Discovery and Recovery Podcast, Episode 6 (Elizabeth Martin, Part 1)
Welcome to the Recovery and Discovery Podcast with Bill Tierney, Episode 6.
You are listening to the Recovery and Discovery Podcast with Bill Tierney, Mindset and Recovery Coach, where Bill interviews individuals about their experiences and ideas related to addiction recovery.
Please welcome your host, Bill Tierney, Mindset and Recovery Coach.
Bill: Elizabeth Martin is a licensed clinical social worker and a licensed chemical dependency counselor who’s in practice out of Frisco, Texas. Now, she works with families of people with addictions and she works with the addicts when they are in some level of recovery once they’ve stabilized. She’s been working in this field for twenty-five years, and if you go to her website: elizabethmartinlcsw.com, one of the first things you’ll see is “Helping Clients Reconnect to Self and Others.” I just love that. I just met Elizabeth a couple of weeks ago. Please welcome and enjoy this interview with Elizabeth Martin.
Bill: Welcome to the podcast. Today’s guest is Elizabeth Martin. Elizabeth is a licensed clinical social worker. Did I get that right, Elizabeth?
Bill: And also a licensed chemical dependency counselor.
Bill: And I just met Elizabeth within the last couple of weeks. She and her husband were at an event that I was at in Phoenix, Arizona. We found that by talking to each other that we had some commonalities, and so I asked Elizabeth to join me on my podcast, and she graciously accepted my invitation. So, here we are to have that conversation now. Welcome.
Elizabeth: Thank you.
Bill: So, before we started our conversation today, I jumped on your website. Can I tell people what your website is?
Bill: It’s elizabethmartinlcsw.com. And Elizabeth, you’re doing therapy, and you’re doing therapy with a lot of different groups of people, but you also specialize in a group of people that I’m very interested in and that is folks that are suffering from Addictive Disorder as you say on your bio.
Elizabeth: Correct, but I treat all aspects, not just the chemical, but also the process addictions: food, sex, religion, gambling, all that.
Bill: Okay. That’s where I’d like to start, if we could. Could you explain for me and anybody that’s listening what is understood…when you say Addictive Disorder, what should we understand that to mean?
Elizabeth: We all have coping mechanisms used to deal with life or feelings, and things that cause us stress, but when a coping mechanism runs amok, when it gets compulsive and chronic, it kind of crosses the line, it absolutely crosses the line to what we call addiction. So, addictions are fatal, they’re in one way or another, either they don’t end well. So, people either get sober, recovered from addiction or they just progressively lead to a fatality.
Bill: I can actually see you while we’re recording this podcast episode on Zoom, so I can see you and I saw the air quotes when you said “sober” that were in quotation marks.
Elizabeth: Sober is used kinds of loosely. Some people are chemically sober or they call themselves food sober. Obviously, a food addiction is harder to treat in that alcohol and drugs we can certainly live without, but food we cannot. So learning how to manage that and stay food “sober” (air quotes)…definitions can change depending on the person.
Bill: Just from reading your bio, I can see that your goal is not, and correct me if I’m wrong here, but your goal is not simply to break the addiction, but also to deal with whatever was there that invited or created the environment for the addiction in the first place. Am I right?
Elizabeth: Absolutely. If we can get to the cause. What I’ve found is that people continue to have cravings and they have a great deal of difficulty staying sober, abstinent, recovered, whatever word you want to use, if they don’t deal with the underlying causes, the shame, the wounding, the whatever it is that created the situation that led them to the coping mechanisms to begin with.
Bill: So shame, wounding, does that pretty much all encompass the causes of addiction? If we had asked you for a list of causes of addiction, what would you say?
Elizabeth: Well, addiction is pretty much a shame-based disease, feelings of being damaged goods, not worthy, not lovable, not relevant and typically, people don’t even have an awareness that that’s what’s really going on, but that’s more often than not, the underlying quality. There’s people that are happy, that feel good about themselves, that love themselves, take care of themselves, typically don’t turn to self-destructive behavior, especially not to a level where it’s chronic and compulsive.
Bill: And what is it about addiction, about whether it’s the act or the substance, or the combination of those two things that helps someone that does become addicted? What I hear from you is that shame, wounding, not feeling good about yourself, having maybe secrets, kind of the way I’m processing as I’m listening, it’s painful, it’s painful to live that way. So, what is it that addiction does for someone that’s in that kind of pain?
Elizabeth: Well, if this is a chemical addition, it numbs those feelings. They don’t have to feel, they don’t have to deal. They can avoid. You are literally altering your mood with a chemical. The same can happen in the process addictions. Gamblers don’t ingest a chemical, but there is an absolute high that they experience with thinking about it. They don’t have to be using…just planning the use. Food addicts, whether it’s restricting behaviors or over-indulging behaviors, when you are creating that much chaos and wreaking that much havoc on your body, you are not feeling your emotions, you’re just feeling the physical aspects of the food or the high.
