Psychologist questions addiction to addictionWhile talk...

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

July 03, 1994|By Linell Smith

Psychologist questions addiction to addiction

While talk shows swell with the confessions of those who claim to be hooked on shopping and exercise, Charles Citrenbaum is waging a battle against the increasing addiction to being addicted.

In his fourth book, "Existential Hypnotherapy" (Guilford Press), the 49-year Pikesville resident, psychologist and writer says the label of addiction is stamped too generously on various behaviors.

"Someone may call himself a "sex addict" instead of saying, 'I am responsible for myself and my actions,' " he says. "When someone is labeled an addict, he or she is reduced to an object. And an object is always what it is labeled. It tends to be resistant to change.

"The term 'addiction' also tends to oversimplify such complex phenomena as human behaviors."

Dr. Citrenbaum, who, along with co-author Mark King, has held more than 300 professional workshops on communication and hypnotherapy, believes many people in 12-step recovery programs define themselves principally by their addictions. Existentialists, on the other hand, believe they are free to choose change rather than succumb to behaviors which may be rooted in past injustices.

"Recovering alcoholics in the Alcoholics Anonymous program believe that 15 years from now, even if they have not taken a single drink in the interim, they will still be alcoholics and will be in serious jeopardy even if they take a single drink," he writes. "Think of the lack of personal power that is implied by the notion that 15 years from now one drink can still get you."

He believes the 12-step model is merely a step toward empowerment, that "people need to be free for something rather than free from something." Since Kim Beavers began women's poetry readings at Cafe Diana in Charles Village, she's had only one bad experience. And it was with a man.

"I was reading a poem," says Ms. Beavers. "And this not-so-gentle man interrupted and asked to hear a particularly erotic line again. I looked up and just glared at him."

But an entire roomful of hecklers couldn't diminish her devotion to the Second Thursday Series, which she introduced eight months ago. Once a month, patrons of this feminist hangout -- with its prints of Eleanor Roosevelt and Rosa Parks on the wall -- have dined on odes and ballads and assorted verse along with their light fare.

Although poetry seems as plentiful as decaf cappuccino around town these days, she isn't deterred by the competition.

"There is this cooperative spirit among the different coffeehouses," says Ms. Beavers, 33, who lives in Hampden. "And women tend to be under-represented. . . . This gives them a forum."

Her greatest headache has been drawing crowds, particularly during the winter when poets sometimes recited to empty chairs.

But when Lucille Clifton, former poet laureate of Maryland, reads on July 14 at 8 p.m., the cafe is likely to be packed. (Admission is $5.)

As for her own work, Ms. Beavers says, "I think of myself as a lesbian poet. . . . I came out when I was 17. When I couldn't talk to my mother, I could write what I was feeling."

Finding time to write today is another matter. A single mother of an 8-year-old boy, Ryan, she also works as an administrative assistant for a local advertising agency, writes for the Alternative, a gay and lesbian monthly, and is finishing her second book of poetry ("Tattooed Heart").

Mary Corey

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