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Collage Your Mood

a9ccd7cd1c4267a50c67ac0bd7180172_LFeeling creative or like playing around with your mood? Collage it online with this mood collage tool from Tian Dayton Ph. D. and Senior Fellow at the Meadows.

Once you have the collage you like, take a screenshot of it and journal about these questions:

  1. Has my mood changed at all through collaging it and if so, in what ways?
  2. Does collaging my mood make it lighter or more conscious and if so what would you say about that?
  3. What parts of my collage pop out to me and why?
  4. What parts do I want to carry forward into my day?
  5. What parts do I want to change?
  6. What is the most positive light in which I can see my collage?

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The Whole Truth on Whole Grains

heart diseaseFor the past few months, I’ve focused on eating real food, and getting plenty of color in the diet. Now that the month of May has arrived, let’s focus on getting the best grains possible! The US Dietary Guidelines recommends that whole grains should make up half of the grains you eat. My take – why just focus on half? The truth is, the vast benefits of whole grains should convince even the biggest white bread fan to make the switch. Here are some fun whole grain facts.

High fiber whole grains help to fight against cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and constipation.

Multiple studies show that more whole grains amount to less disease and obesity. This has a lot to do with both the inclusion of soluble and insoluble fiber, the impact that fiber has on gut health, and that fact that swapping refined grains for whole grains help to better control blood sugar and inflammation. A 2014 study in the British Medical Journal found that heart attack patients that consumed more cereal fiber lived longer. Another study, published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found dietary fiber helps to reduce the risk of death from all causes.

Whole grains can help keep you healthy as you age.

A 2016 study found that individuals who consumed more fiber-rich whole grains as they aged were less likely to develop age-related diseases. The authors of the study determined that consuming whole grains was tied to successful aging.  Who doesn’t want that?

 

There’s an abundance of gluten-free whole grain options to choose from.

Yes, you can still be gluten-free and fiber-rich! Gluten, the protein found in wheat, rye, and barley can be problematic for individuals with non-celiac gluten sensitivity and completely contraindicated in individuals with celiac disease. Whole grains that are void of gluten (and completely delicious) include brown rice, oats (look for certified gluten-free options), quinoa, amaranth, millet, and buckwheat. So, go ahead and stick with these grains and your gluten-free lifestyle!

You can still be low carb and eat grains at the same time; here’s how:

Many individuals choose to start or stay on diets that are lower in carbohydrates to help manage disease or weight. Often times, they feel they need to cut grains out completely. The key is not to cut but to upgrade to only intact options! Choosing more intact grains (which have more fiber and protein) is easy and involves omitting things like pasta and bread that are made with grains but then processed into a “product.” Instead go for the whole unprocessed version instead. Intact grains include brown and wild rice, steel cut oats, quinoa, buckwheat, and barley.

The Meadows Behavioral Healthcare family of programs realize that food choices affect the overall success of treatment. Many nutrients have connections with depression, anxiety, and addiction. Few treatment programs realize this connection and I am proud to be associated as a Senior Fellow of this organization.

Next month, I’ll be focusing on how your fuel can impact your mood! Spoiler alert – what you choose to eat, and not eat, may have a huge impact on your happiness.

 

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What I Wish I’d Known as a Teenager

62fb5f1024529266c6e71c0c0c9ddb3c_MWhat I Wish I’d Known as a Teenager:

Lessons Learned about Mental Health

I worried about grades as a teenager. I mean, I really worried.

Today, I know this was not typical anxiety about school. Looking back, I struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder and perfectionism. Among other things, I was obsessive-compulsive about never wasting time. Not. One. Second. Further, I was laser-focused on getting nothing but 100 percent of the answers right on everything.

I remember audio recording myself reading my textbooks aloud. Then, when doing “unproductive” things like walking to class or driving to the store, I could listen to my textbook recordings. OCD wouldn’t allow me to talk with friends on the way to class or to listen to music in my car, as these activities were deemed a waste of time.

My roommates in college were flabbergasted by this and my other behaviors. You’re studying, yet again, on a Saturday night?

I wish I had known that this level of anxiety, as well as isolation, was a problem.

Little did I know, in the end, my grades weren’t going to matter that much. If I could get all of that over-studying time back, I would put it toward what truly counts in life, like meaningful relationships. I’m not saying that learning isn’t important. Memorizing my textbooks word for word wasn’t necessary or productive. In fact, I barely retained anything that I learned from semester to semester. Part of the reason for this memory loss has to do with my next lesson learned.

