As humans, “fixing” is part of our nature. We are logical, strategic, solution oriented beings that are often taught from a young age that a question always has an answer and a problem always has a fix. After all, we invented the wheel when things became to heavy to carry and found fire when we needed a better way to eat. In short, “fixing” is part of our nature because it’s birthed from our instinct to survive.

With that being said, no wonder it’s so uncomfortable for us when we encounter a problem that has no tangible fix.

For many couples seeking out therapeutic support, desire to fix, make better, take away a partner’s pain is often a common goal at the onset of therapy. Perhaps one partner has not been faithful, or has said something hurtful or has acted in some way, which has resulted in the other receiving the message “I am not important, I am not loved, I don’t matter”. With true genuine intentions, this partner often arrives in therapy hopeless and helpless, stating his or her belief that they have done all they could–no matter how hard they try to fix the problem, things just don’t seem to be getting better.

“Fixing”, while generally coming from a well-intended place, (we don’t usually enjoy seeing someone we care about hurting, especially when we know that our actions are the reason or at least part of the reason for the hurt) is invalidating. When we have hurt someone and we attempt to fix it or make it better, we are essentially sending the person we have hurt the message: “Your feelings make me uncomfortable so I’m going to do what I can to try and make them go away. This way, you’ll feel better and I can feel better knowing that you’re no longer hurting because of me.” While this is often happening at a subconscious level, it’s the reason why simply telling our partner “you are important, you are loved, you do matter” in these moments is often not enough.

You may have heard therapists or others use the phrase “lean into the discomfort.”—this is what that’s all about. While there is no tangible fix in these circumstances, what is really needed by the hurt partner is for the other to create space for them to be; to lean in to their pain, let them know that their feelings are valid and be asked what they need. When we can do this, we are able to acknowledge our partner’s pain and let them know that their discomfort makes sense. We come alongside of them and co-burden the hurt. In doing so, hurt and pain becomes more manageable because while it is still ever present, we receive the message from our partner that we are not alone.

By Aliza Cooper, LMFT


Self-esteem is partly determined by the ability to be truthful with a humble spirit in order to identify with the “realness” of who we are while gaining insight into our life story. No one can change what is unknown or denied. The transformation of our life script takes rigorous honesty, mentoring, reflection, self-care and a journey of faith, hope, and courage. A surrender and willingness to self-asses in order to self-govern with respect requires borders and boundaries. The essence of healthy relationships are indicative of healthy boundaries. Once established they reveal self-love and allow one to differentiate and to attach to others. Individuality defines the distinction of thoughts, beliefs, emotions, clarifying the moral compass and values before we speak, act and or decide.

Boundaries spoken and maintained educate the world around us how we would like to be treated. The three functions of boundaries are as follows: to define the essence of who you are, to protect oneself emotionally, sexually, physically, financially, intellectually, and spiritually, and to contain and regulate both internal and external triggers. Establishing and maintaining healthy boundaries allow for freedom to be “real” and a passage into the maturing process. It is a walk of integrity, high regard and courage especially when challenged. Be best and stand in honor with boundaries!

By Brenda Garrett-Layman

Who’d of Thunk?

45 years ago Glenda and I co-founded PCS. 60 years ago, on June 6th, we were married. Glenda is full of grace or we would not be currently married. Among the affirmations that I make daily include having gratitude for the health I do have, for my family, which includes Marcus, whom many of you know and is the Clinical Director at PCS. It is certainly great to have the privilege of working with Marcus for 30 years. It was very helpful to Marcus and me when approximately 32 years ago he and I were “Marilynized”. For those of you who know, have done therapy or read some of Marilyn Murray’s writings, or have been exposed to them in other ways, being “Marilynized” is a great way to get to know yourself.

PCS is a family program that involves Glenda, myself, Marcus full time and our daughter, Michelle as a consultant.

