Beverly Rapp, LADC, LMFT
Oklahoma City, OK
Few things can destroy a life or a family as effectively as substance abuse problems can. I became a Certified Alcohol and Drug Counselor in 1993, and did so because of issues clients brought to me. I saw too many broken homes and too many damaged lives. I needed a way to help. Some of my clients were in recovery from addictions. They showed me the path for change. In 2005, a new state licensure opened up and I became a Licensed Alcohol and Drug Counselor.
A path to recovery may be steep but I believe it is attainable for all. A gift I bring to the process of recovery is spirituality. My Higher Power making a connection with a client’s Higher Power facilitates transformation. I encourage 12-Step work, linking with a sponsor and developing a knowledge base about addiction and its effects.
A sneaky, little trick addictions plays on people is Switching. You may give up excess drinking only to find you are overeating or over spending. Addictions frequently take on multiple arms and legs that feed on each other, in a process called Cross Addictions. An example many smokers can relate to is reaching for a cigarette with a cup of coffee. Caffeine and nicotine have become paired, one calls for the other. Sexual acting out combined with the use of stimulants is another common cross addiction. Frequently, the spouse or family member brings the addiction issue to therapy. The addict who is not in recovery denies he is not in control of the behavior or substance. This is the first and often most difficult barrier to overcome. Addiction has stages. Recreational use is sought to relieve stress and to promote fun. Over time, however, the addict bends the rules about how much to use, how often to use it and the appropriateness of time and place to use. The addict builds a tolerance. This means he needs more of what he’s using to achieve the same high. Finally, the addict finds herself in a downward spiral, relinquishing the trust of family and friends, losing her job and all the while, losing her self respect.
The excess use of alcohol or other drugs can engender depression and anxiety. The depression and anxiety can look like the focus of the problem, when actually they are the results of the primary problem of abuse. In reverse, people who experience stress in their professional life are particularly susceptible to substance abuse. This is termed self medicating. The addict has a co-occuring disorder if the substance abuse is paired with depression, anxiety, posttraumatic stress disorder or another mental health issue.
Others in the addicts circle suffer as well. The spouse or significant other is considered codependent and will also need services. Alcoholics Anonymous, AlaNon, Coda and other self help groups offer relief to families and the relief is without charge. .
Children of alcoholics have particular struggles. They grow up with a sense of shame, hyper vigilance and a belief they must present an “okay’” self to the world, whatever they feel inside. When addiction can not be addressed through therapy and self help groups, structured treatment may be called for. Fortunately, there are excellent treatment options here in Oklahoma as well as elsewhere in the country.
A counselor I know says addicts need to be loved into recovery. Shaming and blaming accomplishes little. If you suffer from addiction, I offer my help, care and concern to you and your family members. Because recovery from addiction requires certain parameters, I generally limit my services to people who have begun a recovery process and need support. I see people change their lives and I know it can be done.
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Beverly Rapp, LMFT, LADC
6051 N Brookline Ave., Suite 103-9
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma 73112