Hope and Healing Addictions and Abuse

Addictions and Abuse

Alcoholism

In our culture many people consider drinking a harmless social activity. Unfortunately, in too many cases, drinking falls prey to the trap of addiction. Simple daily activities can become unappealing to an alcoholic as all she really wants is to numb her pain or pursue euphoria. And it’s not just the alcoholic who gets caught in the web of alcoholism, suffering emotionally, physically, and spiritually – family, friends, and co-workers of the alcoholic watch the dependency rip relationships apart. Sadly, many alcoholics minimize the impact their drinking has on those around them, insisting that their lives are under control. The good news is that change IS possible; while the challenges may seem insurmountable, there is reason for hope.

FAQ:

   Q.
How on earth can I get my alcoholic husband to go to counseling? He is in complete denial and I doubt he’d even be capable of making a rational decision right now. I’ve tried begging, and I can tell you that begging does not work.
   A.
You are right. Begging is a waste of time when you’re fighting against alcoholism. Tragically, hundreds of alcoholics die each year from the effects of the addiction, all the while claiming there is no problem. Counseling and Al-Anon can help you learn how to confront the alcoholic in your life with love. There are ways to remove the support system that prop up the disease and allow it to continue. You can learn about how and when ultimatums may be necessary in breaking through the denial. Counseling can give you the support you need to do "tough love."
   Q.
My mom can drink a lot without getting dead drunk. Does that mean she isn’t an alcoholic?
   A.
Physicians who specialize in treating alcoholics say that what you are describing is one of the first signs of alcoholism. The idea of "being able to hold one’s liquor" is really about a danger signal that chemical changes have taken place in the brain, requiring more and more alcohol to get the same effect.
   Q.
How can I help the alcoholic in my life?
   A.
First, get informed. The more you know about the disease, the better. Read up on it on the internet, through books, and in 12-step programs. And make sure you get support. Go to counseling or Al Anon or both. It’s possible that the medical difficulties that alcohol causes will be the trigger that gets your loved one the help he needs. Living with and trying to get help for a family member can be devastating and overwhelming. Don’t go it alone. Keep yourself strong. Eventually you may need to do an intervention, if talking with your alcoholic loved one isn’t working and if he refuses help.

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"I promise I will never hit you again." "If you’d just do what I want, I wouldn’t have to do this." Maybe you’ve heard words like these many times; maybe you’ve said them. Whichever side you’re on, physical and verbal abuse causes unbelievable damage. Bruises eventually fade, but the invisible scars can stay for a lifetime. An abusive person attacks your feelings, your sense of worth, and, sometimes, your body. After physical wounds heal and the argument has ended, emotional scars can shred your self-worth. Abusive people act out of a vast need for control. The ones they abuse are ruled by manipulation – sometimes even believing they deserve this cruel behavior. The good news is there is a way out of abusive patterns both for those addicted to control and those victimized by abuse.

FAQ:

    Q.
My husband has only hit me once, in a big fight we had. Should I separate from him?
    A.
It's possible that your situation falls into a different category. A man could become so enraged on an isolated, single occasion he does something he is immediately sorry for and would truly never do again. That is quite different from a repetitive, pathological pattern. Dealing with that one exceptional situation could include counseling. At the very least it needs to become a serious discussion topic for the two of you. Remember – if he hit you once, he can hit you again. Counseling can help you set some ground rules that will prevent a similar situation from recurring.
    Q.
Isn't it true that domestic violence only happens to certain types of people?
    A.
Physical and verbal abuse exist in every racial, religious, and socioeconomic group in the United States. If you are a victim take the following steps:
1) Realize it is not your fault! No one deserves this behavior.
2) Tell someone about your problem. Call Hope and Healing Therapy now (206.633.6141) to either make an appointment or get a referral for where to get help if you can not afford therapy. At the very least, tell a friend, clergy, or supportive family member.
3) Get out of the abusive situation, EVEN if you want to try to work things out. Find a shelter or a friend to stay with. Contact local law enforcement if you fear for your safety.
4) Get help for yourself and for your children. You will need help to heal from the tremendous psychological and emotional damage caused by abuse. Hope and Healing Therapy can help you heal and move forward.


