Posts Tagged ‘Addiction’

People who suffer from Narcissism, whether it be Narcissistic Personality Disorder or Narcissistic behavior, often have trouble understanding and relating to people who practice healthy self compassion. People who have healthy boundaries and know how to place limits with themselves and their engagements with other people propose a unique challenge to a Narcissist. The first and most glaring problem for a Narcissist are people who don’t place them on pedestal to be admired. This lack of admiration often comes across to the Narcissist as a form of disrespect. Self compassion has it’s own language that differs from the Narcissist and it doesn’t include constant admiration of others.

Self compassion identifies needs as an independent person and stays focused on fulfilling those needs. A Narcissist stays focused on getting their ego admired by others and when they don’t feel this is happening they begin to manipulate others to get the attention they so greatly crave. This is where narcissism, in it’s own language, begins to strive for what is called narcissistic feed.

When the Narcissist doesn’t get this “feeding” of attention there are several things that can happen. Usually the biggest problem is anger. When manipulation doesn’t work then control by anger is often the quick default reaction. This anger can be presented in many ways with the most prevalent form being passive-aggressive. This form of behavior is manifested in many ways such as talking to other family members and friends behind their back trying to make them look like a bad person (also known as triangulation). Money, which is a big deal to most Narcissists, is often used to as a control weapon. Belittling your interests, comments, opinions, jobs etc. In other words, everything you have to say or do is “one-upped” by a narcissistic comment. Remember, nobody is as great or knows more than a narcissist. This is their grandiose thinking at work and nobody is greater than them, according to them of course.

I overheard a conversation once with this expression involved “a Narcissist cannot share a stage.” In other words, if it’s not all about me then there is no room for others. Narcissists are extremely worried and concerned about how they are viewed in the eyes of others. This is why anxiety and drug/alcohol use is such a prevalent problem for many of them. It’s the worry that gets to them, not their behavior. A Narcissist will ruin a relationship unless they are certain that all the attention is focused on them. There are no relationships with a Narcissist, only spectators. If you believe you are caught up in a relationship with a Narcissist, stop admiring them and see what happens. Practice some self compassion and put limitations on your engagement with the Narcissist and chances are things will begin to turn ugly.

Healthy people are interested in what you are interested in and want you happy and healthy. But when that level of interest stops with a Narcissist chances are you will be of no use to them and anger related problems begin to manifest. The Narcissist will begin to think you are the bad person, the one with the problem and may perceive you stopping your admiration as disrespect and resort to name calling and control measures to get you back in line with their thinking.

So what can be done about it? 

It is impossible to help someone who doesn’t acknowledge the need for help, especially with men of which most narcissists are. Men often live believing counseling is for wimps. Often healing with a Narcissist is the result of having to overcome a major addiction problem or they find themselves very alone in the world after destroying their relationships with family and friends. Look at their path, do they have a history of wreckage everywhere they go? It is then that they may (and may is rare) begin to self evaluate and start the process of trying to understand their problems.

Self examination for anyone with a personality disorder is a very scary proposition. To look inside of themselves and to truly see who they are as a person has been described as peering through a hole that leads into an empty formless abyss. The identity is missing. The ability to have healthy happy relationships is missing because of attachment issues. Emotional maturity is missing. These things must be formed, usually early in life. This is why they work so hard to manipulate others and work on things outside of themselves. Sitting quietly and doing some self examination usually involves mirrored observation and loathing in self love, not deep hearted evaluations of how they hurt someone. If a Narcissist is sitting quietly it is usually because they are secretly scheming their next move. Their thinking is usually in the form that it’s others and not me that has a problem; and I must shape them in line with my way of thinking.

In the book Boundaries by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend, they mention that the most effective way to deal with difficult people is to set boundaries for yourself. Don’t focus on the negative behavior of the other, this is often just a drama trap. The way to stop dealing with a Narcissist is to set some limits on how much you engage with that person. This is an active choice anyone can make for themselves. A quote by Dr. Henry Cloud “you get what you tolerate.” This doesn’t mean to challenge the Narcissist, (trust me you won’t win, you can’t tell them anything) but to challenge yourself to self-compassion and care. This form of healthy self respect is hard for the Narcissist to understand and will begin to struggle to make sense of it, and like I said before, they may try to twist and manipulate, especially if they are not used to it. Stick to your limits, don’t get emotional with them, and especially don’t take anything personally. Chances are in the long run they will give up and go get their “attention feeding” elsewhere.

