Marti MacGibbon Tells Her Story

January 16, 2014
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Marti MacGibbon
Author and Motivational Speaker

By Marti MacGibbon

My name is Marti MacGibbon and I am an addiction treatment professional, award-winning author, a professional humorous, and an inspirational speaker. I specialize in addiction, trauma resolution, recovery, resilience, and all forms of inspiration.  I am also a person in long-term recovery from addiction, with 18 years chemical-free. I entered treatment for Chronic Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) when the symptoms became unbearable in sobriety.

I am writing this blog for two reasons:

– To summarize my story of personal recovery which I told in detail in the book Never Give Into Fear, and
– To express my gratitude to Terence T. (Terry) Gorski for his life work.

Terry has dedicated his life to creating practical systems of recovery that are describe step-by-step skills that can be learned and used. He presents these skills in clear, easy-to understand, and no-nonsense language. He has always put recovering people and their families first. His primary goal has to help people to live sober and responsible. His methods have always fostered a movement from dependence, to independence, and then to interdependence. His methods are always collaborative and respectful. He believes in rational thinking and sober responsible living.

Terry Gorski has dedicated his life
to helping addicted people and their families
to learn effective skills
for helping themselves to recover.

My Story Encapsulated

In my active addiction, I might have been described as one of the hopeless cases, and looking back now, I know that both childhood sexual abuse (first instance at 14 years old) by authority figures, and the extreme trauma I survived in adulthood fueled my addiction. Knowledge is power, and this is especially true in recovery.  Organized knowledge is even better. The more I learn about the disease, the stronger my recovery grows, and the more positive action I can take to build a better, more enjoyable lifestyle and share experience, strength, and hope with others.

Knowledge is power.
Organized knowledge is even better.
~ Terence T. Gorski ~

In 1984, I was a successful standup comic (check out part of my act on YouTube), with a scheduled appearance on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, but I struggled with addiction. I’d been a heavy drinker in an attempt to cope with emotional pain and self-loathing, but couldn’t perform well on stage under the influence of alcohol, so I’d begun experimenting with stimulants.  That’s when I discovered methamphetamine, specifically crystal meth, and it was “game on!”

In the manner described in Gorski’s book, Straight Talk About Addiction, when I used meth I had an addictive brain response that released the brain chemistry of self-confidence. I felt more in control on meth, and I felt excited at the prospect of a new drug of choice that seemed to benefit me. I met a man¾a handsome criminal with lots of contacts in the drug world. The relationship went downhill fast, morphing into a classic abusive relationship. My downward spiral became a power dive, resulting in my being trafficked to Tokyo and held prisoner by Japanese organized crime figures. I endured rape and physical abuse, and lived under threat of death, but someone helped me to escape, and I returned to the U.S.

There’s a good reason
not to get intimately involved with a criminals.
That reason is … Ummm?
Well, the reason is they’re criminals.
As a general rule criminals can’t be trusted!
~ Terence T. Gorski ~

At that point, I began using my drug of choice as a means of coping with the trauma I’d experienced, and, as many trauma victims do, I returned to the abusive boyfriend. He beat me up and almost killed me. After that, I spent a year and a half homeless, sleeping under bridges and in abandoned houses. I lived in terror of reprisal from the traffickers I’d escaped. I suffered from nightmares. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was suffering from PTSD.  (See Gorski’s Approach To PTSD)

Eventually, I met the man who is my husband today. We’ve been together for 26 years, and although we experienced active addiction together for several years, we both entered recovery during the 1990s, and we still enjoy strong recovery today. When I got clean, I returned to professional standup comedy for some years, and I know the power of laughter as a healing force! For me, gratitude, laughter and fun are mainstays in my recovery program. As I motivational speaker, I still do standup comedy, I just call myself a humorist and my audiences are sober people who enjoy a message of hope delivered in a way that helps them life at the ironies of life.

I always wanted to be a comedian,
but I lacked one thing – Talent!
So I did the next best thing.
I became a therapist!
~ Terence T. Gorski ~

Recovery Is An Action Plan

Recovery is a plan of action that creates motivation, which in turn creates more positive action. During my first few days clean, I took a look at my daily schedule and saw that my average day in addiction consisted of a series of bad habits, negative thought patterns, and self-defeating behaviors. At that point I instinctively knew I needed to learn more effective skills and practice them in every area of my life until they became habitual. When I was addicted, I was driven by the automatic and unconscious habits involved in getting ready to use, using, and recovering from using so I could start the cycle again. I didn’t have to think about it. It was a habit – and habits don’t require thought.

