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mental health

Her Addiction Story Made Me A Better Therapist

There was a lady that was injected with heroin repeatedly at the age of 12 so that she could be high and prostituted by her mother.  Her mother would force her to have sex with older men to earn money for her heroin addiction.  Twenty years later, I was this woman’s therapist and she was on methadone maintenance trying to maintain sobriety.  I remember my insides feeling like they were on fire as I internally raged against this mother for sending her daughter down this path.  She was repeatedly raped from age 12 to age 16 and when she finally ran away, she had a full blown heroin addiction.  

When she was first admitted to a detox unit, I watched her on her knees at the toilet throwing up for 20 to 30 minutes at a time.  Her nose was running, her body had chills and cold sweats.  She began picking and scratching her neck and her eyes were watery.  As I tried to complete initial paperwork with her, she kept excusing herself to the bathroom because of her upset stomach.  She was put on methadone to help with her symptoms, but it was not working during the initial week.  

Up until this point in my career, I struggled with understanding heroin addiction.  Even though, I was deeply invested in helping people heal, I did not know the full impact of heroin addiction until I walked with this young lady through her withdrawal process.  We talked everyday except Sundays.  She would tell me every symptom that she experienced.  She would talk to me about her "drug dreams".  She would dream that she was high and wake up with her mom's ex-boyfriend on top of her and then, she would wake up again and realize that was a dream also.  The role of trauma significantly impacted her addiction.  How can you face reality when the reality is that you have been a prostitute since 12?  

Her story moved me in such a way that I began teaching her to see herself as more than an addict, and more than a prostitute.  I was fully present in every session with her.  We laughed together, and there were times that I cried with her, even when she tried to minimize certain stories, like having all of her teeth knocked out while tricking on her own.  She cursed like a sailor, and had a great sense of humor.  She'd been through so much and was still able to love, laugh and trust.  What she taught me that clinicians and therapists must get to know the person, because we are treating the person, not just the addiction.  We are working with the whole person. 

I worked with her for over 6 months in inpatient and she was able to maintain sobriety at least a year after that, but now I do not know where she is.  I pray that she is well.   

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The Importance of a Healthy Cry

When we experience a loss, a death of a loved one, a divorce, a physical ailment or the loss of financial stability or a job, there is sometimes a gut wrenching emotional pain that words cannot describe.  Many people hold back their tears in an effort to appear strong in front of their friends and family.  Sometimes people hold back tears to protect themselves from feeling vulnerable.

 

Family Dynamics & Gender Role Stereotypes – In some families, crying is a sign of weakness.  Little boys are often told to “man up”, “stop crying like a wimp”, or “stop crying like a little girl”.  Crying is looked at as weakness.  Strong people do not cry, they fix things and work things out.

However, there are some situations that cannot be worked out. (Ex: the death of a family member).  No matter what you do, you cannot bring that person back from the dead.  When people who are taught not cry face a situation that they cannot fix, they sometimes freeze and continue to hold back tears.  The holding back of tears can lead to more intense physical discomfort related to the event, such as, a tightness in the chest, a tightness in the throat, tension headaches, hollowness in the stomach or a feeling of depersonalization (i.e. feeling numb – going through life on “auto-pilot”). 

 

Crying is natural.  From an evolutionary perspective, infants crying communicate to their primary caregivers that they are in distress.  Also, in adults, it communicates the depth of one’s pain when words are not adequate to describe the pain.  “Thirty years ago, biochemist Frey found that emotional tears carried more protein than non-emotional tears (say, from chopping an onion). The implication was that when you cry for emotional reasons, you are involved in a healing process” (Collier, L., 2014).  Although there has been conflicting research in the past, more and more scientific evidence is confirming that “crying” is part of the healing process and that a good cry is better than holding it in.

 

This is not to say that healing cannot take place without crying, but if you feel the need to cry, don’t hold back.  Releasing tears release tension and after all, a good cry never hurt anyone. 

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