A Different Perspective on Addiction
Do you or someone you love have any of these thoughts or experiences?
- I'm a daily drinker but it doesn't really seem to be affecting my work. Unfortunately, it is causing stress in my relationship. Come to think of it, I'm afraid of what the doctor might find if I had my liver examined.
- I just wish I could be a "normal" drinker, whatever that means.
- I know everyone thinks heroin is a "serious" drug but I am a straight "A" college student and heroin user; but I feel trapped: the highs aren't really there anymore, yet I dread the miserable withdrawals. I keep thinking this is my last time doing it, only to start again tomorrow.
- I probably should want to stop doing drugs for health and other "right" reasons; to be honest I'm just tired of blowing all my money on it!
- I make reasonable and rational decisions in most areas of my life; why can't I seem to muster the will power to say no to my addictive behavior?
- I think I may have one of those "addictive personalities."
- I'm tired of all the lies; that's just not who I am.
- It's so much stress keeping this a secret; people who know me would just die if they knew I used meth (or coke, or heroin...etc.).
- I should be able to handle this on my own; therapy and treatment are for the weak-willed. Anyway, what I'm doing so far just isn't cutting it.
- This is embarrassing: I know pot is not even really a "serious" drug but I can't seem to live without it - and I'm certainly not getting anything else done except getting high.
- I know I'm not an alcoholic / addict because I can go for long periods of time without drinking or using; it's the binges that have me concerned.
- I consider shooting drugs as "crossing the line." But I do have a pill for just about everything.
- I started with a legitimate reason to manage my pain (e.g. post surgery or injury), but now I'm not sure why I'm still taking these pills - or why I can't seem to stop.
- I can take or leave any drug or alcohol. But I can't seem to gain control over my gambling, internet use, or sex addiction.
- My spouse (or child, friend, etc) has an addiction problem but I don't know how to address it with them.
- OK, I admit I have a pretty serious problem. However, I can't afford to be locked up for a month or more in some rehab in the middle of the desert.
- I've been to AA or NA meetings and they just don't work for me; I've been told that's because I'm unwilling to "work the program." That just doesn't seem right, but who am I to question my doctor, family, clergy, etc.?
- I'm not a religious person and really don't get this "higher power" thing.
- I am a religious person but don't believe I need to be told my way is the wrong way.
- I don't believe I have a "disease" from which I can never "recover." Of course, I've been told I can't think that way because that's merely "the disease talking" or my "stinking thinking."
If you can relate to any of the above, it might be worth your while to contact me! Dr. Dan Galant 858-546-9257
Although you couldn't see names and faces, these statements and so many more like them are expressions from actual clients I've treated. Perhaps I can help you too!
A Non 12 Step Addiction Model
Since the 1930s 12-Step has been the most pervasive model for addiction treatment. However, in no other area of all medicine and psychology is there a greater gap between "conventional wisdom" and actual empirical evidence. You wouldn't trust your brain surgeon if his/her training was primarily based on 1930s technology, right? Let me be clear: 12-Step continues to help so many people transform their lives; it's just that it doesn't work for everyone. Further, the latest research bears out that there is no one superior treatment. It is about matching the treatment to the individual. And that's what I do.
I subscribe to a Non-12-Step approach called the Bio-Psycho-Social model. It helps me understand how the following factors uniquely interplay and contribute to addictive behavior / chemical dependency for each individual person:
- Genetics / predispositions
- Withdrawal symptoms
- Sleep issues / fatigue
- Coping with stress
- Depression or anxiety
- Feeling unfulfilled (trying to fill a "void")
- Psychological Trauma
- Peer groups
- Religion / family
Exploring how these factors play a role for my clients also helps to point us in the right direction for potential solutions. This understanding does not require that one wears a label of addict or alcoholic. Nor does it require "turning it over" to a "higher power." Instead of considering addiction as a life-long disease that can only be managed with a spiritual solution (which in essence is the 12-Step notion), we have more options. Of course, if you do subscribe to that ideology, I support that too. My motto is "do what works / makes sense for you!
How do I know if I have a problem?