I managed to put the complex behaviors required to get and use illegal drugs under automatic habitual control – and I did it during a drug war, while I was homeless, suffering from severe PTSD, and surround by dangerous people. I certainly could develop a set of automatic/habitual recovery skills when I had a safe place to live, food to eat and meetings filled with sober and responsible people willing to help me.

So I rolled up my sleeves and got started. I replaced bad habits with good: began an exercise program, focused on a healthy diet, learned about cognitive distortions, began using positive affirmations and mantras, and started building a sober support network. The results came quickly and my success filled me with enthusiasm for my new lifestyle and the healing process. One success built upon another building momentum until I had moments of genuine well-being which I call spiritual experiences. The recovery process was a similar but opposite to the process of addiction. When actively addicted one failure built upon another until hopelessness crushed the soul.

Recovery is a plan of action that creates motivation,
which in turn creates more positive action.
~Marti MacGibbon ~

After ten years in recovery, I entered into therapy. I still had nightmares from the experience in Japan, and the additional trauma during my homeless period on the street.

Therapy has been, and still is, a game changer for me.  The healing is deep and profound. After therapy, I knew I wanted more than standup comedy, so I obtained education and training in addiction treatment. My goal was to be able to carry the message of recovery to others who suffer. During my studies, I discovered the work, of Terry Gorski. I learned about his Relapse Prevention Certification School. After earning my CADC-II, I enrolled in the RPT training and earned the ACRPS. I have worked with special populations, (Women and Homeless Veterans), and in outpatient, inpatient, and transitional housing settings.

Terry Gorski’s books provide education about the disease of addiction. His material is well organized. He presents valuable information for therapists and recovering people in plain language that anyone can understand.  When I read his books Learning to Live Again, and Understanding the Twelve Steps, I knew I’d discovered valuable recovery tools! Terry didn’t really say anything I didn’t know. He did, however, give me a better way to put what I knew intuitively into words so I could explain it more clearly to others.  I’ve purchased the two books for sponsees and friends in 12-Step programs as gifts they can use as additional resources and companions to the Big Book and Twelve and Twelve. The women I have shared these resources with have always been enthusiastic about the results they achieve when they study the books and take action.

While reading many of Gorski’s books, and in my addiction treatment training, I was thrilled to learn that fun and laughter are important to recovery even though the evidence for relationship between humor and health is not as strong as many believe it to be. This idea, however, continues to electrify me. Although I do not currently work as a counselor in a facility, I maintain my certifications and work to carry the message about recovery.

Today I am producer, founder and host of Laff-Aholics Standup Comedy Benefit for Recovery, an annual fundraiser in Indianapolis featuring nationally headlining comedians. The purpose of the show is to provide a fun event for people in recovery, with social connectivity and plenty of healing laughter. Newcomers learn it’s possible to have fun in recovery, that our community comes together for our most vulnerable members, and “old-timers” are refreshed and inspired. 100% of the profits from the show go to facilities that provide transitional housing and access to treatment for those who have little or no financial assets. We prefer to benefit facilities that will take clients who have “only the shirt on their backs,” so to speak.

Now I am launching a talk show on a recovery radio network called Pure Motive Radio. The show is on Blog Talk Radio, and it’s called, Kickass Personal Transformation with Marti MacGibbon. The purpose of the show is to provide entertainment, education, and tips on personal development in recovery. I’m booking comedians, authors who write about recovery, and thought leaders in the addiction treatment field. I enjoyed the two guest appearances that Terry Gorski made on my show. I am excited because he has agreed to do more in the future! My listening audience will be fascinated, educated, and enthralled!

Terry’s generosity to the recovering community is extensive. His many books, lectures, and the services of The CENAPS® Corporation provide a wealth of resources for those of us who suffer from the disease of addiction. He’s a brilliant clinician with a keen sense of humor and his contribution to recovery has made it possible for countless lives to be saved, healed and improved.  Terry Gorski Rocks! ~ Marti MacGibbon

C2953-MacGibbon Cover-Mini

Mari MacGibbon’s inspiring story of recovery.

