Discover U Podcast with JD Kalmenson

Discover U Podcast: Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency, with Dr. Rob Weiss, PhD

January 10, 2022 JD Kalmenson, CEO Montare Behavioral Health Season 2 Episode 1
Discover U Podcast with JD Kalmenson
Discover U Podcast: Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency, with Dr. Rob Weiss, PhD
Show Notes Transcript

Montare Media presents Season Two Episode 1 of the Discover U Podcast: Prodepence: Moving Beyond Codependency.

Can a person stay in a loving, connected relationship with someone who is misusing substances, without losing themselves? Do all those who devotedly care for their addicted family members necessarily have their own pathologies? Get ready to have your preconceptions blown apart in this thought-provoking conversation.

JD Kalmenson interviews Dr. Rob Weiss, therapist, author, and renowned speaker on his newest ground-breaking work focussing on the family dynamics of chemical dependency. Dr. Rob will open your heart with his compassionate approach to both caregivers and addicts and inspire a renewed belief in the healing power of love.

Learn More about Montare Behavioral Health: https://montarebehavioralhealth.com/about/digital-library/

Dr. Rob Weiss, PhD, LCSW. Dr. Rob is the Chief Clinical Officer of Seeking Integrity, a group of online and real-world communities helping people to heal from intimacy disorders and related substance abuse. He's the author of 10 books on sexuality, technology, and intimate relationships, including his most recent one, ‘Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency’. His Sex, Love, and Addiction podcast is currently in the top 10 of US Addiction Health podcasts. And he's been a featured expert on CNN, ABC, and other major media outlets.

Host Kalmenson is the CEO/Founder of Renewal Health Group, a family of addiction treatment centers, and Montare Behavioral Health, a comprehensive brand of mental health treatment facilities in Southern California. Kalmenson is a Yale Chabad Scholar, a skilled facilitator, teacher, counselor, and speaker, who has provided chaplain services to prisons, local groups and remote villages throughout the world. His diverse experience as a rabbi, chaplain, and CEO has inspired his passion and deep understanding of the necessity for effective mental health treatment and long-term sobriety.

 

Tags:

#addiction, #co-dependency, #familytherapy, #substanceabuse, #intimaterelationships, #spouseofaddicts, #prodependence, #interdependence 



JD: Pretty excited. And I'd love to actually do perhaps another episode in the near future with you, targeting intimacy disorder, sex addiction, specifically because you are pretty much...


Dr. Rob: Yeah, definitely. People are stuck at home. The healthy ones are going to meetings. The non-healthy ones are spending 5 hours a day looking at porn, or gambling.

 

JD: Wow.

 

Dr. Rob: Or gaming.

 

JD: Wow.

 

Dr. Rob: Just so you know, just to say it, I can't really say much more of it, there's going to be a new series on A&E called Digital Intervention. And they're going to look at compulsive porn use, compulsive gaming, compulsive gambling, spending and all that stuff that goes online. So, there's going to be more attention to that.

 

JD: Wow.

 

Technician: So, you're going to be starring in that, I hope.

 

Dr. Rob: I have a couple of episodes. I have 2 or 3 episodes.

 

Technician: Very nice.

 

Dr. Rob: Maybe more next year, but we'll see.

 

Technician: Well, you're so well spoken. So, we're...

 

Dr. Rob: I am.

 

Technician: We’re honored that you came here today to be with us on our humbly growing podcast.

 

Dr. Rob: Well, I have to tell you guys, I wouldn't do it if it wasn't for Rene.

 

JD: Wow.

 

Dr. Rob: Because I believe in her and I trust her. And besides, look how good my blue eyes look. So, of course I'm glad to do this.

 

JD: Awesome, awesome. Okay, I'm ready to start on mind. Whenever it works for you, Rob.

 

Dr. Rob: Sure. A real quick question.

 

JD: Sure.

 

Dr. Rob: What do you want me to call you?

 

JD: JD is fine.

 

Dr. Rob: Okay. And JD, do you want... so, I do lots and lots and lots of these, but I don't have your script in front of me. I've never found myself unable to manage what's being asked of me. But just very quickly, the focus is codependence and the codependency and to move past that and all that stuff?

 

JD: Correct.

 

Dr. Rob: Is that right?

 

JD: That's the focus.

 

Dr. Rob: Okay.

 

JD: Yes.

 

Dr. Rob: Is there any particular question that you would feel a script is needed for, or just like if I’m fast on my feed, we should be fine?