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Gambling

As tempting as it is to believe what the casinos tell us, nothing is free. Gambling can become a trap – luring you with the possibility of magically turning a few dollars into 50, 100, 1000, or a million bucks! Winning is seductive. The sad truth is this kind of success doesn’t last and chronic wagering robs you of more than just money. It puts your family at a higher risk of bankruptcy, divorce, suicide, domestic violence, and other tragedies. If gambling is destroying you financially, causing problems in your marriage, or sabotaging your future, get help. Whether you’re the one gambling or the one affected by this destructive pastime, you may feel out of control and threatened by losing everything. Hope and Healing Therapy can help you find your way out of the maze of compulsive gambling.

FAQ:

    Q.
How can I tell when gambling becomes a serious problem? Could I be in denial about my gambling?
    A.
The DSM-IV (the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) classifies compulsive gambling as an impulse control disorder and lists ten behaviors to help counselors make a diagnosis. These behaviors include preoccupation, tolerance, withdrawal, escape, lying, loss of control, and risking significant relationships, among others. An accurate diagnosis is dependent on a gambler being forthcoming about his or her behaviors. Many gamblers misrepresent the amount they are spending; that behavior alone should be a tip-off that you or your loved one needs help.
    Q.
How can therapy help a gambler?
    A.
As soon as the gambler realizes that the fantasy isn't going to come true and that the one big win is not just a few more bets away, only then can counseling help. While there are a few folks who can quit "cold turkey" and deal with the problems they have created (financial, emotional, and relational), most people need professional help to point them in the direction of recovery. Therapy helps the gambler get "the good stuff" of gambling (escaping problems, reducing anxiety, or getting a "high") in more constructive ways. People in therapy learn to take responsibility for their behavior, seeking to repair the damage that has been done – betrayal, financial drain, and communication problems – by righting these wrongs. Therapy helps underlying issues like depression, other addictions, and the gambler's sense of success and failure.

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Cybersex and Porn Addiction

Pornography and cybersex are closet addictions. Either can start with airbrushed nude photos in a magazine or a few web clicks and lead to a fantasy world, becoming your drive and your focus. The truth is, the progression of an addiction can take you places you never intended to go. Clearly, not everyone who sees porn will become addicted to it. Some do come away with toxic and damaging ideas about women and sex, but don’t get addicted. Look for these typical signs:

1) You keep coming back for more. You’re hooked and can’t quit.

2) Escalation. You need more and more graphic content to give you the same thrill. Images you once would find disgusting now look exciting.

3) Desensitization. After a while you get numb to all images. Even the most degrading porn doesn’t turn you on. You feel desperate to find the same excitement.

4) Acting out sexually. This is dangerous behavior. Moving from paper and computer images to real life can destroy not only relationships, but have life-threatening consequences.

FAQ:

