Very early in my counseling career, a beautiful young woman came to me for help with her addiction. Her name was Debbie. When she walked into my center, Debbie was malnourished. She was as skinny as a tooth pick to the point of being emaciated. Her face looked much older than her twenty-four years. In all she looked like she was knocking on death’s door.
Nearly twenty-years to the day after we first met, Debbie came by to visit with me. She looked fairly healthy but the scars of her addiction were still visible. The wrinkles in her face told a story of a hard start in life. She lost all of her teeth and was on heart medication – a direct result of her drug abuse. However her spirit was unshaken; she was still the bright and vibrant person she was the day she left my center.
Debbie’s story is not unlike many others I’ve heard over the years. In fact it’s pretty common. Her addiction started out innocently enough as they often do. She was in her freshman year of college and dating a guy she really cared for. One Friday night he suggested they try methamphetamine to heighten their passions. Not wanting to be viewed as a prude, Debbie went along with the idea. As it turned out, that one experience put Debbie down a destructive path that nearly ended her life.
Amphetamine and methamphetamine are relatively new drugs; neither had any pharmacological applications until the late1920’s. They began their life as a decongestant but were quickly recognized as a performance enhancer. Amphetamine was used extensively during World War II to lessen combat fatigue and increase alertness in soldiers. Since that time these drugs have been abused by all walks of life for the same purpose. Truckers abused the drugs so that could drive for longer periods. Athletes found they had quicker response times and less fatigue when they abused the drugs. Students discovered they could boost their short term memory and study longer.
Such was the case with Debbie. Although she was introduced to the drug as a recreational form, she began abusing amphetamines so that she could improve her grades. Her plan worked. Debbie’s GPA went up, until it went down – a clear indication her addiction had taken her over. Debbie found herself abusing methamphetamine more for recreation than anything else.
There was also the byproduct of methamphetamine that Debbie found useful, weight loss. On the first day we met Debbie told me she never felt comfortable within her own body. At five foot-five and ninety pounds dripping wet, Debbie told me she still felt fat, although not as fat as she once felt. She told me she was not one to exercise or eat properly, that she always felt bloated and uncomfortable in her own skin. Debbie said the weight loss made her feel more attractive.
It never ceases to amaze me how much of a role our self-esteem plays in the important life choices we make. Self-esteem is like a continuous tape loop playing in the background of our subconscious mind directing every decision we make. It tells us what we deserve and don’t deserve in life. How we view ourselves determines where our position is in the pecking order of society as we see it. It is constantly telling us what we should like or dislike, what we should or shouldn’t do and even how to feel when we’re rejected.
Therapy has helped a lot of people like Debbie who have self-esteem issues. I’ve seen tremendous development in people in short periods of time. It just seems that for some people, once they begin to realize what is playing in the background they’re able to change the tune. However for others, it can be much more challenging. Like Debbie, they often have a physical issue with their body or a poor perception of how they look to others that prevents them from overcoming these issues with physiological therapy. Some people just need to physically change who they see in the mirror every morning to rid themselves of their emotional demons.
It is with this in mind that I’ve expanded into aesthetic treatment. Not long ago I opened Laser Therapy Spa and Wellness Center in Hallandale Beach. The spa addresses the therapeutic needs I couldn’t provide at my treatment center. We only use the latest advancements in therapy and procedures that are scientifically proven to be safe and effective. I know they work because I use them myself.
Everyday men and women alike are lead to believe they are not worthy by a bombardment of images projecting how they’re supposed to look. It’s ubiquitous. TV, internet, magazines and newspapers all portray physical images that are simply unobtainable by most men and women. You can’t walk through a checkout line in a grocery store without seeing newspaper racks loaded with magazine covers glamorizing emaciated models while demonizing people with normal body-shapes.
In my opinion these images are causing more damage to self-esteem than any general good that might come from them. The suggestion that the viewer/reader needs to look a certain way to be happy or achieve in life is not only unrealistic, but more to the point, the absolute wrong message to be sending to the American public.
The simple reality is that we were not all born to be fashion models. Every one of us comes into this world with a genetic make-up that is unique to ourselves. Some people are naturally born tall and thin, however the vast majority of us are not.
In many ways, our body shape is predetermined by genetics; however, there are environmental issues that come into play. For example, I was born with a bigger frame than most people and was heavy in my youth – some might even say over-weight. It wasn’t until I started Karate training that I began to grow into my weight and develop lean muscle mass. Later in life I fell into the same trap as most people. I found myself working an insane amount of hours at the expense of my own health and at times my family. Sure enough the pounds came back and it affected me emotionally. I had to make choices where there were not any good options. But I was more fortunate than most, I’d already been through rehab – drugs were not an option.
Today I look at the level of self-destruction people are willing to do to themselves so that they – at least in their own minds – can be appealing in the eyes of others. It makes my heart ache. Like Debbie, more and more women are abusing Amphetamine and methamphetamine so they can be thin. Although the condition is more prevalent in women, young men are not immune. ‘Manorexia’ on the rise and experts blame the industries who portray the perfect male body as the norm. Drunkorexia is also a growing problem. This is when someone restricts food calories to make room for alcoholic drink calories.
These are at the very least drastic and destructive measures. Men and women are literally killing themselves to be thin. There are so many better options such as a healthy diet and exercise. Proper food choices can account for up to ninety-percent of weight-loss. Taking the stairs as apposed to the elevator and parking as far away from stores and malls as possible are simple things that anybody can do that will help improve health and shed pounds.
As I mentioned, our body shape is predetermined by genetics and molded by our environment. Even people who are committed to a healthy lifestyle, people who watch their diet and exercise regularly, can be genetically subject to fatty areas on their bodies (with the exception of people with eating disorders). One of the latest advancements in fat reduction is called Coolsculpting. It’s a scientifically-proven therapy that freezes fat in targeted areas and allows the body to flush the unwanted cells away naturally. The fat cells never come back. What I’ve come to learn in my decades of clinical addiction consulting and treatment is that changing one’s appearance can be a very effective therapy in lifting one’s self-esteem.
Carl Rogers (1902 – 1987), a pioneer of humanistic psychology, summed it up the best. He once said: “Every human being, with no exception, for the mere fact to be it, is worthy of unconditional respect of everybody else; he deserves to esteem himself and to be esteemed.”
John Giordano is the Founder of Laser Therapy Spa and Wellness Center in Hallandale, FL, the National Institute for Holistic Addiction Studies and is Chaplain of the North Miami Police Department. Giordano has contributed to over 65 papers published in peer-reviewed scientific and medical journals. He is the proud recipient of a Doctor of Human Letters from Sinai University in Jerusalem. Mr. Giordano is a recovering addict with twenty-nine years of recovery to his credit. He is a therapist, Certified Addiction Professional (CAP), a Master Addictions Counselor (MAC), Certified Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) Specialist, Trauma Relief Specialist (TRT), certified Hypnotist and a Certified Criminal Justice Specialist (CCJS). Mr. Giordano also earned a Masters Certification in Neurolinguistics Programming (NLP). He is a professional expert witness for the state and federal government. John is a Karate Grand Master 10th degree black belt and is in the Karate Hall Of Fame. www.holisticaddictioninfo.com