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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Monday, December 2, 2013

Dry Drunk Syndrome

How does it happen and what can we do about it

By Dan Stone, MSW, LCSW, LISAC

When I had a few years of recovery, my family and I went on a Caribbean cruise. One day I decided to catch some sun on one of the decks. The majority of the people were drinking but I was not triggered as I heard the servers announce special drink deals like “Bahama Mama.”
Wondering if anyone around me was sober, I noticed a man, nearby, who was drinking Ginger Ale. Somehow we started to converse. He stated he had 12 years of sobriety from alcohol and drugs, but did not participate in 12-step recovery. He had attended meetings when he first got sober but had not done so for many years. It was not his “thing.” The longer we talked the more uneasy I became. Sadly, this gentleman was filled with resentment and bile. He was quite miserable. It happened to have been his birthday and he was not a happy guy.

The Phenomena of Dry Drunk

I had heard about “dry drunk” at meetings and I was now face to face with a prime example. It made a powerful impression on me. Why get sober to be that unhappy? In preparing for this article, I started thinking about defining the phenomena of dry drunk. The word “dry” refers to abstinence from substance use, a person that has stopped using. “Drunk” implies behaviors and attitudes that occur when intoxicated. Therefore, “dry drunk” can be described as intoxication without alcohol or abstinence without recovery. Many recovering people are aware of an old expression, “What do you get if you sober up a horse thief? A sober horse thief.” You could add, “You still have to teach him how to stop stealing horses!”
This is an exaggeration but it helps us to understand that when people become sober, there is a need to make internal changes to avoid a relapse or to become like the man on the cruise. The syndrome, or group of symptoms, can be identified in two types of people.
Some addicts and alcoholics have achieved abstinence but with limited emotional and behavioral changes. They tend to stay fixed in early recovery. Another group is the people who were once active in their recovery and making progress, but have returned to rejecting help, self-pity, defensiveness, impulsivity, and resentment. We often see people, in this group, becoming compulsive in process addictions such as gambling, spending, internet, and sex. I remember knowing a man who had two years clean and sober. He was working out intensely and was looking very buff. Eventually, he started using IV steroids and this lead to a return to his drug of choice, IV heroin. Fortunately, he was able to make it back into recovery.

Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome

In early recovery we experience what has been described as Post Acute Withdrawal Syndrome (PAWS). I experienced the symptoms as difficulty sleeping restfully, short term memory loss, coordination problems, impaired focus and concentration, and mood swings. I had difficulty comprehending what I read. My forgetfulness was so bad that my wife told our counselor that I had Alzheimer’s disease. I had two minor accidents in the first month of sobriety that had freaked me out after 20 years of driving under the influence without an accident. My moods varied throughout the day between irritability and immense sadness. I later learned that my central nervous system was healing and the symptoms would lessen over time. This can become dangerous for early recovering people as the flood of feelings can be overwhelming. Unless this phenomenon is understood and treated, a person can fall into the category of dry drunk.
There are obvious and subtle traits that emerge in a person experiencing a dry drunk. The Big Book (Alcoholics Anonymous, 2001), on page 52, describes what can be referred to as untreated alcoholism. I believe these “bedevilments” can also refer to abstinent alcoholics and addicts who have stopped working a program of recovery.
“We were having trouble with personal relationships, we couldn’t control our emotional natures, we were prey to misery and depression, we couldn’t make a living, we had a feeling of uselessness, we were full of fear, we were unhappy, we couldn’t seem to be of real help to other people.”
Recently, I was having a conversation with my sponsor about dry drunk. We were describing examples of behaviors that fit under this description. There are people who will work steps one and twelve and never address the other ten steps. They stay clean and sober and may perform service such as speaking at meetings and helping the newcomer. When you listen to them, it sounds like they are models of recovery. Yet, in other ways they may betray the lack of internal changes that appear in people who have become spiritually evolved and truly happy.                                                                                 

The Dry Drunk Syndrome

One prime example is “thirteen stepping”. Many of us are familiar with this behavior. A newcomer starts attending meetings. She or he may be approached by someone who has several years of sobriety. Under the guise of being helpful, they offer support. What starts out as innocent meetings over coffee sometimes become romantic relationships. After the initial courtship, the relationship may end. Often, the newcomer may relapse when feeling confused and heartbroken. This is a scenario that is unpleasant. There is an incongruity within people who articulate spiritual principles and behave otherwise. I wish I could say that this is a rare occurrence but I have observed this, repeatedly, over my years of recovery.
There are several observable traits that can be classified as dry drunk syndrome. Grandiosity can be manifested in behaving as if we are unique and the rules don’t apply to us. We may believe in our self importance and superiority. We may revert to self centeredness which can also manifest itself as self-pity.
Sometimes we may become judgmental, making harsh criticisms of others and engaging in cognitive distortions such as black and white thinking. This can manifest in making comparisons either favorably to ourselves or self condemning. One of my warning signs has been when I’m at a meeting and I hear the same story I’ve heard many times before. I find myself becoming impatient as I mentally criticize the person who is sharing. I believe I can label this as a form of intolerance. 

The Red Flags

Another red flag is complacency. I believe when we are in dry drunk behavior it can often lead to relapse. I know I am heading in the wrong direction when I start “blowing off” activities that are part of my positive self care. A warning sign is deciding not to go to meetings or other treatment activities, declining social interactions with friends or family, procrastination and wishful thinking or fantasizing ruminations. Thoughts of wanting to be happy without taking action or a sense of increasing inertia can be predictors of relapse. Indecision or paralysis can become more dominant in our thinking. I believe it is difficult to stay in one place when in recovery. Either we are moving forward or backwards. It is said that we are always either moving away from a drink or towards it. We need to continue to be introspective and self aware. I have revised a statement from the “Big Book”, “I know only a little”. I believe we have to take ourselves to higher levels of awareness and improvement. A structure that is not renovated and repaired will experience entropy, or a return to chaos. I have never been comfortable with the concept of maintenance. If I want to be happy, joyous and free, I need to learn more, do more and connect more both with others, myself and my higher power. 
Unless there is an intervention by ourselves or others who care, we start to experience discomfort on a mental, physical, cognitive and spiritual level. Some of us experience increasing mood swings, variability between irritability, anxiety, and sadness. We may start to think more pessimistically about the future. Our ability to balance past, present and future becomes unstable and we focus more on fear, remorse, and resentment. We start to regret the past and we wax nostalgic for the “good old days”. Sometimes, these thoughts take the form of euphoric recall. I have a built in forgetter in my brain. Without self inventory, I might start longing for the “summer of love” back in 1967 rather than remembering the pain of the Fall of 1987. Once again daydreaming and escapism start to insert themselves into my thinking.
Physically, I may start to neglect exercise, nutrition and rest. My immune system becomes less effective and I am prone to somatic complaints. Focus and concentration decrease. I become less effective in my work, making mistakes as I bemoan the way the powers that be screw things up and are insensitive to my needs. 

What Happened to My Spirituality?

Spiritually, I start to pull away from conscious contact and connections. I stop routines of prayer and meditation. I narrow my world view and question the existence of a power greater than myself. Cynicism gains a foothold and thoughts of being helpful to others get pushed out by my egocentrism. Ultimately, the warning signs of relapse escalate until the thought of returning to destructive behavior is enticing. Thoughts of being in recovery are slowly replaced with thoughts like, “This is too hard. Why me? And, “you would use if you had my problems.” I start to have thoughts of wanting to use or act out. Mental cravings become prevalent. I rationalize that “one won’t hurt”, “no one has to know, I’ll start over tomorrow, and I deserve this”. As I go through this process, my ability to intervene on my own behalf becomes less likely. I start to plan my relapse. 
Throughout this process, I am more vulnerable to high risk factors and situations. Negative feelings like resentment and shame rear their ugly heads. Positive feelings like reward and celebrating my successes may rationalize the use of substances or other behaviors. Physical discomfort or illness can make us more susceptible to thoughts of relieving distress in old ways. We experience problems with sleeping and look to unhealthy ways to fix the problems. We become secretive about pain medications and may begin to abuse them. We begin keeping secrets.
We start to test our control by placing ourselves in risky situations. We become like the jaywalker, putting ourselves in danger. We become more vulnerable to social pressure when around people who do not know we are in recovery. We want to belong and feel shame about being different. We reminisce about the ways we used to have fun using social lubricants to enjoy music, films, dancing, and sex. Our ability to cope with conflict becomes inappropriate. We start manifesting inappropriate responses in coping with conflict. We become quick to anger and argue in an extreme manner. We bring up irrelevancies when dealing with the here and now. We return to the use of bad language. We externalize blame and alienate our partners or significant others.

Are We all Subject to Dry Drunk Syndrome?

As I write this I realize how bleak this sounds. The consequences seem dire. Are we all subject to dry drunk syndrome? What can we do if we detect that we are pulling away from what we have worked so hard to achieve. Certainly corrective measures are necessary. I think that at any time we can be vulnerable to dry drunk behavior. If we stay in recovery long enough we are going to experience life on life’s terms. Loved ones become ill and die. Relationships can become troubled. We experience career setbacks. We find ourselves in the unenviable position of having to cope with loved ones who succumb to addiction. We may be troubled and unsure about the future.
I have to increase my attendance at meetings. Sometimes, I need to hear new voices and regain enthusiasm as I get a fresh perspective. I have found that meetings that are literature based are helpful. Also, hearing others talk about their experience with the steps can help me to regain focus. 
 I didn’t get sober by myself and I need others to confront me, in a loving way, when I stray from the path. If we have avoided working with a sponsor, it’s time to get one. If we have created distance from our current sponsor, we need to get reacquainted. Perhaps we have a sponsor that is unavailable or inaccessible. The sponsor may be caught in the same malaise that we are struggling with. It may be an opportunity to work with someone else. I want a sponsor and people in my support system, to confront me when I am engaging in self sabotage. But I want this to happen in a loving spirit. Many of us have experienced abuse and require more patience and understanding. When I was in early recovery, I attended a spiritual retreat for recovering men in New Jersey. The leader for the weekend was a priest who happened to be in recovery himself. I will never forget Father Jack saying, “If your sponsor never makes you feel uncomfortable, you better get a new sponsor”. 
I have always worked with sponsors. I enjoy the relationship and value the guidance and support. Several years ago I was traveling to the east coast for business. My most frequent stop was to New York City. I would fly in on a Sunday and return the following Saturday. I have an older daughter who lives in New Jersey and works in Manhattan. My routine was to call her to see if she was available for lunch or coffee. One week, I called after I arrived. Monday she didn’t get back to me. Tuesday and Wednesday were the same. I was now irritated and hurt that she didn’t return my call. My plan was to call her again and give her a piece of my mind. I had my guilt trip script worked out. 
Somehow I thought that maybe I should call my sponsor first. When I did so he said, “Why don’t you reconsider. If you tell her what you are prepared to say, you might create some bad feelings. Why don’t you try something like this instead?” “Hi, sweetheart. I called and didn’t hear from you. Is everything all right? Is there anything I can do to help you?” He also reminded me that she was pregnant at the time and had a toddler at home. She had a job that required working on deadlines. I followed his suggestion. She called back saying, “Dad, I’m really sorry. The baby has a cold and I’m all jammed up”. I was so grateful that I called him first. 
Along with meetings, we can get involved in service such as taking meetings to correctional institutions and treatment centers, reaching out to others, chairing meetings and other activities. Sponsorship has always been personally helpful. There have been times when I was preoccupied with my own problems and a sponsee called asking for support. When I focus on how I can help him, I forget about me for the moment. Participating in the fellowship aspect of recovery can help us to feel a part of what’s going on. 

