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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Just Say “Know”

By Stephanie Siete, Director of Community Education, Community Bridges, Inc. (CBI)

Let’s check in on the latest trends…Rx, E-cigs, Powdered Alcohol, Vapes, Dabs, BHO…What?

A teen engaging in risky behavior is not a new phenomenon. We tend to chalk it up to a rite of passage and something that might be expected. But are these unwritten rules something we should accept in today’s day and age? The drug world and has changed and we want you to know the latest. 
As a community, we ask parents and loved ones to challenge the typical norms and help to protect our youth. We believe awareness is the key to challenging norms that may favor drug and alcohol use and we also know that knowledge will provide you with the tools to empower you. Teens are at a critical stage in their life and they need our guidance. Adolescents are making adult decisions based on limited years of life experience and that ever famous teen brain, which is not fully developed until the age of 25. Early onset of drug use and risky behaviors often put youth at serious risk very early in life. Some of these choices will lead them down a path of addiction and some may never bounce back. We have an opportunity to turn that around. 

So what’s the good news? 

We can make a difference. Drug and alcohol abuse will always be a threat, so awareness is your tool. Emerging drug trends that we have never seen in our time, have posed a serious risk for our youth and so much is still unknown. Synthetic drugs like spice, bath salts (cathinones), kratom and 25i-nbome are a new breed of drugs in recent years. Prescription medication has existed as a form of treatment for decades, but abuse, addiction and death have been on a massive incline in the new millennium. Even our gateway or “kiddie” drugs have changed in terms of device and potency. Cigarettes are now battery powered, marijuana looks like honey and a concept of powdered alcohol has arrived. 
Feel out of the loop? A little lost? The world of drugs is constantly changing. We are here to help. 

The Revised Gateway Drugs

How many of us remember learning about drugs and to “just say no” from a program? Effective or not, this was some of the first exposure to the world of drugs in elementary or middle school. We learned about the popular drugs of alcohol, tobacco and marijuana. These drugs still reign as the top leading gateway for teens and Rx medication is a close fourth. Misperception about their dangers is our leading concern along with their dangerous potency and powerful addictive properties. 
We have become a prescription (Rx) drug crazed society. According to the National Safety Council, the United States makes up 4.6% of the world’s population and has been consuming 80% of the global opioid supply and 99% of the hydrocodone. To put that into perspective, in 2010, enough prescription painkillers were provided to medicate every American around the clock for an entire month. (National Safety Council, 3/13/2014, Seven Startling Facts about Prescription Painkillers, www.nsc.org/Pages/Seven-startling-facts-about-prescription-painkillers-.aspx

In Arizona, we saw 575 million pills prescribed in 2013 (Arizona Criminal Justice Commission Statistical Analysis Center). We don’t lack availability or accessibility for that matter. More than 70 percent of people who abused prescription pain relievers report getting them from friends or relatives. Only about 5 percent got the painkillers from a drug dealer or from the Internet. (National Safety Council, 3/13/2014, Seven Startling Facts about Prescription Painkillers, www.nsc.org/Pages/Seven-startling-facts-about-prescription-painkillers-.aspx) 

Problem 1: The Rx drugs are here. Problem 2: Most don’t know the dangers. 

Teens are curious about doctor prescribed medication and everyday people are being offered Rx meds as the best way to manage their pain. Our television commercials tell us “there is a pill for every ill.” The messaging gets confusing, yet let’s be clear…legal doesn’t mean safe. It never has. 
The temptation to use prescription painkillers can be just as addictive and deadly as heroin. In 2012, the number one cause of death in 17 US states was prescription drug abuse (American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians, 10/11/11, The American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians (ASIPP)

Fact Sheet, www.asipp.org/documents/ASIPPFactSheet101111.pdf). This may sound like a startling statement, but more concerning is the lack of education with the general public. More people need to be “in the know” about the risks, even when medication is legitimately prescribed. Opioids are deadly and too many people continue to die. 

Heroin: The Deadly Opioid Cousin

Heroin is not a gateway drug; although it continues to grow in popularity. Heroin does have a proven link to prescription painkillers because of its similar effects sold at a fraction of the price. It’s generally more affordable and no one can explain an opiate withdrawal if you have not experienced the pain yourself. Sometimes the only option is the street option. Recent statistics conclude that heroin use continues to rise in the US. In a 2012 report released by the National Survey on Drug Abuse and Health, from 2007 to 2012, the number of Americans using heroin nearly doubled, from 373,000 to 669,000 individuals. 

E-cigs, Vapes, Dabs, BHO, What?

Prescription pills may be the newest to the list of gateway drugs, but the older ones are looking and smelling a lot different lately. Remember when cigarettes were pieces of paper you lit and smoked? Now they are electronic cigarettes consisting of battery operated devices that turn nicotine or other chemicals into a vapor. Some of these products look like an ordinary cigarette but when touched, one can feel they are metal and can be easily filled with liquid nicotine. E-cigs were designed to wean one off of smoking cigarettes by replacing the fumes with vapors; however one should ask…are vapors safer than smoke? 
The jury (and the Surgeon General) is still out on this one. We just don’t know the long term effects. Not only should we be concerned about the vapor itself, but we should know the potential poisoning associated with liquid nicotine. Between 2012 and 2013, there was a 219% increase in poisoning exposures in the US (American Association of Poison Control Centers, E-Cigarette Devices and Liquid Nicotine, www.aapcc.org/alerts/e-cigarettes/) 

Vaporizers or Vaping pens are also being used to smoke flavored tobacco but also cleverly being used to conceal marijuana. Individuals can use marijuana concentrates or hash oils in these products. The well-known plants can contain up to 20% of the hallucinogenic THC but the concentrates may be as potent as 90%, causing one to pass out or experience intense hallucinations (Miles Bryan, April, 18, 2014, Pot Smoke And Mirrors: Vaporizer Pens Hide Marijuana Use, National Public Radio (NPR)). Previously, pot had a pretty recognizable smell but with the newer smokable devices hitting the scene; it has made detection much harder.