 

JD: Oh, I think this is going to be straight up your wheelhouse. So, there's nothing...

 

Dr. Rob: Okay.

 

JD: Yeah, nothing... no surprise.

 

Dr. Rob: Let's go.

 

JD: Yes, yes, yes, yes. Awesome. And thank you again, Rob, for joining. Is Rob good or doctor?

 

Dr. Rob: I call me Dr. Rob. It’s kind of nice.

 

JD: Dr. Rob, awesome.

 

Dr. Rob: You’re like, “Dr. Rob Weiss, blah, blah,” and then just, “Hey, Dr. Rob.”

 

JD: Yes, perfect, perfect. Awesome. Okay.

 

Dr. Rob: Except, I'm not Dr. Phil. Don't call me Dr. Phil, because we know who he is. Anyway.

 

Technician: Have a great show.

 

JD: Awesome. Thank you.

 

Dr. Rob: Hey, bye now. We'll miss you.

 

JD: Welcome to another episode of Discover U, our podcast exploring innovative and effective solutions to issues in mental and behavioral health. I'm JD Kalmenson, CEO of Montare Behavioral Health, a family of dynamic and comprehensive mental health treatment centers in Southern California. I'm excited to introduce you today to our trailblazing guest, Dr. Rob Weiss, PhD, LCSW. Dr. Rob is the Chief Clinical Officer of Seeking Integrity, a group of online and real-world communities helping people to heal from intimacy disorders and related substance abuse. He's the author of 10 books on sexuality, technology, and intimate relationships, including his most recent one, ‘Prodependence: Moving Beyond Codependency’. His Sex, Love, and Addiction podcast is currently in the top 10 of US Addiction Health podcasts. And he's been a featured expert on CNN, ABC, and other major media outlets. Welcome, Dr. Rob. So happy to have you with us today. Many of us...

 

Dr. Rob: Hey, I'm glad to be here.

 

JD: Thank you, thank you. Jumping right in, many of us either have family members, friends, or know someone struggling with addiction or other mental health challenges. And it often seems that finding the right balance of being a supportive family member and providing an unconditionally loving environment while also trying not to enable the negative behaviors can be really tough. We often find at Montare that the efficacy of our treatment increases exponentially when the family is engaged and actively participating in the treatment. Family dynamics often create insecurities and emotional toxicity that could encourage unhealthy coping strategies. I understand that you've developed a new model for dealing with family members of identified patients called Prodependence. Can you tell us how this model challenges the previous assumptions about the role that the family plays in recovery?

 

Dr. Rob: Well, first of all, thank you for having me. And I hope we get to come back and talk about sex addiction and porn addiction, all those things that people really love to talk about.

 

JD: Yes.

 

Dr. Rob: Because anyone wants to talk about sex, of course, they want to hear that show. But I think we need to talk about the problems of codependency. Because it has been the sole model of treating families and loved ones of addicts for almost 40 years. And while I would validate that model, if it were in some way based on criteria, if it in some way had research, if in any way had ever been a diagnosis, those would be things I'd be looking for as a mental health professional. It has none of those things. 

 

Just so you know, I did my PhD in codependency. I read a lot of those books. And the problem is that it's a pop culture notion. It came out of some of the issues in the 1980s that had to do with feminism and other kinds of ways that women were trying to put themselves out there. And the bottom line was dependency was devalued. And family members of addicts in particular, were told that there's something wrong with them for loving this person, for staying with this person, or for trying to fix the addictive problem. And I have always found that to be insulting and derogatory to family members who have put their lives on the line to try to save or help and, I'll use this word purposely, ‘rescue’ an addict that they love.

 

JD: Wow. So, the term ‘codependency’ is not a clinical term. It's not found in the DSM. It's a pop culture term, just to be clear?

 

Dr. Rob: And the problem with that, and I want you to understand this, as a therapist, we're not a fan of labels. None of us are fan of labels. But some of them are needed. So, if you were working with a client in New York and I was working with him in Ohio, they came to your treatment center in New York, and you said to me they had depression, I could name 5 or 6 criteria that you and I would agree on, because there are books that tell us, “If they have A, B, C and D, they're depressed. If they have D, E and F, they're not.” But there is nothing related to codependency that has any criteria. So, if you're in New York and you say to me, “Oh, I think that client is codependent,” well, which of the 377 books written by therapists are interested in the topic is right? How do I know that what you call codependency is the same as what I call codependency? Because there is no standard, there is no diagnosis, and there never has been.

