4 Ways to Not Beat Yourself Up Over Your Breakup

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The pain of rejection is intense when a person discovers that someone they loved so deeply is no longer able to reciprocate. The unrequited partner’s despair may lead them to believe that they will never be good enough to deserve enduring love. Yet every living, breathing person will face times when they will be rejected. The bridge over those troubled times is the awareness that the feelings of loss and hopelessness are not permanent.

Relentless self-criticism prolongs and confuses the grief process. Instead of self-criticism, use an agonizing breakup or divorce to grow and to better know what to look for (and look out for) the next time around. Here are four ways to stop the spiral of self-criticism that so many experience when going through a painful breakup or divorce:

1. Consider who you are, separate from this relationship.

Perhaps you lost yourself along the way with your ex. Who were you before this person was in your life? Also, consider who you want to be. Fine-tuning your interests, hobbies, and friendship goals is an extremely valuable way to start moving on. Use the painful ending of a relationship as a way to grow more into the type of person you wish to be, not as an opportunity for self-abuse. List your interests. Make short-term goals that you check off each day and longer-term goals of where you wish to be in six months, a year, five years. The path forward is easier to follow when a person knows where they wish to go.

2. Consider if your expectations for yourself are unrealistic.

For many, culture has promoted the idea that love and romance should come easily. If it doesn’t, people blame themselves for not meeting a standard that appears easy to achieve for others. In the real world, each time we break up, we discover more about ourselves and learn more about what we need romantically. The expectation that we would nail it, without a learning process, is unrealistic and self-defeating. In fact, for many it takes a few lost loves to find the one that sticks. Each time you self-criticize, consider the idea that you are not inherently flawed, but in thinking so, you may be setting yourself up for an unrealistic expectation that love should come quickly and without hardship.

3. Consider what you learned from your ex.

Each failed relationship is an opportunity — not for self-abuse, but to take stock of what we learned about ourselves. If you take in the data, you will grow, and you will be much more likely to find a suitable long-term mate. Notice each time you go down a self-critical spiral. Perhaps you chastise yourself for your personality, your appearance, or things you said (or didn’t say). As soon as you become aware of the self-critical spiral, take out a journal and write — not about your flaws, but about what the relationship taught you to work on as an individual. Examples would not be “too fat” or “too needy.” Healthy examples include “work on improving communication skills,” or “build up interests and hobbies of my own,” or “don’t give up everything for my partner.” (In my workbook, Breaking Up and Divorce: 5 Steps, I describe specific strategies for how to heal from romantic trauma and start attaching with healthy romantic partners.)

4. Consider how you will feel about your breakup in 15 years.

It may be hard to believe at this moment, but there will very likely come a day when you do not think as deeply about this current loss. In fact, the healthy future you may even be able to laugh at some of what is occurring at this moment. Believe that if you continue to grow and learn, you are going to find someone eventually. The relationship you are grieving is serving the purpose of helping you to be more ready for your future.

Jill Weber, Ph.D., is a psychologist in private practice in Washington, D.C., and the author of The Relationship Formula Workbook Series, including and Building Self-Esteem—5 Steps: How to Feel ‘Good Enough.’ For more, follow her on Twitter @DrJillWeber and on Facebook, or visitdrjillweber.com.

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6 Myths About Women and Addiction

 

 

shutterstock_310310273While biology and circumstances affect who is at risk for addiction in both sexes, can shape how , loss, and family influence that risk. Women grow up with different cultural mores, process feelings differently, and in some cases appear more biologically susceptible to certain addictions. But many clients and professionals fail to recognize these important gender differences. Here are six of the most common misconceptions about women and addiction:

1. Men get addicted more often than women.

This used to be true, but the gender gap is closing. While males tend to start using drugs earlier and more often than women, both genders, once introduced, are equally likely to continue using. Women are one of the fastest-growing segments of drug users in the U.S. An estimated 4.5 million women have a substance use disorder, 3.5 million misuse prescription drugs, and 3.1 million regularly use illicit drugs. This costs more than 200,000 women their lives each year.

2. Women and men become addicted for the same basic reasons.

Women are twice as likely to suffer from and as men, partly due to differences in chemistry, and women with anxiety or depression are likely to self-medicate with drugs or as a way to manage intolerable feelings.

is known to trigger among both men and women, but research shows women may be more disposed to the harmful effects of stress and addiction than men. Both men and women struggle with drug cravings, but men’s brains tend to crave drugs when presented with drug-related cues, whereas women’s brains respond to psychological stress cues.

Women are exposed more often to certain types of trauma that can fuel drug abuse. For example, interpersonal violence can play a significant role in how and why women fall into addiction. A history of violent trauma is more common among women with drug addiction, placing them at high risk for . They’ve also had more exposure to incest, sexual abuse, and family violence, and are often more vulnerable than men to physical attacks.

Pain is another common driver of addiction. Women suffer more frequently and more intensely from pain, according to several studies, and they may require more for relief. In one study, women required at least double the morphine needed by males to achieve comparable pain relief. They also are more likely to have chronic and inflammatory pain conditions, such as and osteoarthritis.

Hormonal influences also uniquely impact women through all stages of life, possibly making them more vulnerable to certain addictions. A recent study found that estrogen can increase the possibility that females will start — and continue — to use . Researchers found that women transition faster to cocaine addiction and have more difficulty abstaining from the drug. Another study found that menstrual cycle-dependent fluctuations can impact drug cravings in females.

Women also face unique social pressures and influences. The marketing of alcohol to women and the “mommy needs wine” mentality of social media have likely contributed to addiction problems. Popular groups like “Moms Who Need Wine” have tens of thousands of fans. One company calls wine “Mommy Juice.” is celebrated with memes and photos of cocktails as a way to cope with the stress of motherhood.

3. The stigma of addiction affects men and women equally. 

Both men and women are harshly judged for having an addiction, but addicted women face even greater stigma, which keeps many from getting the help they need. Women take on many roles and responsibilities, often including the role of primary of young children, which can add another layer of and judgment. Pregnant addicts face the greatest stigma: One study showed that 25 percent of pregnant women with an opioid addiction were untreated, and researchers believe stigma was part of the barrier to them receiving help.

4. Substance abuse impacts women the same way as men.

Studies show that women get addicted to drugs faster and experience an accelerated progression from the initiation of substance use to the onset of dependence. This progression has been observed specifically for , , and alcohol. By the time women enter treatment, they are often facing more medical, behavioral, psychological, and social difficulties, even though they typically used less of the substance and were exposed to it for a shorter period of time than men.

