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Substance misuse, abuse and addiction

For many of us, it can be extremely difficult to admit and accept that we have a substance addiction or are misusing or abusing.

People use substances for a number of reasons - to have fun, relax, escape pain and difficulties in their life, and enjoy social times. However, substance misuse, abuse and addiction does not discriminate - it affects people from all walks of life. In fact, around 1 in 20 Australians has an addiction or substance abuse problem.

Whether you or a loved one are abusing drugs or another substance, feelings of loneliness, fear, shame and anger can at times feel inescapable. At South Pacific Private, we offer professional help and support for those struggling with substance abuse, misuse and addiction. 

What is substance misuse, abuse and addiction? 

Substance misuse or abuse involves consuming too much alcohol, tobacco or using drugs. We lose our ability to control. The misuse or abuse of drugs and other substances can quickly spiral into dependence and an addiction, and have negative and lasting effects on the individual and their family.

Substances can be classified into seven main categories - nicotine, alcohol, cannabinoids, opioids, depressants, stimulants and hallucinogens. Depending on the substance - some are highly addictive - the problem can swiftly escalate in both the frequency and intensity as our bodies develop neurological, psychological and physical dependence.

Signs to look out for:

There are many signs that may indicate that you or your loved one are struggling with substance abuse or addiction. They include: 

  • Withdrawing from family, friends and life activities that you usually enjoy.
  • Behavioural changes - feeling agitated, conflicts with family or friends, stealing, violence towards others. 
  • Feeling depressed, anxious or paranoid. 
  • Constantly thinking about a substance - drugs or alcohol - and not being able to stop taking it. 
  • Finding that you’re unable to meet your usual responsibilities - not being able to get to work on time or drop children off to school. 
  • Experiencing cravings or urges to use the substance and symptoms of withdrawal.
  • Continuing to use the substance, despite negative consequences.

Seeking help

If you’re struggling to stop the misuse of prescription medications, illegal drugs, alcohol or tobacco, you’re not alone. At South Pacific Private, we recognise that substance abuse and drug addiction can be devastating for both an individual and their family. It can destroy lives, fracture families and risk serious health impacts, including overdose, which is why it’s important to seek professional help to end the cycle. 

As an accredited private hospital we offer onsite, medically-supervised withdrawal and detoxification options. We understand that each case of substance abuse or addiction is unique, with its own set of symptoms, drivers and underlying causes. Our recovery program is based on the proven 12-step principles and includes a fully supported transition phase toward ongoing, long-term recovery support. 

If you or someone you know is experiencing substance abuse or addiction, please call us on 1800 063 332 or contact us here to find out more about our programs.

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What Ukraine can teach us about minimising our trauma

 

“At least you’re not in Ukraine, right?”

Sound familiar?

You might have said this to yourself in days gone by, because what happened to you couldn’t be nearly as bad as what you’re seeing on the news. Or maybe your heard yourself saying it out loud to a friend; because their problem can’t possibly measure up to the experience of what you’re seeing others have to go through at the moment.

This mentality of minimising ours or another’s experience in favour of another’s worse experience is not a new phenomenon. Responding to people who disclose to you that they are struggling with trauma by responding with phrases such as “it could be worse” or “just focus on what you do have” are common ways we minimise our own, and others feelings.

When we’re uncomfortable, we minimise

It’s an understandable position that some might take – and one that often comes from a place of deep empathy. With so much terror and violence devastating the lives of innocent Ukrainians, how could we possibly be depressed? We live in Australia where we are extremely fortunate that our homes aren’t under enemy attack as we sleep. But in the throes of trauma, addiction, depression and anxiety, this viewpoint isn’t helpful. Comparing one’s problems to what’s happening somewhere else in the world won’t give clarity to someone living with mental illness. It makes things muddy, murky and minimising.

The other reason we minimise ourselves and others feelings comes down to a simple lack of understanding of trauma and how to respond when someone discloses they’re in pain. “Often a person who has disclosed a traumatic event, whether a recent event or a long time ago, wants to be heard,” says Di Young, senior psychotherapist at South Pacific Private. “It takes courage to tell their story. They will hope that you can sit with their pain, though many unfortunately can’t.”

Unless you work in a mental health role, it’s unlikely that having someone disclose trauma or mental illness to you is something you’re used to. So when we’re put into an uncomfortable situation like this, our instinctual way of responding may be off. This is where minimising someone’s experience (as a way of avoiding our own distress and discomfort) often comes into the conversation.