Who’d of Thunk that being married to me could be a good deal for Glenda, or for that matter, any woman. The process of getting to 60 years of marriage has at times been painful. 23 years into our marriage I did individual therapy. We did couples’ therapy and family therapy that led to a 25th anniversary, which was a redoing of our marriage vows in a way that was a process celebrating a much better marriage than when we got married originally on June 6, 1958. I have learned to “rat on myself” and to take accountability. Glenda also has worked on herself. The combination individual therapy for both of us, couples’ therapy and family therapy has been very helpful to getting us to the place where our marriage, at this point, is the best it’s ever been – that’s what Glenda says and what I say. We are still under construction and working on continued improvement and being better at being helpful to ourselves and each other.

Another concept, which is a “new kid on the block” to me is the term “enlightened selfishness”. I am grateful that I am married because I know that I would rather be married than not married and I am married to the person I would most likely to be married to. My story is that on June 6, 1958 I got married before I was ready to get married and didn’t know that. Gratefully, Glenda and I have, and continue to do the work, to have the marriage we both deserve.

Enlightened selfishness helps me to understand that I would rather be married than single. Because I am married to the person that I would most likely to be married to, behavioral changes make me a better deal for myself and for Glenda. Therapy for this therapist has been enormously helpful. The product of therapy means the most to me because of my own growth and continuing need, at age 81, to be under construction.

Another important area is that Glenda has helped me to “listen – learn” in a way that is different than my parents and grandparents did. Because I believe in the golden rule, it makes sense that it is a fundamental necessity that goes against my basic, instinctual nature. Knowing that there is no “cure” for me and at the same time I can keep in “remission” the parts of me that “nuke” my wife and that I am the one who is a bigger loser when I do that. A specific change is that at times when I am thinking about saying something that would be unproductively hurtful to Glenda, and would also then end up hurting me, when Glenda and I are alone, “shut up Ralph”. She doesn’t ask me what was I going to say.

Glenda and I have a commitment that if either one of us believes that we need to get marital therapy, the other will say yes and we know that we are never too old to need therapy. When needed, we will make that happen.

Some of the areas that have become important to me in this stage of life – ala Eric Ericson’s “Generativity” include working with people who are already married who come to PCS either as individuals in a marriage or as a couple. We use the term “premarital therapy” for people who have become legally married and yet need to come to a place in their marriage where the marriage may be in the “ER Room” and either becomes a healthier marriage or may end. We at PCS are biased and would love to see relationships improve and hate to see “divorce for the wrong reasons.” I am privileged to be a part of a group in which there are 27 therapists who have their individual strengths, personalities and specialties which are brought to bear in our Intensive Outpatient Program.

Scott Peck wrote that “life is difficult.” Marriage is difficult and can be incredibly rewarding.

Recently, I heard a friend who started the Arizona Interfaith Movement and our yearly Golden Rule Banquet state “I am the luckiest man in the world.” That friend died of Lou Gehrig’s disease and was quoting Lou Gehrig when he was physically debilitated by what we now call Lou Gehrig’s disease, making that statement at Yankee Stadium. I write this because “I am the luckiest man in the world” and know that. I am lucky to be in the marriage I am in and to be a father and grandfather. The only name our grandkids use for me is “Cuckoo.” Those of you who know me will know that it is a clinical diagnosis from grandkids, as well as an intimate term, which means a lot to me. Within the last couple of years, I have had the privilege as “Reverend Cuckoo” to perform the wedding for two of our grandkids and their partners.

Another piece of gratitude is, the people who have mentored me – my wife, kids and grandkids mentor me. Mentors who have been professors of mine include two people who knew Bill W, who started AA. Reinhold Niebuhr, who authored the Serenity Prayer, which we use regularly Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday at the end of group was one of my profs. Another prof did his degree at Columbia in Alcoholism and was involved in the beginning of AA. As some of you know, I am an ordained minister who believes that the rigorous honesty that occurs in 12 step groups and in therapy settings such as PCS, provides a depth, including an understanding of what “the Imperfection of Spirituality” really means in all of our lives.

Thanks for your interest in PCS and those of you who have been to PCS as clients, please keep us posted as alumni of our PCS family.

