13th Step Consequences

Addicted 4, photo by Nicole Dee, Landing, OntarioI have written about the dangers of getting sexually involved with someone who is early in recovery from addiction and/or any other vulnerable state. This is commonly known in the 12 Step fellowship as 13th Step consequences and needs to be treated as a serious warning, even though the term causes nervous laughter.? Steve’s comment is an example of such a traumatic outcome and here is my response:

Steve, I was sorry to read that you have had such a traumatic experience and that you are now disabled with a muscle disease too. Not all AA members are as thoughtless as the one who hurt you and your partner. There are many AA members who are careful not to get involved in that way and who make good supportive friends for each other and for new members. Perhaps you could both try another meeting if you want the benefit of the program. Then again no one says you must use AA. There is a group known as SMART Recovery and it does not encourage friendships? between its members, as there is no buddy system. It is based on Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and does not use a God perspective.

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Addiction to touching

833820_hands.jpgLaurie commented on my post called Touch to stay alive asking whether it is possible to be addicted to touching, because she feels it may be her compulsion as she was deprived of touch? This compulsion is a symptom of codependence and love addiction which have the underlying characteristics of low self esteem, fear of intimacy and lack of trust, to name a few. In such a case we become addicted to touch and yet attracting more deprivation. Recovery will ease the pain because we learn how to give and receive affection in a healthy manner. Otherwise we attract those who reject us or those who are needy.

I recommend reading Pia Mellody’s books Facing Codependence and Facing Love Addiction. It is important to understand how in a relationship we can either be a love addict or an avoidant – the “back walking away”. We can switch roles too, which comes with fear of intimacy, low self esteem and lacking in trust. In recovery we learn to think rationally.

Recovery is also possible through belonging to self help groups like CoDA and SLAA, where it extremely invaluable to hear how members have found recover.y. Sometimes therapy is also needed with an experienced, qualified therapist who specialises in codependence and love addiction.

Hands, photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert, Concord, United States,

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Planning your relationship

700899_finished_projects_2.jpgMaranda made a comment on my post about a blueprint for relationships – “…Oh, let me tell you – it DOES NOT work!” When you think that making a blueprint for your ideal relationship doesn’t work, then you are doomed to have dysfunctional relationships. Everything in life depends on good planning. So planning your relationship together with your partner is being smart. Marriage counselling agencies have sessions or workshops aimed at enhancing relationships. Marriage celebrants are compelled by the government, to recommend that couples have such an experience before they get married. This is a valuable, practical exercise which can also be modified to use whenever there is a “pinch” in the relationship.

when I worked as a marriage and family therapist
for a well known agency in Sydney I was also trained to
carry out tests to assist couples to prepare for marriage
the tests could be sent off to a computer analysis firm
and once returned to us, the couple and I
processed the results together
often there were areas that the couple had
assumed would not be a problem until
they saw what their answers revealed
so with that information they would
make a basic plan to ensure that the
relationship had a good foundation

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Self love or codependence

My eyes, photo by Lucretious, Thessaloniki, GreeceAn important part of being in recovery from codependence is having a healthy relationship with self. In other words, the choice is self love or codependence. A comment from Maranda on my post about having a relationship with self shows how difficult it is for some to conceptualise this – “Nice theory… How can you start “loving yourself” in real life, I wonder?” Some people can only feel lovable when someone else loves them and then they see themselves through someone else’s eyes. No one can make you feel in a certain way unless you allow yourself to feel that way to begin with. So the ability to feel one way or another comes from within. The same way that you can feel terrible about your self, you can feel confident about yourself and, therefore, feel lovable – that’s self love. To hand over your power about how you feel is codependence or being neurotic.

Loretta came home with her small children and
found his clothes gone!
she managed to get the toddlers bathed, fed and to sleep
then she collapsed as the reality hit her
what happened? how come she didn’t know?
how did he expect them to survive without him?
she got through the night without any sleep
then the next day she was in ‘shell shock’
but the next night, too exhausted to stay awake
she drifted off believing that without him she
would be forever alone raising their children
it never occurred to her that she was lovable
at 25 she thought she would live alone forever!
fortunately, she remembered that she is lovable
and when faced with self love or codependence
she chose to focus on the relationship with self
he came back but in time she just sent him away
because she discovered that she deserved better

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Forgiveness

652974_yellow_rose.jpg In adulthood we learn that forgiveness is a powerful tool for freeing us of resentments. In most cases as we discover the healing power of forgiveness it becomes easier to do. Forgiving does not mean allowing people to do the same to us again. Some abuse feels impossible to forgive and as long as it does not rule our lives it can wait until we are ready to do so. Although forgiveness for a lesser hurt can feel just as impossible, it is vital to master the art of forgiveness. That’s how to gain emotional maturity and freedom from self pity.

hearing the words of the song
“I’m sorry for blaming you for everything I just couldn’t do”
made it possible to forgive my mother for the hurt I felt
that doesn’t mean that I condone her abusive behaviour
but rather that I can let go of the resentment that
has been festering inside all my life
I don’t fool myself into thinking that
we can ever have a loving relationship
because I’ve tried that before and
it has been “moth to flame” as they say
but now I can feel sorry for what
she has gone through in life rather than
being hard-hearted as I had done in the past
more importantly forgiving her means
releasing the pain from my inner child

