We are real excited to hear about your center and learning a little bit more about your practice. I pulled some information off the website, so I’m going to maybe read a little back to you, and you tell me if I’m in line with that. It says that your practice focuses on both addiction, stress reduction, psychotherapy and mindfulness based stress reduction. How have you taken sort of this whole spectrum of services that you’ve provided and moved it into a practice, particularly in the work that you do with addiction? I guess more specifically, some of the work that you do with addiction and maybe mindfulness based stress reduction? How do those different services all kind of relate and work together for you?
Well, the Center for Courageous Living as a business that my wife and I created, and we’ve divided up our tasks, so I do the addiction and psychotherapy and she does the stress reduction. MBSR is her thing, and we keep it pretty separate. Although when I do my addiction work, I’m a graduate of the Roper University, so mindfulness is a big part of that. What I like to do is consider a person’s level of awareness and start from there.
Is your addiction practice focused around cognitive behavioral therapy? What is the actual focus of the services that you provide around addiction?
If I had to categorize it, which I really hate to do, I would say it probably has something to do with modern psychoanalysis. That’s the person who taught me most about psychotherapy came from that view.
And what does that mean when you say that?
It has a lot to do with connecting how we are functioning in the present with anything else in a person’s life, probably focusing a lot on childhood and family and the early training that someone got.
There’s so much to that though. Right? There’s so much to this whole idea of our family of origin work and how much it plays a part in who we are as individuals as we age and get older.
I appreciate what you’re saying in regards to that particular practice, the mindfulness based practice and I know that’s not part of your full spectrum, seems like that would be a really important fit in working with people who are working in recovery and learning how to live in the moment. Because I know when working with people in recovery, they’re always thinking about the future or living in the past, so getting them to a place where they can be present in the moment, I would imagine is a really important part of addiction recovery.
Well, I’m a 12 step guy and living life one day at a time is pretty much living in the present. Sometimes, as everyone knows, it could be one minute at a time. Which really forces you to be present, and that’s not easy all the time. So a lot of the work that I do is bringing a client and a client’s and my relationship into the present so we can talk about what’s happening between us like a springboard to living life outside the room.
That’s great. Thank you for that.
So can you share, you said on your website that the idea of denial and relapse working in tandem, can you describe how these two play a part in the addiction paradigm? You talked about this idea of denial and relapse working together. What does that mean when you say that?
I think in order to get into the relapse process, there has to be a certain amount of denial, and in order for the addiction to even get started, there has to be a certain amount of denial. I’m going to deny that there are any problems, that it’s me, that it has anything to do with my consumption or my behavior, and as long as I can stay in denial, I can allow the addiction to keep going. Once I hit a bottom, hopefully, I hit a bottom and I’m still alive and I get into a recovery program, then I think denial and relapse have to be considered as part of the process. These are both features of addiction, and to say that, “Oh, I’m going to afford a relapse, that’s great to say, but you still have to keep your eye on the ball.” You also have to keep your eye on the ball when it comes to denial because denial can take so many different forms. I’ve commented before that I think groups are really great for this, because it can be very hard for me to see my own denial and very obvious to someone else. If I’m in a group of people, five, six, eight people, I think I can be more confident that might denial can be called out and maybe head off the next relapse.
Yeah, that dynamic piece is really important when they’re facing peer-to-peer with someone who can see the stuff that they’re going through because they’ve been through it before. It’s also interesting about this idea of relapse because the denial piece can be very subtle, right? It can be one of those things where the relapse doesn’t happen like that. It’s a very slow progression. It doesn’t happen, like you just immediately relapse and go into a full blown addiction. It’s really, I stopped going to meetings because I don’t think I need it anymore, or I don’t need a sponsor cause I’m doing really well on my own. That whole denial piece really is sort of a stepping stone to contributing to the relapse behavior.
Right. And whatever form of I take, it can look very self-righteous, such as I can get angry with you, get off my back, leave me alone. Or I can make jokes about it. Everybody likes to laugh, so if I make good jokes then you’ll ignore my denial and just laugh at my jokes. Or just ignore. There are many, many forms of this, and if I can stay with the group long enough and they get to know me well enough, they’ll call me on that.
They don’t even, they don’t have to be even familiar with addiction. They can just know that I’m pulling the wool over somebody’s eyes, and ultimately that can be lifesaving.
Well, oftentimes we like to get to know the person behind the practice, and your practice sounds really good because it’s got this great compliment to the work that you do around addiction treatment, but then obviously working on issues around psychotherapy, looking at other triggers that might perpetuate the disease, and then the work that your wife does with MBSR and how that can play a part. But we’re also curious a little bit about who you are and what motivates you and what excites you, so I’m going to ask you a couple of questions about that, if that’s okay. So what new belief, behaviors or habits have you adopted within the last five years that have most positively impacted your life?
Have I answered this question before?
I don’t know.
Oh, does it feel like Deja Vu?
It does, it does. Well, for years I adopted a meditation practice to try to stay present, to try to stay where I am. I’m in a therapy group that I’ve been in for about 23 years or so. That’s been invaluable. The reason I joined the therapy group was to observe my teacher. He’s a therapist, and I wanted to learn from him, so I joined his group to watch him work, and it turns out that I’m watching me work too.
That’s been invaluable. Also, I have an amazing wife who doesn’t put up with a lot of crap, and she’ll say what’s going on, which is also invaluable. I’ve surrounded myself with people and friends. Not all of them are sober, but a lot of them are really aware. These are therapists and colleagues, so I think that’s how I kind of protect myself.
Keeping yourself present in the moment with all these right people that are helping you do that I think is really important. That’s great.
Yeah. I’ve gone through some hard times the last couple of years, losing my parents. That all hit me very hard, and it wasn’t hard to stay present with that. It was painful and very sad, but that’s what I wanted. That’s what I wanted out of sobriety. I wanted to feel all these feelings, and as hard as it was, I really felt like it allowed me to live my life more closely. I don’t know how the words, really.
I can feel what you’re saying, because it’s more enriching when you can actually feel those emotions that deeply, no matter how far and painful they are, because it’s through the pain that we get the greatest lessons. And I think we see the most beauty, and sometimes we’re too afraid to see that, so we always think about the other thing or we always look to the future instead of being present in the moment.
This is what I signed up for when I got into recovery, so.
That’s right. If I were to offer up the word harmony, what do you think it means to live a life in harmony?
I think it means to live a life that I’m trying to live, which is feeling all the feelings and not going too far out to extremes in really any direction. That’s where the ice gets thinner for me. My recovery has given me so much that I am reluctant to take any chances at all. I’m not risking what I have for anything. I go way out. I am an extremist in that way. I won’t have Amaretto flavored ice cream.
You’re very guarded. You’re very protective.
I’m very guarded, yeah.
That’s part of my life.
Absolutely. It’s like a sacred part of your life, it sounds like. That’s wonderful.
I would say that’s living in harmony. But I think it’s going to have to be a personal and personal definition.
It always is. It always is. I always love hearing everybody’s different responses because everyone has a unique different response. So if someone wanted to access services at Center for Courageous Living, how could they get in touch with you?
I’ll give you my phone number. That’s (303) 415-2766, extension two. Extension one is my wife’s extension.
But I’m sure she could get you there.
Feel free to call her too if you’d like. Also, you can write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I’m happy to hear from anybody who wants to chat or wants information.
Terrific. Thanks so much for taking the time to visit with us, Jeff.
Thanks for having me here. That’s very nice.