Do We Gossip Because Our Lives are Empty?

I can think of a bunch of magazines that would go out of business if we weren’t real curious about the lives of celebrities. Not to mention the TV and movie industries that thrive on it. The same goes for the ordinary gossip about the woman down the block. Why We’re Curious About Celebrities There is something good about it and something not so good about our gossip. The good reason, I suspect, is that we all want templates, role models, for constructing better lives. In spite of celebrity hardship in the relationship area, celebrities do represent success. And that’s something all of us wish for. Or at least dream about. That’s a good thing. There’s nothing wrong with looking up to someone you admire for creating a path that you could follow, maybe to a lesser degree. But how many people actually use the lives of celebrities as roadmaps for personal achievement? Not so many. A second question might be: Are we more interested in their success or their failure? A recent report indicated that what grabs most of our curiosity is the latter. That makes my whole premise wrong. Which leads me to the bad part. People’s lives may be missing something. People feel an emptiness that they can fill with addictions, obsessive thoughts, or gossip—about celebrities or friends. These are really bad choices because they don’t actually “fill” that empty space. Let’s take addictions which is familiar to most people as an example. How Celebrity Gossip Is Like Other Addictions The addicted person, say, has internet sex, feels great for about 2 or 3 minutes, maybe...

The Soul Behind The Brain

When depression hits, what do you do? When your Life Partner is not good enough to chase away the anxiety, what do you do? When past, black predictions by parents or others of your future failure, haunt your thoughts, what do you do? Well, of course, you blame your anxiety, depression, and self-hatred on a “chemical imbalance.” You claim that your present state is inherited and your only solution must be chemical. There are two new pieces of evidence to disprove that which will, hopefully, help you out of that pit of doubt that sends you pill-searching, either legitimately or illegitimately. People who suffer so intensely from depression and anxiety that they absolutely can’t handle one more minute of it often turn to prescription medication or illegal drugs to get them through the pain. The first piece I would like to share with you is a new book by Marc Lewis called Memoirs of an Addicted Brain: A Neuroscientist Examines his Former Life on Drugs. A Neuroscientist Studies His Addicted Brain         What is different in this book from all the other chronicles of addiction and recovery is the fact that Lewis happened to have been a doctoral student in psychology, specializing in neuropsychology when he finally escaped the chains of his addiction, so the book is sprinkled liberally with explanations of how the amygdala and the anterior cingulate cortex work, things you’ve seen discussed before in this blog. But there’s more to it than that. There is a point—after losing a marriage; after many thefts during the night; after Lewis is finally caught and faces jail time; after being...

Why Pain Is A Gift When You’re Overcoming Addictions

REPRINTED WITH PERMISSION from the Florida Jewish News Look,” I said to Lawrence a week after he decided to quit drugs for good, “this is going to be really, really hard because eventually, you’re going to be in pain and you won’t wanna stay there. That’s when you have to stick to your commitment to stay clean.” “I’m not worried about that,” he smiled, “I gave up pain a long time ago. I don’t like it much.” “That’s because you ran to use before you felt anything,” I reminded him. “You haven’t experienced it because you put yourself into a haze before you could take that risk to feel. I’m telling you, you won’t like it, and I’m asking you to be strong and get through it anyway. When it hits you, it’ll be like a two- by-four smacked you, but you’ve got to keep going.”   Pain Is Part Of Life If You Don’t Use Drugs To Run Away From It   Sure enough, not two weeks passed before it hit him. The reason he had decided to give up the drugs was because he wanted his family back. He wanted to laugh and joke with his two little girls. He wanted to run his fingers through his wife’s hair. Right now, contact with his wife was limited and strained. But she was trying to give him the space to learn how to be a husband and father. Nice woman. And things had been going rather well. There were some reasonable phone conversations. Then he’d had dinner over at what once had been his home, until he was...

12 Steps: Step 4 is Not About Beating Yourself Up

Step 4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves. Never, ever kick yourself in the rear for your past. This is NOT how Steps 4-8 of the 12 Steps should be done. Looking at what you did–or were not able to do–admitting it, asking for help from your Higher Power, making amends are all beautiful and important. Doing that will take the chip off your shoulder. But that does NOT mean beating yourself up mentally for your mistakes. FIRST accept the fact that YOU WERE ABUSED. You are working on correcting all that came out of that mess. Beating yourself up more only adds to the problem and gets you no where. It’s Like The Day Of Atonement So how should one make a searching and fearless moral inventory? How do you do it without beating yourself up? That is an excellent question. It takes me back quite a few years. When I was growing up, my parents and I would go to synagogue for Yom Kippur, the Day of Attonement in the Jewish calendar. There were quite a few times when you literally had to beat your chest as you recited all your sins! That really made me feel bad. I didn’t want to feel bad and yet, there I was, confronted with all my sins and I just felt awful. Mind you, I was a child. No one explained to me how to do this right! It took me years to learn how to do it without feeling horrible. And here is the secret: Recognizing mistakes is not an indictment against your whole Self. That’s...

