Faith and Life: There is help out there

Do you, or someone you know, have a substance abuse or dependence issue? Does it affect professional, personal or emotional lives? Substance abuse is the self-medicating of other issues.

I do not believe people become addicts by chance. Drugs and alcohol are often the first line of defense to medicate psychological disorders and emotional pain. If someone does not correlate his use with the fact that he has anxiety, depression, moments of feeling too high or too low, he may just be drinking or using because it makes him feel better.

Others may use because they know it helps with their social anxiety, their emotional pain or depression, to name a few.

Some people may believe they need the substance to function, and the truth is they do need something to function. Psychotropic medication given to a diagnosed disorder is the best way to alleviate the unpleasant feelings or pain.

There are two sources that emotional pain most likely comes from: a genetic, biological issue, or trauma. Genetic issues — inherited psychological disorders — are passed down through families. These include, but are not limited to, depression, ADHD, bipolar disorder and generalized anxiety disorder.

Emotional issues from trauma find their source in abusive homes, molestation, rape, alcoholic or conflictual homes, violence, and witnessing or being the victim of any horrific event. These traumas lead to many disorders that are not genetic in nature, but are formed when someone is victimized or exposed to them.

Whether wiring, or unprocessed trauma, pain is in the brain and produces negative emotions and behaviors that may not be tolerable to an individual. And so people drink or take drugs just to stop the pain or undesirable feelings.

The "ups" of mania and ADHD are often calmed by marijuana; the downs of depression often self-medicated with prescription drugs. The pain inside a person is often momentarily numbed through alcohol use. These undiagnosed disorders, if not treated properly as youths, create a breeding ground for impulsive or bad choices, or the inability to act or succeed in general. This leads to even more pain as adolescents and adults, when substances are introduced and abuse or addiction ensue.

Are you or a loved one suffering? Is the family system suffering? It may be the time to get diagnosed, properly medicated, and into therapy. There are measures that can be taken in this day and age to alleviate this pain and destructive behavior.

I am teaching a Parents of Special Challenges Kids at the Crescenta-Cañada Family YMCA starting Feb. 10 to help parents who think they may be dealing with depression, bipolar or ADHD in their children. If we catch it early, the propensity for dysfunctional choices is limited and health may be attained as adults.

The REV. KIMBERLIE ZAKARIAN column runs on the third Wednesday of the month. She is a licensed psychotherapist. Reach her by e-mail at or by mail at the Rev. Kimberlie Zakarian, M.S. La Vie Counseling Center, 650 Sierra Madre Villa, Suite 110, Pasadena, CA 91107.

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