Category Archives: Addictions

Confessions of a Would-Be Alcoholic

Time to Drink?

Time to Drink?

Today is one of those days when putting two thoughts together and having them make sense and become something concrete seem entirely impossible. And before you jump to any conclusions, I have never formally been diagnosed with any mental disorder or disruptive condition – although I did break my right ankle when I tripped over my dog a few years ago.

So, what, you might ask, is going on with me. – at least I know that is the question running through my brain since it is not something that typically happens to me. If I had to come up with a single word that describes what I’m feeling it is “spacey.” And no, I’m not even sure if that is a real word at all, but I think it conjures up the way I’m feeling.

When I think of “spacey,” I picture outer space and a lot of uninterrupted areas. Maybe off to the distant side, there may be a cluster of light haze-like fog formed from a handful of stars, but for the most part, there is a lot of open space with nothing concrete around. That is exactly how it feels inside my own head.

I want to go in some direction and I get an idea, fleeting as it may be, but no sooner do I reach out to anchor it to a second idea and just like in a Star Trek movie, the next thought whooshes out of sight, traveling at the speed of sound, light years away; forever out of reach. Spacey!

My background is in mental health so I go into research mode and I quickly find the National Alliance on Mental Illness website. According to NAMI what I am experiencing is indeed a symptom of a disorder known as “Depersonalization.” It is most commonly marked by feelings of distance and detachment from one’s own self or body – which is most likely why I didn’t consider it part of the disorder at first, but the more I researched it, the more I found that it can also involve the same feelings of distance and detachment from one’s own experience. Bingo!

It then goes on to describe the sensation as feeling as if in a dream or being “spaced out.” What makes it a disorder is the frequency and severity of the interruption; because people also describe many of these same feelings when intoxicated. Bingo again.

Alcohol Does

Alcohol Does

I have been feeling a lot of disappointment and sadness in my personal relationship with my partner and although I have been stating it openly and maturely time after time, his own mental health issues leave me feeling totally alone and alienated. Deep in the late night hours of night, when stillness and silence are my only friends, I reach for a glass of wine, to unwind. Before I know it, I am reaching for another; even a third. And although my partner has long since begun snoring, I am sitting quietly and being lulled to sleep on the living room recliner.


REALITY CHECK: Although this has not been going on for so long and it is only wine, I am drinking too much. I believe the way I feel today, is my brain’s way of telling me that I am doing something harmful, even though at the moment when I do it, I can convince myself that it is helpful.

Am I on the brink of clarity here – totally on the edge of being able to see clearly, despite feelings of being spacey and distant, that I need to step back in order to avoid self-harm and possibly even addiction?

I may be going through a rough spot with my personal relationship – I am definitely afraid that I have to face the reality that my partner and I may very well need to come to terms with where things are with us, I’m not sure…maybe it is just me who has to come to those terms. But, what I do know is that I’m not going to find comfort or clarity by drowning my unhappiness in another glass of wine.

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

The Therapeutic Alliance: The Essential Ingredient for Psychotherapy



 I am currently writing on the ‘therapeutic alliance’ – its relation to mindfulness, psychotherapy, understanding, and ‘being listened to…’   What follows is an interesting article that I came across that may interest some of you…


Have you ever tried to change the way you do something? It could be anything — the way you hold your tennis racket, blow into a flute, meditate — you name it. If so, think about that experience. No matter how motivated you were to change, and no matter how much you knew that it would help your serve, musicality, or sense of inner peace, it can be difficult and scary to change even the smallest thing. In order to change, you have to give up your old way of doing something first and then try the new way. That means that for a while you’re in a free fall — you no longer have your old habit to rely on and you don’t yet have the new one.

The anxiety of trying to change something as complex and entrenched as how you relate to people close to you or manage stress takes the feeling to a whole new level. Yet, that’s just what you do when you enter psychotherapy. Just as you had to put yourself into the hand of your teachers and coaches, in therapy you need to gradually do just that with your therapist to help you through what can be a harrowing adventure. The foundation for therapy is called the therapeutic alliance (1, 2). When it’s there, you know that your therapist is there to help you, no matter how hard the going gets.