Many of us are naturally inclined to try and fix things, which can trigger minimising responses as well. But holding back and just sitting in the moment with the person can be difficult. “When someone tells you something significant about a traumatic experience, what they don’t need is advice-giving,” Young says. Even if it's because we're genuinely trying to help, it can often come off as judgmental or minimisation if we offer unprompted advice like “have you tried this?” or “why don’t you do that?”

Instead, Di says, we should take a moment to acknowledge the enormous trust placed in us by the person who has made the disclosure. The person sharing their trauma is often looking for validation and empathy, Di says. “They need you to listen and empathise, they need unconditional support and love."

Understanding and acknowledging mental illness

The danger in minimising your own, or someone else’s feelings is that it compounds the shame and self-doubt that is often at the core of someone’s trauma, addiction or mental illness. But the fact that people elsewhere are suffering abhorrent violence, poverty or natural disaster, doesn’t erase a person’s history. It doesn’t make our own experiences less painful, or less important.

When we minimise someone’s feelings by pointing out how others are far worse off, it can actually be very damaging. Reactions like this are dismissive of a person’s pain, and suggest that they are to blame, and in control of their struggles or past history of trauma. By promoting this sense of shame and failure onto someone, the likelihood of them reaching out for professional help, plummets.

Phrases that minimise someone’s experience:

  • ‘There are people going through a lot worse’
  • ‘Maybe just try and snap out of it?’
  • ‘It can’t be that bad can it?’
  • ‘Try and focus on the good’
  • ‘Remember how fortunate you are’
  • ‘Find something to take your mind off it’
  • ‘But you’ve got so much to be thankful for’

Responses that acknowledge and validates someone’s experience:

  • ‘It must have taken tremendous courage to share this with me’
  • ‘I want you to know I deeply respect the trust you've placed in me by sharing this’
  • ‘Thank you for trusting me with this’
  • ‘I'm so sorry you had to experience that’
  • ‘You didn't deserve that, and you deserve support now’
  • ‘I want you to know you're not alone’
  • ‘You did what you had to do to survive’

Putting your pain into perspective

A wide range of experiences have the capacity to inflict long-term trauma, from sudden, life-threatening events to longer-term, ongoing traumatic experiences, such as recurring abuse or parental neglect. However, any situation that leaves us feeling overwhelmed, desperate and isolated can result in trauma. Trauma, addiction and mental illness are not a choice, which is why looking at these issues comparatively to devastating world events, simply doesn’t help.

Remember, no matter what is happening in the news, it’s always a good time to reach out for help if you’re struggling. If you’re concerned about a loved-one, or yourself, you can learn more here, or call us on 1800 063 332.

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Why continuing care at Beachwood creates better recovery outcomes

 

Leaving an inpatient program is a big moment; you’ve spent weeks in a new environment, with no outside distractions and you’ve given yourself time to really focus on healing and recovering.

It’s understandable that many people wonder how they’ll cope when they walk out the doors, and whether the skills and new perspectives gained during their program will be easily applied to their ‘real lives’. 

What’s important to acknowledge is that recovery doesn’t finish when you leave South Pacific Private. While some are excited to get home, see friends and family and find their new normal, others may feel apprehensive, and need a way to ease back into independence. Because when we’ve spent long periods of life in a state of dysfunction, finally feeling a sense of normality can be an overwhelming, and unfamiliar territory. The Continuing Care team at South Pacific works with you before discharge to address all aspects of this to prepare you for your departure.

These include:

  • Identifying what you've taken away from their time at SPP. Have they got all the tools they need to thrive?
  • Where you will be living, and who you will be living with. Will this environment be conducive to sobriety?
  •  Identifying what stressors exist for you. What are the major factors at play when you are feeling triggered?
  • Which strategies and self-care they will you utilise after discharge. Do you have systems in place to support your own self-care?
  • Planning your 12 step strategy. Which meetings will you attend and how often?
  •  Identifying if there is a supportive family member available, and whether they will be helpful to undertake the Family Program with.
  • Guiding you through the available support for your ongoing recovery, either through Day Programs or a stay at Beachwood Recovery House.

When entering recovery, it’s very important to address, plan and maintain the above considerations. With these support systems in place, our client’s recovery outcomes are much better.

This is the reason that Beachwood Recovery House exists. A residential sober living facility, right next door to South Pacific Private, that provides residents with ongoing support and guidance during the early days of their recovery, Beachwood is staffed by support workers 24 hours a day. 

The team at Beachwood looks at recovery holistically, bringing together healthy living, spirituality, therapeutic programs, continuing recovery planning, relapse prevention and community peer support. Located close to the beach, Beachwood gives clients the freedom to come and go, enjoy walks on the beach and healthy, nutritionally-balanced meals.

