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Dr. Mike Dow Headshot

What You Can Learn From Lindsay Lohan

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Lindsay Lohan should be less upset over the jailhouse removal of her hair extensions, and, if media reports are accurate, more concerned that she may only be serving up to 14 days of a 90-day sentence. Since rehab, court ordered monitoring bracelets and the incessant paparazzi/tabloid coverage -- as well as her cratering movie career -- have not succeeded in triggering the decision to deal with her issues, perhaps the full 90 days would give her time to decide for herself to deal with her problems. With a shortened incarceration, Ms. Lohan will be less likely to come to terms with her addiction, be less accountable and not surrender to the fact that what she is doing in her life is not working.

Its cliche, but Ms. Lohan has to decide for herself that she has a problem, then there is plenty of help an support available.

Our legal system is behaving like the enabling spouse or parent of an addict: going easy on the addict which prevents the "Aha!" moment of, "I can't keep doing this." With the defiance and denial we see from Ms. Lohan, it looks a lot like she doesn't think she has a problem.

Untreated addiction has serious consequences, and it doesn't discriminate. The untimely deaths of young stars like Heath Ledger and Brittany Murphy remind us that even a little too much of a substance in your body will lead to a consequence that is irreversible. Accountability and consequences work. How can we apply this valuable lesson of the importance of being accountable in all of our lives?

Give yourself someone to be accountable to.
When you are committing to an important goal in your life, announce it publicly- to your friends, therapist, or at a 12 step meeting. One of my patients told me the secret to her quitting smoking was that she told her neighbors. Every time she felt the urge to smoke, she knew she would have to go outside and admit defeat. This is something she did not want to do. Be proud of your sobriety, your weight loss, or your achievements. Journal your success. Stand up at a 12-step or weight loss meeting, and announce what you have achieved.

Find others in your situation to give you support.

Whether it's a month's commitment to a boot camp exercise class, membership in a 12-step program or a weight loss group, surround yourself with people who want to achieve similar goals in their lives. It's amazing what the human spirit can do when being built up by other like-minded people. It also turns off the terminal uniqueness that says "I'm alone, and no one gets me."

Give yourself rewards and consequences.
And since human beings respond better to rewards, make sure rewards outnumber punishments. Rewards can be something as simple as taking a walk after a few hours of uninterrupted work or a vacation after achieving a major milestone. Rewards feel better when you know you've earned them. If you struggle with maintaining sobriety, free your loved ones by volunteering for monitoring. Companies like Intervention 911 and Southworth Associates will help you establish consequences and help you guarantee success through random monitoring. If physicians battling addiction do it (and achieve a 75 to 85 percent success rate thanks to mandatory random monitoring), so should you.

So, for the Ms. Lohan in all of us, or the Lindsay in your family, office or group of friends who may be refusing to get help, some closing thoughts. It's easy to surround yourself with people who tell you what you want to hear. Start by being honest with yourself. Then, instead of asking, "What do I want out of life," ask yourself, "What does LIFE want out of ME?" Once you apply this answer, you will be choosing a life that leaves no room for destructive behavior and addiction because it is filled with meaning, joy and peace.