Many people are surprised to learn that the terms "alcoholic" and "addict" are not actual legitimate diagnostic terms. The official reference guide for psychologists and psychiatrists (DSM 5) only describes "use" disorders of varying severity. In any case, as mentioned above, the label is really not important. It's not a simple case of you either have a problem or you don't. Many people avoid getting help which could be beneficial because they are backed into that dichotomy. It's human nature to rationalize, "it's not that bad," or "at least I'm not as bad as that person." It's not necessary to hit the proverbial "rock bottom" before addressing our issues. Instead, I ask my clients these questions: Which areas of your life that are important to you (health, family and other relationships, career, finances, legal status, psychological and spiritual well being, etc.) are negatively impacted by your addictive behavior? In what ways are your behaviors inconsistent with your deep values? Would you like to do something about that? Even as one recognizes the benefits of change, it's normal to continue to experience some level of ambivalence. We can work through this together!
Do I have to give up my addiction completely?
In two words, not necessarily. In the big picture, everyone has the same goals: to reduce or eliminate the negative consequences of their addictive behavior (costs) and find healthier ways of addressing the real or perceived benefits. The path toward those goals is unique for each person. Some may find the right balance by simply cutting back on their usage. Others can learn ways to be more moderate in their use. Still, others find that the only workable solution is to completely abstain. I won't be telling you what you have to do. But I will collaborate with you with the right tools to find and maintain the solution that's viable for you. I have observed that many of my clients over the years have started with a goal of moderation only to come to their own decision that abstinence was actually easier and preferable. The point is, it's a decision that only you can make.
Which addictions do you treat?
You might hear terms like addictive behavior, substance abuse, or chemical dependency. Whether it is a substance, activity, or behavior that is causing costs that are no longer acceptable to you, I would be honored to be part of your journey in making some important changes. Below is a list of some of the various addictions I typically treat:
- Opiates (including pain killing pills and heroin)
- Benzos (anti-anxiety pills like Valium or Xanax)
- Internet / porn
- Bath salts
- Club drugs
- Nicotine (cigs and chew)
How intensive is the treatment?
The continuum of care includes anything from making one phone call on the end of minimal work, to doing an extensive residential rehab. The traditional approach often jumps to the conclusion that anyone presenting with an addiction issue should immediately check into a 30-90 day or more rehab. My feeling is that you should do the least intensive and resource extensive treatment that will be of maximum benefit for you. In fact, many studies (and my own experience of over 20 years) show that outpatient treatment is more typically the treatment of choice; many people unnecessarily assume they need to make the financial and time commitment of residential rehab. This may be so if someone is extremely unstable medically, needing an extended detox, or simply needs to be removed from their environment to get an extended break from life's triggers and too easy access to their drug of choice. However, those triggers and opportunities to use will be waiting when they get out of rehab. Doing the work in an outpatient setting has the advantage of learning to deal with those factors in real time, and in one's home environment - the real world. Additionally outpatient treatment affords the flexibility to continue work, school, and family life.
I'm thinking about it, what's next?
A lot of people think that they have to be 100% ready or completely committed to sobriety before even making a call. That's certainly not the case but I recognize the courage it takes to do just that. So I assure you, I am happy to have a no-pressure conversation about options that could work for you. Call me at 858-546-9257. If after that call you decide to take further action, let's just start with a face-to-face meeting for further assessment at my San Diego office (La Jolla to be more specific). We may choose to continue to work together individually on a schedule that works for you or I can make some suggestions for other options/referrals.
I am also part of a one-of-a-kind team called Practical Recovery Psychology (see https://www.practicalrecovery.com). If you opt to participate, we'll create a unique, Non-12 Step, intensive outpatient program for you. Rather than meeting in therapy groups for several hours per day/week, we will conduct individual psychotherapy sessions with multiple professionals. My colleagues and I are specialists with years of training, credentials (including licensed Ph.D.s), and experience with all addictive behavior and chemical dependency. Some sessions may involve looking at how your past experiences have shaped your present situation; others potentially involve family or couples therapy. Much of the work relates to providing you with practical nuts and bolts tools to powerfully address your issues. My colleagues and I each have different personalities, strengths, and tool sets so your experience will be thoroughly well-rounded and effective. In addition our staff meets regularly to strategize direction and maximize attention to address your needs and goals. This is a very flexible program that can be customized to your individual needs, time, and budget.
It's not too late to be happy!
For more info please call:
Dan Galant, Ph.D. 858-546-9257
Or Contact Me Here