The many benefits, especially in early recovery, of simply listening without interrupting to someone getting something “off their chest” .
The many benefits, especially in early recovery, of simply listening without interrupting to someone getting something “off their chest” .
“Alcoholism is a family disease. This podcast address how other family members can come to have an awareness about the condition of alcoholism and that there is more to stopping drinking than stopping drinking.”
Latest blog, introducing our new podcast on things family recovery…
Alcoholics Guide to Alcoholism Podcast – Unmanageability
In this short podcast, my wife and I informally discuss what we mean by “unmanageability” and how in recovery this seems linked to alexithymia and pathological wanting and how this needs to be managed in recovery.
Extended Keys to Recovery Newspaper Interview
I was happy to be asked and honored to take part in one of the excellent “The Hope Interviews” with Steve Jones for the recovery newspaper “Keys to Recovery”
An extended version of the interview is here on a new podcast I will be doing with my wife, chatting informally about all things alcoholism, addiction, the family disease of alcoholism, day to day recovery, as well as co -occurring conditions such as trauma related disorders and how the treatment of these conditions can greatly improve overall recovery.
This is an oil painting expressing emotional co-dependency in a dysfunctional relationship especially as it pertains to alcoholism.
I think there is a condition called para-alcoholism whereby the partners of alcoholics become emotionally drunk and deluded in their thinking. They believe they are better and more in control than their alcoholic partners whereas in reality the abnormal conditions of living with an alcoholic have existed for so long they become the normal state of affairs. The abnormal becomes normal.
We all get lost in alcoholism, partners, wives, husbands, children, family and friends. It is a fog thrown over many.
The partner in the painting is convinced her partner will return after yet another heated argument. That he has no where else to go.
She clings to this smug realisation. He Needs Her. Without realising he is her addiction.
That is alcoholism, para alcoholism and addiction – another slide into ever degrading moral, spiritual, emotional and psychological well being,.
We walk hand and hand into that hell.
This Fleshy Hunger refers to that craving that consumes a man and takes up all his thoughts and possesses him with one intent, to satisfy those desires.
The title is a term used to describe sex addiction but it could also describe various pathological yearnings.
The man is no longer in his home, or even in his own mind and body. He is elsewhere, in a manic reverie, in another imagined place.
He looks insane, possessed, in his imaginary relish and exquisite torture.
There has been much recent debate about whether a person has to hit rock bottom in under to surrender and start recovering, whether one has to go to the bitter end before surrendering to the recover process.
My own experience shows that we have to concede to our inner selves that we are alcoholic and that we need help from others.
For me it was a “last gasper” rock bottom for many it was a low bottom, I had lost practically everything and for some they had lost little compared to me but they had seen the road ahead and realised it was not going to get any better without accepting help.
This shows there is more to alcoholism than alcohol, that these people realised their negative behaviours and their consequences were causing them as much distress as their drinking. They did not like who they were becoming or the…
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The Legacy of Vietnam Re-examined
It is clear that the idea of addiction Hari forwards is without any foundation or substance in relation to the research carried out on Vietnam Veterans over the succeeding decades.
The vast majority of Vietnam Veterans did not come back to the US and suddenly give up drugs and their addictions. This is a myth pushed by Hari for whatever reasons, only he can say?
The vast majority of Vietnam veterans came back from Vietnam to a frequently hostile or indifferent homecoming, some 12% and then 25% continued to abuse illegal drugs, while many others suffered PTSD and drug and alcohol use disorders.
Added together, in even a conservative estimate, it appears that the majority of Vietnam veterans continued to not only have addiction issues but also cross addicted to other substances and alcohol and present as having co-morbid conditions such as PTSD. They also suffered more in terms of suicide ideation and actual suicide than the normal population, had more unemployment, divorce and family related difficulties….
The Rat Park of Vietnam and Beyond
The videos below have been doing the facebook and twitter rounds, often accompanied by this Ted talk by Johann Hari
Essentially these videos suggest addiction is caused solely by environment.
