Tag Archives: addiction

Whole Brain On The Couch


A number of years back Nan was listening to a consulting psychiatrist who was advisor to her counseling center at the time. She told me that one phrase really stuck out to her:

“You can only do therapy with a whole brain on the couch.”

What he meant was that trying to counsel someone under the influence of alcohol or drugs was of minimal value. He also said that counseling someone who needed corrective medications to stabilize and achieve balance was also of limited value. It takes clear thinking to process concepts, make connections, and have accurate empathy or feelings.

I remember having a difficult time with a client many years back. It just didn’t seem like I was getting through to him. I asked him if he felt the same way and what might be getting in the way. He said maybe it’s because I always have a “tall one” before coming into counseling. I asked “why?” His response: “It helps me to feel less anxious.” The truth was it helped him to feel less of anything – at 10 A.M.

I know it is the same with marijuana and other drugs. Some clients have come in loaded on significant doses of pain killers or even over-the-counter medications. I’m not saying that these aren’t sometimes necessary – but they get in the way of good therapy. And I’m not discounting being hung over either. The ability to concentrate is greatly diminished the day after “partying”.

Now translate this concept to having a relationship “discussion”. Do you think you will get much accomplished if you undertake to work on your relationship under the same conditions? We always tell couples not to talk about anything important if they are “HALT” – Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired. I think I am going to change the “L” in that  acronym to “Loaded”. Communicating accurate feelings is pretty difficult when you your brain is not functioning properly.

About needing the right medications: little progress may be made with a significantly depressed or anxious client. Their ability to process accurately is impaired. When a client is suffering from any type of diagnosable disorder they may have a very difficult time understanding and managing the intensity of their feelings and relating correctly with others, including the therapist. However, when appropriately treated, counseling has a good chance of moving them forward.

Does this mean that you should not seek counseling if you are depressed, anxious or addicted? Not at all. Making a call to a counselor or pastor is usually the first step in the healing process. Hopefully they can assess what is needed and recommend a next step.

I’m Just Being Optimistic


I was in a checkout line at a department store behind a woman who had a basket full of clothes and other items. After the clerk rang up the purchases, the woman presented a credit card. Denied! She pulled out a second and then a third card. Both denied. Then she asked the clerk to try the first card again. Was this woman being optimistic?

No, she was in denial of reality and didn’t want to accept it.

I wonder how many times a day this same scenario is repeated? Maybe you have even been there. Or perhaps the issue isn’t financial, but some other refusal to accept the truth that is right before your eyes.

For an addict, breaking denial is the first step towards recovery. This is not news – we all know this. But there are other perhaps more subtle ways in which we deceive ourselves.

  • We keep applying for jobs we are not qualified for hoping someone will hire us anyway.
  • We abuse our automobiles or our bodies and hope they will last forever.
  • We stay in an abusive or violent relationship hoping that this will be the time his sincere apology will really mean a change. (Good luck with that one!)
  • We ignore deadlines and trust that somehow there is a way around the penalties.
  • We hide bills from our spouse and believe everything will turn out OK in the end.

I love optimism. It is a predictor of success in many areas of life. Optimists tend to draw people towards themselves that want to help them reach their goals. (People tend to shy away from perpetual pessimists.) But optimists do not operate outside of reality.

Optimists will:

  • Keep applying for jobs that they are qualified for knowing that one will come through eventually. Or they train for the job they really want.
  • Maintain their health and possessions knowing that it will make a difference in the long run.
  • Leave a bad relationship knowing that a better one is bound to come along.
  • Embrace deadlines as a challenge to get things done and feel satisfied.
  • Share the hard things with their spouse, like bills, and believe that together they will make necessary changes and work things out.

A true optimist sees life with a hopeful perspective. But they do not live with unrealistic expectations. Denial is not their friend, but an obstacle to avoid.

Being in denial of our own mortality is the easiest and most dangerous position of all. However, the reality of the hope we have in Christ Jesus gives us the ultimate reason to be optimistic. If you want to know more about this hope, check out the messages at cachurch.com.