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What Is Codependence/Co-addiction?

Codependence is emotionally, financially, physically and spiritually exhausting.

Codependence is emotionally, financially, physically and spiritually exhausting.

Codependence, also known as co-addiction, can wreck havoc on a person’s life.  It is best explained through a hypothetical example:

Karen is a 30 year old woman who has struggled for years with addiction to crystal meth.  She first tried it when she was 20.  She began to use more and more frequently until she was crashing on “friends'” couches instead of having a home, lost her job, and sometimes went a few days without affording food.  Throughout this period of time she stayed in contact with her mom.

Karen’s mom, Jane, was naturally worried sick about her daughter.  Sometimes Karen would move back in with Jane.  Jane always made Karen promise not to use anymore, but would never stick with her rules.  She justified allowing Karen to use methamphetamine in the house because, ‘At least then I know where she is and I know she’s safe.’  She paid for seven rehabs for Karen.  At some point Jane had to take a second mortgage on her home to try and pay for another rehab.  Jane also would give Karen money when she saw that Karen was hungry.  She paid for Karen’s cell phone bill, ‘so I don’t lose track of her.’  Essentially Jane’s addiction became trying to help Karen get healthy.

On the surface Jane sounds like a loving mom going to any length to help her daughter.  Indeed Jane’s actions are motivated by a combination of love and fear.  The problem though is that Jane is helping Karen continue to use drugs, and has completely destroyed her own financial future.  Every time Jane gives Karen money, pays for her cell phone, or allows her to move home when she is not clean and sober, it frees up what little money Karen gets to buy more meth.  Although Jane does not directly give Karen money to buy meth, she does indirectly.  Also, Karen has not really shown any signs that she wants to get better.  Despite this, Jane has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to try and fix this.  Jane has paid for rehabs (these are typically quite expensive), cell phone, money for food, etc.  Jane now has an extra large mortgage, which will financially burden her into retirement.

Like many people who struggle with co-addiction, Jane’s entire identity is wrapped up in trying to convince her daughter to get better.   Karen’s addiction did not have to ruin Jane’s life too.  While Karen’s addiction would have always been a source of pain and deep disappointment for Jane, both she and Karen would have been better off if Jane held firm and healthy boundaries.

As a therapist who focuses on treatment of addiction in families, helping to disentangle the web of codependency is one of the main things I do.  And, actually, when the codependent family member or friend changes their behavior to a healthier position, oftentimes the addict decides to get better.  If the story of Karen and Jane feels a little too close to home, firstly, my heart hurts for you.  Secondly, the stronger you get, the more you are helping the addict you love to recover.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

The Cost of Addiction

Addiction is more expensive than you even realize. Image courtesy of sscreations at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Addiction is more expensive than you even realize.
Image courtesy of sscreations at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

There are many, many costs associated with addiction.  These range from financial, to relational, to spiritual and to physical.  For this blog the focus is only going to be on financial.

 

The statistics for calculating the cost of addiction are really difficult because there is a lot of fluctuation in the prices of illegal drugs. Even for legal drugs that are being abused, such as alcohol or prescription medication, the costs vary from state to state and by insurance plan.  If we are talking about addiction to gambling, pornography or shopping, the same principles apply.

 

Let’s consider the various costs incurred:

1. The actual cost of the drug.  With a very, very conservative estimate, 20 years of marijuana purchases cost about $20,000 and 20 years of heroin purchases cost about $200,000.

2. The cost of lost productivity.  For example, someone with severe alcoholism is less likely to keep up with their house or car repairs.  This results in further expenses later when major things start to break.  Someone also might be less focused on their job, resulting in lower wages.

3. The cost of a drug or alcohol addicted lifestyle.  Going out more often costs more money, as does the efforts made to obtain the drugs.

4. There are costs associated with increased sickness.  People using drugs tend to get sick more often, with more severe illnesses.  Imagine catching hepatitis C from sharing a needle with another heroin user.  This is a lifelong, chronic illness.  Drug users also catch the flu or cold more often.  This results in more missed work and more visits to the doctor.

5. The cost of legal bills, and tickets.  Most drug or alcohol addicts do end up with a DUI at some point.  Depending on the drug used there is a good chance of arrest and the need for an attorney.

6. There is the cost of loss of earned income.  People who use drugs and alcohol to excess often either take longer to finish school, or drop out.  There is a substantial loss of income from not finishing school.  They also miss more work, and are fired more frequently.

7. The cost of divorce.  Divorce is one of the most expensive processes a person can go through.  The incidence of divorce among addicts is about four times the normal rate according to some resources.