5. Women are more likely than men to get help for their addiction.

Women face a number of unique barriers to drug and alcohol addiction treatment, including family responsibilities, financial limitations, transportation issues, and stigma. Possibly as a result of these barriers, research shows that women are less likely to receive adequate substance abuse treatment or to seek the specialized care they need. In 2011, women accounted for just 33 percent of admissions to drug rehab centers, for example.

Many women feel more comfortable in a women-only rehab center, where treatment is tailored to their unique needs and they can share sensitive feelings and experiences without the distraction of the opposite . Essential components of treatment can include focused support for working through issues of rape, , spousal violence, and other forms of trauma, as well as comprehensive treatment for co-occurring mental disorders.

6. Men and women relapse at similar rates and for similar reasons.

The good news is that women who receive substance abuse treatment fare very well. They relapse less often than men, perhaps because they’re more willing to ask for help, make needed changes, and utilize for emotional support, and are more likely than men to remain abstinent over time.

When women do relapse, it’s often for different reasons than men. Negative feelings and relationship problems most often prompt a return to drug use for women, while men tend to relapse in response to positive experiences that make them let their guard down or feel entitled to indulge their cravings.

All of these misconceptions keep women stuck in a cycle of shame and addiction. But with a greater investment in gender-sensitive research in recent years and more treatment centers offering specialized programs tailored to their needs, we understand better than ever how to support women on their path to recovery.

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Source: Shutterstock

David Sack, MD, is board certified in , addiction psychiatry, and addiction medicine. As chief medical officer of Elements Behavioral Health, he oversees a network of addiction and mental health treatment centers that includes gender-separate rehabs, like the Ranch in Tennessee and Promises Malibu Vista women’s mental health retreat.

What Are the Practical Steps to Quitting Porn?

There are many practical things to keep in mind when trying to break free from porn. Here are six:

1. Education – You need to educate yourself about all the things porn is robbing from your life, the way it’s negatively impacting your brain, your body, and your relationships—even your most cherished relationships.

2. Clean House and Set Up Boundaries – You need to make sure you clean house and set barriers between yourself and access to porn. That might mean getting an Internet filter, taking a different route home from work, or even locking down your phone so you can’t access the Internet from it.

Now you’re probably going to be tempted to leave some doors open because you don’t think they’ll be a big deal. Don’t do this. Remember this mantra: “When you’re are at your best, plan for your worst.” Right now, if you have resolve to avoid porn, remember, a day will likely come when you don’t have that resolve, so making sure you have built-in protections now is key.

3. Set Small, Measurable Goals – Don’t make promises like, “I’ll never watch porn again.” Start with, “Today, I will not watch porn.” You need to stop thinking about sexual freedom as a destination and start thinking about it as a daily—sometimes hourly—choice.

4. Write Down Your Exit Strategies – Write down the places and situations where you’re most tempted and then write down how you plan to flee from those situations in that moment. In the words of St. Josemaria Escriva, “Don’t be such a coward as to be ‘brave.’ Flee!” And when you write these exit strategies down, be specific.

5. Sexual Fasting – Fasting involves abstaining from a good thing for a period of time. If you’re married, then talk this idea over with your spouse. Remember, from a clinical perspective, a porn addict is hooked on the neurochemicals released in his or her brain during the pornographic encounter. This powerful neuro-cocktail of dopamine, norepinephrine, oxytocin, vasopressin, endorphins, and serotonin is responsible for the physical aspects of porn addiction. Many addiction therapists recommend letting these neuro-circuits rest for 6-8 weeks.

Now, sexual fasting can also have a powerful positive effect in your marriage since it will enable you to be creative in ways you show love to your spouse. It’ll also show him or her that you view her as a person to be loved, not an object to be used. If you do this, I recommend talking it over with a counselor first.

6. Writing Down Positive Motivations – There must be some reason you want to stop looking at porn. What are those reasons? Write down a vision statement that says, “This is the kind of man or woman I long to become,” and then write down character traits and virtues that you want to have, things you know porn is robbing from you. Write it down and read it aloud to yourself every day. When you are tempted, pull it out of a pocket and read it again. Remind yourself of the person you want to be.

These are just a taste of the practical steps we can take. Learn more in the free book, The Porn Circuit.

covenanteyes.com · by Matt Fradd · May 8, 2015

Your Church Is Looking at Porn

 

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The world is a blurry place.

I feel like the lines between right and wrong, dark and light, good and bad, used to be more obvious.

Words like “Christian,” “porn,” and “addiction” would not have been used in the same sentence just a few decades ago. But, in this post, we want to bring them together and shed light on a serious issue in the church today and how church leaders have a unique opportunity to help their people who are looking at porn.

(Here you can get a sneak peek at our answer to creating a more open, grace-filled culture at your church. But, don’t miss reading the rest of this post too.)

The Difference Between Right and Wrong Was More Obvious

“Those videos” were in that other section of the store. “Those movies” were only available at the XXX store downtown or late at night on HBO, Showtime, or Cinemax (and only rich kids had those channels). “Those people” only hung out in that part of town. Far away from the protective shield of the “Neighborhood Watch” program operating in my neighborhood.

Most depravity had some sort of physical barrier or access, distance, or cost that prevented most people from being exposed to its seductive pull. Finding it required an element of intentionality.

The Internet changed everything. The Internet took the far away, the forbidden, the hard-to-access, and the expensive, and made it accessible, affordable, and relatively anoynomous. No barrier to entry. No passwords. No limits.

Our postmodern culture also changed everything. Objective truth was replaced with factual relativism. Morality based on an absolute truth was replaced with morality that adjusts to fit the views, experiences, and feelings of every person. No one is wrong. No one is right.

Therefore, it’s hard to tell the difference.

Even Israel Lost Its Way

The prophet Isaiah wrote, “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and light for darkness; who put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter” (Isaiah 5:20). These are actually God’s words. He is talking specifically about the nation of Israel.

Israel had become a nation where darkness was pronounced as good. For the nation of Israel, the fade from clear to fuzzy (and downright backward) happened slowly. As king after king strayed further and further away from God, the nation followed. The fade to darkness happened so slowly that people didn’t realize they were in it. Everything seemed normal to them. They had so completely accepted the abject, the detestable, and the abnormal, that even evil seemed like it was good. Even darkness seemed like light.

