By Heidi Kinsella, MA, LMHCA, NCC, ASAT
Family Counselor, Gentle Path at The Meadows
When I came to work as a therapist at Gentle Path at The Meadows, I quickly discovered that this treatment center was special and provided patients with a different kind of experience than anything I had previously known. Dr. Patrick Carnes is a world-renowned authority on sex addiction and treatment and the primary architect of the Gentle Path at The Meadows program. He believes that we need to diagnosis and treats all addictive disorders, as well as mood and personality disorders. Dr. Carnes’ methodology is integrated with The Meadows Model, to address sex addiction and trauma concurrently. This approach is groundbreaking and provides patients with comprehensive care that gives them the opportunity to have quality, long-term sobriety and a happy, productive life.
When I was nine years old, my mom got sober then became a drug and alcohol counselor. It was the mid-70s, and the chemical dependency field was just developing. The common belief at that time was that the addiction must be treated before any other issues could be addressed; this belief continues and is a paradigm that many treatment centers still use.
I remember hearing stories from my mom, or her friends who worked in the field at the time, that their patients were often engaging in sexual activities in the bushes. The counselors would simply tell them to stop without reasoning that there may be another addiction that needed to be considered. This was a time before research showed that the same chemicals that light up the pleasure center in the brain, when using drugs or alcohol, do the same thing for process addictions, like sex, gambling, shopping, work, and eating. The counselors had no way of knowing that their patients may have been getting high in a different way, right there in treatment.
As I work with the patients at Gentle Path at The Meadows, I think to myself, “I wish this kind of treatment would have been available when I got sober in 1989.” Our patients do rigorous work creating a timeline depicting their addictions and mood disorders. They also participate in The Meadows’ signature Survivors Week to identify trauma that may have influenced their need to numb their feelings through maladaptive behaviors that eventually led to addiction.
I know for me, recovery has been like a game of “whack a mole!” I addressed my chemical addiction but developed love addiction as I reached out to men to fill that hole inside. That addiction led me through a string of unhealthy relationships, including marrying a sex addict where I acted out with rage and experienced high levels of depression and anxiety. Even though I was sober from my alcoholism, my life became very unmanageable, and I didn’t understand why. I was working the steps; I had the sponsor, a home group, and services positions. I was doing everything I was told to do. What I didn’t realize was that my brain was still living in active addiction because I had only addressed one of my many issues.
Eventually, the pain led me to reach out and find a Certified Sex Addiction Therapist, who helped me address my trauma, depression, anxiety, codependency, love addiction and my maladaptive response to living with a sex addict. I often wonder if I had the chance to look at my childhood traumas along with my other issues early on in recovery if I would have made different choices and avoided a lot of the chaos and pain in my early years of sobriety. I look at our patients and think, “Wow, they so fortunate to receive this level of care!” Brain science in the addiction field has come a long way, and Gentle Path at the Meadows is on the cutting-edge. However, we must not stop here – there is more work to be done and research is currently being conducted. Dr. Carnes has established the American Foundation for Addiction Research to continue this important work which will benefit our patients at Gentle Path. You can find out more information on this foundation at www.addictionresearch.com.
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If you are struggling with any addiction, or multiple forms of addiction, depression, PTSD, or anxiety, we can help. Recovery is possible! You don’t have to live this way anymore. To learn more about Gentle Path at The Meadows, or if you have an immediate need, please contact us at 855-333-6076.