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.
Bill interviews Elizabeth Martin, a 25 year veteran of Chemical Dependency Counseling about her experiences, wisdom and guidance regarding addiction and recovery. Part 2
Bill: This is part two of my interview with Elizabeth Martin, licensed clinical social worker. Be sure and listen to part one if you haven’t done so already.
Bill: Speaking of working and not working. Can I get you to weigh in on what you’ve seen in combination with the therapy that you provide? What have you seen that works? There’s a lot of questions here. What I’m interested and curious about is…I asked you how you treat the family members and friends of addicts, how do you treat the addict, and then I’ll get to the other questions after that.
Elizabeth: So, depending on the severity and where they are in the progression of the disease determines what level of care that they need. More often than not, if people are still using when they come into my office, I will typically refer them out to an intensive out-patient program, maybe they need a medical detox, in patient, it just really depends on the person and what’s going on physically. First and foremost, they have to be physically safe.
Once they’re sober and stable, that’s my favorite work to do is to reach to the core issues, meaning all those unconscious, underlying causes, the moving, the losses, all that stuff that needs time to heal, because I do know that it’s very, very difficult if not impossible, to stay sober without really doing that work. That’s my favorite work to do at this point in my career. I’ve done and run IOP programs and all that a long time ago.
Bill: You’ve run IOP, Intensive Out-Patient Programs?
Elizabeth: I have. When I was a new therapist back in the day, we did five nights a week, three hours a night. They don’t even do that anymore. It was the addicts and their significant others, and we’d get them all in the same group, and it was a phenomenal experience. We had really powerful groups. The intensity of it and the frequency of it I think was extremely important. I loved doing it, but it was all evening work and so that’s just not where I am today.
Bill: And you say they don’t even do that anymore. Why do you suppose that is?
Elizabeth: I don’t personally take insurance and one of the main reasons why is because I want to treat the person as the person needs to be treated and not be dictated by insurance but that’s a whole other story.
Bill: It’s a part of what I want to talk about. What elements impact successful or unsuccessful attempts at recovery? And insurance plays a part.
Elizabeth: Insurance does play a part. Not everybody falls into a perfect little grid that they have outlined for what is deemed appropriate or not appropriate treatment. Not everybody responds the same way. The people need longer in-patient or aftercare. Aftercare is extremely important, and this is the struggle that I have when some people go to treatment and they’re feeling a whole lot better, they haven’t been kicked out of their house or lost their medical degree, I mean license or whatever it is and so like any of us, we start feeling better and we back off of doing the things that got us to that point. So that’s when people are really at risk. I like, I think there’s a beautiful marriage between 12-Step and therapy. I do therapy obviously, and I really encourage people to join a 12-Step or some other aspect of support. I cannot be on call obviously for each and every one of my clients. There are clients I work with intensely and more regularly, but they need to have other avenues of support and experiences. The 12-Step is a not a perfect resource, but I think it’s a good resource. I really do. I think there are a lot of aspects of that program that can be very, very beneficial.
Bill: Can you talk about those? What are those aspects that you see that are beneficial from 12-Step programs?
Elizabeth: I think the availability. It’s pretty available all the time, anywhere, everywhere in the world, on cruise ships, on line, it’s available. So, there is never a need to feel alone in your struggle. There’s always other people that are there, that understand that support. And they understand it in a way that none of your family members can do. They just can’t. I love that aspect of being able to have a place to go where you can be flawed and struggling and craving and angry and people just welcome you without judgment.
Bill: Without judgment.
Elizabeth: I think that’s a really important need because we all are judging ourselves very harshly and so we don’t need that from anybody else. Family members mean well, but they don’t really get it. Addicts need a place where they can be safe from that. I love the 12-Steps. I think that those 12-Steps can be applied to any person on this planet. I think if we all really took an inventory of ourselves and let go of things we can’t control and have a power greater than ourselves that we allowed to put our trust in and let go of, (noise) I am a big fan of that. I also am a big fan of the sponsor aspect of it. I think that all of us need a mentor in anything that we are trying to do differently whether it’s a personal trainer, a therapist, a coach, a sponsor. Mentorship is extremely important…teachers…we all need to learn and to have someone there that can help us, and guide us and support in that.
Again, it’s not perfect, but I think there are some real benefits to having a sponsor, especially that first year to help us, guide us through and let us know where the pitfalls are and how to avoid them, to encourage us, to keep us on track. And really what I have found is that a good sponsor relationship can almost act as a re-parenting process. That’s the encouragement, the support, accountability, and unconditional love and acceptance really.
Bill: You said that 12-Step programs are one form of additional support. What else is there out there, other than therapy for folks that are in on-going recovery?
