Monday, June 8, 2015

Part VI: The Common Denominators of Addiction and how to eradicate them. There is more than hope!
We (body, mind and soul) were made to restore and heal from just about anything. There is no reason to believe our bodies and minds can’t completely eradicate addiction. Up until this point though, we have only used a tiny portion of the tools our body and nature supplied for us. When I started my coaching practice over 20 years ago, it was after discovering my perfect storm, which I believe was brought on by a childhood trauma. My symptoms included ADD, memory loss, fluid retention, severe mood swings, gastro problems, acne, "auditory imperception" (a hearing disability), sensitivity to noise, sugar addiction, negative thought patterns and much more. I went to many medical doctors and various practitioners to try and “fix” all the physical ailments, but after many tests, we had no diagnosis. At the same time, I heard about a bio-chemical nutritionist who worked with amino acids and food to get people back on tract hormonally. I also suffered with emotional distress my entire life, so I decided to go to a psychologist who discovered I had PTSD from the childhood and adult trauma I experienced. I thank God for that diagnoses because I thought I was going crazy. When I set out to find these doctors, it was out of necessity and frustration. I was at a point where I would have done anything to get rid of the symptoms that no one in the past was ever able to help me with. Turns out, no “one” could. I needed at least three.

Although all these practitioners never even met, they were unknowingly working together to help me. I was taking their findings, test results, and diagnoses and putting together the pieces of the Donna Martini puzzle. And trust me...I was not initially aware that I was embarking on a “new age” odyssey of holistic healing. No, I will admit to being dumb as a stump, but necessity dictated. As a newly divorced mom, I needed to be strong and whole for my kids. I needed to provide for them. Bottom line, our survival depended on me being "fixed." That was my prayer, and this is how God decided to help me. He gave me a gift far beyond spontaneous healing. He gave me knowledge I could take with me to help myself and eventually to help many others. And so where the story ended was also the beginning of what I call a FISHing expedition: A Fully Integrated Synergistic Healing of the body and mind. If it took many factors to create my perfect storm, it made sense to believe I needed to heal out of many factors in order to calm it.

That was over 20 years ago and since I made such strides, others came to me for help for their undiagnosed issues. I was happy to lead them to my doctors and my findings. Without effort, a coaching practice emerged, and since what I was finding out was not something you could learn in school, I decided not to get any type of degree. Instead I documented everything the doctors and I were doing with each person and came up with some consistent findings in all the addiction cases: Imbalances in organs and glands (most significant being the adrenals and thyroid), deficiencies or excess of hormones (most important being cortisol, estrogen and testosterone), bio-chemicals and neurotransmitters (of course there was always a dopamine issue), amino acids, vitamins, minerals (most specifically aspartic acid and glutamine, but all essential and non essential nutrients). These physical imbalances perpetuated addictive tendencies and kept people trapped in their mental and emotional trauma. So trauma started the imbalance in the body and the body wanted resolution. That is what self medicating is all about!

Some practitioners use psychotropic drugs to try and balance the mind and body, but it is like a game of “try and seek.” The rhetoric goes something like, “If this one (pill) doesn’t work, we can try another.” I have a problem with this. Unless someone is so bad off only a drug will keep them from harm (I have seen this a few times in my practice), why aren’t we investigating the entire body as a whole BEFORE we attempt to put another substance that may imbalance something else? Why aren’t we going for complete restoration instead of bandaids? A fully integrated system (body/mind/soul) needs a fully integrated approach. The mind can’t function properly without a clean body. The body can’t function properly without clean, powerful fuel and a clear head. Nothing can happen without the will and we can’t get and keep the will without a fortified body! A vicious cycle! And let’s all think about this: We are taking drugs so we can change the body. Why would we try that before we try to get rid of what changed the body in the first place?