More about Hash Oils and BHO

Wax, honey, budder, dabs and shatter are all the most recent slang associated with the newest and most potent form of marijuana, butane honey oil (BHO). The names of honey, wax and budder (butter) effectively describe the look of the product. No longer are police, parents and probation officers only searching for a bag of weed, but they are looking in lip balm containers for this gooey form of marijuana. With the success of online video sites, it doesn’t take one long to search for “BHO” on the internet and watch how to create the product. 

What’s Trending with Alcohol?

Underage drinking is still the number one problem affecting American youth and young adults. It still remains the most commonly used and abused drug among youth in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), people aged 12 to 20 years drink 11% of all alcohol consumed in the United States. More than 90% of this alcohol is consumed in the form of binge drinks. And on average, underage drinkers consume more drinks per drinking occasion than adult drinkers. (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, January, 16, 2014, Fact Sheet — Underage Drinking, www.cdc.gov/alcohol/fact-sheets/underage-drinking.htm) 
Clearly, we have our work cut out for us in preventing, intervening and treating the abuse of alcohol. 

Mixed drinks, beer, wine, shots and even the pre-mixed alcohol energy drinks all well-known and commonly used but what about a powdered form of alcohol? If you have or currently work with a juvenile, then a product like this grabs your attention and probably creates a sense of fear or worry knowing a powered form in a small packet will easily be overlooked in a pant or purse pocket. Palcohol is a new concept in 2014. 

Good News: It is NOT officially available and hasn’t been approved by the FDA (yet). Bad news: It has been approved by the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau. 

It is exactly as it sounds, a small tear away packet of powdered alcohol; coming in versions of rum, vodka and kamikaze. All you have to do is add water. Not much is known about the potency as use has not been reported; however it pays to take note of a new format and a potential new trend.

Cathinones, Spice, Kratom, 25i-nbome, Molly…the Never-ending List of Synthetic Drugs
Synthetic cannabinoids laced on plant material were first reported in the U.S. in December 2008, when a shipment of “Spice” was seized and analyzed by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) in Dayton, Ohio (Office of National Drug Control Policy, Fact Sheets – Synthetic Drugs http://www.whitehouse.gov/ondcp/ondcp-fact-sheets/synthetic-drugs-k2-spice-bath-salts). Ever since then, the US has seen an increase in unknown designer substances sold as “research chemicals” imported from places like Southeast Asia showing up in communities across America. Names like Kratom, 25i-nbome, K2 make these psychosis causing, suicidal feeling chemicals sound like foreign languages. Not commonly known or regularly reported, doesn’t mean they should be overlooked. Synthetic drugs are popular because they are NOT sold as drugs; rather sold as code words in gas stations and convenient marts as potpourri, incense, fertilizer, glass cleaner, bath salts, etc. They still state “not for human consumption”. These constantly changing chemicals are not all federally regulated. There are many different county ordinances and state bans around the US, making the sales hard to prosecute. However, DEA at a national level continues to investigate and take down the large production and distribution efforts.

Quick Facts and Concerns about the “Others.” The list goes on…

The word “crystal” has stuck with us when we are referring to methamphetamine. “Bath salts” fit right into this category of dangerous substances, as well. “Bath salts” are cathinones, a psychoactive substance with stimulant properties occurring naturally in a khat plant. This plant mixed with chemicals is being abused worldwide causing instant psychosis and long-term brain damage. The DEA has also deemed this drug an “imminent threat to public safety.”
Acid seems to be making a comeback under the name 25i or nbome. Sadly, more and more deaths around the US are being reported. These new forms of synthetic LSD are used with a blotter or drops that may be put in the nose or on the tongue. It has a rapid onset and can cause intense hallucinations but little beyond that is well known. 
The name, “Molly” is not a friend; not in the drug world. She is sung about, talked about and commonly abused on the party scene. She has been referred to as ecstasy in pop music, but the reality is that when Molly pills are tested with forensic science, they can be anything. Molly can be forms of heroin, meth, cathinones, MDMA, or even baking soda. It’s a term that has been used since the 60’s. That’s all it is; a term. 
Kratom is legal in the US and commonly used in Southeast Asia. It is an opioid that is put into teas or may be chewed; consumed in small doses it can produce a stimulant effect. However, larger doses provide that respiratory weakness all opioids are known for. This is a cheap and readily available substance that looks like spice and can cause nausea, hallucinations, tremors and aggression. 
The consensus of synthetics is that little is truly known with their chemistry as the combinations of chemicals vary with each drug; the short and long term effects are unknown as testing is in the early stages and a treatment plan is hard with minimal information.

Taking Action

Here we are coming full circle. We know that drug use is risky; more so today than ever in history. We have so many new drugs that have not been tested and have no known long term effects. We, as a community, need to do our part. We need to share our knowledge with today’s risk takers. We need to emphasize that legal does NOT mean safe. Access resources that will help you find the tools to spark up meaningful conversation, detect possible warning signs and know how to find help if it is needed for a family member or friend. 

Here are some of CBI’s top resources:

Let’s help others “Be in the Know.” You are now. 

“Parents In the Know” workshops are available at no cost to the community thanks to a grant made possible by the Governor’s Office for Children, Youth and Families- Parents Commission. We also offer Rx360 classes, specifically educating parents about how to prevent misuse and abuse of prescription drugs with youth and teens. Join us or be a host of a future workshop! Please contact Stephanie Siete at ssiete@cbridges.com to schedule.

