4 ways to lose your therapist

The other day I was sitting down having lunch with some colleagues. They asked me how I was doing, I thought about it for a few moments, and then replied, “I'm doing fantastic.” Of course, they wanted to know what was going on and what was different. I told them that I was sleeping well, eating right, exercising, and meditating daily. Then it occurred to me that if most of my clients had a good night’s sleep, ate nutritionally throughout the day, had some sort of exercise, and incorporated a daily practice of meditation, I probably would be out of business.

 At the start of 2016, I wanted to start embracing more healthy habits. I already knew that for me, it began and ended with sleep. When I get less than seven hours of sleep, I am just not firing on all eight cylinders and pretty much feel lousy and not motivated throughout my day. Conversely, when I get eight or more hours of sleep, I have the energy and motivation to get much more done and enjoy doing it. The benefits and rewards to good sleep are too numerous to mention here, but visit the National Sleep Foundation’s website for more information.

 

Part of my 2016 wellness plan was going to be around what and how I ate. In the past, my breakfast consisted of three cups of coffee, nothing else. I would power though the day priding myself on the fact that I didn’t need anything to eat. When I got home late at night, I was short-tempered, not present for my family, and ravenous. I would then sit down and eat a meal that could fill up a basketball. Not good.

 I am now working with a doctor on proper nutrition, wellness, and exercise. In a nutshell, here’s how I am learning to eat: six small meals a day, starting as soon as I wake up. Not rocket science, just a small protein, healthy carb, and healthy fat at every meal. My metabolism is going strong throughout the day and I feel great. I feel full all the time, and eating nutritiously feels a lot better than eating junk. Your body is wise, and it knows when you are treating it right and rewards you with so many benefits. My family has noticed that my presence and mood have improved…and so have I.

 

My exercise program started off small and involves doing something nearly every day. The first week of the New Year, I did five minutes of exercise every day except one. That exercise could be walking, climbing the stairs, lifting some weights, shooting baskets with my daughters, etc. In weekly increments, I have added on five more minutes each day and am now up to 70 minutes of daily exercise. I now have to make an appointment with myself and schedule the exercise time or I know it won’t get done. I had to decide what my priorities were. It is “almost” becoming a habit.

 Better sleep, nutrition, and exercise are all part of my life now.

 

But there’s still one more habit that is working for me. All my adult life I had heard how beneficial meditation was, and I tried it numerous times. I would sit down and try to clear and quiet my mind like I thought I was supposed to do. What would happen is my mind would never quiet down, and I just noticed how many damn distracting thoughts I would have and just give up. So, a few years ago, I went to a training put on by the Chopra Center to learn about meditation. Here is what I learned: when we sit in meditation we burn up stress and anxiety. The byproducts of that stress and anxiety getting burned up are the thoughts that come into our heads when we meditate. We were taught to come up with a mantra, a saying, or simply to focus on breath. When we recognized a thought in our head, we just went back to our saying or our breath. There is no way to screw this up, except for not doing it. Whether it was five minutes twice a day or 20, we were promised that if we committed to doing this for 60 days, it would be life changing. For me, it was. I am going on 5 years of sitting daily in meditation, and I even have some spaces where there are no thoughts coming in for a few minutes.

 

I have good days and bad days, but if I stay the course I know the rewards will continue to materialize. In just a few months, my weight, mood, happiness, energy, and serenity have all changed so much for the better. If I can start doing these four things daily, anyone can. I wish you all success and happiness.

 Kirk Johnson is a licensed professional counselor and addictions counselor at South Platte Counseling Center. He teaches at Regis University. His passion is helping people realize their full potential.

In the Midst of Our Addiction

In our addiction, all we can think about is “more”. Whole portions of our days are consumed with planning to fulfill our desire, and whole portions of our days are consumed with hunting for our desire. And, for part of our day, at least, we do get high: with drugs, sex, alcohol, eating, shopping, working, and gambling. We want to feel good, we want to feel relief, we want just a moment of freedom from what is bothering and driving us. This is what the seeking is about. But we always need more. We are always chasing our last high.

So we feel selfish. Attaining more and more doesn’t seem to fill us up. We become ashamed of this ever-consuming need. We ask ourselves: how can we be so insatiable? How can we dare to think about the next high while we are high right now? What kind of crazy person have we become? No matter how much we consume, why aren’t we satiated?

The other day I was listening to one of Adele’s new songs.  She sings “sometimes I feel lonely in the arms of your touch, but I know that’s just me because nothing ever is enough” (2015).

This stopped me in my tracks. We don’t start out being greedy and selfish people. We want good relationships, fulfilling work, a happy life. We didn’t plan to blow up our goals with an addiction. We didn’t plan to sneak around satisfying our cravings and always wanting “more”. We didn’t plan to despise ourselves for our intense hunger for use. We have probably tried to beat our addiction once, or a hundred times. But we always wanted “more” because no amount of our fix was enough.

The song continues:  “But it’s in my roots, it’s in my veins, it’s in my blood and I have stained every heart I used to heal the pain”. 

We didn’t mean to harm anyone, but we have.  We have left a trail of wounded hearts and crushed people’s dreams in pursuit of easing our own pain. We have undoubtedly hurt the people we love, but most of all we have hurt ourselves.   

But underneath it all, as the song goes, it is because nothing ever is enough. We want “more” because we never get enough. Until we understand what fuels our drive for our addiction, we can never be full.  Until we confront the very pain that we strive to ease with our addiction, we will never stop the seeking. We may substitute one addiction for another. We remain hungry.

This is how it feels. But is it simply a battle of our will?

We are now beginning to better understand the neurobiology of pleasure and satiety. The Nucleus Accubens has been identified as the pleasure center of the brain controlling hunger and desire, and the satisfaction we derive from these feelings. Dr. Joe McCord, a renowned biochemist, explains in his research on nutritional supplements, that a process involving the excitatory neurotransmitter glutamate is instrumental in creating and regulating feelings of satisfaction (2012).  This is a key component of addiction. Addictive substances and behaviors enhancing the reward circuitry of the brain interfere with the body’s system of satiety. They create a biochemical imbalance generating feelings of dissatisfaction.

 When we come to an understanding that we are filling a void, the awareness and healing begins. Addiction is a disease of the brain, but other factors have to be addressed for change. There are ways to begin to stop the endless chase, and to repair the collateral damage we have left in our wake.  We can learn to become “enough” within ourselves, and to have enough. Examples of some these factors that keep us tethered to our destructive behaviors could be depression, trauma, unresolved loss, social anxiety, and low self-esteem.

It is difficult to take the first step towards seeking help for addiction. But support is available and it is necessary. Addiction counseling that uses Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Dialectical Behavioral Therapy,  Mindfulness, and EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) are all interventions that may help. Neurofeedback can help the brain heal from harm done with addictions. Nutritional changes are also beneficial.

You don’t have to do this alone!

Michele Battle, MA, LPC, CAC-II

adkins, a. &  kirstin, g. (2015). River Lea. On Adele 25 [CD]. New York, NY: Columbia Records.) 

D’Souza, M.S. (2015 Nov 5).  Glutamatergic transmission in drug reward: implications for drug addiction. Front Neurosi, 9:404, doi:  10.3389/fnins.2015.00404. eCollection 2015 

Gardner, E.L. (2011 Apr 19). Addiction and brain reward and antireward pathways.

Adv Psychosom Med, 30:22-60,  doi: 10.1159/000324065. Epub 2011 Apr 19

5StarAntiAging. (2012, November 11) Dr. McCord Discusses Addiction and Protandim. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ai_0PNL8fBQ