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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. 

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

Summer: When the Kids are Home and Moms Go Crazy!

Summer: When the Kids are Home and Moms Go Crazy!

School summer vacation has an immense undercurrent to it these days.  Below the surface of the joy that the children feel about summer vacation from school, there exists a hint of angst when parents think about children being home in summer.  It is rare though when a parent openly shares their negative feelings of shame and guilt associated with children being home. There is less structure, less mom time, and less money available because food, entertainment, camp, and vacation expenses go up. Moms, in particular, feel more guilt and shame over not being able to be the fantastic mom portrayed in social media. Therefore, they find it difficult to focus on the positive aspects of connecting with their children and find summer to be a struggle. Two conflicting emotions are colliding! However, God desires to empower us in all the losses and negative feelings we experience during this season.  We love our children; however, we may need some assistance in processing our feelings of guilt, shame, inadequacy, and powerlessness that get stirred by the summer break. Join host Sharon Wegman and her guest host Jesukah Beachy (mom of four girls) as they discuss how to bring empowerment to the negative feelings tied to summer break.

Help for Parents of Summer

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.

What Happens in The Quiet

What Happens in The Quiet

This morning, I got up early and walked the dog as I always do before I came to work. I savored my alone time on the walk, and then on my drive into work as it was the first quiet, non-stimulating alone time in five days. The holidays are exciting because we spend time with people, and have special foods, specials concerts, and stimulation of all shapes, sizes, and textures. However, my walk this morning told me I desired the structure of my alone time more than I realized. This year I have valued my solo pre-dawn walks of the dog so much that I went out of my way to ask for a Christmas gift of a unique, heavy-duty coat for walking in the extreme cold. It’s long, heavy, and it has this fantastic, all-encompassing hood that kind of makes me look like the grim reaper; however, it gives me the coverage to continue below zero walks of the dog. When I take the time to be in the quiet, I organize my thoughts, perceptions, needs, and desires in a manner that makes me feel empowered in my life. When I fail to take the time to be in the quiet, I am more disorganized, forgetful, less spiritually focused and I put aside the things that I need without taking the time to recognize what I need to pursue. I am a more focused and happier version of myself when I include daily periods of silence.
In my line of work, I hear all the reasons why people cannot have the alone time they need, but not all the ways they are working to make it happen. Many people desire the quiet at the same time they fear it. We need calm. We were designed to value quiet so that we would pursue that which impacts our body, soul, and spirit. However, many people fear the quiet and the alone because their tormenting thoughts invade the space of the quiet. Tormenting thoughts are the signal you need to process your thoughts on paper with God or with someone like a trusted friend, pastor or counselor. If you ignore the feelings that come in the silence, they will grow louder and will begin to be heard by you in your interactions with people, your work, and your family relationships. The holidays are winding down; I look joyfully to the reboot of peace and structure of the new year. How about you? Are you dreading the silence of January? Do you have tormenting thoughts to be processed so that you can embrace peace? Isaiah 30:15 b says this about quiet, “In return and rest you will be saved; quietness and trust will be your strength, but you refused.” It’s important to understand that many of the individuals that achieved much take the time to retreat into the quiet to build their strength instead of running harder to get to their goals. If you are training to be stronger spiritually and emotionally, it’s essential that you begin to incorporate quiet into your day. Make the decision to face down the elements that prevent you from entering the quiet and equipping yourself with the necessary tools and boundaries that make quiet possible.
Start asking yourself and God why you prevent yourself from being in the quiet and make a plan to move toward it.

Five Years from Now

The other day I found myself walking the dog before the sun had risen and I reflected on the fact that I now enjoy the solitude and peace of our early morning walks together unlike seasons past.  There was a time that walking the dog before sunrise would have been repulsive to me; however, as my season of life has shifted and what I value in this period is different than the last.  One of the keys of embracing the season you are in is not focusing on the season to come or the season from the past but concentrate on embracing the good in your current season.  People tell me things they don’t like or don’t want for their future, but we change just like the seasons and what is of value to us in the seasons to come may not be of value to us to us now.   When I look back on my life in the last five years, I can see that I was changing through those years to the point that I am now a morning person and a person who likes walking the dog before dawn.  Who knew I would enjoy that habit of pre-dawn walks, or be a morning person for that matter?!  If you look to your future to be filled with the same elements of today, you will be disappointed because life, people, circumstances, and everything else changes.  Five years from now you will be a different version of yourself.  Have hope, friends. Life will not be as it is today.  In fact, life will be a better version if we continue to push toward the disciplines our heart is calling to us right now.  