The idea that addiction is caused solely by environment will be critiqued here principally in relation to the example presented in these videos to support their theory of addiction, namely that the vast majority of Vietnam soldiers returning home to the US after service who were previously “addicted” to narcotics, mainly heroin, stopped using heroin when they returned home, never used heroin again and essentially become de-addicted as the consequence of changing environment.
Their “addiction”, in other words, was contextual and related to the environment in which they abused heroin and became “addicted”. I put addicted in inverted commas as many people meet diagnostic criterion for substance use disorders at some stage in their life…
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Did not do any EMDR yesterday as I was too exhausted still, a week after the previous session!
My wife was like this too, so very very tired until the day before the next session, the following week, so she was averaging one day in seven when she wasn’t knackered. It is hard work, I have to say, being this tired all the time.
I asked my therapist about this, she wasn’t sure why it is so tiring so we decided I would research it.
There is not much out there in the research about why EMDR is so tiring. Most research said EMDR was so much more rapid in getting positive treatment outcome than other “talk therapies” so I guess there is a lot of soul surgery and healing which accounts for me being so tired.
I have had to put most of my life on hold which kinda annoys me. Part of my attachment disorder is always doing stuff to make myself feel better about my self. Much of my self esteem is attached be getting approval for being good at stuff, being talented.
I am often too busy being a human doing rather than a human being to quote one of my old counselers!
I buffer my sometimes fragile and sometimes low self esteem through various achievements such as research and running my own business.
Not being able to do this stuff to the same extent has been tough.
The last couple of days have been full of sadness and anger.
I am seeping out sadness from my past and then being really angry about it.
It seems incredible I am healing stuff that has been eating away at my very soul for forty years! It seems a colossal waste of time some days. Why so much suffering for so long?
I wish I had come across EMDR decades ago. Maybe I wasn’t ready for it then?
Anyway I am full of grieving for a multitude of losses.
The loss of my mother who’s passing I have not really grieved in recovery, the loss a self defining part of me (now I gotta grow a new shell?) the losses that trauma, C-PTSD and my alcoholism and addictions have caused in my life, the loss of opportunity, choices such as having had a child with my wife as we kinda decided against this due to my rampant alcoholism, addictions and at times chronic mental health.
I have to be careful of not slipping into shame and self pity. It is a balancing act, feeling the pain I have blocked out on one hand and not indulging in it on the other.
I have to be careful sadness does not slide into self pity. I have to remember I am not a normal person doing EMDR for PTSD related incidents. I am a chronic alcoholic in recovery who has to guard that the treatment of one disorder does not trigger off the other. Which is kinda why I am doing this treatment in the first place?
Equally I have to feel this stuff, the decades of pain, sadness, anger that I have numbed out, run away from. I have to fully experience and let it be part of me and who I am.
I have to let it be and not react. Instead of avoiding it, only for it to constantly seep through into my consciousness and trigger my emotionally overreactive behaviours.
I have still to get to the root of many of my behaviours, to the source of where they began.
I have hit a milestone moment for sure in therapy recently but there are other layers of this psyche onion to unpeel.
Many years of emotional pain seems to be seeping out, like a puss and I have to accept this, not run or avoid, as this has been my way of coping from the past, a maladpative coping mechanism.
I have also been grappling with my pride and shame.
I do not think I have been explaining fully enough the process of EMDR which is remiss of me and has made me feel a bit stupid.
Although I am fairly intelligent, I live in fear that my “stupidity” will be outed one day and every one will know the real me, the “not as bright as I would like to think I am” me. As my cleverness or otherwise is linked to my sense of self esteem, I feel pained when I do not research something properly. It feels like a self inflicted wound.
My sense of self is threatened even.
I have not described the process of reprocessing properly I believe.
When I had my major therapeutic breakthrough last week I did not clearly state that the reprocessing bit was when I acted as an adult to my childlike self, to my childlike sibling and then to my parents. I was in charge, in control with making things right, in consoling and comforting way to make sure everyone was okay, loved and comforted. This is what I mean by cognitively reprocessing the past.
