Why Addicts Lie

Why do addicts lie?

A popular joke among addicts goes:


How do you know that an addict is lying?

Their lips are moving.

Addicts lie. Addicts know that. Some people that participated in one of my therapy groups last week asked me to write about lying. They learned about why addicts lie and want to share the information with people that they have lied to. They want people to know why they lie. But to understand why addicts lie, we need to understand how they lie. So here is the truth about why addicts lie.

Continue reading “Why Addicts Lie”

Addiction and Suicide: You Have to Fight Cool With Cool

My son is 10 years old. The world is a brand new place for him. He discovered the Beatles last month, and this month he discovered Nirvana; not the Buddhist state of Nirvana, the rock band Nirvana. He was fascinated by the music, the Grunge movement, and Kurt Cobain. Kurt Cobain was the leader of Nirvana.

My son told me the story of Cobain, as if I had never heard it—I love that he teaches me about the world again as if everything is new again. He told me that Cobain had committed suicide because people thought that he was a genius, and people kept expecting him to always be a genius, and the pressure was too much to take. As I was listening to him I was listening for the effect that this story was having in his view of the world, and his belief system. What conclusions was he reaching? Was he developing the belief that “heroin addiction is cool?”, or “suicide is a way out of pressure?”, or both?.

I was thinking, what can I give him that would help him not think that drug addiction and suicide are romantic, or cool, or solutions to suffering How do I give him an alternative view and an alternative belief about addiction and suicide? As a psychotherapist I know that it’s useless, and even counterproductive, to give him “common sense”, long winded explanations about the stupidity of addiction and suicide. You can’t oppose a romantic and dramatic story with the “let me tell you…” lecture.

Like it or not, Kurt Cobain will always be seen by the young as a charismatic and tormented artist who suffered from heroin addiction and ended his life in a dramatic suicide. A young poet that gave a voice to young people who felt that they did not belong, that they were marginal. You and I are not going to successfully compete with that story with preaching. So who could? Dave Grohl.

Dave Grohl was the drummer of Nirvana. He embodied the same spirit of independence and cool that Cobain did. He was an equally authentic example of Grunge. But there are big differences in his story. After the death of Cobain, and the breakup of Nirvana, Grohl formed another band: the Foo Fighters, and had great success. Grohl continued to make great music up to today and continues to be considered alternative, non-conformist, and cool. Not to mention that he has earned an estimated personal worth of 250 million dollars. This is a story that has the power to overcome the sad story of Cobain. Its main character illustrates the example of what is possible when you are cool, unconventional and creative, and you stay away from drug addiction and suicide. As I was saying to my son that I have always been very interested in how two friends that shared the same lifestyle and musical talent could have ended up so differently (I said it with honest curiosity and with the tone that I use when I share something—not the tone that I use when I’m lecturing). As we were talking about this, he started to look up Grohl on his iPad and started reading and commenting about him with interest. This an example of fighting cool with cool.

Human beings respond to emotion, not lectures. The story that we tell to counter the effects of another story needs to be as romantic and dramatic as the one that we are trying to counter. It needs to have the same emotional power as the one that we are trying to change, the difference is that it offers a different conclusion and belief. In psychology, we call this process “reframing”.

Reframing begins by listening and curiosity. Actually, anything powerful and effective begins with listening. I needed to not only hear what my son was saying but also try to see it from his point of view. It’s not easy. To be able to listen like this I had to fight my fatherly instinct to lecture him on how he should not be influenced by a person that committed suicide—regardless of how cool they were. I had to fight the urge to launch a brilliant lecture. This would have been a disaster. It would have pushed to quietly affirm and defend his view against my attack of them if only to feel as an independent person with a right to his own beliefs.

On the other hand, stories that match the allure of the ones that capture the imagination of the young are like psychological vaccines that can protect our children’s belief systems. Belief systems that will guide their view of the world, and the people of the world. Belief systems that will produce their thoughts and emotions, and will serve as guiding systems through their lives. So when it comes to fighting the beliefs that will guide them into either positive, negative, and perhaps deadly paths like addiction and suicide, we have to fight cool with cool; fighting fire with fire will not win the war for our children’s minds.

What is the safest place for alcohol and drug treatment in the US? The answer will surprise you.

Safest place for alcohol and drug treatment in the US

Imagine that you are a healthcare criminal planning to set up a fraudulent addiction treatment center in order to profit from the suffering of people who need addiction treatment. Where would you set up your criminal addiction treatment center?