Co-occurring issues

Many of us have co-occurring issues such as Post Acute Traumatic Disorder (PTSD), depression, Bipolar Disorder, anxiety and issues relating to our family of origin. Some of us have grown up in dysfunctional homes that have left lasting scars. At three years of sobriety I joined a therapy group. It was helpful in addressing anger issues related to my childhood experiences. There are some problems that cannot be treated at 12-step meetings. We may need professional help. Sometimes psychiatric care is necessary. Staying sober with untreated Bipolar Disorder can be difficult. Sometimes, the workplace can help by providing Employee Assistance Programs (EAP) on a confidential basis.
Spirituality is a valuable coping tool regardless of belief systems. Many people have confused spirituality with religion. It doesn’t have to include belief in a personal deity. There are many ways to explore our personal definitions of what is spiritual. Certainly, participation in religious practices has often helped. Yoga and meditation have proven helpful in helping us to get centered. Exercise and proper nutrition are also helpful.
In closing, it’s important to remember that dry drunk syndrome does not mean that we have to relapse. It can be corrected. In fact, when we have the awareness that we need to make changes and have the willingness to do so, we can experience our recoveries in ways that can be even more fulfilling. We can, then, experience life to the fullest.

Dan Stone, MSW, LCSW, LISAC is a member of the Clinical Team and Cottonwood Team since 1995. A native of Brooklyn, New York, Dan received a B.A. in History from Brooklyn College, and after a twenty-year career as a New York City schoolteacher got an MSW from New York University School of Social Work.  He is a certified thanatologist working in the area of death, dying and bereavement, and has received training and certification through the Association for Death Education and Counseling. Dan’s extensive training and professional experience is augmented by 22-years of personal experience with recovery from chemical dependency.

For more information on Cottonwood Tucson visit www.cottonwooddetucson.com or call 800 - 877-4520.

Staying Sober During the Holidays

If you or someone you love is in recovery, the following tips can reduce the stress of the holidays and help you or your loved one stay strong and sober while still enjoying the season.
The holidays are a time of celebration, filled with family get-togethers, social events and gift exchanges.  For those recovering from alcohol problems, however, the season may make refusing alcohol and staying sober more challenging than usual.
In addition to the abundance of alcohol, many people in recovery may feel more depressed or lonely during the holidays. Even if they are in a good place now, memories of past holidays spent drinking too much, fighting with family members or sitting alone in a dark room can come flooding back.

Stay connected. Make going to 12-step meetings a priority, even when you are really busy and feel you don’t have time. Put meetings on your schedule and plan other activities around them.

Have an escape plan by bringing your own vehicle or figure out the available public transportation near the holiday event that will enable you to leave if you are feeling tempted to drink or uncomfortable.

Ask another sober alcoholic to be “on call” for you to check in with during the event for additional support.

Let someone whom you trust at the holiday event know that you may need additional support during this occasion or time of year.

Find a tasty non-alcoholic beverage you can drink that will give you something to hold and may prevent people from offering you an alcoholic drink.

Acknowledge past mistakes and painful memories, and give yourself credit for moving forward. Again, staying connected with others who share similar experiences and are now sober can provide valuable support for everyone.

Choose your activities wisely. You don’t have to attend every party or event you’re invited to. Everyone is busy during the holidays, and people will understand if you have another obligation or can only stop by for a short time.

Get involved. Volunteer for a community organization, tackle a project you’ve been putting off or offer to help a friend or family member for an afternoon. When your mind and body are active and engaged, you’re unlikely to think about drinking or using drugs.

Take care of yourself.  Eat a healthy diet, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. When you feel good and are well-rested, you are more likely to stick to your resolve and make smarter decisions—which only makes you feel even better about yourself.

If you’re going to an event where alcohol will be served, bring a friend or family member with you for support. He or she can keep your glass filled with non-alcoholic beverages, help you resist temptation and be your excuse if you need to leave suddenly.

Be prepared. If you know the host of a party well enough, ask if there will be non-alcoholic beverages available, or simply bring your own. If you feel pressured to explain why you are not drinking alcohol, you can say that you have to drive, do some work, or need to wake up early in the morning. But really, you don’t have to justify your choice of beverage to anyone.

Avoid even the smallest temptation. If there’s a toast, fill your glass with sparkling water or juice. You’ve worked too hard to get where you are – don’t risk it for a sip of champagne or wine.

Plan celebrations with sober friends. Many 12-step groups have holiday events. Invite your fellow members over for dinner or a potluck.

Be honest with loved ones if you are having a hard time and let them know how to support you.

Remember that “this too shall pass” and there is life after the holidays.

“HALT”: avoid being too Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired before attending a social event.

For “mandatory” work events: show up early, make the rounds to all the key people (ie, staff, co-workers, boss, etc.) and once the room has filled, you can easily leave early.

“Book End” the party: go to a mutual help group meeting before and/or after

Be thankful — for your recovery, your support group, and everything else that has helped you get and stay sober. Let those who have helped you know how much you appreciate them. Remember, your recovery is one of the best gifts you can give your family.

Self-esteem check: Too low, too high or just right?

Self-esteem is shaped by your thoughts, relationships and experiences. Understand the ranges of self-esteem and the benefits of promoting healthy self-esteem — including mental well-being, assertiveness, resilience and more.

Self-esteem is your overall opinion of yourself — how you honestly feel about your abilities and limitations. When you have healthy self-esteem, you feel good about yourself and see yourself as deserving the respect of others. When you have low self-esteem, you put little value on your opinions and ideas. You might constantly worry that you aren’t “good enough.”
Discussions about self-esteem often are centered on children. However, many adults could benefit from improving their self-esteem. Here’s how to tell if your self-esteem needs a boost and why it’s important to develop a healthy sense of your own worth.

Factors that shape and influence self-esteem

  • Your own thoughts and perceptions
  • How other people react to you
  • Experiences at school, work and in the community
  • Illness, disability or injury
  • Culture
  • Religion
  • Role and status in society

Relationships with those close to you — parents, siblings, peers, teachers and other important contacts — are especially important to your self-esteem. Many beliefs you hold about yourself today reflect messages you’ve received from these people over time. If your close relationships are strong and you receive generally positive feedback, you’re more likely to see yourself as worthwhile and have healthier self-esteem. If you receive mostly negative feedback and are often criticized, teased or devalued by others, you’re more likely to struggle with poor self-esteem.
Still, your own thoughts have perhaps the biggest impact on self-esteem — and these thoughts are within your control. If you tend to focus on your weaknesses or flaws, you can learn to reframe negative thoughts and focus instead on your positive qualities.

The ranges of self-esteem

Self-esteem tends to fluctuate over time, depending on your circumstances. It’s normal to go through times when you feel down — or especially good — about yourself. Generally, however, self-esteem stays in a range that reflects how you feel about yourself overall. Consider how to recognize the extremes, as well as a healthy balance somewhere in between:
Overly high self-esteem. If you regard yourself more highly than others do, you might have an unrealistically positive view of yourself. When you have an inflated sense of self-esteem, you often feel superior to those around you. Such feelings can lead you to become arrogant or self-indulgent and believe that you deserve special privileges.
Low self-esteem. When you have low or negative self-esteem, you put little value on your opinions and ideas. You focus on your perceived weaknesses and faults and give scant credit to your skills and assets. You believe that others are more capable or successful. You might be unable to accept compliments or positive feedback. You might fear failure, which can hold you back from succeeding at work or school.
Healthy self-esteem. Healthy self-esteem lies between these two extremes. It means you have a balanced, accurate view of yourself. For instance, you have a good opinion of your abilities but recognize your flaws. When you understand your own worth, you invite the respect of others.

Benefits of healthy self-esteem

When you value yourself and have good self-esteem, you feel secure and worthwhile and have generally positive relationships with others. You feel confident about your abilities and tend to do well at school or work. You’re also open to learning and feedback, which can help you acquire and master new skills.
With healthy self-esteem you’re:

  • Assertive in expressing your needs and opinions
  • Confident in your ability to make decisions
  • Able to form secure and honest relationships — and less likely to stay in unhealthy ones
  • Realistic in your expectations and less likely to be overcritical of yourself and others
  • More resilient and better able to weather stress and setbacks
  • Less likely to experience feelings such as hopelessness, worthlessness, guilt and shame
  • Less likely to develop mental health conditions, such as eating disorders, addictions, depression and anxiety
  • Self-esteem affects virtually every facet of your life. Maintaining a healthy, realistic view of yourself isn’t about blowing your own horn. It’s about learning to like and respect yourself — faults and all.  Source: Mayo Clinic

How to Get Santa to Deliver

My Australian client Meg was tired of her corporate job and wished she could create a layoff with a generous severance package. So for fun she wrote herself a severance letter offering her desired package, printed it on company stationery, and signed it from the CEO. This was her idea of creating a treasure map toward her ideal scenario.