I wish I had known that my relationship with food and my body wasn’t normal.

I should have been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa in college, but most people were too busy giving me compliments to notice that I was suffering from the mental illness with the highest mortality rate of any other. You look great. How do you stay so thin? However, my parents were worried, so I visited my college doctor who asked one so-called diagnostic question, “Do you eat?”

Yes, I ate, and the ironic thing about my eating disorder is that it wasn’t truly about food, shape, or weight. Instead, anorexia was, in part, about that painful, unrelenting perfectionism. Restricting and bingeing helped, in the short term, to turn down the knob on anxiety, not to mention, to mask my underlying depression.

I was malnourished. My brain wasn’t working. Back to my earlier point, this, in addition to the fact that OCD and perfectionism didn’t find sleep productive, is why I didn’t retain that information that I’d worked so hard to memorize.

I cannot fathom how I got by on so little sleep.

I won’t mention a specific number of hours here, because I don’t want to be triggering. When I speak at colleges, I have learned that today, there is an even more rampant race to see who can sleep the least. Yet, research tells us that getting enough sleep is required for optimal learning and health. I didn’t know that back then.

Something else that I wish my friends and I had understood is the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses.

April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month. Sexual violence can lead to posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance use disorder, depression, and other trauma-related problems. What I know now: if you have to ask yourself whether sex was consensual, it wasn’t. By definition, the idea of consent means that you would know.

This is a message many of my friends and I desperately needed to hear. If I had, when I experienced sexual assault with a boyfriend in my late twenties, I might have known to call it what it was. I believe that we should take the “date” off “date rape” because it seems to minimize the assault. I’d later develop PTSD as a result.

I will be talking more about PTSD and all of these topics on this blog in the months to come, as I am honored and excited to be the newest Senior Fellow of Meadows Behavioral Healthcare! As it turns out, joining this incredible team had nothing to do with my near perfect college transcript and everything to do with how mental illness has knocked me down over and over again, and, importantly, with the support of professionals and loved ones, I have learned how to stand back up again, each time.

Gratefully, I no longer struggle with OCD, nor PTSD. I have tools to deal with anxiety, ones that don’t involve dieting, nor bingeing. Getting plenty of sleep helps. I have even learned to embrace this perfectly imperfect—and what I now see as a wonderful—life.

Most of all, what I know now that I wish I could go back and tell my teenage self is:

You are not alone. Mental illness is real. You didn’t choose it, but you can choose to get better. Help is available, and above all, healing happens.

A Senior Fellow with The Meadows and advocate for its specialty eating disorders program, The Meadows Ranch, Jenni Schaefer is a bestselling author and sought-after speaker. For more information: www.JenniSchaefer.com

 

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Growing Up With An Addicted Parent

Sex AddictionI remember as a twelve year old, sitting alone in our living room after one of our by then typical family meltdowns …….trying to make sense of the pain and general devastation of our once very happy family……trying to understand how kind, decent and loving people could cause each other such unrelenting pain, how we could say the things we were saying, hurl insults, act out in anger and rage……I recall saying to myself “wars do these things to people, separate loved ones, wound hearts, tear families apart. But somehow we’re doing this to ourselves.”

Just as in a war people are forced to witness the dark side of humanity…those of us who live with addiction come up against it as well. It was my beloved Father, the man who loved and nurtured me, who gave me café au lait from his spoon, held my hand when we walked and took such pleasure in sitting me up on the kitchen counter to watch while he squeezed fresh orange juice for me. My Darling Dad who worked hard to give me a life with so much more than had ever been given to him. It was exactly this father who would sit with a glass of scotch in his hand and slowly, glass by glass, descend into becoming a monster. Who would become cruel and terrifying, tearing down what he had worked so hard to build; devastating those he loved the most, making the house shake with his rage and doing to us with his own hand, those very things that he had spent his life protecting us from.

And eventually the gravity of his illness sucked us all in, we all at one point or another shared his private hell with him until all of us lost our grip on normal.

Living with the roller coaster ride of addiction, the unpredictability, and bending of reality, the broken promises, the dashed hopes…the disillusionment and disappointment, the secrets and lies…is a traumatizing experience. As the French say it “marks” us.

When I was young there was no such thing as family disease or family healing; we thought that if the addict sobered up the family would get better by itself. We didn’t realize how sick family members became through living with addiction.

My Father never found recovery.

I entered recovery not from addiction but the fallout of living with addiction. Because I watched the Father I adored drift slowly into a bottle of scotch that took him far away from himself, from us and from each other, I need healing.

