Is It Time to Leave?

Subscribe to Lemonada Premium for Bonus Content


This week Nzinga answers two listener questions about setting boundaries in long-term relationships with partners who are working through addiction. Plus, one woman wants to know how to heal from her traumatic relationship patterns, while another caller wants to break out of their pattern of shame around an old pornography addiction.


The number for the National Domestic Violence Hotline is: 1.800.799.SAFE (7233) or go to


To learn more about the CRAFT approach, check out this episode of Last Day that features Nzinga and the creator of CRAFT, Robert Meyers:


Please note, In Recovery contains mature themes and may not be appropriate for all listeners.


Click this link for a list of current sponsors and discount codes for this show and all Lemonada shows go to


Have an addiction-related question? We want to hear from you! Call 833-4-LEMONADA (833-453-6662) or submit your question through this form:


To follow along with a transcript and/or take notes for friends and family, go to shortly after the air date.


Follow Dr. Harrison on Twitter, IG, and FB @naharrisonmd


Stay up to date with us on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram at @LemonadaMedia.


Joining Lemonada Premium is a great way to support our show and get bonus content. Subscribe today at



Loretta, Dr. Nzinga Harrison, Claire Jones, Brittany

Dr. Nzinga Harrison  00:05

Thank you so much. welcome back to this episode of IN RECOVERY. I’m your host, Dr. Nzinga Harrison. And this week is Ask Me Anything Week. So we have a few callers that sent in some really personal questions and I’m gonna lay them on the couch, Claire, let’s cue the first one up.

Claire Jones 

Okay, great. So our first question comes from Tony, who writes in and says, Hi, Dr. Harrison. My husband had a heroin addiction for me for eight years. We moved from New York to Chicago for his Ph. D. program, and he got into a methadone program at a private clinic the day we moved here. I knew something was off, but I never would have thought drugs. I’ve never done any drugs and was quite naive and sheltered about anything involving addiction. The day I found out was quite traumatizing because my spouse was arrested while trying to help another addict. The person then tried to extort and steal from me she knew where our apartment was. Needless to say it was a process to regain trust. I’ve read all about MAT and ultimately supported him emotionally and financially in going that route to recovery.

Claire Jones 

This year, he decided to admit that he had a relapse about four or five years ago while on methadone. He has also decided to switch to buprenorphine and taper he has tapered before but always does so without being fully transparent with the clinic. I’ve been in Al-anon and therapy for five years, while he has had very short bouts of individual and couples therapy. He’s gone two AA and NA meetings and says he’s not comfortable due to their stance on complete abstinence. I’ve worked my program and have tried to stay out of directing his journey, but it’s really negatively impacting my life, while tapering now he’s also started volunteering with a needle exchange program and other outlets that I feel are inappropriate.

Claire Jones

I’m uncomfortable that he is doing them without a sponsor, or some sort of accountability program in place. I have told him that if he continues to refuse boundaries, or accountability, I cannot continue the relationship. But I still feel like I may be being too harsh. I’ve given him 8 years when I initially said I’d give him five to build back trust. I’ve heard you say before, the medication without therapy slash program is insufficient. So how do I enforce that boundary if the programs are intolerant of MAT, is this grounds for leaving the relationship? He is talking about looking for work in another state. And with my own anxiety, I have no desire to leave the support network I had built if he’s just not going to do everything in his power to minimize risk of relapse.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison  02:30

Okay, thank you, Tony. This is a lot. So even though Claire was reading that in her voice, I felt like I could really feel your emotion and your struggle coming through. So let me start with in a relationship, safety matters first, that safety includes physical safety and emotional safety. And what you’re describing here is that you’re in a relationship that does not feel emotionally safe to you. And so I want to go back, you’re exactly right. Medications alone is not the answer to any chronic medical illness, addiction included. But I do always tell the people that I’m walking on this journey with, although it’s not your fault, that you have this illness, it is your responsibility, to do everything that you can do. And what it sounds like here that your husband has as much difficulty with as he does addiction, is transparency and honesty.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