I hear and read about treatment centers that take a holistic approach (YEAH!), but the majority are still using and replicating traditional methods that are only working on a portion of the population (and I am sure that is why so many insurance companies don’t want to pay for them.) In addition, we need to upgrade our beliefs on what addiction really is. With AA being established in 1935, way before we understood anything about our bio-chemistry and genetic predisposition, shouldn’t we be open to a more full-spectrum approach to healing that incorporates the body as well as the mind and spirit? If AA is working on the spirit and expecting the body to come around, that might be why it isn't working on every person.

As far as I am concerned, if a program like AA or any treatment outlets are only working for a percentage (be it large or small) of addicted people, we shouldn’t be blaming the addicted people who can't hold onto sobriety for not being able to stay sober. We should be addressing the programs. Should we be blaming someone for not having the will to attend or stick with a program when the number one symptom of the condition we are trying to treat is not having the will to stick to a program?!? Put this way, doesn’t our approach sound a bit inane?

Like everything else, nothing is one size fits all. Since we only know a tiny percent of what we should know about the human body and mind, we can’t take anything for granted...not the cause, the effect or the method we use to bring people out of it. But again, not to blame any person or agency. I am not blaming, judging or faulting. And I will note that every practitioner I meet is fully entrenched and dedicated to helping people. What most were not considering (or taught) is that we need to bring EVERYONE from every facet together and be open to all discussion...willing to work together to heal each person and the epidemic as a whole. I send people to AA for spiritual direction, so that is proof that I believe in the 12 steps, but expect me to be "in your face" if you tell me AA is the only way. It was and is “the” way for many, but it was not “the” way for most or we would have no addiction issue. My point being, if there is an epidemic in a macro system, we have to address the macro as if there were many, many micros, and each micro is in and of itself a macro! With the millions of people we treat, we have 1,000 times that in variables for each person's body. How can we think we can heal everyone with one methodology?

Next, Part VII...The 12 Steps and a few strides: How we can address the body and mind as we lift the soul.
Part V of Addiction: How do we begin to calm the Perfect Storm?
I always say, we can’t have a clear head without a clean body, so let’s start with asking, “Are we clean?” By understanding that we are all working at a deficit (meaning, we live surrounded by sabotaging factors our bodies were not made to handle), we can begin to unravel the not so mysterious answer to addiction. Do I have to list them all from exposure to radiation, electronic and microwave emissions to inhaled and ingested plastics, chemicals and nutrient deprived foodstuff? Suffice it to say, we are not living wholesome. As adults we can manipulate our bodies out of some of these influences, but thousands of negative influences in a day, week, month then years...? And what of a child’s body...while it is in the process of growth, are we kidding ourselves about how compromised they are? To make it even harder on our physical selves, we aren’t being fortified daily with nature’s offerings, exercise and truly wholesome, nutrient rich, chemical-free fuel. So we have much working against us and not much working for us. Where would our minds go from there?

And then there is the biggest that is evident in 100% of the people I have worked with and (proven to be) well over 90% of those treated by professionals; namely a traumatic episode. Experts will agree that trauma altered the mind, but many have yet to link the fact that it imbalanced the body enough to sabotage it (which makes it the key to healing the person). In children (and adults) the trauma can trigger addiction to a substance or to a behavior like anorexia, cutting and picking the skin or hair. While at a conference on anorexia, I listened to this testimony from counselors. I was excited to hear their discovery (I already knew this from the countless people I was coaching), because I thought they were going to talk about new methods of treatment. When they finished speaking and there was no mention of the physical effects the trauma might have caused; namely, cortisol imbalance, I asked them why. I also asked, “What is being done about it?” The answer I got was, “We are looking into it.” This is not what I was expecting! I will keep asking questions, though, to all involved in addiction treatment...those with the wherewithal and doctorate, “Why aren’t 100% of the addiction population being tested and treated for cortisol imbalance? Why do we think we can mentally talk someone out of physical addiction?”