8.  The costs of treatment.  Nearly every addict will seek out treatment at some point.  While Alcoholics and Narcotics Anonymous is free, therapy and rehab are not.  That said, getting treatment and getting sober save much, much more money than they ever cost because addiction is so expensive and sobriety helps turn around a person’s financial situation.

 

All totaled, 20 years of continued addiction can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars when counting both money spent and lost opportunity to earn and save.  It is extremely tragic.  Addiction puts someone financially behind their peers sometimes by decades.  In cases of gambling, pornography or shopping the cost can be comparable or even higher.

 

For several months I worked with a methamphetamine addict who was trying to maintain sobriety.  He told me at the end of treatment that one of the most powerful sessions of therapy for him was when we calculated the cost of his addiction.  We did not even factor in lost productivity or the cost of treatment.  We figured out that over 10 years he had spent about $35,000 on crystal meth.  He then realized if he had applied that to his mortgage, he would’ve saved another several thousand in interest payments.  We talked about lost pay from jobs where he was fired, and the increased cost of car insurance after two accidents he caused while high.  All said and done, the estimate came out to about $65,000.  He was devastated when he heard that because his family was living paycheck to paycheck and sometimes could barely keep the lights on.

 

This is just another angle of how addiction costs.  People spend a lot of time focused on the emotional and physiological impact, but it affects so much more.

 

If you or someone you love is struggling with addiction, count the cost.  Maybe, just maybe, that will be the straw that breaks the camel’s back and it will finally be time to get sober.

 

Helping Teens Grow and Families Improve Connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Sober Ideas for Summer Fun

Sober fun during summer isn't as hard to come by as your teen might think. Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Sober fun during summer isn’t as hard to come by as your teen might think.
Image courtesy of photostock at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Summer is here.  For most parents this is a relief.  You’re thankful your teenager is out of school because there is so much less stress when they aren’t doing homework, playing sports, etc.  However, for those of you who have a teenager with a history of drinking or drug use, summer is a dreadful time.  Every day of the week is a Friday night, and they spend a lot of time unsupervised during the day.

 

Here are some ideas for sober summer fun that might help your teenager have fun without using substances:

1) Plan a movie night.  Let your teenager invite a few friends over to watch movies late into the night.  Teens like to do things at night, and usually if they have a plan first they make better choices.  You can have snacks ready, and several movies available to choose from.

2) Teens always enjoy a day at the beach.  Again, have some planning in place.  Make sure you’re driving and another parent is picking up.  They’re less likely to use drugs or drink if they know a parent will pick them up.  Pack a cooler of food and sodas/juice/water for them and their friends to enjoy.

3) Go for a hike.  Even if your teenager doesn’t want you there with them, taking them to a spot where they can hike with a few friends can be a great activity for them to do during summer.

4) Swim in a backyard pool, or a busy neighborhood pool.  One place teenagers tend to drink alcohol is at the pool when nobody else is around.  In a backyard pool with a parent home it is hard to get away with this.  The same goes for a busy community pool.

5) Learn to surf.  Any surfer will tell you the best time to surf is very early in the morning.  Teens who love to surf might be less likely to party late because they want to get up early the next day.  I realize surfers have a reputation for marijuana use, but the act of surfing doesn’t really go well with being high or intoxicated.  It takes way too much energy and concentration.

6) Get involved with a high school church youth group.  These groups are always planning fun activities during summer from bowling to camping trips.  Of course these are always sober outings.

7) Volunteer time.  Spending time helping others who are less fortunate is actually fun, and feels rewarding.  It also causes teens to think about something other than themselves.  When teens are getting high or drinking they tend to be thinking about themselves so volunteering is a great way to break through self-focused thought.

8) Play a sport.  I worked with a kid who got high multiple times per day for two years.  When he decided to get sober he realized a lot of his friends played basketball each day.  He started to play with them and then didn’t want to smoke out anymore because he ran better, reacted faster and played smarter when he was sober.

9) Take a class.  There are a lot of interesting, quirky classes offered throughout the community and at the local colleges.  Encourage your child to take a class on pottery or dance.  They’ll grumble at first but they will most likely end up enjoying honing a new skill.

10) Start exercising.  See if your teen can get a friend to work out with on a regular basis.  This is really good for self-confidence and stress relief.  While your teen might not be extremely stressed over summer, they also might use and drink less if they feel better about themselves.

 

If you’re the parent of an adolescent and you’re worried about too much summer free-time, hopefully you’ve found this a little bit helpful.  It will probably work even better if you let your teenager read through the list and see what they’re willing to do.  Sometimes they will say ‘no’ simply because you suggested it.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Does faith play a role in healing from addiction?

