Dr. Mary Spease

The Grounds Recovery

Today I had the pleasure of spending time with The Grounds Recovery staff including Alex Zemeckis (founder and CEO), Cannon Kristofferson (Program Director), and Melanie Baker (Referent Liaison). They are an incredibly wonderful group of individuals who are passionate about recovery and dedicated to helping others thrive in their sobriety.

The Grounds is a transitional residential program for young men between the ages of 18-30 who have participated in treatment and are seeking continued support in their recovery. The Grounds staff have mindfully created a program that is truly holistic as they aim to “address the whole person—their education, vocation, recreation and self-care”. One of the many unique aspects of this program that make it so effective is that they are “a small facility, allowing more personal attention, and reinforcing accountability”. In addition, their members have the opportunity to develop self-confidence and the necessary skills needed to live fully in recovery “through intensive mentoring, support from their peers, mandatory offsite therapy, and community service…”

Further, surfing is encouraged at The Grounds as many of the staff surf and believe that it is “a highly effective recreational alternative to using drugs and alcohol”.

If you are interested in learning more about The Grounds Recovery, please feel free to visit their website:

The Grounds Recovery

A Farewell to UCSD…

Today I said goodbye to my time at the University of California San Diego. I have been fortunate enough to serve as a contract psychologist at their CAPS (Counseling & Psychological Services) program for over a year and it has been beyond wonderful.

I have truly enjoyed working with undergraduate and graduate students and have found that they are some of the most motivated and hard working individuals I have had the honor to work with. I have had the privilege to share in a very unique chapter in their lives and had the joy of witnessing their growth. It has been a gift to be able to provide support, help them gain insight into themselves, their relationships , and their academic/career pursuits.

So many of those that I was able to work with were beautiful reminders of why I chose to become a psychologist and I am ever grateful for such an experience. And it has been humbling and quite moving to hear them share their experience in therapy with me and the ways in which I have helped create change in their lives. It is surreal to know that I have made a difference and I hope that I can continue to do so.

University of California, San Diego: CAPS


All too often our self-esteem is hinged on things outside of ourselves and outside of our control. How we feel on any given day may be dependent on receiving praise from our parents, having our friends validate what we think or say, or hearing that our partners are attracted to us. These external validations often makes us feel good and seem to boost our sense of self-esteem.

Now, there is nothing wrong with another person’s kindness making us feel good inside or putting a smile on our face. Where it becomes problematic is when we have moved past appreciating these pleasant exchanges to depending on them. Just as easily as someone’s affirmations can brighten our day, we often let other’s negative comments pull us down. We have no control over what someone will think of us or say to us in any given moment. Therefore, if we are dependent on others to make us feel good we give up control over our own mood and give that power to others.

SELF-esteem is truly something we need to create by our SELF. Often, we can strengthen how we feel about ourself by speaking or behaving in ways that fill us with a sense of integrity. We can challenge ourselves to make choices we feel good about. The beauty about self-esteem is that no matter what is happening around us or within a given relationship, we can choose to nurture it by thinking, speaking, or behaving in estimable ways.

“I have learned that self-esteem is just that—self-esteem. Not wife-esteem or lover-esteem or even sponsor-esteem. It has to come from me, not from other’s opinions of me. And the way to gain self-esteem is by performing estimable acts…” ~Courage to Change (One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II)

Courage to Change

Courage to Change (One Day at a Time in Al-Anon II) is one of my very favorites pieces of Al-Anon literature provided by the Al-Anon Family Groups. It is a wonderful daily reader that provides insightful and educational ideas that I believe can be useful for anyone, not just those affected by a loved one’s alcoholism. A few days ago, I read a page that I found so powerful that I decided I had to share it:

     “In Al-Anon we talk a lot about the need to let others experience the consequences of their actions. We know that most alcoholics have to hit “bottom” and become uncomfortable with their own behavior before they can effectively do something about it. Those of us who love alcoholics often have to learn to get out of the way of this bottom. We learn to detach with love.

      Another reason for detachment with love may be equally important in building healthy, loving, respectful relationships. Many of us have interfered not only with a loved one’s problems but also with their achievements. I may have the best of intentions, but if I take over other people’s responsibilities, I may rob them of the chance to accomplish something and to feel good about what they’ve done. Although I am trying to help, my actions may be communicating a lack of respect for my loved one’s abilities. When I detach with love, I offer support by freeing those I care about to experience both their own satisfactions and disappointments”.

Often times, detachment is the best way to communicate love and respect for someone. By detaching, you are treating them with dignity and acknowledging that they are their own person who has the right to make their own choices.

Separating the Person from the Behavior

How many times have you caught yourself obsessing about something someone said or did to you? How often do you find that you allow others to influence your mood or day? And how often do you feel the need to explain yourself repeatedly and force the other person to see your point of view?

Although most of us are likely to find ourselves relating to any or all of the above, those behaviors do not often create inner peace or strengthen the connection within a relationship. Instead, it can often perpetuate or intensify the negative emotions we are experiencing or the argument we are having.