Research shows that clients that spend more time in supported recovery have better outcomes and lower chance of relapse. A residential sober living facility, Beachwood helps to prevent clients from slipping into old behaviours after attending the in-patient program. This is an important step in recovery as according to psychiatrist, Dr Anna Lembke, it takes on average, 30 days to reset the dopamine system and break behavioural patterns

Beachwood also gives clients the chance to continue to grow and develop their skills, engage in group therapy and embed the tools they have learnt at inpatient to support their recovery journey. “A further two weeks at Beachwood provides a therapeutic space, whilst allowing clients to go to their day program and go out without supervision,” says Diane Young, senior therapist at South Pacific Private. “It is a gentle, gentle approach, which allows the client to integrate their learnings with the reality of their lives.

“This gives them the opportunity to take small steps into their new lives, whilst being able to come home to Beachwood and continue to have additional support early in their recovery. Whilst in Beachwood clients often attend our Transitions Day Program which further enhances their knowledge and experience of their new lives.”

Who is Beachwood suitable for?

  • Those who have completed the South Pacific Private inpatient program
  • Those who have completed an inpatient treatment program in another treatment centre and require emotional support as they take their first steps into their new life
  • Those who are sober/abstinent from their addiction and require extra support

Program Snapshot

Attendance of our range of South Pacific Private Day Programs individually recommended by the clinical team, and includes:

  • Daily attendance of local 12-step meetings and support groups
  • Peer group community meetings each morning and evening
  • Daily exercise and mindfulness activities
  • 1:1 support worker meetings with a Beachwood Supported Living Support Worker
  • Optional art therapy on Sundays
  • House curfew is between 10pm – 6am daily
  • This accommodation includes all board, meals and some services.

For a free, private and confidential discussion about whether you may benefit from a residential stay at Beachwood Supported Living, please phone us on 1800 063 332 or email us to find out more.

Healthcare professionals can also refer a client into Beachwood Supported Living.

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Is gaming an addiction that you can’t switch off?

 

The popularity of online gaming is on the rise in Australia, and around the world.

Played solo or interactively with friends or strangers (such as in massively multiplayer online role-playing games, or MMORPG’s) these virtual universes are all-absorbing, time-consuming and potentially damaging to one’s mental health. 

Virtual world experiences of gaming, like any pastime, allows us to forget about the hassles and pressure of life. Gaming can also provoke positive feelings within us and it may even fill the need for social connection - albeit virtually. It sounds like fun for those who manage to regulate their usage to enjoy a healthy amount of time spent gaming. But for those who are finding that they are slipping further into virtual reality, and away from their actual reality, the game can start to become scary, dark and isolating.

But when does a pastime, become life passing you by?

Gaming by nature is a highly immersive experience with fast changing derivatives. Gaming is also designed to be addictive, to keep players engaged and immersed as long as possible. There’s always a new challenge, goal or something else that emerges to keep us on the hook. Psychologist at South Pacific Private, Jane O’Keefe says there is an upward trend towards people having trouble regulating their online activities. In fact, around the world, it’s estimated that around 1-2% of the population may struggle with problematic gaming behaviour. In some Asian countries, the rates of gaming disorder among the population are reported to be even higher, at a staggeringly high 10-15%.

Due to the addictive pattern of behaviours present in people with problematic gaming behaviour, the World Health Organisation (WHO) recently classified gaming as a disorder. Consequently, Gaming Disorder was added to the International Classification of Diseases (ICD-11) in January 2022. 

Gaming Disorder is diagnosed if the person has been impacted or struggling with the following symptoms for 12 months or more. The pattern or behaviour of gaming may be continuous or episodic and recurrent behaviour.

How gaming addiction can impact your mental health

Common to all addictions (both process and substance) is the psychological distress caused by the addiction. This is what often brings people to treatment. Addictions impact people’s motivation and mood and can include depression, feelings of remorse, guilt or shame. Left untreated these feelings can get worse over time as the addiction progresses. The person may use more of the substance / process to avoid these feelings. 

Feelings of guilt may arise you’re neglecting other important activities at the expense of the time spent on gaming. Mental preoccupation pre or post gaming (if excessive) can also constitute a problem. For instance, if you spend your time obsessing about your next game, you have less focus for other activities at hand that require attention. 

It’s clear to see how this can take a heavy toll on relationships, study or work. As the obsession for gaming increases you’ll likely have less desire to participate in social activities, meeting friends, playing sport or hobbies and isolating at home may become common behaviour.

So how do you know when your pastime has become a problem?

