Addiction : Where’s your rock bottom?

Choosing when to call it quits

where is your rock bottom?Addiction does not discriminate between age, gender, economic status or race. Each individual can decide where their “rock bottom lies”. Do you really need to wait until you have lost your job, ruined your relationship, abused friends, become estranged from your children or live on the streets in a state of intermittent psychosis?

There are in fact many functioning individuals medicating stress, loneliness, depression, social anxiety, sexual inhibition and general anxiety with alcohol and drugs. Often, people don’t realise that depression, anxiety, anger, sexual and relationships issues in the aftermath of alcohol or drug binges are a consequence of using. In fact using alcohol to cover over anxiety or depression simply creates more anxiety and depression.

Do I have an alcohol or drug problem?

If you continue to drink or drug despite negative consequences, then you may have problematic alcohol use.

  • Fighting with your partner over your use?
  • Ended up in bed with that Bumble/Tinder/Grindr guy/gal that you didn’t really like?
  • Can’t remember where you lost your phone and wallet?
  • Had yet another stupid argument with your friend that you can’t even remember?
  • Spent 3 days depressed and hung-over in work again?
  • Drove home drunk again?
  • Frequently drink more than you intend to?

AA is not for everyone

Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Narcotics Anonymous (NA) are an organisation that runs over 460 groups with 4,000 members across New Zealand. Membership is open to anyone with a desire to stop drinking and there are no fees or dues.  AA has successfully helped many people sustain sobriety and a list of weekly meetings can be found on AA.org.nz.

However, AA is not for everyone. Some individuals recognise that they might have a problem and tentatively go along to an AA 12-step meeting. However, they find that there is so much talk about alcohol and drugs that it creates intense cravings. Others reject the affirmation and label “I am an alcoholic” as it may create a shameful negative self-concept and social stigma. Others reject AA requirements to admit they are powerless over alcohol as this can create a sense of helplessness and doubt that they are capable of controlling their own choices and behaviours. Others cannot relate to the severity of many rock bottom stories because they only drink one bottle of wine after work every day or are high functioning executives. Others find excessive talk of drinking woes depressing.

Many paths to recovery

Many people do not realise that there are alternatives to 12-step recovery such as Community Alcohol and Drugs Services (CADS), Buddhist Refuge Recovery, Moderation Management and Smart Recovery in addition to or as an alternative to traditional counselling approaches and residential rehab. CADS offers a professionally run harm reduction approach and a desire for abstinence is not a requirement for joining. SMART Recovery and Moderation Management offer a peer support group model and surrendering your power is not a requirement.

Individual therapy

If you are serious about quitting or reducing drinking / drugging, then individual therapy may be the best option as it can be customised to your unique needs and a time can be arranged that works for you with minimal impact on family and working life. When selecting a therapist, useful things to consider are:

  • Do they have rehabilitation facility experience?
  • Do they have specialised addiction training?
  • Is it easy to establish a good rapport with them?
  • Are they trained in modalities such as hypnotherapy, CBT, DBT, psychotherapy and motivational interviewing?

Reconnecting

If alcohol has impacted your relationship, or relationships have been historically difficult, then it may be useful to also consider choosing a therapist experienced in relationship counselling as relationship issues can be a major contributor to relapse. In his TED Talk titled “Everything you think you know about addiction is wrong”, journalist and researcher Johann Hari states that the opposite of addiction is not sobriety but connection. Renowned addiction author and physician Gabor Maté’s approach to addiction focuses on the trauma clients have suffered and look to address this in their recovery. If you feel that your drinking or drugging may be associated with anxiety, depression, intimacy or trauma, then customised individual 1:1 professional counselling maybe more effective than group counselling.

Getting help

The good news is with an experienced clinical hypnotherapist, addiction, and relationship counsellor, clients can see significant improvements in just 6 sessions. Individual counselling and clinical hypnotherapy can work directly to access the root of the problem. This helps to eliminate unwanted negative beliefs and reinforcing more positive, happier thoughts and feelings. Sessions typically cover depression, anxiety, confidence building, stress management, root cause analysis, strategies for dealing with cravings and others who use, relapse prevention planning, sober relationships, the disclosure of alcohol problems and family therapy.

Find a Therapist

Margo Regan headshotMargo Regan Counsellor, Clinical Hypnotherapist, Addiction, Relationship & Sex Therapist, (Ponsonby & Sylvia Park) has particular interest and experience in working with addiction issues. She is part of our Citywide team of accreditted addiction counsellors. For more information or to arrange an appointment please contact Margo or any of the team.

Auckland Addictions Services

An experienced group of accredited addiction cousellors offering counselling services citywide in Auckland.  Find an Auckland Addiction Therapist by suburb or learn more about the Services we offer or Issues with work with.

Is pornography addictive?

© Paul Wilson for Auckland Therapy Blog, 18 February 2019

Porn and the media

is pornography addictive?In popular Western media, pornography is being talked about a lot more than it used to be. When I say popular media, I’m including websites, online forums, blog posts, and youtube videos, not just more traditional news outlets.

It’s not surprising that as online pornography has increased in availability over the past decade, there has been a corresponding increase in commentary and concern about it too. As a sex-positive therapist, a lot of the public discussion about pornography troubles me. Partly, I think that’s because, as a member of the LGBTQ community, I’ve been sensitized to what gets said about how people “should” and “shouldn’t” be in their sexual lives.