Disclaimer: This article is meant for educational purposes only and is not meant to be a substitute for professional psychotherapy treatment. 

Advocacy: Psychotherapy is conducted by an appropriately trained professional with an advanced degree in a counseling field (Master or Doctorate) with recognized and approved state licensing credentials. Always check a counselor’s license. 

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teen drug use

A nightmare scenario for a parent can be the day they discover their teenager is using drugs. Upon this discovery the parent will often question themselves as to how this happened and may even begin to question their parenting skills. One of the best things a parent can do is to equip themselves with knowledge of what teen drug use looks like.

If a teen is caught using drugs know that there are several factors involved with them using. Teenage years are often a place of exploration, hormonal changes and what psychologist Erik Erikson in his psychosocial stages of development is identity versus role confusion. They are trying to figure out the world, who they are and their place in it. Drug use is often best resolved if it is treated like an open wound. Find out what they are medicating. What kind of life situational issues are they trying to resolve through the use of drugs? Sometimes it is simply a choice. Like any adult who suffers from addiction or dependency they often like the way it makes them feel or they may believe it gives them a favorable impression among peers.

Teens are often prone to sarcasm and negativity when being questioned or confronted on their behavior. This behavior is an attempt to protect what they are doing or to control their environment. It is usually associated with not wanting to give up what feels good to them like drugs. Sometimes it can be hard for a parent to refrain from taking discipline to an extreme. It takes a little forethought to know that as a parent it is okay to respond to the teen without giving up ground. When dealing with drug problems resistance is common. This isn’t about getting into a power struggle; this is about getting to the root of the problem.

Below are some warning signs a parent can look out for if they suspect their teen might be using drugs. This list serves as a guideline that can warrant further investigation of the teen’s behavior.

Signs of Teen Drug Use

  • Sudden change of friends. Questionable character and integrity of new friends. Contacting parents of new friends is always helpful.
  • School grades dropping off or failing.
  • Isolation or avoidance of family
  • Keeps doors locked and being very secretive
  • Lack of motivation, wants to sleep all the time, lethargy
  • Quick temper where there wasn’t one before
  • Unexplained nervousness, paranoid ideation
  • Changes hair color. Black or dark dyes are a common choice. Hair dyes throw off home drug tests that use hair samples.
  • Poor or avoidant eye contact, glassy eyes, dilated pupils, red and squinted appearance
  • Slurred or slow speech, delayed motor movements
  • Smell of substances, smoke or weird perfumes or incense smells in hair, auto or clothing
  • Unusual marks on arms, legs or other body parts referred to as needle tracks or pin sticks

Common Hiding Places

  • Electrical outlets, air vents, musical instruments & amps, hollowed out tampons
  • Buried in clothing in backs of drawers, socks etc., taped to backs of drawers
  • Under corners of carpets, mattresses, look for holes that have been cut out
  • Under the parents nose i.e. the master bedroom or other common areas such as kitchen
  • Pens or other writing instruments, lipstick/gloss, behind wall posters/pictures
  • Pet bedding, under the back of toilet tanks, game consoles, stuffed in candy/gum
  • False bottom containers that have screw bottoms that look like soda or hairspray/hairbrush
  • Anywhere in their car including under the hood. Anywhere in the garage.

This list can seem extensive and it is just the beginning. Watch the teen’s behavior where they frequent in the house and be vigilant for certain patterns such as suddenly going in and out of the house through the garage, back door etc. The bottom line is drugs can be hidden anywhere and exhausting to look for. On top of this a teenagers room can be a catastrophic mess and trying to comb through everything may seem almost impossible. However, it doesn’t take much to go into a teen’s room and start cleaning up a few things and at the same time make a few checks around the room.

Almost all teens are protective guardians of their rooms and may get defensive when the parent walks in, especially with a cleaning motive. Teen’s often feel that their room is their only safe place in the house and the only area they can claim some real estate. A protective teen doesn’t necessarily indicate drug use. Finding drugs in a stash after suspected behavior is what indicates drug use. In other words, get the evidence that the teen is using drugs before calling them out on it.