Gaming Disorder is a painful and isolating process addiction. It impacts our ability for healthy cognitive function, promotes social disconnection and can lead to anxiety and depression if it does unrecognised and untreated. You may have problematic gaming behaviour if:

  • You have tried, and failed to cut down on the hours spent gaming, multiple times.
  • You have regularly played longer than initially planned, at the expense of sleeping, eating meals or have put off using the toilet to keep playing
  • You have begun to withdraw and isolate from friends and family, and your gaming is at the centre of any conflict with them
  • You have skipped school or work to continue gaming and your performance and productivity is suffering
  • You are experiencing significant psychological distress, and your physical health is suffering; for example, having trouble sleeping or weight gain/loss
  • You have begun to struggle with gambling, and are experiencing large financial losses

While gaming can start out as a fun, sociable and pleasurable activity, there are real, serious risks of significant psychological harm if used in excessive amounts for excessive periods of time.

How to recognise you have a problem, and get help

  • Consider the type of relationship you have with gaming and develop a healthy awareness of how you’re using your time.
  • Try to limit your game play time. Make time offline for your friends, your favourite sports or other activities you enjoy.
  • Be honest with yourself if you’re worried or struggling to moderate your time spent gaming.
  • If your gaming activity has stopped being an enjoyable pastime that simply allows you space to reset so you can get back to your other life activities, responsibilities and real-world social connections, then consider getting help.
  • Read the eSafety Commissioner’s guide to staying safe when gaming

Not all gaming behaviour is unhealthy, even at rather high levels of use. However, when it becomes instinctive or difficult to stop, when it occupies your thoughts or when you begin to experience mounting negative consequences or impacts on relationships with family and friends, it’s probably time to reach out for help.

At South Pacific Private, we treat problematic process or behavioural addictions such as Gaming Disorder with a range of effective treatment options that promote adaptive coping strategies.

Our holistic treatment pathways support you to deal with the consequences of addictive online gaming behaviour as well as addressing the underlying issues. 

Phone 1800 063 332 to find out how we can support you or a loved one. 

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Grace Tame says Australia needs an honest conversation about Trauma. She’s right.

“We need to learn how to be better parents, siblings, partners, friends and even better children of trauma survivors,” says Diane Young, Addiction and Trauma Specialist at South Pacific Private. 

Grace Tame hit out at the Australian media this month following days of national news coverage of a photo which appeared to show her seated next to a bong.

Tame, a survivor of child sexual assault and an advocate for the survivor community, was 19 at the time the photo was taken. 

In an open letter published on Twitter, Tame called for Australia to have “an open and honest discussion about trauma and what that can look like.”

“It can be ugly. It can look like drugs. Like self-harm, skipping school, getting impulsive tattoos and all kinds of other unconscious, self-destructive, maladaptive coping mechanisms,” Tame wrote, detailing her own openness about coping mechanisms. 

“At every point – on the national stage, I might add – I've been completely transparent about all the demons I've battled in the aftermath of child sexual abuse; drug addiction, self-harm, anorexia and PTSD, among others,” Tame wrote. 

Young, a trauma and recovery expert at South Pacific Private, says that Grace Tame’s call for more awareness and understanding of trauma and trauma responses was long overdue.

“Whether it’s drugs or alcohol or self-harm or other destructive and addictive behaviours, there’s often this reflexive blame that society throws at people, as though it’s an issue of willpower or indulgence,” Young says. “In reality, addiction is often driven by experiences of trauma, dysfunctional relationships, abuse, neglect or mistreatment.”

 

Shame, Guilt and Worthlessness

Young says that the shame and guilt people experience can often prevent them from seeking help, and that when societal responses blame the individual, it can often compound that shame and push the trauma further down. The dynamic of the victim-blaming that Grace Tame is currently experiencing is extremely unhelpful for recovery, Young says, but it’s also extremely common. 

“Shame is embedded in the experience of child sexual abuse. It survives in every part of your being long after the physical acts have ceased,” Tame wrote on Twitter. “In the years that followed, I beat myself up relentlessly. I thought everyone else around me blamed me too. To cope, I engaged in activities I deemed befitting of a person as worthless as I deemed myself to be.”

Young says that feelings of worthlessness, guilt and self-blame are extremely common among both trauma survivors and individuals experiencing addiction. 

“When we’re experiencing extreme pain, we can turn to substances and addictive behaviours to numb the pain, and then fall victim to an escalating, addictive cycle which only ends up pushing support systems away, compounding the guilt and worthlessness, and making things worse,” Young says. “Part of recovery is taking responsibility and holding yourself accountable, but it’s also recognising that unhealthy forms of guilt and shame often only make things worse.”