Stephanie Siete is the Director of Community Education for Community Bridges, Inc. (CBI). 
 Ms. Siete is an expert prevention trainer on drug trends and community resources spending the majority of her time educating the public about the realities of drug abuse. http://communitybridgesaz.org/

Veterans Healing With Horsepower

by Shannon K. Spellman, M.S.W., LCSW, LMFT, LISAC

Why would veterans benefit from hanging out in an arena with a bunch of horses and engaging in this therapeutic modality referred to here as equine assisted healing? Well, it’s actually a very effective, non-threatening, non-stigmatizing method for coping with stress, grief and loss, relationship problems, addictions, PTSD, deployment separation issues, and adjustment problems to returning home. We hear firsthand from veterans how powerful being around horses has been for them.

Paul Knutson served in the United States Army as an Infantryman from 28 January 2003 to 20 April 2011. He deployed with 1st Battalion 5th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom from January 2004 to April 2005, and October 2006 to January 2008. Paul was wounded in 2004 in an ambush and was awarded the Purple Heart. During his tours, Paul and his teams were subjected to several Improvised Explosive Devices. As a result, Paul has been diagnosed with Mild Traumatic Brain Injury. After his second tour, Paul broke his back in training and was subsequently medically retired from the Army. Paul is now pursuing a college education in the field of radiography.

Reintegrating into the herd

Paul offers his experiences, strength, and hope about how horses have helped him. “In 2011, I was medically discharged from the Army because I had broken my back and could no longer perform my duties as a soldier. I was lost and had no direction because I had planned on spending my life in the military. Transitioning into the civilian workforce was a daunting task as there wasn’t any structure anymore that I could rely on. Even after gaining employment, I wasn’t happy because I didn’t understand my role in this new chapter of my life and I certainly didn’t appreciate working with people who didn’t share the same vision of work ethic as I had learned in the military.

My mom found a horse for me that needed training, as he hadn’t been handled for the first several years of his life. Horses aren’t judgmental; they are herd animals that are just trying to survive day to day. Learning this about my horse, and working with him, taught me that people tend to live life the same way. In working with him, I have learned a lot about my own social tendencies and have overcome a lot of my anxieties of reintegrating into the herd that is civil society. I am now in school, am able to socialize with non-military people, and have a lot to look forward to every morning when I wake up. I don’t think I would have been able to bounce back as quickly as I have without my horse.”
Paul continues, “I recently attended a Healing with Horsepower event for veterans and was able to see other veterans be able to connect with the horses. It was powerful to see them distinguish the different personalities within the herd and then be able to identify with them. I believe that horses are an invaluable resource for veterans. I want to be able to share this experience with all of my friends that I served with and with other fellow veterans that I have met along the way.” We are honored to have Paul Knutson volunteering in our equine assisted program for veterans.

Equine Assisted Psychotherapy

Across the nation, veterans are receiving help in programs that offer horse therapy. The term, Equine Assisted Psychotherapy was first introduced by Greg Kersten, a veteran and horseman, and founder of EAGALA. Training horses helped him improve his own mental well-being, and his exercises are used in many programs worldwide. Greg developed some equine assisted exercises specific to working with veterans. Greg teaches about many things including how horses respond to pressure and pain versus how people react to pressure and pain. Veterans’ responses are often influenced by military training.

For some veterans, exposure to traumatic events experienced or witnessed during military service can result in difficulties that come creeping back up months or years later into one’s memories in a very intrusive fashion, and they may find themselves without adequate coping tools to process these experiences. We’ve come to know this problem as shell shock from WWII, later as combat stress, and more commonly today as PTSD. Many veterans have experienced some symptoms of Post Traumatic Stress even when they don’t meet the full criterion for a formal diagnosis of PTSD.

Vernon K. Rogers, a veteran and avid horseman shared his experience with me about how horses help him with stress relief and overall health. “I was in the Navy from 64 to 68, doing two tours of duty in Nam on a tin can (destroyer). My duties, among others, included an air controller. Upon my discharge I headed back home. I had bad nightmares off and on and when I had one I couldn’t go back to sleep as I was so uptight and tense. Then one night knowing I couldn’t go back to sleep, I got up and went out to my horse. After 30 minutes of talking and brushing him, I was really relaxed and went back to the house and fell to sleep. I found this worked really well and eventually they came less and less as I also learned what triggered them.

To this day I cannot watch war movies. Later in life I worked for the Dept. of Energy as a Power System Controller, working shift work. When I had a really stressful shift once I got home I would go out to the horses, pet and talk to them or sometimes get on and go for a ride. They have never failed to be there for me. In my retirement horses are helping me stay active.”

According to data from the VA, in 2011 alone, there were over 475,000 veterans who were treated for PTSD. This does not begin to reflect the actual numbers of veterans struggling with PTSD since there are an increasing number of veterans who are resistant to seeking help, and the number of veterans who have sought help and not received it due to the extreme service delivery problems recently discovered within the VA system. The consequences to veterans of not getting help, or receiving help that results in worsening symptoms are reflected in the rates of suicide and substance abuse for veterans.

Every 65 Minutes

Every 65 minutes, a veteran commits suicide. That’s 22 suicides per day with numbers actually higher due to some states not reporting and some veterans not being counted. In a 2007 SAMHSA survey of all veterans, 1.8 million met the criteria for a substance abuse disorder. Veterans are also becoming addicted to prescription opiate pain killers at an alarming rate due to injuries sustained during their service. In this year alone, over half a million veterans have been prescribed addictive opiate medications. Some veterans may develop gambling addictions or other adrenaline seeking compulsive behaviors in an attempt to cope with the adjustment to returning home.

