Drug & Alcohol Addiction Counselling - Auckland
Navachitta Macgregor (BAlc&DS) is an experienced addiction treatment practitioner. Registered Drug & Alcohol Practitioner of Aotearoa New Zealand (DAPAANZ). Addiction Counselling NZ emphasizes spiritual solutions to addiction problems, after helping clients to abstain from destructive drinking or drugging patterns. Buddhist Recovery can enhance the practice of other faiths by using mindfulness, compassion and interconnectedness practices plus also using Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) techniques. Both one on one and group counselling are available.
Mission: To help people through substance abuse & other addictions in order to rehabilitate, recover and get their life back!
[03/23/14] Please take a moment or 30 to listen to our interview on Radio New Zealand about the Buddhist Recovery Neywork Auckland
Take in the good.
[Excerpted from Just One Thing, New Harbinger, 2011]
Scientists believe that your brain has a built-in negativity bias. This is because, as our ancestors dodged sticks and chased carrots over millions of years of evolution, the sticks had the greater urgency and impact on survival.
This negativity bias shows up in lots of ways. For example, studies have found that:
The brain generally reacts more to a negative stimulus than to an equally intense positive one.
Animals - including us - typically learn faster from pain than from pleasure; once burned, twice shy.
Painful experiences are usually more memorable than pleasurable ones
Most people will work harder to avoid losing something they have than they'll work to gain the same thing.
Lasting, good relationships typically need at least a 5:1 ratio of positive to negative interactions.
In your own mind, what do you usually think about at the end of the day? The fifty things that went right, or the one that went wrong? Such as the driver who cut you off in traffic, or the one thing on your To Do list that didn't get done . . .
In effect, the brain is like Velcro for negative experiences, but Teflon for positive ones. That shades implicit memory - your underlying feelings, expectations, beliefs, inclinations, and mood- i n an increasingly negative direction.
Which is not fair, since most of the facts in your life are probably positive or at least neutral. Besides the injustice of it, the growing pile of negative experiences in implicit memory naturally makes a person more anxious, irritable, and blue - plus it gets harder to be patient and giving toward others.
But you don't have to accept this bias! By tilting toward the good - toward that which brings more happiness and benefit to oneself and others - you merely level the playing field. Then, instead of positive experiences washing through you like water through a sieve, they'll collect in implicit memory deep down in your brain.
You'll still see the tough parts of life. In fact, you'll become more able to change them or bear them if you take in the good, since that will help put challenges in perspective, lift your energy and spirits, highlight useful resources, and fill up your own cup so you have more to offer to others.
And by the way, in addition to being good for adults, taking in the good is great for children, too, helping them to become more resilient, confident, and happy.
1. Look for good facts, and turn them into good experiences.
Good facts include positive events - like finishing a batch of e-mails or getting a compliment - and positive aspects of the world and yourself. Most good facts are ordinary and relatively minor - but they are still real. You are not looking at the world through rose-colored glasses, but simply recognizing something that is actual and true.
Then, when you're aware of a good fact-either some¬thing that currently exists or has happened in the past - let yourself feel good about it. So often in life a good thing happens - flowers are blooming, someone is nice, a goal's been attained - and you know it, but you don't feel it. This time, let the good fact affect you. Try to do this step and the two that follow at least a half dozen times a day. When you do this, it usually takes only half a minute or so - there is always time to take in the good! You can do it on the fly in daily life, or at special times of reflection, like just before falling asleep (when the brain is especially receptive to new learning).
Be aware of any reluctance toward having positive experiences. Such as thinking that you don't deserve to, or that it's selfish, vain, or shameful to feel pleasure. Or that if you feel good, you will lower your guard and let bad things happen.
Then turn your attention back to the good facts. Keep opening up to them, breathing and relaxing, letting them move your needle. It's like sitting down to a meal: don't just look at it - taste it!
2. Really enjoy the experience.
Most of the time, a good experience is pretty mild, and that's fine. Simply stay with it for ten, twenty, even thirty seconds in a row - instead of getting distracted by something else.
Soften and open around the experience; let it fill your mind; give over to it in your body. (From a meditative perspective, this is a kind of concentration practice - for a dozen seconds or more - in which you become absorbed in a positive experience.) The longer that something is held in awareness and the more emotionally stimulating it is, the more neurons that fire and thus wire together, and the stronger the trace in implicit memory.
In this practice, you are not clinging to positive experiences, since that would lead to tension and disappointment. Actually, you are doing the opposite: by taking them in, you will feel better fed inside, and less fragile or needy. Your happiness will become more unconditional, increasingly based on an inner fullness rather than on external conditions.
3. Intend and sense that the good experience is sinking in to you.
People do this in different ways. Some feel it in the body as a warm glow spreading through the chest like the warmth of a cup of hot cocoa on a cold wintry day. Others visualize things like a golden syrup sinking down inside; a child might imagine a jewel going into a treasure chest in his or her heart. And some might simply know that while this good experience is held in awareness, its related neural networks are busily firing and wiring together.