America seems to be following suit. Increasingly, our nation accepts the loud voices of those screaming, “Evil is good! Good is evil!” Those who call attention to the darkness are often bashed as ignorant, intolerant, and old-fashioned. According to a blog written by Sunny Slope Church of Christ:

“Standing firm on righteous principles is portrayed as extreme, even eccentric.And most of the righteous among us seem to contribute to the problem by simply saying nothing in opposition to what is happening. We sit on the sidelines watching, but doing nothing to stop the digression.”

Church, where are you?

Are you a church leader who feels like sexual sin represents every other issue you deal with in your church? If so, download some quick help through our e-book, Fight Porn in Your Church.

Porn Companies Are Winning the Cultural Battle–Here’s How

Most American young people believe that looking at porn is no big deal. Data gathered by Barna in 2016 supports this assertion, as teens and young adults ages 13-24 rated not recycling as a greater societal issue than watching pornography. How did we get here? What deliberate steps were taken to move our moral tolerance from split, single beds for Lucy and Ricky to a time where minors are depicted partially nude in Abercrombie’s fall catalog?

They’re winning the attention battle.

One of the web’s largest pornographic websites publishes annual figures to brag about the quantity and types of porn consumed on its website. On the surface, what they are doing to brag about their statistics is horrifying. But, it’s genius for their cause. It gets attention. When you’re a porn company, all attention really is good attention.

They’re winning the nice battle.

The same porn company that publishes their usage statistic has campaigns that attempt to help people and the planet. A few examples of marketing efforts used by porn companies include:

  • For Arbor Day, they planted trees once a viewer watched a certain minimum number of pornographic videos, using the campaign, “We give America wood.”
  • One porn company hired plow trucks, put magnetic stickers with their name on the side, and went through neighborhoods plowing driveways for free in Buffalo, NY, under the campaign “We get you plowed!”
  • Popular porn websites are creating sex education forums (“Human beings were made for sex! We’ll show you how! Aren’t we helpful?”).

Imagine the children out building snow forts in the yard, saying to each other, “Hey, that’s really nice! We like those trucks!” as the Pornhub plow truck goes by. A dark seed has been planted.

They’re winning the cool technology battle.

Consider this excerpt from my blog post titled “Pokémon Go and the Evolution of Porn“:

“Not surprisingly, the porn industry has quickly boarded the virtual reality train. Pornhub is the largest pornography distributor in the world, with over 3 million videos, and over 60 million daily visitors. In March 2016, it launched a free virtual reality channel, the first in the porn industry, where viewers are invited to a growing library of free 360-degree trailers.

Through Pornhub, smartphone users are treated to virtual reality videos optimized for both Android and iOS, playable through most virtual reality headsets such as Oculus Rift, Samsung Gear VR, and Google Cardboard.”

This same site has taken the popularity of Snapchat’s image filters and invites users to use them on nudes. Snapchat is the most popular social media platform among teens and young adults. The more that the digital porn ecosystem mirrors their favorite digital ecosystems, the more normal porn becomes.

They’re winning the needs battle.

Similar to social media companies, creators of digital porn are highly educated on the emotional needs of its consumers, and they are creating pornographic experiences to meet these deep needs. I wrote this about what porn companies know about our emotional needs:

“One VR porn creator spoke about the emphasis virtual reality porn puts on creating an emotional connection with the viewer through actual conversation. She said the “closeness” of VR porn makes fostering emotional intimacy easy. Further, she noted the desire for companionship is a big part of the adult industry that’s often overlooked, and that VR porn provides companionship that 2-D screens just can’t compete with.

Closeness. Intimacy. Conversation. Companionship. These needs are imprinted on every human soul. Our brains are wired to reward experiences that satisfy these needs.”

Ultimately, their goal is to inject porn in so many parts of regular life that it just feels normal. I heard a millennial recently say, “And porn is now seen as another rung on the sexual ladder.”

Want to learn more about how porn impacts your brain? Download Covenant Eyes’ free e-book, Your Brain on Porn, and learn five ways digital pornography warps your brain and three biblical ways to renew your mind.

Christians and Porn–We Need the Church!

What you just read is the porn narrative. “Normal.” “Cool.” “Helpful.” What is the counter-narrative? In most churches, it’s silence. And, in the silence, young people fumble around, desperately searching for sexual identity and finding it one click away. They’re finding it through the lens of YouTube, social media, and often through pornography.

Like wearing a dirty pair of glasses, watching pornography causes our view of sex to be fuzzy. Similar to the old days of watching a TV show with a misplaced antennae, you can partly make out the image, but it’s blurred and distorted.

We need the Church to be a clear voice. We need the Church to not just tell people why pornography is bad, but why God’s ideas are the best thing for us.

In April 2016, Ron DeHaas, CEO and Founder of Covenant Eyes made this bold statement in front of 900 church leaders, “The Church must take the lead in cultural change.”

4 Specific Steps for the Church

1. Reject the “me” narrative.

People love to come to church to be “fed.” While on staff in a local church, I noticed the prevalence of the “feed me, do what makes me feel good,” prosperity attitude. People have been chasing self-fulfillment for centuries. At the conclusion of Ecclesiastes, after indulging in every luxury imaginable, King Solomon came to this humbling conclusion:

“That’s the whole story. Here now is my final conclusion: Fear God and obey his commands, for this is everyone’s duty” (Ecclesiastes 12:13).

In other words, we must counter the narrative that human beings need sex to survive. Instead, they need Jesus. Are we constantly reminding people that the only true satisfaction comes from Jesus Christ? Are we teaching our people that we were created as spiritual beings before sexual beings? We need more of HIM. Not more of IT.

2. Treat sin as sin.

#thehiarchyisreal

How many times did you learn in Sunday School that all sin creates separation? Yet, many of us have placed sexual sin on the throne as the “queen mother.” After all, have you ever seen an addiction recovery group for greed or pride?

It was C.S. Lewis who said this in Mere Christianity:

“The sins of the flesh are bad, but they are the least bad of all sins. All the worst pleasures are purely spiritual: the pleasure of putting other people in the wrong, of bossing and patronizing and spoiling sport, and backbiting; the pleasure of power, or hatred […] That is why a cold, self-righteous prig who goes regularly to church may be far nearer to hell than a prostitute. But, of course, it is better to be neither.”

Well said, Mr. Lewis. Does church leadership exude any amount of bias, spoken or unspoken, toward sexual sin? Examine the sermon illustrations. Examine your own gossip. What do people whisper about? Are there recovery programs in place for a multitude of issues, including sexual sin, that invite participants to be open, authentic, accountable, and judgment-free? Is the pastor leading by example with open and honest sharing about his or her own struggles?