  • In a place that is under heavy scrutiny from a law enforcement task force dedicated to discovering, and prosecuting scams in the treatment addiction field.
  • In a place where insurance companies are intensely aware of addiction treatment center scams and make sure to make payments only to the most qualified, and ethically proven addiction treatment centers.

Or, would you open your criminal addiction treatment center in:

  • A place that is not yet known for abuses in the addiction field, so they never thought of creating laws to punish scams in the addiction treatment field, nor have created a task force that targets crimes in the addiction treatment field specifically.
  • A place where insurance companies have not experience high levels of fraud, so they pay claims from addiction treatment centers liberally, and without extreme scrutiny.

History has shown that when criminals in the healthcare industry have to face high levels of investigation, hard prosecution, and stiff sentences (examples A and B), they move to places where abuses have not been spotted yet. They relocate to places where law enforcement agencies, and insurance companies, are not looking for fraud, and are not equipped to prosecute it (examples C and D). It’s unfortunate that it takes abuses and victims to create increased safety, but that’s how it is. When crime, or negligence, hits a critical mass, all systems go on high alert, the focus is heightened, and protective agencies step in and establish tight and disciplined supervision that forces a level of security and safety that is not practiced when everything appears normal. That level of oversight create the safest products, the safest services, and the safest places. Unfortunately, it is true that the safest airline to fly is the one that is under scrutiny after a crash, and the safest place to go to addiction treatment is one under scrutiny for past fraud and neglect. We know this because we are experiencing it now.

In Miami, we have seen an explosion of fraud, just north of us in Broward and Palm Beach counties. An explosion that hurt people looking for the best addiction treatment, as fraudulent addiction treatment centers participated in human trafficking, and diverted internet searches to their sites by false promises and criminal techniques. As a response, the state of Florida has passed the toughest laws to punish treatment center criminals in history. Not only has the state passed these laws, but they are enforcing them. Only last week, corrupt drug rehab owner was sentenced to 27 years in prison for abuses committed in his rehab center, and he is not the only example. This is only one example of practices continuing crackdown of rehab treatment centers, drug testing laboratories, sober houses, and the people who profit from selling addicts to treatment centers. This makes Florida the riskiest state in which to commit addiction treatment center fraud. It also establishes Miami as the safest place in which to get addiction treatment.

Miami has a few addiction treatment centers. Broward and Palm Beach counties experienced an explosion of thousands of addiction treatment centers, sober living houses, and halfway houses that made it known as the “recovery capital of the world”, unfortunately this proliferation of addiction centers and sober houses also turned them into the addiction treatment fraud capital of the world: Miami was always safer. And now, it will be even safer, because we will benefit from the strong, statewide measures that threaten those that may have been crooks in Miami, or are thinking about it. So, where is the safest place to get addiction treatment in the U.S.? Miami.

13 Reasons Why “13 Reasons Why” is Dangerous

13 Reasons Why is Dangerous

The Netflix’s show “13 Reasons Why” is dangerous. It’s the story of a young woman that commits suicide. Before the suicide, she leaves behind recorded tapes explaining the reasons that pushed her to kill herself. The tapes are distributed to people in her life that contributed to her suffering, and her eventual suicide.

Here are 13 reasons why this show is dangerous:

  1. It illustrates suicide as reasonable.
  2. Illustrates suicide as a legitimate solution to suffering.
  3. It illustrates suicide as glamorous.
  4. Illustrates suicide as a way to get attention and admiration.
  5. Illustrates suicide as a way to get popularity and fame.
  6. Illustrates suicide as a way to get revenge on people that cause you suffering. In the show the main character’s suicide indeed leads to her getting revenge, as the people that hurt her endure suffering for the hurtful things they did to her, and one of them is driven to commit suicide himself, out of the guilt of having contributed to her suffering, and the effects that followed her suicide.
  7. Presents the main character as helpless and powerless, withstanding pain and abuse without reaching out for help, and when she finally does, the professional helper that she reaches out to is portrayed as an ineffective, self-absorbed, and careless counselor.
  8. Portrays both parents and professional helpers as out of touch, self-absorbed and inefficient problem solvers who deserve no trust, and from whom true problems are supposed to be hidden.
  9. Portrays dependency as normal. The rejection of peers is enough to want to kill yourself.
  10. Portrays lack of self-esteem. The poor character feels that she is incapable of love and affection—in spite of being smart, beautiful, articulate, and possessing a smart and witty sense of humor, yet, she is incapable of being aware of any of these attributes in her view of herself. I understand that it can be argued that teenagers suffer from such lack of self-esteem and self-doubt, but the message that suicide is a possible avenue to deal with it is dangerous.
  11. Most dangerous of all, It plays to the fantasy of every person, especially a young person that considers suicide. One of the irrational fantasies that make suicide appealing is the illusion that somehow the person that commits suicide will be able to see the effects that their suicide has on others: their peers recognizing, and mourning for them, the moving memorials erected for them, and the suffering of the people that hurt them. In the show, these things actually happen, and her voice and image are present throughout the aftereffect of her suicide, and she witnesses the effect that it has on others.
  12. The argument of the makers of the show that making the actual suicide scene gruesome is a deterrent to suicide, is the same reasoning that I encountered in high school that said that showing me pictures of tar covered cancerous lungs would serve as deterrent to smoking: it wasn’t, It didn’t stop me, or anyone else that I know from smoking. When children were exposed to the dangers of drugs with the “DARE” anti-drug campaigns, the result was that the campaign drew attention to drugs, and created curiosity about using drugs, not prevent it.
  13. It fails to provide answers. It presents a hopeless and powerless stance when facing adversity, and disloyal, treacherous, and narcissistic characters as an example of our young people. Worst of all, it fails to assert the human attributes of courage in the face of adversity that is inherent in the human potential. It fails miserably to put in view the heroic potential of humanity. A heroic potential that has been inherent in the art, myths, and legends that have inspired our the survival instinct of our race, not its self-destruction.

