In this episode of Recovery Radio, Zach is joined by Dr. Adi Jaffe. Dr. Jaffe holds a Ph.D. in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles, and he teaches courses that directly address addiction in our society. Dr Jaffe is also the founder of IGNTD, a wellness and addiction recovery brand. Dr. Jaffe and Zach discuss both the shame surrounding addiction, and how individuals can help eliminate the stigma. Zach and Dr. Jaffe then examine what to do if you’re not sure what recovery method is best for you and your personality. Following Dr. Jaffe, Zach is joined by Jill Hall, and native to Bloomington Indiana who is committed to breaking barriers to treatment in her position as the Admissions Coordinator at Amethyst House. Jill and Zach discuss the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and why it’s such an instrumental part of any recovery program.
Welcome to Recovery Radio by Landmark Recovery with your host, Zach Crouch. In this program we’ll discuss the root causes and treatments of alcohol and substance addiction, speak with experts in related fields, and help navigate the road to recovery.
Now, here’s the host of Recovery Radio, Zach Crouch.
Zach: Hi. I’m Zach Crouch and you’re listening to Landmark Recovery Radio, your source for addiction and recovery news and knowledge. You can find us online wherever you get your podcasts and don’t forget to subscribe to get the most up-to-date information from leading experts.
We have guest Dr. Adi Jaffe joining us on the show today. Dr. Jaffe holds a PhD in psychology from the University of California, Los Angeles. He teaches courses at UCLA that address addiction specifically. Well-known for his online and academic writing, Dr. Jaffe’s views on addiction and his research on the topic have been widely published. He’s a nationally recognized expert on mental health, addiction, relationships, and shame.
He was a UCLA lecturer in the psychology department at UCLA for the better part of a decade and was the Executive Director and Co-Founder of one of the most progressive mental health treatment facilities in the country that is, until he started IGNTD, a wellness and addiction recovery brand.
Dr. Jaffe, it’s a pleasure to have you on the show.
Dr. Jaffe: Thank you so much for having me, man.
Zach: Tell us a little bit about your background. How’d you get interested in this field of addiction recovery?
Dr. Jaffe: Sure. I come from an upper-middle class family. When I found myself in college, I was one of those guys. I don’t know if anybody remember these people in the dorms, but I was one of those guys who just drink and smoke weed all day.
Zach: I was that guy.
Dr. Jaffe: You were that guy, too?
Zach: I was that guy.
Dr. Jaffe: Yes. I was that guy and I had a bunch of friends who were the same in high school. That was kind of our crew as well who ditch school and smoke weed or ditch school and drink during the day, whatever.
Zach: You didn’t play soccer by any chance, did you?
Dr. Jaffe: No. I was a swimmer and I played tennis. Swimmers drink like fish when they’re not in season, but I drink during the season. I really didn’t care. I actually dropped all sports at some point because of my drug and alcohol use. I just like getting high and drinking better. It made me feel better about myself. That started my trajectory.
I was definitely always one of those people who went harder for longer and let more things go because of my substance use than a lot of my other friends. I would kind of go shot for shot, all that stuff that some people do in college. The thing is what happened was my problem progressed through college. For a lot of other people when college ended, their issue sort of went away.
By the time I was done with college, I was now addicted to meth. I was using Ecstasy, cocaine, some alcohol still and weed but really the harder drugs were my thing at that point and a lot of hallucinogens. I was not really present for life at all. When college ended, everybody else went and got jobs. I even got an interview suit for jobs but never made it to a single interview and just ended up selling drugs for a living in LA.
I moved away from my family. My family was in New York. I was in LA smoking meth and doing every other drug I could do all day and yes just selling them to survive. That’s how I ended my life. I magically somehow, literally through a technicality ended up graduating college – barely, but graduating by a single class and I found myself in the spot for the next, really it was five years that I was in this intermediate place kind of stuck in limbo in life.
My drug use got worse. My drug dealing got worse. It got to the point where none of my friends who were friends with me before were friends with me anymore. Nobody wanted to talk to me other than the people I was selling to, the people I was buying from, and that’s it. That was my life for a good three or four years after college.
What happened was, as a classic story drug dealing sounds like a great career for those of us who are on the dark side of the world and so the police come knocking. I’ve been arrested a couple of times.
Zach: As they will.
Dr. Jaffe: They do. They actually do come knocking. They came knocking at eight o’clock in the morning on a Saturday into my apartment, a whole SWAT team. I went down. I’ve been arrested a handful of times before. This was my fourth arrest actually, but the hammer came down more heavily this time. Another thing that happened, I’ve been hiding all the other arrests from my family and this one was just too much. My lawyers have contacted my parents; kind of the troops got rallied.
I’ve been really estranged from my parents. I wasn’t talking to them much at all, but somehow because we all came together to figure out how do I not spend the next 20 years in prison. I’ve 13 felony counts. I had a gun. It was the real bad deal. We kind of all got together trying to figure out how do I stay out of prison for 20 years.
Zach: A long time.
Dr. Jaffe: Everybody agreed I should go to rehab. Yes. I went to rehab, a very traditional place, did well for about the first month then started using again, relapsed while I was in rehab, got kicked out of that place and really had a, I’m Jewish so this is a funny phrase for me to use. My come-to-Jesus moment was kind of like, “You know if I don’t handle this, I’m going to spend a good part of my adulthood in a prison.”