The next day Meg’s supervisor called her into his office and told her he had some disturbing news. Someone had written Meg a severance letter and signed it as if from the CEO, but the CEO knew nothing about it. The supervisor produced the letter in question—the very document Meg had written herself and printed on the office printer. Apparently she had “accidentally” printed two copies and left one in the office printer.
Two weeks later Meg got a real severance letter from the CEO, with the terms she had written herself. Christmas came early this year.

As children, we all delighted to believe in Santa Claus. What a thrill to sit on his lap, look into his twinkling eyes, and tell him exactly what we wanted, trusting he would deliver! Then some buzzkill elder brother or cynical teacher told us that Santa was just a guy the department store hired to don a white beard and red suit and tell kids what they wanted to hear. End of childhood, beginning of cold hard reality.

Or is it?

Santa Claus is not a person, but he is a principle, a dynamic, a universal idea that goes far beyond a person. Santa Claus represents a benevolent universe that knows our needs and can and will deliver our good to us. Just as Jesus is a channel through which the Christ energy flows, and Buddha is the being through which Buddha Mind is expressed, Santa is a cultural form—a local permission slip through which we allow ourselves to receive the blessings we desire and deserve.

There are two ways of asking:  asking from need and asking from fulfillment. Hardly anyone asks from fulfillment because we usually indentify with need. “I am lacking. I want this and I don’t have it. I am empty and I need the universe to fill in the blank.” But the results we get depend on how we ask.  Meg’s self-created layoff letter is a clever example of asking from fulfillment. She went to the place she wanted to go to even before it showed up. Her sense of having what she wanted was stronger than not having what she wanted. She affirmed the solution rather than the problem.

Many people are familiar with the science fiction theme of parallel realities. But the principle is more science than fiction.  There are an infinite number of realities occurring simultaneously.  Jesus stated this in the language of his time:  “In my Father’s house there are many mansions.”  Anything that has existed, will exist, or could exist, already exists.  So even while you experience a lack of something in one reality, in another reality that lack has already been fulfilled. More precisely, in that reality, there has never been a lack. There is always and only fulfillment.

The key to manifestation is to go to the reality where fulfillment already exists even before you see the evidence in the realm of the five senses. This is the technique that makes all visionaries, inventors, and creators successful. The invention is already real to them in their mind or imagination, and they bring it to life. The genius scientist Nikola Tesla recounted that all of the ideas for his world-changing inventions came to him in mystical flashes of insight. He found entrĂ©e to the mansion where they already lived, and then fleshed them out in the world.  Steven Spielberg said, “Once a month the sky falls on my head, I come to and I see another movie I want to make.”  The movie is already a reality. Spielberg’s job as director is to deliver it to the world.

You, too, have access to fabulously creative and successful ideas that can and will change your life and the world. They are already real and in a particular reality, already accomplished. You may not affect the world like Tesla or Spielberg, but you have your own sphere of influence it is your destiny to touch. Mothers, waitresses, and van drivers sometimes bring more blessing and healing to the world in their own quiet ways than moguls who move lots of money and people around, but are devoid of happiness.
This holiday season you can get Santa to deliver. Sure, you can manifest stuff, but why not manifest the most valuable present of all: inner peace. When you are at peace with yourself, you bring healing to everyone you meet. Peace is not something you import from the outside. It is an inner state that you claim.  Sort of like writing yourself a love letter from the universe and then discovering the CEO has already signed it.

Alan Cohen is the author of many popular inspirational books, including Enough Already: The Power of Radical Contentment.  If you would like to become a professional life coach or incorporate life coaching skills in your career, Alan’s celebrated Life Coach Training program begins January 1, 2014. 
For more information about this program, Alan’s other books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com, email info@alancohen.com, or phone (808) 572-0001.

For me, God Knows Best

As I reflect on the last 12 months — of course life brought many changes, some easy, others difficult. Yet through all the ups and downs, the gains and the losses, the big guy I connect with — God, always allows me the gift of learning and I hope it never stops.  This is but a few of my lessons:
  • I’m grateful for the peaks and valleys I have traveled so far
  • True relationships survive the storms when graced with willingness & forgiveness
  • Doors close – others open — and I do not know what is next
  • I am not afraid to ask for help
  • Learning to be good to myself
  • If I didn’t make mistakes, would I ever learn?
  • My wonderful friends and colleagues are blessings
  • I’m constantly grateful for my sobriety
  • It ain’t all about me
  • When the pain is great, the lessons are unforgettable 
  • It’s never a good idea to believe everything I think
  • Standing in my truth is empowering - as long as I don’t go backwards
  • God’s plan is far superior  - to anything I think I want
  • If you are in my life and I am in yours - Thank You 

From all of us at Together AZ and the Art of Recovery we wish you happiness, 
health and healing for the coming year. 

Detaching From Emotional Negativity

By Elisabeth Davies, MC

Have you ever wondered, “Why do I feel so negative?
All of us have felt negative emotions at some time, or some point in our life. Emotions are created from thoughts. It is estimated that a typical human being has an average of 12,000 to 50,000 thoughts per day.
Negative thoughts bring forth negative emotions, and positive thoughts invoke positive emotions. Thoughts are generated from two primary sources, our beliefs and external influences.
Fortunately, you can control which thoughts you focus on. As thoughts arise, you can pay attention to them and grow the emotions they produce, or you can distract yourself by focusing on something else. Longstanding negative thoughts lead to depression and mood disorders. Longstanding positive thoughts lead to contentment and enjoyment.

An attachment to a thought is formed from repeatedly giving a thought your attention. This attachment, if repeated long enough, can become a belief. Beliefs drive your behavior and behaviors create your life.

Five thoughts toxic to emotions and mental health:
Hatred -  extreme hostility, or  desire for vengeance
Judgment - critical or fault-finding
Dishonesty - disposition to lie, cheat, or steal
Covetousness -  desiring something with no regard for the rights of others
Scarcity - deficiency or having less than what is deemed important

Ruminating on any of the above thoughts creates negative energy in your mind and adversely affects your mental health and well being. Having thoughts about the past that invoke toxic emotions is an indication that you have stored emotional negativity in your body.

Harmonizing energy
Your breath, thoughts, emotions, memories, and beliefs are all a part of this energy system. Holding your breath suppresses emotion and the flow of energy in our body. If done often enough, it can lead to Chronic Fatigue Syndrome. * Whereas full deep breathing dislodges and releases stored emotion. It is important that you do not suppress (cover up feelings) or repress (block feelings) emotions if you want to be mentally healthy. Having a healthy outlet, such as journaling, talking to someone you trust, or expressing emotions through a creative outlet are a few ways to let out stored feelings.

Detach from toxic emotions
Release negative thoughts each day. Take in a deep breath, expanding oxygen to your lower abdomen. Slowly exhale and say in your mind, “I release all negative thoughts and emotions from my being.” Do this for a minimum of 45-60 seconds to stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (relaxation response). This releases the negative energy and stress built up from toxic thoughts.

Protect yourself from the negativity of others. Before you interact with negative people, close your eyes. Bring your attention to the coccyx (base of your spine). Focus on bringing up your breath from this area. This Life Force energy is the essence of the Creator/Source of Life. Slowly inhale this energy up from the tip of your spine to the tip of your head. You may visualize this energy as a pure light or color. Slowly exhale and imagine this Life Force energy expanding in your being. Repeat this breathing exercise for a minimum of 60 seconds or until you can visualize this Life Force energy expanding in you and moving out past your physical space, until you can visualize yourself encased in this energy. This energy acts as a protective barrier from others negativity and toxic energy.

Snip the cords of negative energy. If you are interacting with others and your mood changes, their energy has penetrated your being. This is fine if their energy is positive and it uplifts your mood. If their words (energy) are negative and your mood declines, snip this cord of negative energy by forming scissors with the index and middle finger of your hand. Take your hand and move it in a semi-circle around the front of your mid-section and quickly open and close your two fingers together, like scissors cutting the cords of negativity. Exhale the negative energy that has been absorbed. This is a literal action that reinforces your intention to detach from unhealthy forces in your environment.

Forgive the past. Forgiving yourself and others releases negative energy attached to the memory of a “wrong” that you did, or that someone committed against you. Each time you recall a memory of a “wrong” say to that thought, “I unconditionally forgive myself for___________(wrongful act),” or “I unconditionally forgive  _________(name of the person who wronged you) for saying or doing_________ (the act).” Forgiveness neutralizes our emotions and frees us to be present for new experiences that are presented each day. If you have truly forgiven, this will be evidenced when you recall the “wrong” memory and no negative emotion (hurt, anger, guilt, regret, or shame) is invoked.

Practice contented thinking. Happiness (positive emotion) comes from our own contented thinking. When we focus on what is good enough in our life on a daily basis, this grows contented thinking. Begin each day with noticing at least 10 things in your life you are grateful for. Say ‘Thank-You” for these things. This expands positive emotion in your energy system, flourishing mental health and wellbeing.

Detaching from emotional negativity not only enhances your emotional health, it also enhances the people you interact with by emitting positive energy for them to absorb.
Be mindful of the energy that you emit towards the people around you. The people you come into contact with will be able to feel it and their mood will be altered accordingly.
Always look for the beauty in life so that you can emanate positive energy.

Elisabeth Davies, MC is an author and counselor. She founded Bright Alternatives Counseling and has counseled thousands of clients struggling with addictions, depression, trauma, anxiety, self-esteem and relationship issues. She is also the creator of Good Things Emotional Healing cards©, which reinforce healthy thoughts and beliefs.  Elisabeth is the author of ‘Good Things Emotional Healing Journal: Addiction.’ It is available online, at her website, or on Amazon. Reach her at  (602) 478-6332 or Elisabeth@GoodThingsEmotionalHealing.com or visit www.GoodThingsEmotionalHealing.com

*Collinge, William PhD Recovering From Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: A Guide to Self-Empowerment

Knowing How to Disagree

Somewhere, while we’re growing up, we learn right vs. wrong. This became the battle ground of most of our arguments; who’s right — who’s wrong. Some of us need to be right, so we will argue and fight with someone else, as if they are trying to control us and make us wrong. We must win, ‘to be right.’ All the while, in order “to be right”, the other person must be made “wrong.” When I argue to be right and argue to make you wrong, I’m actually attempting to win the outcome; to receive the trophy of right. 

