Saturday February 27, 2011

Lifestyle: Drugs and Addiction  

When Charlie's In Charge

What to do about the Sheens and Lohans in your life

Submitted by Jack Bass, B.A., LL.B.


an Charlie Sheen or Lindsay Lohan Be Helped — If They Won’t Help Themselves? In a February interview Sheen claimed he was healthy and ready to go back to work. The claim of every drunk and addict is that he / she is not a drunk or an addict. Secondly, the addict claims a few days in rehab is a lifetime cure. It appears Sheen and Lohan have more lives than a cat and about as much working brain matter.

Alcohol is the most common addiction in the Western world. Legally and plentifully available ,relatively inexpensive and with easy access. The celebrity drunks area source of tabloid sales and an inspiration for those similarly addicted and looking for an excuse to keep on partying. The media highlight the problems as if it were mere entertainment . Letterman made a list of the Top Ten for Lindsay Lohan : ( Top Ten Signs Lindsay Lohan is Out Of Control; “ Her friends are concerned her shoplifting will cut into her drinking time .” )

What are addicts seeking:

In five words or less: pleasure and relief of pain. Drugs provide addicts with what they want above all else and access to the pleasure they believe they cannot gain in any other way. Addictive drugs activate or mimic our pleasure producing brain chemistry. We have a need to avoid pain and gain pleasure and the drug is the path to both needs being fulfilled.

The same effort to avoid and deaden pain is found in overeating. Numbing is an attempt to make yourself safe – building walls to keep others out. Keeping others out also keeps out love – and the fear of rejection.

When we are in pain because our needs are not being met , we act to reduce that pain. Sometimes our efforts and solutions are inappropriate . Choice or reality theory says we chose these symptoms ( addictions ) to diminish the pain. We can act to reduce the symptoms of addiction by replacing them with truly pleasurable behaviors. That is we learn to take pleasure in the appropriate responses.

Addictive drugs are generally available and thereby it becomes relatively easy to gain pleasure with little effort. Illegality is not much of a deterrent nor is the well known outcomes / destruction of drug addiction. Harm is not in an addicts agenda – only getting the drug is.

Why do addicts seek or avoid therapy

Addicts are difficult to treat because they are satisfied with their method of avoiding pain. In alcoholism the perpetrator is the victim. The overuse or misuse of alcohol serves to lessen, deaden or mask the pain of low self esteem, self-hatred` or hopelessness. The fact that the effects are only temporary lead to repetition and an increase in consumption – a cycle that results in conflict in the home, workplace and with society ( law breaking).

At some time they realize less and less pleasure from the addiction and even give up on the hope of that release from pain through addiction. They give up on seeking that pleasure – that is the goal of therapy- to persuade the addict to seek the normal pleasures of life. The threats of income or jail may drive a person to therapy but any good effects are short term if the locus of control does not shift from external to internal.

The normal pleasures of life are longer lasting but much less intense. Therapy is aimed at getting the client to give up the hope of pain release through drugs. Often the result is not complete freedom from wanting the release the drug brought but accepting that the normal pleasures of life are sufficient to keep the evil genie inside the bottle.

Interestingly addicts seldom dwell on the pain of addiction but rather the pleasure . Therefore therapy avoids reminding of the pleasure of addition and avoids discussing the bad effects they will not discuss. External threats do not work on there patients. Again we want to promote internal decisions about the direction they will travel. Peer pressure is counter productive. Long term drinkers have long since lost concern for what others think about their lifestyle.

It is particularly difficult for family members to stop rescuing the addict . The call for bail , lawyers , in and outs of seven day rehabs is actually enabling the addict to carry on.

Instead focus is on learning new behaviors and nurturing new behaviors to replace the old ones .focus will be on creating a satisfactory relationship and

Avoiding what the addict hears constantly form his social network who see that the obvious problem is the addict who drinks too much. That is avoid the deadly sins of using; Threatening, Punishing, Criticizing, Blaming, Complaining, Nagging and Enabling to try and change behavior.