 

JD: Fascinating. And in terms of what people sort of label, and even though as you've mentioned, that it's not a positive sort of insertion in the discussion, do you find there to be a difference between men and women who are likely to be labeled, as it were, codependent?

 

Dr. Rob: Oh, absolutely. Codependency is an attack on some level on some of the best characteristics of being a woman. Empathy, compassion, relationship building, staying there when it's difficult. To me, men have these characteristics, but we have a different set of characteristics because we have testosterone, and we live in the world differently than women. And we in some ways, we look at the world differently. We value the world differently. We're just different. That Mars versus Venus stuff. But unfortunately, we have always devalued the strengths of caregivers. Nurses and teachers and social workers, we don't get paid like your masters of industry. 

 

So, it's like the caregiver role of a woman has always been devalued. And that really fit for feminism in the 80s, because the whole idea was to knock men out of the way and get through the glass ceiling and be successful, which works really for business to some degree. It does not work for intimate relationships. And I remember the day when, if you went across town to pick up a friend because they didn't have a car, you were called codependent. Because would you give them too much and you should have been doing something for yourself. That's how it works. 

 

By the way, we can talk about this briefly, codependence is not culturally valid. It just does not meet the needs of other cultures other than Western Eurocentric culture. And it is not supportive to women. Because it basically says, “Well, these characteristics are wrong, and you should not act this way. Because you can't compete with a man if you look like this or do these things. You'll never get ahead if you focus on others.” Well, there are many people like us who make a living focusing on others, made a career and we love focusing on others. Would you call us that there's something wrong with us for wanting to help people? So, ask more questions. I'll say more.

 

JD: Yes.

 

Dr. Rob: This is I'm obviously passionate about this topic.

 

JD: Yes. And the truth is, it would be remiss if I didn't point out that the innovative ideas that you bring to the table have relevance and implication, both for the people who are being labeled codependents, as it were, and to get rid of that shame. But also, for those who are sort of struggling with behavioral health challenges and addiction, and they're being told by others that, “You're to go dependent on X, Y, and Z.” So, the implications of your message really have to fold here. And both are equally important, as it were. I want to jump to...

 

Dr. Rob: What's really interesting...

 

JD: Go ahead, I'm sorry.

 

Dr. Rob: Sorry, I just want to say it's really interesting that you point out that particular point, or make that particular point. Because, in truth, there is an effect on, let's say, the addict, mentally ill people certainly, but also the addict, if you tell them that their partner is codependent and that they should not be enabling and rescuing, all this stuff, in my experience, you give the addict an excuse to say, “Well, I don't need to stop drinking until that spouse of mine stops nagging and complaining.” To me, it just gives the addict another reason to justify their acting out and blame their partner, which they already do. “It's your fault that I drink. It's your fault,” and codependency kind of formalized that. 

 

And let me just say one more thing about all that which is, obviously I've studied the history of how we treat partners of addicts and caregivers. There are historians on this issue. And there's this guy named William White, who was a researcher into Hazelden and... all of the early studies and work on addiction. And he said, more or less, quote/unquote, that in the 90s, when we were treating the partners of addicts and the family of addicts, but especially partners, he would say, “The average words that would be used to talk about that person were ‘nagging’, ‘emasculating’, ‘anti-men’.” In other words, caregivers were given... forever, caregivers have been devalued. But they never were systemically valued, or systematically devalued. It was more like, “Oh, they’re a nag. They complain. They're difficult.” But we never said, “Oh, here's a format by which we can judge these people.” And when codependency came along, rather than celebrating them, it judge them.

 

JD: Wow. So, they're not a liability. They're an asset when harnessed correctly with the proper mindset. That's what you're saying.

 

Dr. Rob: Well, that's, to me, what codependency is about is saying... and really, I just want to say that... well, I'll just say it this way. First of all, in the 40 years that I've been in the field since the 80s of addiction, we have seen, and with mental health, we've seen dozens of new ways to treat people. We have equine therapies, and massage therapies, and somatic therapies, and EMDR, and non-religious therapies and spiritual. We have endless ways to work with addicts that have come along, and that people are excited about. 