And so I think there is more than just an addiction to drugs here. And so I would really encourage you to enforce your boundaries around that. Not enforcing boundaries, is as harmful as enforcing punitive boundaries, that is harmful to you, to not reinforce boundaries of emotional safety, that is harmful to him, for you not to reinforce boundaries of emotional safety. So I really love that you’re in Al-anon that you have your own therapist. I want you to be working with your therapist on how do you develop the skill to compassionately enforce boundaries that protect your emotional safety in the relationship. In terms of moving to another state. You know, we are pack animals support system, support system, support system where we’re going through difficult things we need people around us.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison  04:36

And so I would absolutely encourage you to think deeply about whether you want to move to another state where you will have no support network that is also putting you at risk for not having emotional safety. But really I just wanted to use this answer to reinforce emotional safety as the number one most important thing in real life. to ship and it sounds like you don’t have any right now. And so focus your efforts on developing emotional safety and setting the boundaries that it takes for you to feel safe. The other thing I’ll say you opened up and said, I knew something was off, but I never would have thought drugs please everybody who is listening, think drugs. So for your spouse, think drugs for your friends, think drugs for your kids think drugs, for yourself, you’re like, I’m really struggling and you’re drinking every day, think drugs, or you’re smoking every day think drugs.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

Our misuse to levels that harmless of alcohol and other drugs in this country is at a fever pitch, it has always been high, the last year has knocked it off the charts. And so I want everybody to be thinking drugs, and yes, that other person is going to be offended, that is okay, we will rather than be offended, and we know what’s going on, so that we can be in a position to help, then to go, like you said for eight years, knowing something was off, but not being able to put your finger on it. So everybody, please think drugs, it’s just the same way as like, if you had a lump in your breast, you would think cancer, and then you will go and you would check out and you would be so relieved that it wasn’t cancer. And that would be better than if you never checked in the first place.

Claire Jones  06:23

Can I ask for you to give an example of setting boundaries, especially around emotional safety, because I feel like we have a lot of people writing in to ask what that actually looks like, or how to actually set those and what an example of an emotional boundary is.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison

Yeah, it’s hard. So Tony puts here I told him, I give him five years, and it’s been eight. So often boundaries set around time, will not be effective, because you don’t know how long it’s going to take. What I rather people do is set kind of incremental boundaries. So instead of you have five years to meet this bar, it’s like I need to see every day that you’re continually putting in effort to meet this bar. And it needs to be between us. Like if we agree to something, you need to do that. And even if you don’t want to do that, you’re willing to do it because we’ve agreed to it. And if it needs to change, when we come back, and we talk about it, if I’m not in a place where I can have that change, then we don’t change it. So for example, here, he’s not interested in AA and NA meetings because he’s not comfortable with their stance on complete estimates.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

Another resource, there is Smart meetings, right? So say, we’re going to try to find SMART meetings. And the agreement that we’re going to make is that you’re going to go to Smart meetings twice a week. And also, I can ask for a random urine drug screen at any time. This is because I want to trust you. But I need some objective information that I can trust you because our trust has been broken. And if you can just go to these two Smart meetings, and every now and then when I asked for a urine drug screen, you can give it without it being an argument and they can say exactly, you know, the results say exactly what you told me the results were gonna say, over some period of time, and I don’t know what that is. I will feel emotionally safe. But it needs to be this continual commitment from you to this agreement that we made that will give me safety.

Claire Jones  08:35

I feel like there also has to be some like, come in within yourself of like, if this person can’t meet that, then, like I choose myself.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison

This is exactly right. And people think this is harsh. But I actually believe in this for every illness. I’m not only saying this for addiction, I believe in this for every illness, like there’s at some point where an illness is so devastating that it begins to eat the people around the person who is ill as well. And it’s at that time where you really have to build that professional support system where you’re able to help get professional supports in place for that person because otherwise you trying to be the person will support, you will die. Right, like emotionally. And so like think of it for example, when you have a family member with Alzheimer’s, there becomes a point where you cannot do that yourself. Without professional resources. There becomes a point where the person with Alzheimer’s cannot make that commitment to you that you need for your emotional safety. And so they have to go live in a home somewhere else, right? Doesn’t mean you don’t love that person. doesn’t mean you’re kicking that person out in the street. It just means I actually cannot be in this role for you. And also be healthy myself.