How We Argue

Out of our addictions, we have a core understanding of how we argue based on our view of right and wrong. Not all of us fight to be right, some of us actually argue to “not be wrong.” I can be the person who has to be right or I can be the person who fights not to be wrong. The person wanting not to be wrong appears to be trying to control, when in reality, the fear of being wrong is greater that the need to be right. 
When observed, both argue the same except the person who needs to be right has to make the other wrong. The person who is fearful of being wrong, needs to make the other wrong and therefore, it’s nearly impossible to resolve the conflict. To end the argument one simply walks away into isolation and avoidance only to repeat it all again another day. We may change and have a different story to argue about, but it will end with the same result. We can do this for years and never know how to resolve conflicts with others. This can be extremely damaging to a relationship when we don’t know how to disagree.

Resolving the View of My Story

The reality is most arguments are an attempt to resolve a different view of the story we know. We need to convince the other of the rightness of my view; my story. Before we learned right and wrong, we actually were right and learning. We could make a mistake and learn from it. We were right and were given a chance to express what we thought and to have the opportunity to learn a better way, a different way or simply another way. 
Usually around five or six years old, we begin to learn our negative emotions such as fear and the fear to be wrong. Who among us today has the intent to be wrong with relationships? Every discussion we have with another is started with the feeling of being right. We share our thoughts and our view. We express our thoughts with our words as right as we believe them to be. When the other person has a different view and it’s expressed, a feeling of wrong can begin. For years, we’ve been practicing a need to be right or a need not to be wrong and we bring this need into our relationships with others. We will do it this way for years without a method to resolve.

Learning and Validating creates Relational Intimacy 

Each of us has life experiences that gave us impressions, words, thoughts, feelings, needs and wants. We have learned how to express ourselves from these life experiences. When someone shares their thought and we define that thought as incorrect, we are actually violating the person. When someone shares their thought and we learn more of how they came to their view, then we validate the person. 
What would happen in an argument if we choose rather than being right or wrong, we choose to be right or learning? By allowing the other person to be right, allows me the opportunity to ‘learn’ their view. By doing so, we share intimacy. 
When I make someone wrong they pull back away, when we make someone right, they move towards intimacy. If all we do is argue the story, intimacy will decrease. To argue the story is a fight of right and wrong. To be relational, we argue to make the other right by learning who they are. 
Taking time to learn some ones impressions, words, thoughts, feelings, needs and wants is taking the time to develop healthy intimacy. When we argue only to be right or make the other wrong, we fail our relationships. We each have a choice to be right, to not be wrong or to let the other be right. If one is talking and one is listening, then the listener validates what is shared and allows the other to be right. We each have a right to what we think, and we each must allow the other this truth. No one starts a conversation with the intent to be wrong and no one has intimacy with someone who believes it’s their responsibility to tell us we’re wrong. I’m right and I’m learning.

Michael is the co-founder and Clinical Director of North Pointe Counseling Center. Michael holds a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, and a Bachelor of Science in Electronic Engineering and Technologies. Visit www.npccaz.com/

The Greatest Gift

You find the greatest gifts between the words in the silence and in the midst of a lightening stroke of awareness. It’s between the aisles at Costco and in the parking lot at Toys R Us. It’s in that moment that you realize that nothing you can buy; nothing material you can touch matters.

Perhaps it’s having passed the speed limit in age. Or it could be having, as we all have, life altering challenges to over come, or maybe it’s simply sagey wisdom arriving. However, my sense of value and reverence for the gifts in my life, have changed dramatically. I am always reminded about what matters during the holidays. It’s so good to know the blessings in my life are not at Macy’s, Needless Mark-up or even my favorite Internet shops. They cost nothing and they are much closer to home.

Consider these:

Helen Keller once said…Tolerance or acceptance is the greatest gift of the mind; it requires the same effort of the brain that it takes to balance oneself on a bicycle. Life requires this balance and mastery. When you are in this balance, it is as if you are holding, with widely outstretched arms, both ends of this or that, good or bad, love or hate, right or wrong and peacefully being not attached or too focused on either. That’s — an amazing gift of spirit…called grace.
Another fine gift is a willingness to seek out and embrace the truth. Yes, I can see the ways that you were broken, I too am broken, and I thank you for that gift. It teaches me patience, forgiveness and unconditional love. Here is what I am committed to do about my flaw and how can I support you in healing yours? The truth that we make mistakes, are not perfect and never will be is liberating. However, how you deal with these discoveries, is what this game is about. Will you package them up in bows and pretend no one notices?

Will you lie about them, project the responsibility for them on to someone else or will you respond with, “ I apologize. I was wrong and I intend to work on that for myself.”
Some people call me intense. Go figure. Okay so they are right. Most of my clients are referrals who often arrive having been cautioned that I am direct. I admit that is true. I don’t think people pay good money and come to therapy to visit a blank wall or a person who has not done enough healing work to get in the soup with them. If they are going to be courageous and vulnerable, then so too am I. I have deep passion and commitment. I have righteous indignation. Injustice, the misuse of power and prejudice wrap me around an axle. The greatest gift I ever got was the day a client standing in the door way, as she was leaving, turned around and flipped me off with a intensely delivered middle finger. She said, “Nobody ever dared to get to me like that…thanks. See you next week.”
Life is about passion. It’s about not being concerned about what everyone else thinks or who he or she wants you to be. It is about getting all in or you miss the gifts. Unless you are all in, you also deprive the ones you love from the gifts you came here to give them. You can say it in a million ways: Live Loud, Get Present, Show Up, Get all in… but it all boils down to a couple of things. Live your life with purpose and create a life of meaning and passion.

Rob Lowe will tell you, “Sobriety was the greatest gift I ever gave myself. I don’t put it on a platform. I don’t campaign about it. It’s just something that works for me. It enabled me to really connect with another human being - my wife, Sheryl - which I was never able to do before.” True connection with one’s self and another human being is a gift that endures lifetime after lifetime and changes the very fabric of our soul. It’s as important as air and we can’t survive without it. It’s a major part of what we came here to do. No more I love you see you in six months. Deep meaningful connection to others is as important as the air we breathe.
So, before you bustle off to that family dinner you moan about, take a minute to remind yourself, that each person around the table, enjoyable and annoying, is on a path just like you and either consciously or unconsciously, they have chosen bravely to stay and go the distance. They are, yes each and every one of them, is there to teach you something. Perhaps it is patience, acceptance, forgiveness, ego or love. They are the gifts your spirit has called to you so that YOU can find out who YOU really are. And if you want the gift, you don’t get to leave the party before it arrives.

From all of us… a heartfelt Happy Holiday. After all, you are the gifts from which we learn. So, thank you and have that second slice of pie.

Dr. Evan is a life/soul coach in Arizona working with individuals, couples and corporations. For more information 602-997-1200, email drdbe@attglobal.net or visit www.DrDinaEvan.com.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Drug Use Surges Among Baby Boomers

Reprinted with permission from Promises

Addiction rehab centers across the U.S. are seeing more of an older demographic than your typical troubled teen or young adult — baby boomers.
According to a new government study, addiction rates among baby boomers are on the rise. Substance addiction among men and women in their 50s and 60s comes with its own set of challenges, both for the therapist and the recovering addict.

According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health sponsored by the U.S. government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, among adults aged 50 to 64, illicit drug use has grown substantially — a trend that the report attributed in part to “the aging — of members of the baby boom cohort” born between 1946 and 1964.
For adults aged 50 to 54, the rate more than doubled from 3.4 percent in 2002 to 7.2 percent last year.

For those aged 55 to 59, it more than tripled from 1.9 percent to 6.6 percent.
“Among those aged 60 to 64, the rate increased from 1.1 percent in 2003 to 3.6 percent in 2012,” the report added.
Besides age, there are a number of key differences between boomers and young adults suffering from substance addiction. For one, the majority of boomer drug addicts have been long-time users, often for several decades. The drugs that are most commonly abused among senior addicts are also slightly different. Users in their 50s and 60s are more likely to suffer from alcoholism and addiction to cocaine, while younger users are more likely to suffer from addiction to prescription stimulants. Addictions to prescription painkillers, such as Oxytocin, are on the rise across all age groups.

Boomer Addiction Statistics

The study looked into the rates of drug use among those between the ages of 50 and 60.
Some of the study’s key findings are:

Four million baby boomers suffer from substance abuse/addiction
About half of all baby boomers have experimented with illicit drugs
Nearly 5 percent, or 4.3 million, of adults 50 years and older have used an illicit drug in the last year
About 26.2 percent of new addictions started in the last five years among baby boomers involved cocaine
Following close behind cocaine, about 25.8 percent of new addictions in this age group involved prescription drugs
Nearly 75 percent of baby boomer admissions to rehab centers are for addictions that began before the age of 25
Illicit drug use among this age group has increased by over 3 percent in the last eight years

Why the sudden increase in baby boomer rehab admissions? 

There are likely several reasons. The boomer generation is facing new stresses and pressures. As they reach into their 50s, these people are facing a number of health issues that often require multiple doctor visits and prescription drugs that could, if not used as directed, lead to addiction. In addition, women in this age group are going through menopause, which can cause depression, insomnia and other issues. Other pressures come from caring for both aging parents and older children. And as this generation continues to age, the inevitable and heartbreaking deaths of family members and friends become more of a reality.
Perhaps one of the biggest stresses of all is the poor economy of the last five years. Suddenly burdened with caring for family while dealing with potential health issues and the uncertainty of retirement in a stagnant economy, it’s no wonder that some members of the baby boomer generation feel compelled to self-medicate with drugs to lower their stress levels.

New Challenges

Caring for an influx of new, older addicts presents challenges to rehabilitation facilities and programs. In only a few short years, the baby boomers will be the largest demographic in the U.S., meaning that rehab centers will need to prepare ahead of time to ensure they have enough room, as well as trained staff to serve the needs of older addicts. “The good news is that they may seek us out,” says Marvin Seppala, the medical director at the Hazelden Foundation, a rehab facility that caters to seniors. “The bad news is, I’m not sure we’re ready for them.”