The therapeutic alliance might be the most important part of beginning a psychotherapy. In fact, many studies indicate that the therapeutic alliance is the best predictor of treatment outcome (3-5).

See entire article:


A mad world A diagnosis of mental illness is more common than ever – did psychiatrists create the problem, or just recognise it?


Unfortunate Events

When a psychiatrist meets people at a party and reveals what he or she does for a living, two responses are typical. People either say, ‘I’d better be careful what I say around you,’ and then clam up, or they say, ‘I could talk to you for hours,’ and then launch into a litany of complaints and diagnostic questions, usually about one or another family member, in-law, co-worker, or other acquaintance. It seems that people are quick to acknowledge the ubiquity of those who might benefit from a psychiatrist’s attention, while expressing a deep reluctance ever to seek it out themselves…

…While a continuous view of mental illness probably reflects underlying reality, it inevitably results in grey areas where ‘caseness’ (whether someone does or does not have a mental disorder) must be decided based on judgment calls made by experienced clinicians. In psychiatry, those calls usually depend on whether a patient’s complaints are associated with significant distress or impaired functioning. Unlike medical disorders where morbidity is often determined by physical limitations or the threat of impending death, the distress and disruption of social functioning associated with mental illness can be fairly subjective. Even those on the softer, less severe end of the mental illness spectrum can experience considerable suffering and impairment. For example, someone with mild depression might not be on the verge of suicide, but could really be struggling with work due to anxiety and poor concentration. Many people might experience sub-clinical conditions that fall short of the threshold for a mental disorder, but still might benefit from intervention.

See link for interesting article on psychiatry…and bits about the importance of psychotherapeutic intervention…

The Food-Mood Link


Citation: Newswise Life Wire

Peter Pan

Peter Pan

Remember Peter Pan? He sprinkled some of Tinkerbell’s Fairy Dust on Wendy, John and Michael Darling and as soon as they managed to think happy thoughts, poof, they became light as a feather and were able to take flight!

Well, I can’t promise that you’ll grow wings and take to the skies, but according to a new report published in the Journal of Consumer Psychology called “Better Moods for Better Eating: How Mood Influences Food Choice,” you can start yourself on the path to becoming as light as a feather.

Our moods absolutely impact the way we eat. The study indicates that not only do our moods have something to say about the type of foods we choose to eat, but also how much we consume.

Professor Brian Wansink, from Cornell University’s Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management and co-author of the paper claims the study proves that people turn to food to feel good. This means we eat to keep ourselves happy and also to make ourselves feel happy. So, here’s the logic. If we are already feeling happy, we are more likely to eat make more healthful choices when it comes to food.


Just a quick plug for my previous blogs about mindfulness and eating: For those of us who deal with weight loss issues and struggle to maintain a healthy weight, we now know exactly what it is that works against us if we don’t practice becoming more mindful about what we eat. We want to feel happy and we believe that in some way, eating will help us attain that goal. We can intercept the cycle of reaching for foods that may not be the ‘smarter’ choice, through mindfulness.

Associate Professor Meryl P. Gardner, Wansink’s partner and co-author from the University of Delaware’s Lerner College department of Marketing, believes “when we think about the future, it’s almost as if we are physically taking a step back, enabling us to see our more fundamental values – like health and nutrition. We can use that to make wiser choices rather than letting our moods dictate our behavior.”

Yep! That sounds like mindfulness to me.

Healthy Eating

Healthy Eating

So, here’s what we now have more reason to know…Being mindful about how we are feeling, checking in under our own hood, and thinking ahead a bit can really help us eat healthier and manage our weight better. The happier we can feel before its time to eat, the more likely we are to choose well and reap the benefits of feeling and looking better.

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Mindful Recovery



Did you ever make up your mind that you were going to buy a new car? One of the most amazing things happens when that occurs. After painstaking contemplation and consideration, you finally decide on the make and model you are going to get, maybe even the color.