By Ralph Earle, Founder & Clinical Director

Embracing Grief and Loss

Being human means being vulnerable. We are sensate creatures meant to feel and emote. We typically prefer safety and routine and when we are forced to leave all things familiar and secure due to death or loss, we experience fear and grief. In fact, we may on any given day experience loss to one degree or another. These losses might be experienced as “big deaths” or “little deaths.” Based on an individual’s experience with past trauma, spiritual beliefs, social support and values, our losses are experienced on a spectrum. Some examples of loss include:

  • Suffering childhood trauma
  • Loss of love
  • Loss of beauty, fitness or youth
  • A difficult birth
  • A near death experience
  • Losing sexual potency
  • Losing one’s virginity forcefully
  • Experiencing a natural disaster
  • Immigration/refugee status/loss of culture/language/tradition
  • Losing a pet
  • Leaving home or a school or job
  • Losing a parent, sibling, friend or child
  • Losing faith in government, church, corporation

Grief is a psycho-spiritual process. The ego is shattered. Our sense of self becomes submerged in feelings of despair and sorrow. A part of us is lost, yet we often feel pressure from friends, family and society to get back to our old selves. Usually this is because there is an inability in our culture to tolerate someone else’s pain. Grief is not simple or finite and it manifests in a variety of ways:

  • Anticipatory grief
  • Normal grief
  • Delayed grief
  • Complicated grief (traumatic or prolonged)
  • Disenfranchised grief
  • Chronic grief
  • Cumulative grief
  • Masked grief

There is a stark beauty that can be found in surrendering to grief. By embracing it, befriending it, sitting alongside it, being curious about it, we can move through it to find a renewed sense of self. A self that is wiser, more empathetic and compassionate with a better understanding that the control we once thought we had was an illusion. All we really have is this moment. We can then consider, “How shall I use this moment, how shall I choose to live?” Through exercise, energy work, tending to the body, meditation, narrative therapy, trauma resolution therapy, group therapy, talk therapy and finding meaning in service to others we can create a new sense of self. A self that is more expansive yet understands the value of humility. We can then transition from grief to gratitude.

For additional information on grief and bereavement:
Healing Through The Dark Emotions by Miriam Greenspan
A Broken Heart Still Beats: When Your Child Dies by Mary Semel and Anne McCracken
The Way Men Heal by Thomas R. Golden

Know Thyself

Intimacy is knowing and being known in a manner that creates connection and safety. I sit with many couples who want intimacy, to feel that connection, to know the friendship and passion of intimacy. However, few want to truly explore what it takes to build it. They express a desire to be known, but do not want to do the work of knowing themselves. We can only share with another to the extent of what we know about ourselves. Intimacy begins as a personal work—Know Thyself—which then gives rise to a relational work.

Although there are many ways of understanding personal intimacy, three are at it’s core: honesty, compassion, and boundaries. The first aspect of intimacy is honesty. I must be honest with myself about who I am and all of its complexity. Answering a few questions can start this process: What am I feeling at any given moment? What do I think or believe? What do I want or need? What do I like or dislike? What do I value? The key is in owning your story—what makes you tick? Telling your story is a start. Find a safe friend, therapist, 12-step group where you can put your story out to others—the good, the bad, and the ugly. When we begin to tell our story, and own it with safe people, we get clearer about who we are, begin to affirm ourselves, let go of shame, and can hold it up against who we want to be.

Compassion is another aspect of intimacy. I have heard it said, in one form or another, honesty without compassion is cruelty. As you own your story, do so with eyes of compassion. Show empathy towards yourself. See the wounded part of yourself and be gentle. Do something kind for yourself everyday. Breathe.

Finally, establish boundaries. Boundaries are not a way to control or punish others. Boundaries are rooted in self-care. Boundaries therefore begin with you. By getting clear about who you are with honesty, you can begin to see what you need to do to take care of yourself, how you harm yourself, and how you can harm others. Therefore, boundaries identify what I need to do and what I need to prevent myself from doing. Boundaries can look like getting to bed at a reasonable hour, eating healthy, or having fun family or friends on a regular basis. Also, boundaries can help us address issues that are destructive such as rage, isolation, or addiction, by keeping yourself out of vulnerable situations, learning emotional regulation, establishing accountability, and making amends. When we have healthy boundaries with ourselves, we are better able to have healthy boundaries with others.