Any single time of taking in the good will usually make just a little difference. But over time those little differences will add up, gradually weaving positive experiences into the fabric of your brain and your whole being.
In particular, as you do the practices in this book - or engage any process of psychological healing and growth, or spiritual development - really take in the fruits of your efforts. Help them stick to your mental/neural ribs!
Dr Rick Hansen
stuff.co.nz New Zealand has a teenage binge-drinking problem and it is a national problem and one that all of us, as a nation, must work to resolve.
blogs.psychcentral.com When most people contemplate addiction, they think about cigarettes, alcohol, and illicit drugs like crystal methamphetamine, cocaine, and heroin. And certainly those substances are highly addictive—they are incredibly difficult to quit once a person is hooked, and prolonged use/abuse typically resu...
HOW TO WORK WITH ADDICTIONS Pema Chodron
The heavily addicted moment is the perfect time to do this since the intense energy of severe addictions can equally become the equally intense energy of wakefulness.
When you first begin working with this, particularly with severe addictions, you may find that you can delay acting for a while, but eventually you give in to your addiction. But that delay is also extremely valuable, as it become the seed for longer refraining and begins to develop our trust that it is possible. We start with delaying our addictive impulse for just a few seconds but eventually we have a longer and longer delay between the wish to scratch the wound and actually scratching the wound until finally we do not have to scratch at all. During that delay we begin to befriend the energies.
For heavy addictions it is often useful to have as the initial goal something that is achievable. Our initial goal might be to delay fulfilling the addiction for a short period of time and then gradually lengthen the delay. This delay becomes the wedge we can use to bring down the whole addiction.
Working with delay of running off out destructive pattern increases our trust and helps to develop the healthful pattern. Again, we start where we are and work slowly and patiently, without aggression for ourselves. This is maitri.
Then we just contact the moment with our sense perceptions. So instead of the sense of being all caught up in scratching the wound, we are able to let the discursiveness go. Out of a sense of warmth for the whole situation we are able to let the discursiveness go and then there is communication, this contact with our sense perceptions. In the Shambhala teachings they talk about contact with limitless ayatanas, limitless sense perceptions. What this means is that what was limited and becoming more and more miserable and introverted suddenly opens up and goes completely in the other direction.
There is the sense of everything going outward instead of everything being poisoned inward. Things open outward.
Rinpoche said to just abruptly cut discursiveness, open, and then disown. For instance, if you have a wonderful experience, just disown it. Even if nothing happens, just disown it. Then just go on. In another place Rinpoche says it is just like taking a photograph with a flashbulb. You just take one photo after another. There is a sense of just opening to the moment.
When you think of what you are doing here, you are completely cutting through the solidity of self-importance, the solidity of holding on in any way, completely cutting through the chain reaction of karma. It's pretty powerful, what you are doing here. The photographs are separate from each other; there is no ego —glueing them together. This is what "disowning" means. The photos are there and taken but there is no one owning them. There are just these moments of warmth in which we communicate with feelings and are no longer identified with what we consider our poor, miserable, separate selves.
So specifically the process is: When you are frantically eating, smoking, grabbing for a valium or whatever it is and it occurs to you to try this, first you pause. The traditional teaching when we are all caught up is to bring to mind something which stops us, such as the face of our teacher or of someone who really loves us. But it could be anything that works for us.
Uneasy feelings come up and we say to ourselves something like: "I am not afraid of what is coming up. I have worked with feelings like this before. I can feel them. They are workable. They will teach me something. I know from experience I can trust this process." This is the first stage: maitri.
Then we let go of our words about it, for example, "just this one won't hurt me," "I have to have this now because... "and just be open to the space. It is as if the words were playing in a tiny little corner of the space or it's as if you are in an airplane looking down on them.
Then we communicate with the feelings that are left which are now wordless and move outward, as if the feelings weren't specifically ours but were shared with the whole human race. They are changed to a warmth for the whole human race. They are changed to a warmth and tenderness for the whole human condition. You are really feeling with all of humanity and your heart could melt from the intensity of the pain or longing.
The process can actually be quite fast, but we may have to artificially slow it down the first few times we do it.
What begins to happen as a result of practicing this way is a growing trust we can be brave enough to open and to stop scratching that wound. We trust that we can do it and we also see that sometimes we can't do it for very long, but we nevertheless begin to have a trust that it is possible. We begin to trust that we can connect with what is underneath the facade of protective devices, that we do not have to be afraid of that rawness, of that pain, of that wound.
And then we also begin to find that what we connect with underneath that facade or protective device is actually healing to to us, it is actually nourishing to us, it is not basically frightening. It is not a sense of annihilation, it is a sense of warmth and expansion and a sense of enormous freedom and spaciousness. It is a sense of coming home.
And most important there is a sense of enormous simplicity. Just simplicity. We make life complicated when it is actually simple. Based on our experience of working with this, we develop a real sense that we can evolve from being all caught up scratching our wounds, to a sense of the boundless nature, which is completely freeing and open and focused outward.
