I am a self-confessed introvert. And I’m also an addict.
I was recently cajoled into attending a Psychodrama session. I’d heard things about it – years earlier, my then significant other lauded the raw emotional exploration her sessions afforded her. I encouraged her, it was good for her. Personally though, I found the idea of a group session’s ability to evoke genuine emotion alien. It was the antithesis of who I was.
I had never enjoyed group sessions. I hated them. The introvert in me screamed (silently) in indignation at being forced into a room with my peers, lorded over by therapists who would extol the heaven-sent power of vulnerability, hanging it over the heads of us sullen detainees. They would espouse connectedness with others, openness. To me, these were just unattainable states of being that I could never actualise. The years wore on, and I plodded along, entwined with my precious, thorny, addictions. Prison, pricey rehabs abroad. I took care to never bring my real self along to the banal group therapies – I merely presented them with an alter-ego. Faking it to get along. Or “faking it to make it”, in the parlance of addicts like myself who would say or do anything to achieve a discharge.
I was living an entirely unremarkable life, losing friends and embarrassing myself.
Then, I experienced a seismic shift in circumstances. To represent it as merely ‘mandated’ would be to deny gravity to what had happened. I had run afoul of the law again, and paid my penance with a 9 month long “drug rehab”. I got out, and three months later I was a year clean. Still, I wasn’t happy. I had done no soul searching, nor had I even begun to scratch the surface of my addiction, always lurking in the shadows. Of course, a large part of my reticence towards accepting sincere nudges in the direction of help could be attributed to personal and moral failings. But why was I the person that I was? That’s when I decided to attend a psychodrama workshop at the urgings of my boss, a sweet girl whose genuine concern had initially confounded me. Why did I acquiesce? To understand myself, I guess. So, I went in with an open mind.
Psychodrama is about exploring internal conflicts, by acting out emotions and interpersonal interactions. I wasn’t inclined to be the center of attention just yet, so I left other enthusiastic participants to play the protagonists. The director, a bubbly personality whose sharp wit was tempered by insightful, genuine empathy, herded a roomful of clueless attendees with a deft hand, schooling us in psychodrama’s basic concepts. I made myself small in the corner and watched as our director doubled volunteers, acting out scenes from their lives, giving voice to their unconscious. Revelatory perspicacity was the order of these moments. I watched as they were mirrored, experiencing themselves from the outside, drawing from a nonjudgmental pool of collective consciousness. I watched as roles reversed – mothers became their daughters, and wives their husbands. All of them seemed edified, comforted, even. Misty eyes and rivulet strewn faces, sighing into closures when none previously seemed possible. There was a woman pained by a frightful trauma, her repressed malefaction she seemed so sure she had committed driving her to seek expiation from whom had ceased to be able to give her any. From the outside looking in, I was sure her wound was self-inflicted – we all knew this, but one’s own guilt is deeply personal, often insidious. As her situation percolated in my mind, so did my own guilt. I hadn’t wept when I learned of my father’s and sister’s departures, I hadn’t wept at their funerals, I hadn’t wept at their memorials. I hadn’t needed to, because I had my addiction. Now, without the pernicious warmth of substances, these losses became some therapeutic cynosure of a starting point. I had begun to understand myself, through others. The cynic in me finally realised why, across addiction recovery literature, syllabuses are almost invariably characterised by the motif of benefits accrued by group therapy. I think it owes something to the collective experience of humanity, that no matter your guilt or your shame, there are people out there who have lived congruent experiences. It may seem cloying and mawkish for me to say that no-one is truly alone, but it’s true.
Requiring that potential job applicants declare their mental health conditions on hiring forms is now considered discriminatory.
In a much-needed move that’s been hailed by mental health advocates across the island, the Tripartite Alliance for Fair and Progressive Employment Practices (TAFEP) has updated its guidelines to better advance the meritocratic underpinnings of Singapore’s economy. Prior to this change, TAFEP had already nixed disability declarations on job applications – abolishing mental health declarations takes this principle to its logical conclusion.