Yes, we must shine light in the dark places where porn consumption and sexual sin thrive, but maybe it’s a light with the same lumens as the light we shine on laziness and gluttony.

3. Explain the “why” behind the “no.”

Historically, the church is wonderful at giving a list of “thou shall nots!” but not so skilled at explaining why God’s plan is abundantly better.

In the case of sexual addiction and porn consumption, the Scriptures clearly scream “flee from sexual sin!” but now a growing list of scientists and activists show us why pornography harms so many people (list adapted from The Porn Phenomenon).

  • Porn erases human dignity.
  • Porn says people are property to be consumed.
  • Porn represents TAKE. Love represents GIVE.
  • Porn presents a picture of sex that is carnal, aggressive, and often unrealistic.
  • Porn preys on the vulnerable (including children) and by design or accident incites sex slavery and human trafficking.
  • Porn is cruel, degrading, misogynistic, and distorts expectations of both masculinity and femininity.
  • Porn rewires human brains and porn users show all the common markers of addiction.

How could your church embrace science and culture as a means of furthering conversation about pornography instead of simply shutting it down?

4. The Bible encourages God-honoring sex. So should the church. Talk about it.

In Genesis 1:27-28, we read, “So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them. Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”

Later in Genesis 2:23-24, there is a sense of excitement and oneness that leads me to believe that sex was intended for more than just making babies. The very design of our male and female bodies points clearly towards a physical form that just works well together.

Church leaders can talk opening about sex and pornography, showing the chasm that exists between God’s plans for oneness, unity, enjoyment, and giving and porn’s lies of distance, secrecy, consumption, and taking. Silence from the pulpit and from parents to their kids actually whispers “this is dirty, naughty, and bad” and points curious little minds toward the endless pages of Google’s answers to the question, “What is sex?”

Churches must be willing to tackle tough topics. There’s no passive pastoring in the digital age. There are too many competing, twisted, digital voices. And, many of them, like the temptations of Israel hundreds of years ago, may even look and sound pretty good.

Take a significant step toward helping your church be a beacon of hope, grace, and recovery today! Communities from Covenant Eyes gives churches, small groups, non-profits, and others the resources and consultation support necessary to address Internet pornography. Your organization becomes the hub for a whole network of Covenant Eyes accounts, facilitating conversations, and fostering a culture of accountability. Communities. Now available from Covenant Eyes.

How To Make Feelings of Insecurity Go Away

psychologytoday.com · by Susan Krauss Whitbourne Ph.D.
Source: Photographee.eu/Shutterstock

Feelings of insecurity can come from many sources, both real and imaginary. You may feel unsure about whether other people really like you or whether you’ll get to keep your job. Or you may just be generally insecure. Whether the basis of your insecurity is real or not, the feeling can be crippling unless you know how to handle it. A new study by Peking University’s Wenjie Yuan and Lei Wang (2016) provides a simple step you can take to keep insecurity from getting in the way of your happiness and your mental health.

As proposed by Yuan and Wang, there are specific forms of insecurity, but also a general life insecurity, which they regard as detrimental to your mental health. They define general life insecurity as “a diffuse psychological concern about the safety issues across all life domains including, but not limited to insecurities of job, food, economic affairs, public incidents, health and medicine, and traffic” (p. 312).

The authors draw from Hobfall’s (1989) classic stress theory, Conservation of Resources (COR), which proposes that insecurity drains resources from our mental bandwidth, sapping any resources that are already threatened by loss or the prospect of loss. It’s difficult to concentrate on what you need to do to improve a bad situation if the situation itself is causing your coping resources to drain away.

The potentially easy way to put an end to those insecurities, as proposed by Yuan and Wang, is to crank up your optimism levels. When you’re optimistic, you tend to attribute events that could have negative consequences in a way that reduces their threat value, primarily by seeing those events as being caused by outside factors that will undoubtedly change for the better. Being an optimist, in other words, means that you see the glass as half full, that you ultimately view it as completely fillable, and that you are not responsible for its emptying.

It stands to reason that optimism would be beneficial to your mental health, and the Peking University researchers maintain that optimistic people are not only happier and less anxious, but better prepared to handle stress as well. Their optimism becomes a resource they can draw on in times of difficulty. The beneficial effect isn’t unlimited—under enough actual insecurity, when one is in danger for prolonged periods, it can become entirely eroded.

To test the relationship among insecurity, optimism, and mental health, Yuan and Wang recruited a sample of 209 adults (52 percent male, with an average age of 29) to complete questionnaires over two time points, about a month apart. The researchers used a four-item measure of general insecurity, gauging whether participants felt that all aspects of their life were “safe,” whether they felt generally insecure in “current social conditions,” “when walking down the street sometimes,” or it they wanted to “escape” due to feeling threatened.

The tendency to attribute success and failure to external events was assessed by asking participants to indicate, for example, how much chance causes problems in their relationships with friends. A Chinese version of a measure of “psychological capital” assessed whether participants tend to “look on the bright side.” Finally, general mental health was measured by asking participants to complete a standard questionnaire that included an assessment of one’s ability to concentrate.

The prediction was that the tendency to use external attribution would play a role in affecting optimism’s role in reducing the effects of insecurity on mental health. In other words, people who tend to make external attributions could face situations that threaten their feelings of security by drawing on optimism as a coping resource. Looking at this result, you may conclude that it’s fine to be optimistic as long as you’re a “glass half full” kind of person. However, the authors argue that optimism is modifiable: It’s a state (something that one can change) and not a trait (part and parcel of your personality).

In viewing optimism as modifiable, we can now discuss the challenge of viewing situations that threaten your safety and security in a favorable enough light so that you can cope with them. The ability to do so seems to lie in the attributional piece of the puzzle. Although the study regarded the tendency to externalize as a part of one’s psychological makeup, because it is a cognitive attribute (a function of the way we think), it would also seem to be modifiable under the right circumstances.

Let’s consider what happens when you’re facing a job interview or a first meeting with someone you met online. The measure of insecurity used in this particular study involved a general sense of being threatened, not a specific situation. However, if you’re someone who goes about your day feeling uncertain and afraid, such a situation could tap into those general feelings of anxiety about how you’ll respond. You may know it’s best for you to maintain an optimistic attitude because you’ll seem more self-confident and therefore more attractive to a potential employer or date. However, in the back of your mind, all you can think about is the last time you blew an interview or first date, and how badly it reflects on your personal qualifications; your insecurity levels are now sky-high.

