states and intense emotions in transforming trauma.
• To describe the relationship between developmental issues, unresolved trauma and addictive processes.
Peter A. Levine, PhD, Clinical Consultant of The Meadows and Mellody House, has a background in medical biophysics, stress and psychology. He is the originator of Somatic Experiencing®, which he has developed during the past 40 years. He teaches this method throughout the world. Levine is the author of the best-selling book Waking the Tiger and the book/CD Healing Trauma. He is also the co-author, with Maggie Kline, of Trauma Through a Child's Eyes: Awakening the Ordinary Miracle of Healing.
Sheraton Austin Hotel
at the Capitol
701 East 11th Street
Austin, Texas 78701
Self-parking at hotel is included.
5.5 Continuing Education Credits
To Register: http://www.themeadows.org/events/index.php?rm=event_details¶m1=show¶m2=135&