Category: Addiction

Treating Addiction as a Mind, Body and Spirit “Dis-ease”

I had the pleasure of attending a workshop in Austin last week, given by Texas Star Recovery. I heard 3 excellent talks and one interesting panel discussion. The keynote speaker was Carlton Erickson, Ph.D, Director of University of Texas Addiction Science Research & Education Center…He has recently written a book “The Science of Addiction”. Here’s what I learned from Carlton:

1) What we call addiction today is really dysregulation of the brain’s mesolimbic system.
2) Addiction is really a misnomer, nonscientific and confusing.
3) There are actually two drug problems – abuse and dependence – abuse is
intentional and voluntary, dependence is pathological and not under control – it is a brain disease. Dependence says “I can’t stop without help.”
4) People with a brain disease really need help!
5) Recovery can be defined! it is a) a voluntarily maintained lifestyle
characterized by sobriety b) personal health and c) citizenship.

Erickson says (with apologies to Dr. Erickson for this primitive explanation)
that dependence occurs because of neurochemical dysregulations of the neurotransmitter systems. Interestingly, a person’s drug of choice reveals vulnerable brain chemicals (or neurotransmitter systems). For instance a person who prefers LSD, can be shown to be vulnerable in serotonin; He says, “physiologically some people ‘need’ alcohol,nicotine, cocaine, etc.” The problem apparently occurs at the cell level, therefore, treatment has to occur at the cell level.

Actually, the brain dysregulation is the disease – the addiction is only a symptom.

We are not really sure what causes the neurotransmitter systems to become dysregulated. Perhaps genetic vulnerability, exposure to the drug and other aspects of one’s environment all come into play. But the bottom line is that it is a brain chemistry disease and addicting drugs match the transmitter system that is not normal.

What is most interesting is in terms of treatment. Traditional 12 step programs, behavioral counseling, medications, and even talk therapy appear to change brain chemistry and all seem to work at the cell level somehow!  What Hope!

The second speaker, Dr. Jason Powers, Corporate Medical Officer TRS Behavioral Inc. spoke on meditation. There are many,many studies on the benefits of meditation. Powers reminded us that meditation changes brain chemistry as well. Hence our 11th step “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve conscious contact with God as we understood Him praying only for knowledge of His will and how to carry it out” had a lot of inherent wisdom in treating addiction – or “brain disease”.

The third speaker was Shelley Uram, MD, Clinical Associate Professor of Psychiatry at the University of Arizona College of Medicine. Dr. Uram was entertaining as well as informative. The gist of her talk was that trauma work changes brain chemistry…YAY!

I will share more about her talk in my next post…..

until then….


If you are suffering from brain dysregulation (i.e. addictions, maybe I can help.  I have over 15 years of experience helping people with all kinds of addictions!  you can contact me at 210.287.4002; or visit my website at

Getting the Outcomes We Want

There’s a lot of talk these days about The Secret and The Law of Attraction. Many people think that it’s not Christian to read these and that it’s trying to control God. I disagree. The bible talks about the law of sowing and reaping and also says “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.”

But what is more important to me is the brain chemistry of the addict and how to change this. It so happens that I believe that the law of attraction and visioning is one way we can change our chemistry. It isn’t a secret that most of us with addictions suffer from some depression or anxiety. These disorders often can be due to low serotonin, dopamine or other “feel good” brain chemicals. That is why the newer antidepressant medications can help the “hijacked brain” (term coined by atrick Carnes to describe those of us with addictions and childhood trauma).

Ater reading the book “Excuse Me Your Life is Waiting” by Lynn Grabhorn which discusses these two concepts, a colleague and I have been pondering some of the tools Grabhorn outlines using.  She says it is not really our thoughts that change outcomes, but our feeeelings! She recommends getting into the joy state of the outcomes you want.  It’s not really about the material things we want, even though the movie “The Secret” tends to focus on this.  It’s the feelings we want, isn’t it?  We want to feel the joy, peace and serenity that we think the material things will bring us.

Well, the good news is we don’t have to wait for circumstances to be right to
feel those feelings.  We can create them right now. It may be a challenge, but I’ve been trying it and it is do-able.  The problem is that we get so  addicted to the negative patterns of thought and patterns of feeling that were so much a part of our traumatic backgrounds that we keep creating the same old outcomes.

This week, try this with me….during your meditation time think about some of the times you were most joyful in your life – your wedding day, the birth of a baby, the day you got your first house, etc.  get into that feeling state and try to stay in those feelings as long as possible.

Then go about your day. . .Then practice getting back into that feeling state whenever you notice you’re feeling down, stressed, angry or any other negative emotion.

I believe allowing ourselves to stay in these positive emotions longer and longer can change our brain chemistry.  And also, maybe just maybe our outcomes….

I’d love to hear from you about your results with this experiment or any other insights or questions you might have.  Safe travel on your journey of transformation.

I do feel we can keep ourselves grounded in the truth by reading the Bible.  Staying in the Word transforms our minds like nothing else. Like my Bible study teacher, Sandy Ross always says, “You’ve got to get It in you!”  “Be transformed by the renewing of your mind.”  (Thanks to Sandy)…..

The Promise of Trust

Recently one of the revered women at church challenged us to do a Bible
word study on trust…I did it and it proved to be very, very valuable.

If you look up what trust brings, you’ll find a treasure trove…Trust does indeed bring deliverance, protection, grace, healing, mercy and love.

Easier said than done, I know…but it does many times boil down to a decision.  I may not feel safe or trusting, but I can know I am safe and choose to trust.  I can make a decision to turn my will and my current and future life over to God and let go…I can trust in His loving arms.

Sometimes for those of us recovering from addiction or trauma learning to trust is our biggest hurdle.  The woman at church said something important, “God is getting us to the point where we can trust what we don’t yet see.”  I like this idea….I can choose to trust and see what happens.  Why don’t you join me?  Just for today, let’s make a decision to trust in a God who loves us and wants
far more for us than we could ever dream or imagine….(Is. 42:16)

Following HIM
Stephanie Ecke