Finish Treatment Tag

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Do You Need to Dumb it Down in Treatment?

Do You Need to Dumb it Down in Treatment? 

 

One of the things that’s common in some therapeutic communities, when it comes to recovery is telling people to dump it down. And I understand what they mean, but I don’t like it. Because I like to think.

If you learn to reason well, which is not about coming to the conclusion that I had before I started reasoning, that you’re actually trying to figure out the truth of the situation. That has been an incredible asset.

 

 

Recovery is cognitive

 

In my recovery, in many ways, a lot of my recovery was cognitive. It was an intellectual endeavor. I was trying to reason whether or not this made sense to do. Now reason alone won’t do it. 

I have to have some foundation, some axiom there. And my axioms are to live is better than to die and to be healthy is better than to be sick. I don’t know why that is. I can’t tell you why that is. It’s a choice that I make. It’s the foundation for the rest of my reasoning. 

Once I start there I could build up reasons to get clean, that makes sense to me, reasons to do things I don’t want to do, reasons that I can transcend my ego desires. 

A part of what I do when I work with people, is I try to harness that.

 

If you ask questions, and you’d like to learn, instead of telling people like, “Hey, dump it down. Don’t think. Just show up.” 

 

You can actually harness that asset that people have and use it.

Now, the reason why people don’t like it is because people have the capacity to reason their way into what they want. But just means you’re not reasoning, good enough, well enough. It doesn’t mean don’t use your reason. It means use your reason better. Right? And that’s a huge part of recovery.

 

If you know, I need to make reasonable decisions to have a healthy life and if I don’t know how to think well, I can’t do it and there are techniques and ways to think well. 

They don’t teach you that in school. You memorize a lot of facts in order to figure out how am I supposed to be in my relationship with this person when I’m in a moral conflict between using drugs and my parents, you know, coming into town next weekend. How do I weigh those competing claims and come to a decision, you know. We don’t teach people how to do that, but we can. 

 

 

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“When I’m High, I Really Want to Be Sober”

Addiction hijacks- let’s call it semi-rational thought, as a way to justify ego desires. 

 

The simplest way to put this is to tell a story. 

 

I remember working with a client, and he was about a week sober, had gotten out of detox from opioids. He was a week sober and he was still in some obsession to use heroin. And he very earnestly approached me as a counselor at the time. That’s probably 10 years ago.

 

He said, “Can I talk to you for a little bit?” I said, “Sure.” We went back in my office, and he said, “I’m craving. I really want to use heroin, you know, will you help me?” 

I said, “Well, tell me what your plan is. How are you– let’s lay it out. How are you going to go use heroin?” 

He said, “Well, I go to Inglewood. I’m going to get some heroin.” I said, “Slow down. Do you have any money on you right now?” He said, “Yeah, I got 10 bucks.” “Well, first of all, give me that 10 bucks.” I took that 10 bucks. 

Then I said, “So, how are you going to get ahold of your dealer?” And he said, “I’m going to call him.” I said, “Do you have a cell phone?” He said, “No. You like picked up on my game, right?” And I said, “Okay, well now, if you don’t have a cell phone, how are you going to call dealer?” 

He said, “We go to the gas station, and I’m going to call him.” I said, “But you don’t have any money.” He said, “Well, panhandle and then I’ll call my drug dealer.” 

I said, “Okay. So, we’re going to walk to the gas station on the corner over there. You’re going to call your drug dealer. He’s going to come drop it off.”

He said, “No. My dealer doesn’t deliver. I got to go to Inglewood. I got to get there. So, I’m going to take the bus.” 

I said, “Okay. So, you’re going to take the bus to Inglewood and you’re going to meet your dealer. Where?” “There’s Burger King in Inglewood.” I said, “Okay. And then what?” “So, I’m going to use.” “So, where are young going to use?” 

He said, “I’m going to use in the Burger King bathroom.” I said, “With what?” He said, “With foil and a straw.” 

I said, “Okay. So, using in a Burger King bathroom.” I said, “And then what are you going to do.” He said, “I’m going to be high.” I said, “Okay. And then what?” And then he said, “I’m going to come home.” 

I said, “Yeah. You’re going to go back to your mom and dad’s?” And he said, “No. They kicked me out and I’m going to come back here.” “Okay, so you’re going to go use at the Burger King. You’re going to get high in the bathroom. You are going to catch the bus back after you’re high. You’re going to come back to this treatment program.” So, yeah. I said, “And then what are you going to do?”He said, “Then I’m going to get sober.”

 And I, of course, you know, I said, “But you’re sober now. You’re already there. You don’t have to do the loop de loop.” 

And he looked at me and he said, “Yeah, but when I’m high, I really want to be sober.” 

And I said, “Okay, so what I hear you saying is that in order for you to get and stay sober, you have to get high again.” He said, “Yeah.”

 

The ego self had basically taken the rational ability and created a little narrative and story, that makes semi sense.

 

But obviously, if you use that rationale in your life, you’d never get sober, right? Because every time I try to get sober, I have to get high and be motivated to get sober again. You just do that rinse and repeat, over and over. It’s actually what a lot of people do. 