 

A More Trauma-Aware Australia

Young says that as a whole, our society could do far better to educate ourselves on these dynamics so that we don’t become part of the problem. Part of that awareness needs to be arming Australians with the ability to recognise and understand trauma-responses, to continue to love and support survivors, and to have the skills to set healthy boundaries and avoid unhealthy relationship dynamics. 

“There are survivors out there who are terrified of seeking help because they're afraid they'll be blamed for what has happened to them,” Tame wrote. “They are afraid they'll be chastised for their coping strategies instead of being offered support and treated for the cause of their suffering.”

“As a country we need to be more willing to recognise addiction as a trauma response, and to discuss and treat trauma and addiction compassionately,” Young says. “We need to learn how to be better parents, siblings, partners, friends and even better children of trauma survivors.”

Young says that the best rehab and treatment centres acknowledge that their role isn’t just to help clients detox and get clean short term, but to acknowledge and address the underlying trauma fuelling the addiction. It should also include an effort to educate and equip loved ones with the tools and understanding they need to be able to offer meaningful, healthy forms of support. 

“At South Pacific, identifying and addressing trauma drives everything we do. It’s why we have so many clinical experts and actual survivors on staff,” Young says. “If you don’t address the underlying issues and give folks the tools they need to address trauma in healthy ways, the cycle just starts again.”

“Healing, self-love, triumph and total transcendence are all possible” Tame wrote. “But they require patience, compassion, encouragement and forgiveness. They require ongoing community support.”

“She’s exactly right,” Young says. “There’s a reason she’s such a powerful and respected advocate.”

Learn More About South Pacific Private’s Approach to Trauma, Addiction and Recovery here or call our Intake Team to discuss the support available to you on 1800 063 332

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Why Meaningful LGBTQIA+ Inclusion is Vital for Addiction Recovery

LGBTQIA+ Australians looking for addiction and trauma support can face a more challenging search than others.

Many treatment centres and organisations fail to offer specialised support or inclusion for LGBTQIA+ clients. Meanwhile, studies show that treatment programs which do offer specialised programs deliver meaningfully superior and longer-lasting outcomes to LGBTQIA+ clients than those which do not.

Emma Mansell is the Cultural Safety Officer at South Pacific Private, a Rainbow Tick accredited addiction treatment centre in North Sydney and one of the country’s leading treatment centres in trauma-informed care.

Research indicates that LGBTQIA+ inclusive treatment centres should focus not only on addiction but rather a holistic approach. “We know a lot of LGBTQIA+ patients who sought recovery and have experiences with medical practitioners who are homophobic, biphobic and transphobic that have been actively harmful,” Emma says. “Therapists should be supportive in addressing discrimination and the core issues of trauma, family rejection, and bullying.” Emma says.

“Finding a 12 step group or recovery facility who are accepting and inclusive is essential, just like having an LBGTQIA+ therapist,” Emma says. “You don’t have to spend as much time explaining your relationship or worrying you’re being judged”. There are some things that people in our community just ‘get’ that others who haven’t been exposed to the LGBTQIA+ experience do not.”

Active LGBTQIA+ Inclusivity

Honesty and openness is vital for recovery, and the less judgmental the environment is, the easier it is for the recovery process to work.

“Many LGBTQIA+ will share shame over their sexuality, something I’ve personally connected with and now I’m one of the proudest people you’vel ever meet,” Emma says. “Overcoming shame is also a massive part of addiction and recovery, and you don’t want the experience to be compounded by feeling threatened or judged twice-over when it comes to gender and sexuality.”

It’s not solely an issue of comfort, shame or connection either, Emma says, it’s also a matter of staff having the relevant clinical expertise and experience.

Experiences of trauma or emotional abuse can often become part of our development and our own understanding of ourselves.

This can be especially true for cases of childhood trauma or adverse experiences in adolescence. It’s also likely that our experiences of alcohol addiction, drug addiction or sex addiction can be quite different to those who aren’t part of the queer community. Compounding this may be the old stigma around sexual abuse having a causal effect on a person’s sexuality. These experiences are unique to the queer community, and why cultural safety in the therapeutic environment is paramount.

At South Pacific Private there is an organisation-wide focus on providing LGBTQIA+ inclusive care and a safe space for all clients and staff.

“Every day you can feel that focus paying off. From clients to staff it’s just an incredibly comfortable, open and welcoming place,” Emma says. “It makes a real and tangible difference in the experience of every single person here – queeralike.”

The work includes a focus to recruit LGBTQIA+ staff across all levels and on ensuring all staff are trained on LGBTQIA+ inclusion and have clinical expertise in LGBTQIA+ issues. It also includes a culture of continuous improvement which includes a dedicated point person on staff and weekly conversations with LGBTQIA+ clients who can raise issues, concerns or flag additional needs.