When veterans seek help for PTSD at the VA or through Tri-Care, they typically receive group therapy with a Cognitive Processing Therapy (CPT) modality, and often psychotropic medication including antidepressants and anti-anxiety pills. Unfortunately, the potential adverse effects of anti-anxiety medications are developing an addiction to the medication where tolerance results in never having enough, and withdrawals result in a return or worsening of PTSD symptoms. The adverse effects of antidepressants can include increased risks of hostility, violent behavior, and suicide.

Ross Libonati, a veteran and President of Horse Lovers Management Corp., knows about some of these problems all too well, and for years has found his own comfort in riding and working with horses. Ross explained, “I joined the Air Force in 1963 and discharged in 1967. I was security for the 320th bomb wing, the first B-52 bomb wing to bomb Vietnam. I did two tours. I know what horses can do for the heart, mind, and spirit. I know that if horses were not in my life I would have been dead by now because of self-medicating (alcohol, drugs etc.). It was my idea to start this program because I know the healing that horses can bring to your life. We are not affiliated with any government agency. We’re just veterans helping veterans with guidance from horses and qualified professionals. Come and join us. See how it works.” Ross and his wife, Kathy, volunteer in the veteran’s groups and Horse Lovers Park donates the arena. The program is run solely on donations with the seed money coming from veterans helping veterans.

Both the licensed therapist (myself), and the equine professional, Faith Knutson, M.A., are horsewomen and family members of veterans, and both of us are certified to offer Equine Assisted Psychotherapy. As a therapist with specialties that include PTSD and addictions, I have watched many clients make rapid progress with the addition of equine assisted work.

While it’s not a cure all, it definitely has advantages in working with veterans and their families as they are able to accomplish healing that otherwise wouldn’t likely occur in traditional therapy sessions. It’s something you have to experience in order to understand. If you’re a veteran or a family member of a veteran, you are invited to join us in the arena and experience firsthand the healing power of horses.

For more information about our Veterans Healing With Horsepower program, find us on the web at www.HealingWithHorsepower.com/veterans_eap.html Feel free to contact us with any questions. Our dedicated phone number for the veteran’s program is (719) 497-9734. You can also reach me at my office at Veritas Counseling Center, LLC at (602) 863-3939.

Veterans can download a flyer at http://www.healingwithhorsepower.com/veterans_flyer.pdf with the workshop address and signup instructions. The groups are provided at no cost and currently meet monthly on the first Tuesdays from 6-9 PM at Horse Lovers Park in Phoenix.

There are no eligibility restrictions and no required proof of service forms. Groups are open to all veterans and their family members both in and out of recovery rooms.

To make a tax deductible donation to this program to help veterans and families, you may do so online at http://www.azhorseloverspark.org   Please specify in the instructions that you want your donation to go toward the Veteran’s program. Checks may be mailed to the Event Coordinator, Horse Lovers Management Corporation, 515 E. Carefree Highway #849, Phoenix, AZ 85085. Please write Veteran’s program in the memo on your check.

[1] Kersten, G.. 2008-2013. OK Corral Series Seminars.
[1] Veterans Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), Office of Public and Intergovernmental Affairs, VA, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, accessed online 10-18-14. http://www.va.gov/opa/issues/ptsd.asp
[1] Military With PTSD. November11, 2013. “Why are Veterans Afraid to Get Help for PTSD?” accessed 10-18-14. https://www.facebook.com/notes/military-with-ptsd/why-are-veterans-afraid-to-get-help-for-ptsd/658696730828524
[1] Moore, W.. “Facts & Figures about Veterans and Soldiers,” Coming Back with Wes Moore, a featured program of PBS, accessed online 10-18-14. http://www.pbs.org/coming-back-with-wes-moore/about/facts/
[1] Basu, M. November 14, 2013. “Why suicide rates among veterans may be more than 22 a day,” CNN, accessed online 10-17-14. http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/21/us/22-veteran-suicides-a-day/
[1] American Psychological Association, “The Critical Need for Mental Health Professionals Trained to Treat Post-traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury,” accessed online 10-20-14. http://www.apa.org/about/gr/issues/military/critical-need.aspx
[1]  Lawrence, Q. July 10, 2014. “A Growing Number of Veterans Struggle to Quit Powerful Painkillers,” Shots Health News from NPR, accessed online 10-17-14. http://www.npr.org/blogs/health/2014/07/10/329904066/veterans-face-another-battle-fighting-prescription-drug-addiction
[1] “Cognitive Processing Therapy”, PTSD: National Center for PTSD, US Department of Veterans Affairs, accessed online 10-18-14. http://www.ptsd.va.gov/public/treatment/therapy-med/cognitive_processing_therapy.asp
[1] Billings, PhD., B., Retired Col. and former military psychologist, “Psychiatric Drugs Cause Suicide,” Citizen’s Commission on Human Rights, accessed online 10-18-14. http://www.cchr.org/documentaries/the-hidden-enemy/psychiatric-drugs-cause-suicide.html

Want To Be Mentally Tough?

doing these 5 things!


There are a lot of ways to get stronger. Adding more resistance, adversity, or stress is one way, and learning how to adapt to the challenge is another. Yet for all of these ways to get stronger, without removing the obstacles in our own approach to adversity, we will see little gain. So if you want to get stronger mentally, here are five things to stop doing right now.

Stop Off Loading Responsibility. Mentally strong people know what is their responsibility and what is not. What they take responsibility for is their behavior, thoughts and feelings. They have long since let go of the idea that anyone is going to make things better for them. While they know that sometimes things happen that are out of their control, they know that they — and only they — are solely responsible for how they respond to these things. You will never see them pointing a finger, blaming anyone else for “messing up their day,” “making them feel bad” or “making them angry.” Instead they simply take responsibility and accept their responses as their own, aware that these are choices they are making — and if they don’t like them it’s no one’s fault but theirs.