It is always right after this decision that you become amazingly aware of just how many makes and models in the same color you have chosen are actually on the road. It is almost as if a magic car fairy has transplanted all these ‘imitation’ vehicles on the roads you travel, just for you to be able to see just how your new car is going to look on the road once you get it.

Not really, but it sure does seem that way!

Well, it’s sort of like that when it comes to me and the term mindfulness. I first ran across the word term when a colleague of mine who is very up on these types of things began using it in conjunction with regard to her working with her clients who were overly anxious. She didn’t define it, but I pretty much understood what the concept meant through the content of her description.

To be mindful means to be able to tune in without distraction – not only the type of outer distractions we are all so familiar with, but also anything going on within us as we are dealing with a given situation.

Yada Yada TShirt

Yada Yada TShirt

Time for a bit of honesty here – because we all do it. I know you know what I’m talking about – I am as guilty of it in my role as anyone – we are called upon by someone who has something to say to us, be it professionally or in our private lives – maybe our spouse or our son or daughter – and we start out attending to them and listening intently. But out of nowhere, we get walloped with the thought that we have to be at the field to pick up little Jimmy and there is bound to be traffic and dinner is going to be late enough as it is and yadda yadda….

Before we know it, our insides are shaking, our brainwaves are frazzled and we haven’t really heard the last 50 words the person speaking to us has said.

We are human. Our feelings are impacted due to all the thoughts that float in and out of our heads. I have heard most people averages about 60,000 thoughts per day. That’s an awful lot of opportunity for internal distraction, don’t you think?

It is clear that achieving a successful mindful practice is no simple feat. But before you throw in the towel, lets look at what’s in it for us if we truly give it the ‘ole’ college try.’



Some benefits of linking mindfulness practice to recovery are:

• More control
– and better equipped to deal with the ups and downs that are a natural part of everyday sobriety in life. Early recovery can be one of the most challenging emotional rides a person will ever be on. If you can carry mindfulness along on the roller coaster ride with you, you’re one step ahead of the game.

• Easier management of interpersonal relationships – since no man, or woman, is an island, we all have to play well with others in order to avoid unbelievable press and possible triggers that can send us back toward the very path we’ve sworn to stay off of.

• More pleasure and joy in life – by learning to stop and notice some of the smaller, simpler things in life, we also get to notice some of the more glorious and beautiful things in life.

• More tuned in with cravings
– and if we recognize it for what it is when it arrives (and believe me, it will arrive) we can avoid being swept up by it. We learn to accept them for what they are, not attempt to butt heads with them or overpower them.

• Relapse avoidance – similarly, by learning to recognize the warning signs of relapse and face them for what they are, we give ourselves the best possible odds of being able to live ‘this too shall pass’ and miraculously, it does.

There are even more benefits to living a more mindful life that will make themselves known to you the more you are able to focus in on them. You will be astounded and more at peace, happier and less fearful of tomorrow…something every one of us deserves and most definitely can achieve.

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Addiction – Just the way the cookie crumbles



Addiction. It is a topic that has impacted all of our lives. If it doesn’t apply to us personally in some way, shape or form, it applies to someone we know or used to know. The more technology applied to the workings of the brain, the more we understand about pleasure-centers that get stimulated and how this links our behaviors toward substances that produce the sensation.

Just recently, a study with Oreo cookies and rats drew a lot of attention, when researchers concluded that Oreos were as addictive if not more so than heroine or cocaine. The media, of course jumped all over the study and the finding and although I haven’t heard any personally, I can only imagine the late-night monologues having some wise cracks injected about licking out the middle first.

But on a more serious note, there is quite a debate among experts who take issue with the conclusion and the way it was drawn. Let me begin with the part that is not being debated. Nobody is denying that junk food is quite habit forming. This has been proven and not the issue.

junk food

The first issue is going further than that and claiming that junk food is more addictive than heroine or cocaine. Those most against the claim cite how the rats were not given a choice of selecting junk food or heroine. The conclusion was drawn from the choice of continuing to eat or to stop eating when given electric shocks. Nobody has actually provided both substances to the animals and then seen which they preferred.

