Tag: addiction

Asking For Help Is Not Enough

By Patrick O’Neil, Group Facilitator

The meeting started at noon and I was running late. It used to be when I first got sober I was so self-conscious if I couldn’t be on time I just didn’t go. But these days, with my busy life and even busier schedule, I have to get in a meeting whenever I can. I can’t afford to use the excuse of being late to keep me from going.

Normally with my low attention span, I like to sit up front so I don’t miss anything the speaker says. But when you walk in and they’re already halfway into the readings, your seat options are what’s left, and today that meant in the back of the room with all the newcomers that hadn’t yet made AA a priority. Luckily there was an open chair on the aisle and I quickly sat down.

The secretary was taking care of business and they were passing the 7th tradition basket around. I put in two dollars and handed it across the aisle. Or at least I tried to. The man sitting there had his head down and he was crying. I tapped him on the shoulder, gestured with the basket, and asked if he was okay.

“I can’t do this anymore,” he whispered. He took the basket, and without adding any money, handed it to the woman next to him. Then he turned away from me and hid his head in his hands.

For the next twenty minutes I listened to the speaker share his experience, strength, and hope. He told one story after another defining his drunkalog, and then switched to when he found recovery. The man across the aisle never stopped crying. No one else spoke to him. When he abruptly jumped up and walked out I followed.

“Hey man, what’s your name?” I called out to him as soon as we were both outside.

“Um, Daniel. Why?” He furiously wiped the tears from his face and stared defiantly at me.

“Hey Daniel, my name’s Patrick. Why are you leaving?”

“I need help. No one in there gives a damn.”

“God grant me the serenity

To accept the things I cannot change;

Courage to change the things I can;

And wisdom to know the difference.”

— Serenity Prayer

Typical of most newcomers Daniel thought his not so silent crying would attract a fellow alcoholic to ask if he needed help. Unfortunately that doesn’t always work. One of the fundamental cornerstones of Alcoholics Anonymous is learning to ask for the help you need. As that signals to the rest of us that the addict or alcoholic has finally surrendered and, “admitted we were powerless over alcohol—that our lives had become unmanageable.” Daniel just wasn’t there yet. But he still needed help.

“You need to talk to somebody? I’m listening.”

“Really? Why the hell do you want to help me?”

“Look Daniel. I’ve got over 18 years in the program. I didn’t stay sober this long keeping it to myself. I have to give away what’s been given to me. It’s how it works.”

Daniel stood there, hunched over, staring at the sidewalk, and not making eye contact. Then he quietly started talking. “My life’s a mess. I don’t fit in anywhere. I’m gay and I work in an industry where I can’t be myself. My family disowned me. I’ve been doing meth for ten years. I can’t keep a relationship. I feel like… I’ve been thinking of killing myself.”

“You suicidal now?”

“No, that’s not the point. It’s just that… I’m desperate. I’m so desperate I came here and not one person in that goddamn room even looked at me or introduced themselves.”

“I introduced myself.”

“Yeah, well now that you know me you’ll probably just leave like everyone else in my life.”

“You got a cell phone?”

“Of course I do. I’m not homeless.”

“I wasn’t implying you were. Here, punch in your number.” Daniel slowly inputted his number into my phone. I hit the call button and the phone in his pocket rang. “Now you got my number.”

“Your numbers not going to help me get sober.”

“Well okay, Daniel. Just how are you going to get sober?”

“I don’t know. This is a waste of time.”

“Ever considered going to rehab?”

“I can’t afford that.”

“How do you know? You got insurance?”

“Yeah, and a lot a good it’s done me.”

“I work at a rehab. Let me give you the director of admissions’ number and then you call him.”

“What, this some weird religious place out in the desert? You guys keep me secluded, indoctrinate my gayness to be gloriously cis straight and I’ll find Jesus. Then soon as I get back I’m hitting Grindr and doing meth all over again.”

“Wow. Ah, no man. We’re right here in West Hollywood. CAST Centers. Not only are we LGBTQ-affirmative. But we’re Gay owned and operated.”

“I don’t know… I just…”

“Come on man, call tomorrow. I mean like really, what do you have to lose?”

“I got to go.”

“Hey, I’ll be here next week. See you then?”

