Dr. Harry Henshaw

Stop being a victim!

Yesterday afternoon I watched the PBS Newshour, as I do most afternoons. One of the segments was about the recent lawsuit in Oklahoma and some of the details of the settlement. One individual that was interviewed was the Attorney General of one of the States. While I believe he is advocating for more money to be taken from the pharmaceutical company, he made some statements about how the drug company is responsible for the drug epidemic, that the company actually caused the epidemic and is responsible for the damage that has taken place in this country.

It is my opinion that such a statement is so very damaging to an addict or alcoholic, both to someone actively using and someone who is attempting to become clean and sober. The reason why I feel so strongly about his statements were harmful to the recovery process and program is that it clearly and totally shifts responsibility to another person, place or thing, in this case the pharmaceutical company and its owners. When responsibility is negated and another is blamed and believed to be the cause of your condition, victimization is instantly created.

When a person believes and feels like they are a victim, there will be no real change or transformation and their life will remain the same which in this type of situation most likely amounts to continuing to use drugs and alcohol. There will be absolutely no inquiry on the individual's part as to his or her responsibility in the matter. The conversation will not be about responsibility but rather about how my situation and life, my using of drugs and alcohol, was caused by another. Not only will the individual not consider changing but will continue to feel sorry for himself and his life and continue to blame, remaining stuck in his addiction.

"We are each responsible for all of our experiences." Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life.

Dr. Harry Henshaw

Resistance is the first step to change.

Resistance is always apart of the change or transformative process. We will resist regardless of how dedicated we are to our recovery. We will continue to resist as we move through the process of transformation. It is not that resistance is bad or something to be avoided but how we deal with the psychological movement that is taking place within us is very important. Awareness of our resistance is absolutely necessary for us to actually change or transform. Awareness is especially important when we confront our impatience to change.

Impatience is resistance to change, transformation or recovery. Being impatient is when you want the change and the rewards that go with it but do not want to do or be bothered with the specific work or steps necessary to bring about the recovery or transformation. It is like when you are sitting in a chair and want to go outside but do not want to stand up out of the chair you are sitting in, walk to the door, open the door and walk through the door to the outside. However, without doing the specific work to achieve your stated goal, you will not change, transform or recover.

"Impatience is only another form of resistance. It is resistance to learning and to changing. When we demand that it be done right now, completed at once, then we don't give ourselves time to learn the lesson involved with the problem we have created." Louise Hay, You Can Heal Your Life.

Dr. Harry Henshaw

What you think about other people, places and things matters.

The Universe, our subconscious, accepts whatever we choose to believe about ourselves. What I believe about myself will become true for me, be it positive or negative. Whether I think negative or positive things about myself is a choice on my part. I have unlimited thoughts about myself that I can think. The choice is mine, always has been.

In addition, when I think or speak about another, my subconscious mind thinks that I am referring to myself. My subconscious mind does not know or recognize that other people, places and things exist, only me. So what I think and say about other people, places and things does matter as it is affecting me, improving or harming my image of myself.

Dr. Harry Henshaw

What I think and say matters!

When we learn more we will do different and better for ourselves and others. When we learn that life is really very simple, what we give out, we get back. The source of our giving out is not only our behavior and what we do but also what we say and think, especially when the referent is about ourselves.

What I think and say is creating my experiences and how life will be for me. What I think about myself will become the truth for me. When I learn this, that my thoughts and words do matter, I will assume responsibility for my life. I will no longer attempt to blame other people, places and things for my experiences and life.

I will also learn that I have a choice in the matter. What I think and say about myself, others and life in general is a choice that I make from moment to moment. I get to choose whether my thoughts and words will be positive or negative. My thoughts and word are powerful and when I learn and accept that I will transform my life.

Dr. Harry Henshaw

The Real Problem.....

I believe that once we admit that we do not know the real problem, the real cause of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction, then and only then will we be open minded enough and willing to consider other possibilities. Louise Hay offers us such a possibility.

The real problem is not with other people, places and things but rather with us, with our thinking, and more specifically, with our thinking about ourselves. It is our thinking about our value and worth as a human being, a belief that we are not good enough, that is the cause of drug and alcohol abuse and addiction.

When we think we are not good enough, we do not have self love and as a result will mistreat and abuse our body, mind and spirit with drugs and alcohol. The solution is simple. We need to learn how to authentically respect, accept, approve and love ourselves. Self love is the key to recovery and transformation.

Dr. Harry Henshaw

Stop criticizing, acknowledge victories

Learning to love ourselves is what addicts and alcoholics and those suffering from mental health concerns need to do. One way to begin the process of loving yourself is to stop criticizing yourself completely. Every time that your criticize yourself you strengthen your negative self image and poor self esteem. Instead of criticizing yourself start to approve of yourself, saying positive affirmations about yourself and also acknowledging your victories in life.

Dr. Harry Henshaw

Self-love is the key to Recovery

The idea that an addict or alcoholic has poor self esteem is rejected by many, if not most individuals in active addiction and recovery alike. Most addicts and alcoholics do not believe that any conversation about self esteem is relevant or important with respect to their drug and alcohol addiction or to their recovery. The most that may be admitted, and only by a few, is that some addicts and alcoholic have poor self esteem as the result of using drugs or alcohol. There is never a discussion about self esteem being related to the cause of their addiction to drugs and alcohol.

