August 2017

Part 3: How to be a Partner Through Addiction

Struggling with an addiction challenges even the most empathic and resolute friend or family member. Being a partner of someone struggling with an addiction can sometimes push one to the edge. As a partner of someone with an addiction, you cannot help but question what is making your partner addicted – is it merely habit or were there conscious choices involved? Whichever accurately reflects the truth, feelings are bound to get hurt.

Addiction can be a touchy subject to discuss due to its negative social stigma attached. Your partner must first admit to themselves that they are, in fact, addicted to something before your offers for help are accepted.

There cannot be silence or secrecy between the addict and his/her partner. If you feel your partner is ready to change, ready to embrace a new life style, and you are ready to be his support partner through this process, compassion is your key to success.

Drawing on your compassion for the addict isn’t always easy. It may be easier to find compassion and seek help for some addictions more than others. For example, many currently struggle with a partner with a history of PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and who drinks to cope out of a perceived need to maintain some semblance of normalcy. In this case, there are many resources in place to help a family through this type of addiction. When a partner develops a prescription addiction, on the other hand, it might be more difficult to discover where to start to seek help or how to justify their behavior.

Beverly Engel has been a psychotherapist for over 30 years and has authored 20 books, including Emotionally Abusive Relationships and The Right to Innocence. She states that compassion is what ultimately creates healing. No one should wait until the one they love “hits rock bottom” – this outdated viewpoint can be far more hurtful than helpful. Engels explains, “If you can’t help an alcoholic until he wants help, what will get him to want help? You see, now I’m thinking differently. Now that opens up the door to possibility. Now I can start looking for solutions and answers.”

Just because your loved one is addicted does not mean that you automatically are an enabler or co-dependent and the relationship must end if you two are to ever get better. Instead, become involved in the recovery process. Having compassion does not mean you condone or support the negative behavior in any way. You are merely guiding the addict through steps to getting better. As a partner you must see them, hear them, validate them, let them know you care. More often than not, addiction serves to cover a great deal of shame and pain that is nearly impossible to face alone.

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Are All Women Teachers Sexual Predators?

I realize this is a grossly hyperbolic and provocative title. I meant it to be for a couple reasons. First, it mirrors the kind of sensationalist headlines we see in the news media today. Second, there are increasing numbers of cases where women teachers are caught having sexual relationships with students; there is a real problem.

Obviously, the vast majority of women teachers aren’t predators, just like the vast majority of priests aren’t pedophiles, the vast majority of liberals aren’t fascist communists, and the vast majority of conservatives aren’t Nazis. We all need to chill when it comes to hyperbole and presuming the worst about groups because of the heinous acts of a tiny minority of those groups.

But what of this trend? Why are we reading headlines almost daily of female teachers arrested for inappropriate relationships with teenage boys? It raises some interesting and critical questions:

  1. Are indeed more women who are mentally and emotionally unstable joining the teaching profession?
  2. Were these incidents always occurring, but now, simply more of them are being reported (i.e., sensationalism bias)?
  3. Is there something about today’s teaching profession that encourages or enables this kind of twisted, sick behavior?
  4. What is leading more young men to engage in inappropriate relationships with the teachers? Are more boys susceptible to this?
  5. What can parents do to protect their children from this kind of tragic narrative?
  6. What should schools be doing to prevent their employees from engaging in inappropriate relationships with students?
  7. Are boys more prone to engage in risky behavior with—and are susceptible to being seduced by—teachers?
  8. Is this occurring with young girls as well and to what degree?

I’m curious what others think about this. Feel free to respond with your thoughts, hunches, experiences, and opinions.

Addiction: There Is a Way Out

One of the core beliefs of Park Ridge Psychological Services is that coerced treatment is almost always inhumane. Everyone has the autonomy to decide for themselves if and when they will be ready to receive help and work through treatment. There need to be supports in place to meet each individual where they are at. The road to recovery often starts with evaluating one’s fears; this will help put feeling and behavior in perspective in order to explore issues with more context. Exposing fears often will bring clarity; the hope is that illicit thoughts and behaviors are driven in the direction of positive goals and sobriety.