“I can’t… I have to go.”

“Call me, okay?”

Daniel didn’t turn around or acknowledge me as he walked away. I went back into the meeting just as they were standing up to pray out. I took my place in the circle and joined in.

“God grant me the serenity; To accept the things I cannot change; Courage to change the things I can; And wisdom to know the difference.”

My life got busy again after that meeting. I went to work. I hit the gym. I made another two meetings over the weekend. I hung out with my wife. We went out to dinner with friends. I called my father. I text my sponsee that never calls. I did a bunch of domestic stuff like laundry and vacuumed the rug. But I didn’t hear from Daniel.

Monday rolled around and once again I was running late to the meeting. Not quite as late as last week. But I still had to park on the street, as the community center’s parking lot was full.

Thankfully they hadn’t started and there were seats up front. As I walked the aisle I notice the empty chair where Daniel had sat the week before. I looked around for him but he wasn’t there.

When the meeting let out I scrolled through my phone and found his number. I pressed call. It went straight to voicemail and then said the mailbox was full.

A lot of people try to get sober. It’s not easy. It’s a “we” program and they have to ask for help. Some people just aren’t ready. As a recovering addict/alcoholic I always have to be there in case they are.

What is CBT?

By Michael Arndt, Alumni Coordinator, CAST Centers
Follow Michael on Instagram:
@michaelcastcenters

CBT (Cognitive Behavioral Therapy) was first put into practice by Aaron T. Beck in the 1960’s and has in the ensuing years become an industry standard for evidenced-based care in mental health and addiction treatment. It traces its philosophical roots to a marriage of Greek Stoicism and Eastern mindfulness practices. Stoicism teaches us to essentially challenge our negative, maladaptive or unrealistic thoughts and perceptions of the world around us as a way of living. It is about finding objective truths.  Mindfulness practices teach us to be able to examine our own thoughts and to take them with a grain of salt. The idea behind CBT is that when you are able to reframe these problematic thoughts, you can then move into changing behavior that is not serving you.

CAST Centers recently hosted an in-service for our staff with Dr. Joel Becker, Ph.D who studied with Dr. Aaron T. Beck in the 1970’s in Boston after completing his training at Harvard. He now heads the Cognitive Behavior Associates practice here in Beverly Hills. He has been a leader in CBT since just after its inception. He now spends time working with SGM (sexual and gender minority) clients, in addition to teaching at UCLA in the Department of Psychology and the Geffen School of Medicine, precepting and seeing clients at Cognitive Behavior Associates.

CBT was originally developed with the hope of treating major depression. Over the years it has evolved to include many variations that treat everything from substance use disorders to OCD and anxiety. Offshoots of CBT include the very popular DBT (dialectical behavioral therapy) which is primarily used in the treatment of personality disorders like borderline personality disorder. There is also mindfulness CBT, compassion-based CBT among many others, all sharing the same goal but aim to achieve it with slightly different approaches.

Mindfulness is seen across the board in all of the various offshoots of CBT. Mindfulness training teaches us to sort of detach ourselves from our thoughts (or cognitions, hence the word cognitive in CBT) instead of immediately reacting to them or even accepting them as necessarily true. In the recovery world, this is called “the pause.” It is a practice that lessens our reactivity to our thoughts and beliefs. For example, just because I have a negative thought towards my partner does not mean that it is true, or that I am a jerk for thinking it. It is just a thought, and I do not need to act on it. I can pause and ask myself if this thought is true, helpful, or in alignment with how I truly feel when I am coming from a more authentic and relaxed place. Or just because I think of using drugs, or engaging in self-harm does not mean I have to do it.

At its core, CBT is about examining root causes of negative thoughts and then building up towards taking contrary actions and setting goals as a team with the therapist. Over time, and with enough practice, we literally rewire our brains to act more in alignment with what we really want, and to make it second nature to do so. CBT is not the traditional open-ended talk therapy model that most of us think of when we think of therapy. Sitting in a room rehashing our childhoods over and over again with vague insights. It is about action, and implementing new tools into our daily lives. One of the things that sets CAST apart from most treatment centers is that we are very action-oriented. While we believe it is important to address underlying issues, we encourage and support our clients as they decide what kind of life they want for themselves. That is what our programs are all about: helping our clients dig deep and figure out exactly what they want out of life at their core so that they can begin building a life that is theirs and worth fighting for.

