Are you struggling with addiction?

  • Do you (or does someone you love) have problems with alcohol, drugs, food, overspending, internet sex, gambling, computer games or other compulsive, self-harming behaviors?
  • Does your life feel unmanageable and ruled by acquiring certain substances or repeating these unhealthy behaviors?
  • Are you aware you are harming yourself with this pattern, but crave the next opportunity to do it anyway?
  • Do you keep swearing that this is the last time you are going to do this -- to drink, eat compulsively, overspend, or hurt yourself this way?

It is very painful to be in the grips of behavior that you cannot control. Addiction wreaks havoc on the lives of the addict as well as on families. Whether you are the one who is struggling, or you are witnessing addiction in a loved one, addiction is more than the sum of a set of self-destructive behaviors. Addiction does not conform to rules of logic. You (or your loved one) can't "will yourself" to change habits that have become entrenched, because the central mechanism of addiction and other self-harming habits is that a non-rational part of your brain overrides rational thought and sensible decisions. You can't "just stop," because jurisdiction of your addictive behaviors has been hijacked by a part of your brain that doesn't follow directions.

But addiction is treatable. I can help you build a life free of  the cravings, compulsions and devastating consequences of addiction.


Addiction is widespread

You are not alone. Addiction of some type touches the lives of over half of Americans. The National Association of Drug Addiction estimates that 10% of adults at some point in their lives have suffered from alcohol or drug addiction. David Kessler, former Commissioner of the Food and Drug Association, estimated in 2011 that over 70 million Americans (over 20%) are food addicts.  According to the National Council on Problem Gambling, between 2 and 3% of the adults in this country fit the definition of gambling addicts, and perhaps a quarter of those also are addicted to alcohol or other drugs.  And these statistics do not reflect the numbers of others who are compulsive spenders, smokers, porn addicts, hoarders, or those in the the grip of some compulsive, unwanted behavior. Furthermore, these statistics are only about the addict, without mention of the untold numbers of family members whose lives are affected by addiction.

But addiction treatment is available and recovery is possible. I can help you -- and your family --- one step at a time, learn to nourish and nurture yourself and your body, substitute self and life-affirming behaviors for self-destructive acts and substances, make self-care a priority, develop a peer support system with kind and caring people, learn to identify, tolerate and manage your emotions, and create a healthier, happier life  grounded in gratitude and appreciation.

Call me at 415-602-1403 for a free 15-minute phone consultation.


Addiction treatment can help

Recovery from addiction is a process. While there are some general concepts that apply to everyone (reducing and abstaining from harmful behaviors, improving self-care, learning to tolerate and handle feelings), I believe every  person needs an individualized plan, specific to his or her situation. Recovery begins where you are. There is not one path to recovery. Instead, there is your own personal path to recovery.

I work with teens and adults who use self-harming behaviors to cope. Some people have not crossed the line to addiction, but engage extensively in self-harming habits or substance use.

From both personal and professional experience, I know how painful and debilitating addiction can be. But I also have experience that effective treatment can forge a path to recovery. 

I grew up with an alcoholic parent, and I became the hyper-vigilant, insecure kid with low self-esteem, looking for cues on how to behave based on what I thought other people expected, trying to make everyone else happy but not learning about myself, and clueless about how to cope emotionally. I developed problems with food before adolescence, and struggled with food addiction for almost 20 years. And I developed other self-harming addictive behaviors as well -- smoking, compulsive spending, codependency.

It was many years before I was willing to seek help, but eventually, with  therapy, and support, I was able to stop undermining my health and life with self-destructive behaviors. The wisdom and experience I gained from my own history and recovery from food addiction and other self-harming behaviors coupled with extensive training and considerable professional experience helping hundreds of others move from addiction to satisfying, fulfilling lives, gives me the confidence that if you are motivated to change, I can help you recover.


What is addiction treatment?

I help those struggling with addiction and self-harming habit patterns develop new ways of thinking and implement new behaviors, one step at a time. Clients learn to minimize judgmental self-talk, identify rationalization, improve self-care, incorporate productive activities in their lives, and take in compassionate support. They begin to substitute healthy behaviors for self-destructive patterns and to tolerate and manage the thoughts and emotions and that previously have fed the addiction. 

In addition to psychotherapy, effective addiction treatment includes a supportive community program, either the  12-Step community, or a non-12-Step group such as SMART Recovery, Secular Organizations for Recovery, Women for Sobriety, or Life Ring. The 12-Step community is the most established and widespread resource for recovering addicts and their families, but 12-Step is not for everyone. However, having the support of others is essential -- recovery does not happen in isolation.