Unlike their younger counterparts, baby boomers struggling with addiction are more likely to be taking multiple prescription drugs for their health, making it not only difficult to identify a prescription addiction to begin with, but also making treatments such as replacement therapy more complicated, due to the possibility of interactions with current medications.

Because underlying health problems are more common in baby boomers, both housing and treatment programs must be tailored to better suit their needs. Older clients suffer much more from severe withdrawal symptoms, and often have other health concerns to worry about at the same time. Also, people with substance abuse disorders, even if they have only recently taken up the drug, are more likely to suffer health consequences as a result, making timely treatment more important than ever.

Despite the challenges of treating a growing number of addicts among the boomer generation, experts remain hopeful that these addicts can experience a successful recovery. Better treatment programs, as well as new senior rehab facilities popping up around the country, are sure to help. Treating older addicts can also be made easier thanks to the overall strong work ethic and family-oriented mentality of this generation.
If you have a loved one who may be in need of help from a pattern of substance abuse, consider contacting your local chapter of Alcoholics Anonymous (A.A.), Narcotics Anonymous (N.A.), a family counselor or a local intervention specialist who can help start the healing process.
Promises Treatment Centers is a CARF-accredited, dual-diagnosis addiction treatment center specializing in treating a wide variety of addictions, such as alcoholism, cocaine addiction, prescription drug abuse, and marijuana abuse. Call 855.236.1345 and visit www.promises.com

Holiday Hoopla Can Intensify All Addictions, Including Sex and Love


For men and women who suffer from sex and/or love addiction, the holidays present the following dangerous combination:

An increased number of emotionally challenging situations from which there can be a desire to “escape”
Extra free time for slips and relapse (via time off from work or school)
A culturally influenced background encouraging unrealistic expectations of “joy and happiness”
In essence, heightened emotions related to difficult family dynamics and numerous other factors make the season a more stressful than usual period, and this can feed into the chronic, progressive disease of addiction. Active addicts often experience escalation in this timeframe. Even addicts firmly grounded in recovery can revert to old patterns, especially if they stop attending their 12-step support groups, reaching out to supportive friends and family, and actively working their program of recovery.

But Everyone Else Seems So Happy…

The mere mention of the November/December holidays can evoke nearly universal visions of Norman Rockwell-like nostalgia – families gathered around pine-scented trees, candles burning night after night, tables weighted with endless goodies, hot cocoa topped with miniature marshmallows, and one tone deaf uncle or another cluelessly belting out holiday songs to grandma’s foot-pounding piano accompaniment. And everyone in this scenario is overflowing with joy, peace, love, harmony, and the spirit of giving. For some blessed families, this picture may actually be a reality. For the rest of us, though, the holidays typically fall at least slightly shy of this romanticized perfection, a fact that can be especially vexing for individuals already dealing with the challenge of addiction.
For people whose lives are dominated by relationship or sexual addiction (or any other addiction), the holiday season is an obvious set-up for slips and relapse. The justifications and rationalizations that every addict employs to one degree or another are particularly strong at this time of year, as there are endless reasons to feel frustrated, disappointed, lonely, or simply let down by love and life. Feelings of resentment, isolation, disappointment, and loneliness help grease the slippery slope of relapse. Some addicts (re)engage their addiction to escape the pressure of “being present” with family and loved ones; others act out as a way to cope with the disappointment of an idealized holiday that never actually happens. For men and women who struggle with problematic sexual and romantic behaviors, this time of year is rife with perfectly justifiable “reasons” to act out.

Sex Addict as Escape Artist

Let’s examine the two very distinct types of addict mentioned above. First up is the escape artist, the person who literally cannot abide the “life on life’s terms” reality that the holiday season forces on us all. This addict will show up for holiday functions, but as soon as he or she can reasonably depart… Whoosh, they’re out of the door and into the oblivion of addiction. Consider the words of Steven, a now-sober sex addict:
The beginning of the end of my sexual acting out was a Christmas Eve that’s now hard to forget. My sister and her kids lived about an hour away, and I drove to their house for dinner and midnight mass. My parents drove in, too, so the whole family was there. My sister made a fantastic meal, as always, and her young kids were crazy excited that Christmas had almost arrived. Me? I picked at the dinner, twitchy, sullen, and withdrawn, anxious for the evening to end. I knew I was behaving badly, but I couldn’t stop myself because I truly wanted to leave. Church was even worse. At one point my mother whispered, seemingly out of nowhere, “Why are you so angry?” I’m not sure how I responded, but I remember the question. As soon as church was over I was out the door and in my car. Back on my own, where I felt far more at ease, I drove around until I found a prostitute who brought with her the gift of crack cocaine. The next morning at breakfast it was back to my sister’s house to unwrap gifts. Thing was, I hadn’t slept, I hadn’t showered, and I was still wired from all the coke. As soon as the presents were opened, I told everyone I didn’t feel well and I left. But instead of going home and to bed, I called around until I found more drugs and another prostitute.

For this type of addict, the holiday season is a nuisance, filled with parties and family gatherings that try to push the individual back into reality and force him (or her) to be present – both of which he (or she) would prefer to avoid. After all, addiction is all about escape and dissociation from life stressors and uncomfortable emotions. Addicts engage in their addictive behavior because they want to “feel better,” which actually means they want to “feel less.”

Dealing with Disappointment

The second type of sex or love addict is the man or woman who sets impossibly high goals for the season in the misguided hope/belief that a perfect holiday will alleviate his or her obsessions and make everything right in the world. This individual lives in the fantasy that this year, unlike so many years past, he or she will be surrounded by loving family and friends who will set aside their differences, forgive past transgressions, and get along swimmingly.

Consider Jane, a wife and mother struggling with her addiction to romantic intensity:
Last year before the holidays rolled around, I took some time out from my endless search for love by getting out of the romantic chat rooms and off of websites like Match.com and Ashley Madison so I could prepare for a holiday of reconnection with my husband and family. I planned everything down to the last detail —  tasteful decorations, delicious food, perfect presents, the whole nine yards. On Christmas Eve there would be caroling around the neighborhood, and on Christmas morning our family would light a fire in the fireplace, eat cinnamon buns and drink hot chocolate, and then open our presents one at a time, savoring each and every special gift. Unfortunately, reality is not always what I would like it to be.
My husband John refused to go caroling, the kids ripped open their presents while I was still in the kitchen making coffee, and they complained about almost every gift they received. Then John started yelling at the kids for being selfish, I started yelling at him for yelling at the kids, and pretty soon I’d had about enough. So I left home for a drive with no particular plan in mind except calming myself down. Yet without much effort or thought I soon “found myself” in a cheap motel room hooking-up with a married guy I met on my smartphone Ashley Madison app. Apparently, his Christmas morning didn’t live up to expectations, either. Even though I was filled with shame and felt terrible for leaving John alone with the kids on what was supposed to be an extraordinary day for all of us, I was absent for several hours. It was like I couldn’t stop myself.
For this type of sex and love addict, the holidays — viewed as a cure-all way to re-establish love and family connection – can easily become a reason to act out sexually. The simple fact is no spouse or family can live up to the idealized expectations placed upon them by an addict eager for excellence (and escape), and when they inevitably fail in their duty of perfection, the addict ends up hurt, resentful, disappointed, and ready to act out.

Holiday Checks and Balances

For individuals in or out of recovery a mindfulness check-in – perhaps even a written check-in later read aloud to a good friend, therapist, or 12-step sponsor – can be especially helpful around the holidays.
Useful questions to ask yourself include:

  • Am I feeling isolated, lonely, sad, or angry as the holiday season approaches?
  • Am I keeping any sexual or romantic fantasies, ideas, plans, or behaviors a secret?
  • Have I recently contacted former hookup partners or lovers, drug using friends, or drug dealers?
  • Will I “run into” past or potential sexual partners at a holiday celebration or event?
  • Do I have idealized, possibly unrealistic expectations about the season or any upcoming events?
  • Am I prepared to handle holiday disappointments, letdowns, and the like?
  • Am I feeling impulsive or obsessive?
  • Am I resting, eating well, and generally taking good care of my physical, emotional, and spiritual self?

It is especially useful at this time of year for individuals already in sex or love addiction recovery to talk to their sponsor or a supportive friend in recovery about whatever it is they are feeling, to step up support group attendance, and go back to the very basic, early recovery advice that has worked in the past such as, “Just do the next right thing,” and, “One day at a Time.” If you’re not in recovery but know you have a problem with compulsive sexual or romantic behavior and/or addictive substances, now is a great time to reach out for help. The best holiday gift you can give to yourself and to your loved ones is the gift of healing and sobriety. Making an appointment with and talking to a licensed (sexual) addiction therapist is the perfect first step. You might not “get well” in time to fully enjoy this holiday season, but with a little hard work and dedication you can ensure that future holiday seasons are filled with genuine intimacy and joy – even if you and your family never quite achieve Norman Rockwell perfection.

Robert Weiss LCSW, CSAT-S is Senior Vice President of Clinical Development with Elements Behavioral Health. A licensed UCLA MSW graduate and personal trainee of Dr. Patrick Carnes, he founded The Sexual Recovery Institute in Los Angeles in 1995. 
He is author of Cruise Control: Understanding Sex Addiction in Gay Men, and co-author with Dr. Jennifer Schneider of both Untangling the Web: Sex, Porn, and Fantasy Obsession in the Internet Age and the upcoming 2013 release, Closer Together, Further Apart: The Effect of Technology and the Internet on Sex, Intimacy and Relationships, along with numerous peer-reviewed articles and chapters. www.sexualrecovery.com


Help Teens Make Smart Decisions

The more you know about prescription drug abuse (and the science behind it), the more you’ll want to help your friends (if you’re a teenager) or students (if you’re an educator) learn the facts and make smart decisions. NIDA developed the tools to help you get the word out and make a positive difference in teens’ lives.
The Facts and Activity Guide for students and teachers will support you in your efforts. Downloadable posters, buddy icons, and more Downloads will make it fun to help teens avoid prescription drug abuse.
Prescription drug abuse is a big problem among youth across the Nation. Among youth who are 12 to 17 years old, 2.8 percent reported past-month nonmedical use of prescription medications (that is, without a doctor’s guidance). In fact, according to the 2012 Monitoring the Future Survey, prescription and over-the-counter medications are among the most commonly abused drugs by 12th graders, after alcohol, marijuana, and tobacco. When asked how prescription narcotics (opioids) were obtained for nonmedical use, more than half of the 12th graders surveyed said they were given the drugs or bought them from a friend or relative.