Elizabeth: There’s lots of other programs. There’s Smart Recovery. I had a woman who was more of an introvert, and she read a book and for whatever reason, something clicked in her and she decided from what she read that alcohol is poisonous, poisonous to her brain. Health was very important to her, and that was enough for her.
Again, it depends on the person, but there are regeneration groups; there’s lots of other support networks, but more often than not, I think it’s about that connection. It’s about connection, it’s about support, and having someone, something en route to help you walk through it and to lead and guide you.
Bill: There were two things that you said. You said “regeneration” and what was the first one you said?
Elizabeth: Smart Recovery maybe.
Bill: Smart Recovery, yes. I’ll look up those links and include those in the show notes here if anyone is interested in checking those out. Smart Recovery. And I know there’s a lot of different forms of 12-Step, too. There’s AA and then there’s Celebrate Recovery, which is a Christian-based 12-Step program. There are specialized meetings in AA for anybody that struggles with a God concept and God ideas. There are specialized meetings for agnostics and atheists that are attending 12-Step.
If you had someone set an appointment with you who’s a family member or a friend of someone who they believe is having a problem with addiction, what guidance would you give them? What counsel would you give to somebody, let me restate it, that’s listening to this podcast that’s in that situation? What or how would you guide them from here to what’s next? What should they do?
Elizabeth: I think first and foremost, is getting educated about what is and is not. Information is power. The more information and education you have about what is actually going on, facts in the situation, is going to determine a lot of what the course of action will be. Addicts tend to minimize a lot, so we may not always know exactly how much they’re using.
A family member may or may not know whether medical detox is necessary. That’s always my first concern because it’s so dangerous. Depending on the substance, detoxing cold turkey from certain things is very, very dangerous. We have to determine that, and sometimes we don’t always know the exact truth because they’re hiding bottles and minimizing. But they can usually report more accurately in regards to oh, well they missed so many days of work, they’ve lost their job, they dropped out of school. That’s an indication that it’s a fairly progressive disease.
Bill: In order to determine whether medical detox is necessary, the addict themselves would have to be willing to cooperate. Of course, that’s going to be true with any recovery anyhow.
Elizabeth: Absolutely. I always encourage my family members to love them into treatment. “You’re important to me. It’s devastating to watch you go through this. You deserve better. I know this isn’t what you want for yourself.”
I work to help them tweak their language to language that’s more loving and supportive and encouraging, as well as offering hope. There’s a better way. (noise) I always say, “Pain is necessary, but the suffering is optional.”
Bill: Yes. And on your website, the first thing I saw was “Helping clients reconnect to self and others,” so that goes right along with that – that loving message of hope.
Elizabeth: You know, I have a lot of clients that don’t fit that identity. They’re very functioning alcoholics and carry a tremendous amount of responsibility and stress and big titles. However, when they’re not working compulsively or gleaning satisfaction and approval from their title at work, they come home, and they struggle to be relational. They struggle to relate to their spouse or their children. Just being home can be very stressful for them because of the relational issues, which is so sad to me because that is the life that they created with these people that love and care for them very much. But the anxiety, the stress, the negative faulty belief system can drive them away.
Bill: Shame, yes?
Elizabeth: Shame. Exactly.
Bill: The shame from what preceded the addiction, the shame of engaging in the addiction, and the things that are being done and not being done during the process. Also on your website it said you help folks to let go of ineffective reactive cycles, so I’m guessing that’s the next conversation you have with family and friends. First, it’s how to cope with and how to deal with and how to help the addict, and then I’m guessing you go into identifying those reactive cycles. Is that accurate?
Elizabeth: I say every couple has a dance. If we continue to do the dance, doing the dance steps that are so familiar they’re unconscious, then nothing changes, right? So, we’ve got to change the dance. The addict may not, and typically doesn’t, isn’t the one to choose to do that, but the spouse or family member certainly can by setting certain boundaries in regards to what they will and will not tolerate.
“I will not engage with you while you’re using. I will not drive with you, the children will not drive with you. You can meet us there.” These are just boundaries that we can set on ourselves in regards to how I’m going to protect myself from your addiction.
Bill: I’m imaging, and I don’t have to imagine very hard because I have a family member who was really worrying me for a long time. I’m no longer worried about her, but when I consider what it would have been like for me to hear from you or anyone that I needed to set healthy boundaries. In my mind I would have been thinking, I doubt that I would have said it out loud, I may have, “Yes, that all makes sense. I know that I probably need to do a better job of setting boundaries. I don’t want to be an enabler anymore and I don’t want to live like this anymore. But I’m afraid that if I set those boundaries that everything that I’ve done to try to control the addict and his behavior, or her behavior, and the impact on me, then I’m going to lose it all. If I set boundaries, it’s like letting go of control.
Elizabeth: It’s a false sense of control because clearly, nobody has control over the addiction. The addiction is out of control. So even the co-dependent gets caught up into the denial of that false sense of control, thinking that they can control it. That’s a lot of work. That is a lot of work.
