It’s amazing what I hear while driving in my car:

In hearing this song last night driving home, I was struck by the number people I’ve worked with over the years that this song could apply to. These men or women are in addicted/abusive/unhealthy relationships,and think that they “can’t find a better man”(or woman). These people who like the person in the song “practice their speech”, but rarely say anything to their partner about their needs. Over time, because they haven’t expressed their needs, they don’t have needs, and decide that they “can’t find a betterman, oh”.

How does this happen? In my experience, many of the people I’ve worked with come from families who have the same addiction/abuse/chaos and dysfunction. It’s what they know, so therefore they can’t find that “betterman” because they have no idea what he or she might look like. All they can find is the repeat of their family of origin. They probably have stated at least to themselves, that they hate the behavior of family members (or the family members themselves), and when they get married, there is no way in hell, that they will marry a person who acts this way. When they meet that special one, and decide to cement the partnership, it’s no surprise (to me) that they do exactly the opposite of their goal–they repeat exactly what they hate!!!? Later in the relationship, as the dysfunction grows to be destructive, “she loves him, she don’t want leave this way, she feeds him, that’s why she’ll be back again” is the day to day refrain of the relationship–the person knows nothing else.

With all of this stuck, rigid, predictble day-to-day mess, how does this person end up in my office? This is one of the most exciting and interesting parts of my day. How does the person find the courage to talk about all of this stuff when arguably they’ve never talked to anyone in their life? (“no one else needs to know, she tells herself”) What prompts them to pick up that “10,000 pound phone” and say “I need to make an appointment”? Some people come in because of other issues– anxiety, depression, their own addictive behaviors, others ask a trusted friend, “what should I do?” Some people, miraculously as it seems to me, find their way because they are “sick and tired of being sick and tired”.

The first part of the journey is their own awareness that they don’t have to feel the way they do. They have other options. They can work on having feelings and validating them. They can identify their own personal boundaries of what is acceptable and what is not. They can work on communicating the feelings and the boundaries. They can work on self care!!!–how to care about my needs, my wants, and feel like a real person. This is a long process, but a rather doable one. Each step of the way is highlighted by the person examining their own behaviors, motives, and feelings to “rewire” the dysfunctional family of origin wiring, and replace it with new, healthy, self care wiring. In the end, they can find a betterman(or woman) to complement their own growth,and their own happiness.
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The Highway to Hell Has No Exits

On a holiday weekend, New Jersey is the home of traffic jams, long lines, and people with short tempers. As the temperature increases, so do these traits. If you were stuck in traffic, particularly accident traffic, you could be there for a while. It feels like you are in hell.
However there is a different form of hell known quite intimately by people with addictions. It is the “highway to hell”.

Living easy, living free
Season ticket on a one-way ride
Asking nothing, leave me be
Taking everything in my stride
Don’t need reason, don’t need rhyme
Ain’t nothing I would rather do
Going down, party time
My friends are gonna be there too
I’m on the highway to hell
No stop signs, speed limit
Nobody’s gonna slow me down
Like a wheel, gonna spin it
Nobody’s gonna mess me round
Hey Satan, payed my dues
Playing in a rocking band
Hey Momma, look at me
I’m on my way to the promised land
I’m on the highway to hell
(Don’t stop me)
And I’m going down, all the way down
I’m on the highway to hell

On the highway to hell, the addicted person is driving on a path of self destruction, they are going to continue to use, going to continue to have problems and consequences, and continue to do it again and again. There is no escape, there are no exits, there is only pain, and more pain. This highway is littered with the ultimate consequences of addiction “jails, institutions and death”.

While driving on the highway to hell without exits, occasionally there is a sign which reads “turnaround ahead”. Depending on the speed that I am driving, I may or may not see it. If I don’t see it through may addicted haze, I’ll continue to drive with the same reckless abandon that I have been driving with. There may be many signs: “disaster ahead”, “cops approaching” “brick wall .5 miles ahead” “lightpost beyond the turn”, “wife leaving”–I may not be reading them, I may however be feeling them shortly.

These “signs” may lead to that “moment of clarity” an opportunity to examine my addiction. This clarity may lead me to examine my addiction privately or even publically–at a 12 step meeting, with a counselor, at a treatment facility, or even in a jail or hospital. Optimistically speaking, after my examination, I decide to make major lifestyle changes, and get off the highway to hell.

However, many people don’t make an examination, and some people who do, are not ready to keep this change. For reasons known to them, and for reasons not known to them, they get back on the highway to hell and drive even faster and more recklessly than before. They know that they will crash(particularly the ones that did any type of self-examination) and they know it will not be pretty. Sometimes however, it is that pain which starts the process of recovery to occur.
The process of recovery is a strange and beautiful thing. It occurs in my greatest pain, but changes my life so dramatically. It is in fact “amazing” that it happens at all and we’ll discuss how it happens next time.