Marti’s MacGibbon’s Website:
http://martimacgibbon.com/

Marti’s MacGibbon’s Blog:
http://martimacgibbon.com/blog/


PTSD and Addiction: A Cognitive Restructuring Approach

January 11, 2014
By Terence T. Gorski, Author
June 22, 2013
Unknown

Recovery Is Possible With
Cognitive Restructuring

 WHEN  TREATING PTSD AND ADDICTION, I don’t use a single approach – I use a consistent set of principles and practices. I strive to be sensitive and adaptive to the emerging needs of patients in the moment. The key seems to be a balance of flexibility and consistency.  Everyone responds in a uniquely personal way in learning to understand and manage PTSD. I like the idea that and the PTSD recovery process results in Post Traumatic Growth. People don’t just overcome their symptoms. They grow and change in positive ways.

PTSD ASSESSSMENT – A CRITICAL FIRST STEP

First I do a comprehensive assessment of PTSD. This includes an analysis of presenting problems, a life history, and a history of treatment and recovery. I include efforts at self-help to be important. Most people try everything they know to get a handle on their PTSD before seeking any formal or professional help.

ADDICTION ASSESSMENT – NOT A LUXURY, A NECESSITY

If the assessment provides confirmation of active PTSD symptoms, I do a comprehensive addiction assessment because addiction is so common in patients with PTSD. If the addiction is not identified and treated concurrently, the PTSD treatment can make the addiction symptoms worse, and the addiction symptoms can prevent patients from benefiting from the treatment/recovery of PTSD.

PSYCHO-EDUCATION – TEACHING A LANGUAGE OF RECOVERY

Then I use psycho-education to give people a new cognitive frame of reference about PTSD. This is extremely important because, although most people are familiar with the general idea of PTSD, most lack accurate information or a useful way of understanding the symptoms and the pathways to recovery.

SURVIVORS – NOT VICTIMS

The most important thing I want to teach is that patients are trauma survivors, not trauma victims. I also want to be sure that the trauma is over. You work differently with PTSD if the trauma is still ongoing It makes a difference if: a soldier needs to return to combat or is home from the war; if a battered child is still living under the control of violent parent and will have to go home; if the abused spouse is out of the marriage or still involved due to children or financial issues; if the person is in prison and going back to the cell block or if they have been released. If they are actively involved in an ongoing trauma teach survival and coping skills, safety plans, and ways to responsible get out and get safe.

GET PATIENTS SOME INITIAL RELIEF FROM PAIN

The first goal is to provide relief for the most painful mediate symptoms. This often involves referral for EMDR. I am not skilled with this method, but many patients find it helpful. This also involves basic training in relaxation, diet, and exercise as a part of overall stress management.

THE LIFE AND SYMPTOMS HISTORY – A COLLABORATIVE APPROACH

Then I do a guided life and symptom history so people can see how symptoms have affected their life negatively through pain, problems, and losses; and positively through a process of making decisions that lead to positive change, growth, and development. This is a positive psychology intervention called Post Traumatic Growth (PSG).

THE COMPREHENSIVE SYMPTOM LIST

I develop a comprehensive list of the PTSD symptoms that patients are struggling with. This often involves showing them a list of symptoms because they lack the words or language to describe what they are experiencing. It is easy for me to forget how important it is to give patients a language of recovery so they can identify and communicate their experiences.

Once I have a comprehensive symptom list, I ask patients to evaluate the frequency (how often) and severity (how disruptive) the symptoms tend to be.  Then explore each symptom. First I want them to tell me real-life stories about what happened when they experienced each symptoms. I like to get at least two stories about each – one story in which they managed it pretty well, and one story in which they managed it poorly. This helps them to take ownership of their symptoms and get a feel for the new language they are learning. I get stress enough how important I feel this process by relating symptoms to actual lived experiences is for most patients.

I look for patterns of symptoms. Many symptoms appear in clusters that are activated by the same trigger event and once they appear, they mutual reinforce and intensify each other. I treat these symptom clusters as a single symptom and help patients to find a meaningful name it.

STRENGTH-BASED – WHAT ARE YOU DOING RIGHT

I make it a point to discuss how patients have managed to survive up to this point. I want to find periods of time when they have successfully managed their symptoms or been symptoms free. What were they doing at those times. What was going on or not going in their lives. What thoughts, feelings, behaviors, and social styles are associated with successfully coping with the symptoms?

THE IDEA OF PTSD SYMPTOM EPISODES

I also like to introduce the concept of PTSD symptoms episodes – moments in time when the symptoms get turned on by triggers and turned off by things like rest and safe environments. The idea is that the symptoms are not always there. Most patients believe that they are, but they are usually wrong. The symptoms are usually turned on some of the time and turned off at other times. Once a symptoms episode is activated by a trigger, it starts, runs a cycle, and then ends or significantly diminishes in intensity. Know that it will end gives strength in facing the symptoms. Naming the symptoms identifies the enemies or the monsters to be dealt with. At the very least, at some times the symptoms are less severe and more manageable than at other times.

