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Addicted to the Addict

When we think about addiction, we may be inclined to view it strictly through the lens of someone who abuses drugs or alcohol. However, if you have ever loved someone with an addiction, then you know that it is not that simple. In fact, those that love someone with an addiction may actually find themselves with an almost “second hand” addiction. I am referring to codependency. Codependency has a diverse spectrum and can be a complex and challenging concept. The form of codependency that will be focused on here is the residual addictive behaviors and emotions that come from loving someone with an addiction – when one becomes addicted to the addict. 

To begin, it can be helpful to view addiction as a series of obsessions and compulsions. While we watch our loved one obsess over their substance of choice and have compulsive risky and unhealthy behaviors required to sustain the addiction, we can very easily be sucked into their “obsessive-compulsive” world. Regardless of the title of the relationship, it is natural to want to spare someone we love from hardships. This becomes especially challenging with someone in active addiction, who we might see all but actively seek out hardships through risky behavior and unhealthy decisions. Due to the nature of addiction, these acts of “kindness” once rooted in love can soon switch to compulsive behavior based on fear, confusion, and general powerlessness. Have you found yourself obsessing over where your loved one is or rethink every interaction with them to see if there are any holes in their story? Or maybe questions such as “are they safe”, “are they using”, “who are they with”, “why are they doing this” flood your mind. These obsessive thoughts can lead to compulsive behavior in an attempt to self soothe the obsession and spare ourselves the guilt, shame, or embarrassment that accompanies them. Some examples might be minimizing behavior, providing money as a bailout to a financial pinch, or becoming a detective and constantly investigating your loved one’s belongings, statements, or behaviors.

Because of the chaotic nature of addiction, our emotions are often experienced in extremes, with stress being arguably the most common. When our body feels stress, the brain begins sending out various signals “sounding the alarm” accompanied by a rush of adrenaline. This feeling might be familiar in the way someone’s heart races when their loved one comes home under the influence, or stomach knots or racing thoughts when searching through their belongings, or the way the body might naturally tense at the thought of the loved one. Chronically being in this state of heightened emotion can lead to constantly expecting that “adrenaline hit,” which in turn feeds that “obsessive-compulsive” hunger. We have a thought, it leads to stress, we get that “hit”, we act out on the thought, we validate our thought, we get another “hit”. Those spikes in adrenaline and state of stress become a new normal for the body, and there becomes a normalization of crisis and expectation of chaos. When the addict’s behavior sets the temperature of our daily experience and we enter into a world of chaos, we can very easily lose sight of ourselves and just how irrational our thinking and behaviors have become. 

When we speak of recovery, we view this as a holistic process in which those directly affected by a loved one’s addiction must enter into their own recovery journey. It is a process of letting go of perceived control and regaining power over what is controllable. By confronting the expectation of crisis and setting firm boundaries over thoughts and behaviors, we can slowly move out of a world consumed by chaos and regain the safety of mind, decision, and sense of self. 

Understanding Self-Harm

Understanding Self-Harm

Self Harm is a growing trend amongst pre-teen and teens, and it is a topic that frequently comes up in the world of counseling. Parents, concerned friends, and even the person doing self-harm, often feel confused regarding the behavior. Self-harm touches all people groups, but it manifests itself in different expressions. Unfortunately, many people learn this behavior from their friends or from websites in which there is a pro-injury theme, and yet many parents feel ill-equipped to handle the discovery when they learn of their child’s self-harm. Below are the statistics of self-harm from 2019

  • Each year, 1 in 7 seven males and 1-5 females engage in self-harm/injury.
  • Ninety percent of the people who engage in self-harm begin in their teen or pre-teen years. 
  • The average of a teen to begin to self-harm is 13 years old.
  • Close to 50 percent of the people who engage in self-harm have experienced abuse in some way.
  • Sixty percent of those that self-harm is female.

Self-half harm has become a normalized behavior amongst young adults and teens; however, it is a foreign concept to their parents and grandparents. In this podcast, Cait Beiler and Sharon Wegman explain how self-harm often starts and how it continues and experience healing.

*2019 APA statistics

Codependency Looks Like

Codependency Looks Like

Co-dependency was a word that was coined by people working in the field of addictions to describe the behavior of members of an addict’s family that enabled the addict to continue with addict choices.  However, in the world of counseling, we have taken over the term to describe the behaviors of individuals who carry things for others that are not their responsibility. This could look like several things.  Sometimes people can have an unhealthy need for people to make them feel better. For example, if someone struggles with anxiety, they might be dependent on another individual to make them feel peaceful. This relationship struggle can cause people to control others so they don’t feel upset or it could cause people to become “people pleasers” to keep themselves or others from feeling off emotionally.  People tell me all the time that they feel like they have to carry the problems or tasks of others so that they don’t feel anxious. The crux of all co-dependency is that I carry something for someone so that I don’t have to feel _________(fill in the blank) or so that the other person doesn’t have to feel __________(fill in the blank). However, what we all need to understand is that feeling uncomfortable feelings is part of our emotional growth to wholeness; for self and others.  Whether it is our children, friends, co-workers or other family members, if we don’t feel the uncomfortable feelings of our choices, we are likely to not change. In this podcast, Cait Beiler and Sharon Wegman discuss what codependency can look like in our everyday life.