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Trust is vital

Lovers, photo by Ovlachi György, Budapest, Hungary, intimacy, loveFor a relationship to grow, trust is vital. Whether the relationship is one between you and your lover, parents, children, colleagues, and/or your friends, without trust you have major problems. Trust creates closeness, otherwise known as intimacy and this fuels a relationship. So when you have relationship difficulties, look at what has happened to the trust between you and rescue the relationship by building the trust once more. Sometimes you need the assistance of a therapist for this.

he kept telling her that she needed
to lift her game for him to trust her again!
and then he was surprised that she
didn’t want to have sex or that
she wanted to leave him
we spoke about the impact his
criticisms had on her self esteem
and that she couldn’t trust him now
because his remarks had hurt her so much
in time as they spent more quality time
their friendship strengthened and
they were able to express their needs
much more appropriately than
attacking each other or expecting
that the trust be earned before
love could be rekindled between them
now they are enjoying their relationship
as the trust grows stronger

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Children are not pets

Pets Corner, photo by Hazel Moore, United Kingdom, appropriate loveThe love we feel for our children needs to be different from the love we feel for our pets, because children are not pets. When we want to hold our children non stop we teach them to be clingy and they get serious abandonment issues. This slows the child’s ability to develop good ego boundaries and affects their relationships later on in life. When I see that type of behaviour I, as a family therapist, suggest that the parent(s) get a pet in order to balance out their need to cling onto their child. Pets thrive on cooing and playful love, and humans benefit from showing them that. Children thrive on appropriate parental love and parents benefit from having their children develop healthily.

Zelma was totally focused on her disabled daughter Elli
and took great pride that she was a loving mother but
hadn’t noticed that she was treating Elli like a pet
hugging her, cooing to her and using baby talk
even until she was an adult and
didn’t see how it annoyed Elli
then one day Zelma became embarrassed
when her daughter barked at her!
so she got a dog and a cat so that
they could coo over them and kept
appropriate love for her daughter which
made a huge difference to Elli’s development

Pets Corner, photo by Hazel Moore, United Kingdom, appropriate love

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Children need love, so parents chill out

Anger, photo by Ivar van Bussel, Groningen, Netherlands, abusive tantrumsFathers and mothers, with small children, are usually at a Life Stage when stresses affect their behaviour, making them intolerant. It’s vital that we don’t psychologise abusive behaviour exhibited by stressed parents. In other words, avoid excusing abusive actions just because parents are stressed – there’s no excuse good enough for abuse. So parents, remember that although you’re having a hard time, when you over-react about your children’s mistakes this negatively impacts on their self-esteem. Also your behaviour is seen as inappropriate and abusive by children and everyone around too! What’s more if the ‘punishment is too severe then the lesson is lost’. When you’re finding it difficult to keep your cool, then maybe you need to see a therapist so that you can let off steam before it becomes abusive for everyone concerned. Children need love to grow healthily, not fear. Childrearing specialists claim that prisoners didn’t get there from too much parental love as children.

she was almost hysterical as she told me
how her family was driving her crazy
her husband was in the same state!
you may say “no wonder” when they
are in stressful jobs and trying to
make a decent lifestyle for their family!
then as the story unfolded they realised that
their lives had become unmanageable due to
hard work, lots of bills and not enough rest
everything had become so serious and
children have no way of knowing how
to deal with their parents’ stress, therefore,
they chose to do things as a family that
would bring them fun and relaxation
as well as putting their home in order
instead of just excusing the dysfunctionality

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Devil woman

Paper devil, photo by Brian S, Jakarta Indonesia, no faultHow often have we heard “the devil made me do it”? In actual fact we make choices and sometimes we regret these choices and find it necessary to blame others in order to save face. This is especially the case when the consequences are not wanted. No one can make us feel anything we don’t want to – we allow them to make us feel in a certain way.

he had cheated before but convinced his wife that
it wouldn’t happen again and she believed him
then one day he disappeared with his best friend’s wife
she suffered for two weeks not knowing where he was
then he came back and professed his love for her
insisting that he did not love the other woman
but that she had thrown herself at him and
eventually he weakened and gave into her spell
the devil woman made him do it
that was the line that convinced his wife
it was impossible for them to
have a happy life together so she ended it
to this day he cries over being dumped by her
and his friends actually feel sorry for him!

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Addiction symptoms regardless of nationality

World map, photo by Brian S, Jakarta, Indonesia, http://www.sxc.hu/photo/653075, worldwide diseaseAn interesting fact is that people suffer similar addiction symptoms regardless of nationality, that is, whether we are European or Australian or Chinese and so on. The need to use or self medicate increases as the illness of addiction progresses and the illness can only be arrested by abstaining. Some of the symptoms are: depression, aggression (violence), resentments, isolation, paranoia, neediness, self-pity, poor anger management, and disorders in sleeping, eating and sexual behaviour. When feelings or behaviours are exhibited to the extreme then people would do well to explore the extent to which they use substances or processes to cope with them – this only makes those feelings worse.

during the day he was a successful businessman
but his behaviour was becoming more and more
aggressive, dishonest and unbelievably mean
towards his family, friends and staff
during the day it did not appear as though
he was drinking alcohol, but he did at night
that was the only time he was jolly
then his doctor said that his drinking had to stop
or his damaged liver would cause his death
for a few weeks he was sober and went to AA
the change in him was amazing and once more
his wife saw the man she had fallen in love with
but he was bored with his authentic self and
he gave up his recovery and that lost him his wife
his only salvation has been that
he’s minimised his drinking, however
his behaviour is obnoxious and yet
he knows what needs to be done when he’s ready

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