Whether it was a big trauma like sexual or physical abuse, exposure to death and despair, a life changing event like divorce, or what I call a “Little T” (not to diminish any trauma!), like a car accident, loss of a pet, bullying at school, etc., it all plays out in a similar way in the body. Stress and trauma produce a cortisol pump, putting the body in a cycle that never ends until we attempt to re-balance it. We know now that some bodies are already at risk (genetically predisposed) to addiction before a trauma is introduced, and then there are many people who go through severe trauma and don’t become addicted...or do they? Beyond drugs and alcohol, pot, cocaine and heroin, there is love and sexual addiction, computer games, food and gambling to name a few. Some don’t consider overactivity of something seemingly good for you to be addiction, but in my practice I see addiction to exercise, sports, religion, even Facebook! Some have a constant need to seek out metaphysical practices, like going to psychics, and one of the biggest issues...a need to constantly reiterate events from the past. (I call that being a re-call-a-holic.) Negative thoughts about past events can keep re-instigating trauma in the body and fuel the fire of addiction.
Depending on all ancillary factors like how we were taught to deal with life’s episodes, how well we are supported, how our minds perceive it, and the healthy or unhealthy state our body is in...our perfect storm gets created, and in order to calm it, we have to recreate ourselves, mind AND body, or the storm just keeps going, creating more and destruction as it passes through.

Next Part VI: The Common Denominators of Addiction and how to eradicate them. There is more than hope!

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

The Hofstra Family Law Center

Part IV of the Addiction Issue: Understanding the Elements of the Perfect Storm: Land (our body), Wind (what surrounds us), Water (our emotions). What needs to happen to create the perfect storm of addiction?

Even though I’m a grown up and well versed in so many methods of stress release, I can’t seem to keep myself from occasionally falling down an emotional rabbit hole. I know and even teach many ways to support the human body and mind, but even with all of this education, I still have to subsist daily undoing the repercussions that stress and living life in these here United States creates in my body. Chronic illness, depression, mood swings, headache, backache, inflammation, fatigue, addiction, weight gain, carb and sugar binging...all of us are dealing with one or more of these issues and so are our kids. With the inside and outside influences we are subjecting ourselves to, we are bound to see dis-comfort leading to dis-stress and then finally, dis-ease. So then, how do we expect ourselves, lest of all our children to remain healthy and balanced in the life we are striving to live?

Kids...they don’t have our maturity or a skill set to draw from. They aren’t equipped with coping techniques or the appropriate brain mechanisms to understand healthy boundaries. Many are simply surviving without peace at home, maybe even forced to live through their parents divorce drama. And unless they are completely isolated, all of our children are exposed daily through school and every form of media to our anger, hatred, violence, name calling and judgment. All of this negativity transmitted through their eyes, their ears and energetically through their bodies. What are American kids witnessing and thereby inculcated with that is pushing them over the edge towards drugs? Truthfully, we shouldn’t be wondering why they (or any of us) self medicate. We should be wondering why any of us would choose to live sober!

Emotionally and mentally we are all trying to find happiness and peace. We can try to change what is around us by moving out or moving through the discomfort. We have that control as adults, but children can’t physically get away from what we have created for them. They can’t remove their bodies from what feels bad. They are forced to endure, and since they can’t escape with their bodies, that only gives them one escape from and with their minds.

There is no mystery surrounding self medication. “I don’t feel good. I need something to make me feel better.” Whether it is our body or mind (or both) that is feeling this or “speaking” it, we as humans will always try to bring ourselves into a “feel good” state of being. If a child learned at a young age that they could change a mood or physical depression by going out to play and exercise, stay off sugar and carbs and eat a healthy diet; if they watched their parents change situations in their community by taking control and getting involved, putting out positive, forward-thinking speech and writing...if they were shown how to channel negativity through journalling, meditating, praying and speaking to trusted loved ones...if they saw their parents strive more to love and forgive than ridicule and demean, then would they have the means to manipulate out of negativity in a way that actually portends a bright future? Would they grow up as powerful adults with high self esteem who “self medicate” with self-love instead of substance? How could they not? One of the most important factors that contribute to drug use...the understanding that it is not “monkey say, monkey do. It is “monkey see, monkey do.”