Bill: So that’s better than being with the pain associated with the shame.
Elizabeth: Correct. It’s so habitual, that people don’t even notice or realize.
Bill: It just become a habit. It worked this time. Let me go to that again and again and again. And now it’s just a habit. I’ve found with alcohol, which was my addiction, one of my addictions I should say. I found with alcohol that I could pretty much rely on it to provide… I only drank for a short time over the period of about eleven years, but I found that even though it required maybe a little bit more alcohol the longer I did it, I could still get that effect that you’re describing. It worked for me to shut things down, and I could cope throughout the day with whatever stresses came my way just knowing that later in the day I was going to be drinking alcohol. Do you see that with other addictions as well?
Elizabeth: Oh, absolutely. It becomes an old friend. It doesn’t argue with us, it’s always there, it always works, it’s available. And then we start to build identities around that. We tell ourselves stories. We can’t function without it. We can’t go to a party, we can’t eat pizza or crawfish without a beer. We can’t take a test without Adderall. We can’t have sex without cocaine. We tell ourselves these stories and that becomes reality and so then there’s a panic of having to live life without any of the substances.
Bill: So there has to be some sort of a, you know there’s a train of thought that says you have to hit a bottom. You have to have some sort of a crisis that brings you to the point to be willing to go through the discomfort of breaking that habit. What have you seen along those lines that collaborates that or argues with it?
Elizabeth: Well, it’s that anxiety and/or panic of living without it that creates the belief system that they can’t live without it. Ultimately what happens for a lot of people is that when you’re using you lose things. You lose your self-respect, it costs money, maybe your job, maybe your family. People will continue to lose things until whatever their rock bottom is. And that’s different for everybody. Some people’s bottoms are they might have lost their family, but they still have their job. Maybe it’s their license and then they…it depends on the person and they get so consumed in the disease.
So ideally what we have to help them see is that the pain of getting sober is less than the pain of staying stuck in this disease. This is the one disease that convinces me that you don’t have it, so denial is a huge factor. Minimization, justification completely affects their thinking and their view of the world and themselves in it. And so trying to reason with an addict can be crazy making for spouses and family and friends that can see things much more clearly and have a better perspective than the addict does. But it’s really all fueled by the panic of having to live life without their crutch, their coping tool.
Bill: Yes. So what I heard from you is that the pain of the addiction has got to be greater than the pain of abstinence or of stopping the addiction.
Elizabeth: Right, and really, they’re making that up because they don’t even know what the pain of sobriety is. They won’t know until they do it and transformation, any kind of transformation comes with some growing pains. You know, it can be uncomfortable within them. And that’s why I think they need a lot of support and some good therapy on board. It’s not an easy task.
Bill: There’s so much I want to ask; I’m taking notes here in case I forget something. One of the men who is currently approaching two years of recovery from heroin that I talk to – when he was telling me his story, and we’ll have him on the podcast very soon here as well. He said when he was in his addiction to heroin, almost always, almost from the moment after the very first time he used again he had this nagging thought that he wished that he hadn’t done it and that he was in recovery. And then he would get into recovery, which was a real painful, painful process for him to go through from heroin, to withdraw from heroin, and get to the place where he stabilized enough to even see himself as being in recovery, but he was abstinent from heroin. During withdrawals and for him, six to twelve months after he quit the heroin, he had this nagging thought, “I wish I was using.” Does that sound familiar?
Elizabeth: The grass is always greener, right?
Bill: Yes. This sucks, this is horrible, maybe using would be better than this.
Elizabeth: And these are the stories we tell ourselves. This sucks. So then it’s running from living in the here and now.
Bill: So I heard you say that once somebody does gets into “recovery”…did you use the word recovery? Is that a word you use?
Elizabeth: Yes, I use recovery, abstinence, sobriety. I use whatever is comfortable for the client.
Bill: Got it. Yes.
Elizabeth: It means different things to different people.
Bill: Right. Well, recovery to me points to being restored back to a state that previously existed. When I think about my experience, I never did have a state that I would have wanted to return to. So, recovery wasn’t really a good definition, a good word for me to use. It’s almost like I needed to be reinvented.
Elizabeth: I would use that word. Yes.
Bill: You also used the word “disease”. Can you tell me what you mean when you say “disease”? What’s your understanding of that?
Elizabeth: Well, it runs a very predictable course. So, if you stay “addicted” to your substance or process long enough, we know that certain things will happen. We will continue to go through experiences and losses until death occurs, so that’s why they call it a disease. It runs a very predictable course much like the flu, strep throat where there are certain identifiable symptoms and a predictable course.
Bill: That makes sense. You also deal with family members of people that are addicted.
Elizabeth: I do, often.