Why Counseling is So Helpful

The trend and comfort of going to counseling has only developed popularity within the past decade or so. This is a good thing, but as a therapist, I still encounter the negative views or “cliches” people see in counseling. As a culture, we are just now starting to come out of the perspective that going to counseling somehow means “you’re crazy” or “there’s something wrong with you.” In reality, we all go through hard things, and the point is we need support and safe places to process these experiences to stay healthy and receive healing. In this podcast, Sharon and I discuss the different reasons why someone might want to go to counseling and how counseling can aide and support that person in their process of healing. It is possible that as you have gotten older, you have become more increasingly aware of negative patterns you have picked up over time from your childhood. Going to counseling can help you unravel some of these patterns and find new ways to think and see things rather than being stuck in our childhood self. Another reason people might come to counseling is to find help and a safe space to process various types of trauma that have happened to them. Such trauma might include; multiple types of abuse, divorce, poverty, domestic violence, etc. Talking to a counselor can free up some of the weight and struggle you carry from these memories, as well as helping you find healthy ways to cope with your past. Lastly, you might find yourself needing to go to counseling because you have experienced the death of someone close to you. Grief counseling is a massive piece of working through a loss and the grief cycle in a very vulnerable time.
All in all, counseling is helpful for any season of life, sometimes as people, we need someone to sit and process with us in a place that feels safe and gives us permission to explore and experience our emotions. A therapist is simply a person whose job is to support and help you work out your feelings and your needs. Therapists are not afraid of the ugly feelings, so you have permission in a counseling office to be your authentic self. A counseling office is a place concerning no judgments or expectations over us, and for most of us, that in itself can be a very healing process.

Anxiety Symptoms and Self Care

Anxiety Symptoms and Self Care

Anxiety rates are on the rise in the western world. In fact, in 2018 study on anxiety, it was determined that “1 in 5 five individuals deal with some form of anxiety and would be considered the highest prevalent form of mental illness in the United States”. Most people feel a lot of shame about not being able to control their anxiety or the fact that they have anxiety, however as research on this topic evolves we are coming to understand that changes in our culture have strong influences on the development of anxiety in our culture. For example, researchers have determined that 90% of the serotonin receptors are located in the gut. Therefore, the adage that “ you are what you eat” is quite right when it comes to an understanding some of the roots of anxiety in a modern culture which eats many genetically modified and processed foods. Additionally, many therapists would agree that the use of electronics increases social isolation and increases more self-comparison and negative perceptions of self and the world. In this podcast, Cait Beiler, MS and Sharon Wegman, MA, LPC, discuss causes of anxiety and strategies to deal with anxiety.

Newman, Tim (2018, May 5) Anxiety in the West: Is it on the rise? Retrieved from URL
Naidoo, Uma (2019, March 27) Gut feelings: How food affects your mood. Retrieved from URL

Look for Beauty in Seasons of Death

Look for Beauty in Seasons of Death

We are in the dead of winter here in the Northeast. It’s cold, and the skies are gray most days, and there is not much joy in being outside UNLESS you look closely. When you search for beauty in the barren landscape, you can usually find it, but it doesn’t necessarily catch your attention as it does in the spring or summer when the colors are eye-catching.In spring and summer, beauty is natural to find with the vibrant colors tied to those seasons. On a recent winter walk on a wetlands trail, I saw myself prompted by God to look for beauty instead of looking at everything that was dead. When I forced myself to look for beauty in the winter landscape, I found it in the shapes of intricate weeds, winter berries, rocks, streams and a myriad of tree shapes. This is a perfect analogy of what is happening during dark seasons of your life. You can choose to look at the death of the season and/or you can also choose to look for beauty. I am not suggesting that we operate in fantasy regarding our reality ( which is another blog); however, I am suggesting that when you look for beauty, you tend to have a greater awareness of the creator. All of us have the need to have a greater knowledge of the creator’s presence when we go through dark phases of life otherwise we will feel more hopeless and powerless. Our challenge as we move through the dark season is to look for beauty. We need to look for points of light because even when a room is entirely dark a single flame of a candle can change your perspective of the darkness and give you the vision to move through the night. It’s cold and dark out there. Choose to look for beauty and light.

 

Coping with The Holiday Blues – Part Two

Coping with The Holiday Blues – Part Two

In the last months, I have been impressed with God’s sunset shows.  I am not sure if it was that I was driving that direction at the time of the sunset or if it was because we had such a deary summer with lots of rain and clouds that I was aware of the sunsets, but none the less, I was mindful of the beauty.  The artist in me wanted to chase the photography shot, but with each turn to try and capture the beauty, I found myself losing the vision as the sun was setting. I was chasing sunsets only to discover that they could not be caught. I felt like God said to me, “ Stop chasing sunsets.  They are a gift for the moment, not for you to capture.” That started me thinking how sometimes in our effort to chase happiness, we miss the gifts of the day that are right under our noses. Are you aware of the sunset on your drive and are you grateful for the beauty? To maintain a positive outlook through whatever hard season you are going through, you are going to need to choose to recognize the beautiful moments in each day.  I encourage people to look for the beautiful moments in each day by journaling what they are grateful for, and yet I understand the pain of being heartsick when month after month, year after year nothing changed in my health or another situation. Those heartsick moments are the moments when we start to lose hope hence our power. Each of us has troubles, and God says to stay in the moment of each day as opposed to worrying about the next day.  