 

In the last 40 years, we have no new methods for working with partners and families of addicts, except for codependency, which has never been anything but a pop culture notion. So, I wanted to say and have said, with Prodependence, maybe there's another way to look at partners and loved ones. And what I did was I flipped the whole notion of codependency on its ear, and I said, “You know what? What if the people who hang with addicts and support them, what if the people who stick by mentally ill people are heroes? What if because they are willing to sacrifice parts of themselves to help people they love survive, that that is something to be celebrated? And just like you would want to bring casseroles and support and love on the person whose spouse has cancer, why do we treat the spouse who has an addict any different?” 

 

And by the way, these words like ‘enabling’ and ‘enmeshing’, first of all, they're terrible words, and there's no reason for them because we can say ‘encouraging’, ‘supportive’, ‘deeply inside the problem’, ‘are scared that it's going to happen again’. I mean, we don't have to use those negative terms because they describe a whole way of looking at partners and family members that basically says there's something wrong with them. And I don't think there's anything wrong with these partners or family members, except the stress and challenge of loving someone who is failing.

 

JD: That is very, very insightful. And it's empowering as well. Would you say that Prodependence should be advocated in every case, or are there exceptions? And I'll explain what I'm really asking. Is there anything that codependency did get right? For example, concepts like boundary setting and self-care, which have become household terms and seem to be the backdrop of much of the writing in the literature about codependency would seem appropriate when a spouse or a caregiver is toxic. What do you say in that case? Is that an exception? Or is that included in the Prodependence model?

 

Dr. Rob: Absolutely, it's included in Prodependence. Because what I don't understand about codependency is I believe that most people have not gone to graduate or undergraduate school for treating addiction and mental health. I think that there's not that many of us. And we are trained, hopefully, how to manage addiction, how to manage partners, how to make that work. But your average person who is, I don't know, working at a bank and their spouse becomes a drug addict, how are they supposed to know how to do it right? How are they supposed to know that they shouldn't bring a bottle home, or they shouldn't make excuses? They're just doing the best they can. 

 

And so, to give them a pathology, since they have no idea how to help this person they love, would you give them a pathology, if they were trying to solve this person's cancer with health medication? I mean, it just makes no sense to pathologize these people. And if they are, and they will, be helping in a non-helpful way, if a spouse or family member is doing something that we would have called enmeshed or nagging or complaining, well, guess what? We could redirect them. We can say, “That doesn't really work, but maybe you should try it this way. And now that you've got me as a therapist to help you, why don't we work together to help the addict do it differently? Maybe the way you did it didn't quite work. But what was underlying your desire to help this person was not that you're acting out, not that it comes from your past, it's that's what you know how to do, and that's the best you could do. And maybe it didn't help stop the addiction problem, but it probably did make a few things easier until you got to see me or someone. Now, with my help and together, we will solve the addiction problem. But I think you did the absolute best with the tools you had in the best way you could to help this person you love get better. And if it didn't work, we'll find a different way. But whatever reason you did it, I think you're incredibly strong and loving for having tried.”

 

JD: That's beautiful. And it also really aligns with what the recovery process ought to look like, which is really taking ownership for oneself and not seeking to blame people and habits for our challenges and struggles. Something that might or might not be related to Prodependence specifically but should be spoken about in the same conversation, and I'd love to get your take on it, do you believe there is an inherent conflict between healthy interdependency and self-actualization? In other words, where do we draw the line between ambitious self-growth in any arena potentially impeding on our relationships versus Oversocialization, or just quantitatively speaking, a lot of intense friendships, which might come at the potential expense of our personal goals and aspirations?

 

Dr. Rob: Well, I think that's a general question.

 

JD: Yes.

 

Dr. Rob: And I think it kind of comes down to the people we're talking to and what that's about. But I'll simply say that this whole 1980s, and it was 1980s and 1990s notion that you had to individually and personally self-actualize in order to meet your best potential. And we're talking the groups, you're probably too young for this, but the groups that came out of that, like EST, and Life Spring, and Insight, they were all about the individual developing their own ability to achieve emotionally on every level. And that's not how the way we look at mental health anymore. I am not as strong as I can be out in the world and succeed. What matters is the strength of my relationships. Do I have a great marriage? Do I have a great family? Do I have a good community? And are these people enhancing and supporting who I am, and vice versa? 

