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Ask Michael - Bad advice
Ask Michael - Bad advice
by Michael Raitt - SGN Contributing Writer

Dear Michael,

In the article you wrote about getting off of meth [Live to Tell; Nightmare on Gay Street by David Talamantes], you gave some bad advice when you said that addicts don't have to go to 12 Step. I've been in 12 Step for years and know that if you work hard enough, you can overcome your addiction. Part of an addiction is addicts' excuses that they can do it on their own and they can't. You just gave them more excuses when you told them that they can do it without 12 Step.



Thank you for your feedback and I know your opinion reflects the opinions of some recovering addicts and some providers. In my article, what I said was that, yes, 12 Step works for some but it doesn't work for everyone and one doesn't have to forego recovery if he/she doesn't want to do a 12 Step program. I disagree with your assertion that I am providing excuses. It is more accurate to say that I am providing options.

It is dismissive and naïve to think that one program/technique can work for everyone - it can't! There is always more than one way to solve a problem and this is also true in overcoming an addiction.

In valuing health and recovery, you will understand that the work one does in overcoming an addiction will be therapeutically sound. This means that the overarching goals are to reduce/eliminate the substance use, deal with the underlying causes of the addiction, and provide strategies to manage the causes. Therefore, the work and interventions will be around these goals. Whether this is 12 Step, one-on-one therapy, praying to God, or painting is not the focus. The addict achieving his/her goal is most important, and how they do that is up to the individual.

Honesty, commitment to change, and dealing with your problems are the principles that will move an addict towards his/her goals. These principles are most important; not what the program is called or what it is affiliated with. For those of you who have found success in 12 Step, congratulations and please continue with your good work. For the others who want to overcome addiction, please know that you can and work with someone who will educate and support you in reaching your goals and living a life not being afflicted by the complications of substance use/abuse.

IGNORING YOUR PARTNER A STRATEGY FOR A HEALTHY RELATIONSHIP
One of the top reasons couples come to therapy is because they have trouble "communicating." Couples are often coached to have open, honest dialogues with each other and, of course, there is truth to this. However, there is one strategy for healthy relationships that is often ignored: the strategy of ignoring!

I can already hear the collective gasps of my fellow colleagues and couples in the community. "Ignoring my partner? How can that help make my relationship healthy? That doesn't make sense!" Let me tell you what "ignoring" is and isn't about. To ignore someone means that you are intentionally not focusing in on what they are communicating to you. Remember, communication is both verbal (approximately 15% - 20% of communication) and non-verbal (the other 80% - 85%). At various times, we ignore what is being verbalized, and other times we ignore what is being done. How can this be healthy?

When we are ignoring something, we are not putting emotional energy into it and, therefore, potentially avoiding chronic, unnecessary conflict. This is essential sometimes as it is impossible (and ill-advised) to focus on all the minutiae that happens in a relationship. When I work with couples, I encourage them to work down and focus on the important things, not everything! What should couples ignore and what can't be ignored?

Everyone has little idiosyncrasies; how you brush your teeth, how many times you chew before you swallow, how you organize your underwear drawer. These types of things can be ignored. Don't spend a lot of emotional energy on things like this (believe me, some people do). As well, allow your partner to have minor mood swings and changes in tone of voice. We all have these moments. It is not necessary to devote emotional energy to putting a negative meaning on everything your partner does. Finally, allow your partner to have his/her opinion about something. Just because your opinion may be different doesn't mean this has to be processed to death. Ignoring these types of issues may prevent unnecessary conflict and tension in your relationship.

There are some things that should never be ignored: physical and/or psychological abuse. Your partner should not be calling you vile names, threatening you, intimidating you, or physically hurting you. In such cases, please seek resources to help you get out of that situation.

In your relationship, you may find fundamental differences in values between the two of you. One example is when one partner may want and value an open relationship and the other does not. Another example is when one partner may be using substances excessively and the other does not. Situations such as these are important and need to be addressed. Ignoring them would not be appropriate.

Successful couples learn about what, and what not to, ignore. These couples all have the capacity to ignore some things, some times. Take some time to reflect on what you focus your emotional energies on. See what happens to the dynamic in the relationship when you stop putting emotional energy into minor day-to-day stuff. I think you will see a positive change in your relationship.

Michael Raitt, MA LMHC, is a therapist and he writes a bi-monthly column in the SGN. If you would like to comment on this column, ask a question you'd like him to write about, or suggest another topic of interest, please contact him at askingmichael@comcast.net.
 

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