I revisited a traumatic memory, the scene of a traumatic memory, I was desensitized to this memory to a large extent because I was acting doing the bi lateral stimulation, the watching of the therapist’s finger moving from left and right, left to right. This desensitization is supposed to happen as the amygdala, implicated in distress states, is somehow calmed by this process so the brain and mind are not as distressed as normal, so the revisiting of a traumatic scene is not as usually distressing.
This allowed us to adaptively reprocess this scene and traumatic experience on three levels. First we feel it on a physiological level, we become aware of our body sensations and where they are on the body and just observe them. Secondly we are aware of the emotions that accompany these sensations and the trauma experience.
We discussed these to understand the unprocessed feelings. Then we cognitively challenged these feelings. For example feeling guilty for doing something any child would have done or feeling guilty for something that was not one’s fault is achieved and the emotions are somehow quelled. Then cognitively we can think about what we would say or do in relation to this scenario, to the child or the others in the scene from the perspective of now as an adult.
I consoled my child, spoke to my mother and asked her to speak reassuringly and in a comforting way to my child, then I extended this invitation towards my sisters, then my father joined us and we were all consoled my older adult me, in a way no one was at the time of the trauma. This was in essence a cognitive reprocessing of the event.
The reprocessing means that this memory will now have a different cognitive, emotional and physiological resonance for me from now on. It was lodged in more long term memory.
The memory is still there in a sense but it does not have the cognitive, emotional or physiological charge as previously. Hence it does not have the same influence, impact or prompt to certain behaviours that it once had.
For me thus far, this desensitizing and reprocessing has altered a maladaptively processed memory in terms of physiology, emotion and cognition and made it adaptive i.e. it is processed in a way that can help me not cause further pain. The behaviours that now follow it are more likely to be adaptive and healthy.
Some researchers have suggested that the sate of consciousness that one goes into during bi lateral stimulation is akin to REM sleeping. Thus, as with REM sleeping, the brain is active in resolving conflict in the mind.
I will probably have to consolidate this experience again at a later date but have grown some sort of membrane over this painful gaping wound of a memory, this hole in the soul.
I feel differently about this now as a result. It affects me in a differently way to before.
Something changed, possibly for ever.
In terms of the Adaptive Information Processing Model, on which EMDR is based, in order for a memory or experience to be processed properly, according to this model, it has to be processed on these three levels of physiology, emotion and cognition. I have taken a memory that was not processed in terms of body sensation which probably reflected a heightened stress chemical response, not processed it in terms of emotionally coming to terms with it and not processed properly in terms of my thinking about it, for example, I had not fully considered it’s repercussions from a cognitively perspective.
This third perspective was not missing from what I mentioned in earlier blogs, I simply discussed the two levels of physiology and emotion
That is my understanding of it in the present now anyhow. That may change.
I have come across a number of excellent papers on how EMDR works which I will either upload here on this blogsite or more likely on http://insidethealcoholicbrain.com/ as this therapeutic process is fairly amazing in that it seems to rapidly reorganise certain networks in the brain.
In fact it is like taking a new adaptive memory and inserting or stitching it in to where the maladaptive memory was or in more technical terms like delving into the coding script of memories and rewriting some of the code underlying these memories. Like removing by a massive defragging.
It is profound stuff either way.
Any way why so tired from EMDR? I think the answer lies in the fact that EMDR leads to this rapid neuroplastic reorganisation of the brain.
In simple words, these means that neural networks in the brain are quickly created, redirected to become more adaptive. For example one area implicated in PTSD is the hippocampus which plays a major role in memory (especially explicit, episodic memory) but also has a less known role in stress regulation.
It appears that even after only about 8 EMDR sessions that the hippocampal region of the brain can increase in volume by about 12%!
This is fairly rapid and immediate reorganising of neural networks to increase a role the hippocampus in explicit memory (perhaps as opposed to the implicit memory network of the dorsal striatum which is implicated in more automatic, reactive responding, or stimulus response activity, with distress often being the stimulus of emotionally overactive responding) and stress regulation.
If my brain is re-organising so rapidly in a matter of weeks then the brain will be using up much energy, brain glucose, in re-sculpting my my brain’s neural circuitry.
Which is kinda mind blowing.
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