“The thing I’m most proud of are the dedicated group sessions that I have created for LGBTQIA+ clients, where you can connect with others who are experiencing struggles and battles as you are,” Emma says. “It’s often said that the opposite of addiction is connection, and being able to forge those connections in this way makes it just more mefailaningful and relevant than ever.”

Learn more about inclusivity at South Pacific Private here, or, to discuss treatment options, give our Intake Team a call on 1800 063 332. 

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Totally Addicted to Love

Can you be addicted to love?

While it may sound like the main ingredient of a cheesy love song, the reality is that Love Addiction and Love Avoidance are two emotionally painful conditions, that often go unrecognised and untreated. The result? Dysfunctional relationship cycles that become near impossible to break, without the right support systems in place.

In our latest Q&A, South Pacific Private’s Addiction and Trauma specialist, Diane Young explains why.

What exactly is Love Addiction and Love Avoidance?

These are painful, compulsive behaviours that can lead us into a push, pull dynamic between two people, the Love Addict and the Love Avoidant. The Love Addict will typically pursue a partner, in an obsessive compulsive fashion, experiencing little self-control. They might create a fantasy about who the other person is, or the potential of who they could become. On the other hand, the Love Avoidant may feel constantly suffocated or trapped by the Love Addict’s behaviour and feel a need to escape.  Pia Mellody, an internationally recognised authority on codependence and addiction, describes this as a tango of positive and negative energy, “the interaction between the two of them creates the co-addicted relationship experience, an intense, chaotic, jostling encounter”.

Why are these conditions so important to address?

Put simply, these conditions are both addictions. Those who are Love Addicted or Love Avoidant have likely never experienced a healthy relationship, nor seen one modelled during their critical childhood years. Both conditions are emotionally toxic and unsustainable, and often co-exist with other mental health conditions or addictions. It’s important to recognise these cycles, as they are as harmful as any other kind of addiction. Without recognition of being Love Addicted or Avoidant, it’s impossible to experience any kind of deep connection or intimacy with another person.

What impact can Love Addiction and Love Avoidance have on our mental health?

More often than not, these conditions are triggered by childhood trauma and by what was modelled to us by our parents. The danger of the Love Addict and Love Avoidant co-existing, is that both parties continue to come and go, and to push and pull, no matter how the other person is treated. Mellody says that whilst this kind of addictive process may be common, it’s not healthy. Toxic relationships like this take an obvious toll on our mental health, and will likely have a lot of depression and anxiety triggering effects, as these patterns fuel further destructive behaviour, and the cycle continues.

What are some signs that you may be Love Addicted or Love Avoidant?

The Love Addict will feel like they are in constant pain, and feel continually let down by the Love Avoidant. For the Love Addict, it doesn’t matter what the other person does, it won’t be enough. The Love Avoidant will feel like they are being engulfed by the Love Addict, and will create intensity outside the relationship as an escape mechanism, such as creating a need to work additional hours, a need to attend to family member (who may not need help), or even by having an affair. However, when the Love Addict has had enough and leaves, this is when the Love Avoidant will finally pay them attention and beg them to stay. It’s an unhealthy cycle that can be difficult to break free of.

How can we begin to seek help and recover from Love Addiction and Love Avoidance?

Living with the emotional pain of Love Addiction and Love Avoidance is simply not sustainable. The first step towards recovery, is accepting that we have a problem, and that we don’t have an answer. Those who are Love Addicts or Love Avoidant must realise that their behaviour comes from a deep sense of co-dependency and the role we played in our family of origin. It’s important to know that recovery is possible, but it requires facing the way we’ve managed our past relationships, however misguided or faulty, as well as owning up to not being authentic. In our Love Addiction Love Avoidance workshops, we help you go back and reclaim that small part of yourself. We allow you to notice that a relationship may not be supporting you and provide you with the tools to become the best version of yourself.

Diane Young is a Senior Therapist at South Pacific Private who specialises in Addiction and Trauma. If you or someone you know is experiencing Love Addiction or Love Avoidant, our intake team can provide a free, confidential assessment over the phone by calling 1800 063 332.

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Is Valentine’s Day a painful day for you?

For many of us, Valentine’s Day is a day of pain, sadness, hurt and anxiety. Watching couples display affection and exchange gifts can trigger us, impact our self-worth, make us feel more alone or like there is something wrong with us. This is especially common for those of us who have love addiction or love avoidance. It’s completely normal to experience a flurry of emotions, which is also why it’s important to take time for self-care and seek support if needed.