Claire Jones  10:02

Right. Thank you. Okay, let’s take a quick break. And before we do that, I just want to say, as you’re listening to this AMA, you too could be on an AMA all you have to do is call in and leave us a voicemail at 833-453-6662. Or if you don’t want to call in you can leave us a voicemail at

Brittany  12:05

Hi, my name is Brittany, I’m 28. And my pronouns are she/her. My partner for three years. And our relationship started out very much kind of partying together, drinking eventually kind of turned into both of us having a drinking problem. However, in October of 2020, I gave birth to our son, and he’s now about seven months old. And I have been sober now for about a year and a half. And my partner has struggled with recurrent relapses throughout my pregnancy. And since our son has been born, currently we are living separately because he had a relapse. And our son was about two months old. That really was also I would consider a mental health episode, although we’re still together in our relationship, and still co-parenting and trying to you know, work together to make things work. I’m pretty firm and my boundaries that I don’t think we can be together and raise our son together unless he’s sober because his alcoholism is just too out of control. And his behavior is too erratic.


I don’t feel comfortable raising our son in that environment, as much as I really would love for us to be together. So I’ve been really trying to support him and seeking help purposes drinking and, you know, support with for his mental health. He’s really depressed has a lot of suicidal thoughts and things like that. And he does go to a weekly group meeting that is court mandated. However, I really believe he needs a higher level of care. And we’ll eventually the court mandated group will end and I’m just really trying to push him to seek the help that he needs and improve his life. But I’m feeling a lot of resistance from him feels like he can’t get back on his feet and get out of this really low place while we’re in this really situation a relationship that I feel like this situation of a relationship can’t change until he’s sober.

Brittany  14:24

So we’re in this kind of recurrent cycle. And I guess my question is, how can I be the best support to him to seek the help that he needs as his partner while also maintaining my boundaries of what is good for my mental health? And how can I help encourage someone to seek treatment that is really back and forth on it and sometimes if they want it but doesn’t follow through. I know ultimately it’s up to him, but I’m just feeling Really last on where to go from here and how to help encourage him in the right direction? And also knowing when is it time to step away from the relationship? And just focus on me and my son. So any words of advice would be very much appreciated. Thank you.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

Hey, Brittany. Oh, sorry, you’re going through this. This is so tricky. So first, I want to say congratulations on the little baby seven months old. That’s amazing. I think, definitely, for a lot of people, when a baby comes, it can change the outlook on life. And this is a situation that I’ve encountered before when the birthing parent, the mother kind of gets this ability to enter sobriety as a result of being pregnant. And then the, the non-caring parent either has a more severe clinical picture or more difficulty, being able to get to that point, and then it opens up this space. So I want to start with a little bit drawing a parallel from the question or the answer, I’m sorry, that I gave to Tony, which is, yes, maintain your boundaries for two people here now.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison  16:20

So first and foremost, always in a relationship. The most important thing is safety, emotional and physical. You have to protect your emotional safety so that you can try to have a calm and stable environment for a little boy Brittany. LBB, little boy Brittany. Okay. So first of all, we know that little boy Brittany has biological risk for addiction already from your side, because you’re now in recovery. That means he also actually has biological resilience, as you’ve been able to do that for a year and a half congratulation, and he has risk from his dad’s side. And so I want you to set a goal for LBB of zero aces. And to keep zero aces, one of the aces is a parent in the home with active addiction. So as difficult as it is, I want to reinforce for you that you are making the right decision for little boy Brittany, to not have dad in the house, while dad still has active addiction.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

I think you’re absolutely right with this depression and these thoughts of suicide, the most concrete resource I can give you there again, as we the village, there is actually an art and a skill to helping people develop insight into the difficulties that alcohol and drugs, depression, anxiety, untreated, suicidal thoughts are causing them and moving them along the spectrum towards being able to make a decision to enter treatment. So without having talked to your partner, what I know is that there are a lot of barriers, whether those barriers are real or perceived that he sees to entering treatment.