Everybody else I knew have either been shot, have been to prison and something needed to change. I’m not going to lie and say it was a straight shot, but it took me a couple of tries. I found my way to recovery. The way I ended up where I am right now is actually kind of by coincidence and by necessity. When I got out of jail, I served a year in jail.
When I got out of jail, I realized that there’s no real place in society for a nine-time convicted felon. I couldn’t get hired at the mall. There were no jobs that I could do that I’ll get hired because of the little box – have you ever been convicted of a felony. I had to go back to the drawing board and for me the drawing board said “You know what? I didn’t like school when I was in it, but I was kind of good at it when I did the work. Why don’t I try to go back to school?”
I found a school in Southern California called Cal State Long Beach, California State University Long Beach. It was far away from where everybody I knew was so that seemed like a good idea at the moment and they didn’t ask the question of have you ever been convicted of a felony. I applied. I got in. It took another seven years. I realized I really like studying the brain. I really like studying addiction.
Dr. Jaffe: I really like understanding what the heck happened to me and how I got that far down. It started at Cal State Long Beach. I did so well I literally had a 4.0 GPA which had never happened in my life before, but I was so motivated that I got back into UCLA which is the number one psychology program in the country and I was really incredibly lucky to be able to get in there, got my PhD there and I made it my mission ever since to take what I learned and help everybody else figure out what got broken for them and how to fix it.
Zach: I got to ask the question because I want to go back a little bit because obviously that was the eye-opening moment, that Saturday morning when whatever month it was for you at 8am. The cops were coming in, whether you like it or not. Prior to that though, was there any sort of realization that you had like, “This is a problem and things need to change?” Had that even popped in your head?
Dr. Jaffe: It did. It did. I tried to quit meth about seven times on my own before any rehab. I didn’t go to meetings. The only knowledge I had of traditional like we have or AA or anything like that. By the way, I’m not in the program, but the only knowledge I had at the time was other clients of mine who would go to rehab which is a really crazy sad thing to say out loud but they would tell me they’re going to rehab. Unfortunately a lot of them then came back to use.
I didn’t really have a sense of what recovery meant. Even as I say this right now to you, I thought I needed to quit meth. I didn’t realize I needed an entire reconfiguration of my life and my perspective in my life. I thought if I stopped meth everything will be fine. Like I said, I tried it about seven times, but the longest I got on my own was about two weeks and I always went back to it.
Zach: You mentioned that you really enjoyed studying about what happens to the brain when you ingest certain substances. During that process of studying and research, what did you discover that really kind of enlightened you?
Dr. Jaffe: That’s a great question. Thank you for asking that. One of the first things that really, really sank in for me pretty early into my graduate program, a little bit in Cal State Long Beach when I got into my PhD program in UCLA was just how much we know about what happens around drug use, what leads people to using drugs, what makes it better, what makes it worse.
I was actually amazed at how much we knew and once I understood it, how much shame, I talk a lot about shame in my work, how much shame and embarrassment about the fact that I got myself to that place. My dad was a physician. My mom she was a resource manager in a big bank. I was never supposed to be a guy carrying around a 9-millimeter and a sawed-up shotgun in LA addicted to meth with a meth pipe in my pocket. That was not the trajectory I was going on.
Zach: That wasn’t your trajectory. Right, right.
Dr. Jaffe: It wasn’t. When I learned everything there was to know about addiction I realized, “Oh, it’s not…there was nothing crazy wrong with me,” which is how I ended up in that position. It was like this endless series of small changes in my brain, in my psychology, in my biology of raw, in my early upbringing. It’s all these little things that all together kind of gradually moved me to this really insane place.
For me and it might be true for a lot of people listening, I don’t know if it was true for you. For me, sometimes the shame, feeling like I’m a POS was sometimes the thing that kept me from being okay. Even when life was alright, I felt like such a terrible person and like I’ve messed up so badly that I would kind of hamstring myself and make recovery more difficult for me.
When I learned all these little individual pieces, they all came together to tell me one message and that is: look, if there was a way into this mess and there was this gradual thing that had to do with all these different pieces, there’s a way out of the mess as well. That made me feel incredibly good about it.
Zach: You mentioned something that really kind of hits on for me because I’m in recovery. The shame piece for me really happened of all places, at my dad’s house. This is a guy…we had really solid relationship growing up. He taught me how to play baseball, golf, all the sports and stuff. He was really involved and he was a coach. I’d gotten to the point in my process of addiction where I was over at his house one morning and I was probably hung over or high or whatever I was and he’d asked me for a CD that I had borrowed from him back.
I just looked at him. I said, “You know what? I don’t know what happened to your damned CD.” He said, “Can you find it?” I said to him in a very matter-of-fact, under-the-influence kind of manner, “You know what, Dad? I don’t have your effing CD and I don’t really know what happened to it so sorry.” He says to me and I quote, “You know what, son? Just get the F out of my house right now. I don’t want to see you until you get your shit together.”
That was it, man. That for me it cemented a place for me of where I had come from but also where I was going. I didn’t look ahead far enough. I was like, “This is going to end really bad, man. This is not going to end well for me.”
Dr. Jaffe: That’s amazing to hear. It’s interesting. I was in a call with my dad, not a visit but a call with my dad. That was definitely part of my awakening. It was after I got kicked out of rehab. My transit stamp…obviously the government and the police took everything that I had in my house so I had no money. I had nothing. The rehab that I was in tested me, found out that I had used and kicked me out on the spot.