What is love addiction and avoidance?

As defined by sex and love addicts anonymous (SLAA), Love Addiction is an obsession, broadly defined as “an unhealthy fixation on another person with whom we may or may not have a relationship or even have met.” You may experience:

  • Low self-esteem and self-worth
  • A fear of abandonment or being alone
  • Difficulty with internal and external boundaries
  • Confusing love with neediness
  • Patterns of staying in, and returning to, painful or unhealthy relationships 
  • Emotional or sexual manipulation and dependency
  • Romantic or sexual intrigue, obsession and fantasies
  • Assigning somewhat magical qualities to others in hopes of them fulfilling our fantasies

Love Avoidance can lead to you avoiding intimacy out of fear of being drained, engulfed or controlled. You might put up walls to prevent you feeling overwhelmed, trapped or suffocated by a relationship. Many people who are love avoidant, recognise characteristics of Love Addiction in their partner, or past partners. You might also:

  • Feel compelled to care for needy or troubled people, seeing yourself as 'wonder woman' or a 'white knight'
  • Avoid being emotionally vulnerable or fully honest in relationships
  • Be overly critical of your partner, viewing them as weak or resenting them for being needy
  • Communicate in either a passive-aggressive or overtly aggressive ways
  • Return to relationships out of guilt or fear of abandonment, or try to find a replacement for relationships once they end

Understanding love addiction or avoidance and seeking help

People experiencing patterns of love addiction or avoidance can often find themselves drawn to those displaying the opposite pattern, leading to complex, toxic or dysfunctional relationships of codependency, says Helen O’Connor, Primary Therapist at South Pacific Private. 

“There’s shame surrounding love addiction and avoidance, but most people who have love addiction or avoidance have experienced developmental trauma,” she says. “This shapes our sense of self worth and sets our relational patterns in motion. However, it’s not a life sentence,” she adds. “With the tools, skills and support, you can build a healthy relationship with a lover. It’s important to respect the relationship and avoid bringing in issues from your past or former relationships into your current one. If you’re struggling, pause, take a deep breath and reach out for support.” 

At South Pacific Private, we specialise in understanding the dynamics of codependence and the complex relationships clients may have with past emotional trauma that is still unresolved. We’re committed to equipping clients with the tools and strategies they need to break out of dysfunctional relationship dynamics and maintain rewarding, healthy relationships into the future.

If you’re concerned you may have a problem with love addiction or avoidance, please call our team on 1800 063 332.

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Seeking Help Addictions Alcohol Addiction and Abuse Drug & Substance Abuse Dual Diagnosis Family, Friends and Partners Mental Health Rehab

Australian booze culture – why drinking is a societal problem

Understanding the dangers of booze culture and it's ingrained place in Australian society

It’s no secret that drinking alcohol is considered to be an intrinsic part of Australian culture. However, drinking excessively as a nation isn’t something to rejoice, nor is it something to be proud of.  

According to Diane Young, therapist and addiction specialist at South Pacific Private, drinking alcohol excessively is unfortunately ingrained into Australian culture and is often encouraged and praised within the community. “Going to the pub after work for beers multiple times a week and having one too many wines at a birthday party is commonplace for many Australians - it’s considered socially acceptable - but the reality is that it’s not and can result in alcohol dependence.”

The Global Drug Survey 2021, which looks at responses from more than 32,000 people from 22 countries, found that on average Australians reported getting drunk 27 times in 2020 - that’s more times than the residents in every one of the other countries. 

If we look back to our childhood, most of us are exposed to it from an early age in an unhealthy way. “Many Australians are introduced to alcohol in their teenage years and many believe drinking to excess is acceptable,” says Young. Teens often mirror learned behaviour after years of watching their family members imbibe in a way that is considered in the family system as harmless, but from a physical and mental health perspective can be dangerous. 

In our culture today, particularly with Covid-19 and all of the inherent changes we as a society are experiencing, we long for connection and conviviality. Having a drink with our family, friends and mates allows us to relax and release the pressures we are under. We believe that we can connect with those we care about in a more meaningful way. We can have a laugh, it can boost our mood and take our mind off any of life’s problems.

“Often this is what drinking entices us to believe,” says Young. “For a percentage of the population, this will inevitably lead to addiction and the loss of ourselves, our principles and our values. Of course no-one expects this to happen to them,” she adds. “They will not lose control. The sad fact is that our society has a significant drinking problem and many of those with a problem live in delusion about how their drinking is impacting their loved ones and others around them.” 