What to do and say to the Charlie Sheens in Your Life

Do not argue that they are alcoholics. I state “ You are an alcoholic and that is not open to argument or debate.”

Then we sign a contract that they acknowledge that is what they are being treated for .

Sometimes they will reluctantly agree they don’t want to be in treatment and AA -but it is better than jail. That is not a great step forward but it is a realistic appraisal of the “ why” they are here at this crossroads. It is a cross roads because for those seeking treatment to save a marriage or their job or to avoid jail – failure means major consequences. The course of therapy will force them to think about their behaviors and confront he false beliefs that have led them here. There will be enough time and exchanges to allow them to conclude what the issues are and to commit to new solutions or strategies. Note these are their conclusions and their strategies.

The Problem

To the drinker it is all external controls – demands from courts , boss or family to get therapy. Often they in turn use external controls at work and in their families.

External control poisons EVERY relationship. Alcohol gives a temporary release from those external controls.

Never mind fault finding instead focus on the here and now consequences of their actions—"if you keep doing what you have been going nothing changes".

It Is A Choice—not “the other person’s fault that this happened".

Instead of playing the same old (external control) tape. Recognize the source of the addiction may be the shame the alcoholic is trying to mask. That shame may be from any number of events – including sexual abuse they suffered but for which they blame themselves. Children who endured abuse were too young to acknowledge the responsibilities of others . Instead the dysfunction of the family is internalized as having been something they did or failed to do.


The alcoholic may be the family scapegoat wherein family members covertly agree that “ We are OK but John certainly is different from us and not OK “. Therefore the members agree that he will be excluded for the intimate family circle. The scapegoat is identified with all the anxieties the other members fear but do not express or deal with. For example Mom and Dad agree that the problem child is the problem – not their dysfunctional own relationship. The scapegoat is seldom aware of these dynamics except to state that the problem of his drinking stems from “ everyone picks on me”.

Success at confronting the alcoholism rests on confronting the family dynamics and even the dynamics of the relationships that Mom and Dad had in their own homes. Neither should the scapegoat be allowed to continue to rely on asserting “other people “ are the source of his problem. As we work or search for answers the alcoholic must still deal with the responsibility for his own actions.

You may be able to see the triangulation pattern in this and other conflict situations. Two persons – Mom and Dad or Mom and Sister or Dad and Sister join forces in attacking and distancing themselves from the third party as a way of avoiding the anxiety and work associated worth dealing with problems of relationship, closeness etc.. They may consciously act in concert against that third person. In the case of the alcoholic that action may be the pressure to medicate his feelings of being alienated by defiance in drinking . The very action of drinking causes the coalition to create larger problems – rather than facing the issues in the relationships.

Why should Charlie Change ?

Celebrities often escape criticism by turning to the adoration of fans .They can escape jail time because they have the money to pay for legal talent and professional opinion of their progress and rehabilitation. ( This Teflon effect may fad after the tenth or twelfth arrest.) Celebrities may also have an entourage that may encourage bad behavior or mask honest criticism.

For you and I – without any entourage - it takes a lot of courage to face up to poor choices , poor results and all the work that change will force us to take up in our journey.

About Jack Bass, B.A., LL.B.

Jack A. Bass, B.A. LL.B is one of Canada's foremost business and lifestyle coaches. Jack's education includes degrees in Economics and Law. He has completed (graduating at the top of his class) the securities course as part of a large American retail broker. His public service work includes the roles as government advisor to Native Indian Bands as well as being the administrator to one of the largest First Nations in British Columbia Canada. He has also served as the Executive Director for non-profits seeking to develop downtown business/retail cores and for community organizations lending to high-risk business start-ups.

He has worked with a variety of small and medium sized firms to help develop employee performance in addition to working with individuals to help them realize their own great potential.

His books are published by Collier Macmillan including:

"How to Make Real Money in Real Estate" and "How to Send Your Money Out to Work"

For more information on the coaching sessions contact Jack by e-mail here or visit his website at: or call him at: 1-604-858-3202


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