I was talking to my dad and I was lying to him about why I was checking out of rehab. I was making up this thing that it was really far from my work so I needed to be closer and all that stuff. Something landed to me internally where I needed to tell him the truth. I told him the truth but it was really crappy truth. I wasn’t sober. I had been using for two months. We had actually a pretty bad relationship growing up but we’ve gotten ourselves to a pretty good place.
I remember thinking to myself, “I almost had a clean slate with him. Let’s just clean it back now. It’s easier to clean up right now.” It was in that moment that I realized, “You know what? I get this choice over and over. I can lie and hide my truth and hide who I am and pretend I’m doing okay when I’m not. I can’t do that. I’m used to doing it. I’ve done it my whole life or I can own up to whatever’s happening really honestly, whatever’s happening.”
“I can own up to it in the moment and then figure out what my friends, what my family, what the people close to me how to fix it, how to address it, how to change it.” It was this moment of I don’t need to hide anymore. That’s kind of where this F shame parts of the work that I do come in.
Zach: I want to talk more about that.
Dr. Jaffe: Sure.
Zach: That’s a huge…around the addiction.
Dr. Jaffe: Yes.
Zach: I think it covers so many different sorts of addictions. It’s not relegated to just chemical dependency. You see it especially a lot of shame carried among people who have gambling addictions, sex addiction, all that.
Dr. Jaffe: Gambling, sex addiction, and food addiction by the way, right?
Zach: Yes, sure.
Dr. Jaffe: People who are addicted to compulsive eating, absolutely. This is one of my favorite topics and the reason is simple in the work that I do now. I run a company called IGNTD, as you mentioned I-G-N-T-D. We run an online program both for the users and people who are struggling with the use themselves or the addiction itself and their family members. The whole F shame kind of mentality is a big part of what we do.
The reason I say it’s a big part of what we do is because everybody in the equation oftentimes feel shame. The person using and anybody who’s listening right now who’s in recovery or has been in recovery or is looking for it knows what I’m about to say, we have made so many mistakes and done so many things that we regret and have hurt people and behaved in ways that we are not proud of so many times that it goes from feeling guilty and embarrassed to feeling shame.
Shame, just so we’re clear is different than guilt. Guilt is when you feel badly that you did something that you shouldn’t have. Shame is when you feel badly about who you are as a human being. When you feel like you’re a POS, when you feel like you suck, you’re a terrible person and you don’t deserve love because you’re not worthy because you screwed up so many times, it goes to moving from how do I get better because it’s not about getting better; it’s how do I become better.
How do I become the kind of person who even deserves to be happy? I deal with clients all day that when they come in to us they’ve lost the hope that they deserve happiness [Inaudible][16:34] If you don’t believe at a very deep level you deserve to be happy, it doesn’t matter what tactic I teach you to become happier.
Dr. Jaffe: It doesn’t matter what techniques I show you will make you calmer and less stressed. You feel like you deserve to be sad, upset, depressed, lonely. The shame component the way I talk about it in our program it actually comes before the tools of how to learn to get help. What I tell people all the time is the way we work is first of all you got to figure out why you’re struggling. I call that honest exploration.
What’s happened in your past? What’s going on with your body? What’s happening in your brain? What is the environment influence around you? How did you get here to the here and now? Once you understand that, a lot of people run around and fix it. If you figure out that you had trauma in your childhood, you want to go fix the trauma. If you say you’re really anxious, you want to go fix the anxiety.
I don’t think that’s a good starting point. The reason it’s not a good starting point is for a lot of us what we mean by fixing is we mean ‘take away that piece of me’ or ‘ignore the fact that part of you exists’ or ‘be able to move on for the rest of my life pretending that didn’t happen’. I don’t find long-term success to a lot of people I work with with that approach. I’m not saying nobody has that success. I’m just saying I haven’t found it.
I think that the step between realizing what happened and fixing it and that is what we call radical acceptance. Radical acceptance is where we do a lot of our F shame work. Acceptance can’t always come from within the person because they don’t accept themselves so sometime the acceptance has to come from the community, the coaches, the therapists, the people who do the work with that person who’s struggling.
What I love about our family work now is we help the family understand ‘look, your loved one is doing their best. They may look like crap to you right now, but they are trying their best. If you can come from a place that you understand that they’re just lost, confused, unsure of what to do, and hurting then you reduce your shame. If you can reduce your shame, we can get better.’
Zach: I’m curious to hear, too. It’s right. With the shame piece especially, it kind of feeds on itself.
Dr. Jaffe: Yes.
Zach: You participate in behaviors that just kind of build on the shame and it just gets on the moment. It just keeps rolling and rolling and rolling. It seems sort of rudimentary to ask this question. In your experience and work with probably a lot of people, why can’t people just stop the behaviors when we know that those behaviors are going to come pretty quickly after the behavior ceases whether that’s a substance, a person?
Dr. Jaffe: That’s a great question. The way I believe, in my orientation it goes like this: we didn’t use for the drugs. Yes, it’s true drugs create dopamine surges and they create learning in the brain that makes you want to use them again. That’s true. That’s true for everybody. Do you have any friends who drink and don’t have a problem with it?
Zach: Oh, I live with one – my wife. Right, right, right.
Dr. Jaffe: Love it. By the way, I do drink socially now. All of us know people who do that. Guess what? Alcohol does the same thing for you and your brain as it does for those other people. Are there biological differences? There are but they’re not true for all people who struggle with addiction. Some of us have genes that predispose us to addiction, but a lot of people who end up with addiction don’t have those genes. 30, 40 percent do but what happens with the other people?