Instead of making an internal attribution for your failure on the previous occasion, the study suggests you find someone or something else to blame: You didn’t get enough sleep; the weather was bad; the other person lacked the wisdom to see your many stellar qualities. You were not at fault. Now you can change your outlook and approach this new situation with a much brighter view of what’s going to happen. Presumably, your lowered stress levels will make that success all the more likely to occur.

It’s not necessarily wise, of course, to chronically ignore negative outcomes or personal culpability when bad things happen to you; you can always learn from failure. In the moment of trying to prepare for a successful encounter, though, that negativity will only make things worse.

Taking a vacation from self-blame can be the key to giving yourself the latitude to succeed, even at difficult tasks. By building your optimism, you can tackle feelings of insecurity through “proactive behaviors” (p. 316) that nip them in the bud. You may not be able to fend off all forms of insecurity all the time, but you’ll at least be able to prevent the threats that are within your control.

References

Hobfoll, S. E. (1989). Conservation of resources: A new attempt at conceptualizing stress. American Psychologist, 44(3), 513–524.

Yuan, W., & Wang, L. (2016). Optimism and attributional style impact on the relationship between general insecurity and mental health. Personality and Individual Differences, 101312-317. doi:10.1016/j.paid.2016.06.005

Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation: An Interview with Alexandra Katehakis, MFT

 
Recently, my colleague Alexandra Katehakis, founder of the Center for Healthy Sex in Los Angeles, published a research-based book entitled Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation: A Neurobiologically Informed Holistic Treatment. Her thorough understanding of the neurobiological underpinnings of sexual addiction along with ways to address these underlying issues in the treatment process is impressive. Recently, I was able to speak with her about both her book and her theories on treating sexual addiction. A partial transcript of our conversation is presented below.

Right now there is a lot of debate about what qualifies as “addictive” sex. What are your thoughts on this?

I conceptualize addictive sexual behavior as adaptive. Sex addiction is an adaptive strategy, because humans are incredibly adaptive. Our brains are highly automatic. If somebody has an experience when they are quite young that relieves some pain or some stress and it is functional for them, it becomes adaptive. So that person will repeat that experience over and over again. Automaticity in that way is a component of dissociation, and that is what we see in sex addicts. So I would say that sexually compulsive or addictive behavior is adaptive, not necessarily a choice as some would argue. It’s a result of the automatic brain. And, as such, it is often a repetition of trauma—not in an attempt to rectify what was done, which is an old definition of trauma repetition, but as a neurobiological construct, a pattern of behavior. And these are patterns of behavior that create stress and problems in people’s lives over time. So what was once pleasurable becomes problematic. Sometimes it remains pleasurable, but it also becomes problematic. Sex addicts report that they cannot stop their behaviors, even though they’re problematic.

So sex addiction is, basically, an adaptive response to early-life relational trauma?

Yes. That’s the aspect of sex addiction that I’m most interested in—what happens when people don’t get proper attunement, usually starting in infancy, so their systems aren’t brought to fruition in the way that the brain and the body are designed to develop and operate optimally. If there’s any kind of chronic unrepaired disruption, you’re going to get distortions in the organism. If you have a mother who is highly depressed or highly anxious, or is under some sort of duress where she’s traumatized, she’s not going to be able to attune to her infant in a way that’s going to bring its systems up optimally, and therein lies the intergenerational transfer of trauma. So it’s not just psychological, it’s biopsychosocial. And it’s all environmental. In other words, part of the environment is the mother’s psychology and another part of the environment is her neurobiology. So you have this problematic attunement, and if there is any sort of trauma after that, whether it’s bullying, beating, sexual, neglect, or anything else, then you are going to have problems.

One of which could be sex addiction.

Yes, because sex addiction is an auto-regulatory strategy. Because the child isn’t getting proper and appropriate co-regulation from its caregivers, the organism itself will find ways to auto-regulate. And as an adult that can manifest as an addiction.

That’s what you’re talking about when you discuss addiction as a chronic brain disorder.

Yes, the brain will adapt. It’s highly malleable. It will organize itself according to what it needs in order to function. The organism is always trying to right itself. It’s always going to try to move toward some kind of healing, so it will adapt and do whatever it needs in order to function.

So a sex addict’s brain looks different and functions differently than a non-sex addict’s (or at least a non-addict’s) brain?

Well, I would say that’s likely, but we’d have to do more research to say that for sure. But there is already some evidence to that effect, and it’s clear that clinically and phenomenologically sex addicts present differently than non-addicts. There are many different examples. Some have to do with perception, some have to do with relatedness. With perception, sex addicts perceive all kinds of distortions because they’re only focused on getting into the sexual experience. That is where their attention is all day, every day.

It’s a little like magic. You see a magician who uses sleight of hand, and the reason that works is because our attention is on one thing that the magician wants us to see, instead of what he’s doing to fool us. We don’t have our attention on other things that the magician is doing. That’s how magic works. For sex addicts, they’re only looking for the sexual experience. If you ask a sex addict how many massage parlors there are in LA, and where they are, they’ll tell you that they’re everywhere. But if you ask a 35 year old soccer mom, she’ll tell you she’s never seen one. It’s an issue with perception.

For evidence of this we might look at the Mechelmans/Voon attentional bias study, which showed that sex addicts are similar with their focus to, say, a cocaine addict. For instance, if you put a cocaine addict in a room with a pile of cocaine on the coffee table, that’s all he will see. He won’t notice the color of the couch, or the carpet, or the walls, or anything else that a normal person would typically notice.

Yes, sex addicts are the same.

In your book you write, “Once addictive sexual behaviors have been arrested, the work of repairing and supporting neurophysiological structures through human relatedness must begin.” Can you explain what you mean by that?

That means that therapy has to be a two person relational system, where the therapist is actually engaging in a real relationship with the client. Historically, psychoanalysis has been more of a symbolic relationship with the client, where the client authentically projects onto the therapist that they’re the mother or the father or some problem figure and the therapist makes interpretations about that. With sex addiction, I believe the addict and the therapist need a real relationship. And together they work through whatever their issues are, so both of their subjectivities are being worked through simultaneously. It’s a coregulatory process where both parties are engaged, both parties are changing. There are ruptures, there are repairs. There’s a slipperiness to the process, but that’s what changes brain structure and function. In the same way, 12 step meetings are enormously valuable. It’s the fellowship, the coffee, the relationship that has addicts starting to trust other human beings again. That’s what starts addicts toward feeling they’re not alone. Twelve step recovery is a come as you are program and all are welcome, so people start to recognize that they can trust other people and they can get their needs met.