“No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.” Hebrews 12:11

Are you able to find the beauty in a bad day or are you an “all good or all bad day” type of thinker?  Rarely do we have an entire day in which everything is terrible, but it can certainly feel like we have that kind of day when all we look for is the negative after something bad happens.  The challenge for any given day is to look for the good when a day goes wrong, but that choice is a very intentional choice that sometimes requires a lot of emotional energy.  So how does one look for good when an awful thing happens?  It is hard to sometimes do that on our own, and many times this type of challenge requires the help of safe friends to help us break out of this pattern of thinking.  However, most people going through great loss do not want to hear easy answers, platitudes or “christianeze” ( the language spoken by people who are followers of Christ who sometimes give religious answers instead of compassionate answers).  Most of the time you have no idea how to verbalize a need when you are in shock and loss, and we rely on others to figure out what we need.  Alas, giving all our power to another to give us good care can sometimes feel a bit vulnerable and scary.  For most people it boils down to one innate need:  to feel loved and comforted.  What does a crying baby need when they are upset and have no words to express what is going on it their head?  To be held, to be loved, and to be reassured that no matter what, it’s going to be ok.  Quite frankly, sometimes humans stink at this, but there is a God we can turn to who promises to reassure us and love us when man does not; however, we have to invite Him into that process of loving on us because we will miss it if we don’t look for it.  Just like we will not be able to see good if we choose to look for bad, sometimes we miss God loving on us because we are not looking for it.  Choose to look for love today.  Choose to look for the good.  God will send you comfort via your dog, the cashier at a store, a neighbor or objects that bring you comfort.  He is very present, but sometimes we do not know how to recognize the form He has taken.  I vividly remember a day where God showed up in the midst of a bad day and I recognized him because I had been looking for him.  I was in the midst of a stressful season of life juggling the many hats that a mom or dad can  can juggle and I was complaining to God about how hard my life was at that time.  I just needed joy and life and I remember seeing white daisies along the road and saying to him, “ I just miss the old Sharon who had time to do creative things that bring me joy like cut daisies on the side of the road.”  Three counseling sessions later in my day and in walked a client with white daisies and I knew that I knew that God had brought me those flowers via a human and my joy from the event exceeded my pain level.  I knew that I was loved and that God wanted to comfort me, but I am pretty sure I would have missed the significance of the flowers if I had not been looking for God in the midst of a bad day.

Isaiah 66:13New International Version (NIV)

13 As a mother comforts her child,

   so will I comfort you;

   and you will be comforted over Jerusalem.”

Are you looking at light or shadows in your life?

Are you looking at the light or the shadows that you see as you walk through life?  Sometimes there are many significant obstacles in life, and we find ourselves focusing on the shadows they create instead of the light that is above it or beyond where we currently are walking.  Walking in a dense forest can feel this way because the woods makes things feel darker than it is at the moment.  However, if I keep walking, I find a way out as long I stick to the path and continue to observe the sun in the sky.  Counseling is often a journey through a dense forest created by our past and current obstacles that have arisen in our life.  To complete the mission to open spaces that provide freedom, we have to choose to look ahead or above to the sun that is in the distance.  Unfortunately, many of us have moments in which we focus on the shadows the obstacles have created, and we fail to keep moving because we think this is the way the rest of life, our day, or our week will look.  On a recent 10 mile hike through a massive gorge, I was forced to come to a decision that I needed to focus on anything positive I could see, feel, or hear around me as a means of forcing me to continue to make it through the gorge before nightfall.  I had to make that decision after I found myself counting every time I overturned my ankle (I was at 19 slips on the trail before I stopped that nonsense) or every time another member of our party complained.  The more I focused on the negative aspects of the journey, the harder the hike became to the point that I was sure one of our party would soon incur injury or death in the gorge.  I now marvel at my accomplishment, and so do others, but I know that the thing that got me out of that gorge was my choice to focus on everything that was positive on the hike.  I moved faster and more confident when I focused on everything that was positive and my choice on what to meditate upon was the thing that brought me to the end of my journey.  Am I saying that we should ignore the losses and negative things in life?  No.  God calls us to trade our ashes for beauty, and it’s our constant challenge to invite God into the losses so that he can redeem them and turn them into beauty.  So I ask you today, what are you looking at on your journey?  The shadows or the light above?  At the same time that the world tries to rob you of your power is the same time that God promises to empower you.  The Apostle Paul wrote to the community of Philippians regarding focus while, most probably (nobody knows with certainty), imprisoned in Rome.  I wonder if he learned how to endure hardship by choosing on what to focus?  Paul told his community friends to do do the following in Philippians 4:8-9(MSG): “Summing it all up, friends, I’d say you’ll do best by filling your minds and meditating on things true, noble, reputable, authentic, compelling, gracious—the best, not the worst; the beautiful, not the ugly; things to praise, not things to curse. Put into practice what you learned from me, what you heard and saw and realized. Do that, and God, who makes everything work together, will work you into his most excellent harmonies.”