Claire Jones  18:08

And can you just talk a little bit about like, what, like, what will people find there, because we talk about it a lot. But I don’t know if we’ve actually like talked about specifically what people will get out of that in a long time.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

They use the craft approach and the CRAFT approach is an acronym CRAFT. And it stays for Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Therapy. And it’s a behavior therapy. And it’s psychotherapy, that basically, one gives the education on what addiction is. Two, talks about how to stand in compassion, but how having no boundaries is dangerous and having punitive boundaries is dangerous. How do you get in the middle with compassionate boundaries, and then it actually teaches you supportive techniques to help remove perceived barriers that the person who is addicted has to going treatment. So one, like figuring out what those barriers are, and then what’s an intervention you can make to try to undermine that barrier.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison

And We The Village in their research study 60 plus percent of loved ones who went through their group module, it’s also a place of support where other people are going through what you’re going through. Their people went into treatment. So like Nzinga is worried about in Nzinga, his loved one in Nzinga goes into We The Village and learns CRAFT. And then 60% of the time my loved one goes into treatment. Yeah, it’s pretty, it’s pretty remarkable results. But even for the 40%, whose people didn’t go into treatment, they figure it out. They learned how to keep themselves safe in that relationship. As the person who’s actively using because we say disconnection, is addiction connection is the opposite of addiction.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison  20:08

So we don’t want to disconnect people any more than we want to disconnect people who are suffering from other chronic medical conditions. Just like with other chronic medical conditions, we have to be able to be whole and safe to be of any help and what Brittany’s asking for here is like how do I be of help to him? Without losing myself? I think to your question, How do I know when it’s time to end the relationship. I don’t know that I want you to think about ending any and all relationships with partner because that’s a little boy, Brittany’s dad, and as much as possible, if he can be a father to little boy Brittany, even without being a partner to you or otherwise just co-parenting. We want that. I think this comes down to your needs for emotional safety. So at the point where you feel like you are giving more than you have to give, and it is damaging your mental health. It’s damaging your sense of stability, it’s damaging your ability to mother little boy Brittany, the way you want to is damaging your ability to feel safe in an intimate relationship. That’s when it’s time to take space.

Claire Jones 

Let’s take a quick break and we’ll be right back.

Claire Jones 

Our next question is from Jimmy who says ever since being exposed to pornography at a young age by an older boy, it’s been a defining element of my sexuality. After reaching a point where I was using pornography to escape myself for six to eight hours a day, I was damaging my relationship with my wife, family, friends and commitments at work. And the pornography stopped working. I began acting out online with other women and quickly reached a point where I felt I descended to a place I could not climb out from. I knew I’d crossed a point of no return where my behavior that was one self-inflicted was now hurting those I love. Yet that nagging feeling continued to seek validation from other women. The catalyst for change was partly self-sabotage and that I did not hide my behavior from my wife all too well, and ultimately, she discovered my contact with other women.

Claire Jones  22:29

That day, the feeling of hot fear and shame wash over me as the inescapable was now present in the room for all to see. Although obviously devastating for her to hear, she has taken her own recovery into her hands to seek counseling for herself. There were certainly reasons we found each other and larger powers were at play as ultimately unresolved childhood trauma was at the root for both of us, which we now work through individually and as a couple. Today, I feel as if I’m doing what is needed to build solid foundations for my life. Although I’m 12 months into recovery, I still feel firmly a novice. I’m clean from all substances I’d once use alongside pornography. But that elusive emotional sobriety and freedom from all the feelings I mentioned above has not yet been found. I do notice this knee jerk reaction to act out still. I keep wanting to isolate , shut down, and escape reality when feelings of inadequacy and effectiveness draw closer.