The Problem

Teens are making the decision to abuse prescription medicines based on misinformation. Teens abuse drugs for a number of reasons, including to get high, to treat pain, and because they think it will help them with school work. Teens often don’t realize prescription drugs can have dangerous short- and long-term health consequences when used inappropriately (e.g., using someone else’s medication or taking their own medication in a way other than prescribed, such as a larger dose or more frequently).  

A New Initiative

The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) is reaching out to help stop this troubling problem among teens. “Prescription drug abuse is not new, but it does deserve continued vigilance,” said NIDA Director Nora D. Volkow, M.D. “It is imperative that as a Nation we make ourselves aware of the consequences associated with the abuse of these medications.” Whether you are an educator, mentor, or student, NIDA encourages you to use materials provided by PEERx to learn about prescription drug abuse and to spread the word about its effects on health.

About PEERx

PEERx was created to provide educators, mentors, student leaders, and teens with science-based information about the harmful effects that prescription drug abuse has on the brain and body. Information sharing is a collective effort; therefore, NIDA is asking you to take the information provided on this Web site and raise awareness among teens in your community about the dangers and effects of abusing prescription drugs.
Many features of this site can be used to help generate ideas on how to raise awareness among the teens you encounter daily. Learn the science behind prescription drug abuse in The Facts. Get helpful tips for teachers and student leaders on how to engage teens actively through homework assignments or extracurricular projects in the Activity Guide. Use fun downloads for teens to help spread the word among friends and classmates in Downloads. 

Somebody to Love

I had a nasty neighbor who regularly picked fights over all kinds of issues. People drove too fast past her rural home; her neighbors partied too loud; vandals were supposedly stealing from her water line; trees encroached on her property line; and on and on. She took in tenants, most of whom lasted no more than a month. Most people cringed when they saw her.
Yet over time as I got to know Maude, I discovered something quite beautiful about her. She took in stray animals and cared for them with impeccable love. Dogs, cats, deer, goats, birds, and a turtle that would have otherwise suffered or died in abusive homes or the wilderness found a healing sanctuary on Maude’s property. I watched her feed her critters, cuddle them, talk to them sweetly, and carefully tend to their wounds. She was like a saint—a true inspiration to behold.

Dean Martin sang, Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime. People who otherwise live in psychic darkness find a ray of light in loving one person or one population. Many people who have difficulty loving people love animals. I led a seminar in which a fascinating theme emerged as participants revealed themselves. Nearly everyone in the group was wounded in human love, but they all had deep love relationships with their pets. Everybody needs to love somebody sometime.

One of my heroes is the great scientist Nikola Tesla. Like many geniuses, Tesla had certain eccentricities. Rather than being involved with a relationship partner, he was a loner and channeled his creative energies into his inventions and service to humanity. Yet Tesla did have a love relationship with a pigeon. In his Manhattan hotel room, Tesla daily welcomed a flock of pigeons to his window ledge, fed them, and made them his confidants. He was particularly fond of one of the pigeons. He nurtured and petted her and, I imagine, told her things that he did not tell people. He needed someone to love.

Most people are on a lifetime quest to be loved. We seek love from anyone who might stimulate within us that wonderful feeling. We go from relationship to relationship, marriage to marriage, job to job, home to home, ardently seeking the experience of love. We believe that if someone would love us enough, we would feel safe and worthy.

But for most people the quest for love remains just that—a quest, rarely or never fulfilled.
Marianne Williamson made a brilliant statement based on her understanding of A Course in Miracles. She said, “It is not the love we do not receive that hurts us. It is the love we do not give.”
Her point cannot be overstated. The best way to receive the love we yearn for is to give it. Giving love rewards us more richly than receiving it. The love we give fulfills us as it passes through us, regardless of if or how it is received. As the famous St. Francis prayer affirms, “It is in giving that we receive.”
As we move through the holiday season, we have many opportunities to practice giving love. I don’t mean simply putting a dollar in the Salvation Army basket. I mean with family members who irk us, annoying co-workers at the Christmas party, and with sales reps who tell us that the gift we ordered is delayed. Those are the real opportunities of the holidays.

This holiday season we can evolve from being love seekers to love expressers. D.H. Lawrence wrote,

“Those that go searching for love only make manifest their own lovelessness, and the loveless never find love, only the loving find love, and they never have to seek for it.” 

You cannot simultaneously be a love seeker and a love finder. Even if you have been a love seeker for many years, you can instantly become a love finder. Then you will find everything you have sought inside yourself.
I had an annoying neighbor like Maude. Just out of college, I was living with several guys, and Mrs. Ryan did not cotton to us. She complained constantly and clearly did not want us next door. Then one evening I went to a lecture on positive thinking. The teacher asked us to take one person who irked us, and send that person love. Mrs. Ryan came to mind, and I was able for a few brief moments to tap into the place inside me that thought fondly of her.
The next morning Mrs. Ryan approached me in my garden. “I just want to apologize for giving you boys a hard time, “ she said. “I know I have been an irksome neighbor. I’m sure you’re really nice guys, so I’d like to get along with you from now on.” And so we did.
 was stunned. The only difference in our relationship was that I had sent Mrs. Ryan genuine love for a few moments. Behold the power of true love. We all need to get it, but, more important, we all need to give it.

Alan Cohen is the author of Enough Already: The Power of Radical Contentment. IFor more information about this program, Alan’s books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com, email info@alancohen.com, or phone (808) 572-0001.

Understanding Trauma, Abuse and Deprivation

The purpose of this article is to give meaning to the word Deprivation. Many times when we share our childhood stories we talk of the trauma and abuse of our experiences and can be unaware of the resulting deprivation that occurred. The 12-step program of Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACA) was established for men and women who grew up in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home. The consequence of being raised in an alcoholic or otherwise dysfunctional home undoubtedly leaves adults to face recovering from the effects of trauma, abuse and deprivation. To face it, we must first understand it.

Defining Trauma and Abuse

Trauma is damage to the psyche that occurs as a result of a severely distressing event that shattered a personal assumption. It is an extreme stress that overwhelms a person’s ability to cope. Trauma is defined by the reaction of the survivor of the event and varies between peoples experience to the event. Examples are: accidents, surgeries, death, violent events, and so on. Abuse is a form of mistreatment where there is intent to cause physical, mental, or emotional pain or injury. Abusive events include: domestic violence, name calling, threats, confinement, isolation, verbal assault, humiliation, or being denied integrity, dignity, self-worth, value or esteem, and many more.

Understanding Deprivation and Attachment Difficulties

When we experience abuse and/or trauma, we not only interpret the attack of our psyche, but we also experience the loss of our ability to be attached. When an attachment is expected and then broken deprivation occurs in our psyche. Examples are a child neglected by a parent, or an abusive spouse. As the receiver of abuse and trauma we often times struggle with wanting to correct the attachment separation. We comply with the abuse in order to hopefully find a path of attaching, to be accepted in order to belong. As we review our life of trauma and abuse, the age we were abused and or traumatized defines our ability to attach in a healthy manner. If separation occurs early in the first few years of life, the broken bond leads to disturbed emotional bonds later in life. As an adult, it can lead to aggressiveness, being ‘clingy’, social maladjustment and issues with attachment and detachment as an adult. 
As adults we tend to look at the past and tell ourselves to “Get over it” or “It was a long time ago.” As we grow intellectually, we’re able to see and express our experiences of trauma and abuse. I add the word deprivation because we need to discuss the attachment difficulties that occur with trauma and abuse. A child neglected or beaten can be an adult fearful of intimacy. A child who can only comply with the abuses of life develops a fear of rejection and abandonment as an adult. A person living with domestic abuse lives as an abusee, trying to figure out what to do to be loved. All three examples send the message, “If I can just …, then I’ll be loved.” 

Healing Through Healthy Attachment

The truth is trauma and abuse result in deprivation and the inability to discover healthy attachment. How many of us go to Co-Dependents Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics, Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous or any 12-step program seeking attachment lost as a result of the deprivation we experienced in our history of trauma and abuse? 
We are born to be relational and in order to be relational we attach to others; creating the sense of being loved. Learning attachment is learning to face our fears, mainly our fears of intimacy and rejection. Learning to be vulnerable to ourselves and then with others is risky. It carries with it the fear of rejection or the fear vulnerability will give the other something to use against me, which is fear of being intimate. The second step states, “Came to a believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity,” is a measure of hope. From the view of trauma, abuse and deprivation, the power greater than us requires that we resolve our deprivation, and learn to attach to a higher power. 
If I am a person who has experienced trauma and abuse in my life, and live today in deprivation, then attachment to a power greater than me is critical for long term recovery. By recognizing our fears and acknowledging our deprivation, we can recover by learning to attach. First, internally attach to the child we were, finding comfort in knowing we did nothing wrong. Next, find God, a higher power, a power greater than ourselves to achieve sanity or soundness of mind in recovery. By understanding the deprivation resulting from trauma and abuse, we can also practice vulnerability and learn to have relations with healthy attachment. 

Michael is the co-founder and Clinical Director of North Pointe Counseling Center. Michael holds a Master of Arts in Professional Counseling, and a Bachelor of Science in Electronic Engineering and Technologies. Visit www.npccaz.com/

Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?

Away from the cooling fall air, a fire crackles in the fireplace and the table is set with candles and neatly folded napkins..... 

The fragrant scent of turkey and dressing wafts through the room, enticing all those who have passed up lunch to wait for its arrival.   The announcement is proudly made from the kitchen and only after an appropriate number of kudos and ah’s does everyone gather at the table to give thanks on this special holiday. We give thanks for the program, our host and host and the fine table set before us. Some offer thanks for their successes and the challenges all of which provided new opportunities for growth. Yet, we can miss giving thanks for the greatest blessing of all — the gift of each other.

There is infinite wisdom in your conscious and unconscious choice of those with whom you create both partnerships and friendships. They are each individually a mirror and reflection of your soul. Just as there are colorful, creative and intricate dishes set upon the table, there are also colorful, creative and intricate choices in our friendships and mates.

They reflect back to us both who we are and who we are becoming. 