While I could discuss the ideational foundation of poor self esteem, that is, that the individual does not think or believe that they are good enough, the notion that there is a lack of self love is much more important conversation. While the idea that addicts and alcoholics lack self love will also be rejected by most, it is more difficult to do so especially when you relate it to the actual behavior of the individual. I believe that how I act towards or treat my body is an expression of my love towards myself. I believe that if I continue to drink alcohol and use drugs it is a clear indication that I do not authentically love myself.

I believe that addicts and alcoholics do not love themselves especially when they are in active addiction. I also believe that most addicts and alcoholics continue to have a lack of self love even when clean and sober and supposedly in recovery. Ones behavior towards oneself is the best judge of whether one loves himself or not, it does not lie. Unless a lack of self love is confronted and transformed it will continue to guide and dictate behavior and ones life in general. One has to first acknowledge that they do not love themselves in order for them to begin the work of learning how to authentically love themselves and as a result transform their life. I believe that self love is the key to recovery and transformation.

Dr. Harry Henshaw

What we think, we become

When a person is using drugs or alcohol on a daily basis it is virtually impossible for them to work on transforming the real cause of their addiction. And when the individual stops using drugs and alcohol and starts to feel better physically, they tend to not want to work on the cause of their addiction either. When an individual feels better physically they have a tendency to think that they are better. In both cases there is no motivation to work on themselves.

However, after the individual becomes clean and sober for awhile, their emotions, especially the negative ones, return. The depression and anxiety, for example, tend to reappear. It is at this point that the individual may have some motivation to start to work on their condition. However, the tendency is for most addicts and alcoholics to relapse at this point, to continue to suppress that which is related to the cause of their problem.

I believe that the time period between immediately stopping the use of drugs and alcohol and when the addict and alcoholic returns to the community is crucial for their learning and recovery. Much of the so-called education and instruction that is given to them in treatment is focused on following a recovery system that is flawed in its design and an emphasis put on the external and physical causes of their "disease."

In general, this type of treatment conversation is the one that is perpetuated over and over to clients entering most treatment programs. As we know, the effectiveness of this type of philosophy when translated into a treatment modality is horribly ineffective. It is no wonder that when the client leaves treatment, going back to life in the community, he returns with recovery tools that are broken and worthless.

After they relapse, the tendency is to blame the addict and alcoholic for not trying hard enough or not wanting to change his life. If we were using a philosophy that empowered the individual, that gave them real strategies that they could use to transform their life, I believe we would start to see a drastic shift in the addiction problem that we now have in this country. I believe the key to this new philosophy is teaching the addict and alcoholic the magic and power of their thinking.

Dr. Harry Henshaw

Show me the money!

I am sure that many are thinking that finally, something has been done to help resolve the drug epidemic in this country. Yesterday a judge in Oklahoma made a legal decision against a pharmaceutic company, holding them responsible for the deaths and problem of addiction that we are now experiencing and ordered them to pay money. Many will see this event as a victory for those suffering from drug addiction.

Actually it is not so much of a victory as it is a reinforcement of the belief system that is currently determining our attempt to understand and treat drug and alcohol addiction, a system that is, as we know, a complete failure. The decision in Oklahoma reinforces the belief that the cause of substance use and drug and alcohol addiction is something external to the addict and alcoholic. Again, those suffering from addiction are mere victims.

I am sure that many truly believe that the legal decision in Oklahoma will start a movement in this country to successfully fight drug addiction. Unfortunately all that will happen with respect to treating addiction is more of the same. What will happen though is that now many more will attempt legal action against pharmaceutical companies. The conversation about now having a solution is more about money than it is about anything else.

Dr. Harry Henshaw

The New Paradigm for Addiction

When we choose to change the way we look at addiction, addiction itself will change. Currently we see addiction as a disease, as something that the individual is not responsible for, did not choose and is powerless to change. While this essentially leaves the addict and alcoholic a victim of life, this perspective also breeds a sense of hopelessness and helplessness. As we know, our current perspective about addiction does not translate into any kind of effective treatment for the addict and alcoholic as the relapse numbers clearly reveal.

It is my belief that we need to develop a paradigm that honors and values human consciousness. Before the development of AA, there was a philosophy about human beings that was diametrically opposed to any kind of victimization and supportive of empowerment. This new perspective believed that we are absolutely responsible for all of our experiences, that we choose how life will be for us and that we have the power within us to transform, to change the trajectory of our life. This movement valued human thinking and the thoughts and beliefs that we create.

At the basis of this new philosophy is the idea that the most important thoughts and beliefs we have are the ones we have about our value and worth as human beings, our self-image. It is our self-image that generates our self-esteem, how we feel about ourselves, about others and even life in general. Given that this is a basic tenet of modern cognitive psychology, that our thinking creates our feelings, which dictates our behavior, I believe that we need to develop a new philosophy that embraces and utilizes this type of powerful perspective.

We need to believe that developing a positive self-image and with it good self-esteem or self love is the primary goal of treatment for addicts and alcoholics. This would also necessitate that we conceive of addiction not as a disease but rather as a thought problem or disorder. Being ideational in nature, thoughts and the condition can be changed. The addict and alcoholic would now have a sense of hope for change and transformation. While not easy to implement, the addict and alcoholic would eventually come to assume responsibility for their life, accept that they are choosing how life is appearing before them and that they have the power to live the life that they say they want.

Dr. Harry Henshaw