Bill: Are there commonalities between the family members and the addicts?
Elizabeth: Well, the family members can get just as addicted to the addict as the addict is to the substance or behavior. That’s where the term “co-dependency” was born. They are co-addicted and carry, basically, the same dependency. In working with a lot of the family members, sometimes I think they really experience a greater level of pain. It is extremely difficult, it’s excruciating to watch someone that you love and care for destroying themselves physically, emotionally, and mentally. The addict has the coping mechanism that numbs them out in the void, but it’s the co-dependents that do not. They literally feel it on a much greater level.
Bill: Yes. So, the co-dependent becomes addicted to the addict.
Bill: And what is it…
Elizabeth: Manage it, fix it, help them see. Man, if I had a nickel for every time I heard that.
Bill: Help them see.
Elizabeth: Help them see, help them see what they’re doing. In trying to fix or rescue or change them or their situation in some way, shape or form, which I think is natural on some level. When you see somebody struggling, but it’s like going from the coping mechanism into addiction, depending on how much you obsess about it and how much it’s consuming your life, and destroying you in the present and so the aspect comes in because it’s just as destructive.
Bill: The co-dependency aspect. With family members, with the non-addicts, what do you do that works to help them?
Elizabeth: Probably my main goal is to really help them get back into a seat of empowerment, in words of their own empowerment. To really distinguish what they do and do not have control over. To teach them how to detach with love, to detach from the addiction which is out of everyone’s control, and to love the person. Because I really do believe you have to love people into treatment. Shaming them just adds to the original issue. Threatening them…you know, there are times that we do need to give ultimatums and really draw our line in the sand in regards to what we will or will not tolerate. Teaching them about boundaries. We put boundaries on ourselves and what we will and will not tolerate and participate in, but we can’t put boundaries on somebody else.
Bill: So you help them to distinguish and get clear about what they do and don’t have power and control over.
Bill: So that…go ahead.
Elizabeth: Which puts them back in the seat of empowerment because they feel so helpless and powerless. And that’s a horrible feeling. And so reminding them, to help them find their boundaries again, remind them of their own value worth, put them back in the seat of empowerment to live their own lives, to determine what their values are, what they will and will not tolerate, and in some case, to help them let go, truly let go. Because everybody has the right to live their life how they want to. And so, there are people who have no intentions of getting sober, and if that interferes with the relationship, then the relationship will need to terminate.
Bill: I’m guessing that in many cases, you’ve got a tough sell. You’ve got a family member or a friend that is in your office. First of all, they’re probably thinking, “What am I doing here? I’m not the problem.”
Elizabeth: Correct. They come in usually to consult with me about how to get their loved one into therapy or treatment. And sometimes we can develop a plan, but often times they hear a lot of things they were not expecting and sometimes not even open to. If I think I only have somebody in my office for one consultation meeting, I give them as much information as I possibly can and hope to plant a seed and ideally that seed will take root at some point.
Bill: So, you’re willing to not be liked.
Elizabeth: Oh, for certain.
Bill: Which points to your dedication and your commitment to helping families and addicts that are in trouble with addictions.
Elizabeth: Absolutely, because that’s what they are coming to me for, and I have the information, and I have the experience and the education. And nobody’s going to tell them, nobody else will tell them what they need to hear and in a way they need to hear it the way I will. Often times people will respect me; they may not like me. That’s alright.
Bill: Well I’m remembering, even though it’s been a long, long time ago, I’m just remembering how uncomfortable it was for me and for my family members to hear the painful truth about my addiction. For the first time had a lot of resistance to it – didn’t agree with any of it.
Elizabeth: That’s very normal, very normal.
Bill: So, now when the addicted person comes and becomes one of your clients, do they come to you wanting to find recovery or do they typically show up in your office with some form and amount of recovery?
Elizabeth: No, it is very rare that somebody just walks into my office and says, ‘You know, I’ve been thinking that it’s really time for me to stop.” It has happened. Not much surprises me anymore, but every now and then I get a surprise like that. More often than not, it’s because they experienced some sort of negative consequences as a result of their addiction, and they are in jeopardy of losing something or they have lost something, or their health is in trouble. There’s lots of effects of addiction on a person’s body and soul and life, and so typically they’re coming in for one of those reasons and/or to make their spouse happy or so they don’t lose their license. There’s lots of reasons.
Bill: Yes, it’s okay though. They showed up.
Elizabeth: Absolutely! I’ll work with you where you are.
Bill: I certainly got sober for the wrong reasons, and it still worked.
Thank you for listening to the Recovery and Discovery Podcast with Bill Tierney, Mindset and Recovery Coach.
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October 17, 2018 Elizabeth Martin
Elizabeth Martin, LCSW, LCDC https://elizabethmartinlcsw.com/about.html
Smart Recovery https://www.smartrecovery.org/
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