What happens is this, I can tell you from my personal story. I was 14 years old, 15 years old, moved to a new country. I was born in Israel, moved to this brand-new country. I already had social anxiety in my old place in Israel, but now I speak like a foreigner. I don’t know anybody and I’m awkward. I feel awkward and strange and have a hard time talking to people all the time especially girls. You’re 14, 15. All you want to do is talk to girls.
We go away to a sleep away camp and I’m feeling anxious. There’s this girl I like hanging out. She likes another guy, whatever. We’re sitting and this guy hands me a handle of vodka. I never had vodka in my life before. I drink it because I’m not going to say no because I’m already awkward. I don’t want to be the guy sticking out not drinking. I have a couple of swigs. It tastes disgusting, but if alcohol just tasted and then do what it does, I wouldn’t have drank another sip in my life.
15, 20 minutes later, I get this warm feeling and guess what? I don’t care what the other guys in the room think of me.
Zach: Anxiety stopped.
Dr. Jaffe: I don’t mind walking up to a girl I like and starting a conversation. I ended up fooling around with a girl that night. Alcohol was like the best medicine I could have gotten. Fast-forward another weekend after that and now I realized this tool keeps working. If I drink next weekend, I still feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life. I had more confidence. I was like singing out loud on the bus back from the sleep away camp. I was the most outgoing I’d been.
Nobody else knew, by the way about my anxiety. It was just a personal thing that I had inside. They all thought I was fine. From that moment on, I have medicine like people have medicine for heart problems and hypertension. I had medicine for my social anxiety. Every time I needed to be socially more outgoing or be more present, I will just have a couple of drinks and I was good.
Zach: Sure, right.
Dr. Jaffe: The question of why people don’t stop is every time I’d stop or every time I try not to drink around other people if I ever even tried to do it, I would feel bad again. Look, on the average before people get help especially for alcohol you’re talking about 15 to 20 years, somewhere around that. Let’s say there were no problems for the first four, five years and then problems started accumulating. You got four or five years of your brain learning that alcohol is the medication you need for your problem.
When you try to stop it and I talk about this, by the way, I don’t know when this will come out but every Friday I have a free workshop I give people to orient them to the way I look at things and how IGNTD works. Anybody who wants to tune in can. It’s a hundred percent free. I talk about this. Your brain has a very basic decision-making system. It’s complex to create but the end result is simple.
Everything you look at in the world your brain asks is this good or is this bad. If it’s bad I should get away from it and do less of it. If it’s good I should do more of it. Here is the problem with the current way we treat addiction. Currently, we tell people to stop drinking. Guess what? Your brain thinks of alcohol as a really good thing, not a somewhat good thing, a really good thing. It’s a medicine for something that you really struggle with. If something is good, your brain wants to do more of it and get closer to it.
Quitting is telling your brain to stop doing something that it thinks is good. That’s why we have immense cravings and that’s why your brain does everything it can to try to get you to drink again because it knows that if you drink it’ll take away the momentary collapse. The problem comes in the fact that right now as again, fully my opinion but I feel very strongly about this obviously, the way the system works right now you have to first commit to quitting and then you get the help.
That’s a little bit like telling somebody who’s going to a physical therapy office…let’s say somebody lost their leg and somebody going to a physical therapy office and say, “Look, we’re going to outfit you with a prosthetic and we’re going to teach you how to walk with them. Here’s the only problem. You can’t use your wheelchair or your crutches coming to the office. You have to come to the office by yourself.”
That’s what we tell a lot of people. You got to commit to not drinking. Sometimes you have to stop before you walk in. There are sober living houses and treatment facilities their therapists will say, “Unless you have a week or a month clean, we won’t see you.” We have to give people actual tools to handle what they’re going through before we can expect them to be able to quit. That’s my statement.
Zach: I want to ask you a question, too just as it relates to this. You mentioned alcohol. Can the same be said, too about something even as we’ll say less…let’s just say nicotine even, giving up nicotine? Is it the same sort of struggle and process? Is there a continuum here that we’re talking about on difficulty in getting off some of these substances?
Dr. Jaffe: The continuum I look at is always around safety. Nicotine maybe is a little bit less along that line. Let’s just go right for the hard stuff everybody wants to talk about. Meth, opiates, that kind of stuff? I’ve had clients in our programs who reduced their meth use by like 80, 90 percent.
Dr. Jaffe: They’re having a really hard time locking in that last ten percent maybe. I’ve had some who quit as well. I’m not saying that’s not happening. I’m saying I just want to focus on this question that you just asked. Here’s what’s really interesting. We talked about shame a minute ago. I’m talking about people who used to smoke like I did, smoked meth all day every day.
They would wake up in the morning. They would start smoking. They’d smoke until the end of the day and then they take something like a Xanax or something like that to fall asleep all day every day. Now they’re in a place where most days they don’t use at all but every once in a while they’d really have a difficult time in their life or whatever. Something bad will happen or they’ll just get in their head and they’ll end up using for a day or two.
Now I’m not saying that’s ideal but here’s the way I look at the situation and how I’ve processed a lot of this with them. I say, “Look, you’re like 95 percent of the way there, 95 percent of the way.” If anything, half the time the reason the relapse lasts a much longer period than before is because they feel so terrible they took that first hit. We all know what I’m saying here. They feel so terrible that they took the first hit then now [Inaudible][26:49] get in around their relapse.