By working on intimacy with yourself through honesty, compassion, and boundaries, you create an understanding which allows for greater intimacy with others. It is a life long journey with always more to discover. Take time to know yourself. You deserve it.


By Douglas Withrow

Sex Addiction Label: Helpful or Not?

It is important to note that there is no sex addiction diagnosis in the DSM V (the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual used to identify and describe psychiatric diagnosis). There is however a sex addiction label which has gained more attention in recent years. There is much discussion and at times argument, as to if sex addiction is a condition at all. For the purpose of this discussion, it will be assumed that sex addiction is a legitimate condition that many struggle with.

Benefits of the Sex Addiction label may be:

  1. There is an identifiable condition to name when a person has struggled with sexual acting out
  2. There are behaviors and symptoms connected to the sex addict label to help identify what a person may struggle with
  3. The “addiction” part of the label can be a way to identify a person’s loss of control over his behaviors (However even if there is a loss of control, he is still 100% culpable for all of his behaviors).
  4. There are many 12 step, inpatient, IOP, individual therapists and other support groups to support people who identify with the label of sex addiction
  5. Many people address their shame by joining a recovery community and sharing their problems with their support groups
  6. There is an increasing amount of material available about sex addiction and different specific behaviors and problems within sex addiction

Some of the drawbacks to the label of Sex Addiction may include:

  1. A person rationalizing his infidelity or offensive sexual behavior through identifying as a sex addict
  2. A person who has been unfaithful to his spouse/partner may take on the label by his or her spouse out of guilt
  3. A person can be mislabeled if their sexual acting out is really an episodic period in their lives, but not long term and enduring (i.e as part of exploring one’s sexual identity)
  4. A person becomes over-identified with the label, which can be stigmatizing and shameful
    There may be an over-focus on the label, without addressing the specific sexual behaviors or problems, and the underlying issues beneath this (often trauma based)
  5. In the absence of a discussion about and understanding of what healthy sexuality is, sexuality can be pathologized

In the future, the label of Sex Addiction may change or be done away with. What is more important than the label itself, is that the behaviors and underlying issues are addressed, and a person is able to be supported in their healing. At its best, the label of Sex Addiction is used to help a person receive the help and support that he or she needs.


By Elijah Bedrosian, LPC

Dialectical Behavior Therapy: What is it and how can it help me?

Dialectical Behavior Therapy, often referred to as DBT, is a form of cognitive behavioral therapy designed to teach people effective skills for living a more satisfying life. There are four main components of DBT. They are Mindfulness, Interpersonal Effectiveness, Distress Tolerance and Emotion Regulation. All four modules emphasize how to handle painful experiences effectively and stay in control of one’s thoughts, emotions and behavior.

Mindfulness is the foundation of DBT and is woven into all of the modules. A mindfulness practice allows people to be aware of what is happening both within them and around them. An important component of this is curiosity and non-judgment. DBT teaches people to notice their internal and external experiences without attaching labels such as “good” or “bad.” Mindfulness allows individuals to just notice what is.

Interpersonal Effectiveness skills teach people how to reach desired outcomes in their relationships. There is a focus on behaving in such a way as to respect both self and others. Interpersonal Effectiveness training helps individuals answer three questions: what do I want, how to I want others to feel about me and how do I want to feel about myself?

Distress Tolerance skills are designed to help people survive emotional and interpersonal crises without making things worse. Self-care, self-soothing and resisting urges to behave impulsively are key components of this module. Moreover, a practice of radical acceptance is incorporated to help people accept what is and reduce the emotional suffering that accompanies resisting reality.

Finally, Emotion Regulation training assists individuals in creating a life worth living. Clarifying values, prioritizing goals and creating realistic plans for goal attainment are key features of this module. Furthermore, skills for checking the facts and remaining mindful and in control of one’s emotions in non-crisis situations are also provided.