In a firm but fair recommendation, TAFEP advises employers against asking potential hires for personal information “such as their mental health condition”, unless there is a “job related requirement”. Further, if employers are to seek information that may be seen as discriminatory, the onus is on them to elucidate the necessity of that information.
This isn’t toothless rhetoric – employers who flout the guidelines risk exposing themselves to enforcement action by the Ministry of Manpower.
Such measures are invaluable beachheads in the fight to destigmatise mental disorders, a movement which has gained traction among some Members of Parliament. Last year, Nominated MP Anthea Ong called on the Government to make mental health a national priority, pointing out that more people (1 in 7) were afflicted by a mental disorder than diabetes (1 in 9).
More Singaporeans are being diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and alcohol addiction, as evinced by the 2016 Singapore Mental Health Study (SMHS), with numbers increasing since the first and inaugural SMHS in 2010.
The relevant authorities encourage you to report work-related discrimination by calling 6838-0969 during office hours or visit www.tal.sg/tafep
In this episode of the Health Check podcast, Dr. Winslow reveals that he suffers from attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder. No-one would begrudge you your raised eyebrows, least of all him. After all, it is precisely his duty to educate you about ADHD.
Dr. Winslow joined journalists Joyce Teo and Ernest Luis at The Straits Times’ podcast studio, where the duo court the expertise of medical professionals to inform and enlighten. Armed with myriad perspectives, Dr. Winslow availed his own brain to help demystify ADHD.
It wasn’t until Dr. Winslow began to see the parallels between his childhood behaviour and those of his clients with ADHD, that he realised he too had the disorder. It didn’t seem to bother him too much – he laughs at being chided by his son’s teachers for his pride in his son’s ability “to pass exams exactly the same way” as he did, without paying attention in class.
Dr. Winslow says that in the brains of people with ADHD, communication between cells is difficult – that’s how they are more likely to lose focus, become distracted, or give in to impulses. Singapore’s regimented education system doesn’t help either. Students with ADHD face real disadvantages, in their inability to sit through lessons, and in the way educators see those who refuse to (or simply can’t) pay attention for long stretches.
Dr. Winslow recalls being forced to run laps around the school as a child by his teachers, who had hoped to wear his indefatigable energy down into submission in time for class. He admits that it worked surprisingly well. ADHD can be managed, as he would learn.
It is unfair to say that ADHD is “not a real disorder”, and that one merely needs to “concentrate on overcoming it”. That just doesn’t make sense. ADHD is a medical condition that can be tackled with correct tools and the right will. Dr Winslow says it’s possible to address the few big symptom groups (Hyperactivity, Impulsiveness, and Difficulty with Distractibility) with practical advice in the right contexts. For example, you might teach your always-tardy child about time management with to-do lists.
Dr. Winslow says parents should try and come to terms with their child’s ADHD, or risk more worrisome aspects spilling over into adulthood. Adult ADHD often comes packaged with low self-esteem, where inability to complete tasks due to inattention becomes internalised as laziness in a self-defeating cycle.
Overcoming ADHD is easy, says Dr. Winslow, when you understand this maxim: “The more you understand the complications brought by your limitations, the more you can do to manage your symptoms.” It’s an expansion of the classic “knowledge is power”.
Once you begin to appreciate the ADHD brain for its quirks, advantages become more apparent. The meandering thoughts of people with ADHD often help them develop novel solutions to problems – “thinking outside the box”.
The doctor’s recommendations? Don’t panic, try to understand ADHD, and don’t forget the fish oils!
Family members and friends are often caught in the whirlwind of destruction that come with addiction. They are at a loss what to do. Do they disengage completely? Avoid all contact? Offer help? Do they try to clean up the mess? Give money? Arrange doctors, hospitals rehabs? Buy and dispense the medications? Make excuses to bosses, family members and friends? Minimize and normalize the behavior? Keep avoiding “the elephant in the room” and hope for the best? Keeping close tabs? Get angry? Punish? Sulk, nag, threaten and blackmail? Scream, cry, plead, beg? Their dilemma is filled with suffering.