What we have to do and this is not an easy task, it’s a million times easier for me to say this than it is to carry out; what we have to do is we have systematically identify the source of the stress, anxiety, discomfort, pain, depression in life and fix them. What I see is as we do that they get closer and closer to perfection. For me, the way that I work with people whether you’re talking nicotine, alcohol, opiates, cocaine, meth, whatever it is, what people are really looking is they’re looking to live a life that they’re happy and proud of.
I know that when you’re in the middle of using heavily that can seem like the farthest thing from reality and maybe something that’s completely unattainable even.
Zach: I want to ask you something as far as it relates back to the shame piece because it’s huge. I think addiction is something. It’s the human condition, time squandered. Addicts, alcoholics feel things I think very intensely and shame is one of those feelings that they feel and they feel a lot. Do you find that at the end of many people’s story, when they started or when they stopped it to get through this they had to process through maybe a lot of grief and they haven’t gone through a tremendous amount of forgiveness for themselves?
Dr. Jaffe: Oh, I love, man. What a great angle. Forgiveness for self is huge; forgiveness for others, too. Look, your parents didn’t do a perfect job. They didn’t.
Dr. Jaffe: Objectively, they didn’t do a perfect job. So many of us are still anchored, we talk a lot about anchors in my work, are still anchored to the damage that was done to us earlier on. I’m not saying there’s nothing to fix in it, but sometimes you just want those people to own their mistakes. We just want those people [Inaudible][28:53] through the silver.
When I talk to a lot of people about this, look I want you to untangle your success in life from other people doing the work. Your success, your belief in yourself does not have to depend on other people’s belief in you. That’s a big piece because you have to first of all believe that there is a place where you’re worthy of love and success and happiness. This is hard. Anybody who might have done mindfulness work before might know this as loving kindness meditation or something along those lines.
The idea that you can wish good and happiness and contentment on the people who’ve hurt you the most is a pretty big challenge for a lot of people.
Zach: Huge, yes.
Dr. Jaffe: What I find is when you’re able to do that, what you’re actually saying is this: I care more about my ability to move forward untangled from pain, untangled from anxiety, stress and the condition of feeling uneasy with everything in the world. I care more about fixing that than I care about proving to you that you are wrong. If you can do that then your life like my life hopefully has become at this point, your life becomes about how do I live the best life I can.
That means helping me, helping my loved ones, helping the people that I connect with every single day live the best version of their life that they ever could. You know what? People come across you who make it harder but it’s okay. You run across traumas and things that happen from early childhood like the reason I was estranged from my dad. My dad left the family when I was eight. He came back and my parents didn’t divorce but he left us when I was eight. That was really damaging to my version of looking at my dad.
We all have these things in our lives. I think you’re right. Understanding, handling that grief, letting go of the need to fix the past, sometimes we can’t fix it; we just have to live with it. All those pieces are absolutely part of it and of course there are biological things. There are rituals.
Dr. Jaffe: My family, for instance never talked about feelings. I never knew how to deal with feelings. Guess what? You’re going to have to learn how to do it.
Dr. Jaffe: All those different pieces get in there as well.
Zach: Right. Just a couple of things because we’re getting close here. Do you have recommendations for just how someone can figure out what the right recovery method is for them? Are there certain personality types that kind of lend themselves well in a certain recovery method?
Dr. Jaffe: There’s a little bit of research on this but I’ll be honest. We’re not incredibly good at predicting what people are good at. I don’t have anything to announce yet, but if we talk in a year I will have some pretty amazing things that we’re doing at IGNTD to solving what we’re talking about right now. That being said, there are a couple of things.
Look, if you are a religious person or spirituality on a deep kind of religious level, it’s something you love there has been proof that engaging in religious ceremony and by that I mean going to church, going to temple. AA, people look at it, they talk about it as a spiritual program. Let’s be honest. It says God hundreds of times in the program. Its origin has to do in the basis of religion at least, most programs think the work really well for people that have that as part of their life. I think that’s the first place to look at.
If you’re the kind of person who wants more logic-based things and wants the science behind it, if you’re looking for completely free help, there’s Smart Recovery. Right now, I don’t know when this will come out but right now IGNTD is giving away a month of help to anybody who wants it. If this comes out in the next couple of weeks, it’s still available then.
I would look to things that are oriented on cognitive behavioral therapy, maybe mindfulness, some kind of things that are grounded in science. Like I said, Smart Recovery is free program that offers that. If you’re not looking to quit yet and you’re just trying to figure out how big of a problem this is, Smart Recovery can handle it better. If it’s for alcohol specifically, there’s a good called Moderation Management. They’re essentially online though. That’s another one.
The main message that I will send is that do not let anybody in the world tell you the lie that there’s only one way to get better; by the way, not me either, nobody. There are hundreds of options. When I say hundreds of options I mean that some people go to AA and it kind of helps them a little bit but it doesn’t really get them there but then they add a therapist and they go to yoga or they start exercising more and that works.
Some people go get a therapist and it gets them a little bit of the way there but they add Smart Recovery and it’s a perfect mate. Other people they join IGNTD. A lot of people join IGNTD and go to AA together. The biggest message from me is for anybody listening right now there’s a combination of options that based on your experience, I always talk about four factors — your biology, your psychology, your environment, and your level of spirituality.