Stop Taking Things Personally. Those who get through setbacks and come out stronger know that these things are not personal. Whatever those around them do, they recognize is a reflection of that person’s character, and only that. Mentally tough people do not believe that anyone “has it out for them,” or “that the world is against them.” Instead, they recognize that what happens to them is the result of other people’s actions, thoughts, and feelings — which they are not responsible for. So they spend no time wondering why others do the things they do, and a lot of time thinking about what they will do about it.

Stop Forecasting. Mentally strong people — as tough as they are — know that there is one thing they cannot do. They cannot predict the future. And they don’t waste any time thinking about, anticipating, or foretelling the future. Because they know the action is right here, right now, and the future is not now. But they also know that when their mind is in the future, it’s not in the now, and they are likely to miss critical details and make mistakes — simply because they were distracted by what could happen as instead of focusing on what is happening.

Let Go of Illusions. While we all love to dream, mentally tough people know dreams are not reality. The chances are, it will not “all just work out.” More then likely, tough people will tell you, there will be good and bad. Thinking life is “all good”, they know, is just a fantasy that promotes denial. And denying what might not be going so well is a sure way to keep it going that way.

Stop Holding On to the Past. For many of us, holding on the past would allow us to avoid loss. Yet mentally tough people know that wishing things “could just go back to the ways they were,” is a wish, and not reality. They know the past — as great as it might have been — is gone. They you can’t go through life, looking through a rearview mirror. So they accept the losses, and instead of wishing they could go back in time, think about what they need to do in the present. Because focusing on the wonderful things happening yesterday is a sure way to miss the opportunities that might be right in front of you.

Becoming mentally tough is a hard earned battle — and one that is not won overnight. And while sometimes we have to learn how to fine tune our approach and leverage the adversity, sometimes we also have to learn how to get out of our own way.

Get Real

by Alan Cohen

Sitting backstage at a network television studio in a large metropolitan city, I waited to go on the air for an interview. My segment was scheduled right after the noon news broadcast, which began with a gory account of a murder, then a rape, then war footage, followed by bad economic news and a political scandal. I began to feel depressed, but consoled myself that the broadcast would get to more positive reports. It didn’t. The entire fifteen minutes was filled with gloom and doom, nothing anyone in his right mind would want to get up in the morning and face. Eventually I just had to laugh. The news was beyond depressing. It was ridiculous. It was unbelievable. Finally, after the closing sortie of auto accidents and snarled traffic, the broadcaster announced, “. . .and now for a great new book by an author who is going to tell you how to live a happy life.”
The camera turned to me.

Suddenly I became Neo in the movie The Matrix, in which wizard Morpheus extends two open hands, a red pill in one palm and a blue pill in the other. If Neo ingests the red pill, he will awaken to his true self and the real world. If he takes the blue pill, he will remain in a familiar but oppressive world of illusions.

I sat up straight and reached for the red pill. I told the audience that love is our birthright and fear the imposter. I took a stand for living authentically in a world consumed by illusions. I told the viewers that they deserved better than the world showed them, and they held power over their lives regardless of the insanity around them. It was the only news I knew how to broadcast.
After the program, the anchor, a highly-respected lifetime journalist, took me aside and told me, “I agree with you completely. I get depressed coming to this job. There has to be more to life than the world we are telling people there is.”

The reality we have been shown by the media and other seemingly authoritative institutions has been twisted into the polar opposite of truth, championed by people more committed to bondage than freedom. You have likely told someone about a valued vision of yours, to which he or she responded, “Get real!”

Suddenly your excitement was reduced to ashes and you either gave up your quest or you had to once again build up the courage and momentum to forge ahead.

Take care to share your sacred visions with people who will empower you, not attempt to gobble your hopes in the shredder of doubt.

If you have even one or two good friends who understand you and believe in you, that is sufficient. And if it seems that no one understands or supports you, Higher Power has your back. Even when you do not have faith in yourself, God has faith in you.

When most people say, “Get real,” they mean, “Get small. Get limited. Get stuck. 

I am trapped in my little fear-bound world, and your expansive vision is threatening to me. So I demand that you grovel in the mud with me. How dare you rock my tiny world with greater possibilities!” The premise is that success and happiness are unattainable illusions, while struggle and suffering are realities we must adjust to and live with.
Most planetary game-changers were told, “Get real.” They were branded insane, shamed, imprisoned, tortured, and killed. The Catholic Church sentenced Galileo to house arrest for suggesting that the earth revolved around the sun. Soon afterward Italian philosopher Giordano Bruno proposed that the sun was a star and that the universe contained an infinite number of inhabited worlds populated by other intelligent beings. Giordano was convicted of heresy and burned at the stake. When the judges issued his death decree he told them, “Perchance you who pronounce my sentence are in greater fear than I who receive it.” Jonathan Swift later noted, “When a true genius appears, you can know him by this sign: that all the dunces are in a confederacy against him.” Einstein echoed, “Great spirits have always encountered violent opposition from mediocre minds.” Every person is potentially great. Are you willing to step into your greatness, claim it, and live it?

The holiday season offers you many opportunities to get real in the presence of people who fear to get real themselves, and call you to play small with them. Regard their resistance as a call for love and an invitation for you to be authentic. When you stand for truth in the presence of illusion, you break the illusion for yourself and for everyone who subscribes to it. Your mission is to remain alive in a world preoccupied with death; to walk tall when others are compromising their integrity; to be who you are while others have forgotten who they are.
Reality is not for sissies. To live authentically in a world steeped in illusion is the gift of lifetime, spreading light in ripples from your own life to the lives of everyone you touch.