If a child learns to deal with stress by watching us drink or smoke pot to unwind (even if it is occasional), complain and blame others for our plight in life (even by just saying “Them”), sit and watch mindless TV (even if it is just “The Real Housewives” on in the background) or succumb to life issues by being in and out of states of anger, depression, anxiety and fear, well then we can expect our children to be doing the same. In fact, all of the stress we subject them to would make them self medicate in any way they possibly can. Depending on the shape their bodies are in already, that can be anything from food to alcohol to drugs to adrenal-driven behavior to cutting to anorexia to binge eating to bullying to joining a gang to sexual activity to exploitation of their own bodies. It is a human need to want to be happy and loved and to belong and fit in. Kids will find a way to fulfill these needs irrespective of the long term repercussions, because they only understand right now, this minute, today. We are the ones who are watching out for their long term wellness. They don’t have the ability or wherewithal to portend anything better than what they are feeling NOW. In other words, the moment they are living in is the moment they react to. If we don’t give them better choices to make and a better body to fortify those choices, they won’t take the high road. They will always take the easy road...the one they believe will lead to comfort. The one that can temporarily override their negative emotions and make them feel good.
Part III...The Breakdown that will lead to the breakthrough

I once heard Mike Rowe (the actor and activist) say, “I try to look at everything in ‘Mike Rowe’ and then in Macro.” His clever use of the word “micro” made me smile. It also inspired me. “They are looking at the macro perspective,” I argued with myself. “And that is the problem. Addiction counselors, law makers, doctors...they consider everyone to fit into one category...human, and they believe every micro in the macro should come in and out of addiction the same. No one is seeing us as ‘Mike Rowes’ with our own micro/macro!” And that is when it hit me...a new way to describe what I was seeing all along. The understanding that each of us has our own cosmos that we are dealing with. Our (micro) brain with its own thoughts and interpretations of our education and life events. But that is only a one-third portion of the whole that makes us. We are also a body that is housing the brain and the soul that is trying to influence it. We are not what we “think.” We are what we “are,” meaning what state of being we are in at any given moment is dictating what we think. That is what we need to be working on.

Up until this point, experts have been primarily appealing to the mind. We use “talk” education to try and prevent substance use and then we use “talk” therapy to try and get people out. But it has been my experience that trying to talk people out of physical addiction is like pulling the shade down in a sunny room and expecting the sun to go down with it. It ain’t gonna happen!

Is it true that the mind/ego/human brain’s perspective can control the macro system? Yes, the mind (and when we are willing, the soul) can overrule the body. But so can the body overrule the mind and the soul. There is a three way communication mechanism we are all equipped with, but in my experience, when it comes to addiction, if we don’t address the body first and foremost, we won’t be able to keep the mind and the soul in control of anything, let alone a commitment to sobriety. And so the whole point of my series of blogs is to break down for everyone the actual breakdown of the human body, mind and spirit that needs to occur in order to create addiction or any disease or illness for that matter. I (and others) call it, “the perfect storm,” because the way in which it is created is very similar. If you know anything about tropical storms, you would know that they happen all the time. Very few, though, actually become hurricanes that we need to be concerned about, because there needs to be a very unique set of circumstances in order for the storm to hit land so hard. The temperature difference (warm to cold) between land, air (wind) and water (the ocean) has to be the perfect ratio in order for the hurricane to gain momentum and not fizzle out before it hits the shore. Hence the term, “the perfect storm,” because it wouldn’t be anything without the perfect tri-factor.