Another issue that is brought up is that of linking addiction with junk foods such as Oreo. There are experts in the field who believe this association cheapens the significance and importance of drug addiction. They are fearful that people will consider it more of a joke or a fun thing than something as serious as the disorder that destroys the lives of so many.


I tend to think of eating too much as an addiction because of how many people I have known who choose to eat for reasons entirely other than nutrition and hunger. To me, if there were a ‘scale’ of sorts inside our brains that could measure when we had ‘enough,’ if that scale worked appropriately, people would know when to stop and be able to do it more easily without the massive problem our society faces with that of obesity.

Junk food, which tends to be very high in sugar, carbohydrates and fats, most likely does process in ways to create a desire for more of what we crave. I think addiction is an awful thing to live with or to see others live with – I don’t know that it matters what type of addiction it is.

Judy is a licensed clinical social worker and has worked extensively as a counselor with children, adolescents, couples and families. Judy’s professional experience in the mental health field along with her love of writing, provide insight into real-life experiences and relationships. Her fresh voice and down-to-earth approach to living a happier, more meaningful life are easy to understand and just as easy to start implementing right away for positive results!

Paying it forward: When the Addict Becomes the Counselor

  • Posted in ADDICTION RECOVERY with

    Paying It Forward: When the Addict Becomes the CounselorIn the seven plus decades since AA was formed, the recovery industry has grown by leaps and bounds. While the stigma associated with addiction and alcoholism has not disappeared entirely, society has become much more compassionate toward those who suffer from these afflictions, making it possible for substance abusers to step forward and ask for help without fear of rejection or recrimination.

    Treatment for addiction is not a panacea, and only those who are serious enough about recovery to put their hearts and minds and every ounce of energy they have into the process can expect to achieve lasting results. But there is no question that drug and alcohol treatment and rehabilitation centers have provided immensely beneficial services to millions of afflicted souls across the planet, people who might have lost their battles with addiction without the selfless and invaluable assistance of dedicated and highly-trained recovery support networks. There are more than 100,000 people working in the US recovery industry as counselors, administrators, social workers, rehab technicians, and support staff, all of whom made the admirable decision to share their talents, insights, and training with desperate individuals looking to break the chains of chemical dependency.

    But what motivates those who choose to work in addiction treatment? Is it just a compassionate attitude in general, or is there another reason for their decision?

    From Patient to Counselor: A Chain Reaction of Compassion

    Of course the answers to questions like this are always complex. But for many of the 100,000 who have chosen to enter this field, personal experience was apparently a major factor—studies show that more than one-half of all addiction treatment center employees have their own history of substance abuse problems, and this number includes thousands of addiction counselors who, following their return to sobriety, elected to undergo training that would qualify them for work in this blossoming field. Pulled back from the brink by caring professionals, these recovering addicts and alcoholics elected to become counselors themselves, allowing them to “pay their debts forward” by helping others trying to overcome substance abuse find their way back into the light of sobriety.

    No one would suggest that direct experience with drugs and alcohol must be a prerequisite for anyone considering a career as an addiction counselor or therapist. Regardless of specialty, a strong knowledge base, good listening skills, and an empathic soul are the essential elements that define an outstanding therapist. Counselors who know first-hand what addiction does to a person’s life and how it actually feels to be inside the addict’s skin may be able to connect with substance-abusing patients on a level that surpasses the ordinary doctor-patient relationship.

    In ordinary medical circumstances, the forging of such a bond would not be a priority—few patients going in for cancer surgery would be likely to care whether their surgeons had ever been treated for cancer, for example. But with something as personal and sensitive as addiction or alcoholism, where embarrassment and shame are still often lurking just beneath the surface, the situation is more complicated. For a substance abuser determined to find sobriety, revealing every sordid detail about a history of addiction to a counselor can be incredibly difficult, no matter how much he wants to change. But it is a necessary step, and if an addict in therapy for chemical dependency knows the person he is speaking with has traveled the same path and is unlikely to judge or make unreasonable demands, it could make it much easier for him to open up and tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth about what he has been thinking, feeling, doing, and experiencing.