Alan Cohen is the author of many inspirational books, including I Had it All the Time: When Self-Improvement Gives Way to Ecstasy. Join Alan’s upcoming Life Coach Training Program to become a professional life coach or incorporate life coaching skills in your career or personal life, join. For more information about this program, Hawaii retreats, Alan’s books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com, email info@alancohen.com.

My Falling Leaves

By Dina Evan

My leaves are falling. This month I moved about a third of 72 plus years of personal life, mementos and beloved belongings in to a new home half the size of the old one. It’s beautiful and I love it and it is still filled with empty and packed boxes even after weeks of purging. I also moved my professional and creative life into a separate office away from my home. This new space now requires a long and arduous hourly walk to the restroom, located down the hall near the elevator. My broken femur doesn’t understand and lets me know the long walks are not appreciated. And my leaves are falling.

The leaves that are gently disappearing are the ones that believed my life is in the books I have written, the special cards of love I have received, the emotionally priceless pieces and statues I picked up years ago that spoke to my soul. The leaves that are falling are in my sense of voracious independence. When you grow up in an empty room you learn not to expect anyone to have your back — because no one did. My kids have my back now and the experience of having to rely on others is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. As natural as it is as a part of life’s progression, I fight feeling guilty or needy. Moms are always supposed to be the ones caring for their children. So, I try to do that in different ways now, emotionally, spiritually and energetically to maintain my sense of balance.

I had a large courtyard at my old house and in the center of it is a Chinese Plum tree. Each season it brings itself alive with vibrant crimson colored leaves in what seems an overnight transformational statement of I EXIST. For weeks in each season, it stands, bare-branched, looking as if it is lifeless. It has barren dead appearing sticks protruding from what once was a full blessing of shade. She creates that shade from the tiniest of white blossoms and then a sudden explosion of crimson leaves with the surprise of fire like color on every branch.

I love that tree. It seems to me she has great dignity. She stands bare naked for weeks at a time knowing that inside her she had the ability to burst forth in elegance in each new season in a whole new way. She finds the reserve inside. Pulls it up from her roots and that energy bursts out the top of her like mount Vesuvius She finds the energy, juice and electricity to make it happen and…so shall I.
Inside each of us is deeply hidden, the juice and electricity of precious connected moments with those we love. The times of silent understanding and awareness’ that need no explanation are waiting to sustain us and help us bloom again. It’s in the unexpected miracles and unexpected kindnesses that create the meaning and reason for blooming. I have let go of the being the books I have written. I have let go of so many artifacts and mementos from special spiritual trips and gatherings. I have let go of the seminars, handouts, exercises and trainings I have presented.

Their meaning is already in the ethers, in the hearts of those who attended each workshop or read each book. I am standing alone on my own and with bare branches and already in that freed-up space, I am starting to bloom.

We often go through life with the emphasis on getting, buying and collecting all the externals, because we have been taught these are the things that will make us safe and happy. How many times have we heard people, like me, expressing their astonishment at how much we have collected over the years and often not even seen or used for much of that time! We worry more about what is in our bank account than what is in our heart. It’s trite but true that in the end, none of it matters. We will not have a wit of concern over what we didn’t buy or how much remains in the bank when all is said and done. We will, however, wonder whether we loved enough, cared enough and did what we spiritually came here to do. In this season when branches go from bare to blossom, it’s time to give thanks…for all the things that truly matter…like you and me and this precious connection we share each month.

Thank you Barbara, and every reader who reads this column. You are not just supporting us with your readership. You are helping us fulfill our purpose and express what’s in our heart, hopefully in a way that fills yours with what really matters.

That’s a great gift exchange and we are grateful for you. Happy turkey month and don’t save the wishbone. Your wishes are already fulfilled.

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

Stay Teachable

In sobriety I have learned to become teachable. Having just returned from a 12 step meeting, a gentleman with over 44 years sober spoke about how important it still is for him to be open for the lessons. Along with teachable, another word comes to mind: humility.

Being teachable has nothing to do with school grades or degrees.

It means I’m willing to pay attention to what others are saying; by listening to their experiences,  joys and pitfalls, awakenings, and the roadblocks they have had overcome on this journey. 

The first time I read through the first 164 pages of the ‘big book’ I thought Okay now I got it! Not really. Early on my goal was to get through everything quick and fast — and it took months for my ego to get right sized.  Then and only then, did I begin to understand what being teachable meant.
I learn what to do and what NOT to do when I listen. By staying connected and showing up, I understand my disease just a little bit more, and it’s way stronger than I am. What I have in my corner though, is a powerful, loving God. When I connect — I have great chance for an amazing day.

We see men and women coming back in through the doors all the time —and they all say nothing has changed “out there.” It isn’t what we romanticize it to be.

The most painful times are watching someone leave — never making it back. So I need to be vigilant about my recovery, and practice what I was taught every day. I don’t know anyone with any amount of clean time from 2 weeks sober to 44 years who hasn’t struggled. When they share their struggles with us, we know we are not alone; nor are we unique.  Ask for help .... be open to receiving it. Stay humble.      Happy Thanksgiving.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

The Journey through Addiction and Depression to Hope and Recovery

By Joyce M. Willis, LPC

On August 12, 2014, the day after Robin Williams committed suicide, I was talking to my neighbor about this tragic death. My neighbor stated, “What a fool, he had everything and any resource money could afford.” My reply: “We never know what is going on in someone else’s life and it is not up to us to judge his last moments. He must have been feeling despair, loneliness and hopeless at the moment.” 

My neighbor, knowing that I am a mental health therapist, politely conceded, knowing this was not a topic I would change my opinion on. The truth is that in that last moment before someone takes his own life, he is in the darkest moment of his life and thinks this is the answer. In this article, we will explore depression, addiction and how they tie together. Most importantly, we will explore hope and recovery.