Based on those four factors, there is a combination of methods out there that will get you the outcome you want. Your job, your mission and you don’t really get a choice of whether you want to accept it or not, it’s just the life you live right now and what you have; your mission is to go out and be like a detective and try to figure out what is my combination. If you nail that and you keep paying attention to it, you will get to a place where one day you go, “Oh my God. Remember the time I was really badly addicted,” and you’ll just be past it.
Zach: There is, too, just as that came up I was thinking about at what point though if someone’s… whatever substance they’re on is at what point is too much research into these different methods and ways of doing things just too much? It’s really at that point just sort of jumping around. What do people need sort of more be told how to do something? Does that make sense?
Dr. Jaffe: Yes, great clarification and let me actually clarify there. Don’t spend two years researching it. Go for the first thing that feels relevant and then you got to dive all in.
Zach: Got it. I appreciate that.
Dr. Jaffe: There’s a passage. I don’t personally love it a lot.
Dr. Jaffe: Yes, yes. There’s a passage I don’t really love a lot. I think it can be a little…the language and the text of AA can sometimes be very judgmental because look, they were in the 1930’s right?
Dr. Jaffe: It’s been around for a while. The how it works passage some people love it. I hate it with a passion. Part of the reason I hate it is what people interprets sometimes is that that program in particular always works for everybody if you work it and if it doesn’t there’s something wrong with you.
Dr. Jaffe: I don’t believe that’s true. Here’s what I do believe is true. For anybody listening right now, there is a program that will work if they work it. What I mean by this is that don’t make the mistake of thinking that you have to start creating something completely from scratch. Go and look what’s out there. The moment that you see something that resonates a little bit, dive in and do it.
Do it to the best of your ability. Spend a couple of weeks, spend a couple of months, spend a year in it. I don’t care how long but do it. Once you do that, take a real self-assessment. Is my life better or not? Oh, it’s better. It’s not exactly what I want to be but it’s better. Great.
Zach: I fully commit to it, right?
Dr. Jaffe: Yes. I’m going to hold on to this thing and then I’m going to look for the next thing as well. Look, we just had carpenters at our house to look at the door that has to be fixed. A carpenter can be the best carpenter on the earth. You know what? They show up with a hammer. They show up with a screwdriver. They show up with a drill. They show up with a saw. A carpenter with no tools is kind of useless. They can tell you about what needs to happen with the door but they can’t fix the damn door.
All of you tuning in right now, you got to learn some tools. If you knew the tools right now, you wouldn’t have a problem. Go look for tools that other people have used. Commit, apply them, see what works, what doesn’t work toss out and get some new tools.
Zach: I love it. Dr. Jaffe, thank you so much for coming on the show today and speaking with us.
Dr. Jaffe: Absolutely. Thank you so much.
Zach: This has been a pleasure.
Zach: You’re listening to Landmark Recovery Radio, your source for addiction and recovery news and knowledge. Listen, you can find us online wherever you get your podcasts and don’t forget to subscribe to get the most up-to-date information from leading experts.
We have guest Jill Hall joining us on the show today. Jill is a Bloomington, Indiana native, go Hoosiers and she began working at Amethyst House in 2018. Jill is really committed to breaking barriers to treatment in her position as the Admissions Coordinator. Jill’s educational background is in criminal justice and she looks to use this knowledge to help clients navigate the criminal justice system.
Jill, it’s a pleasure to have you on. Thank you.
Jill: Gosh, I’m very excited to be a part of this. It’s good to meet you.
Zach: Very cool. Good to hear. Tell us a little bit about your background. How’d you get into addiction recovery?
Jill: I think the number one thing for me is I’m a person in long-term recovery. I know the struggles that I went through in my life and just really wanting maybe just to kind of give my struggles and my hardships some kind of purpose and use those in a positive way. I just really felt if I get plugged in somewhere that I could help other people change their life around that it would kind of…everything I went through wouldn’t be for nothing.
I think really that’s the biggest thing, too. It’s just I think a reminder that for me why I’m doing this and just continue more drive and determination to just want to make a difference and want to help people.
Zach: Yes. The word that kind of came up for me as you were mentioning that was, and the word itself kind of gets misused but it’s not a religious one but you kind of give witness to your experience in others by being in the position that you’re in. I think a lot of people need that, man. They need to feel hope. They need to feel like they can do something different because they’ve had so many setbacks.
Jill: That’s been kind of the amazing thing is Bloomington was my old stomping ground so I know a lot of people from Bloomington and to be able to go into the jails and meet with people and they see I have turned my life around and yes, like you said gives people hope that like, “If she can get her life together and on track, I can, too.”
That’s just been, I think one of the most rewarding things just giving people hope and people telling me that. It’s just like it kind of it definitely, definitely helps me continue to stay on course doing what I need to do. Yes.
Zach: Jill, you mentioned that you’re in long-term recovery. What was the biggest challenge for you getting started in this process?
Jill: Oh, man. What I could say to that is I think this time around because at one point I had almost three years clean so after I decided to go back out, it almost made it harder to come back because I knew I had the ability to be clean and work a program. I think for me coming in I just really had to surrender this time. I like to think that I’m smart and I like to think that I got it all figured out.
Zach: You probably are. Right, right.
Jill: Not then I wasn’t because I couldn’t keep myself out of jail and I couldn’t keep myself out of treatment and hospitals with overdoses. I just really had to…everything that I thought that I knew about recovery because I’ve been in recovery before just kind of being willing to throw all that out the window and completely come back in this time with a completely fresh new set of eyes because obviously there was something that I missed last time.