CAST Centers recently hosted an in-service for our staff with CBT pioneer, Dr. Joel Becker, Ph.D.

Mourning the Loss of Our Destructive Behaviors

By Michael Arndt, Alumni Coordinator, CAST Centers
Follow Michael on Instagram:
@michaelcastcenters

Usually when we think of loss and mourning, we think of losing someone we love. But there are more kinds of loss than just the kind we experience when we lose someone close to us. There is the kind of loss we experience when we shed behaviors we have used to insulate ourselves from discomfort or a relationship that has run its course or is no longer healthy. It turns out, loss presents itself in similar ways, regardless of what we are mourning the loss of.

It can even be true for giving up drinking or drugs, self-harm, lying, or lashing out in anger. All of these can, for some people, serve the same purpose: to help us deal with feelings we have a low tolerance for. When we start the road to recovery, we actively work to lessen our engagement in these behaviors or rid them from our lives entirely. In doing so, we are often confronted with feeling “torn.” On one hand we know that these behaviors/addictions are destructive, and on the other hand, we cannot imagine life without them.

We also often mourn the loss of our behaviors and addictions. We go through stages where we miss it terribly, even when it is harmful to us. We will avoid going to places that remind of us it, just like we might when we have lost a person or ended a relationship. Some people, especially in early sobriety cannot eat certain foods without thinking too longingly of the drink they used to have with it.

It is also common to go through a phase where we try to bargain and justify, like by saying we’ll only drink wine instead of liquor, or only binge once a week, or self-harm without puncturing skin. Not unlike people do when they lose someone and try to bargain with God or the universe. Making all manner of promises and oaths to have the person brought back or to be able to see them one last time.

When we think of the bonds we create, we almost always view them as bonds between other people. But we also form very close and intimate bonds with our destructive coping mechanisms. They occupy huge parts of our minds and our lives, and over time we become just as attached to them as we do to family, partners, and friends. This explains why they’re so hard to break. It requires a ton of patience and practice and leaning on others to process the experience. It is a relationship, and when we start to view it as a relationship, it becomes easier to speak about, and to say goodbye to.

Life as it is

by Camila B., CAST Centers Alumni

“Life as it is” — the celebrated phrase of Nelson Rodrigues leads us to a constant reflection of the world, of society and of ourselves. This constant search for self-knowledge and life purpose made me think about how we perceive the world and how we find ourselves in it.

We see life through lenses that, throughout our trajectory, have been shaped by our experiences. There are values, addictions, forces and points of development that form our perception. Through these lenses, I used to see a gray world. I’ve always had what I needed, both materially and emotionally. However, I lacked understanding in mental health and life has decided to teach me and wake me up in a brutal way to that matter.

During that process, I have learned that sharing experiences makes the journey smoother. In this way, I began to share through lectures with university and high school students about “Wellbeing and Mental Health“, my experience and knowledge that I had acquired from an experience with a disease as silent as depression.

I was invited to participate as a guest speaker to the “Valorização da vida” (Valuing Life) project here in Brazil, which seeks to open a dialogue with students about interpersonal relationships, values, bullying and mental health. Several role-playing activities and group discussions are proposed to the students, so as to develop in them a critical sense of humanistic education. The project has also been offered to elementary school students (final years) and has been a success. Our students have been empowered to help others and to understand that accepting help is fundamental to our evolution.

Inside the Evolving Issue of Addiction

CAST Centers very own Dr. Cecelia Mylett and Robert Oppenheimer were interviewed as alumni of the University of Southern California, Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work. Please read excerpts of their insight about the evolving issues of addiction below:

At CAST “is we treat the whole person. Where they are, what got them here and what they want to change. People are coming in here in pain, shame and suffering that they may not be aware of, but they know it’s affecting their lives and loved ones.”

Because some individuals seeking help from CAST come from affluent backgrounds, they may have used substances for quite a while before being confronted about the problem, according to Robert Oppenheimer, MSW ’92, a clinical therapist at CAST. “The nature of addiction,” Oppenheimer said, “is a lot of secrecy.”

To read the entire article, please visit the USC website.

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