We all have our personal values and our blind-spots, that’s an inevitable part of being human. And to be clear, I think it’s perfectly valid for people to have moral objections to pornography (or anything else). However, I’m especially leery about the blurring of the distinction between moral values and medical or therapeutic values.

Human beings have enjoyed looking at erotic imagery for as long as there have been human beings. However, acknowledging that has long been socially or morally unacceptable. So looking at porn, like masturbation, becomes one of those things that many people do, but few people admit to. The resulting silence is very problematic since that leaves negative messages dominating any public discussion.

The big question

The biggest area of popular concern about pornography that I see revolves around the question of whether it can be (or is) addictive. This is often raised with particular concern about how pornography might be affecting adolescents and their development.

Now, this is clearly a very important question, but it’s far from a simple one, partly because it depends on what you mean by the term addiction. The word addiction is used in a number of different contexts and has multiple meanings. Over the next few blog posts, I’m going to explore each of those different meanings in relation to pornography.

The medical definition of addiction

In this post, I’m going to look at the medical or scientific definition. In that context, addiction is viewed as a brain disorder (i.e. a mental illness) which is characterized by compulsive engagement in rewarding stimuli despite adverse consequences. This is a neurobiological perspective in which the substance (or behaviour) causes actual changes in the wiring of the brain that make the illness increasingly worse over time.

Is pornography neuro-biologically addictive?

There are a number of groups that claim that pornography fits this medical definition of addiction, causing the same kinds of changes that a drug like cocaine does. They argue that pornography is thus a public health issue, not a free speech issue, and access needs to be curtailed accordingly.

The most notable examples are www.yourbrainonporn.com (YBOP) and fightthenewdrug.org  (FTND). They prominently feature the work of Gary Wilson drawing on his book, “Your Brain on Porn: Internet Pornography and the Emerging Science of Addiction”.

Gary also gave a TEDx talk in 2012. You can’t find it on TED anymore but you can still find it on YouTube. A short summary is that this position centres on the claim that internet pornography is different from the porn of the past. It’s more powerful and changes the brain of those who view it, causing dependence and desensitisation. To get the same ‘fix’, viewers feel compelled to watch increasingly deviant and violent content. Alongside this goes the claim (for males) of ‘porn-induced erectile dysfunction’ which is the idea that males became unable to be aroused by the ordinary stimuli of sex with a partner as a result of their pornography exposure.

It all sounds pretty dire, right?

The actual science

The problem is that the science does not support any of what Gary Wilson claims it does. He’s not a neuroscientist or a sexologist and much of the research he quotes is cherry-picked and misinterpreted to support his stridently anti-pornography stance. TED removed his talk because of the many false claims he made about the science. For a breakdown of the problems, an anonymous neuroscience student offered the following: patheos.com

The Fight The New Drug (FTND) group is closely linked to Your Brain On Porn and Gary Wilson. They are primarily based in Utah and, as well as their website, were very active in Utah high schools offering their message to young people to ‘educate’ them about the dangers of porn. This caused considerable concern to actual sex educators in Utah and also the neuroscientists whose research was being misused.

The neuroscientists in question subsequently published an open letter about FTND in 2016 criticising the misuse and misrepresentation of neuroscience about pornography and addiction: archive.sltrib.com

Morality & science

Essentially, YBOP and FTND have a moral problem with pornography (which is fine) yet they are misrepresenting it is a scientific one (which is far from fine). It’s not that they don’t know they are misstating the science, it’s that they don’t care because they feel doing that makes them more persuasive. The ends can start to justify the means when you are on a moral crusade.

Based on the available scientific evidence,
pornography is not neuro-biologically addictive.

(In my future blog posts, I’ll be exploring other broader definitions of addiction in relation to the issue of pornography which are more nuanced and explore the possibility of psychological addiction.)

Pornography problems

What we do know is that while pornography may not be neuro-biologically addictive it can cause some people distress and result in some relationship difficulties.

So, if you are troubled by pornography use, including feeling that you are ‘addicted’ or your use has become out of control, exploring the issue with a caring and non-judgemental therapist can make a big difference in improving your psychological well-being.

NB: If porn use is a problem in your relationship we generally recommend couples therapy to work on any damage this has done to the relationship, especially if it has resulted in a breakdown of trust or ongoing conflict.

Find a Therapist

Paul Wilson : Auckland therapy Paul Wilson (Grey Lynn) is a sex-positive therapist and part of our Citywide team of registered therapists. For more information or to arrange an appointment please contact Paul any of the team.

Questions or comments : If you have a question about this post or a question on another topic relating to therapy that could be answered here, please email Paul and we’ll see what we can do.

Addiction therapists

NB: For some people porn use is part of wider alcohol, substance or other addiction problems. In this case we recommend one of addiction counsellors with experience in porn use. See either :

Blair Schulze (Grey Lynn) | Hamish Brown (Te Atatu) | Daniel Harrison (Pakuranga)

Auckland Therapy

An experienced group of registered psychotherapists offering counselling and psychotherapy services citywide in Auckland.  Find an Auckland Therapist by suburb or learn more about the Services we offer or Issues with work with.

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