Addiction is topic of workshop | TahoeDailyTribune.com

Addiction is topic of workshop

Gregory Crofton

How addictions develop and what can be done about them will be discussed Saturday in South Lake Tahoe.

John Friel, a psychologist who splits his time between Minneapolis and Reno, will present information on the subject at a workshop called “The Roots of Addiction – Digging in So You Can Grow Again.”

Friel will be joined by Elaine Hoem, a marriage and family therapist who runs the Creative Transitions Coaching Center at Zephyr Cove. The group workshop – more than 20 are already signed up – will focus on people with addictions and people in relationship to those addictions.

Friel is in his 21st year of recovery from alcoholism. He is the co-author of eight books including “Adult Children: The Secrets of Dysfunctional Families.”

The Tahoe Daily Tribune interviewed Friel on Wednesday.

Can someone have an “addictive personality?” That’s a big myth. What is true is that some people physiologically are likely to get addicted to specific things. Someone’s genes can contribute to alcoholism. People who get addicted to alcohol metabolize it differently and there are opiate-related chemicals that get produced. Most alcoholics can tell you when they had their first drink because it was so rewarding, the level of euphoria was so much more intense.

Describe how one develops an addiction? You get a genetic predisposition and have the overlay of a family system. If there is enough health in a family to be able to admit a mistake or admit there is a problem, it can be dealt with. If a person cannot admit anything is wrong they are going to get stuck. If a diabetic can’t admit he’s a diabetic he will die. If an alcoholic can’t admit he is an alcoholic he will die. A family system can be set up as a breeding ground for addictive genes to kick in and take over.

Why do people “replay” what they experienced during childhood in their adult lives? It is a universal thing human beings do. We play out whatever is in our template. There is no logic to it except it is what we know. If you grow up in a family that doesn’t deal with anger directly, that’s how your going to do it because you don’t know anything else.

South Shore is a resort community with gambling and alcohol for sale 24-hours-a-day. What kind of problems does a person prone to addiction face when they live in a community such as ours? People need to be in an environment that supports healthy behavior. South Shore fortunately has other things beside gambling and drinking, but it is a big part of it. You need to band together to create a social system where health is supported.

Why do addicts attract other addicts? This is big eye opener for people. We always pair up with partners who are equally as healthy and dysfunctional as ourselves. But usually it’s an opposite dysfunction and that balances the system in an unhealthy way. We think we don’t. That’s what makes my job so interesting. Unconsciously people are selecting who play by same rules as them.

What are some common myths related to addiction? I can’t change. Once addict always addict. I had a real painful childhood. I will always be broken. A good friend is always there for you. Disappointment is a bad thing. Struggle is a bad thing.

What can people accomplish in a group workshop? This kind of workshop experience is a nice way to realize other people are looking at the same issues as yourself. It’s kind of like sticking your toe in water. You can go sit and be quiet get information and also hear from people and think, ‘Gee, maybe I’m not alone.’ That’s where hope comes from. It comes from relationships with other people. But they have got to be transparent enough that you actually feel connected at an emotional level.

The workshop is Saturday at the Inn by the Lake, 3300 Highway 50, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. It is co-sponsored by Barton Memorial Hospital and costs $75. To attend, contact Elaine Hoem’s office at (775) 589-1905.


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