September 2016 - Addiction
"Arizona Morning Glories", Susannah Castro
This month our newsletter topic theme is addictions. I don't think there is anyone alive whose life hasn't been touched by some type of addiction. Some of the addictions include: alcoholism, drugs of all kinds, such as opioids, heroin, crystal meth, cocaine and many other drugs. There is also "process addictions", such as sex addiction, codependency, eating or food addictions, addiction to work and being busy, and one of the newest is our phones and IPads, which, in my opinion are becoming addictive. Everywhere you go people are "plugged in" to their phones and iPads.
My own history is riddled with addictions. Both of my parents were alcoholic, and grandparents were also. I am a recovered co-dependent and food addict. My son was alcoholic and my daughter is a recovered drug addict. I have participated in Coda and Al Anon and other recovery groups and I can attest to how helpful they are. I have done a lot of my own recovery work and I have helped many others with healing from their addictions.
We can also become addicted to our stories and to how we think. Susan's article goes in depth about this. So, I invite you to look at your own life and determine if there is any addiction or process addiction going on in your life.
One thing I do know from my experience: you can only help yourself.
Clinical Director, STAR Foundation
Our Star 2016- 2017 retreats are filling up quickly! We have also added our 2017 retreats so you can plan ahead. You can find a calendar and other information, including how to register, on our website by clicking the links below.
2016 Fall STAR Retreat
November 11, 2016 - November 20, 2016
2017 Winter STAR Retreat
January 27, 2017 - February 5, 2017
2017 Spring STAR Retreat
April 21, 2017 - April 30, 2017
2017 Summer STAR Retreat
July 21, 2017 - July 30, 2017
2017 Fall STAR Retreat
October 13, 2017 - October 22, 2017
Habits of Thought
by Susan Highsmith, PhD, STAR Board of Directors
Most of us think of an addiction as substance abuse, a dependency on alcohol or drugs. We think addictions are something we don’t have to worry about because other people have those cravings, obsessions, and compulsions. Yet most of us are having challenges in our lives, due to our addiction to our own thoughts. Our thinking is creating problems that seem overwhelming and unsolvable. Our thoughts are habitual and really bad habits are addictions. Most of us are addicted to thoughts that are not good for us, in fact, are keeping us mired in depression, anxiety, and fear.
Part of any healing process is monitoring our thoughts, listening to what we are saying to ourselves. We must learn to examine what we are thinking so that we can improve the quality of our lives. Whether we are experiencing mental, emotional, physical, or spiritual crises we must look at what our own thoughts are contributing to our discomfort, dis-ease.
The power and success of the STAR model of therapy for the last 40 years is derived from its foundation in two systems: prenatal and perinatal psychology and attachment theory. These concepts provide a way of seeing participants as whole and healthy, but impaired by thoughts, feelings, and behaviors that limit their ability to experience happiness and success.
We learned in our earliest lives, indeed, at the very beginning, that we were not OK, not good enough, or not loveable. These damaging perceptions evolved into beliefs, and as our brains developed, became patterns of thought and feeling. Those patterns became the beliefs that eventually got expressed as thoughts, thoughts that were repeated because that’s the way life seemed. The beliefs became expectations that people would treat us as if we were not OK, not good enough, and not loveable.
To find out if you have negative, self-destructive thoughts, all you have to do is look at the results in your life. Are your experiencing loving relationships, prosperity, a successful career? If not, it is time to examine what habits of thinking have been contributing to the results you are getting.
Founder of STAR, Barbara Findeisen, says, “What we think about, we bring about!” This is wisdom that has prevailed throughout the ages. It is known in Eastern traditions as Karma, or the Law of Cause and Effect. In Judaism it is known as an eye for an eye; in Christianity it is known as casting our bread upon the water and having it return to us or reaping what we sow; in science it is the principle of radiation and magnetization, like attracts like, and action and reaction.
If you like science, here is what is going on in your body. Each cell, from the very first fertilized cell that developed into your body, responds to stimuli in one of two ways—either love or fear. According to cellular biologist Bruce Lipton, a cell that experiences fear contracts and protects itself, while a cell that experiences love expands and grows. A cell cannot do both at the same time. Fear causes aging, disintegration, and disease. Love, on the other hand, fosters growth and optimum development.