After you have taken in the scents and visually enjoyed the culinary delights set upon the table, perhaps you can take a moment to reflect on the diversity and beauty in your choices of life partners and friends seated at the table. Let me share what my picture looks like on Thanksgiving.

Somewhat removed from the flurry of dishes being passed I can usually sit back and first notice my son J.D. He is the part of me that still thinks all things are possible, sort of an “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” kind of guy whose commitment got him through earthquakes and rainstorms to make sure I was OK. We both know no matter what the obstacle, we would be there for each other.
Across the table my friend Jan scoops potatoes on to her plate and I think of how her childlike antics put me more in touch with the child inside of me who never learned how to play. My inner child was too busy dealing with an alcoholic mother and an abusive father until Jan came into my life and gave my inner child permission to come out. Before Jan, my inner child was hidden and hesitant, too fearful to play with anyone.

At the end of the table sits Elaine, talking a bit too loud and acting a bit too self-assured. She is the part of me that was still afraid she is not quite enough and over compensates for her uneasiness in groups. Beside her sits Randy. Randy reflects back to me the spiritual side of myself. He reflects my Higher Self, that knowing part of me that is connected beyond words and explanations to the Divine.  
At the other end of the table, my friend Lauren carries on an in-depth philosophical conversation with David. Lauren reflects the part of me that spirals with intellectual exploration and thrives on unanswered questions. David!  Ah David, the part of me that still wonders who I might have been if I had had what I didn’t have as a child. Then there are my other two children Lauren and Mia. Lauren is the creative part of me that loves making things and being artistic. Mia is the part of me who is profoundly on the path to Spirit and loves the challenge of learning. At one end of the table, you may have a mate. That’s the beloved person in your life who constantly reflects back to you, the parts of you that are beautiful, lovable and worthy of being cherished.

This incredible group of people, even as it changes, always reflects back to me my own soul’s growth in living color. There sitting at my table was the perfect picture of all the ways I had chosen to grow and not grow. Each person at that table was my teacher, my guide and I was grateful for their courage and willingness to be part of my life lesson.

Each one had made the decision to enter the process of relationship with me. Each was willing to look at the ways in which he or she closed down, defended against and opened again to all we might share. Thanks to their courage and mine, we were all learning a great deal about ourselves. I have often said that I know I could go to sit on a mountain and achieve enlightenment. In doing so, I would not be helping the world a wit, nor would I have any inkling of how my own human soul was evolving. Until I enter into relationship with each of these precious people, I have no way of knowing about my judgments, my invulnerability’s, my fear, my need for sameness, my openness or my courage.

I am constantly amazed at how once we become conscious and aware, life speaks to us so clearly. There are no coincidences, no accidents. There is only life, trying repeatedly through each relationship to teach us more about ourselves. Perhaps this Thanksgiving, you too can begin to see with a more conscious vision as you sit at your holiday table. Perhaps, you will quietly accept that each person before you is an integral part, a perfect reflection of who you are. 

Perhaps, you too will silently give thanks. We live in the greatest experiment ever created. This is a place where we each get to create the realty we most desire and where we can, without judgment or reward necessarily, we learn the lessons we came here to learn; the ones that evolve our own soul toward the person we each know we can become. What a delicious experiment this is and how much greater does that make this moment! Better yet, if you are grateful, say it to everyone aloud, even those teaching you patience. Moreover, from all of us have a great Thanksgiving!

Sexual Co-Addiction: Out of the Silence

He cheated on me ...... with scores of women.” 
“She’s addicted to porn.” “I see it progressing and I’m afraid.” 

“He keeps telling me painful information and I can’t handle it but get out either.” “Her therapist says she’s working on it, but how do I know?” “There were signs all along but I didn’t want to see them. I couldn’t believe I wasn’t enough.”

Sexual co-addiction devastates the partners, parents, and children of sex addicts. Patrick Carnes’ 2001 book, Out of the Shadows, did much to increase understanding of compulsive sexual behaviors as addictive. In 2011, the movie Shame shed some light on the lot of sex addicts, as did this year’s Thanks for Sharing.

Information for the partners, relatives, and friends of sex addicts is harder to find. The Twelve Step fellowships that offer a recovery program for people affected by another person’s compulsive sexual behavior seem to be one of the country’s best kept secrets.
That’s not because sexual co-addicts and codependents aren’t out there, and it’s not because they aren’t in need of help. We saw a hint of what happens when spouses cheat when Elin Nordegren allegedly chased Tiger Woods with a golf club. When she divorced the problem, many of us assumed she was going to be fine.

People who are affected by someone else’s sexual addiction know better. Depression, obsession, rage, shame, isolation, and misery haunt codependents of sex addicts. They question their value, their attractiveness, and their intelligence. They act out with their partners to appease or control them, and they fail. They suffer from sexually transmitted diseases. They lose their jobs, self-respect, and sanity. Even after divorce or estrangement, the difficulties continue. Many people leave a sexually addicted partner only to find another, and in some cases, another, and another. Even if the next person is not an addict, the shame and fear still make it impossible to have a healthy relationship next time around.

It’s hard to find resources because no one talks about it. It’s a problem that elicits shame for the thousands of people who struggle with someone else’s sex addiction. They often come into recovery believing  the sex addict in their lives wouldn’t cheat, or rack up bills at strip clubs, or break the law if only they were smart enough, pretty enough, thin enough, whatever enough.
Sometimes a sexual codependent is the partner of a family doctor, pastor, or politician, and their fear about exposure of sex addict prevents any disclosure or recovery. They remain locked in silence.
Therapists, social workers, doctors, and clergy of people affected by someone else’s sex addiction sometimes don’t know how to help even if that person is brave enough to speak out.

Recovery from sexual codependency has been possible for many through a Twelve Step fellowship called COSA, which has supported people for 30 years.  Many newcomers find immediate relief from the awful isolation by meeting others who are facing the same problems. Often for the first time, new members get to talk to someone who understands. Many come having found it was not safe to talk to family or friends who have told them anything from “Leave the bum” to “You made your bed- lie in it.”

Everyone in COSA has a story. They come from comfortable homes, or they live in poverty. They are men or women, straight or GLBTQ,  all races  and religions. The sex addict in their life may be addicted to porn, be involved in multiple affairs, or darker behaviors. The sex addict might be their parent, partner, child, boss, employee, patient, client, or friend. Some members are sexual abuse survivors or rape victims who have no sex addiction in their family. Many sex addicts are COSAs themselves who may have been affected by someone else’s sex addiction long before their own acting out began. Anyone with significant contact with a sex addict is affected, because addiction is the only disease that so deeply affects people who don’t even have it.

All these people come into COSA and they listen to the similarities because they need the help of the people who have come in lost and broken like they are, and they see hope and help.
Members say they learn in meetings that someone else’s addiction is not about them. They can learn to trust themselves. Some leave the sex addict, and some find recovery with the sex addict.
COSA has seven meetings in Arizona, in the Phoenix and Tucson areas. The COSA Annual Convention will be held in Los Angeles from May 23 through May 26. The Convention will include meetings, workshops, and speakers.

For COSA meetings in Arizona, see http://www.cosa-recovery.org/states/Arizona.html.  All meetings are open only to those whose lives have been affected by another person’s sexual behavior.

Claudia M

I’ll Tell Who Ever I Damn Well Please

In the documentary Anonymous People, actor Kristen Johnston sits on stage and openly tells the audience, “I’ll tell whomever I damn well please that I am in recovery.”
I feel the same way and have for years.

Without even knowing it. I felt the stigma of being a ‘flawed’ woman when I first got sober. While everyone around me knew it, my addiction told me it was “our secret.” Even though I felt weak, afraid and despised my behavior I was chained to the dark side. Walking into my first 12 step meeting over 23 years ago I was certain everyone was going to point their finger at me adding to my shame. Oh, how wrong I was.
It took time, patience, guidance and understanding — that I am one of the many who have the disease of addiction.

Through the years I’ve witnessed a growing movement of people who are speaking out and stepping out of the shadows.

Why do we do this? 

How else will people know that continuous recovery from addiction is real? That people like you and me can lead successful lives; we work, we marry, we raise families, and we love, we laugh and we show others that while this deadly disease cannot be cured, it can be treated.

Deeply entrenched social stigma and mass participation in widely successful anonymous 12-step groups have kept recovery voices silent and faces hidden for decades. The vacuum created by this silence has been filled by sensational mass media depictions of addiction that continue to perpetuate a lurid public fascination with the dysfunctional side of what is a preventable and treatable health condition. Just like women with breast cancer, or people with HIV/AIDS, a grass roots social justice movement is emerging.

Courageous addiction recovery advocates have come out of the shadows and are organizing to end discrimination and move toward recovery-based solutions.
The moving story of The Anonymous People is told through the faces and voices of the citizens, leaders, volunteers, corporate executives, and public figures who are laying it all on the line to save the lives of others just like them. This passionate new public recovery movement is fueling a changing conversation that aims to transform public opinion, and finally shift problematic policy toward lasting solutions.

Please join me on November 14th at the Shea 14 theatres in Scottsdale. The movie will screen at 7:30. Tickets must be purchased in advance. To get yours, go to http://gathr.us/screening/5843.

See you there!

Friday, October 4, 2013

From Relapse to Recovery

By Allen Nohre, Terros

“The road to Recovery often goes through the little town of Slip, the bigger city of Relapse, towns and cities that are sometimes visited more than once.” 
The recovery from addiction is complicated and I wanted to learn more about the journey from relapse to recovery. I decided the best way was to listen to people who have taken the journey. Sarah and Marie (not their real names) openly shared their stories with me. I learned that the experiences are sometimes harrowing and no two journeys are alike. MapQuest doesn’t provide directions or shortcuts. The road to Recovery often goes through the little town of Slip, the bigger city of Relapse, towns and cities that are sometimes visited more than once, before arriving for a long stay in Recovery. Every person’s trip to Recovery is unique but the paradox is that we can still learn and grow from these journeys and especially from Sarah and Marie because we are all seeking to improve our lives. 