More about Brian M. Murray



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codependent-being-ignored-200x258_mediumCodependency used to be associated only with those who are in a relationship with someone who has an addiction. Codependent is a term that arose out of the addiction community that addicts used to described the type of person they would show love in order to use them as a resource to feed their habit.

More recently, codependency has been expanded as a broader term to describe a behavior pattern that can affect anyone, not just those who are in relationship with an addict. Codependency is identified when a person sacrifices their well being in favor of the interests and well being of others. The other is usually a person with whom they are in a significant relationship or marriage with. Codependency can happen in other areas as well such as family members, church and at work. While all people need community and to feel accepted, codependents go out of their way to get this acceptance and love from others often to the detriment of their true self character and integrity.

Denial is a codependent sub-type and there are times when people who are suffering simply don’t want to change and they would rather continue with the suffering. Often the main reason for this is because the behavior is something they are familiar with and it is a habit they are not ready to break. Change requires dropping fear of the unknown to begin to live in a more healthy way. So, if a person wants to stay codependent and continue to live in denial here are 10 ways a person can do that.

  1. Don’t talk about your problems and keep them a secret.
  2. Ignore your feelings and focus on everyone else’s feelings first.
  3. Put yourself squarely between two arguing people and play conflict messenger.
  4. Make sure when talking to others you soften your words in order to diminished any chance of emotional outbursts.
  5. Make sure you interpret self care as being selfish.
  6. It is not okay to have personal rights in a relationship to be healthy and happy.
  7. You are not allowed to play and have fun until the needs of others have been met first.
  8. Be responsible for others by picking/cleaning up after them and not allowing them to do it for themselves.
  9. Call in sick for your spouse who drinks too much and can’t make it work or is too hung-over from the night before.
  10. Remember, your good feelings about who you are stemming from how well others approve of you and the actions you do for them.

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There is a type of addiction that exists that is commonly, and affectionately, referred to as a “shop-a-holic.” While it may sound like a term of endearment on the surface there are some people who strongly identify with it and have serious problems struggling to stop spending money. So what is behind this behavior, is it the love of money, does it feel good to spend money?

The real culprit behind spending money just like any other addiction is it makes the person feel good. When we medicate something painful in life it makes us feel better and reinforcing the desire to indulge in the activity. So what is the big deal about going out and spending money?” Spending money is okay, but just like drinking a little wine every once in a while doesn’t impair most people there are some who can’t touch the stuff as it will lead them down a path of destruction. But when spending money is put into the context of what constitutes addiction then it becomes a problem.

Addiction is the compulsive habit of turning to a substance or behavior that leads to dysfunction in multiple areas of a person’s life mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Often the underlying question is how come this is happening? The answer is typically that the compulsion is being used as a coping mechanism for some undesirable feeling such as sadness or unresolved anger. The rush of spending money sends a chemical to the brain that involves feeling good resulting in the perception of happiness. It feels good at the time but when the activity is over so is the elation. The reality of sadness and undesired feelings creep back in and the person returns to the thing that makes them feel good.

This turns into a vicious cycle of addiction where a person is avoiding their unresolved pain and instead learns to live in a world that makes them feel good. This forms a kind of love bond with the behavior and become attached to it. The only problem with the method is like any addiction it takes more and more to get the same result. The reason it takes more and more is the coping mechanism is faulty, it’s not true healing. The checking account runs low, savings accounts disappear, retirement funds get cashed out, second loans on the home and then foreclosure, lost relationships and marriages, cars get repossessed and the list goes on. It is not usually until a person who has an addiction issue hits rock bottom that they finally admit they have a problem and reach out for help. They have no more resources left to mask the problem. They have exhausted their friends and family and they have a debt they cannot repay.

So what does a person who has a spending addiction do? First is to know that any addiction is a symptom of an underlying issue. Seek professional help to help identify the root cause of the problem. One of the main issues regarding behavioral addictions is low self esteem and depression. When mood is lifted it is because it was lifted from a low place into one of elation. Developing healthy coping mechanisms that do not lead to destruction is a good place to start. This involves doing things that are enjoyable and require little if any funding to pursue. Taking walks in the park, visiting with friends or going and helping the less fortunate as a volunteer can be great places to start. To help with undesired feelings journaling thoughts through hand written expression, art, woodworking or other methods that involve the use of hands can be great for providing distractions to return to old addiction coping mechanisms. These therapeutic tools are also useful to relieve everyday stress, anxiety and depression which are common relapse triggers.