    The doctor-patient relationship in a therapeutic setting develops through conversation, as mutual trust and understanding are built up gradually over the course of multiple sessions. While any obstacle that appears could disrupt the development of a productive working association, common life experiences on the other hand can help facilitate a deeper connection, and the addict who has a recovering substance abuser as a therapist will know he is speaking with someone who is equally well-versed in the theoretical andexistential aspects of substance abuse and will not be surprised by anything the addict might reveal. A shared history of addiction can help the patient and the doctor create an atmosphere of healing that is comfortable, relaxed, and controlled, where everything that has happened or that might happen as recovery unfolds can be discussed and evaluated honestly and without hesitation.

    Onward and Upward

    It is important to emphasize that a highly-qualified addiction counselor with no personal history of substance abuse is preferable to a therapist in recovery whose intentions are honorable but whose skills are lacking. Nevertheless, the desire of many recovering addicts and alcoholics to pay it forward by spreading compassion and healing across the broken landscape inhabited by substance abusers is highly admirable, and it has helped dramatically expand the available pool of talent from which treatment and rehabilitation centers can draw when looking for committed and motivated employees.

    Without the eagerness of so many recovering addicts and alcoholics to enter a profession that threw them a lifeline when they were on the verge of drowning, there would not be enough qualified addiction counselors to meet the needs of all the substance abuse victims who want to overcome their problems. So in this case the ‘pay it forward’ concept is clearly working, and in spectacular fashion.

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Double standard still exists


imageDouble Standard Still Exists

Posted on June 30, 2013

By many standards Drew would be considered a stud. He has had sex with an outrageous number of women, and no, he is not a porn star. He is a good-looking thirty-four years of age tall and toned man who is a smooth-talker with the ladies. To the guys he is a stud. If Drew were a woman, the perception may be be she is loose and gets around. The double standard still exists. Let’s look at Drew’s story.

As we delve deeper into Drew, we will discover that he is not only a sex addict but an alcoholic as well. One could probably write a book on his life and choices. In an interview, I asked him a series of questions and gained a new perspective into his life. Choosing what part of his story to share and what part of his life to leave out, was not a simple task—but here goes.

Drew’s parents were married 17 years, but his parents did not have the ideal relationship. There were constant fights and arguments that he witnessed regularly growing up. His dad would go to strip bars to drink watch the dancers, and cheat on his wife. On a number of occasions, Drew, as early as the age of ten, would have to go into these bars to drag his passed-out dad home. He would also be physically abused by his dad and see his mom suffer the same recourse. His mom was fed up with not receiving love and positive attention that she would also cheated on him. The family dynamics for Drew growing up were not ideal. In order to seek refuge, he sought sexual encounters with multiple girls while in middle school (ages 11-13). In fact his first sexual experience was when he was eight years of age.

At the age of seventeen, Drew’s parents divorced and even though there was conflict in the home, the divorce really hurt him. He continued having sex with girl after girl to make him feel good. Instead of seeking a therapist, Drew developed a defense mechanism, which was “I will hurt you before you hurt me.” He was tired of being hurt so he figured it was his turn. This decision led him down a long road of self-destruction, alcoholism, and drug use. By the time Drew graduated high school, he didn’t have any respect for women; he just wanted to conquer them.

Drew recalls one New Year’s Eve, his mom bought him alcohol to ring in the New Year and he thought that was just the best thing ever. His mom had a boyfriend over and wanted to be able to do her own thing that night and so he could do his own thing. Parental guidance and boundaries were non-existent for him growing up.