Therefore, it can be useful to practice detachment as it helps us to let go of our obsession with another’s words or actions. It allows us to take a step back and separate the person from the behavior. By doing so, we are less likely to personalize something hurtful. For example, if an alcoholic in the midst of drinking (or a loved one in the midst of anger/sadness/etc.) is verbally hurtful, you can allow it to make you feel bad and/or try to obtain an explanation for why they said such things OR you can recognize that their current behavior is not a true reflection of who they are or how they feel. Again, you can challenge yourself to separate the person from the behavior.

It is important to note that by detaching, you are not excusing, enabling, or rationalizing the behavior. You are merely giving yourself the right to not be effected by another’s unhealthy behaviors or engage when they are not in a healthy state of mind. In any given moment, you can choose to let go of your obsessions, disengage from the person or situation, and choose to protect your emotional well-being. And you can always readdress the situation and share your experience when all involved have calmed down and are able to engage respectfully.

Sierra Tucson

Tonight, I had the honor of being invited to a dinner hosted by Sierra Tucson and share an evening with many wonderful clinicians in the addiction field.

It is always fascinating to learn about how each persons story led them to the world of psychology as well as inspiring to hear them share why they are passionate about being of service to others. It is truly a gift to come together as a community and support one another in our mutual effort to help individuals learn to live a life of recovery and strengthen the relationship with themselves and those they love.

If you are newly sober and in need of a more intensive level of support, I encourage you to contact Sierra Tucson. They have a wonderfully effective program due to their dedicated and talented staff.

If you are newly sober and in need of longer term support on an weekly basis or have been in recovery and wish to strengthen it, feel free to view my website Dr. Mary Spease or contact me at 858.888.3261. I’d be happy to speak with you and see how I can best be of service.

Father’s Day

To all of the dads who make the choice each and every day to unconditionally love their children, be their strength, their protector, their place of refuge, and who display kindness and support, know that you are appreciated and oh so loved!

Hoping every wonderful dad had a lovely Fathers Day!!!

And to my dad, I love you with all my heart. I feel so blessed to have a father who has always been and continues to be such a wonderful source of love, support, and encouragement. You have enriched my life in more ways that I can count and I am forever grateful.

Learning to Detach

Whether you suffer from the effects of alcoholism or not, detachment can be a valuable skill. It can increase one’s experience of serenity as well as improve dynamics within relationships. However, many of us find this difficult to do as learning to practice self-care and setting healthy boundaries can be uncomfortable and at times seem mean or selfish. More often that not, we have been taught that if we care about someone we will do whatever it takes to help. However, the kind of help we offer may not always be what fosters growth and forward momentum for our loved ones or ourselves. It may just in fact keep someone stuck and perpetuate our feelings of frustration.

However, it is possible to learn new and more adaptive behaviors by working with a psychologist and/or attending Al-Anon meetings. The following is an except from one of the many offered Al-Anon pamphlets that provides information about what can be learned:


• Not to suffer because of the actions or reactions of other people

• Not to allow ourselves to be used or abused by others in the interest of another’s recovery

• Not to do for others what they can do for themselves

• Not to manipulate situations so others will eat, go to bed, get up, pay bills, not drink, or behave as we see fit

• Not to cover up for another’s mistakes or misdeeds

• Not to create a crisis

• Not to prevent a crisis if it is in the natural course of events”


“Detachment is neither kind or unkind. It does not imply judgment or condemnation of the person or situation from which we are detaching. Its simply a means that allows us to separate ourselves from the adverse effects that another person’s alcoholism can have on our lives.” (Al-Anon Literature)

Whether you grew up in an alcoholic home or were effected by alcoholism later in life, many find it difficult to separate themselves emotionally from the behaviors of their loved one, especially when they are hurtful.

Despite efforts to improve our relationship or situation, many of us have developed patterns of behavior that do not serve us well and often perpetuate the very dynamic we wish to change. For example, we may not like conflict yet find ourselves engaging in an argument when the alcoholic is not in a rational state of mind. In addition, we may try and force them to see our point of view or validate something we said or did. (Ever hear the phrase “it’s like going to the hardware store for bread”?). Further, we often allow ourselves to personalize alcoholic messages or behavior that have nothing to do with us and everything to do with the alcoholics current mindset.

However, with the help of a mental health professional and/or Al-Anon (or another related 12-step program), we can begin learning how to loving detach from those who are actively in their disease while still maintaining a connection. It is important to keep in mind that detachment does not always mean severing a relationship, although in certain cases that may be the appropriate course of action. It also does not imply a lack of caring. In fact, we do so because we care about our personal well-being and we care about cultivating healthier dynamics with our loved one. It is merely a way to keep ourselves from suffering the consequences of alcoholism.

Choosing the Right Therapist

In my practice, I typically spend some time on the phone with potential clients in order to best determine whether or not we will be a good fit for one another.  However, it is always best to meet with a therapist in person as being in the room with them can help you experience their personality as well as style/approach.  In addition, it is usually helpful when those you know have provided a personal recommendation.  More often than not, it helps to create a sense of confidence in pursuing services when we know that those we trust have found the therapists services valuable. Therefore, if you would like to write a review (even if you are a colleague or friend and are familiar with my work), I encourage you to share your experience as it may help another who is considering taking the first step towards change .

Should you wish to do so, you can choose any or all of the following of my professional pages:


Google Page

Google + Profile


Psychology Today


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