 

So, by the way, it's the same thing. If I'm involved with unhealthy people, I can simply find healthier people or find out a different way to relate to those people. But this idea that that I cannot self-actualize when I'm in a deep and meaningful relationship, I completely disagree with. I agree with, I mean, I don't know about you, but I have been more successful, happier, more at peace, living in the foundation of my marriage than I ever was by myself. And if you look at the research, those of us who are in committed relationships live longer, are more successful and are healthier. However, if you're in a bad relationship, you're out there with the single people. But if you're happy relationship, pair bonding is what we are meant to do. We were meant to be, and we were meant to live in community. 

 

So, to me, this idea that you need to go out on your own, not only is that a problem for the individual, but its problem culturally. Western culture and Eurocentric culture tells us to, “Pull up our bootstraps. Go out there and do it on our own.” I mean, in some ways, this whole idea of self-actualization is a version of that, which is, “You can do it yourself. If you just get...” if you're a Native American, if you are Hispanic, if you are African American, that's not the way you look at the world. I have a number of Latina social work therapists who would say, “When I am dealing with an addict and a spouse of an addict, if that spouse were to leave the community and go off on themselves to try to grow and self-actualize, they'd be considered selfish. That in our communities, we don't leave, we move toward. We engage the community. We engage. We pull all the strength around us, and we focus on the problem as a group.” 

 

When I was teaching this to Native American tribes, some of them came up and cried and hugged me and said, “Thank you. For the first time, there is a model that fits our culture, because it's focused on community and not the individual.” So, it's really, to be honest, I won't say it in such a negative way, but I how do I say this? I think it was a particularly successful women of a certain race who were in a place at that time in their lives to create this model that worked great for a lot of people who had resources and lived in this kind of Western culture. But for everybody else, it's a failure.

 

JD: Right.

 

Dr. Rob: And it does not fit. And let me just say this, if you're depressed, depression is the same in every country in the world. What criteria makes it... in other words, you can't say, “Well, in our culture, we don't agree with depression.” Depression is depression. But there is no place for codependency in 2/3 of the cultures in the world. So, I mean, there's no place for it. So, why would we use something that is not applicable across cultures? And that's where codependency is, unfortunately.

 

JD: That's beautiful. That's beautiful. Because what you're positing, and it makes so much sense, is the fact that it isn't an objective reality across the board everywhere in the world really highlights and exposes the fact that it doesn't have to be that way, and it ought not to be that way. And just another thing to unpack for a beautiful message that I love what you were expressing was that finding strength in numbers, and being a more powerful human being as a result of our community, not only does it not detract from our individuality, it actually helps our self-actualization. Because we're stronger, so we have more emotional resilience. We have more confidence and motivation to do that which we individually aspire to do. So, you can sort of have your cake and eat it too, in this context.

 

Dr. Rob: Well, you're right on target. Because if you think about, what are the most problematic characteristics of someone who's deeply addicted or profoundly mental ill, is they are isolated. It is people going off by themselves like wounded animals. And what do we do in mental health and addiction? The first moment we start working with people is we bring them into community. We bring them to 12-step programs. We bring them to group therapies. We natively and naturally assume that they will do better in groups. So, I think that that is more our native and natural feeling than this idea that, “I need to go self-actualize by myself and be the best me that I can be.” Oh, by the way, there was a name for the generation that valued this way of thinking, it was called the Me Generation in the 1980s and 90s. That generation has moved on.

 

JD: Right.

 

Dr. Rob: Our focus now in mental health is on attachment. It's on our connections.

 

JD: Right.

 

Dr. Rob: It's on my mental health being mirrored by the strength of my connections. So, you don't want to devalue someone's community and connections. You want to grow, in healthy ways, their connection to that community.

 

JD: And that's beautiful, because Prodependence, from what I'm understanding, fosters that deeper type of connection, that stronger attachment, which makes us stronger. And instead of...

 

Dr. Rob: Love is love.

 

JD: Yes, love is love. And what you're describing this sort of the challenge of what the way people feel that, “I'm stronger if I go out on my own,” it brings to mind something that really resonated with me many years ago, and I live with it until today. People associate power and influence as being something of a similar nature, but nothing could be further from the truth. Even though some powerful people are influential, and some influential people are powerful. Ultimately, if I take 90% of your power, I've detracted 90% of your power. But if I take 90% of your influence and I spread it out, I've multiplied your influence by 90%. And I really feel like, with today especially, what we really want as individuals and as communities and societies, we want to be relevant. We want to be influential. We want to make a difference. We want to make an impact. It's not so much the power that where you sort of get into this seesaw relationship where it's, “Either me or them. Us versus...” the zero-sum game. And the more we can go away from that, the better and the deeper our relationships. And the more Prodependence will be such a natural sort of way of looking at the world, as opposed to the counterintuitive way that codependency is sort of bringing out.