The path to recovery in an Alcohol Addiction Recovery Group winds through an environment free of judgment. There are always reasons, stories, and sometimes even long-time buried secrets along with so myriad circumstances that a person experienced that have been hidden by addiction. Often, people judge an individual with addiction; the typical perception of someone with addiction is that “they just cannot seem to keep it together”.  Tragically, for years the standard notion was to reject, ignore and avoid the individual with addiction (who cannot recover without our love and support just like anyone else suffering from the devastating effects of an illness).

Facing reality is often the biggest hurdle in the way of recovery. It is often very difficult for individuals with addiction because many addicts use substances for the purpose of avoiding presence and escaping their reality. Eliciting awareness is a huge step toward overcoming the strongholds that maintain addiction. With motivation and encouragement, anyone is capable of improving deliberate self-control and formation of healthy habits. Humans are amazing cognitive and sensing beings who need support and genuine empathy to heal.

Something to remember: whether you have an addictive personality or not, you can always choose to be addicted to life and to your future. Your predisposed personality does not mean that you are incapable of making healthy decisions. We as humans cannot always control our instincts and desires; however, we can control our behavior in response to our instincts. We can choose to “know better”; we can choose healthy obsessions to enjoy that do not self-sabotage. The first choice is to get serious about treatment and to commit to the difficult road to recovery. Going to a rehabilitation or treatment center could be the first step towards your new and better life.

Part 1: What is Addiction?

Addiction (or substance dependence) as defined by the American Psychiatric Association is a maladaptive pattern of substance use leading to clinically significant impairment or distress. Addicts’ symptoms eventually surrender them to their environment without sufficient support. Addiction is like a side effect because the substance itself was serving a purpose: a relief, an escape, or even a path to bonding with others.

Addiction often creeps up slowly, often without the individual realizing the problem until it wreaks its irreversible damage. In the beginning, daily life functioning becomes more challenging to maintain. In cases of addiction with substance or drugs, people build up tolerance and begin to take more (in cases of prescribed medication, people begin to abuse them) to get the same effect. Tolerance often results in a loss of control, compulsivity, dependence, and even illness – psychological and/or physical. Additionally, the addict’s social life suffers greatly due to the behaviors required to satisfy their cravings. Substance abuse treatment should be offered to people who have developed dependency on certain substances or medication, but it should not be coerced. Aside from a rehab center, there are outpatient drug addiction treatment options you can consider.

Unfortunately, when behaviors begin to create negative consequences, it has already gone too far. Negative consequences from addiction are revealed in many forms. When an individual becomes addicted they may experience cravings, which can be intolerable for some, rendering them unable to disengage from their addictive behaviors. Similarly, when a person has been addicted to a substance or drug and they try to stop using, withdrawals from the substance or drug can be crippling, even life threatening. Addiction grips a person on both physiological and psychological levels.

When thinking about choices, we can agree that as a whole everyone makes their own choices in life regarding solving problems. On the other hand, on the individual level it is not so simple; the variety or availability of choices and access to these alternatives are not the same for all. It is important to recognize that an individual is only as strong as one’s environment will allow them to be.

All human beings desire contentment and balance. When that balance is interrupted in our biological, psychological, emotional selves, we all begin the search for a solution to restore the harmony that has been disturbed. While some certainly turn to drugs with little thought to how they can ruin their lives, most innocently hope for a quick fix for their intolerable symptoms.

If you or someone you know suffers with an addiction, Park Ridge Psychological Services is standing by to help you right where you are in your process. If you would like to schedule an appointment with our substance abuse counselor Emily Gilliam, 847-692-6692 Ext. 12, she is here for you.

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