Parents – Are you really aware?

I was speaking with a parent who was at their wits end with their child who was showing zero respect and basically running the show. The home atmosphere was being completely comprised by this child in their late teens, as were any rules. We looked at boundary setting, exploring the possibility of establishing small easily maintained boundaries to begin the process of taking charge again. I was unsure of the parent’s capacity to set and hold a boundary so we were exploring some very basic and simple ideas.

Suddenly the parent joked that this ‘boundary’ would only be maintained when it suited them to do so, as sometimes they liked their teen e.g. lost in TV. I was struck by the complete lack of awareness in this parent of the damage they were doing – i.e. by indulging and then blaming, the so familiar ‘all or nothing’. It reminds me that although we may see the problem in the difficult or obese child (as per article attached) we must not forget that sometimes the parent(s) directs their child towards these ways of passing the time to get them off their hands.

Family Groups

Family Group is a very important part of Charter’s addiction treatment programme.  Currently costing just £150pa per family member for unlimited access, the groups provide an introduction to addiction and vital peer and counselling support for family members of an addict.

The familiar position of lose:lose is the domain of the families of addicts, where it is so hard to know what to do as your loved one perpetually holds the proverbial gun to their own head and, finger on trigger, reacts what you say and do.

At Charter we advocate re-establishing a sense of nourishment and self respect in the family member so that they too can make a decision instead of just reacting to a situation:- fire fighting. This takes time and commitment and I am proud to say that we have a core group of hard working family members cementing the changes with their increasing understanding and personal growth. When one person changes, the dance changes. So whether your addict is on board (yet) or not, working in the family group can make all the difference to the possibility and nature of recovery in your life.

We also hold family workshop weekends that provide a more intensive introduction to letting go with love, enablement vs tough love and how to take care of you – many family members recoil from such apparently new age statements (as did my own parents many years ago) – but these workshops have proven to be of fundamental use to those struggling to gain purchase on this slippery and destructive condition in the life of someone they love.

Addiction is all consuming, self centred, provocative and relentless. It takes experience to know how to behave around it, and courage and compassion not to feed it.  The group will support you while you learn…

UK cyclist Bradley Wiggins admitted to a history of binge drinking

I am over the moon that UK cyclist Bradley Wiggins admitted to a history of binge drinking yesterday as the shame that surrounds addictive patterns prevents people from seeking help. The more people of note speak up the less humiliating it should be to admit a problem.  Thank you Bradley for your courage and integrity.

Sadly though my guess is that the interested population will be more likely to line up their next pint ‘just one more before I do the tour, mate’ than to shake their head amidst roars of bullying derision with ‘no thanks, mate, I’m going to see if I can stop’.  Such is the grip alcohol has on our society that even with evidence of damages caused by binge drinking (conservative estimates rate at over one person a day to die from alcohol over the next 20 years) and with 1.5million UK dependent drinkers of which only 8-18% are in treatment, our culture continues to neck alcohol in huge proportions, becoming a European leader in alcohol consumption. The prospect is not good.  Alcohol damages must not only be measured in terms of the direct hit to the drinker (physical, emotional, mental, financial), but to their families, to their social context, to their work, to our social services, our police, our NHS – to each and every one of us intimidated or harmed by someone under the influence. Of all those drinkers too, many have families, and the children of these unions of active addiction grow up to become Adult Children of Alcoholics – a self destructive legacy all of its own.

The cost is far too high and the justification to drink is that of an addict. I am a supporter of early intervention, of treatment, of minimum pricing and of education – to children and their parents. We must start with the parents…

(The statistics cited have been taken from Druglink Magazine, May/June 2012).

Co-dependent love Kills

The recent tragic death of Eva Rausing, daughter of a Pepsi executive and married to the heir of the Tetra Pak billions is yet another sad addition to the long list of deaths claimed by addiction. In a relationship fuelled by co-dependence, it is clear that neither partner would ever get recovery long enough to have a proper chance at life.

This situation is so familiar to those of us working in the field. Over and over again I warn my clients about getting into a relationship in treatment or early recovery and those who don’t listen – self will run riot – (and who stay in touch) have almost always found themselves in difficulty later down the line. And although it is the truth, to say ‘almost always’ to an addict they will illicit an attentional bias towards ‘almost’, encouraging the inherent arrogant belief that every addict has that they will be the exception.

It is so obvious to me that in rehab where you are putting down your drug of choice, you are wide open to an alternative, something to fill the gap, the void that any addict in early recovery feels – indeed must feel and learn to tolerate. For this lack of tolerance IS the addictive process in action. An inability to not know, to feel exposed, alone, afraid… – to feel vulnerable generates the compulsion to use. So a relationship in early recovery is a collusion between addicts to mutually fix and avoid this seemingly intolerable void, dressing it up as something worthwhile.