Claire Jones 

Intimacy is a real struggle, and I’ve had a few slip ups acting out with pornography because of this, and the shame and regret for who I am all slide into easily. In trying to understand my struggles with intimacy. I’ve read the term sexual anorexia and in reading about it, it really resonated with me. I should be the sexual Adonis that seen in pornography, that I should have undeserved attention from women and admiration from men for sexual exploits. These are all traits that a real man carries. These are irrational thoughts see madness when written out and spoken, and I feel disgusted in myself that this is part of me. This belief I carry won’t disappear. And I fear I’m mistaking sexual anorexia for sobriety, because my sex drive is the lowest it’s ever been. And this is negatively impacting my relationship with my wife. So my question is this, how do I break through this barrier I’ve created to find true intimacy? Is this a concept I will simply never understand? Am I hardwired to never be capable? Because it’s a skill I was never taught by my parents.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison  24:24

All right, Jimmy, your question how do I break through this barrier I’ve created to find true intimacy, you’re taking the steps right now even sending in this really vulnerable question to the podcast. Just hearing me answer your question in public is a huge, massive step. So first of all, congratulations on 12 months into recovery from the pornography. Sexual addictions are especially difficult because we’re hard wired for sexuality or hard wired for sexual arousal, it is literally a survival mechanism, one of the basic, basic determinants of dopamine in our brain, which is like our molecule that says you need that to survive are sex and nurturing. And so 12 months into not compulsively using pornography is amazing.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

And I hope that you can actually feel the success in that even though you’re still having these difficulties with feelings of inadequacy and effectiveness. To your question, Is this a concept you were simply never understand? Or are you hardwired to never be capable? Because it was a skill, you were never taught by your parents? No, I think that’s the cleanest answer I can give on this whole AMA, you can learn to understand this concept. You are not hardwired to never be capable; you are actually hardwired to be capable. Okay, Jimmy? And I know that you’re hardwired to be capable. Because you’ve been 12 months. You said you feel like a novice, you’re absolutely right. So when we look at addiction, we don’t even call it remission, meaning the symptoms have gone away until it’s three months not engaging in that behavior.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison  26:19

And then we still call it early remission for the entire first year, because the risk of relapse still stays really high. Another way that I know you’re truly hardwired to be capable is because you recognize that you’re a novice, you’re not like oh, I got this been there, done it bam, living my life, right? Like that would be excruciatingly, I’ll be like, oh, my God, I’m worried. And so I actually feel very, very, very hopeful about you. We just did an episode on sexual addiction with Dr. Nazanin Moali. And I think she’ll have a lot to offer. And because she’s the expert on sex addiction, specifically, so I think that would be very helpful. I also want you to try to find a therapist, who specifically has expertise in intimacy. To help you out, here are the things that are highlighted from your question that I wanted to make sure to touch base on, after reaching a point where I was using pornography, quote, to escape myself for six to eight hours a day. So like many people, your pornography addiction and your sexual behavior acting out, has a deeper root cause, and that when you have a need to escape yourself, then we have to get to what is the root cause of that needing to escape it.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

So whenever that inadequacy, defectiveness feeling you’re hardwired to never be capable gets triggered, you’re going to have cravings for pornography. So that’s what we have to get to the root of. Just like when we take care of people with chronic pain, I cannot make you the promise that pain is gonna go away. In fact, you’re probably going to have some pain. But what’s important is that you get your life back despite the pain. You recognize how to avoid what makes the pain worse. when something does make the pain worse, you know how to deal with it. And so I want to apply that exact same structure to your sexual addiction. We recognize what caused it that’s laying on somebody’s couch going into that childhood because I promise you it’s there.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