    Q.
My husband says he doesn't compare me to the models in porn, but I always feel degraded when he uses it. It doesn't seem very respectful to women. Am I wrong to feel this way?
    A.
It makes perfect sense why you would feel this way. There are four basic lies about women that porn perpetuates:
1) Women are less than full, equal humans. "Bunnies" "chicks" and "playmates" perpetuate the notion that women are toys and cute playthings. Worse yet, some porn shows only body parts, not a full human being with a face.
2) Women are property. Sexually suggestive women are used to sell everything from cars to toothpaste. With porn, the philosophy is often that if a man has spent money taking a woman out on a date, he has a right to expect sex. Porn sells the idea that women can be bought.
3) Women are a sport. What about that famous sports magazine swimsuit edition? Nearly nude women are not a sport. Porn views sex as a game. In a game, you are looking to win, score and conquer.
4) A woman's value is all about her sexual attractiveness. Overweight or less attractive women are ridiculed in porn with terms such as pig, cow, whale, or dog simply because she does not fit into a very narrow definition of beauty. Porn doesn't care about the mind, the soul, or the personality of a woman. Only a "perfect" body.
I highly recommend the book, The Centerfold Syndrome by psychologist Gary R. Brooks, Ph.D. In it he identifies five principal symptoms of what he describes as a "pervasive disorder" linked to consumption of soft-core pornography like Playboy and Penthouse. The unhealthy elements he describes include: voyeurism, objectification, validation, trophyism, and fear of true intimacy.
    Q.
My husband thinks I am trying to control him by requesting that he stop using porn. Will he ever change? I don't know if I can stay married to this man.
    A.
Scores of women feel just as you do and are mystified as to what to do. You need to proceed carefully with the help of a trained marriage counselor. If he won't go, YOU should enter into counseling alone. While it's very important to be clear about your concerns, try not to nag and constantly bring it up. At this point, your feelings do not matter as much to him as his own. Unfortunately, if there is any hope for change, he will need to feel some discomfort, and you will need to take some steps that may feel foreign and uncomfortable to you in the process. If he still refuses to go to marriage counseling, you will need the support and insight of a counselor all the more. When he continues to not care about your needs while you keep meeting his, you are enabling his problem. Nothing will change. Together, you and a counselor can talk about how you can break through his denial and point him in the direction of help.
    Q.
My wife is having a cyber affair, including cybersex. I don't know who I can talk to. What do I do?
    A.
Men frequently have a difficult time talking about their spouse's sexual and intimacy problems because their sense of shame is so intense. The shame comes from the fact that when a woman acts out in this way, it goes against society's expectations. As a husband, you naturally wonder what your wife's behavior says about your masculinity and your marriage. The temptation for a husband will be to either become completely passive and ignore the problem, or become very controlling and angry, refusing to see how he might have contributed to the problem. It is important for the husband of a sex addict to get help and support. Counseling can help you sort through possible solutions and take a look at why your mate is resorting to this type of behavior.


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Sexual Abuse

In its healthiest form, sex is designed to be an expression of love between two emotionally intimate partners. The victims of sexual abuse know that love does not enter into the mind of a sexual abuser. The pinnacle of perversion, sex abuse causes lasting, horrific damage. The fury, emotional injury, physical scars, and haunting memories can bring a lifetime of struggle. It is possible, however, to heal from the pain of sexual abuse. A new life, free from the trauma, awaits those who long for restoration from an awful sexual experience.

Sexual abuse happens when a person is sexually exploited by an older, stronger or more powerful person for the satisfaction of the abuser’s needs. (Power in this case can be either actual physical strength or relational power.) Sex abuse can be verbal, visual, or physical activity. It can include physical contact (clothed or unclothed); actual penetration; oral/anal sex; fondling; genital exposure; sexually explicit speech; inappropriate sexual behavior toward a child/teen; or showing pornography to a child/teen. It can be engaged in without consent or understanding of what "consent" is. Penetration does not have to occur for a person to be sexually abused.

FAQ:

    Q.
My stepdad abused me when I was a child. This was years and years ago, but I am haunted by it now. My mother told me to just forget about it and put it behind me. How can I get on with my life? Is healing possible?
    A.
My heart goes out to you. It is completely understandable that you would continue to struggle with the abuse you experienced as a child. Our wounds and injuries often stay with us for a lifetime because our emotions are so intense when abuse takes place. When the one who wronged you was a parent or trusted family friend or relative, the pain is immeasurably worse. The reality is the bitterness you feel today is hurting you, not your stepfather. It will continue to haunt you unless you can come to terms with it. Counseling can help bring you peace of mind as an adult. Your stepdad robbed you of your childhood. Without getting the emotional support you need, you are robbing yourself of peace of mind today. Healing is possible!
    Q.
I had sex forced on me as a young adult. I knew the guy and had dated him, so I felt responsible. Could I have been raped?
    A.
Sex that is forced on someone is rape. Harsh as it sounds, it's true. Whatever the reason and relationship, it is never your fault if someone takes advantage of you. Don't take the blame. Don't let shame keep you silent about being violated. Talk about what happened with a trained counselor. Because sex abuse is about something so personal and private, many abused people feel shame, guilt, low self-esteem, and anger. Your counselor can make it easier to work through these feelings and get on the road to freedom and peace of mind.

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