Sadly most of the time the addicts themselves are completely unaware of what is going on, usually insisting that they do know and they are actually in love, and treating those who seek to challenge the addiction (family, sponsors and therapists) as lacking in understanding, punishing and unreasonable. In turn this can drive the couple into secrecy, into the false yet seductive intimacy of ‘them and us’… as the  examples given by the journalist of this article displays, feted couples Burton and Taylor, Cobain and Love, Britney and Kevin, Whitney and Bobby – all very Bonnie and Clyde: over romanticised sickness ending in disaster.

At Charter we work on co-dependence and relationships (with self and others) as a mainstay of our programme. Addiction is at its roots relational and addicts need to be able to have healthy interactive relationships that nourish them, or they will relapse. I have had the privilege to support many people to avoid an ending such as Eva’s despite all the priming that might make that their destiny, and I am grateful for these clients’ willingness and trust to follow my direction. It is not easy, never easy, but it is most definitely worth it.

Read more:

Brits Warned: Inactivity As Deadly As Smoking

It is predictable perhaps that I believe it to be our responsibility as parents and adults to inspire the younger generation to adopt healthy ways to live. This is not just about drugs and alcohol, It is about learning to live a healthy life emotionally, physically, mentally and spiritually. I think that we set an example and children follow.  When I work with parents particularly with children under 12, I look at their own patterns – whether that is of drinking, eating, drug taking or generally how they deal with their emotions – and I usually find the root of the child’s problem, albeit displaced. Sadly it is common for the parents to dislike this route of treatment so much that they withdraw their child from the therapeutic process. Somehow it seems to be infinitely preferable for the child to be the problem rather than the parent.  However, that said, I have huge admiration for those parents who do persist.

Without doubt, we set the standard and the children follow. What is disturbing is when our children grow up enough to, in turn, set the pace. Born of dysfunctional origins, this is a route set for disaster. I am not naive enough to believe that this is easy, with many people in the UK without work, living on the breadline, poorly educated and growing up in extremely difficult circumstances. But I do believe, with the right support, we can inspire many of the population to live differently. It is shocking to read that in the UK 17% of deaths are caused by inactivity, and that we are world leaders in obesity.  Are we really that unhappy a nation that we would commit ourselves and our children to such a slow and painful life and death?

Read more here:

Charter Residential at Primrose Hill

With a history of relapse and poor management I sometimes wonder at my wisdom of taking on Primrose Hill as we had such a climate of prejudice to overcome.

Fortunately, under the careful and attentive management of Clare Sole, we have been consistently busy there since opening in 2010. I believe we are now gaining ourselves a reputation by earning it as a boundaried, accountable safe housing service for those needing extra support in their recovery journeys.

We have 10 beds and admit males and females from 18-65 years at different stages of their recovery, as long as they are abstinent and actively engaged in a 12 step programme or in treatment. It’s a lovely mid terrace Victorian house, has a support worker in residence and provides a temporary home from home.

We provide drug and alcohol testing, weekly planning and support, cooking support, an introduction to fellowship, community living with therapeutic duties, curfews and peer responsibilities.

Alongside treatment, or as extra support through transitions geographically, work-wise or relationship-wise, Charter Residential provides an extraordinary service that is affordable, effective and grounding.

We work with you to get well in the context of your life.

Specialist Eating Disorder Services Needed

Eating disorders are about the relationship between food and emotions, where a person seeks a sense of control over their emotions, over how they appear and over the impact their world has on them. It is common for an eating disorder to develop in a person’s early teens and so it would seem appropriate for there to be services specifically targeted for this age group. CAHMS do a great job, and I have met many people who have benefited from time with this service, but eating disorders – and addictions in general – require specialist knowledge and intervention. This is not about simply getting someone to eat, it’s about attending to the disturbance of self and your typical eating disorder will be extremely reluctant to put their eating disorder down. I think Helen Missen raises a very important issue in this report and I for one would be a willing signature on her petition.

When I read Kenneth Clarke’s comments I felt a surge of fear, anger and yet some relief.

Afraid because I believe drugs have stolen a fundamental place in our national teen culture replacing integrity, respect and other centredness with an entitled, false empowerment, an arrogance that doesn’t respect its elders nor authority.

Cocaine makes you feel invincible then drops you paranoid from a great height, demanding more; weed ridicules effort and perseverance and heralds ‘chill’ as a demi God, – it IS a gateway drug, without a doubt; and opiates shut you down. This culture is dangerous to us in so many ways and it approaches with stealth under a blanket of denial – ‘everybody smokes dope / it’s a stage he’s going through / I used to smoke dope, don’t over react / its all a part of growing up / its only a line or two / it was fun etc etc.