So you’re saying these hardwired reactive pathways that we build very early in life need to be rebuilt or worked around with new pathways, and that happens through relatedness?

Yes, we’re rebuilding pathways that were blighted, or that were never formed to begin with. Obviously, with people who are severely dissociated you’re talking about long-term therapy that requires resonance, closeness, safety, and trust between client and therapist so that the client’s uncoupled circuits can recouple. This is the work required for neural integration; this is the process of recovering dissociated self-states. And we really do see profound changes in people over time when they’re working in this way.

I had a guy who came to group last night who’s been in recovery for a long time who has some very serious psychological problems. But he’s worked very hard for years to restore his life. Recently, he lost his job, and he started slipping with pornography, and he felt a tremendous amount of fear about coming into group and talking about it because he didn’t want to be shamed, and he has a hard time with confrontation. To his credit, he came back anyway, and the group was really compassionate with him about what he’s struggling with. I saw a distinct shift in his level of defensiveness and fear, so that he was able to be more compassionate with himself. His pornography use was inconsequential to the group because it was clearly an auto-regulatory coping mechanism and, therefore, a regressed move he made to soothe his many anxieties. What mattered most was the relationship between the men in the group.

He may also have learned that he can come back to group any time he has a problem.

That’s exactly right. When I asked him what he needed from the group, he said, “I need for everyone to tell me that I should keep coming back.” Which is not what he learned in early life, when he was shamed and ostracized. This is exactly the type of relational work that he desperately needs.

How does your PASAT treatment model, as discussed in your book, differ from the cognitive-behavioral approach that most sex addiction therapists rely on in the early stages of treatment? Or does PASAT simply formalize the process of moving, over time, from cognitive-behavioral work to trauma and relational work?

It’s different than the traditional model of using CBT first, and then moving into deeper dynamic therapy, which is a bifurcated model. With PASAT, the actual relational work is happening during the cognitive-behavioral treatment protocol. Sex addiction therapists in general tend to ascribe to Patrick Carnes’ CBT model, which lays out a road map on how to help people get sober. But therapists have to simultaneously be working on the relational aspects. So it’s not just about giving somebody an assignment and processing the assignment with them, it’s about co-regulation—tracking all the nonverbal cues of the client while the therapist is also paying attention to his or her own somatic countertransference, and tracking the client’s affect, gesture, and autonomic cues. So the therapist is in an “experience near” relationship with the addict, meaning both parties have a felt sense of each other, are processing their experience of each other while also processing cognitive material.

So it’s an integration of the relational work with the behavioral work?

Correct. It’s a holistic model. It brings everything in at the same time. Historically we’ve had addiction therapists and then we’ve had psychodynamic therapists, and never the twain shall meet. I’m proposing that we play all those notes at the same time, requiring the therapist to bring all of himself or herself into the mix. When we do this, we’re affecting and changing both parties’ neuropsychobiology. We’re working the left brain and the higher cortical functions, but we’re also working from the body up. It’s a much more integrated model that’s geared toward regulation and integration. We might also call it the affect regulating “cure” for addictive trauma.

Alex Katehakis’ book, Sex Addiction as Affect Dysregulation, is available on Amazon.com at this link.

Why We Need Forgiveness Education

“I was too busy trying to survive. I did not have room to bring forgivenessinto my world.”

These two sentences together, spoken by someone who lived with an abusive partner for decades, is one of the strongest rationales I have ever read for forgiveness education, starting with 4-year-olds or 5-year-olds.

Source: Star Media website

Do you see that the person, as an adult, did not have the energy and focus to add something new to her arsenal of survival?

What if forgiveness was a natural part of her survival arsenal starting at an early age?

We do this all the time in education as we help students learn how to speak and write coherent sentences.

We do this all the time in education as we help students learn how to add so that a budget can be maintained.

We do this all the time in education as we help students learn how to be just or fair. Teacher corrections and punishments are swift to come once students enter the school door and then misbehave in the school setting.

I think it is unfortunate that educational institutions and societies fail to make forgiveness a natural part of life through early education. Isn’t a central point about education to help people make their way in society? And isn’t a central point of making one’s way in society having the capacity to confront grave injustices and not be defeated by them? And isn’t a central point of confronting grave injustices the knowledge of how to forgive? And isn’t a central point of knowing how to forgive the thinking about forgiveness and the practice of it in safety, before the storms of insensitivity and abuse hit? And isn’t a central point of knowing forgiveness and practicing forgiveness to aid in the survival of people who could be crushed by others’ cruelty?

Source: International Forgiveness Institute, Inc.

Why do we spend time helping children learn to speak and write, learn essential mathematics skills, and be just, but completely neglect teaching them how to overcome grave injustices?

Education in its essence will be fundamentally incomplete until educators fold into it the basic strategies for overcoming grave injustice and cruelty so that students, once they are adults, never have to say, “I was too busy trying to survive. I did not have room to bring forgiveness into my world.”

And the educational challenge of this incompleteness is this: We now know scientifically-supported pathways to forgive (Enright & Fitzgibbons, 2015; Wade, Hoyt, Kidwell, & Worthington, 2014). We have scientifically-tested forgiveness curricula for children and adolescents (Enright, Knutson, Holter, Baskin, & Knutson, 2007; Enright, Rhody, Litts, & Klatt, 2014). Without forgiveness education, a person who wants to forgive may not be able to do so. Without forgiveness education, another person may too easily equate forgiving and reconciling, thus staying in an abusive relationship. With forgiveness education, a person can forgive, not necessarily reconcile, and heal emotionally.

It is time to make “room to bring forgiveness into my world.”

References

Enright, R. D., & Fitzgibbons, R. P. (2015). Forgiveness therapy: An empirical guide for resolving anger and restoring hope. Washington, DC: APA Books.

Enright, R.D., Knutson, J.A., Holter, A.C., Baskin, T. & Knutson, C. (2007). Waging peace through forgiveness education in Belfast, Northern Ireland II: Educational programs for mental health improvement of children. Journal of Research in Education, 17, 63-78.

Enright, R.D., Rhody, M., Litts, B., & Klatt (2014). Piloting forgiveness education in a divided community: Comparing electronic pen-pal and journaling activities across two groups of youth. Journal of Moral Education, 43, 1-17.