DBT skills can be taught in individual or group therapy settings. If you are interested in joining a DBT group at PCS, please give us a call for more information. We look forward to helping you create a life worth living!

Sex Addiction: What You Need to Know

Rick Isenberg, M.D. and Medical Director for Psychological Counseling Services, discusses sex addiction and what we need to know in this Triune Therapy audio interview.

[su_button url=”” target=”blank” style=”flat” background=”#003a54″ size=”7″ wide=”yes”]LISTEN TO THE INTERVIEW HERE[/su_button]

More on Rick Isenberg, MD HERE.

What Is a “Psychoeducational Evaluation” and Should My Child Have One?

If your child is struggling at school with learning, you may be concerned about whether he or she might have a learning disorder, such as a reading disability/dyslexia, math disability, or written expression disability. Or, you may wonder if there might be an attentional deficit (e.g., ADHD), or if your child might be just “bored” and not challenged. Alternatively, you may be concerned about emotional issues, such as anxiety or depression, which may be affecting your child’s learning progress.

If you are experiencing any of the above concerns, pursuing a psychoeducational evaluation for your child can be a useful way for you (and your child’s teachers) to discover some answers.

There are several areas that Dr. Gilbert assesses in her psychoeducational evaluations:

  • Cognitive Ability
  • Academic Achievement
  • Social/Emotional/Behavioral Functioning
  • Attentional Functioning

The cognitive assessment provides information about an individual’s intelligence, revealing any strengths as well as weaknesses. Areas assessed include verbal reasoning, visual-spatial skills, nonverbal abstract reasoning, working memory (auditory and visual), and processing speed. This information can be very useful in understanding your child’s thinking and reasoning abilities. For example, if your child’s verbal reasoning skills are significantly better than his or her nonverbal reasoning skills, it may be that your child may understand new information more easily when it is presented in a verbal, rather than visual, format.

Moreover, if your child is found to have a weakness in working memory and/or processing speed, this may mean that, in order to learn, your child may require information to be repeated, or may need to be exposed to material on multiple occasions, or may need the pace of instruction to be slowed down. Further, within working memory, it can be very useful to discover whether your child may have a weakness in recalling either visual or verbally-presented information. In this way, your child’s teacher can then be sure to introduce material in a format that works better for your child. The cognitive assessment may also determine whether your child is a gifted learner, and in need of gifted instruction at school in order to appropriately stimulate and capture your child’s learning motivation. Knowing your child’s intellectual strengths and weaknesses can especially help teachers to understand that your child can learn, but that he or she may need strategies or accommodations to facilitate that learning.

The academic achievement assessment measures a child’s achievement in reading, math, and written language. In reading, the areas of sight-word reading, phonetic decoding, oral reading fluency, and reading comprehension are assessed. When children are young and their reading skills are still emerging, Dr. Gilbert often includes a test of phonological processing to investigate foundational reading skills. For math, timed math facts, untimed math calculations, and math reasoning are measured. In the area of written language, sentence composition skills, spelling, and essay composition skills are evaluated. This information may then be used to determine whether a Specific Learning Disorder is present in reading (dyslexia), math (dyscalculia), or written expression (dysgraphia).

To assess a child’s social, emotional, and behavioral functioning, parent and teacher rating scales are used. When appropriate, the child may also complete a self-rating scale. These scales include a wide range of concerns that children exhibit, including acting-out behavior, symptoms of anxiety and depression, and adaptive skills such as adaptability and social skills. Rating scales are also used to assess whether a child may be exhibiting significant difficulty with inattention, hyperactivity, and impulsivity. Lastly, a computerized test is administered, which measures a child’s ability to sustain his or her attention, as well as to resist impulsive responding, when exposed to both visual and auditory information. Dr. Gilbert is then able to consider all this data, in conjunction with the child’s history, to determine whether ADHD may be present, or if anxiety is a primary factor preventing the child from making adequate school progress, or if depression may be playing a role, or if an Oppositional-Defiant Disorder may be at play. Included as part of the evaluation is a meeting with the parent(s) to review all the assessment data, and to discuss best practice recommendations that are provided by Dr. Gilbert. Because Dr. Gilbert is a certified school psychologist (in addition to being a licensed psychologist), she can guide parents in navigating the complicated world of special education services and IEPs if appropriate.