The Message translation of the Bible says it well;  Matthew 6:34 “Give your entire attention to what God is doing right now, and don’t get worked up about what may or may not happen tomorrow. God will help you deal with whatever hard things come up when the time comes.”  Pay attention to the sunset, the baby smiling at you, the gift sitting on your desk from a friend, the tree outside of your window or whatever catches your eye, because it’s catching your eye because God is pointing it out to you for you to focus on to enable you to stay present at the moment.  My drives home from work in the dark of night are much more enjoyable this time of year because people are putting up Christmas lights that bring beauty to my night drives. The holidays are a stressful time of the year and many times we need to look for beauty to stay present in our day instead of worrying about the things that are yet to be done.  Let beauty drive your holidays, not stress and worry. In our new podcast, Sharon and Cait discuss emotional and spiritual strategies for Coping with The Holiday Blues in part two of our two-part series.

Coping with Holiday Blues- Part One

Coping with Holiday Blues- Part One

The holiday blues are authentic for many people. When people sing the phrase, “ it’s the most wonderful time of the year,” for many people the words could be changed to “it’s the most triggering time of year,” or “it’s the most depressing time of the year.”  In climates where the weather becomes cold, and the sky is more overcast, depression symptoms increase because of the lack of sunlight and less time outdoors. November is typically the month I begin to see more cases of Seasonal Affective Disorder (S.A.D.); which is depression symptoms tied to less sunlight exposure in our part of the United States. In some parts of the world, overexposure to sunlight can also result in the same symptomology. In addition to an increase in seasonal depression, many people are triggered by losses that surface during the holidays. When we do not have loving family members with which to spend the holidays or have abusive family members, family conflicts, the death of a loved one, divorce, separation, addiction, infertility, or unhappy feelings about any of our current life situations, depression can arise. The holidays stir things up because of the expectations and images we have been told represent what an ideal holiday looks like. Thank you Hallmark Channel! So how does one deal with all the losses and depression stirred to the surface at once? Many people push it all down during the holidays because they feel too busy to process their emotions, but this creates issues for the physical body which experiences sleep disturbances, increased anxiety, lowered immunity, and a plethora of other physical issues. In this podcast, counselors Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler begin to discuss “Coping with the Holiday Blues” with strategies for dealing with the stress the holiday blues create for your body. This podcast is part one in the “Coping with the Holiday Blues” series.

The Seven Cardinal Sins of Manipulative Parenting

The Seven Cardinal Sins of Manipulative Parenting

How do you feel after someone has manipulated, guilted or shamed you into doing something for them?   You do not feel good about yourself. You feel shameful and have poor self-esteem after the matter. To compound matters, how do you feel when you have no choice in a matter, and you are not allowed to share your feelings or say no?  You probably feel powerless and violated in addition to feeling guilty, shameful, condemned, and perhaps lacking trust in the other person. Unfortunately, parents in their own feelings of powerlessness sometimes resort to manipulative techniques to get their children to comply with their requests.  We have all been there and done that type of behavior in the parenting journey, however, if we grew up with emotionally or verbally abusive behavior, we may not realize when we are being manipulative in our parenting. We desire to empower our children to move toward the design their creator has made them, but we take away some of the fuel they need to achieve their plan when we inadvertently steal some of their emotional strength via manipulative parenting techniques.  In the attached podcast, Licensed professional counselor, Sharon Wegman, and counselor Cait Beiler discuss the seven cardinal sins parents can inadvertently do that harm their children. Ephesians 6:4 cautions parents, and our podcast focuses on these provoking behaviors:

  1. Too much talking, lecturing, and nagging.
  2. Parental tirades and temper tantrums.
  3. Parental tears and guilt trips.
  4. Parental threats of harm to the child.
  5. Inconsistency in the parenting.
  6. Disagreement in front of the children.
  7. Lack of giving to the children.

A Dozen Ways You Can Help a Person Who is Struggling

A Dozen Ways You Can Help a Person Who is Struggling

From the dawn of time, we have documented stories from the Bible in which people did not know how to help others who were grieving and in emotional and physical pain.  There are so many reasons that people are not skilled in helping those in distress. Those reasons can range from their own childhood trauma, lack of seeing it modeled and a plethora of other reasons.  However, we are called to be a people who comfort those who mourn and many times our western culture does not know how to do that when pain lasts for longer than a couple of weeks. While the culture of the west is more educated in psychological distress such as depression and anxiety, we are less skilled in grieving with those that are mourning and long-term support of someone struggling for an extended period of time.  In this podcast, Sharon Wegman, LPC and Cait Beiler of Wellsprings Solutions, LLC discuss a dozen ways that you can help those that are struggling.