 

Dr. Rob: And codependency is hierarchical in what you're talking about. It doesn't see us as all together, some of us stronger, some of us more vulnerable. It’s a team. Together, we are stronger, we have more influence. It looks at the individual as being the one who has the power and needs to achieve the success. So, and by the way, that's very much how it goes. We have someone at the top, and then everyone else sort of has their little role. And that's important, but we want a more equitable world where everybody has a place, and they are successful at whatever level they're at. And we're not really set up for that at the moment.

 

JD: Right, right. What would you describe in elevator pitch or some metrics to ensure that people are living with a more Prodependence lifestyle versus falling into the trap of codependency?

 

Dr. Rob: Well, codependency is a trap, because it's all we know. And it would be fine if it had maintained itself as a form of self-actualization and personal growth in the world. But when it got brought into the therapeutic setting and we all embraced it, that was on us. We took this concept and we made it into something that we pushed into what we do, but it doesn't really work. I don't think I’m fully answering your question, by the way. I think I'm going off on one of my rants. I have lots of them. And I wanted to answer your question. So, can you go back around to it?

 

JD: Sure. Sure. So, I guess what I'm asking is, if somebody wants to know whether they're living a lifestyle that contains Prodependence, and they're not falling into the mental trap of blaming others, is there like a simple 1 or 2 sort of metrics that they should keep in mind, that they should bear in mind, “Am I living with Prodependence integrity, or am I falling into that trap?” In other words, I'm talking about people who love the message, who buy into the message, but we just we sort of fall into old habits, as it were, especially within the addiction world, what would you say is maybe a mantra or a line or 2 that somebody, that our listeners and viewers can walk away saying, “Yeah, this is the takeaway. This is what we have to remember as we move pass treatment, pass the addiction, and try to reengage the people in our lives, the caretakers, the spouses. And we want to make sure that there's a healthy Prodependence, and not any of the negativity that some of the codependence thought processes might place,”?

 

Dr. Rob: I mean, I would say that love is love, meaning, if you stay with a troubled or difficult person, you're not doing it out of your own illness. You're doing it because you love them. That's why you stay. And if we want to examine whether you're staying is successful helping them get sober, making life better, we can look at metrics that surround, “Is the person managing their addiction well? Is the family supporting or not supporting?” We can look at all of that. But you have to come from a basis of there's nothing wrong with the person who loves a troubled person, except they love a troubled person. And so, they have to deal... one of the challenges... I'll stop in a second. One of the problems with codependency is it looked at the whole thing in the wrong direction. Either we are affected deeply by mental health and addiction in someone we love, or we are affecting, and our bad way of acting is making them worse. And I don't think we are moving into these situations with any intent to make them worse, or out of anything but love for that person. 

 

My elevator pitch would be, people may not do it right, try to heal others, they may not do it successfully, but how many people do you know who love perfectly? I mean, my marriage would be much better. But I do know what love is. And love is commitment. Love is trust. Now, I’m not saying people should hang out for abuse. I'm not saying if someone hits you and they’re violent with your they hurt your kids that you should stick around. I'm not putting in that kind of message. What I am saying, and I guess this is colloquial, but it's true for me, I think it's hard to meet people that I even like. And then to meet people I like and get along with is even harder. And then to meet someone I like and get along with and I want to live with, very hard. And then someone I want to meet, make the rest of my life with, near impossible. So, if you find someone like that, whether they're troubled or well, hang out there and try to make it work. 

 

And there's one more little thing I'll say. A colleague of mine put it so perfectly, I think, in terms of the relationship piece. And he said, “If you want to have a good unhealthy relationship, when you're going to make a decision, which could be I'm going to have a drink, or I'm going to buy something expensive, or whatever that decision is, you don't make it based on what you want, you make your decisions based on what is best for my relationship.” And so, if I want to go spend a lot of money, I have to go check it out with my spouse. So, we have to decide, “Is this best for us?” When I want to go drink, I have to think about, “Is this really going to be best for me, or is it really going to be best for our relationship?” And I think if you keep the relationship on the front burner as a decision-making process, and that could be a relationship with a parent, with a child, with a friend, but if you make that relationship your priority, then you're much less likely to do things that hurt you and hurt other people.