I went and got a massage on my shoulder and neck the other day after a couple of weeks of intense pain.   I have this problem of waking up to find that I am sleeping with my arms over my head, and the next thing I know my neck and shoulders are tense and pained and out of alignment due to a previous injury I experienced as a child.   Going to the massage therapist would work hard to remove the muscle knots and tension in my neck and shoulders, and I knew that the experience would be painful.  In fact,  I might have intense pain that day, and the day after; however, I was moving toward healing physical pain by forcing myself to go through more pain.  Dealing with pain that creates more pain is an analogy that sums up most of the ongoing physical, emotional, and spiritual pain we struggle with in life.  We either move toward solutions that will be painful in the short term, or we avoid the nagging pain we feel every day.  It’s true that we can choose to live with pain or sometimes we have no choice in the pain that is inflicted upon us. Regardless, we do have a choice with what we do with that pain.  Will I move toward healing solutions for the painful things that continue to drain me or will I allow the nagging pain to continue?  I don’t know about you, but when I am in pain, it drains my happiness in many areas:  I cannot rest well, I can be more cranky with my family, I avoid things that usually please me because I fear pain, and pain makes me physically tired.   We avoid dealing with the painful situation because we know it will be worse in the short term. However, the long terms effects on us are even more severe.  Depression, anger, and powerlessness tend to seep into other areas of our lives, and soon we realize how far we have allowed that painful situation to go.  For many people, the very addictions they deal with were short term pain “medications” they choose to use instead of going through a period of learning new ways to cope with pain.   What is the painful situation you are not moving toward bringing about a solution?  Why are you allowing the pain to continue to drain happiness out of you?  It’s amazing how having a hard conversation with someone can free you from depressive behaviors you had allowed to creep into your life.  It’s amazing how making the hard decision to put up strong boundaries with draining people in your life brings about more freedom.  Every time we move toward pain it is temporarily harder; nonetheless, the long term benefits are huge!  The book of Hebrews says it this way, “No discipline seems pleasant at the time, but painful. Later on, however, it produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it.”  Hebrews 12:11 (NIV)

Be who You were made to be!

Be who You were made to be!

After recently speaking at a women’s conference, I have been meditating on the quote of St Catherine of Siena:  “Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.”  I realize that while I am a good counselor, I am a better speaker, and I do the world and myself a disservice when I don’t do more of what puts fire in my bones and that of others.  It is at this point in my blog, I reassure you, that I am not going to be giving up my job as a counselor shortly, but I need to move towards more public speaking.  What is it that you are great at doing that you are not doing in life?  Why have you chosen to give away your power to numbing yourself instead of giving away your power to endeavors that set you on fire?  Because, believe me, when you are doing what you are great at doing, it will set others on fire because they will not just see it, they will feel that which you are gifted to do.  They will be “set on fire” by the use of your gift.  Do you want to change your world?  Do you want to be light on a hill?  A fire that cannot be quenched?  Start doing more of what you are great at doing and if you do not know what that passionate fire is in your life than you need to take your power back so you can figure that out.  So many of us have tried to stuff our giftings in boxes that those around us have deemed to be the right box and, in the process, put out our fire in a box by closing the lid.  Fire needs oxygen to spread, and it needs to be fanned.  I challenge you to find a group of supportive friends who can both fan the flame and help you remove the structures you have erected that contain the fire.  Each time you use the gift you were born to use, you fan that flame and the fire grows.  People who have heard me speak reassure me that each time I speak to large groups, I grow in my giftedness and I can feel the difference, too.   Have you ever heard Andrea Bocelli sing opera?  My grandmother was an opera fan, and I would listen to Pavarotti with her during my childhood, and out of nowhere Andrea Bocelli burst on the scene of opera and sang opera in a different fashion.  Bocelli’s expression of emotion in his modernized singing of opera introduced a segment of the population to that style of music that previously never listened to opera.  He entered the music scene because of the encouragement of his friends and family and made a choice to leave his career as a lawyer to pursue his passion.    You may not be an opera singer. However, we need you to use your gift and to set us on fire.  You are uniquely you, and nobody else can be who you were meant to be!


Ephesians 2:10

For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them