“Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: you don’t give up.”
~ Anne Lamott
Addiction appears to be part of the human experience, as millions of us seem to be doing it. Drugs, alcohol, food, phones, sugar, media, porn, Netflix, shopping, work, gambling, the list goes on, there’s something for everyone! And we continue to create and practice new compulsions that at first pleasure, soothe and ease, and then control and destroy. Addiction is considered a chronic brain disease by some, a learning disorder or an adaptation by others. I believe it’s a chronic public health issue characterized by craving, a brief experience of pleasure or relief, and an inability to stop despite increasing negative consequences.
I love hanging out with drug addicts, I am one. We are typically smart, funny, creative and intense beings, we are sensitive, sometimes too sensitive and we experience big emotions that often feel overwhelming. We find substances and behaviors that remove pain, or make us feel great, that help with trauma, anxiety and depression. And often it’s just about trying to feel normal and able to cope. We are frequently trauma survivors, adventurers, spiritual seekers, in chronic pain, risk-takers, curious by nature, and interested in altered states of consciousness. Some people can manage their use and indulge from time to time while others cannot. But the judgment and shame around this issue often prevents people from getting the help they need. I come from the perspective that addiction is normal and very common in our culture. I like to start with what’s working in your life and what isn’t and go from there. What do you want to let go of and what else are you willing to explore? It’s not about how much and how often you use, but what happens to you when you do?
It’s important that we understand the role the brain plays in this whole catastrophe, the relationship between the limbic brain and the prefrontal cortex. We also have the ability to change our brains through a process called neuroplasticity using mindfulness practice and skills, something I do regularly with most of my clients. Let’s talk about your brain and what can be done to help and restore it.
Addiction is a treatable but not curable condition, which usually requires ongoing support as do many incurable diseases like diabetes, hypertension and asthma. Relapse is part of the recovery process and an excellent, if sometimes brutal, teacher. It’s to be expected and needs to be treated with compassion and curiosity. Sadly, ignorance, judgment, lack of services and the criminalization of this disease interferes with getting help and increases the shame, self-loathing and low self-esteem many people experience who use substances and behaviors compulsively.
There are plenty of options on the “menu of recovery” and you decide where you would like to start. A comprehensive treatment plan can include counseling, education,
mindfulness practices, mental health support, in-patient or outpatient treatment, movement, exercise, dance, good food and sleep, spiritual exploration, fellowship, creativity and community. 12 Step groups are great but I understand they’re not for everyone. There are also SMART Recovery and Refuge Recovery meetings available in Bellingham.
Perhaps you have no interest in 12 Step meetings or treatment and would rather discover for yourself if you can reduce your use? Any reduction of use is a success. Substance dependency is a mighty beast and not everybody can let go of everything at one time, and some don’t want to. Recovery is a journey of self-discovery to determine what contributes to, and detracts from, your life.
I act as your counselor, support person, coach, cheerleader, advocate and encourager, I'm on your side and together, we identify effective strategies to enhance your life and reduce your suffering.
INDIVIDUALS, COUPLES AND FAMILIES
I work with anybody who is suffering from compulsion, addiction, dependency, abuse, codependency, life management and communication challenges. I work with individuals, couples and families, anybody I can help who falls within my scope of practice.
Together, we address obstacles, explore new ideas and identify an effective plan to get you where you want to go. And if you don't know exactly where that is, don't worry, we'll figure that out too.
Perhaps you have no interest in 12 Step meetings or treatment and would rather discover for yourself if you can reduce your use? Any reduction of use, and the negative consequences that go along with over-using, is a success.
Substance dependency is a mighty beast and not everybody can let go of everything at one time, and some don’t want to. Let’s celebrate any progress made and explore this issue together.
Codependency manifests when loving intention turns into rescuing and enabling. Most people benefit in the long run when they experience the consequences of their actions. Sometimes family members discover they’re working harder at getting help than the addict they’re trying to help.
There’s nothing wrong with love and compassion, but it needs to be accompanied by clear and consistent boundaries. And codependency can show up anywhere, no addicts required! Most of us never learned how to identify and state clear boundaries but with a little coaching and practice, relationships improve dramatically. We can only change our own behavior, and when we do, things change.
I no longer offer traditional intervention services. I will meet with families who feel an intervention is needed and invite them to share their experiences and history of the person concerned. They approach their loved one afterwards, explain they met with me and ask if that person would be willing to come in and see me, just one addict talking to another, no surprises.
This method has proved very effective and significantly reduces the stress, shame, embarrassment and cost and with no ultimatums required.
Because you don't live near me, or we've worked together in the past and you moved, or you can't get to my office, or you live in Tibet -- whatever the reason, Skype, FaceTime or an old-fashioned phone call works very well if we can't get together in person.
YANA: You Are Not Alone
This is a facilitated support group for parents and family members, who have an adult child using, or in recovery. The objective is to develop a deeper understanding of addiction and support your adult child in their recovery without rescuing and enabling. If a parent’s behavior helps sustain an adult child’s unhealthy lifestyle which they are unable to sustain themselves, chances are they’re contributing to the problem.
The group offers fellowship, the sharing of personal experiences and resources while honoring the principles of anonymity and confidentiality.
WHEN: Every 2nd Monday of the month from 6:00 - 7:30 PM.
WHERE: St. James Presbyterian Church, 910 14th St., Bellingham, WA 98225.
COST: $5 suggested donation to cover the room rental. Everyone is welcome, regardless of their ability to contribute financially.
I began my journey of recovery in 1990. I couldn’t imagine life without drinking, getting high, partying and easing the depression which had started in my teens. I had little ability to identify and handle emotions effectively, they were overwhelming and unmanageable. I stumbled and relapsed a few times on the way, but I was amazed at how much better life was sober. After my last relapse, I was entirely convinced that I had lost all control, and I’ve remained convinced ever since! I was happier, the shame and self-loathing diminished and the obsession to use was lifted. The absence of hangovers and blackouts was marvelous and my creative spirit was enhanced not diminished as I had feared. As my recovery deepened I found myself seeking and following a spiritual path which has enhanced my whole experience and helps immensely in the work I do.
I went back to school in order to assist those for whom drugs, alcohol and compulsive behaviors was no longer working. I graduated from Western Washington University with a BA in Chemical Dependency Studies and a Master’s in Adult Education and I’m licensed in the State of Washington as a Chemical Dependency Counselor and Certified Counselor. I gained a lot of insight and ongoing professional relationships from working at Social Detox, the County Jail, St. Joe’s Recovery House, Drug Court, DSHS, Chambers and Wells and Westcoast Counseling and opened my private practice in 2006. I made a couple of documentaries (I was a filmmaker prior to going back to school) one about Drug Court and the other about the need for treatment instead of punishment, a trend that sadly still hasn’t caught on. You will find a link to On the Rocks on the Story Telling Page.
Whatcom County Behavioral Health Triage Center:
Mental Health Crisis Line:
Crisis Text Hotline:
Domestic Violence Hotline:
Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault Services:
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline:
(360) 676 2020
(800) 562 6025
(360) 671 5714
(800) 273 8255
Alcohol/Drug 24-Hour Help Line:
Youth Hope Line:
National Eating Disorders Association:
Victim Support Services:
NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness):
Brigid Collins Family Support Center:
Northwest Youth Services:
(800) 562 1240
(877) 553 8336
(800) 931 2237
(888) 288 9221
(360) 671 4950
(360) 734 4616
(360) 734 9862