But there is a solution! With help from an addictions professional, you can create and maintain your boundaries. You can learn to be both firm and reasonable. Compassionate and assertive. You can help without enabling. You can understand and accept your feelings. And you can learn to love yourself. You don’t have to carry the burden alone. At Promises Healthcare, we are committed to helping you through your journey to recovery. Discover a new life, away from addiction and find renewed hope. Please contact our clinic for confidential inquiries and consultations.
All compulsions, whether to substances or behaviors are usually characterized and observed to have 3 distinct elements for it to be classified as an addiction.
There is preoccupation or obsession: The individuals spend a large amount of time thinking and planning towards acting out their behavior or to obtain substances. There is also an increased amount of finances used to continue the addiction.
There is a loss of control: This usually means that the behavior has become compulsive in its nature. The individual is unable to stop and would have tried unsuccessfully to stop many times. The individual’s life begins to deteriorate but he or she may not admit to themselves and to others that their life has become unmanageable.
There is a continuation of the use of substance or the performance of a behavior that results in negative consequences: This is where individuals tend to incur many losses from their addiction. Finances dry up, relationships become broken. There may be loss of work and emotional or physical difficulties begin taking over the individual’s life as the addiction grips a tighten on them.
Once these are observed, a person may be suffering from an addictive disorder. In addition to the above 3, another feature called tolerance tends to be present as well in addictive disorders. Tolerance basically means needing more of a substance or performance of a behavior to achieve the effect of a “high” in the brain.
As with individuals with a drug addiction they would need an increased amount of the drug to achieve the effect of the high as they become tolerant of the drug. The same is with a gambling disorder where greater risk or bets need to be played and the amount of time spent is much more longer as compared to when they first started gambling. With pornographic addiction, more explicit and arousing images are needed to maintain the fantasy. While the tolerance sets in, the experience of withdrawal begins if the substance or behavior isn’t engaged in. For an alcoholic, tremors may begin when the drinking stops. Irritability and loss of sleep starts taking over as the drug is not present. Thus the need to use over and over again. The chasing of a “high” and the cravings becomes all-consuming and the individual becomes wrapped in a cycle of self-destruction.
The individual’s family and friends would start noticing problems and will often confront the addicted individual. The person may become outright angry and irritated, or defensive if the addiction has been kept a secret. Many family and friends become helpless as they see their loved ones deteriorate.
If you know of anyone or if you might be having difficulties with addiction, do know that help is available. Seek an addictions counsellor or psychiatrist who can help you through treatment for your addiction. You are not alone and don’t need to live in isolation but live the life that you want and be free from the bondage of addiction. Recovery is possible. Contact us for a confidential enquiry today. To understand what causes addiction look out for the next article.
Written by: Jesudas Soundhraj – Counsellor, Promise Healthcare
Away from their families and long standing networks of school, university, work, sports and church friends; and facing traveling, work, school and domestic pressures; it is not surprising that expatriate families are vulnerable to addictions. One person may be the breadwinner, who has to prove to bosses in distant countries that they are worthy of their promotions and stay up all hours in the office, on conference calls, in business dinners and on airplanes.
The spouse may have to give up their job and suffer an identity crisis. Having to spend endless frustrating hours dealing with trivial domestic issues in a strange country and trying in vain to establish a social network that may be less than authentic and down-to-earth – and more interested in what you have than who you are. As business travel forces expat couples to spend time apart, the intimacy may wane and they become distant, indifferent and lonely or resentful and suspicious. With anxiety and stress building and alcohol, cigarettes, paid sex, benzos and other drugs in abundance, it is not surprising that the expat life can lead to addictions.
At Promises healthcare we understand the pressures that face families coming into a foreign land. We offer counseling for individuals who are struggling with addictions and provide help for families as well. We promise strict confidentiality over all our clients. Help is not far away. Consider approaching an addictions counselor today. Please contact our clinic if you have any inquiries or if you wish to have a consultation.