The work I do in schools and with young adults informs me of how deeply entrenched drugs are in our culture and I am worried. Do we know how to react, how to cope? Are parents, teachers, doctors educated enough on how to behave around drugs and those developing a dependence? And as a nation are we ready? I have children on the threshold of adolescence, I have worked for 20 years in addiction and I know what’s coming. I know what to do and how to react to addictive behaviour, yet in the face of this conflict even I find it difficult to do the right thing and not play into the illness.  This is not easy. Addiction is a powerful adversary. The original Trojan horse.

When a person repeatedly uses something outside of themselves in an attempt to cope emotionally, they abandon their opportunity to learn, stunt their emotional growth, do not invest in and exercise their own resources, and so become dependent and resource-less.  It is vital for the strength of the nation as much as for the health and well being of the individual that a person build up their sense of self, strength, resilience and resourcefulness as they grow up, and this will not happen if the opportunity to learn is swerved.  When that coping mechanism is drugs then an even more pernicious dimension is added of chemical interaction with the brain. Drugs have a physical impact – and those who say they don’t are either lying or being ripped off.  The artificial high creates extreme mood swings, getting stoned increases anxiety and potential for depression, opiates shut a person down and all of them disturb a natural rhythm, that once out of sync will pitch and swing so that a person doesn’t know which way is up.  And that’s the best-case scenario.

I am angry because even in my small radius of contacts I know some excellent therapists: brilliant, inspiring people who are driven by vocation as much as practical need to earn, to do the best they can by the clients they support. Addiction treatment and good therapy works. This chronic relapsing condition is notoriously difficult to treat, but recovery IS possible. We need the country behind us to help train and resource us to field this emerging culture before it takes over our national climate.

With drug addiction comes low self-esteem, bullying, deceit and crime, fear, shame, guilt, obsession, control, isolation, resentment and suppressed emotion. A terrifying recipe for the UK on a grand scale.

I want the government to invest in treatment – not harm reduction, but to get behind a concept of abstinence. I believe we have become an indulgent nation and as a nation we need to learn how to self regulate. We need self-respect and a sense of identity and pride.

My relief is simply that I do believe the Government is seeking a solution. My relief is that Kenneth Clarke does not believe in de-criminalising drugs. My relief as a parent and as a therapist is that for now the message to my own children and the young adults I work with, remains one of integrity – I do not endorse something I know is harmful, and nor does our country.  But this is not enough.

More About Charter

Charter Day Care was launched in 2008 to provide intensive, effective and affordable addiction treatment in central London, where a person  can get well in the context of their lives. It has been hugely  successful in terms of client numbers as well as quality of recovery,  with a thriving aftercare service that is testament to this fact. Working from a psychodynamic approach and employing the 12 step  method alongside motivational interviewing, gestalt therapy, creative arts and body workshops, somatic experiencing (for trauma) and CBT techniques, Charter has a well rounded and successful treatment  programme.  In 2010 we opened Charter Residential, a 10 bed sober  living house in Primrose Hill with 24/7 on site residential support,  boundaries and community living. This is for people needing extra support either through treatment, some sort of transition ( e.g. geographical or relationship) or through a difficult period.

We treat most addictions including substance misuse, co dependence  and sex and love addiction, bulimia, over eating, work addiction and  crucially involve family members whenever appropriate. Many of our  clients are relapsers who haven’t been able to get well elsewhere, the costs are surprisingly affordable.  Our programme is flexible so  that minimum attendance is one full week after which we can agree a schedule of attendance according to assessment – containment is key  and we will never agree a care plan that we feel sets the client up to fail.

We mean business in terms of recovery and go the extra mile to ensure the quality of recovery gained is sustainable. This is a small and personal organisation where every team member, including admin, knows every client, and where the director and founder is hands on so that you are as likely to see her in group, in an intervention or making the team a cup of tea! We are FDAP accredited and approved with several different insurance companies.

Once you are part of the Charter family, the door is always open.

The Mindful Kitchen

One evening a week sees a pair of young addicts shopping at Waitrose and then standing over a hot stove at Charter for two hours as they seek to produce a delicious and simple meal.

Welcome to The Mindful Kitchen, brainwave of trained chef, Noha Moukarzel, and trialed at Charter, this weekly workshop has been developed to help teach addicts in recovery how to cook healthy, achievable meals for themselves as part of a daily routine.

A fundamental part of self-care and self-love is nutrition. Many of us who do not suffer from addiction are guilty of neglecting this vital dimension of our daily needs. And those who suffer from a condition of self-loathing and unmanageability are vulnerable to these same self-defeating patterns to the point of self-harm.

Whether you suffer from an eating disorder or from disordered eating due to low self-esteem, lack of motivation and care, The Mindful Kitchen is a breath of fresh air teaching practical skills and inspiring possibility.