 

The ego self can hijack the rationale in order to create justifications

 

It’s a reality. And with this particular person, he actually did it. He didn’t do it that night. But a couple of days later, he left and incredibly he was right. He got high at the Burger King. We ended up referring him to a program out of town. And he’s, I think, sober eight, nine years now. So, he happened to be right. But it’s not a good equation as to how to get clean. As an example of how the ego self can hijack the rationale in order to create justifications to continue to enable addiction.

 

 

 

 

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Mindfulness in Treatment: Getting to Know Yourself

Mindfulness in Treatment: Getting to Know Yourself 

 

The other area that’s important that’s come into the treatment field, when we’re looking at kind of how to recover and become whole and become healthy, is what I would say the Eastern practices and I’ll lose the categorize them as mindfulness and of yoga.

 

Mindfulness is around intention and attention. 

 

If I meet somebody who’s suffering from addiction, demoralized, who’s ashamed, has some traumas in their background, often they’ll be sitting in my office, and you can kind of tell the level of trauma by body posture, and eye contact, and their ability to stay connected and intentional and paying attention in the interpersonal relationship.

 

The first thing that I have to do with this person is I’ve got to figure out how to help them feel safe.

 

That’s the beginning.  You build on that a little at a time in relationship with them and groups and individual work in casual kind of covert, nurturing and caring in the hallway, this kind of thing.  

Then eventually, when somebody is kind of here and they’re awake, that can take two, three months to blossom and start to change. 

This is a great sign when their affect changes.

 

Then work on the directing people’s attention and having people being mindful of the things that they’re engaged in that’s right in front of them. 

 

That goes to a very subtle level, eye contact, of focus, of being aware of what’s happening in my face and my shoulders, my neck and my back and that’s an endless route, both recovery and growth and wellness.

You can move deeper and deeper into the mindfulness attention and intention, by knowing what’s happening inside of your mind. 

Not just of what’s happening outside of me, but what’s happening in the dark, creepy recesses of my unconscious mind. The whole thing about recovery to me is to help people to move deeper into a process and become deeper people.

 

 

Get addicted to getting to know myself and working on myself

 

Not just me, but working on myself in relationship to all the people that I care about, to understand myself in the context of my work. 

That’s the “Wow. How can I be a better husband? How can I be a better father? How can I have a meaningful role in my work? How can I make a difference?” 

That kind of thing and when you get a little bit obsessed and curious about that, then recovery is not that hard

Then it’s this endless journey of getting to understand yourself, getting to understand the world, and interfacing with your reality in a way that’s meaningful, where you wake up and you look forward to it. 

 

Those are like the deeper realms of recovery.

 

Getting to understand yourself schematically. How you process stress and all that stuff. And actually, it becomes fun. It doesn’t become this chore. Then it’s not about, you know, when can I leave treatment,. Then it’s about what are the other ways I can get to know myself and I can get to grow learn to change.

 

 

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The Spiritual Element of Recovery

 

The Spiritual Element of Recovery 

In many programs, that you would go to, to engage in recovery from addiction, there’s a spiritual element to that program. So we have a spiritual program or something like this. And the most common spiritual traditions that they drawn are these Eastern traditions, Buddhism, the yoga, the mindfulness, meditation, these kinds of things. And honestly, I don’t think one can put into words the benefits of those practices.

 

 

Spiritual Psychology

There’s another spiritual tradition that’s more Western that I think is underutilized, which is spiritual psychology and it has to do with how the psyche works and it has to do with virtues. It’s sort of this mix of Greek thought, and philosophy and psychology.

 

That element is crucial because one of the things we’re addressing when we’re looking at recovery is who we are in the moral sphere. Because when you’re in your addiction, you feel demoralized and often ashamed of how you behave.

 

One of the things to try and figure out is how do I get in contact with my, let’s call it authentic self? And how can I be a better person? Which is a huge antidote against shame. If I feel like I’m being a good person over a period of time consistently, I usually don’t feel that a shame might take a while to get there. But we have to understand what it means to be a good person and that’s challenging. It’s a really complex philosophical issue and something that spiritual psychology looks at a lot.

 

 

The Ego- Self

In the moral sphere, the way that I think about that, is to think about a person as having a lower self, or you could call it -my great teacher, Dr. Rabbi Mordecai Finley calls it the ego-self- which is the, it’s a perfectly healthy part of the self for quick, unimportant decisions.

 

It’s the part of me that’s driving the car. That’s in chit chat on the elevator, that’s all ego-self. “Oh, would you like me to push this floor for you? Let me open the door.” You know, etiquette and basic memorized, mechanized ways of responding in the world. Ego self is great at that. 

 

However, we needed to function. I don’t want to be looking at a doorknob thinking what do I do here? How do I go through this door? What does this mean, right? Ego-self is great with that kind of interaction that we have. 

 

 

The ego-self is terrible, a complex interpersonal reaction. 

And any deep relational interaction is complex. It’s going to be reactive, impulsive.So, one of the core parts of spiritual psychology is this question of being able to identify when I’m in my ego self and when that’s appropriate. And when I’m in my higher self.