If you are interested in more information, please contact Dr. Gilbert’s office. The testing typically involves 4-5 hours of direct testing. The cost is generally $1250 – $1450, depending on what assessments are needed. Remember to bring your child’s eyeglasses if they are needed, to make sure your child goes to bed on time the night before, and that your child has a good breakfast/lunch prior to the assessment.

Scoreboard Champions Vs. Heart Champions


Scoreboard Champions vs. Heart Champions


“Phony plays for a while but genuine plays for a lifetime”
Ed Wade- former Phillies GM


It was a spring Friday in late April, 2001. It was a day I don’t think I will ever forget! My son Jimmy was a senior and playing his last home game against rival Seton Catholic. They played Seton a few weeks before and Seton got the best of it, winning 3 to 1. Jimmy was the losing pitcher.

I remember telling Jimmy during his last week of practice to take time to take it all in and to appreciate the grind that he had put himself through to get to this point in his high school baseball life. There were a lot of guys who had a lot more talent than he did. He wasn’t the fastest runner, strongest hitter, nor could he throw the ball harder than anyone else.

He was what I call a grinder. A grinder is someone who is not that great in talent but is willing to do the extra work. Jimmy would work relentlessly toward improving his game. He did most of his work on this home field and in the batting cage I had built in our backyard. When he wasn’t pitching, he played first base.

I hit him thousands of grounders at first base. Once we counted after his playing career was over. The count totaled over a quarter of million from age 10 through his senior year. I had bought and accumulated 500 baseballs and we would go out every day in the heat of the summer or the cold of winter and each time I would hit all 500 at him. We did it almost every day. I remember working late—until 8:30pm or 9pm. I would come home, get the baskets of baseballs, head for the field and hit grounders under the lights. There were dings and bruises from balls that took bad hops. Jimmy never backed off and as long as he didn’t, I kept hitting them. Jimmy told me that it was hardest when he would take one off his shins because of a bad hop on a cold day in Arizona when the winter temperature would hover in the high 30’s. There were other times when it was so hot that he nearly would faint under the Arizona sun. We would store the balls in those plastic U.S. Mail contaiNers. Sometimes, I would take a couple of baskets of balls to second base and with a fungo bat would hit the balls on one hop to first. He would practice “picking” one hop balls. He got to be really good at it. He would constantly work on his footwork at first base. I would try to hit fly balls and get them as high as I could hit them with a fungo. Problem was I wasn’t good at it and he would get pissed at me. Somewhere I found this square tennis racquet type mechanism with really strong and tough strings. It was designed to hit fly balls. So I would use it and Jimmy would practice going from first base to running into the outfield foul territory catching the ball with his back to the infield. We did this countless times. He got pretty good.

Today, Jimmy would say that he was over the top in his work ethic about baseball. Between the years of 10 and 21- Jimmy was always on a baseball team and would work between 4 and 7 hours a day on baseball except for 2 weeks around Christmas. He would begin each team as an average middle of the pack player but worked his way to the front of the pack and at times was considered his team’s most valuable player. His work ethic was relentless.

So on this day, I reminisced about all the practice times we had on this field. Just him and me. Though there was a lot of grit and grind, it was a lot of fun.

Since Jim had pitched the game before, he was playing first base. High school games are 7 innings. At top of the 7th, Seton Catholic had the bases loaded with no one out and a 5-3 lead. Jim came into the game as a reliever and struck out the sides. Then at the bottom of the inning, he hit a walk off grand slam home run to win the game and experience a regional championship. I stood back away from all the hoopla. What I will never forget is when he rounded third base, he knew where I was standing and looked for me and made eye contact. That was my special moment with Jim. The rest of the celebration was about him, his team and the feeling of being a champion at last. They went on and won the state championship that year.