 

JD: That is so refreshing. I cannot tell you how timely that message is. Because people are sort of missing a step in the process when we actually engage in the daily goings and comings of life, where there is me and there's the person I'm in the relationship with, and then sort of how do our interests constantly align? And is it more about him, or is it more about me? Is more about her? And what you're saying is this relationship is something that my interests and the relationship's interests are aligned with, because it's good for me. So, when I engage in life, I can't constantly divide the 2, “Well, is this good for me, or is this good for the other person?” They are really one in the same. And when we are reminded or we're cognizant of that, life is just so much smoother and filled with so much more equilibrium and serenity.

 

Dr. Rob: And this is one of the challenges of being an addict, is if you're actively engaged in an addictive substance or behavior, you're not putting the people you love first.

 

JD: Right.

 

Dr. Rob: You're putting the substance or behavior first, which is something you want to do. Or people have spending problems, they're buying without... so, when you take the person in an isolated way and you leave them alone to make these decisions, that can be problematic. Wouldn't they be better off making these decisions in relationship with someone they love and trust? To me, absolutely. I don't know if I have time, but I want to give another small elevator pitch to Prodependence. But I don't know how much time we have. So, you'll have to let me know.

 

JD: For sure. I would love to hear it. I just want to say, the line that you just reminded me of was a line I heard many, many years ago that, “A good friend only gets in your way when you're on the way down.” And that and that's sort of where the Prodependence model really helps. And it's so empowering with. But I'd love to hear the other elevator pitch on Prodependence, because we can't hear enough of it.

 

Dr. Rob: Well, first of all, let me just say as an aside, this has been a powerful enough message that the largest academic publisher in the world, I don't... they're called Rutledge, they produce books for our students, for psychology, for addiction studies. They're the ones who sell the books and information to students. And they came to me and they said, “We are so powerfully struck with this message that we want you to write a guide for therapists, for clinicians about how to work with this model, and how to put codependency aside and help people move forward with more respect and more dignity for the love that they give.” And so, this is... and they're already Prodependence meetings. And what is happening is people are embracing this across the board. I've had many a therapists say to me, “I really never liked that codependency model, but I never had another one. And you've given me a way of looking at it. I wish I'd written that.” 

 

But anyway, I'll give you the quick elevator pitch. So, I was in a situation where I was teaching a bunch of people. And afterwards, they were coming up to ask questions. And this one guy I had noticed in the audience, he had this huge purple backpack. And when he came in the question line, he said, “I think I understand what you mean.” And I said, “Okay, what do you think this codependence thing means?” and he said, “Well, do you see that purple backpack?” I said, “You can't miss it. It's like enormous.” He said, “Well, my father, I found out 3 weeks ago that my father has cancer. And I went out and I bought every single book I could find and read every single article and put down school and everything that’s important to me because I love my father, and this is now the focus, is keeping him well.” And I thought how is that different than any loved one of someone who's addicted or mentally ill because they buy everything book, they look into every situation, and they move their life in a direction toward helping the person they love? And he got it. And my sense is, my hope is that your listeners are getting it too.

 

JD: Yes, absolutely. And I don't know if this would be a correct analogy, but just from as you were describing all of the above and really highlighting how Prodependence is actually a tool and a mechanism to make us live a better lifestyle than we would normally live, you know the Viktor Frankl, what he writes in ‘Man's Search for Meaning’ that some of those who were able to survive the death march, it was because they had a relative on the other side of the pond who they knew was waiting for them. And because they knew that there was somebody dependent on them or that they would be dependent, there was some type of a Prodependence relationship that literally, no pun intended, but it enabled and it empowered them. And it gave them the herculean, superhuman strength, to be able to defy all odds, and to truly bring out and unleash and unharness this reservoir of strength that they weren't even able to access on their own. So, Prodependence should be the way the future. It can really make people the best version of themselves.

 

Dr. Rob: Well, when I say to you, “I would put my life down for you,” to someone I deeply love, I'd say to my child, “I would give up my life for you,” we say that, or to a struggling... I had a friend sadly passed away recently, and I thought, “If I could exchange with him some of the years I have, I would give them for me to him.” And I think that's one of the most loving things that you can say. And that I actually felt is I would give years of my life to someone else I love. How could you call that codependent? How could you see that in any way other than loving and giving an amazing? And I'm not saying because it was me, by the way.

 

JD: Right, right. The only thing, before we conclude this really extraordinary discussion is I know that people out there are going to be thinking, “Well, there has to be some exceptions, some relationships that are so negative, so toxic that Prodependency, how could that be the correct path forward?” So, what do you say to that?

