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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.

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

Changing How We Relate to People by Understanding Ourselves

Changing How We Relate to People by Understanding Ourselves

How do you relate with others?  Are you secure? Do you struggle with social anxiety?   Sometimes understanding the truth of how we relate to people is the first step to beginning to make the necessary changes in how we relate to people.  Most people fail to understand that attachment takes place in the first three years of a person’s life, and the individual’s world view is primarily established in the first twelve years of a person’s life.  We have very little control over how we learned to attach to and relate to people, but we do have power over how we change to relate to people. In this podcast, Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss the basics of Attachment theory which was originated by John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth and consider how the therapeutic process can bring change to how we relate to people.

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.

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.

Who Are You Listening To?

Who Are You Listening To?

Doing new things can be scary. In fact, most people sit across from me saying that they don’t like change and I tell them, “You are pretty normal. Most people don’t like change.” In fact, most people would venture to say that while they want to change their lives, the changes necessary for change are daunting and overwhelming. It feels more comfortable to do things as we have always done things; however, when we examine the emotional, spiritual, physical, and relational costs of not making changes, the price is much higher than if one never made adjustments.

There is a story in the Bible about what happened to the children of Israel when they arrived at their promised land after being released from slavery and abuses of all kinds. They had lived as victims for generations, and while they saw God’s hand repeatedly rescuing them as they exited their abusive captivity, it was hard for them to visualize being able to take the necessary steps to receive the promised land. Twelve were sent into the area to see what God wanted to give them and, of the twelve, only two were confident that the same God who had rescued them from slavery would enable them to be strong enough to make the changes necessary to access the promised land. You can read about this story in the book of Exodus.

It’s hard to think differently than we have been taught. We are taught how to live by our parents, our grandparents, our teachers in school, friends, our culture, etc., etc.. Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that we are making decisions based on things that someone told us repeatedly that weren’t true. The children of Israel had been told lies about their worth in captivity, and so when they were brought to the crossing over point, they could not do it because of their old beliefs about who they were won over what God had been telling them and showing them. God literally had to keep them in a holding pattern for 40 years until all of the old ways of thinking had died and the next generation who had not lived as slaves knew their worth. They saw God as their daily provider and were able to make a choice to make changes.

What about you? Are you looking at crossing over into the promised land and your old thinking is keeping you from making the necessary changes? Where did those thoughts come from? Where did you collect them from in life? Do they match what God says about you? In my own personal experience, each time I come to the threshold of new, I have to invite God into my listening process, or I could easily listen to the old recordings from my past. Rarely do I see how each thing will play out as I make decisions, but as the Bible states, “ the steps of the righteous are ordered by the Lord.” Each new step I take into a new promised land more is revealed and released that I would never have seen until I crossed over. Like Joshua and Caleb (the two of the twelve that knew they could cross over), I need to surround myself with friends who believe the same things so that their thoughts and words can spur me on to new.

Change is hard. Whose beliefs are you listening to today? God is bigger than anything you have to change.

Manipulation in Relationships

Manipulation in Relationships

Manipulation in relationships is pervasive in all relationships in life.  Be it our relationships with our significant other, our child or with a friend, most people resort to some form of manipulation in the course of their life to get what they want without having to be vulnerable and state exact needs.  We fear vulnerability because of the fear of rejection and abandonment; denial of our needs feels much more hurtful than that of getting our needs met through manipulation. When one person wants another person to do something, our human nature can readily resort to some type of manipulative words or behaviors to get what we desire in the situation.  Transversely, when someone is trying to get us to do something that we do not want to do, our human nature can quickly resort to passive manipulation as our way of maintaining power and saying no without being rejected. Think of the child who is told no to a request for a piece of candy. The child does not yet have control of their impulses, and so they may start whining for the candy or throw a fit of rage to try to manipulate the adult to give them what they request.  If the child is given the candy as a result of their manipulation, they are likely to quickly learn at an early age that they can manipulate people to get what they what they want. We learn manipulative tactics at an early age from observing the ways of our parents, and we slowly start incorporating manipulative ways into how we live. Some of the manipulation tactics are very visible, and some are more covert in their expression, but none of the tactics builds safety in relationships. Children will not feel safe and secure with parents who manipulate them, our significant relationships will not grow where manipulation is present, and our friendships will be stunted in growth under the absence of vulnerability and the presence of manipulation.  Manipulation twists relationships into something that cannot thrive because of the poisons of hurtful words of behaviors can stunt the growth of a relationship, cause abnormalities to develop and in some cases cause the relationship to die. If we want our relationships to thrive, we are going to need to work hard at not only eliminating manipulative behaviors and words and become more vulnerable in our expression of our needs and feelings. In the attached podcast, Sharon Wegman and Cait Beiler discuss the continuum of manipulative words and actions including; Isolating, withholding, minimizing, accusation, deceit, coercion, demeaning, criticism, rage, and threatening amongst other behaviors.