We can cut the karmic chain at any moment and just let go. We can cut through the solidity of identity, the solidity of the "problem," and just let it go. Rinpoche describes this by saying that "we can stop collecting dust on our woolly tails." We can stop collecting the dust of negative karma in our actions. The image is of just cutting through discursiveness and opening. In another place, Rinpoche says that this is as if someone punctures your tire Pop! or in this case, punctures your speech balloon. This is not exactly a gentle approach at this time, but is based on a gentle approach. It is a sudden glimpse which is also an experience of warmth at the same time.
In the course of working with this, our perception of ourself changes.
One person describes the change: he said that he used to think of himself as a confused person doing confused things, but now he regarded himself as a good person doing confused things. To him that was a big difference because underlying this was a change of allegiance and expectation from confusion to wisdom. The view is that the wisdom guide is inherent in each of us and that we can connect with that at any time and be completely free.
HOW TO WORK WITH ADDICTIONS
The teachings tell us that there is suffering.
There is dissatisfaction and frustration. Often nothing seems to go right. There really is a wound. But it is not necessary to scratch it. Working with addictions is about not just impulsively grabbing for something to stop the itching, not just grabbing for something to fill up the space, not giving in to this impulse to feel okay and just to get comfortable as soon as possible.
When we scratch the wound and give into our addictions we do not allow the wound to heal. But when we instead experience the raw quality of the itch or pain of the wound and do not scratch it, we actually allow the wound to heal. So not giving in to our addictions is about healing at a very basic level.
It is about truly nourishing ourselves.
The view that is presented in the Buddhist teachings is not one of becoming a better person, or finally getting it right, but is a view based on trusting what we already have, of starting and staying where we already are.
So with letting go of an addiction, the instruction is the same, it is instruction to get in touch with our basic nature, to get in touch with the basic energy of the moment in which we are all caught up. Addictions can be to anything: we can use this process with what we traditionally call addictions or we can use this working with so-called negative feelings of all kinds.
The moment in which we give in to our addictions is a moment in which we are all caught up —in which there is tremendous karmic momentum to go forward in the same old way —to scratch the wound. This can be a wound which really bothers us —we can see the wound bleeding, we can see it getting worse and we will not stop scratching. We can actually even feel quite nauseated by what we are doing, but we just will not stop!
What allows us to stop is maitri, which in this case means a basic feeling that we do not have to be afraid of what we are feeling right now, that we do not have to look for alternatives, that we aren't ashamed of what we are feeling in this moment. We are scared of what we are feeling. Instead, we can just let our warmth toward the wound, or the warmth toward that instant of time just be there as the working basis.
Maitri is settling down with the situation without looking for alternatives.
Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche talks about three stages in this process. The first is the warmth or maitri, the second is dropping discursive thinking and opening and the third is communicating. When we drop the discursive thinking and open, or communicate, what that basically means is that we we contact the moment fully.
At each moment of time, we can just completely cut discursiveness and open to the moment as an act of total freedom. We can cut through the solidity of identity, can cut through the solidity of our sense of identity, can cut through the solidity of our sense of problem and can just let the problem go. We can cut through the strong sense of "I need this now," "I have to get something out of this," we can cut through that.
But in order to do this we have to develop a sense that it is safe to stay with the present and not look for alternatives, that it is completely safe and even useful not to look for alternatives. Another way of looking at this is to say that we have a sense of warmth for the uncomfortable energy of the present moment, for the raw quality of energy, regardless of how irritating it is. And instead of being ashamed of being all caught up, we begin to regard it as a valuable place to be in. So there is some work that we need to do in preparation.
But what is so liberating about this that it is not saying that we just have to laboriously work and work forever. Once we have developed the habit of trusting, we can just abruptly cut, and find freedom. So the basis is maitri —that is the first moment. And the second moment is cutting discursive thoughts and opening like a flashbulb going off. And then communicating with what remains. When these moments become more continuous it is given a fancy name like samadhi or enlightenment.
And the most powerful time to do this is when we are all caught up.
There is a teaching, a very advanced teaching which people always perk up whan they hear which says, The more neurosis, the more wisdom. People like this because they know they have a lot of neurosis. But no one can really understand this at first hearing because it doesn't ever feel like "the more neurosis, the more wisdom." It actually feels like "the more neurosis, the more despair." But what I have found in working with this is that if you are all caught up and it occurs to you to just open, there is so much energy which is available to wake up —there is so much more energy available at this time.
Often you feel that you cannot let go. But if you have the courage to just experiment with abruptly opening at this time, there is enormous ability to have the mind open completely because there is so much energy. Of course the energy is pregnant with wanting to close right back down into the discursiveness or the mood that you are in. But you do get "the most for your money," the most for your moment at this time when you are all caught up. You get the most for your instant —you are propelled further than you would otherwise go on the energy which pushes you further. The hardest time to do this practice is also the most powerful time to do the practice.
Jill Goldson,award winner, specialises in researching and mediating with families during and after separation, as well as individual counselling.
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