Heroes of Outpatient Rehab

Five years ago I founded a treatment center named Adaptive Center. Actually, it’s not a “rehab”, it’s a Human Potential Center that specializes in treating addiction. However, that’s not the subject of this post. The subject of this post is that working in all kinds rehab centers for the past 25 years I have met cowards and sheep; Heroes and Eagles. Today I want to say something about the Heroes.

I have met Cowards and Sheep; Heroes and Eagles.

In the addiction rehab world, there are different kinds of programs. “Residential” (where people live and go to treatment), Partial Hospitalization (where people come to treatment all day), Intensive Outpatient (where people come to treatment several times per week), and Outpatient (where people usually come 1 to 3 times per week for treatment). In this writing, “Outpatient” means any treatment that is not Residential.

People who come to Outpatient alcohol and drug addiction treatment are facing struggles that the average person cannot even imagine, so I will try to put it in perspective. Imagine that you have not eaten for 3 days. Also, imagine that you have to manage your hunger as you work, take care of all of your daily chores and responsibilities, study, attend to family and friends, etc. Imagine that you have to abstain from eating, and fight the urgings of your own body and mind, in a world that is filled with delicious food that is being advertised in attractive ways all around you, that wherever you go you are surrounded by restaurants of all kinds. Also imagine that, if you yield to your hunger and eat, you will loose your loved one’s, family, work, career, your freedom, and possibly your life. Now imagine that, for the sake of protecting these beloved things, you put yourself through the battle of making it through the day, one day at a time, without giving in to your hunger. How would you describe yourself? Would the word Hero apply?

The people that I work with in my center are facing a challenge like this. They are not protected by the walls of an institution that keep them sheltered from the reality of a culture where alcohol is everywhere, glamorized and part of most social interactions. Neither are they protected by the isolation and pampering of a rich Spa, disguised as a residential alcohol addiction rehab. No, the people that I work with fight to preserve their work, their families, their careers and their freedom by facing themselves and their addiction in an act of defiance and heroism that transforms them every day into the people that they have the potential to become. Again, what would you call them?

Miami Alcohol Rehab

There is a danger that with the increasing attention to the current opiate epidemic alcohol addiction may be minimized. I see this trend in our treatment groups. People that are coming into treatment see drugs like heroin and meth as “hard”, and downgrade the danger of alcohol. Instead they display a belief that alcohol is “not the same as drugs”, and even propose using alcohol instead of the “hard drugs”.

People that are coming into treatment see drugs like heroin and meth as “hard”, and downgrade the danger of alcohol.

This is dangerous. Alcohol is an extremely dangerous drug that continues to cause death and great damage. Here is a short list of its dangers:

  1. Alcohol, along with Benzodiazepines (a family of anti anxiety medications), can cause death in people trying to get off them without medical supervision. This is not so with drugs like cocaine which is considered “hard”.
  2. The death toll related to alcohol continues to be extremely high, especially when you considered the deaths related to car accidents caused by alcohol.
  3. The extreme extent of the destruction that alcohol has on families cannot be estimated. Alcohol abuse and the behaviors that it creates destroys individuals and families for generations.

Alcohol treatment needs to continue to be highlighted as necessary and even urgent in our culture.