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Substance abuse recovery is really about life changes. Going from a life dependent on a substance to dependent on the self can be stressful.  However, developing a positive attitude toward recovery can go a long way by reinforcing the purpose for quitting addictions. If you are a person or know of someone who is suffering from addictions here are 5 positive ways quitting affects a person.
  1. It increases control over your life. When a person makes a conscious choice to stop using drugs or alcohol it helps to empower them over the substance. It signals to themselves that “I can do this and I am doing it.” Recovery takes effort and discipline and will be challenging at times. Keep the recovery in perspective by developing a healthy perspective of self-worth.
  2. Fewer job problems. This benefit comes from not calling in sick, being late, having mental issues with memory and processing information. Mental fog is often a problem for people who are struggling with addiction and comes at a price of lost job performance. Missed work is often the result of dealing with hang overs or wanting to isolate with their drug of choice. So the benefit of not using is increased performance, being on time and not calling out. Over time the mental fog should lift after the substance has been stopped being used.
  3. Better health and restored balance. Substance abuse releases dopamine into the brain that signals “I feel good.” Over time it can get burned out losing the sensation of being able to feel good anymore which is also known as tolerance. The abuser will notice that no matter how much more of the drug they take, known as “bumping,” doesn’t work anymore because the dopamine has been all used up. When a person stops using the dopamine is allowed to return to normal levels allowing the brain to improve functioning. Other health benefits can be exercise, more sleep and an overall general sense of feeling better with improved self-esteem.
  4. More Financially Fit. One of the biggest assets for someone struggling with addiction is cash flow. If the money is flowing in then the drug can be resourced. If the money stops then finding a solution can be a real problem. Usually the resource is found by manipulating other people or finding a codependent partner to lean on . When the addiction stops then the money stops flowing toward the addiction and goes toward other things.
  5. Respect. Family and friends will notice the change, especially if the addicted person has been struggling for a while. Usually the first improvements they will notice is increased mood and an change of attitude. When a person feels they have put the worst behind them and have a healthy outlook on life it transcends to the body and presents itself in a positive way. The ultimate respect will come from the self, self-respect. The biggest thing a person who struggles with addiction is to get out of a shame based mind-set and adopt the mind-set that they have beat something that at one time seemed bigger than they are.

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addiction“There are two ways to be fooled. One is to believe what isn’t true; the other is to refuse to believe what is true.” ― Søren Kierkegaard

Addiction has a strong pull on the human psyche and in a lot of ways is like an emotional manipulator. Those who are caught in this affliction often testify that the pull of wanting to return to their drug of choice is stronger than their ability to overcome it. Addiction manipulates the pleasure center of the brain known as the limbic system which is a primitive part of the brain that is responsible for the feel good chemicals. This is accomplished when drugs manipulate the release of dopamine; a neurotransmitter that is responsible for producing pleasure, euphoria and controlling emotional responses, to basically feel good.

Manipulation in the brain is like a false positive; to feel good means one must not feel good, right? So if a person wants to feel better they must medicate, because, they don’t feel good. The problem with this theory is there is a lie involved. The quote at the beginning of this article gives an example of how there are two ways to be fooled, to believe the lie, or to think the truth is a lie.

This is the very nature of addiction; it is about living a lie. The addiction lies and seduces the user into believing that the substance is the answer for the pain they feel. Pain is there for a reason, usually emotional; to signal that there is a problem. To simply drown it, shoot it, snort it or swallow it is a short term solution to something that needs to be addressed on a deeper level.

Often when a person tries to move away from the drug and begin to face the deeper emotional problems they are experiencing some obstacles can arise, often in the form of the truth of what is being medicated. These obstacles are part of the denial process of trying to move away from dependency into independence. Independence is about being able to stand without using a coping mechanism to manipulate dopamine into feeling better. In this process the addicted person may begin to struggle with really wanting to give it up. They are afraid to leave the false reality of the safety and comfort of the drug that they have come to believe in. Here are a few of the common obstacles faced with addiction and alcoholism recovery.

