Here at Maryland Addiction Recovery Center we value the relationships we have with our colleagues in the field and understand the need for individuals, families and communities to be educated about mental health and addiction, treatment and recovery. We believe the more education takes place, the more stigma is lessened and the more people will look and find the help they need. We have started a “Guest Blog” segment that will allow experts in field to offer their insight on a number of different topics that will educate, enlighten and begin conversation. We hope you enjoy.



This morning I had a roaring laugh with one of my clients.  This happens from time to time and it’s always a real gift.  Laughter is, after all, healing.  It is also a universal language of connection.  When we laugh together we get to truly see one another; it’s the “namaste” of being human. But it wasn’t the laughing itself that was so striking about this occurrence, it was the message it accompanied. Rather than tell you of the message, let’s play a little imagination game for more experiential learning.

Pretend, for a moment, that you are going about your everyday activities in the normal fashion, no special planning, no preconceived ideas about what this day will bring.  Suddenly, for whatever morbid reason, you find yourself hospitalized and in a coma, no time to put on different underwear or hide your journal.  You are simply immobilized, unable to communicate or explain, unable to hide whatever it is you keep most private about yourself.  For reassurance sake, let’s also pretend that you will magically make a complete recovery in approximately 3 months time, your health fully restored and that your family and friends have been sprinkled with magical fairy dust so that they are not traumatized in any way by your temporary absence.

What might people discover about you as you lay, helpless, in a coma?  What will they be able to observe about you physically when you are unable to groom, hide, pluck, smooth, cover, or mask it? What might they find in your nightstand, under your bed, in the back of your closet? What have you written about or looked up online?

Now consider this; what do you imagine others will think of you as a result of these discoveries? How do you imagine they will feel about you now that they know? Because that assessment, my friend, is a fairly good approximation of how you think and feel about yourself.  Those feelings of worry or shame about judgements and criticism, they are your own.

Funny? Perhaps not.

Here’s what is funny….we all have stuff we want hidden. Many of us have secrets, parts of our lives of which we are not proud. Many of us have done things we imagine are unspeakable.  This shows up differently for everyone; some of us have illicit relationships, concealed addictions, private stashes and private “toys”—yes, I said that, .  We all get blemishes, have moles, scars, fat, wrinkles, stretch marks, stray hairs, and pores. Our homes get dirty, our kids miss bath night, we forget to feed the dog. We all have weird curiosities, habits and interests and YOU ARE NOT SPECIAL IN YOURS.

This is not meant to minimize the serious consequences associated with some of these undercover aspects of ourselves. It’s just that attaching shame and isolation to any of it is horribly toxic and it certainly impedes our ability to make changes where needed or take responsibility for our lives. This morning, laughter was an expression of the relief that came with knowing we are not unique in the ways we imagine ourselves shameful, not good enough, unworthy or strange.   These “imperfections” are an unavoidable and universal part of being human beings.  What we do with that information is up to us.

Today, thankfully, we chose to laugh.

Valerie R. McManus, LCSW-C is an intuitive psychotherapist and the founder of “Healing Therapies Counseling” in Ellicott City, Maryland. Through her practice, Ms. McManus offers support and guidance for healing and growth, addressing issues including depression & anxiety, postpartum disorders, parenting & relationship challenges, boundary development and self-care, and times of change and transformation. Ms. McManus’ first book was published by the Child Welfare of America in 2004, A Look in the Mirror; Freeing yourself from the Body Image Blues. Her memoir, entitled The Boy who Birthed me is expected for release in 2016. For more information about her practice, please visit or call 410-465-8687.

If you or someone you know is in need of an intervention or help because of drug and/or alcohol abuse, please give us a call. Maryland Addiction Recovery Center offers the most comprehensive addiction treatment in the Baltimore City, Baltimore County and entire Maryland and Washington, D.C. area. If we aren’t the best fit for you or your loved one, we will take the necessary time to work with you to find a treatment center or provider that better fits your needs. Please give us a call at (410) 773-0500 or email our team at [email protected]. For more information on all of our drug addiction and alcohol addiction services and recovery resources, please visit our web site at

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