To keep up the weather analogy, we can try to predict and prepare for a major storm, but we don’t have much control over it. Instead we ride it out and hope for the best. I truly believe we are treating addiction the same way...waiting to see what the storm is doing...where it will hit next so we can help those who have been hit hard and then try to get others to evacuate before more casualties occur. We are treating addiction as an entity we have no control over, because it has become an entity that is out of control. We have to understand that it is not a phenomena without a source. It has an origin that is man-made and since we made it, we can sequester it, even work towards reversing it. What is more important is that we can change the elements, because we are the elements.
Part II: Addiction...Bear (and bare)
with me while I lay the groundwork...

On the way home from the theatre, I made the attempt to unravel from the mixture of emotions that still had their grip on me. Anger, anxiety, sadness...I was all over the place, still fighting back the tears and trying not to play the blame game. The friend I had with me in the car had to hear my rantings, “It’s not the counselors job to know the human body,” I lamented. “They are taught to deal with emotions. It’s not a medical doctors job to know how to counsel. They are taught to treat disease! It’s not the cops job to know how to prevent the war. They have their hands full trying to fight IN the war! And it isn’t within the scope of a parent’s or teacher’s job to be intimately familiar with any of it!” Then I stopped shouting and allowed the ah-ha moment to sink in. A few seconds later, the tears finally started to roll. “It’s my job,” I said jabbing my finger into my chest and crying, “I’m the one I am so angry at.”

For over 25 years, I have been studying and researching how our bodies work and the way each aspect of being human (the physical, emotional, mental and spiritual) effect one another. What started out as a need to heal myself from undiagnosed trauma and emotional and physical illness, turned into a crusade to bring the message to others through coaching and activism. I decided a long time ago that what I was discovering was not taught in schools. It didn’t make any sense to me to spend years getting a degree if that degree didn’t offer me the whole picture or the solutions. I used that time instead to learn more about what I was seeing as the common denominators in myself and all my coaching clients (more on that later). Then I brought in the doctors and practitioners who were degreed, licensed and willing to work with me. When I started seeing amazing results...people, including myself becoming healthy and whole...I wanted to share it with other professionals and agencies. What I wasn’t ready for was the cold shoulder. No one wanted to hear from me. In deference to them, I had no formal letters after my name. I would look at their faces and almost see the words floating over their heads, “What could she know?” I was partially in agreement. Everything I learned was self taught...countless hours reading through medical journals, clinical trials, prescription manuals and believe it or not, hands on experience. I kept trying to share testimony anyway, remaining under the radar and hoping to strike a chord in any doctor or counselor willing to listen. “I didn’t have to be the crusader,” I would tell myself. “I only have to plant the seed.”

Time has marched on though and so has the devastation. My fear of speaking out as an “uneducated” spokesperson has reached its climatic ridge. Perhaps I needed to be exposed to four nights of trauma, hearing story after agonizing story and seeing picture after gruesome picture in order to trigger my own need to come to the plate. “What good am I doing if I don’t speak out?” Truth is, no one who even moderately understands stress and how it is potentially playing out on the human body and mind can afford to keep silent any longer. Not only is it our job to shout it out, we have to be the catalyst for change or our country will not be victorious over substance abuse. The stats will just keep rising every year as they have been, and our crusaders...the practitioners, counselors and law enforcement who are deep in the trenches, fighting the good fight, will need to keep spending their time in triage. They will remain too busy trying to keep people alive to really delve into healing the root causes that will lead to prevention. That is where “we” need to come in. Every one of us.

Each member of society has their role in the cause, the effect and the cure. No one is to blame. No one person is at fault. It is all circumstance and the culmination of many factors that add up to the addiction epidemic, along with the depression, suicide, disease and unlawful behavior. Fortunately, many of the underlying factors are within our control, but not if we continue to underestimate the influence of each and/or their potential to harm. We finally have to all agree that what we are doing to ourselves and our kids...the physical, mental and emotional stress we endure day to day is just too much for the human mind and body to bear. We have to break it down before it has the potential to break us. But where to start?