12 Steps: Step 1 – Control

Step 1.We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable. Acknowledging weakness is very scary. It means letting go of the one thing that may have kept us alive–substances. These steps pertain also to any other addiction whether it be gambling, narcotics, work, shopping, sex. The addiction seemed to have been the only way to go on in the face of great, unimaginable pain. Now you are faced with a realization: To whatever degree it worked, it has also wreaked havoc with your life. What to do? Do you want, finally, finally, to be in charge of your life? The beginning is the acknlwledgement that addiction was only a temporary solution and not a great one. It required an unimaginable cost. Consider the paradox: It is possible to gain control over your own life by acknowledging a lack of control over alcohol. But it means letting go… And what does powerlessness really mean anyway? Alcohol is one of the great cop-outs for not facing our pain. If we use substances–or other addictions–we have a dandy excuse for not being in control of our lives. The moment we admit we are not in control when we drink, we are forced to take control when we don’t drink. That is what’s so scary. We are scared of so many things: of feeling of failing in life of being rejected once the veil of alcohol is removed of sharing secrets of betraying our abusers of discovering we don’t know who we are So alcohol serves as a pretty good excuse to stay stuck. But it doesn’t have...

12 Steps: Step 6 – Remove the Obstacles

Step 6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character. Well, I’m going to be iconoclastic. I don’t think that the things we do that hurt others are necessarily defects of character. So, I might be parting ways with the terminology here–but not with the spirit. Let’s begin by defining defect of character as distinct from defective behavior. The difference between character and behavior is the total unwillingness to change. In fact, it goes deeper. It is the total unwillingness to recognize the need for change. So if John beats his wife, does it only when he’s drunk, and doesn’t feel bad the next day when he’s sober, that would be a defect of character. If he feels bad but blames her for getting him upset, that’s bad. But I still see hope for him because he is capable of a little compassion. Perpetrators in jail for violence can learn to feel compassion. What Is A Defect Of Character? Of course, I will admit, the job is easier because they are in jail so they have some motivation to work on themselves and get out sooner. But then again, jail does have some tough customers. I work with tough customers all the time myself and I really believe that once they begin to be in touch with their own pain, they are capable of feeling the pain of others. Therefore, I’m not convinced that even the diehards have character defects. Sure, there is a small minority of serial killers out there. I would agree that they have some serious defects of character. Yes, anyone who...

Substance Abuse & Family Abuse–They’re Connected

Substance abuse and addictions do not occur in a vacuum. It is not merely the result of vulnerable kids becoming involved with the wrong crowd. If only it were that simple. In fact, substance abuse is more a symptom of the real problem than “the” problem. The real problem falls in one of three categories: abuse, neglect, or failure to discipline. Abuse Physical, verbal, emotional, or sexual abuse will inevitably lead to later scars. Even people who cope well and rise above it are forever hurt by their horrible experiences. For some individuals, the best way to blot out the pain is substance abuse. When chemicals anesthetize emotions, a person can go on with life. There isn’t much quality to that life, but it is bearable. Neglect Neglect does not mean leaving a child without food-although that too happens. Neglect may simply mean being too busy to have formed a relationship with one’s child. My hunch is that Noelle Bush’s history involves this category at least [She is the daughter of former Governor of Florida, caught with drugs]. As children grow, parents become models for them of how to function in the world. Children also discover who they themselves are through the feedback they get from their parents. When the small girl constantly picks out the frilly clothes, her parents may say, “She’s all girl.” Those remarks help that little girl define her personality. Parents who ignore their children not only fail to give this feedback that is vital to their personality development, but instead give a most undesirable message: You are not important enough for us to pay...

12 Steps: Step 3 – Choices

Step 3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him. If you thought this one would be simple and obvious, you have another guess coming. This step is about nothing less than the meaning of life: Why are we here? What is our purpose? If there is free will, how do you reconcile that with turning our will over to God? And what does any of this have to do with happiness? Why did the Step-writers distinguish our Will from our Lives? What does any of it have to do with my substance abuse problem or my recovery? Obviously, I can only answer from my own perspective, so bear in mind that this is one person’s view. Attend meetings, read, talk intensively to your sponsor and get other views. My view will draw heavily from Jewish philosophy. I think we are here to make this world a better place. Don’t snicker! I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking, “Why should I be the one to make it a better place when my abuser(s) sure didn’t?” You have an argument there, I’ll give you. But imagine if everyone had that argument. Then the world would have no redeeming values and we would have been swallowed up in a dark pit a long time ago. There would have been no Mother Teresa or Malala Yousafzai. As messed up as the world seems to be, clearly, there are some good people in it. So my question to you is: Do you want to be one of them? In your heart,...

12 Steps: Step 2 – How to Get God to Help You Recover

Step 2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. Well, if you look through this site, you’ll know that I believe in God, so if you don’t agree with that outlook, you’ll have to figure out how to work out this one without that construct. Just hear me out for a moment: When people have been subjected to terrible pain, it is logical and natural to say, “There can’t be a God in the universe.” After all, if there is a God, how in the world can He or She allow such things to happen? I sure can’t answer that question–no one can. We are all limited by our humanness. Humans, after all, only have 5 senses. We can’t see the future; we really can’t understand the past the way people who lived it did; we can’t see too far away even with good eyesight; we can’t understand other cultures too well; we can’t even understand our family, for goodness sakes. Don’t Try To Understand God So, yeah, we are intensely limited. Naturally, we can’t understand the concept of God, let alone how a God that is supposed to be good can cause pain. Many times I’ve talked to Holocaust survivors who say they gave up on God and I don’t argue with them. Who am I to do so? The pain you suffered to get where you are now was just as great. It was your personal Holocaust. I learned, as a therapist, that if I focus on the unanswerable questions, I spin my head into a pretzel and lose more...
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