The societal problems such as a relationship and marriage breakdown, domestic violence, coercive control and the more hidden problems and connected addictions: drugs, gambling and sex are the high costs we as a society pay for our our believe that we ‘enjoy having a drink’.

For the many people, from all walks of life, from all socioeconomic backgrounds of our society, who do find alcohol a problem, there is help available. There shouldn’t be any shame in asking for help - many of us will need professional help and support at one point in our lives. 

“In many homes across our country, Australians are making the decision to get help, take stock of their lives, stop or moderate their drinking and to look at the corresponding and underlying problems associated with their drinking,” explains Young. “We will always want to celebrate our connections and achievements, to commemorate our losses and griefs. There is virtue in these acknowledgements, however ensuring we are teaching our children and teenagers that we can celebrate these events without harming ourselves or them is the challenge for us all.” 

If you’re concerned you may have a problem with alcohol, you can use our self-assessment tool here or call our team on 1800 063 332.

 

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Seeking Help Family, Friends and Partners Mental Health Trauma and PTSD

The Journey of Healing: How to Make Amends

Recognising our wrongdoings allows us to embrace the opportunity to heal our relationships

In recent years, Australia Day has become a day to make amends - to recognise the wrongdoings and mistakes we have collectively made as a nation against First Nations people and to learn and grow from them. 

Making amends is important for healing. Each of us needs to recognise how our behaviour has hurt and affected others. Once we do this, we can embrace the opportunity to try and repair the damage. 

Here, we speak to South Pacific Private Senior Family Therapist, Leanne Schubert, about the process of making amends and why it's so crucial to our recovery journey. 

 

1. What is the best way to make amends? 

Making amends is a deeply personal process. It forms a crucial part of the 12-Step recovery from addiction and refers to the act of addressing the problems and issues within relationships with people who may have been hurt by our actions because of the addiction. Step 8 of the 12-Step recovery process states: “we made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all”, while Step 9 states: “we made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others”. There really isn’t a right or wrong way to make amends, but it’s essential to be in the right space of your recovery. The best way for one person might be to write a heartfelt letter, while for others it will be meeting up face-to-face and having a deep conversation. It’s essential to make amends for past wrongdoings - even the ones that people might be unaware of - to move forward in your recovery.

 

2. How is making an apology and making amends different? 

Simply saying ‘sorry’ is unfortunately not enough for many people to make amends. Addiction can cause deep hurt, anger and sadness, so for many people an apology isn’t enough to address these feelings. When you make amends, you are not just using words, but actions to show that person that you are a changed person and have established a better way of life in your recovery. 

 

3. How can making amends help us in our recovery? 

Making amends is an integral part of the healing in our recovery. It helps us let go of the feelings of shame, guilt and fear that can fuel addiction. It also helps us repair and build healthier, stronger relationships with our support network - which are usually our friends and family. 

 

4. When should I begin making amends?

Each recovery journey is different and when we attempt to make amends is up to us individually. However, reaching out prematurely in our recovery and without a plan can pose challenges for us. It’s important to be ready for tough conversations and to think about what we want to say and how to express it clearly. Making amends forms part of the 12 steps, and is the focus of step 9. 

 

5. How should I begin the conversation and what should I say?

Taking the first step and having a conversation with someone we’ve hurt takes courage. We obviously don't want our actions to cause further hurt, stress or damage. With an important conversation such as making amends, it is important to choose your timing and show respect to the other person by checking if the timing of an important conversation is suitable to them.

An important part of the process of making amends is to acknowledge the reality of the impact of our behaviour on the other, and to acknowledge the other's feelings. This can go something like, "I hear that when I lied to you, you thought you didn't matter to me and you felt hurt and scared that our relationship may be over. I'm sorry I lied to you". It can also be healing to share with the other person how you feel. And that may go something like, "I am sorry I lied to you and I feel ashamed of myself".

It is also important that we do not choose to justify our behaviour in any way as this has the effect of negating our apology. It can be helpful to inform the other person of how we will make different choices about our behaviour in the future. We need to be careful not to make promises. When we promise to change our behaviour, we may set ourselves up for failure and the other person for disappointment. That may go something like, "I am sorry I lied to you and I feel ashamed of myself. I will make my very best effort not to lie to you in the future".

 

6. What should we do if a person doesn't want to hear from us?

Sometimes a loved one doesn’t want to hear from us, regardless of how we’ve changed in our recovery or our desire to make amends. It’s important not to force someone to meet with us or hear us out if they don’t want to. We must respect their boundaries and their right for space. 

At South Pacific Private, making amends forms a part of our Family Program. If you’re struggling and ready to start your journey through recovery, please call our team on 1800 063 332.

 

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