Before I met Sarah, I had some erroneous ideas about addiction and relapse. I assumed a relapse was a slip back to the same old behavior after a period of abstinence. Sarah, a successful professional woman, began recovering from her excessive use of drugs and alcohol twenty-eight years ago. With the help of intensive outpatient treatment, Alcoholics Anonymous and her recovery program, she stopped using alcohol and drugs and has never used again. But she did relapse after all that time. How could that be? She explained it. “I switched addictions and gambling became my drug of choice. I gambled during my years of not using alcohol or drugs and I thought I had it under control. I would go to Vegas and Laughlin, as well as local casinos. Gradually I became obsessed with gambling. The high I got when I won money at the slot machines was the same wonderful high I felt from alcohol and drugs years ago as a teenager and young woman.”

Relapse Was Building

The emergence of Sarah’s new addiction didn’t happen by coincidence. “My relapse into gambling began when I stopped following my drug and alcohol recovery program. I wasn’t using, but I wasn’t doing those things critically important for me to live a life of recovery. I kept my gambling obsession a secret, stopped talking to my sponsor, quit going to recovery groups and, most importantly, I wasn’t honest with myself or anyone else. I was clean and sober from drugs and alcohol, but I was white- knuckling it and I wasn’t in real recovery. I ignored the things that made my recovery possible and because of my addictive personality, my gambling spiraled on me.” 
Sarah financed her gambling with payday loans, credit cards and cleverly orchestrated it so that she had extra money in her paycheck by decreasing her withholding taxes. She managed to keep her job, pay her rent and other bills, but she was drowning in debt.

The Turning Point: Walk of Shame from the Casino

Gambling ended for Sarah when her debts and dishonesty drove her to her knees. She describes what she calls, “My loser walk from the casino to my car for the last time.” She had seven payday loans, credit card debts and owed the federal government $25,000 in back taxes. It was time for a new recovery. Sarah began her recovery from her relapse by starting an intensive outpatient treatment program. She went to Gamblers Anonymous, found a new sponsor, attended a women’s support group and returned to a substance abuse recovery group. “My original sobriety date was twenty-eight years ago. My new sobriety date, the one that really counts, is four years ago.” 
To reinforce her new behavior, Sarah officially banned herself from casinos by voluntarily registering for “self-exclusion” with the Arizona Department of Gaming making it illegal for her to be in a casino. She said, “I could be arrested for trespassing in a casino, even if I only went there for the crab legs I so enjoy.” 

Typical Relapse?

I learned more about relapse and recovery when I said to Sarah, “Your relapse is not typical.” She emphatically disagreed with me saying, “Yes, it is typical. Addiction is not about drugs. It is about your mind, your mind’s craziness and its obsession to get high with your next drug or your next one hundred dollars. My thoughts controlled me like a monkey on my back.”
And there is more. One year into her current recovery program, Sarah decided to deal with yet another addiction — food. “I ate for pleasure and to fill the void.” She was greatly overweight. She is now a hundred pounds lighter and besides being much healthier, she feels great, looks great and likes the freedom of making good eating choices.
Sarah’s relapse was a painful and costly setback for her, but she is an example of how a person can get back on track in the direction of positive change. She is an inspiration for those who have setbacks by showing us that failure can be temporary. 

Preventing Relapse: Triggers

Relapse prevention is an important focus of TERROS treatment programs. One of the relapse prevention strategies is identification of “triggers.” A trigger can be internal emotion like anxiety or depression that historically leads to destructive behavior. Or, a trigger can be something external that creates an irresistible temptation. The addict’s goal is to have insight into the catalysts and learn to avoid them, or at least, manage them.
Sarah avoids triggers that are a potential problem for her. As innocent as it might seem, she doesn’t participate in raffles, no matter how good the cause. She doesn’t buy lottery tickets and she has taken action to prevent going to a casino, even if only for those delicious crab legs.

Do You Worry About Relapse?

I asked Sarah if she thinks about relapse. She said, “Yes, I think it is important to remember where I’ve come from and the pain I experienced. Relapse is a possibility. It is the reality I live with and I’m doing what it takes to prevent it. I don’t believe thinking objectively about relapse increases the possibility it will happen. Stopping my recovery program is what will increase my probability of reverting to old behavior.”

The Good Life of Recovery

Sarah is enjoying her life of recovery and her freedom from her addictions. The seven payday loans are paid off, she pays the balance every month on her one credit card and she is on schedule with a payment plan for her back taxes. “My life is so different. It’s fun to get up in the morning, looking forward to the day and enjoying the people I work with. I have regained my spirituality and I am so grateful that every day is an opportunity to grow.”
Sarah recently turned 60. She sent out a birthday party invitation that said, “I am celebrating my birthday because I celebrate you.” Ninety people came to her party and celebrated with Sarah.

Marie’s Trip to Recovery 

Marie is in her mid-thirties, a married mother with three boys and holds down a full-time job. Before she arrived in Recovery, she spent some time in Slip and Relapse as well as a place called Prostitution. It has been a long and difficult trip but she now lives happily in Recovery. When Marie was a young girl, her mother was in the throes of her own drug addiction and basically abandoned Marie and left her homeless.
 As she recalls, “Wherever I stayed wasn’t for long. When I was seventeen my mother brought me to a house where there were drug users and women who were prostituting. I was introduced to hard drugs and prostitution and that is what I did for the next five years.”
“I call it what it is”
Marie says that not having a home, using hard drugs and prostitution was the seamless fabric of her addiction. “When I talk about my life, the hardest thing to say out loud is my prostituting.” However, Marie doesn’t deny, minimize or excuse her behavior because she has discovered honesty is healthy. She calls her behavior for what it is and doesn’t use euphemisms like “sex worker” or “escort” to minimize it or make it sound better. 

The Turning Point

I asked Marie, “What got you into recovery the first time?” She said, “My son.” After her son was born, Marie ended up in jail for possession of drugs at the age of twenty-two. Child Protective Services became involved and Marie was released from jail on the condition that she attend treatment. After completing 30 days of residential treatment, she was fortunately accepted into a women’s shelter where she was also able to live with her baby boy and continue with treatment. She says, “I was twenty-two and had no life-skills whatsoever, although I did get my GED when I was sixteen.”
 Marie met a man she liked when she was in treatment. They were married for five years and had two sons. She said, “It was a rehab romance but we were not a good mix. Our marriage was violent. He was using and I was isolated and depressed at home with my three sons. I had five brief slips, during our five years of marriage, but no full-blown relapse until I started working at a bar.” 

Conditions Ripe for Relapse

Marie’s internal condition of depression made her vulnerable to again use drugs. Like Sarah, she had also stopped working her recovery program. Then Marie added a risky external situation that was her downfall.
She took a job as a waitress in the bar where her husband hung out, an overall high-risk situation for relapse. She started doing “shift drinks” with the staff after the bar closed and then she accepted an invitation from a co-worker to snort cocaine. Soon she was smoking meth and had fallen into a full blown relapse. 
 Marie has a strong memory of important dates during the next twelve horrendous months. She left her home, husband and kids in December 2004. Marie continued to use drugs, stayed with her Mom, who, amazingly, was now in recovery and had four years of sobriety. “To pay my bills, including lawyer’s fees for my divorce, I earned money on the streets.” Her oldest son was living with her mother and the other two boys were living with their father. 
“I had walked out on everyone. On Halloween in 2005, it even got worse. I hadn’t been using crack because it is my downfall. For me it is the devil. But I did it. The next two weeks were the longest and most anguishing two weeks of my life. I felt terribly guilty that I was doing to my children what my mother did to me – abandoning them. I think my determination to not repeat my mother’s mistakes finally became strong enough to motivate me to do something. With the help of a girlfriend, I applied for admission to a halfway house. The halfway house said they would call me when they had a bed.” 
“On November 11th, I had run out of dope and fallen asleep when the phone woke me up. A lady said they had bed for me at the halfway house and wanted to know if I could be there by four o’clock. I knew they had a thirty-six hour sober requirement so I told her I was only eighteen hours sober. Still, the lady asked me if I could be there at four o’clock and I was. The next day, November 12, 2005, my second day at the halfway house, is my sobriety date.” For nearly eight years, without a visit to the town of Slip, the city of Relapse, or the place of Prostitution, that date continues to be both a landmark and a shining beacon for Marie.

The Fear of Relapse

As I had asked Sarah, I also asked Marie if she fears she might relapse. She said, “No I don’t. I can’t live in both fear and faith. It has to be one of the other. If I am fearful it is because I am not trusting God. When I start to be fearful I pray and ask what God wants. I trust that God has brought me to where I am and God is not going to let me fall on my face.”
Marie says her spiritual journey and connection with God began when she was in the halfway house and embraced the Twelve Steps of Alcoholic Anonymous. She says she found a higher power of her own creation and she likes the acronym for God, “Good Orderly Direction,” which is often an alternative interpretation. 

Marie’s Relapse Prevention

Marie’s ongoing recovery is not luck or a fluke. She has built connections with healthy people and a framework of “good orderly direction” that includes:
Attending a three-hour Celebrate Recovery meeting once a week.
Enjoying her daily talks with her sponsor.
Going to church every Sunday.
Valuing her challenging and rewarding full-time job helping substance-abusing parents restore their families.

What is Most Important for Preventing Relapse?

I asked Marie, “Of all of the things you are doing to live a healthy life, what one thing is the most important?”
Without hesitation, she said, “My relationship with God.” Sarah’s answer to the same question is, “My spirituality is my most important prevention of relapse. It is not traditional religion. It is my private connection with God and with who I am and who I want to be.”
People like Sarah and Marie, and thousands of others who know the journey, have a wealth of knowledge gained in the school of experience. When they share their experience, they open themselves to us and we get a glimpse of their conflicts and triumphs along the road to recovery. By listening to them we can apply their lessons to our lives. 

Allen Nohre is a writer for TERROS. He has held senior management positions with healthcare companies in Minneapolis, Chicago and Phoenix.TERROS is a healthcare organization providing life solutions for people, families and communities. TERROS offers alcohol, drug, mental health and primary medical care services and HIV and substance abuse prevention. 
For more information on TERROS visit www.terros.org.

The TERROS Call Center is the go to place if you need information about TERROS programs and services, scheduling an appointment or assistance contacting any TERROS site, call 602-685-6000 ext. 1950, Monday through Friday from 8:00 AM-5:00 PM.

If you have a behavioral health emergency,  please call 1-800-631-1314 or 602-222-9444.