Zach: I said that I think you’re pretty intelligent and I think that intelligence isn’t exactly the same as being smart in the recovery process. Would you agree?
Jill: Right, yes.
Zach: Yes, yes. I’ve seen a lot of intelligent people not be able to get this thing.
Jill: Probably, from my experience they definitely have a harder time because they are so smart and they can’t be willing to accept the fact that they don’t know, kind of the more close-minded I think in a sense of kind of willing to open up their minds and work on addressing some maybe crazy thinking patterns or just even look at their lives to be willing to make some changes. I think those are the people that really struggle with getting recovery because they are so smart unfortunately.
Zach: Let’s get into this a little bit because I know that we’re going to talk a little bit today about cognitive behavioral therapy or CBT as it relates to what we just discussed about perhaps intelligent people having problems in understanding concepts or just enacting the concepts into their daily living. What is CBT and how does it help?
Jill: Pretty much in a nutshell, basically CBT is how our thoughts impact our emotions and our behaviors, how our core beliefs impact our thoughts and interrupting unhealthy habits and replacing those with new ones. A lot of what CBT is I think one of the biggest things is cognitive distortions and basically what that is a couple examples of that are like polarized thinking, black-or-white, all or nothing thinking. It’s all good. It’s all bad.
A lot of it is like jumping to conclusions, thinking that we know how outcomes are going to go when we don’t, catastrophizing, blaming, the shoulds. I was big on the shoulds. I should do this. I shouldn’t do that. Basically, cognitive distortions are ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true which causes individuals to have a very skewed way of thinking that is not accurate, that’s not in reality.
Zach: Keep going. Go ahead, continue.
Jill: In working with a therapist, what the therapist would do is they place a lot of emphasis on helping clients learn how to, in a sense be their own therapist through exercises and homework to help them develop coping skills. They can be aware and work on learning to change their own thinking and their own behaviors when they’re outside that therapy session because that’s where the real work is – being out in the real world and it’s like can we do this. Yes because it’s like if you change your thoughts, everything changes.
Zach: I want to come back to a couple of places that you brought up. You talked about core beliefs. Core beliefs can be really hard to change. My question would be why is that. I want to say that, and this has been experienced and I’ve even talked to colleagues about is that I have a friend of mine who is a therapist and works a lot with eating disorders. You can tell someone until you’re blue in the face that they’re not fat but they look in the mirror and they see a fat person at 85 pounds, true story.
Zach: Why are core beliefs so difficult to change?
Jill: Because they’re so embedded in who we are and those core beliefs may have come from maybe your parents as you were getting raised up, the things that they said to you or maybe their viewpoints which you took those on. A lot of times I think core beliefs are very ingrained in who we are as people. It’s like if you’re dealing with someone who’s 30, 40, 50 years old, that’s a lot of time that they have been believing in maybe a lot of these unhealthy untrue things.
It does take a lot of time and a lot of work to really kind of look at those beliefs and be able to analyze and kind of pick apart and get the individuals to see whether they’re really true or not. It’s a lot of in-depth work and some people it’s hard to look at that. It’s hard to address those things because it’s what they’ve always thought. Being willing to kind of change and look at those behaviors, change can be a scary thing for people even if it is for the better. You know what I mean?
Even positive change can be freaking scary and a lot of people would choose to hold on to negative things because it’s comfortable. It’s what they know even if it is completely selfish unfortunately. Definitely a lot of intense work, but the key is the individual has to be willing to do if they want to change their life.
Zach: I know that you mentioned CBT was instrumental in your own recovery. Tell us about that.
Jill: Oh, man. I think for me that was one of the game-changers for me this time around. I’ve done IOP and stuff like that before but this was the first time or maybe I took CBT before and just don’t remember it. I think it’s been so instrumental for me because it really brought to light that my thinking was the problem. You hear in recovery people talk that the drugs and the alcohol are symptoms of the disease. That means that my real issue is my thinking.
It helped me identify some of my thinking errors and it really began to work allowing me to change my skewed way of thinking because I didn’t realize how screwed up my mind was until we started talking about things and stuff like that. I think one of the biggest things that I pulled from CBT was it really forced me to challenge my thoughts; just because I’m thinking something doesn’t make it so.
Zach: It’s like your thinking becomes a reality.
Zach: I’ll only go so far as to say it is kind of like the book, The Secret. Are there truths to that, too? The Secret was all about whatever you believe, it manifests and then it eventually becomes your reality.
Jill: I really do believe that to be true.
Jill: That’s why it’s even more important if you’ve got a lot of unhealthy thinking patterns and a lot of times playing the victim or things like that it just kind of reinforces that. It kind of keeps you in a place that you continue to feel stuck. I think with CBT it forced me to really kind of be in a constant state of self-awareness checking my thoughts because I know…go ahead.
Zach: I was going to say it seems exhausting.
Jill: It is. It absolutely is but for me this time around what else was exhausting? Living that life, living in active addiction. That life was absolutely exhausting and like I said, I just continue to wind up in jail or overdosed in a hospital or laying on someone’s floor and just gotten Narcan-ed. You know what I mean? That’s exhausting. I think it changed…yes.
Zach: Yes. Go ahead. I was going to ask a question as you’re talking I was thinking about.
Jill: Go ahead.
Zach: Does it get easier meaning in the beginning you’re sort of challenging your thought process and it’s like is this true? Is it not true? Am I going crazy? All this kind of stuff.