Bill: Trying to control what’s not controllable?
Elizabeth: Oh, that takes a lot of energy.
Bill: If addiction is out of the control of everyone, how does anyone ever recover?
Elizabeth: They’ve got to get sober. They’ve got to let go of the substance that has control over them.
Bill: Okay. There’s a distinction. Getting sober: cessation of the act, the behavior, or the process, or the substance is within our control.
Bill: The addiction is not.
Bill: That’s an interesting distinction. I like it. I appreciate that. Two more questions for you, I hope…we’ll see. One is: if there’s a recovering addict, whether they’ve got a day under their belt, or two months, or twenty years, or thirty-five, that is struggling with what I would call emotional sobriety, with just getting happy, with dealing with the internal conflict that occurs in human beings without the use of their process or their substance, what would you have to say to them? How would you guide them?
Elizabeth: Again, it’s where therapy really comes in, in regards to learning how to take care of self, clear out the old resentment and the guilt, the shame, letting go of forgiving self – that’s a big one.
Bill: Say that again, letting go of…
Elizabeth: Forgiving self, letting go of old guilt and the shame of…you’re not a goner. You’ve done some pretty funky stuff, and so compassion is a huge part of that. There’s a big difference between excuses, and forgiveness and compassion. Forgiveness being, “I’m not going to let this consume me anymore.”
There’s nothing that can be done about it other than using that knowledge and that experience and being around that to ensure you never go back there again.
Bill: I told you I had two questions, and the last one is: for anyone listening to the podcast, whether they’re the addict that’s in or out of recovery or the family member dealing with an addict that’s in or out of recovery, what would you like them to take away from this conversation?
Elizabeth: I think to restore hope. That addiction can be extremely hopeless, to live in it and to live with it. It’s a horrific disease and experience for anyone involved, and it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s scary to make change and more often than not, it’s the “fear of” that we create in our own head, and the stories we tell ourselves and the ways we can freak ourselves out just like if we worry about anything long enough. In sending our kids to school; we can think about all the dangers that can occur and we can freak at that. So, letting go of those stories and being willing and open to embrace the opportunity.
I had a friend a long time ago, it’s actually a marketing person for a treatment center.(noise) She met with me, and she asked me, “Why addiction? You specialize in addiction. You need a whole special license in that. What is that all about?”
And I said, “I really enjoy working with addicts, alcoholics, their families.”
I said, “It’s because there’s so much potential, there’s so much hope. Addicts that are using are not fun to be around, they’re not nice people, they don’t make good choices, they don’t treat people well. But addicts that are in recovery are intelligent, creative, wonderful individuals, and there’s so much hope for that population. It’s one of my favorites. It really is.
Bill: What a great message! What I heard was addiction can be extremely hopeless, but it doesn’t have to be that way if you can let go of your stories and embrace the opportunity and the potential.
Bill: Great message! Alright Elizabeth, if someone wanted to get a hold of you, can you work with people outside of Texas?
Elizabeth: I don’t believe so, not in a therapeutic aspect, but I’m thoroughly open to chatting with somebody if they need to.
Bill: Okay. And is the website the best place to go to have that conversation with you?
Elizabeth: Yes. They can contact me through my website, my email, my phone number is on there.
Bill: The website is Elizabeth (regular spelling) martin (regular spelling) lcsw.com
Elizabeth: Licensed clinical social worker, lcsw.
Bill: Very good. Anything else you‘d like to say that I haven’t asked you about?
Elizabeth: Oh, wow. I don’t think so. We covered a lot of ground.
Bill: We did, we did. I can’t believe how quickly the time has gone by. We’ve spent about fifty minutes together, so I’m going to break this us into two episodes. Thanks for your generosity. Thank you so much for being my guest on the podcast. I’m just absolutely convinced that this conversation and your message is already making a difference for somebody that’s listening right now. So, thanks so much for who you are and what you do.
Elizabeth: I’m happy to. This is what I love. I think it’s what I’m called to do. I’ve been doing it for twenty-five years now.
Bill: You’re a wealth of experience and wisdom. Thank you very much.
Elizabeth: You’re quite welcome.
Thank you for listening to the Recovery and Discovery Podcast with Bill Tierney, Mindset and Recovery Coach.
Look in the show notes for the transcription along with any links mentioned in this podcast. And be sure to check out our website, breakthroughsuccessclub.com, to learn more about Bill Tierney’s group and individual coaching services.
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October 17, 2018 Elizabeth Martin
Elizabeth Martin, LCSW, LCDC https://elizabethmartinlcsw.com/about.html
Smart Recovery https://www.smartrecovery.org/
Breakthrough Success Club Coaching www.BreakthroughSuccessClub.com