 

Dr. Rob: Some people aren't right for each other. Some people aren't able to love in healthy ways. Some people have brokenness that just clashes with someone else's brokenness.

 

JD: Right.

 

Dr. Rob: So, maintaining a relationship is important and useful, but it isn't the be all and end all for many of us. And in fact, I have to tell you can be happier in a different relationship. Sometimes the best thing you can do is end the relationship. But I would base that on behavior as a partner as a loved one. Is this person improving? Are they becoming healthier? Are they engaging with me in a way that is helping us both heal? 

 

I guess I wanted to say one last thing about this, which is about this whole idea that, what do we do with codependency? Where do we put it? What about all those words? And first of all, I guess the most important thing I would say is that we already had all of these words before codependency ever came along. We have a diagnosis for overdependence is called Dependent Personality Disorder. We had discussions of boundaries and self-care. And this didn't just show up in the 80s. But in the 80s, what happened is we became more relational. We became more aware of trauma. We were much more focused on the person growing and attaining. Our culture changed. But the values that underlie it should never change. And that's what we're talking about is the values that underlie love and commitment and trouble. I treat a lot of troubled couples, because I have been treating sex addiction and porn addiction for many, many years. And one of the things I'll just say about that is... I have no idea what I was saying, so I hope that you could cut that out and change it.

 

JD: Yeah.

 

Dr. Rob: But there was something I wanted to say about that. Well, let me just say this. A number of years ago, I was out in Arizona, and I was looking at older people, I was in a hotel and older people were walking out of the breakfast. And I could see from a distance that there was a couple coming toward the restaurant, and they were both wearing green shirts, and they were both wearing tan shorts, and they both had the same shoes on, and they both had this short gray hair. And from a distance, I didn't know which was which. From a distance, I didn't know who the man was, or the woman. And I thought, “That's who I want to be. I want to be so bonded and so connected and such a part of someone I love for that many years that, yes, we have individual selves, but there's also an ‘us’ that is the most meaningful part after 50 years or whatever is living together.” Now, some might say, “Oh my god, they're incredibly enmeshed, and they need to individualize.” And I think they're perfectly happy with the love they share and the depth of connection and meaning that they share.

 

JD: That his breathtaking.

 

Dr. Rob: This is the last thing.

 

JD: Yeah. No, that was really beautiful. Thank you so much, Rob.

 

Dr. Rob: Can you see it?

 

JD: Oh, I am not seeing it.

 

Dr. Rob: Yes, you're welcome. No, can you see that couple in your head?

 

JD: Oh.

 

Dr. Rob: Can you see them walking along being so connected? Or in New York, you see a couple of streets.

 

JD: Yes.

 

Dr. Rob: Like, “Oh.” So, I'm glad you can see that. And yeah, I'm glad to end with that.

 

JD: Absolutely.

 

Dr. Rob: It's such an honor to be here. Thank you.

 

JD: Thank you so much, Dr. Rob, for joining us on the Discover U podcast. And for sharing such a trailblazing innovative, refreshing approach on how we can relate to our loved ones, our caregivers with greater depth and emotional sensitivity and enriched meaning. We truly appreciate you taking the time to share this with us. And I'd like to just truly conclude with asking you, how can people find out, how can our listeners and viewers find more about you and the work that you do?

 

Dr. Rob: Well, if it's about treatment and sex addiction and chemical dependency, it's seekingintegrity.com. I have overseen managed and created Seeking Integrity here in Los Angeles for treatment. But if you want to learn more about Prodependence, go to Amazon and buy the book. There is a prodependence.com site, which talks about the book. And I did not set this up, but there is a prodependence.org site where all the literature for meetings is being downloaded if someone wants to start a 12-step meeting. And they're happening all over the world. I'm very humbled.

 

JD: That's amazing. That's amazing. And thank you to our listeners and viewers for joining us today. I hope you enjoy today's episode at Discover U as much as I did. At Montare, we want you to know that you're not alone on your journey. And to find out more about our innovative treatment programs, you can find us at montarebehavioralhealth.com. And you can listen to the Discover U podcast on iTunes, Spotify, or wherever you find your podcasts. Wishing you all vibrant health and a safe and serene day. See you soon. Thank you, Dr. Rob.

 

Dr. Rob: Oh, thank you for letting me talk so much.