Zach: Right. Do you find yourself sort of reaching these peaks and the valleys and plateaus where it’s like, “Okay. I’m sort of in a new paradigm of reality here now that I’ve got a year, five years, ten years, how many years sober and I’ve been doing this challenging of my thinking for such a long time that it just becomes easier?”
Jill: Yes. I was anything. You know what I mean? The more you do it, the more, I guess the more natural it becomes. The longer I found, the longer I continue to go really trying to make sure that I am in a healthy positive state of thinking, the more it just naturally kind of that’s my go-to now, not all the times. You know what I mean?
Yes, it definitely gets easier but it was exhausting. I think I complained about that in meetings for the first, probably two years that I was clean; just being exhausted all the time analyzing my thoughts but it was just like it was working and I just had faith that at some point it would just become a part of me. Those qualities and the things that I needed to do will just infiltrate kind of my mind and I would just do it naturally. That’s kind of how it’s been honestly. It’s kind of how it’s worked out.
Zach: What would you tell other people who are considering treatment? What would you want them to know about the benefits of cognitive behavioral therapy?
Jill: I think broken down very simply this is like I feel like and I can only speak for myself but hopefully this resonates to a lot of people. I know that whenever I used drugs or alcohol I used because I didn’t like the way that I felt, whatever reason. Maybe I was happy. Maybe I was sad, having anxiety. Maybe I felt less then. Maybe I just did not like the way that I felt. The way that I felt stems from what I thought. If I change the way that I think, it’s going to change the way that I feel. Period.
Jill: I think that right there, cognitive behavior that I feel like sums it up a bit is addressing those thoughts so we can feel differently so turning to drugs and alcohol doesn’t sound like such a good idea anymore.
Zach: Another thing that I’m hearing you say is that with drugs and alcohol because they did change the way that you feel. There’s no question about that with you, but with challenging your own thinking it takes effort to do that. It doesn’t take any effort with drugs and alcohol.
Jill: Is that true though?
Zach: I think so. Yes.
Jill: I mean I think maybe for alcoholics, alcohol is more accessible. You know what I mean? You can go to the gas station. There’s a lot that I went through to be able to get my drug of choice which was heroin and meth. That required a lot of effort and how was I going to get the money for it. Figuring out how am I going to get the money and then am I going to have to…I was in Bloomington. Am I going to have to drive up to Indy to get it? How am I going to get there because I don’t have a car?
You know what I mean? There’s a certain amount of effort that for me that went in to continuing to live in that crazy chaotic lifestyle.
Zach: One would argue that, I would certainly make the argument here that to do the things that you’re talking about to go for an alcohol chase is that a lot of that it’s just so unconscious and yes you got to think about who to call, what if I get this, what if I get that. It’s all driven by adrenalin and the excitement of it and stuff with challenging your thoughts. Man, that stuff is hard. It requires one to be vulnerable and to probably encounter some scary stuff that which is like, “No, man. I’ll just go ahead and use.”
Jill: Yes. No. I get it. I absolutely get it. For me it’s like I got to the point where I guess hearing people say this all the time, I was just done. The amount of work and effort, it was getting to the point where it was like no matter how much drugs that I used I wasn’t getting high anymore.
Jill: What’s happening is I was overdosing. You know what I mean? Waking up in the hospital, all of that kind of going through the motions of trying to numb out but you can’t and then you’re still left with yourself; either that or I was overdosed laying on someone’s floor, just kind of getting to that place where I was just like, “There’s got to be more to life than this madness.”
Zach: Was that for you in some respects an awakening, so to speak?
Jill: Yes. I would say that.
Jill: I know through my process of…
Zach: It sort of sounded like one to me.
Jill: Yes, absolutely. Absolutely it was. Yes, just getting to that place where…and I remember very vividly, too. The last time really that I ever used, I remember very vividly hearing and I don’t know if it was me saying it or what, but it was just like, “I’m not doing this anymore. I’m not doing this anymore.”
At that moment just three-and-a-half years ago, I was willing to do anything, anything that would suggest that that was going to help me turn my life around and want to live versus kind of planning to die every day because that was freaking miserable.
Zach: What do you think though, do you think people need to hit that bottom piece before they become willing to do and take the steps that we’re talking about?
Jill: Oh, man. That’s a hard question.
Zach: Could it be raised up? Can the bottom be raised up as it often is said?
Jill: Yes. I think yes it can be just because it’s like I know people that don’t really want to quit using but let’s say are in the drug court program and drug court’s making them do all these things and somewhere along the way because they were forced to do all those things they decide that they really do want to be clean and continue to stay sober.
Jill: Yes. You hear in treatment centers, too people talk about the gift of desperation and that’s kind of where I was at and where a lot of people get. You just get so desperate that you’ll do whatever you need to get your life better and back on track.
Jill: Yes. At the same time, it’s like people aren’t going to quit until they’re ready and probation doesn’t keep people sober. Jail doesn’t keep people sober. There’s got to be some degree of wanting and willingness there.
Zach: Yes. I completely agree. Jill, it’s a pleasure having you on the show today. I really appreciate it. You’ve just given us and the audience a really good understanding of what CBT kind of looks like just from a framework.
Jill: Awesome. I really appreciate you having me on. It’s been good to talk to you.
Zach: Fantastic stuff.
Listen, if you know someone struggling with an addiction and are searching for answers, visit us at landmarkrecovery.com to learn more about substance abuse programs that are both saving lives and empowering families.
Until next week, I’m Zach Crouch with Landmark Recovery Radio.
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