Drew had a decision to make after high school: go to college or the military. He chose the military and quickly found a group of friends to party with and girls to sleep with. His pattern of sleeping around, alcohol, and drug use continued throughout his military career where he was ordered a “general discharged under honorable circumstances.” All that means is because of his good work ethic (and only this one time he was caught with drugs), the military judge had grace on him.

After the military, Drew and a friend, were hanging out at a lingerie bar and it was there he met the girl who would bore his two children at 23 years of age. Their relationship did not last and Drew continued his sexual activity with women even with his young children in the picture. When he was ordered custody of his children, he had to conceal his drug use, sexual activity, and alcohol usage from them.

One day Drew was having a BBQ where he was smoking and drinking. His daughter came out seeing him with a cigarette in one hand a bottle in the other and asked, “Dad, are you doing drugs?” That day a lot came out in terms of his dependence on alcohol (he could drink up to 30 cans of beer a day), cigarettes, and his anger problem. A lot came to the surface that day and he was able to give up alcohol and cigarettes—but not the sex with multiple random girls.

At thirty-four years of age, Drew is now able to look back and realize he was/is a sex addict. Over all the years from when Drew was in middle school all the way through to the beginning of his 30’s he never thought he was a sex addict. He had girls come his way and usually they sought him out most of the time and he was always willing to engage in sexual activities with them. It wasn’t until he finally sought help and his children’s biological mother asking, “Why do you always have to have a woman around you?” that he realized sex was something he needed—that he was in fact a sex addict. Additionally, when he attempted to count up the number of girls he had slept with, Drew estimated it to be above three-hundred.

Growing up Drew watched his dad drink and he self-medicated to mask the pain. With every sexual encounter, he tried to fill a void in his life, a void that he is filling in a healthy manner nowadays.

At first glance sleeping around may seem attractive on the outside, but when one realizes what is going on internally, that is when sometimes a deeper hurt is revealed. How about you? Are you trying to fill an emptiness in your life with sex? Whether you are a man or woman sleeping around, there are still consequences (no matter what our culture says); what are you attempting to escape from

His Battle With Addiction Ends in Tragedy

Posted in: Addiction

‘Glee’ Star Cory Monteith: His Battle With Addiction Ends in Tragedy

By Sherry Gaba, LCSW

Cory Monteith, known for his role as Finn Hudson on “Glee,” was found dead of a suspected drug overdose in his Vancouver hotel room Saturday afternoon. The cause of death has been found to be a combination of alcohol and heroin, according to the New York Times.

Pacific Rim Hotel staff discovered the 31-year-old’s body when he failed to check-out of his hotel room as scheduled. He had apparently been dead for several hours.

Monteith, who previously admitted to drug and alcohol use beginning at 12 years old, had just completed a stint in rehab in April. It was not his first time in rehab. When he was 19, the star received treatment for his addiction. He described his addiction as a serious drug problem and that he took “anything and everything.”

The actor’s close friend and co-star Dot Jones attributed his using drugs to a “rough childhood.” His parents divorced when he was seven, leaving him without a father figure. In past interviews, Monteith had been frank about his substance abuse. It appears that denial was not an issue for him as he openly sought treatment shortly before his death.

Something to note about Monteith’s story is that his addiction plagued him when he was “unknown” and reemerged during his celebrity. Addiction can transcend socioeconomic status, class, race, ethnicity and age. There is no such thing as a typical drug abuser. Drug addiction does not discriminate – you can be rich or poor, famous or virtually unknown, a man or a woman… theoretically, anyone can become an addict.

This perspective does not deny that certain individuals are pre-disposed to addiction or substance abuse. Research has shown that certain groups can be more vulnerable to the ravages of drugs and alcohol.

Nevertheless, Monteith’s untimely death brings the drug epidemic sweeping Hollywood to the forefront. Staying sober in La La Land is quite different from everyday life. These stars may never hit “rock bottom.” They may never lose their job, relationships, families, etc. When everyone around you is a “Yes Man” it makes it tough to say no.

Monteith leaves behind his co-star and fiancée Lea Michele.