First, we each need to select our perspective. Where do you want to stand so you can view the big picture? As a parent, teacher, educator, counselor, medical practitioner, law enforcer, government leader, struggling teen, friend, family member, activist, advocate, coach, concerned citizen or most likely any combination of two, three or four of these positions. It is important to choose, because without the understanding that we are all stakeholders, there won’t be a full buy in. Instead, we will continue to insulate ourselves, thinking it won’t happen to us or our own family and believing that it is another’s responsibility to deal with “those” issues. Everyone’s eyes must remain open. Our souls need to start to rule over our egos and our hearts need to overcome our fears...myself included. It’s time to expose the causes we have all had a part in allowing to affect us. And finally, a serious look at how to eradicate them.

Part I of "A Coach's Take on Addiction."

Last week I had a meltdown in front of 4 cops. It came after four nights of events I attended, all related to teen substance use and addiction. I watched video clips, newsreels, movies and listened to countless testimonies from parents of dead children. I heard (thankfully) stories from young people of their recovery, but not after also hearing about their desperation, suicidal attempts and brokenness. One night would have been enough to cause strain in most, but four...?

It was the forth night that pushed me over the edge. A panel discussion, Narcan training and viewing of a documentary called, “An American Epidemic” was being offered at the Cinema Arts in Huntington. I was happy to go as Nassau’s wellness ambassador to support the woman that invited me (who lost her son to heroin), but I wasn't prepared for the movie producer’s story of drug use and crime...what made him into a crusader willing to spend his entire life fighting the good fight. "Fourteen years ago I was an addict and got involved with a drug deal that went horribly bad. When the guys I pissed off came looking for me at my mom's condo, I was off somewhere in a drug stupor, so they strangled and stabbed her to death instead."

His words landed on my head like bricks. My energy shifted drastically, but I fought hard to stay in my seat in honor of the Suffolk County Coroner who presented next. He showed us one grizzly picture after another of dead drug users, but the last was of an almost unrecognizable body inside a pile of scorched metal. He told the tale of a young girl who was trapped in her car after she crashed driving under the influence of a mixture of wine and pot. She didn’t die instantly upon impact though. The coroner knew this because he found her charred remains hanging over the driver seat. He reported, "she was climbing into the back desperately trying to escape the flames that were engulfing her."

Ten minutes later, I had the need to escape too, but not just because of the stories or the pictures. I couldn’t bring myself to hear from the 7 panelists that came next. No lack of respect for the admirable job they were doing, but I couldn't take one more second of listening to similar verbiage without also being able to talk about how to fix it! All I was hearing up until that point...from them and every person for four nights straight was, “This country has a serious drug problem. We need more education...” To these statements I wanted to scream out of frustration, “I know, but why is everyone always 'educating' about the problem without unraveling deep rooted causes and offering real long lasting solutions?!?”

I hurried out through the doors of the theatre to catch a break in the lobby. There I found some police officers waiting to give the Narcan training. I started my diatribe. "It's going to go on and on in there for another 40 minutes of talk. Someone has to try and stop them!" I was trying to make the statement seem humorous, but it came out anything but. "When can we ask questions? When can we discuss how to help these kids?" The police officers were not sure how to react. When I realized they were trying to decide whether I was someone they needed to help or tackle, I checked in with my energy. It was larger than life and bordering on frantic. I looked at their faces. "I recognize this," I said to myself. It had been two years since I felt the rush of emotions from PTSD. I could see myself in their eyes and what I saw looked pretty scary. "I would like what I came here for," I said, trying to make every word calmer and more deliberate. "I'm a wellness professional," I told them, "and I need the factual data and education so I can speak intelligently to legislators and parents." Then I pushed last time...all the tears I had been fighting all week long. I looked earnestly at the most sympathetic of the four cops and asked, "Can you help me with that?"

Look for Part II: Bear (and bare) with me as I lay the groundwork...