Addiction is tough on a family: Legal doesn’t always mean good

Sonia Nelson - Couch TimeLet me start by saying that I am not against medical marijuana. I am not sure anybody really is. If using marijuana eliminates the suffering of someone in chronic pain or someone fighting cancer or another debilitating disease, I join hands with the advocates and support the efforts in place to make this drug available to those in need. Personally, I remember very clearly, the conversation my own family had, 14 years ago, as we watched our mother fight cancer. We would have done anything to take away the pain she was experiencing toward the end of her life. Had she entertained the notion, we would have found it for her, no matter what the consequences.

However, I am a therapist, whose work with families, couples and individuals, is starting to reveal that the recent legalization to legalize marijuana, under the guise of medical use, is wreaking havoc on many people’s lives. While there does not seem to be much scientific evidence yet, that marijuana is a gateway drug, my experience is that very few people who use it, even minimally on a recreational level, stop there. I have some ideas about why that might be….

Whenever something is more readily available, people are better able to access it. This might seem obvious, but it is one of the reasons that pornography addiction is on the rise as well. (That is a topic for another day.) The legalization of marijuana, for someone prone to addiction, makes that path an easier one to take. And while many people claim to be using the drug for medical purposes, they choose to use it in a social setting, rather than the way one would normally administer an antibiotic or another disease fighting drug. Any drug used in a social setting runs the risk of being used to excess, because of the atmosphere that is created.

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Spiritual Abuse: Using God’s name for bad behavior

Couch - Sonia NelsonAlmost a year ago, I was at the finish line for a part-time job at a local church. The job description involved counseling and since I am a trained psychotherapist and the church uses a Biblical Counseling model, the final interview with the lead pastor involved some detailed questions about my theological stance and how I would come to terms with the theoretical differences between my training and the Biblical Counseling model. I consider myself fairly confident in an interview setting and quite honestly, I have never not been offered a job that I was invited to interview for…until this year. (I know that was a double negative…but so is this topic…)

If I had it to do over again, I would have walked out…….

However, since I am pretty good at “the body language read”, I can identify the moment where almost in slow motion, I saw the change in his stance, the shift in his facial affect and the slight turn away from me, that indicated we were no longer on the same page. The question posed was, “What would you advise a couple struggling in their marriage where there had been abuse?” I did not hesitate with my response, “God hates divorce but God also hates bad marriages. If someone is in a marriage where there is physical or emotional abuse, the couple needs to separate until it is determined that the danger is gone. Only then can they pursue reconciliation.” I don’t regret my answer. What I regret is that I tried to save the interview. I should have stood up and walked out right then. I later received a curt note, from the secretary, that my theoretical stance was not in line with the church’s. No duh.

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Embracing the theme that life serves up: Using grief and loss as a motivator

A friend of mine from grad school…LISA LEAHEY….is now a two-time inspiration to this blog of mine. This woman is about to embark on an amazing career as a speaker and author (with a little counseling on the side) because she has an ability to get to the point, the actual point, in an instant. We were chatting today about a speaking opportunity and got side tracked, and ended up talking about my blog. Then she made the astute point that if my blogs were starting to have a theme, I should embrace that, not run away from it. Theme in our lives can lead to having a specialty!

But my recurring blog theme is GRIEF!  Let’s face it, grief is not something that one wants to run into the arms of, on a regular basis. As humans, we want to avoid grief and we long for carefree moments and happier times. Are you are like me? I plan vacations as much for the anticipation of the relaxation and the escape, as the event itself. Choosing to embrace grief seems unnatural and wrong. Grief is scary and emotional, but a part of our lives, nonetheless. Planning a vacation isn’t going to take that away.

Celebrating Christmas with Shelly Dana
Celebrating Christmas with Shelly Dana

I have blogged about the loss of parents and loved ones, the loss of relationship, and the loss of health. And yet, all this blogging did not protect me from the loss of a friend just a couple weeks ago now. Oddly enough, my friend Shelly Dana was the heartbreak I felt when I posted during October, Breast Cancer Awareness month. She was taken by that cancer just a couple of days after Christmas this year and I find myself grieving yet again. And because I cannot help myself, I am analyzing the loss, so that I can offer the experience to those I serve as a counselor. It is different than the others…it is the same and different, all at the same time.

The obvious part of losing my funny, adventurous, smart, beautiful and spiritual friend is that I will not get to spend time with her again on this earth. She always made ME feel funny, adventurous, smart, beautiful and spiritual when I was with her so I am going to miss that kumbaya-ness that Shelly brought to our gatherings. But there is more…there is much more…that makes this complicated.

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Awareness is Not a Cure: Why October stinks for people with breast cancer

BreastCancerAwarenessRibbon-1Okay, I might run the risk of upsetting some folks but I have a few things to say and I write better than I talk sometimes. Here it is: I am not sure if I like Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

I did not like it last year either, but I didn’t have the guts to say anything because I was in the midst of people showering me with meals and condolences and it is rude to scream, “I would rather not be in the position to need this support!” when so many are being so kind. I did share it with my physical therapist at Cancer Rehab…who laughed and said, “No one, who has ever had breast cancer, does.” She would know because, she pretty much knew everything, something I was so blessed by, for the 7 or 8 months that we were in each other’s lives. I think back on this beautiful woman who literally massaged my chest (yep, just what it sounds like) for months so that I could have reconstructive surgery without the football-skin scar tissue that had developed post-mastectomy. We would chatter along about my kids, her boyfriend, and all things associated with getting my life back, while she professionally revived my traumatized body. When I think about Alayna, I want to cry from this place of down-in-my-soul-gratitude for people that do jobs that are so weird but so profoundly necessary for healing. She was so interested that I am a mental health therapist. She told me that she had thought about being a therapist like me….uh, ya, you are sweet girl, you are.

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