Once I discovered them, just sitting in alonon meetings was for me deeply transformative. Saying what was in my heart and having no one jump up, accuse me of being out of line, slam doors or rage or simply quietly slip out of the room, changed me in profound ways. When people would come up to me after meetings and say they identified with me, I was dumbfounded. For so many years I had barely let myself know how different I felt. Now I wasn’t alone after all. There was a room full of us, at least.

I don’t know if this experience has made me a better person, but it’s made me deeper, funnier, wider…..and more importantly, it has taught me the value of life, it has taken me to the edge of inner experience where I had to make a choice to choose a lifestyle or a death style; because addiction is a slow suicide.

And I chose life.

I’d like to borrow a quote from Vaclav Havel, who helped to carry the Czech Republic to freedom and was also a prolific author and playwright…..

“Either we have hope within us, or we don’t. It is a dimension of the soul, and it is not essentially dependent on some particular observation of the heart. It transcends the world that is immediately experienced and is anchored somewhere beyond its horizons. Hope, in this deep sense, is not the same as joy that things are going well, or the willingness to invest in enterprises that are obviously headed for early success, but rather an ability to work for something because it is good, not just because it stands a chance to succeed. Hope is definitely not the same thing as optimism. It is not the conviction that something will turn out well, but the certainty that something makes sense, regardless of how it turns out. It is hope, above all, which gives us the strength to live and continually try new things”.

Vaclav Havel

This kind of hope is a great gift of recovery. I have come to discover through both personal and professional experience that those of us who live with addiction have a disease that is chronic and progressive, a disease that has its tentacles wrapped around our personality development because we grew up with it; a disease that requires aggressive treatment. It is up to us to recognize this in ourselves and to get the help we need to become well again so that we don’t pass the effects of living with trauma onto the next generation.In finding my own strength and resilience, I have had to learn to stretch and deepen my mind and heart to include all sides of our humanity; to integrate love and hate, to learn to accept people and myself in our full range of both beauty and ugliness, to find understanding and forgiveness not just to be nice to another person, but to become whole again myself. Recovery reflects the kind of hope that Havel talks about. We enter it because it makes sense because it is better than the alternative. We embrace it because we have hope and that hope gives us, strength to live and try new things. That hope leads us to expand the dimensions of our own souls.

Recovery deepens us because it forces us to look at both sides of life, the good and the bad and somehow hold both. It makes us more aware of the dark side of life, but paradoxically better able to love the light.

Written by: Tian Dayton, PH.D. and Senior Fellow at the Meadows

 

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Treating the Young Adult for Sexual Addiction

8da476f72f06a276b1f930cdb28c21f1_LFor young men of the ages 18 – 25, it can be challenging to recognize when sexual behavior has started to become problematic. Often, sexual behavior will escalate without them realizing it has occurred until important parts of their lives are significantly affected. Young adults also have unique stage of life factors that may make their diagnosis and treatment different from older clients.

Some of these factors might include:

Difficulties distinguishing between healthy sexual exploration and unhealthy sexual behaviors

Immersion in technology and easy access to online pornography and “hook-up” apps

Choosing exclusively online sexual behavior over the challenges of face-to-face courtship

Tendencies to juggle multiple romantic or sexual relationships at the same time

Tendencies to experiment with alcohol and stimulants

Engaging in a sexual exploration is an important part of many young men’s transition into fully functioning, independent adults. It helps them to learn about who they are, what they enjoy, and how to be good partners in their intimate relationships. For some, however, normal exploration can spiral into out-of-control and destructive behavior.

At Gentle Path at The Meadows, we specialize in working with our young adult patients to identify which of their behaviors are problematic for them and which are part of normal development. For more information on our premier inpatient treatment for sex addiction, give us a call today.

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Healing The Shame of Sexual Addiction

As humans, some of the most shameful experiences we have are those that involve our sexual selves. A single sexual event can bring such shame that it holds a person captive for a lifetime. It can deliver a devastating blow to a person’s sense of value and evoke tremendous pain and fear that results in isolation from others.


For those who are recovering from sexual addiction, this is especially true. Often the sexual behaviors that they have engaged in not only hurt other people, but also leave scars of shame that paralyze them, preventing them from finding the help they need. For many, they remain locked in a prison of isolation, keeping them from reaching out to their community or sharing their story with others.