Wade, N.G., Hoyt, W.T., Kidwell, J.E.M., & Worthington, Jr., E.L. (2014). Efficacy of psychotherapeutic interventions to promote forgiveness: A meta-analysis. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 82, 154-170.

Can You Ever Affair-Proof a Relationship?

psychologytoday.com · by Linda and Charlie Bloom
Source: bokan/Shutterstock

Can love and good sex “affair-proof” a relationship?

This myth is deeply embedded in our culture and is even held by a fairly large number of marriage counselors. But a lot of people who hold this belief have been deeply disappointed to discover that it’s not necessarily true. While it may seem reasonable to assume that if both partners love each other and have a mutually satisfying sexual relationship, there would simply be no reason for either to stray. Well, that is true: There is no “good reason.” Affairs, however, are generally not motivated by reason or rational thinking, but tend to be matters of the heart, which is the source of passion and desire, and not the mind, which deals with abstraction and logic.

So while it does seem logical to assume that there would be little motivation for partners in a happy relationship to go outside of it to fulfill their most intimate desires, particularly if they’ve made an agreement to be monogamous, it does happen—and more frequently often than most of us realize. A study cited in the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy in 2015 reported that 54 percent of female respondents, and 57 percent of males, stated that they had been unfaithful in their relationship. What may also be surprising: The average length of the affairs was two years.

Still more surprising is that according to relationship and sexuality expert Esther Perel, author of Mating in Captivity, the motivating drive to have an affair is a desire not necessarily for sex, but rather for experiences their relationship is no longer delivering. What they desire, according to Perel, is attention, novelty, adventure, vibrancy, aliveness, and passion. They crave the experience of losing themselves in the intensity, excitement, and stimulation of a new relationship, with the hope of re-invigorating the feelings that occur in the stage of infatuation.

Too often, it seems that couples fail to keep that spark alive after they formalize their commitment, and so they run the risk of weakening the glue that keeps their relationship passionate and healthy. When daily routines and responsibilities dominate their attention, the risk of a violation of their monogamy agreement increases. When either partner feels that they must submerge aspects of themselves to maintain peace or avoid conflict, the risk factor is similarly heightened. The fantasy of being free to be fully authentic, and to experience aspects of oneself with another person that one’s partner disapproves of, is a compelling motivator for anyone who has withheld or concealed aspects of themselves out of fear of judgment, rejection, or punishment.

The expectation that one person can and should meet all of another’s needs, particularly when many of them appear to be at odds with each other—security and adventure, excitement and peace of mind, spirituality and sensuality, tenderness, and strength—can be a setup for disappointment or betrayal. This is not to justify violating anyone’s vows, but rather a warning to be mindful of the dangers of holding a partner responsible for fulfilling a range of needs and desires that may be beyond any one person’s capacity.

The experience of loneliness is also something that can occur even in good relationships. This often comes as a surprise to those who wrongly assume that once they enter into a serious partnership, their lonely days are over. But the experience of loneliness has more to do with our relationship to ourselves than whether we are in relationship, or with whom. It is a function of how comfortable we are in our own skin, whether we relate to ourselves with compassion or criticism, and how much we enjoy our own company. When we mistakenly hold our partner responsible for taking away our loneliness and making us happy, he or she will be likely to feel turned off by our efforts to coerce their attention.

There is a significant difference between desire and neediness: Neediness often feels manipulative and is seen as a turnoff. It can also include a sense of entitlement, or an expectation that one has the right to be taken care of by one’s partner. When we experience a partner’s desire, without their expectation of our reciprocity toward us, it feels pleasurable and attractive.

Sometimes the burden of fulfilling family obligations and responsibilities can feel oppressive, and the desire for relief, even briefly, can be compelling. At these times we are particularly vulnerable to the temptation of affairs. When partners take each other for granted and neglect their relationship, they put it in jeopardy. When unresolved conflicts mount up, resentment, anger, a lack of respect, and even contempt may form conditions that are an accident waiting to happen. Such animosity can become a perfect rationalization to go outside the marriage for intimate contact.

Infidelity can be as brief as a one-night stand, or a secret, years-long affair. Some people try to fulfill their need for attention and validation through sex. Some may rationalize their indiscretions with the justification that there was no intimate physical contact, but like emotional affairs, in which literal sex does not occur, even technical infidelity or virtual affairs can do great damage to one’s primary relationship.

No matter what their cause or nature, every betrayal harms a relationship and requires repair work to restore trust and integrity. Another statistic cited by the Journal of Marital and Family Therapy study was that, of marriages in which an affair was discovered or admitted, 31 percent lasted. The shock of the crisis can expose the source of the unmet needs that the affair was an attempt to fulfill, and in doing so, open the possibility for this breakdown to become a breakthrough, provided both partners do the work that is required to heal the relationship.

Pain can sometimes be a great motivator. It would, of course, be more efficient and less painful to avoid the torturous stages of wounding and healing that accompany unfaithfulness. There are many ways to enhance the quality of your relationship without unnecessary suffering. If you don’t know what they are, ask your partner: It’s likely that he or she will be happy to give you a few ideas. As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.

Linda and Charlie Bloom are excited to announce the release of their third book, Happily Ever After . . . and 39 Other Myths about Love: Breaking Through to the Relationship of Your Dreams:

“Love experts Linda and Charlie shine a bright light, busting the most common myths about relationships. Using real-life examples, they skillfully, provide effective strategies and tools to create and grow a deeply loving and fulfilling long-term connection.” —Arielle Ford, author of Turn You Mate into Your Soulmate

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Why 11 & 12-Year-Olds Are Struggling With Porn More Than Ever Before

 

An unprecedented number of boys of just 11 and 12 years old are calling Australia’s only public phone counseling service for young people, asking for help. They’re worried they have already become addicted to pornography, reports Courier Mail.

The free and confidential support line’s counseling manager Tony FitzGerald said boys who were exposed to online pornography early in life also appeared to be more at risk of developing unhealthy and compulsive viewing habits.

“It is happening young–we are not talking about older teenagers here, we are talking about boys anywhere between 11 and 15,” FitzGerald said.

“They are contacting us ­because they know that something is not right about their addiction to pornography. We’ve seen a disproportionate number of contacts from young males around this sort of thing… They also have concerns about the impact this (porn) might be having on their own relationships.”

Generation SEXT

Hugh Martin, who runs the organization Man Enough, which provides counseling for males who are struggling with pornography, said parents and schools needed to be more frank in their discussions with young children about the risks of being exposed to pornographic material online.