Denying the Truth

Denying, or denial, in a nutshell is saying “I don’t have a problem.”  Someone who wants to recover admits there is a problem and takes steps to take care of it. Being hooked on a substance is a lot like being in a bad relationship. Like any good lover, the substance makes them feel better and is more important than regaining their dignity. The addicted person does not realize they deserve a better life.


This voice says “I deserve it! I have earned it for whatever reason, xyz…” To put it bluntly, rationalization is about making an excuse to use and looking for a reason to pick up. This can also be an area where a person in recovery will test themselves to see if they are truly recovered. “I’ll just have one and prove to myself that I am no longer addicted.” Unfortunately this test rarely passes with positive results.


Intellectualizing addiction is about coming to a conclusion about how it all came about and this knowledge is going to be used on how they are going to outsmart the problem. This is not about facing the issue; this is about circumventing it and looking for a work around to real recovery.


“I’m the victim of things that happened to me in my life, if it weren’t for these awful things that happened to me then I would not have this problem.” Okay, let’s go back to reality, not believing the lie. Blaming others or holding others responsible for the addiction will go nowhere. The decision to pick up and use is always the choice of the user. The old cliché about anger can be applied here “drink the poison and wait for the other person to die.”

The bottom line for addiction and recovery is about getting real that there is a problem and making a choice. It’s a matter of motivation. The addicted person has to make the choice to recognize that they have a problem and make a stand against it. There is no doubt, it is hard, it takes effort, it is a battle and it is not easy, but it is possible.

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unstuck Feeling stuck in life can bring about unsettling emotions and negative thinking. It can create questions in the mind about life, career, family and a whole host of other thinking patterns that can lead to major changes. Often the source of frustration for feeling stuck isn’t so much about the position someone finds themselves as it is about how they think about how they see themselves in their current situation. This negative thinking pattern over time can lead into other issues such as low self-esteem, self-worth, depression and anxiety. To head this off at the pass before it gets to that level and therapy is needed to reverse course there are a few things a person can do to help get directed back into a positive mindset.

Watch out for and filter internal self dialogue that has a critical voice saying something that leads to thinking “I’m not good enough and I’m incompetent.” This can lead to feelings of guilt and shame which has an underlying tone  that translates into “I am doing something wrong, or I am a bad person.” This is language of negative thinking and when it goes on for too long it becomes a habit. Just like any other habit, the longer it is done the more reinforced it becomes.

Now the good news. Getting into a negative thinking pattern is something that is learned and when something is learned it can be relearned. It  is like learning bad math and going through life with the understanding that 3 plus 2 equals 6 can be frustrating. The idea is to learn new ways of doing things by replacing the old ways with new ways with something more realistic.  Many years ago Alcoholics Anonymous figured this out and they use a common phrase saying “watch out for your stinking thinking.” They know that thinking despairing thoughts leads to distress and unhealthy coping mechanisms. So how does someone get into a more healthy and realistic frame of mind? Here are a few things that can help lead to change.

  • Be a self role model. If there is something that you do not like about yourself then acting more like the person you want to be can be a good starting point. This can be real or imagined, envision what this might look like and work toward that vision.
  • Take inventory of your posture. The way a person walks, talks, sits and stands can make a difference in how they feel about themselves. Using a confident posture can help a person feel more confident about who they are and their purpose in life.
  • No matter how small or big an achievement do some self rewarding. Feeling good and celebrating achievements helps reinforce something that was done that is good and puts things in a more positive light.
  • Recognize and accept your strengths. Be thankful for compliments and at times give some out to others. Sometimes a helpful way can be to write compliments down or thank you cards and put them into a file. If feeling negative a good technique for lifting mood in the future is to pull out that file and read a few of the notes tucked away.
  • Changing language to reflect motivation. Changing internal motivational language goes from “I will try” to “I will.” Trying can influence self doubt about the ability to achieve something and leaves an easy out. Motivational language reflects determination and a positive attitude about how “I can do it and I will do it.”

When feeling stuck take a look at the bigger picture and think about how there may be other ways of doing things. This list is not exhaustive and being creative on how to get unstuck goes a long way. Step outside of yourself and see how you would see yourself if you were another person. What would that person say to you? What would you say to another person if they were having the same experience?

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