Within the 12-Step purview, there are programs for addicts (Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, Gamblers Anonymous or one of the other almost 100 types of Anonymous programs in existence) as well as a program for family members, Al-Anon. With each individual refocusing on himself or herself, the family can heal and the addict can recover. 

As an experienced addictions counselor,  I have helped many people suffering from food addiction, drug addiction, internet gaming, codependency, nail-biting, hair pulling, and other unhealthy, compulsive behavior problems.  I can help you and your family embark on a process of recovery that can restore balance and sanity to the lives of everyone involved. 


Does addiction treatment involve the family?

Because addiction arises within a family and family members can become entwined in the addiction process, whenever feasible, I work with the whole family to encourage recovery for everyone involved. I think of "an addictive family system," because family members constellate around the addict, the addict's behavior, and the addiction process. 

Family members often develop patterns of codependency when a loved one develops self-harming behaviors. Out of love of the individual, and fear of the consequences of his/her behavior, family members may try to rescue, compensate or make excuses for, or otherwise try to "fix" the person with the problem, not recognizing that their attempts to help may actually be undermining the person's motivation to recover.

Often a family member reaches out for help with a loved one's behavior. In this case, initial sessions may include only "Concerned Others," the members of the family or close circle. The "person with the problem" is invited to join the therapy process once the concerned others are clear about their role and their limits and boundaries. Ongoing sessions include family work, work with individual family members or family dyads, as well as therapy for the addict. 

Family customs, rituals and roles are disrupted in the face of addiction. Communication can become shaming, persecutory, indirect, "you focused" or hampered in other ways.  I suggest new ways for family members to interact with each other, including with the addict, and family members practice these new skills in session and in the rest of their lives.

Addiction is treatable. Recovery is possible. Call me at 415-602-1403 for a free 15 minute consultation.


What if I can't recover?

All you need to do is begin. If you honestly want to recover, and you are willing to follow directions, you can change, one small step at a time. Even if you have tried to recover before, and not stayed with the process, you can begin again. Past failures are not a predictor of current success. You are doubtless in a different frame of mind than you were when you last embarked on recovery, and it is not uncommon to abandon recovery one or many times, but to return to it with renewed motivation later.


What if I think my teenage child is developing bad habits?

When teens are in trouble, it is up to their parents to get help for their children. Parents often need help themselves first to learn how to manage a situation which has become serious. 

I work with the families of teens to help provide a safe, consistent, loving environment for the troubled teen. When parents are willing to seek help, they can foster healthy behaviors in their kids.

If you are concerned about a teen-aged child, perhaps because of changes in your child's mood or behavior, drop in grades,  secretiveness, isolation or socializing with questionable peers, please call me for a free 15-minute consultation. When a problem can be prevented, or caught early on, recovery can be expedited and health restored sooner.


What if my adult loved one won't get help?

Beginning treatment with whomever in the family is concerned about the addict will start to change the dynamics, within the family and between family members and the addict. Sometimes when family members change and are no longer available in the way the addict expects, the addict finds he cannot continue his or her behaviors, and seeks help. However, there is no guarantee an addict will ask for help, or stay on the path to recovery. 

When adults are caught in a cycle of self-harm, it is sometimes their families or loved ones who need to intervene so the addict can get the help he or she needs. In this kind of situation, an intervention is recommended. While many people equate "intervention" with a scenario of surprising the addict and tricking him or her to go to treatment, I use a family systems-based model which invites the addict to participate in deciding about his own future. I provide interventions that are respectful, caring and compassionate, and that help educate the family and the addict about addiction, codependency, and the painful roles they all have played in trying to “fix” the problem.


Is treatment expensive?

There is a cost for addiction treatment, but the cost of not getting treatment is much greater, and can't even be measured monetarily. The impact on quality of life, health, relationships, sometimes job loss or legal problems, even early death -- there is an endless list of problems that can and do result when addiction goes untreated. Families have spent thousands of dollars trying to "rescue" an addict from the consequences of addiction, only to find out much later that they really couldn't "make" the addict get well. Appropriate, effective treatment for the family and the addict can curtail the downward spiral of addiction and its horrific consequences. Addiction treatment saves lives.

Please contact me at (415) 602-1403 for a free 15-minute consultation about your concerns.