Living Sober in Miami Takes Soul and Balls

Living Sober in Miami Takes Soul and Balls

For people suffering from addiction, living in Miami, and abstain from drugs and alcohol in order to nourish the continuing evolution of their human potential, is like a celibate monk living in a neighborhood of whorehouses while abstaining from sex. That’s what makes walking a spiritual path in Miami so fun, challenging, and fruitful. Just like anyone can be a mystic on top of a mountain, anyone can be sober isolated behind the walls of an institution, or protected by pampering in a Spa disguised as a treatment center. But to be an addict on a spiritually-conscious-sober journey in Miami, you need Soul and Balls.

Miami offers a thousand ways to escape reality: partying, shopping, sex, and affluence in any shape and form that you can imagine. But it’s also full of a powerful undercurrent of spiritual curiosity and seeking that it’s palpable, as soon as you dip your hand under the surface.

Miami nourishes materialism and the deepest spirituality. It equally offers new life and kills through excess. In this wonderful and cruel place of paradoxes, you can lose your life with a vice, or you can free your soul from the slavery of dependency. It depends on your capacity for courage. Miami eats up the weak of spirit and forges the soul of the strong. Miami is a furnace that will burn you out until all your metals evaporate, and only the gold remains if you have the courage to put yourself through the fire of creation.

Habit and Addiction: Is there a difference?

Habit and Addiction

If you have a beer every time you watch football, after a while and many repetitions, every time that you watch football you will want a beer. If you don’t have a beer while watching the game, you will feel that something is missing, you will have the sensation that watching football won’t be as fun, and you will think about beer a lot; you will crave it. At this time it can be said that you have developed a beer/alcohol habit.

Then, let’s say that you continue to drink beer every time that you watch football because, if you don’t, football will suck. After time your organism would develop a “tolerance” to the amount of alcohol in one beer. Tolerance means that your organism will adapt to functioning with a certain amount of a drug like alcohol, or any other drug. This means that you will no longer feel the same feeling of that the one beer gave you—it would leave you wanting more. To feel satisfied again, you will have to drink more than the amount that your organism got used to. This process of getting used to an amount of a substance, i.e. a beer, and having to take more to feel ok will continue forever.

As the amount of alcohol or drug increases to get the satisfaction that you want, your brain will become dependent on having the substance (alcohol, or any other drug) that you are feeding it from the outside. If the supply of this substance stops abruptly, the brain will send messages in the way of thoughts, feelings, and sensations, that are designed to let you know that it’s running low, and you should feed it more of the alcohol/drug. If you don’t feed your brain the substances that it craves, it will make you will feel sick. At this time, it can be said that your brain has become “chemically dependent”, that is, dependent on an outside chemical to be able to function. The name for this condition is chemical dependency, which is the scientific name for addiction.

At this time you should not lie to yourself. Denying what is happening will result in more dependency to more and more amounts of the chemical that your brain wants. This constant increase will produce problems in all the areas of your life. You know it will. Don’t let embarrassment, or shame, put everything that you love in danger. As you can see chemical dependency is a physical condition. It needs to be treated. There is no shame in that.
Reach out. We really get it.

A Declaration of Rational Human Rights.

“You can speak your mind
But not on my time”
Billy Joel

Does everyone have the right to express themselves? Yes. Does that mean that everyone has something interesting or intelligent to say? No. So why is it that some people think that to have the means to broadcast their opinions on Facebook, Instagram…etc. means that they have something interesting, or intelligent to say?  Why is it that if anyone says that some people have nothing interesting or intelligent to say, as I’m doing here, we get accused of being arrogant, and somehow denying people their right to expressing themselves? Their usual response is, “but I have a right to speak my mind”; yes you do, but like Billy Joel says “not on my time”.

You see, I also have rights. I have the right to not be exposed to idiocy, irrationality, and just plain lying. I have the right to be selective and choose intelligent company and conversation, without being accused of being an elitist, or racist, or prejudiced. I have the right to call out ignorance, and most importantly, I have the right to hold people accountable for what they say. I have the right to tell people that they lie when they lie and are wrong when they are wrong. I have the right to protect my mental health by refusing to incorporate into my belief system arguments that are irrational, illogical, or ignorant.

I have the right of not being blackmailed to have to listen to the opinions of every idiot that has one, by the threat that if I don’t accept their idiocy as valid, I am guilty of being closed minded. Again, the fact that you can broadcast at large, doesn’t mean that you are not responsible for what you broadcast. If you broadcast shallowness you will be perceived as shallow, if you broadcast ignorance, you will be perceived as ignorant, regardless of how you try to spin it after, or how much you accuse the people calling you on it. So keep speaking your mind, but not on my time.