In a recent Men’s Sexual Recovery Workshop, one of the participants (whose name will remain anonymous, but I will call him Jerry) approached me after a group session. All week Jerry had something on his mind. When I asked him what it was, he reluctantly described a sexual behavior that he engaged in when he was a teenager. I could see the visible signs of shame on his face and body posture. He was clearly in a lot of pain about this. He wanted to know if I thought he should share his experience with the group. He said, “I have never shared this with anyone, and I feel so horrible about it. I know these guys are safe, but there’s a part of me that is afraid of what they’ll think of me after they find out about it.”

I thanked him for sharing this experience with me and validated his reality. It makes sense that he would feel fear of judgment and rejection and have intense shame about it. One of the most common beliefs that those with a sexual addiction hold is that “no one would love me if they really knew me.” This is attached to the intense shame surrounding their sexual behaviors as well as their core belief that they are inherently bad and unlovable. I attempted to assure him that his fear was normal and reasonable. Given the nature of what he had done, it was quite possible that someone might look down on him for having behaved that way. However, what I also know is that most men in sexual addiction recovery come to the table with a whole list of sexual behaviors that they think are so egregious that no one could possibly understand, only to find out that they are not alone.

Those in recovery frequently have experiences similar to each other and share common feelings of shame, guilt, and fear. One of the most difficult but necessary tasks in recovery is to take a risk and open up to those in your circle of support. It often takes an enormous leap of faith and can feel extremely scary. But if this leap can be made, the rewards are plentiful. Shame begins to diminish, the weight of carrying secrets is lightened, the bond between recovery partners is strengthened, and the possibility for healing is realized.

After weighing the costs and benefits of sharing his experience, Jerry chose to take that leap of faith the next day. With his eyes locked firmly on the floor and tears flowing freely, he began to tell the members of the group what he had done. After a few moments of silence, another group member said in a somber voice, “Yeah, I’ve done that too”. At that moment, there was a palpable change in the room. It’s as if the toxic shame that Jerry had been carrying around for most of his life had vanished. He looked up at his fellow group member, a man he had only known for a mere four days and said “Really, you too?” after receiving a nod of confirmation, Jerry closed his eyes and took in a long breath, followed by a sigh of relief that seemed to symbolize an outward expression of the internal release he was experiencing. This was a moment of healing. Moments of healing, such as this one experienced by Jerry, are possible when someone remains in recovery with a community of support.

Dr. Patrick Carnes, the primary architect of the Gentle Path at The Meadows program, has said that group therapy is the most vital modality of treatment for sex addiction. I couldn’t agree more. There is only so much an individual therapist can do to help, and even a trained professional is limited in his or her ability to bring healing moments like this into the room. I have heard The Meadows Senior Fellow Dr. Tian Dayton explain that group therapy is a dynamic in which every group member becomes a therapeutic agent of the other. In this moment, I was not the agent of change, the group was.

Here at The Meadows, we prioritize group therapy for this very reason. Much more can be accomplished in a shorter amount of time when we work in a community than when we work alone. And for sex addiction, this is especially true. Paralyzing toxic shame, isolation, and withdrawal from relationship is the hallmark of sexual compulsion. The remedy is often the very thing most addicts are afraid of; connection with others. It can feel like the most harmful thing they could imagine, and many will flee from it as if it were the plague. Yet, for those who courageously push past the fear, healing and freedom from addiction can be found.

The Rio Retreat Center at The Meadows offers intensive workshops in a group setting for those who desire to find healing from the shame and isolation that keeps them stuck. If you would like to know more about our Men’s Sexual Recovery Workshop or any of our other workshops, contact our intake department at 1-800-244-4949.

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Is Sex Ruining Your Life?

Sounds like an odd question to ask, but for some people, this is a serious issue. Sex is a normal, satisfying experience for most human beings. We are programmed to want sex as a species. Many people even consider an abundance of sex to be a good thing. But too much of a good thing can be bad for you. How do you know when your sexual appetite has shifted from normal behavior to an addiction?

Fortunately, we have a simple quiz that you can take in the privacy of your home to help answer that question. Keep in mind that every person is unique, and you need to use your best judgment when self-evaluating. If you feel that you may be transitioning from a healthy lifestyle to one of excess, please give us a call. Our professionals understand what you are going through and can help you understand if Gentle Path at The Meadows is right for you.
Oh, and we aren’t going to ask you to share your results of this quiz on Facebook! This is completely confidential. We value your privacy and understand that this is a sensitive topic.

SAST Test


The Sexual Addiction Screening Test (SAST) is designed to assist in the assessment of sexually compulsive behavior which may indicate the presence of sex addiction. Developed in cooperation with hospitals, treatment programs, private therapists, and community groups, the SAST provides a profile of responses which help to discriminate between addictive and non-addictive behavior. Before starting this COMPLETELY CONFIDENTIAL assessment we need basic information in order to build your profile.