Since that experience of being a champion, Jimmy has had many other experiences of being hero and a champion on the field. He also has had more than his share of moments of being the heel. I have been forced to consider the difference between being a scoreboard champion and a champion from the heart.

There seems to be an obsession with being #1 in the endeavor of sports. During college football games, it is common to see cameras pan the crowd and students flash the “we’re #1 sign” even when their team is being annihilated on the field. It becomes so important to identify with the champion on the scoreboard. So much is made up about the heroes on the scoreboard. If he/she is champion there then it is expected that those individuals will be champion elsewhere. But, often the disparity of performance away from the sport is great.

In my work to treat addiction, I find this disparity in performance as well. There are those whose performance is stellar and outstanding on the scoreboard of their professional life. Yet, the disparity of behavior away from their performance at work sabotages their life with out of control addiction.

Scoreboard champions know about winning and losing. There is conditioning and training about performance focus and how to rebound from disappointment and defeat. There is so much preparation that goes into becoming a scoreboard champion.

For many winning and losing becomes a life or death struggle. No matter what it takes it is important to stretch and strive and somehow win. Frequently, athletes adopt a hate mentality toward their opponent, in order to propel them to greater accomplishment on the field of endeavor. Unbelievable stories are told about players who compete with broken bones, damaged bodies and mangled mental conditions. These athletes are lionized with emphasis that to be a real champion you have to compete that way. The inference suggests that real champions ignore human limitations. That’s what makes them champions. Drivenness becomes unparalleled. There is no boundary to what a champion is willing to do to be number one.

I have heard stories about golfers who work on their game as much as 15-20hrs a day! There are stories of runners who run through the pain of a broken bone in their foot. Scott Jurek, in his book Eat and Run, reported during one ultra marathon race through Death Valley at one point after becoming so sick from running that he was uncontrollably throwing up. He had his support team place him inside a coffin of ice prepared for him on the roadside! Then, he revived himself and completed and won the ultra marathon race! These are the examples of extreme lore that defines a scoreboard champion. Corporations across America revel in the legend of leaders who tote the folklore of grit and grind and doing whatever it takes to be a champion in their field of endeavor.

In truth, scoreboard champions learn to depend on this kind of adrenaline to perform. It’s no wonder the line gets blurred around performance enhancement drugs when champions are so monomaniacal about winning and avoiding losing. It becomes their identity. As a result, life becomes imbalanced. Other aspects of life are neglected. Relationship skills, spirituality, community values and sensitivity to anything other than personal ambition often suffer.

Of course, it is not only true of champions of sport. This frenzied feeding of need to be a scoreboard champion is fraught through our society. The stories are replete of personal careers, families, major corporations and entire nations all destroyed by excessive greed driven by obsessed ambition to be number one.

Addiction is positioned as a centerpiece in this dynamic. Addicts become like little kids who cannot get enough sugar. You never get enough of what you really don’t want. Eventually, in a downward death spiral, addiction gets lost in the illusional pursuit of one more hit, one more time that never ends.

In the beginning you just want success, however, it is defined. But in the end, the scoreboard mentality overwhelms and rather than you chasing the brass ring, the tables are turned and it begins to chase you through addiction. Like a pack of wolves chasing someone through the woods and keeps nipping at the heels, the addict keeps trying to reach for that hit one more time, while trying to keep the pack of wolves at bay. The focus becomes “I’m so close—yet so far away”. “I want to climb the hill just one more time”. It’s never sustainable. Even for those who become scoreboard champions. It only lasts but for a brief fleeting moment. As a therapist, many who come to see me are left with the wreck and ruin of addictive devastation.

Recovery weaves a different fabric that looks beyond winning and losing. Recovery focuses on the cultivation of becoming a heart champion. Heart champions are a different breed! They are spawned from a different ilk. There is so much more than the score at the end of the game. Self definition comes from a deeper source. It’s about the preparation, the sacrifice, the sweat and engagement of uncertainty. Whether you win or lose on the scoreboard, a champion’s life is determined within before the game is ever played and independent of the score on the board at the end of the game. It has to do with connecting in congruency with values of the heart that supersede wins and losses on the scoreboard. A heart champion is more concerned about being true to one’s heart and not just winning or losing in life.

