Sunday, November 17, 2013

Drowning in a Sea of Addiction

Let me start by saying this, when it comes to dealing with substance use issues, abstinence is the best, surest way to lasting success. I fully believe that. The reason I want to say that first because this can be a sensitive topic to many. Just in case, I will say it again, abstinence works and it is the ideal path to recovery, however, people get there in different ways.

We all know that in life we are not always faced with ideal situations. Rather, quite often we have to work with what we have in front of us for the time being and then strive to move forward and upward from there in a positive direction. So often in today’s world of substance abuse treatment (particularly in outpatient settings) counselors are faced with people who are unwilling or not yet ready to try abstinence (as I have mentioned in previous blogs.)  Many individuals are often afraid to let go of their substance use because it is the only thing that they know. The thought of life without any substances can be a huge leap of faith that many individuals at first are unwilling to take.

Imagine if a sailor on a boat came across someone left alone in rough open seas, perhaps from a shipwreck, desperately holding on tightly to a piece of driftwood to keep afloat with nowhere else to turn. Would the sailor on the boat shout out to the person to let go of the piece of driftwood first, promising afterward to throw them a lifeline? Of course not; the sailor would throw out the lifeline FIRST, then ask the person to let go of the driftwood and grab the lifeline to be pulled in and rescued. In rough seas, the sailor may even need to throw out the lifeline several times before it lands close enough for the person holding the driftwood to fully let go of the wood and grab hold of the rescue line. This would be especially true if the person holding the driftwood couldn’t swim in the rough seas, which would increase the level of fear and hesitancy to let go.

This analogy has a direct parallel for some individuals who are dependent upon substances like drugs and alcohol. Like the individual holding the driftwood, the thought of letting go and reaching for the lifeline of sobriety and recovery can be very fear-inspiring and extremely overwhelming. This is especially true for people who lack the knowledge, supports and skills needed to successfully “swim” on their own through the rough “seas” of life. Helping these people requires poise, acceptance and enduring composure on the part of the counselor trying to throw out that lifeline. Often multiple attempts are needed before someone is willing to let go of their substance use which may be all that the person has had to hold on to for so long.

(AP Photo/The Des Moines Register,Andrea Melendez)

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Tools for the Trade

Taking the Escalator has gone international. I have been invited to blog about addiction/recovery on a popular site originating out of SE Europe. Below is the link to my first blog entry.

If you are interested in specific tools for addiction recovery either for your own use or for use as a substance abuse counselor, the above blog entry introduces FREE therapy tools that you can download off of my website - FREE THERAPY TOOLS

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Piece of Mind

I would be lying if I said that I never told anyone off because just like almost everyone reading this, I have, many times. I would be lying if I said that I never enjoyed the “rush” associated with putting someone in their place. I would be lying if I told you that I wasn’t skilled at verbally cutting people down. I guess practice makes perfect?

Because of my birthday, when I was a kid I was always one of the youngest in the class so I was usually one of the smaller kids until High School when I finally caught up with everyone after puberty. In addition to being smaller and younger than most of my classmates, I also was never much of a fighter either, at least physically. Somewhere along the way in school and in the neighborhood, I learned that if I couldn’t fight my way out of situations physically, one way to survive was with my wits. Although I was often at a size disadvantage, I soon learned that I was one of the better ones around with regard to clever comebacks and comical verbal character assassinations which became what I perceived as a survival skill as I grew up. Even teachers and other authority figures weren’t safe from my bitter sarcasm and contentious wisecracks so I ended up spending a lot time in detention and in the principal’s office in school.

If it sounds like I am bragging, the truth is that I shouldn’t be. My best excuse now is that I did not know better at the time, but in reality that is just an excuse because on some level I surely knew what I was doing. Regardless, now I am an adult with children of my own and a job and a career and with that a whole lot more responsibility so hopefully now I do know better. Similar to the way that a physically tough kid who fights his way through life learns that at some point the fighting has to stop, the same holds true for verbal fighting as well. Maturity and responsibility naturally should include some sense of restraint and self-control. For example, as an adult, if you want to be a good parent you can’t curse out your kids, and if you want to hold a decent job, you most likely shouldn’t verbally lambaste or berate your boss either.

Nevertheless, there is an undercurrent in today’s world that places a lot of value on an individual’s ability to tell someone else off. We see it all the time in the media. If you just sit and listen to people’s conversations these days, there is often a lot of swapping of stories of how someone “ripped someone a new one” in response to a situation where the speaker felt like they had been treated unfairly or in a disrespectful manner. If you work at a job that involves some form of direct customer service, surely you know what it is like to be on the receiving end of one of these rhetorical assaults. When the day is over, recanted stories of telling others off seems to make for interesting and exciting conversation, and again I would be lying if I said I never engaged in any such conversations myself.

So what is the point? My point is not to say that we should all be a bunch of spineless jellyfish and never stick up for ourselves because there is a time and a place and a way to assertively speak up when it is appropriate or necessary to do so. My point is however just to express my support for those of us who still are working on “taking the high road” by personally electing not to make a habit of telling other people off even when the opportunity presents itself or when it seems justifiable or easy to do so. Biting your tongue or keeping your mouth shut does not make for exciting or entertaining stories with your friends at the end of the day but in the greater scheme of things, it means a whole lot more. Congrats to you if you chose not to tell someone off today.