So I know you’re pointing your finger to being exposed to pornography as a young boy, I don’t think that’s it. There is something deeper from your childhood that has created this. And I’m going to use your words, feeling of inadequacy, and defectiveness. It is deep, deep, deep within you. Because even as you’re telling me about your success for the last 12 months, you describe that success as inadequate, when in fact, it’s remarkable. And so I need you to lay on somebody’s couch for real, and go to that scary, scary childhood place instead of experiences that taught you that you are inadequate, and defective. And in your own words, hardwired to never be capable. This is not true about you, but you believe it’s true. And anytime that gets triggered, you’re going to knee jerk to pornography, because dopamine makes us feel better. it resolves fear, resolves angst and resolves uncertainty, it resolves sadness, and you have learned that pornography develops a good dopamine signal for you.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison  29:55

It’s figuring out how to live your life meaningfully, even though every now and then you’re going to get triggered, it’s being able to take that message that that trigger causes not for golden truth because it’s trash, okay? The message that you’re inadequate and defective, and hardwired to never be capable is a trash message. I said it, I meant it. But sometimes it’s gonna come up because humans, so when it comes up, I need you to recognize like, you know what, that’s trash, and then you have a plan for how you throw it back in the trash. Your partner is going to be instrumental in this, if you were inadequate and defective, she wouldn’t be making such an effort. You’re meaningful to her and you’re making a difference to her and you’re making a difference in the lives of other people that you’re coming in contact with. And so we just need you on somebody’s couch to make sure that that’s the narrative that automatically plays in your brain, rather than this narrative that you currently have playing.

Claire Jones  30:54

Okay, our last question is a voicemail from Loretta.


Hi, my name is Loretta. I’ve been with a couple addicts now. You know, I seem to hop from one bad relationship to the next. And I guess what I’m really struggling with right now is trauma. And moving past some of the, you know, the more traumatic memories from these things. You know, I had an ex-boyfriend who was to be, you know, abusive when you use. And, you know, this last one, he had overdosed a couple times. So I was hoping you could kind of speak to the nature of trauma and addiction, and you know, how to cope with it, how to move past it, and just, you know, where to go from here. Thanks.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

Okay, Loretta, thank you so much for calling in. So specifically asked me to speak to the nature of trauma and addiction, these two things are inextricably linked. Trauma is one of the most reliable pathways to addiction that we have. And trauma is one of the most reliable pathways caused by addiction as well. So it’s like an input and an output, I want to start with something that you said, which is a hop from one bad relationship to the next. So I know you’re gonna be like, stop being such a psychiatrist, Dr. Harrison, but whenever I hear that, I’m like, tell me about your childhood. Because where we learn relationship dynamics is as we’re growing up, and where we learn, the value that we hold in relationships, is when we’re growing up.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison  32:54

So without knowing anything, except for that short voicemail that you sent me, I feel like you’ve had experiences in childhood and early adulthood that you’re perhaps recreating, as you jump from traumatic relationship to traumatic relationship to traumatic relationship. When a lot of times we do that we’re looking outside and say, like that relationship, but the common denominator, this is compassionate confrontation to you, my dear Loretta, is you. And so for some reason, you’re seeking out that instability. And you’re seeking out that continued trauma even as you end one relationship because of trauma. And so I want you to lay on somebody’s couch. So we can figure out what it might be that’s driving you to get into these types of relationships.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

And then it sounds like your relationships have really been traumatic. You mentioned physical abuse, which I hope that you’re currently in a safe place. If not, please check out some domestic violence resources so that you can get in a safe place. I really appreciated that you mentioned overdoses. This is a trauma that I think we don’t spend enough time on for the loved ones of people with addiction, when your loved one has had an overdose, especially if you witness that overdose, that has got to be one of the most terrifying experiences to see your loved one laying there in front of you lifeless, and you feel hopeless and trapped. And so I think we should spend more time with loved ones who have had, you know, their person overdose to protect yourself against that, of course, definitely therapy to look at what the traumas had been, but then also from an opioid overdose perspective. Like please, please, please, everybody who’s listening, if you’re in a relationship with a person with opioid use disorders, just keep your Narcan kit on you, it will literally save their lives.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