It’s not like heart champions condition themselves to lose. Rather, it’s like they are carved from a deeper place down deep inside. A heart champion knows that losing is a part of the ebb and flow of life. She determines to never let an outcome define who she is. Instead, definition is determined by the vision of destiny from within which supersedes any result. What is a priority is knowing that she is connected to herself, embracing all of herself-the good, bad and the ugly. She understands that life is a tapestry weaving together the bitter and the sweet, success and failure, triumph and tragedy. Positive results are fine and desired, but foundationally, a heart champion already has determined that they are “an unrepeatable miracle of the universe” and that no victory will add to it and no defeat will take away from it. it is already etched in the stone of destiny.
Cultivating this concept in recovery demands that we face our addictive failures and our mistakes. It demands that we go into training that teaches us how to manage our shame around our losses and mistaken destructive behaviors.

Heart champions live to connect to the present moment of struggle that comes with a commitment to improve and excel. They learn to cooperate rather than remain focused on competing with their teammates. For them competition is only a training ground for the greater cooperative effort to create a better community, whether that community be a team, a family, a neighborhood or a nation. Heart champions are required for all those who seek healing from an addiction. Addiction breaks the heart and the will of those who suffer. The only path for those who heal is one that requires cooperation within a community who shares equal brokenness and who demand accountability toward change in behavior. This dynamic always creates a heart champion.

Heart champions are able to appreciate all aspects and those who are related to the game. They develop a great appreciation for all team members, not just the star performers. While it is true that you don’t win on the scoreboard without basically talented players, it is also true that you will never be a heart champion without recognizing the value of a bench player mentality.

A bench player mentality is developed when you recognize that those who sit on the bench and do not play carry a very important energy to the enlargement of community. I like to refer to the aggregate collection of people as a community. So, for me, a baseball team is a baseball community.

Kids on the bench make an important addition or subtraction to a baseball community. If a player sulks or allows himself to get distracted from the game, which is easy to do, when you know you’re not going to play, he will drain energy from the focus needed for those who are trying to excel on the field.

But, it goes the other way, too. If guys who are on the field are dismissive of those who don’t play and cop a condescending attitude toward bench players that too will severely damage the results on the field. I have seen this happen many times.
Heart champions embrace the value of all the roles in a baseball community and learn to participate in all the roles. When they are benched, they become cheerleaders for those who play. Whether playing or not, they help gather the equipment before and after the game. They join in preparing the field and picking up the trash. For heart champions, these tasks are as important as playing the game itself.

It’s been my observation, that a “bench player mentality” is necessary for addiction recovery. To translate from what has been described about baseball, recovery requires an addict to do what is needed when others are not looking or even aware. Its one thing to show up at a meeting and engage and say what is expected. Yet, another to follow through in private moments of mundane living, doing what needs to be done to remain sober. Working the 12 steps, calling community members for support and shifting from an attitude of entitlement to one of humility are the common stuff of long term sobriety. These ordinary, every day steps will only occur when an addict shifts from the limelight of wanting to be center stage to the “bench player mentality” of taking up less space so that others in relationship can take up more. Addicts who learn the principles of this life style change are more likely to establish long term sobriety.

Recovery demands heart champions. For the most part, scoreboard champions flame out and addicts relapse into their addiction. In recovery from addiction, one with a scoreboard mentality become more concerned with the number of days of sobriety versus the depth of honesty and integrity going on presently in their life. An addict in recovery with a heart champion mentality is more concerned with being the best client for recovery versus egotistically wanting the touted best therapist. They are more concerned with learning how to be their own guru rather than finding a sponsor who will be their ultimate master guide.

There is nothing wrong with being a scoreboard champion in any sport. But, if one strives and achieves becoming a champion on the scoreboard but fails to incorporate the components of being a heart champion, the game of achievement and endeavor has misled the player and the community at large becomes shortchanged. Phony gets accelerated and genuine is minimized in deference to being #1 no matter what.


Article by Ken Wells, LPC

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