1. Please indicate gender:(*)
MaleFemale

2. Indicate Orientation:(*)
HeterosexualBisexualHomosexual

Please answer “yes” to any of the following which apply:

3. I have no concerns about my sexual behavior but am curious how I would score.(*)
YesNo

4. I have no concerns about my sexual behavior but others are concerned.(*)
YesNo

5. I am having problems with my sexual behavior but do not consider myself a “sex addict.”(*)
Yes No

6. I know I am a sex addict.(*)
YesNo

7. I have sought therapy because of my sexual problems.(*)
YesNo

8. Were you sexually abused as a child or adolescent?(*)
YesNo

9. Did your parents have trouble with sexual behavior?(*)
YesNo

10. Do you often find yourself preoccupied with sexual thoughts?(*)
YesNo

11. Do you feel that your sexual behavior is not normal?(*)
YesNo

12. Do you ever feel bad about your sexual behavior?(*)
YesNo

13. Has your sexual behavior ever created problems for you and your family?(*)
YesNo

14. Have you ever sought help for sexual behavior you did not like?(*)
YesNo

15. Has anyone been hurt emotionally because of your sexual behavior?(*)
YesNo

16. Are any of your sexual activities against the law?(*)
YesNo

17. Have you made efforts to quit a type of sexual activity and failed?(*)
YesNo

18. Do you hide some of your sexual behaviors from others?(*)
YesNo

19. Have you attempted to stop some parts of your sexual activity?(*)
YesNo

20. Have you felt degraded by your sexual behaviors?(*)
Yes No

21. When you have sex, do you feel depressed afterwards?(*)
YesNo

22. Do you feel controlled by your sexual desire?(*)
YesNo

23. Have important parts of your life (such as job, family, friends, leisure activities) been neglected because you were spending too much time on sex?(*)
YesNo

24. Do you ever think your sexual desire is stronger than you are?(*)
YesNo

25. Is sex almost all you think about?(*)
YesNo

26. Has sex (or romantic fantasies) been a way for you to escape your problems?(*)
YesNo

27. Has sex become the most important thing in your life?(*)
YesNo

28. Are you in crisis over sexual matters?(*)
YesNo

29. Has the Internet created sexual problems for you?(*)
YesNo

30. Do you spend too much time online for sexual purposes?(*)
YesNo

31. Have you purchased services online for erotic purposes (sites for dating, pornography, fantasy and friend finder)?(*)
YesNo

32. Have you used the Internet to make romantic or erotic connections with people online?(*)
YesNo

33. Have people in your life been upset about your sexual activities online?(*)
YesNo

34. Have you attempted to stop your online sexual behaviors?(*)
YesNo

35. Have you subscribed to or regularly purchased or rented sexually explicit materials (magazines, videos, books or online pornography)?(*)
YesNo

36. Have you been sexual with minors?(*)
YesNo

37. Have you spent considerable time and money on strip clubs, adult bookstores and movie houses?(*)
YesNo

38. Have you engaged prostitutes and escorts to satisfy your sexual needs?(*)
YesNo

39. Have you spent considerable time surfing pornography online?(*)
YesNo

40. Have you used magazines, videos or online pornography even when there was considerable risk of being caught by family members who would be upset by your behavior?(*)
YesNo

41. Have you regularly purchased romantic novels or sexually explicit magazines?(*)
YesNo

42. Have stayed in romantic relationships after they became emotionally or physically abusive?(*)
YesNo

43. Have you traded sex for money or gifts?(*)
YesNo

44. Have you maintained multiple romantic or sexual relationships at the same time?(*)
YesNo

45. After sexually acting out, do you sometimes refrain from all sex for a significant period?(*)
YesNo

46. Have you regularly engaged in sadomasochistic behavior?(*)
YesNo

47. Do you visit sexual bath-houses, sex clubs or adult video/bookstores as part of your regular sexual activity?(*)
YesNo

48. Have you engaged in unsafe or “risky” sex even though you knew it could cause you harm?(*)
YesNo

49. Have you cruised public restrooms, rest areas or parks looking for sex with strangers?(*)
YesNo

50. Do you believe casual or anonymous sex has kept you from having more long-term intimate relationships?(*)
YesNo

51. Has your sexual behavior put you at risk for arrest for lewd conduct or public indecency?(*)
YesNo

52. Have you been paid for sex?(*)
YesNo

 

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