If we are not wanted, if our parents considered abortion, if we were the wrong gender, if we were considered a burden, if, if, if… You can fill in the blanks. At birth and in early childhood we may have learned from the god-like adults around us that we were not smart enough, were clumsy, stupid, lazy, unworthy of love, or unacceptable in some way. If we were treated badly, abused or neglected, we felt it must be our fault. They must know the truth, so we concluded we were defective. Those ideas were impressed into our developing minds and became beliefs about who we are. They have gone underground, of course, and are hidden in our subconscious/unconscious minds. But the effects remain. We formed our sense of ourselves due to other’s perceptions, by how we were treated. Those imprinted patterns of thought now drive our lives.
Consider the patterns of thought that run your life. The neural connections in your brain circuitry are myelinated, literally insulated like a lamp’s electrical wiring. But your beauty, truth, and Light may be obscured by faulty wiring. Begin to examine your habits of thought to see what you are saying to yourself and others. Are you affirming your own happiness and success or are you thinking about and telling the same stories over and over of failure, poverty, and poor relationships?
The good news is, if we have self-destructive patterns of thought, we can change them! Begin to focus on what’s right with you. Reinforce thoughts that reflect your Light, and consider whether STAR could be a step on your path to a better life.
Addictions, Kenny Ball, STAR Facilitator
I know a little about addiction, or, more precisely, some precursors to addiction. I’ve never been an addict, but I did come close. There was a time in my life that I used a particular drug off and on. I loved how it made me feel. I would just lay there and breathe, and feel very, very good. Because I grew up in a paradigm of fear, feeling good was not something I experienced very often. Finding something that actually made me feel good was a pretty big deal. The fact that it was a drug didn’t matter too much in the beginning. I loved feeling so good when I used it.
Eventually, however, as good as it made me feel, it made me feel that bad when there was no more of the drug. I soon had the awareness that each time I used the drug, it was killing something inside of me. It was taking over the life force in me—my spirit, my heart, my essence. I knew I either had to stop using it or it was going to take over completely. I knew the drug, and the feeling it gave me, would become everything to me, and any chance I had at healing or connecting to my core self and to life would be gone. Using the drug was a quick fix. It went straight to the pleasure center in my brain. In that way, it made me feel very good. But I knew there was something more to life. I’d always had fleeting moments in which I felt totally alive, when everything made sense and there was no struggle. But those were tiny, ephemeral moments. Still, it was during those moments that I knew aliveness was possible, that there was another way to live besides living in fear. It was like getting an instantaneous glimpse of wholeness. That was what I wanted, not a manufactured chemical reaction that lit up the pleasure center in my brain. That’s not to say it was easy to stop using the drug. In fact, if I had lived in an environment where drugs were readily available, I don’t know if I would have been able to stop. But I did stop.
I often craved it for years afterward, but I never gave in. I knew using again could do me in. Gradually, the craving happened less and less, but it took a long time. Even today there are times I wish I could just take something to make me feel good, ease my pain. My drug made feeling good easy but eventually it would have killed my heart, my soul.
My capacity for having positive feelings was damaged very early in my life. In the course of time, that damage, along with the subsequent particular make up of my defenses, limited my ability to feel much of anything, let alone open and alive. It contributed to my susceptibility to becoming addicted.
I believe a limited capacity for feeling good becomes true for many of us, and can be a factor that makes us more susceptible to addiction, be it drugs, food, tv, power, money, sex, or any of the other things people become addicted to. Something is needed to fill the void, or to ease the pain.
I experienced Prenatal and Perinatal (PPN) trauma and it never was acknowledged or healed. In the era I was born in, there was very little awareness of PPN trauma. Far too often this is still the case. Indeed, one common belief was that babies didn’t feel pain. So acknowledging that trauma, let alone healing it, was rare. In my case, the trajectory of my development was thrown off course very early. The connection to my core self was damaged and the seeds were planted for growing and living from a paradigm of fear. The focus of my life gradually became dealing with my anxiety and trying to feel safe, rather than living life. I was too busy defending myself to even have a life — to truly live, love, and be my self.
That being the case, I was clearly susceptible to addiction. I had a hole in my self that needed filling but I had no clue what to do or how to fill it. I spent years trying to “find myself.” I only knew something was not right and that I rarely felt alive and whole. Therefore, I tried things that might give me something or make me feel better. Again, it makes sense that I was a candidate for addiction.
Pertaining to addiction, one thing I know is that, in my case at least, having PPN trauma weakened my connection to my core self. This led to my living from a paradigm of fear and is a powerful contributor to being drawn to drugs. It is my hope that the causes of PPN trauma continue to be explored, mitigated, and, when possible, eliminated. If this were so, I believe there would be much less addiction in the world.
"Sunset, looking East", Susannah Castro
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Photos copyright and courtesy of Susannah Castro