Belief in God has helped many walk away from addiction. Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Belief in God has helped many walk away from addiction.
Image Courtesy of Freedigitalphotos.net

Does faith play a role in healing from addiction?  Unequivocally, yes.  Some people do find ways to get over their addictions without faith, but it seems to be rare.  Generally those who quit using have placed their faith in something they believe gives them purpose.  Very often, this is God.  When life has come to the point where it feels as though there is no point without a high, a sober existence seems boring and unacceptable.  It is also usually a miserable process to become sober.  This is where faith is very important.

 

A person needs a reason to get sober.  If they can come to believe something bigger than themselves exists, and that thing created them on purpose, sometimes that is reason enough.  The addict who is just trying to stop using has to have hope that life will be more meaningful on the other side.  This is hard to believe until faith enters the picture.  It really helps when the addict comes to know that God made them for a specific reason.  The other reason knowing this is so important is that there is no guarantee of happiness.  An addict has often spent a very long time pursuing happiness and good feelings.  Pursuing God’s purpose does not always mean happiness and good feelings, although it does mean fulfillment.

 

If you ask a former addict how they stopped using their substance of choice, most of them will tell you through their faith.  What they mean by this is that they believed they had value because of their higher cause, and they began to pursue God instead of a temporary high.  They learned to accept that sometimes life is unpleasant because they came to place their hope in something better for their future.

 

It can be really difficult to figure out what to believe in when in the throes of addiction.  The addiction cycle becomes so miserable and depressing that the addict is desperate to escape.  However, what the addict must go through to escape is complete torture.  It takes a real dependence on God to get through the misery of detox and resisting urges to get high.  It takes a complete change in paradigm to leave behind old friends and lifestyle.  This kind of change rarely happens without something dramatic.  Perhaps this is why Alcoholics Anonymous was founded on the idea of giving the addiction over to God.  Perhaps this is why many, many thousands have given up their addiction through the programming at Celebrate Recovery.

 

If you or your teenager is stuck in the horrific cycle of addiction, try everything you can to hold onto the promise of God’s love.  There is no guarantee that you will be happy sober.  However, there is the promise that if you pursue God’s purpose for your life you will feel like you have meaning; you will feel as though you have something to offer the world after all this time of feeling worthless.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

A Family Needs Tech-Free Time

Our families need to connect.  Each of us needs to feel important to the others.  This is impossible if we’re always checking, texts, emails, snaps, Instagram, etc.  We get frustrated that our teenagers are on their phones 24/7, but are we any better?  Most adults I know have their cell in their hand or in their pocket.  It’s never more than arm’s length away.  You entire family needs some coordinated time without any form of electronic entertainment.  Believe me, at first it feels weird.  Eventually though it feels great!

 

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT

Is Vaping Dangerous for Teens?

Use of e-cigs, or vaping, has increased in teenagers dramatically.  Anecdotally I have seen a tremendous upswing in the number of teens using nicotine and marijuana ever since electronic cigarettes came out.  It has been particularly pronounced in the last two years.  Apparently studies support this.  Studies also show that use of e-cigs has a high correlation to eventual cigarette use.

Check out this infographic from National Institute on Drug Abuse; National Institutes on Health; and the US Department of Health and Human Services.

 

This should warn us all that adolescents are much more willing to try vaping than cigarettes.  Since they were small children, teens have been socialized to think cigarette smoking is “disgusting,” and “dangerous.”  Because vaping smells much better (if it smells at all), and because most teenagers aren’t aware of the dangers, some try it.  They truly think they’re inhaling water vapor.  This is simply not true.

 

A study was just released from the University of California at San Francisco that definitively links e-cig use to cancer causing toxins.  The saliva and urine was tested in non-using teens, vaping-only teens, and teens who both smoke cigarettes and vape.  While the highest amounts of the toxins were in the group the used both, a significant amount was also in the group that vaped.  The group who didn’t use at all didn’t have these toxins in their bodies.  More on the report written about this study can be found at http://abcnews.go.com/Health/teens-cigarettes-show-evidence-toxic-chemicals-smokers-study/story?id=53537714.

 

Here’s the bottom line: vaping is very dangerous for your adolescents.  The devices used to vape can look like a USB stick, wifi connector, credit card, a tiny black square, fancy pen, highlighter, etc.  You won’t smell smoke either.  You have to ask your teen outright, and keep track of their social media pictures.  If you suspect your teen might be vaping, but they won’t tell you the truth and you can’t definitively pin it on them, call their pediatrician.  They can order a nicotine test on your child (which won’t cover everything that can be vaped, but it will tell you quite a lot).

 

If you need to talk more about your teen’s potential addiction, we’re here to help.  Give us a call.

 

Helping teens grow and families improve connection,

Lauren Goodman, MS, MFT