The really tricky part about addiction is that you become confused about the difference between those two ways of thinking and you use inconsistent rational thought to rationalize and justify ego desires, if that makes sense. 

 

An ego thought does not stand up to scrutiny. 

If you ask your ego deep questions, it cannot give you deep answer. It doesn’t have deep answers. To figure out how to respond in accordance with the situation so that you can continue to build on the most important thing.

 

 

 

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The Physical Aspects of Recovery

One of the things I don’t talk about as much–but it’s so important–is the physical aspects of treating addiction. 

 

Now this doesn’t necessarily pertain to people who are already “fitness freaks”. There’s a whole group of people that come into treatment and their primary coping tool is the gym and eating well. For those people, they’re not gonna get the same kind of relief from the gym beyond what they’ve already got. They’ve already dealt with the nutritional and physical aspects of their neurophysiology. 

 

But there’s another huge group of people who have never paid attention to their body. And sometimes it shows.

Huge Amounts of Information Are Stored in the Body

And we know that traumas are stored in the body. Memories are stored in the body. We know you can tell a lot about how a person is doing based on their body language, energy, posture, and eye contact. 

 

In order to have a full recovery, you have to take care of the body. Meaning: you have to be mindful and intentional about what you’re bringing into your body, what you’re eating, and what you’re drinking. 

 

And you have to be mindful and intentional of the physical activity you’re engaging in to help the body reach close to a peak performance.

Of Course, Exercise Is Healthy, But Did You Know…

There are meditative exercises that exist. I think particularly swimming, biking, and running.  Real rhythmic, physical activities, that open up different emotional spaces. When we’re in a deep depression emotions get locked in. 

 

I’ve told a story about when I picked up bike riding. On my first long bike ride, I just broke out in tears. There was so much emotion that was stored in my body. Until my body was moving in a rhythmic way, I couldn’t get to it. 

 

One of the big ways to relieve that stress and anxiety is to start to take care of your body more. The way to do that well is to find an exercise routine that actually works for you. I do biking, it’s really hard for me to lift weights in the morning, and frankly I don’t enjoy it. And I don’t like gyms. I like to be outside. So, biking is great for me. 

 

I wake up early in the morning and I jump on a bicycle. And it’s an automatic warm up; I kind of ease into that exercise. And, for me, it’s great because I’m kind of like, rusty in the morning. Biking, to me, brings this rhythmic, meditative thinking that just blows the thoughts and anxieties right out of my mind.

 

Of course, you have to find the exercise that’s right for you

 

The physical components of recovery cannot be understated. It’s not my area of expertise. There are people who know much more about it than me, but it’s definitely worth talking about.

 

 

 

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The Desire to Move Forward

When I’m working as an addiction or spiritual counselor, clients want to climb the ladder of treatment. They want to move forward in their lives, which is understandable. We all want that direction. 

 

And that idea of moving forward in treatment–that’s a therapeutic issue. I don’t mean that as an evasion. Our conception of what it means to move forward is a therapeutic issue. 

 

How do I answer clients when they ask, “When is it time to go? When am I ready to leave?”

 

I used to say, “When you’re willing to stay.” 

 

Considering Your Desire to Finish Treatment

 

My answer wasn’t cruel or a joke. I answered the question sincerely. 

 

I wanted them to ponder:

  • What happens when you come into treatment?
  • What is this urge to move out? 
  • What do you think is at the end of this journey?
  • Is there an illusion that when you leave treatment you get your freedom back? 

 

Many expect leaving treatment restores the freedom to do, “What I want, when I want, and how I want.” That it’s some kind of promised land. That life is going to feel better–everything’s back to normal. 

 

But your life wasn’t normal before you got there. You had an addiction problem and were suffering. And, in fact, when you leave treatment, life is more complex and difficult with less support. 

 

So it’s actually harder. 

 

I had a counselor that told me–when I was in treatment–the only thing that should change when you leave is your address. And what he meant by that was all of the tools and support that you’ve created while in addiction treatment–the kinds of choices you make and the things you have and haven’t been doing–all of that should stay the same. 

 

Treatment is the First Step of Your Recovery

 

Don’t think because you move forward in treatment that it’s going to relieve your stress and anxiety. That, actually, may be what’s driving this idea of moving forward. 

 

We all want to move forward in our lives, which is a complicated thing to even define. There’s a stress and anxiety that exists inside us all at times. If you’re active in addiction, stress and anxiety has a powerful pull. Yet we think, “If I can just get through these obstacles and move forward that will relieve the stress and anxiety.” 

 

But actually what relieves the stress and anxiety is dealing with the underlying conditions of the emotions. What relieves the stress and anxiety in my interpersonal relationships is not getting away from them. Then I’m just guilty because I’m not around. Right? 

 

I have to work through the emotions. And that’s what we’re actually doing in treatment. So it’s really a reframe. You’ve got to reframe your idea of moving forward. You’ve got to reframe your idea of stress and anxiety. 

 

Another thing I used to say: that feeling you have–that restlessness and boredom–that’s your ism. That underlying cluster of feelings exists inside of you and drives you to use drugs and alcohol. So every time you have that feeling, it’s a signal for you something is up. That is the ism you have to address.

 

 

 

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