SYMPTOM SELF-MONITORING

I encourage patients to do conscious self-monitoring o their symptoms at least four times per day (breakfast, lunch, dinner, and before bed) and note the specific symptoms experienced, how severe the symptom is, what is happening that is making it more severe, and what could be done to make it a little bit less severe. This starts patients on a journey of Post Traumatic Growth by showing them they are not totally at the mercy of these symptoms — that they can choose to do things to make their symptoms a little bit better or a little worse.

FLASHBACKS – TEACHING PATIENT TO GET OUT SAFELY

I find that many patients are fearful of the flashback and dissociative states that they get into that are often a part of PTSD. They fear that if they get into these states they will fall into a bottomless black pit and never be able to crawl out again. This is why a believe so many people are afraid to start talking about past experiences or the triggers that activate symptoms. They are afraid that once the symptoms start they won’t stop.

FINDING A SAFE PLACE INSIDE YOURSELF

To counter this, I like to have patients find a safe-memory or fantasy that they can go to and practice going there when they are feeling pretty good. I want them to learn and practice relaxation exercises that work for them. I give them a smorgasbord of relaxation methods to choose from. Giving choices, it seems, reduces resistance. I also avoid “one size fits all” methods of relaxation — but no methods really do work for everyone. I avoid using guided imagery at first because I find it unpredictable. Once patients relax and engage their imagery processes, they often are vulnerable to intrusive thoughts, feelings, and flashbacks.

IMMEDIATE RELAXATION METHODS – CHOICE AND SAFETY

I like to teach centering, deep-breathing, and mindful (detached) awareness, I want to be sure that patients learn how to get back into the here and now and stop intrusive symptoms as soon as they start.

I avoid what I call “big bang catharsis techniques” which take the patients quickly into deeply re-experiencing the memories of trauma. I have just had too many b ad experiences with patients regressing and getting worse as a result of these techniques. I personally don’t find using them worth the risk.

I would rather take patients into the memories as they emerge in the assessment and recovery skills training process. I want to be sure that patients have the ability to stop and crawl out of the experience and get back into a tight anchor with here-and-now-reality.

SUPPORT NETWORKS 0 CRITICALLY IMPORTANT

I also focus on building support networks of people, places, and things that can be used when things get tough. Simple things like: Who can you call if you need to talk? Who should you avoid if your symptoms are bad in the moment? What can you do that will help? What should you avoid doing because it will make things worse? I am especially concerned about having a support systems that can be used during the night. This is when the symptoms tend to be more intense and the support less available.

COGNITIVE RESTRUCTURING – TFUAR MANAGEMENT

The general structure I wrap these general principles of cognitive restructuring. I use the word cognitive to mean total information processing with the brain and the mind. This involves Thoughts (T), Feelings (F), Urges (U), actions (A), and relationships. It also involves subtle intuitions and openness to spiritual experiences which seem to be very common in people who survive trauma. using a cognitive restructuring process. I ask patients to complete these sentence stems, or I turn them into open-ended questions. Using active listing is critical. Patients must feel listened to, understood, taken seriously and affirmed as a person. This process turns a sterile and “objective” assessment into a highly personalized and collaborative self-assessment.

COGNITIVE RESTRUCTURING FOR PTSD

Here is a general structure for the process:

1.  The symptom that I am experiencing is …

2.  When I experience this symptom I tend to think …

  • A more helpful way of thinking might be ….

3.   When I experience this symptom I tend to feel …

  • A more helpful way of managing those feelings might be ….

4.  When I experience this symptom I tend to manage it by doing the following things …

  • A more helpful behavioral strategy for managing this symptom might be ….

5.  When I experience this symptom what I do to try to get help from other important people in my life is …

  • A more helpful strategy for getting the help and support if others in managing this symptom might be ….

6.   he overall daily plan I have for managing my PTSD recovery is …

  • Some ways of making my recovery plan more helpful for me might be …

A SIMPLISTIC SKELETON OF A COMPLEX PROCESS 

This is a simplistic skeleton of the basic principles and practices of a cognitive restructuring approach for PTSD. This sketch, of course, just covers some of the steps on the critical path to recovery and relapse prevention. It also presents my preferences as a therapist based upon my past experiences with clients. I am sharing this as a personal report on lessons learned.

 Gorski Books


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