So I want to talk to you Loretta, specifically about EMDR. EMDR is a therapy that we have for people who have experienced trauma. And so what we know is just like your body heals itself, when you have a physical injury, your body goes through a similar process to heal itself when you have a psychological injury. But a lot of times, we have to help that along. So you can think of it like if you I think I’ve told this metaphor on the show before, but get cut across the belly with the machete and you’re hemorrhaging, you cannot heal that without professional help, you have wound care. But in that initial injury, the pain is overwhelming, the pain is constant, you have to have an intervention to help with the pain. Over time, And with that professional intervention, that open wound turns into a scab, and the pain is not constantly there, and the pain is not as severe.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison  36:07

But if you brush up against it, or like we say in trauma, if you get triggered, then you feel that pain again, almost as intense as the initial injury when you’re early in the healing process. And then more time comes and more interventions because we take care of a scab, right? And what if we take that exact same approach to the psychological traumas we’ve had, were one, when we’re initially introduced, like, you know what, I need some help for this therapist, psychiatrist, while we have this gap, it’s like, you know what, I have to treat this injury with care, and specific interventions. And then you get to the part so that I can limit the scarring, with addiction being one of those scars. And then you get to a scar where you can look at that mark. And you can remember how painful it was. But you don’t have to feel how painful it was. And that’s really the goal.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison

And so when we talk about the therapies that we have that help treat, whether it’s a childhood trauma, or whether it’s the trauma that you have continued to experience as an adult, we can use EMDR. And EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization, and Reprocessing, you know, how we say, eyes are the window to the soul. This is actually true, okay, there are biological, physiological mechanisms that connect what we see what we experience, to our emotions, to our beliefs. And so EMDR actually uses stimuli, it could be your eyes, it could actually be other types of stimulus to kind of open up this opportunity to desensitize your brain to the traumas that you’ve experienced. And we go through the traumas one at a time. And then once you’ve been desensitized, you can think of that as trying to get from the open wound stage to the scab stage, we do reprocessing, that’s the R in EMDR, to create a different set of beliefs around that experience.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison  38:20

Because what we know is when we don’t get to the scar, those experiences continue to plague us in the form of addiction, other chronic medical illnesses, relationship difficulties, lack of meaning and life difficulty finding purpose, depression, anxiety, like so many ways. And so with the traumas that you’ve had, even just as an adult, this could be very helpful to you, with the traumas that I believe you have probably had as a child, even though you didn’t share that with us. This could be helpful to you.

Claire Jones 

I know someone close to me just recently started doing EMDR. And it’s really fascinating, because the way that I think about it is you. It’s like, if you have a scab that is infected, you have to like go back and scrub it and take all of that infection off and like reopen it back up. To let it heal back better again. And that is sort of the understanding that I have is when you’re doing the eye movements, you go back and you are like you relive those memories as it feels like it’s in real time. It’s like very visceral, very realistic. And then that’s when you like reformed these years are processing and differently and filing it away in your brain differently.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison 

That’s exactly right.

Claire Jones 

And with that, that’s the end of our episode. So thank you to everyone who wrote in and called in. Thanks, Nzinga, for providing your wisdom.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison

Thank you and what if somebody will want to have their question answered on a future AMA?

Claire Jones  40:04

They can call in an 833-453-6662. Or you can write in at And that’s it. Thanks everyone.

Dr. Nzinga Harrison

Talk to you next week.


IN RECOVERY is a Lemonada Media Original. This show is produced by Claire Jones and edited by Ivan Kuraev. Jackie Danziger is our supervising producer. Our theme was composed by Dan Molad with additional music by Kuraev. Stephanie Wittels Wachs and Jessica Cordova Kramer are our executive producers. Rate us, review us, and say nice things. Follow us at @LemonadaMedia across all social platforms, or find me on Twitter at @naharrisonmd. If you’ve learned from us, share the show with your others. Let’s help to stigmatize addiction together.

Spoil Your Inbox

Pods, news, special deals… oh my.