“We can’t be coy or squeamish about this,” Martin said.

“I actually invite some adults to go and look at what’s out there so they know what they are talking about… If they’re embarrassed talking about it, it will make it a lot harder next time for the kid to talk with them.”

Martin said he believed age-appropriate references to pornography need to be front and center of sex education lessons so young people don’t grow up believing it is an ­accurate portrayal of healthy sexual relationships.

Is Porn Hijacking Youth?

The most hardcore porn imaginable is quickly becoming the next generation’s first ever exposure to anything sex-related. How could this not influence the way they view relationships and their own selves?

Research shows that young people are as likely to see online porn accidentally as they are to actively search for it. That means, with the amount of porn that’s online today, it is actually easier for a kid to stumble across it then to search for it on purpose. And for almost 2/3 of the children, this first exposure to porn happened right in their own home.

Another unsurprising finding goes to show the escalating nature of porn viewing. Children described how their feelings towards porn have changed over time. About 27% surveyed reported feeling ‘shocked’ the first time they viewed it, but follow up surveys revealed that just 8% remained shocked after the first time they watched it.

Citing this research, an incredibly in-depth survey by The National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (click here to read the full report) shows the massive role that porn is playing in the development of young kids these days. What they’re learning is skewed perceptions of sex and harmful attitudes about their natural sexuality.

By being educated and raising awareness on these findings, we can hopefully spare the next generation of the many harms that are sure to come due to this pornification of our society.

What YOU Can Do

Porn is one of the worst possible forms of sex education. SHARE these important findings to help young kids understand the harms of watching porn and take a stand for real love.

Have You Really Worked Step 1? – Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S

In today’s world, recovery from addiction typically starts in rehab, followed by addiction focused outpatient therapy, 12 step meetings, and step work. Most of the time, as recovering addicts grow comfortable with their sobriety, they rely less on professional help and more on 12 step support groups and continual working of the steps. This, of course, begins with step 1.

We admitted we were powerless over our addiction—that our lives had become unmanageable.

On the surface, step 1 seems relatively straightforward. And for many addicts it is. For these lucky individuals, simply walking into a treatment center, a therapist’s office, or a 12 step meeting and asking for help is a full and complete admission of powerlessness and unmanageability. However, other recovering addicts must continually battle with denial about their disease. These addicts must consciously and purposefully work step 1 if they hope to establish and maintain lasting sobriety. Often, they must work this step repeatedly, even as other aspects of their recovery progress.

If you’re an addict who finds step 1 difficult, the following tasks can help.

Task 1: Powerlessness

Being powerless means you have lost control over your addictive behaviors. You engage in your addictive behaviors compulsively, even when you don’t want to. Moreover, you have no ability to stop once you’ve started.

  • List 10 or more examples of your powerlessness over your addiction. Use the following format: “Even though I (list a particular consequence), I continued to (list a particular addictive activity).” For example, you might write, “Even though I had three DUI arrests, I continued to drink and drive.”

Task 2: Unmanageability

Unmanageability speaks to the consequences of your addictive behaviors, both direct (obviously connected) and indirect (less obviously connected). Many addicts have relationship troubles, reprimands at work, and even arrests that are very obviously connected to their addictions. Less obvious consequences may include depression, anxiety, feeling worn out, forgetting to pay bills, eating poorly, loss of interest in previously enjoyable activities, etc.

  • List 10 or more examples of unmanageability (consequences) related to your addiction. Try to include a mix of both obvious and less obvious issues. For example, you might write, “I was fired from my job for repeatedly showing up wasted,” and, “I was continually depressed and ashamed because of behaviors I engaged in while drunk or high.”

Task 3: Powerless and Unmanageability Together

An easy measure of both powerlessness and unmanageability looks at failed attempts to either cut back or quit your addictive behaviors. (People who are not addicted rarely feel a need to curtail or abandon a particular behavior, whereas addicts attempt to do this fairly often.) If you’ve tried and failed to control your addiction on multiple occasions, that is an excellent indictor of powerlessness over your addiction, and how your addictive behaviors have become unmanageable.

  • List any attempts you’ve made to either cut back on or quit your addictive behaviors. Note the approximate length of your success. For example, you might write, “After my girlfriend broke up with me because of my drug use, I swore to myself that I would quit and get my life on track. I stayed clean for about 48 hours.”

Task 4: Sharing Your Step 1 Inventories

Writing down examples of powerlessness and unmanageability is not enough for most recovering addicts. To increase the impact of step 1 it is important to share your inventories with your 12 step fellowship, your therapy group, or, at the very least, your 12 step sponsor. For many recovering addicts, sharing step 1 with their support network is the true beginning of recovery. Many say their life began to improve the instant they got honest with their support network by sharing their step 1 inventories.

If you’re like most recovering addicts, you are filled with shame, self-loathing, and remorse about your addictive behaviors and their consequences. Plus, you’ve gotten very used to keeping secrets from the important people in your life. Because of this, opening up about the nature and extent of your addictive behavior may feel both unnatural and uncomfortable. That said, sharing your history and consequences is always worthwhile.

Caveat

The tasks suggested above are not the only way to work step 1. In truth, there are as many ways to work step 1 as there are recovering addicts. So rather than telling you that the exercises I’ve suggested are the way to work this step, I will simply restate the advice I’ve heard over and over in 12 step meetings: Take what you like and leave the rest. If my suggestions make sense to you, then use them. If not, that does not mean the 12 steps are flawed; it simply means you need to work them in a different way.

In truth, the way you work the steps is not important. What’s important is that you do work them.

Ongoing step-work is a proven route to lasting sobriety. So please go to meetings, please get a sponsor, please build a support group, and please talk with your fellow recovering addicts about their experience working the steps. Each and every one of these people will have something useful to offer, and before you know it you’ll be helping them, too. You will become as important to these folks and their recovery as they are to you and yours.

In future postings to this site, I will present suggestions for how to effectively work steps 2 through 12. For other general information about healing from addiction, check out my website. For treatment referrals, click here, here, or here.

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of National Clinical Development for Elements Behavioral Health. In this capacity, he has established and overseen addiction and mental health treatment programs for more than a dozen high-end treatment facilities, including Promises Treatment Centers in Malibu and Los Angeles, The Ranch in rural Tennessee, and The Right Step in Texas. He is also the author of several highly regarded books, including Sex Addiction 101: A Basic Guide to Healing from Sex, Porn, and Love Addiction. For more information please visit his website, robertweissmsw.com.