The one glaring truth that comes to light after Robin Williams’ suicide is that depression, addiction and suicide do not discriminate. Depression and addiction are not diseases that are more likely to occur in the poor or the rich. The truth is that depression and addiction are human diseases; no matter whether you are rich, poor or middle class. Robin Williams’ death does bring up the connection between creativity and mental illness. A study completed earlier this year by the British Journal of Psychiatry found a connection between creativity, comedic ability (whether it be writing or performing) and depression. Often, comedy is a way to escape the pain and depression. Yet, we cannot escape; we need to work through to get to the other side. Robin Williams was not the only comedian or artistic, creative person to suffer from depression and substance abuse. He is one of many entertainers who took his life, either intentionally or incidentally. As Alice Walton points out in the Forbes.com website, Robin Williams spoke about this himself. Williams spoke about how it is important to be funny when you’re speaking about painful subjects. He spoke about how humor was a tool to obliterate the pain. In the history of entertainment, we have seen many comedians and entertainers die from addiction via accidental overdose and from suicide often caused by both addictions and depression… Kurt Cobain, Ray Combs, Richard Jeni, Dana Plato, Freddie Prinze…the list goes on. Comedians often make us laugh, so we cannot see how much they hurt. Those of us who have suffered from depression or addictions often do the same. We put on masks of humor or smiling so others cannot see the pain beneath. It is when we are able and willing to open up and make connections that we can begin to enter a life of recovery and of hope. 
As I stated, addiction and depression do not discriminate; these diseases enter many lives for many reasons. There is a close relationship between addiction and substance abuse. 

How did either or both start? 

As per Pia Mellody, Senior Clinical Advisor for The Meadows, less than nurturing and abusive family systems in childhood lead to adulthood behaviors of codependency. The codependency patterns translate into addictions and mood disorders. According to Pia, there are five primary symptoms of codependency, which lead to addictions, depression and other mood disorders. The five primary symptoms are:

  • We have trouble esteeming ourselves from the idea of inherent worth.
  • We have trouble protecting and nurturing ourselves.
  • We have trouble being real.
  • We have trouble attending to our needs and wants.
  • We have trouble living life with an attitude of moderation in all things.

When we have trouble with these five primary symptoms, we are more than likely to abuse substances and become depressed.

Substance abuse and depression occur together in a high percentage of individuals. The connection is so strong that we cannot say for certain which “caused” the other. There are many drugs that people use which do directly affect the brain and can lead to depression. Marijuana slows down the brain functioning and diminishes cognitive ability, which can lead to depression. Alcohol affects people in the same way as marijuana. Cocaine can elevate moods, yet when people stop using cocaine, they can experience a crash that turns into depression. There is a long list of drugs that can be a factor in depression either during the time the person is actively using or when the person is withdrawing from use. 

How does depression leads to substance abuse?

Many people with depression are looking for a way to “cure” the depression, so they look for ways to medicate themselves. They may have difficulty accepting they are depressed or think they can handle the depression without professional help, thus they turn to alcohol or other drugs to change how they feel. They are able to change how they feel temporarily, yet they have just created more of a dilemma for themselves; they have now become addicted to alcohol or other drugs…and the drug abuse worsens the depression. It is a vicious cycle.
Let’s explore this connection between depression and substance abuse a bit more. Depression is debilitating; it is a disorder that can destroy relationships and lives. It is one of the most common disorders in our society. Depression leads to people feeling sad, empty, lonely, discouraged and hopeless. Many people with depression are irritable and have difficulty concentrating. They stop doing things that interest them and stop taking pleasure in activities they previously enjoyed. Trouble sleeping, becoming easily fatigued and weight fluctuations are signs of depression. Feelings of worthlessness and guilt can lead to suicidal ideation…and suicide.

People with depression have a high rate of substance abuse. It is important to consider that often addiction is a mask for depression. With depression, we feel less than others; with substance abuse, this takes us to a feeling of more than others. However, as stated before, this is a vicious cycle and we, ultimately, go to a place of “less than others.” Depression can be seen as the acting in behavior, while addiction can be thought of as the acting out behavior. 

It is possible that someone may be depressed and not abuse substances, yet the two usually go together. We will look at some statistics further in this article. Depression does have the potential to predispose people to abuse substances. 
Many substances have a close connection with depression. We will explore a few specific connections; the first of these being marijuana. Depression is common in people who use marijuana. It has been found that higher quantities of marijuana use predict severe depressive symptoms. Alcohol, most certainly, has a high correlation with depression. Alcohol is a mood depressant, even though many people use alcohol to feel happy. Alcohol has the opposite effect of those looking for “happy.” 

Alcohol in large quantities worsens depressed moods. Depression and alcohol use are closely associated with an increased risk of suicide. Depression is common among stimulant users. Stimulant use includes methamphetamines. Stimulants affect sleep cycles and thus, add to depression during sleep-wake cycles. In the days following stimulant use, users experience depression. Depression is present during the withdrawal stages from stimulants and present for a significant time following abstinence. 

The connection between depression and substance abuse is severe and can affect many people. Stats from The National Alliance on Mental Illness tell us:
One in four adults experience mental illness in a given year. Mental illness can be major depression, schizophrenia or bi-polar disorder.

Approximately 6.7 percent of American adults live with major depression. That may seem like a small number, yet that computes to about 14.8 million people.

About 9.2 million adults have both mental health (depression, anxiety…) and addiction disorders occurring at the same time.

Mood disorders such as depression are the third most common cause of hospitalization in America for youth and adults between the ages of 18 to 44.

Suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States. Suicide is more common than homicide and is the third leading cause of death for those between the ages of 15-24. More than 90 percent of those who die by suicide had one or more mental disorders. This includes those with depression and substance abuse disorders.

These are alarming statistics. Yet, there is hope. The fact is that most people with depression do not kill themselves. However, untreated depression can lead to suicide. Suicide is a possible risk when combined with substance abuse when professional help and support are not sought out. Further statistics on suicide show us that:
Up to 15% of those who are clinically depressed commit suicide.

More than four times as many men as women die by suicide. However, women report attempting suicide more often than men.

The majority of suicide attempts are expressions of extreme distress that need to be addressed, and not just a harmless bid for attention. A suicidal person should not be left alone and needs immediate intervention and mental health treatment.

Suicidal behavior is complex 

Risk factors for suicide occur in combination; not in a vacuum. Ninety percent of people who commit suicide have depression in combination with another mental disorder or in combination with substance abuse. It is important to stress that suicide and suicidal behavior are not normal responses to the stresses experienced by most people. Many people who experience one or more risk factors are not at risk for suicide. Statistics show that the strongest risk factors for attempted suicide or actual suicide are depression, substance abuse and separation or divorce.
Statistics, however, do not need to determine our lives. There is hope! Things can get better. The path out of depression and substance abuse has more than two paths. Many see the only two paths as spiraling back into substance abuse and depression or death. There are so many other possibilities that lead to a life in recovery and a life full of hope and fulfillment. 

Hope begins with getting help for yourself or for a loved one who is struggling with depression and substance abuse. This is where connection comes in. Connection is so important in prevention and intervention. The most positive action a person can take is to begin to connect with others. When we build connections, we also build hope. Talking to a mental health professional is of utmost importance, yet, often a depressed person is reluctant to do so. How do you help a person who is in despair and experiencing one of his darkest days? 

The first way is to be there for them and to let them know that you love and support them. 
The second is to provide resources for help…and, often to go with them. At the very least, suggest 12 Step Meetings, such as Alcoholics Anonymous, Depression Anonymous, Co-Dependents Anonymous and Emotions Anonymous. Often, people will begin to feel more comfortable opening up when they realize there are people who have experienced the same things they are experiencing. 
At that first meeting, it is important to select a sponsor, even if this is just a temporary sponsor at first. The connection with just one person who has your back and is concerned with your well-being can often spur you on to even further recovery. 

Therapy is of utmost importance. Both the addiction and the depression need to be addressed in treatment. Treating one is no guarantee that this will eliminate the other. Sometimes, therapy will require medications under a doctor’s supervision. Accept this help. One of the most useful treatment modalities is Family of Origin work. When we can get to the root of the depression and substance abuse, we can release the pain and shame of our past and move toward recovery and hope. 
Other professional resources include attending workshops, seminars and lectures. Look at your community resources and the Resource list in this publication of Together AZ. There are many free resources that are there for you and for your loved ones.
In addition to therapy and professional resources, there are other resources we can incorporate to maintain recovery. 

The Importance of Self-care 

How do you take care of your needs and wants? Do you honor your need for connection with others by making phone calls, attending meetings or meeting a friend for lunch? Do you honor your simple wants by treating yourself to a simple pleasure: a walk after work, listening to music that you like or playing with your dog or cat? These are all ways to nurture yourself. 
Other ways to nurture yourself and honor yourself as a human are stating daily affirmations and keeping a gratitude journal to write in at the end of every day. Establishing boundaries with other people so that you protect yourself and contain yourself helps keep you balanced and in recovery. Meditation and exercise are great tools to add to your recovery basket.
I want you to realize that all addictions and mood disorders can be overcome with work. It is about placing yourself in the position to succeed and having the honest desire to seek help. When you have the honest desire to seek help, positive things start happening in your life! This leads to an onset of new hope and an appreciation of possibilities for a new way of life. You begin being more in control of your emotions and building confidence in yourself. All these lead to an enlightened way of life opening up on this road that we all travel; the road of hope, of recovery and of life.
Pia Mellody’s five primary symptoms which lead to addictions, depression and mood disorders were mentioned earlier in this article. 

We can all recover from these five primary symptoms and change the outlook to five ways to maintain balance and recovery in our lives:

We are precious and valuable just as we are.

We are vulnerable and can expect protection.

We are human and make mistakes. We are perfectly imperfect.

We are dependent on others for our needs and wants, when making a reasonable request. We can live interdependently with others.

We are spontaneous and open.

I want to end this article with reminding you that there are so many resources available to everyone — not just the rich or the privileged, as some viewed Robin Williams. Recovery is about taking that risk to say, “I am important enough to deserve a life of hope…a life of fulfillment… and I am going to take the steps to do this.” All the resources mentioned require connection…connection to yourself and connection to others. Another connection to incorporate is the spiritual connection. A spiritual connection to your higher power is another tool to keep you balanced and on the continuing on the road of recovery…for the rest of your life. When we build healthy connections, we build healthy relationships and recovery.

Connection requires that we open up and talk about our addiction and depression; that we share with those who can help us. Connection requires that we continue opening up and talking, even when we are confident in recovery and our lives are going well. As Buddha stated, “Happiness never decreases by being shared.” Share the tough times and share the happiness. The tough times will decrease and the happiness will increase.

 I would like to provide you with a number that can be a life –saver. The number is for the National Suicide Prevention Life: 1-800-274 TALK (8255). This is a free confidential call that will be answered by a trained counselor at a local crisis center. Keep this number, share this number and make a difference.

Lastly, I would like to leave you with an acronym: CARE for yourself. Connect with Anonymous groups and Resources Every day.

Joyce Willis is a Licensed Professional Counselor and is currently a Lead Counselor and Training Specialist at The Meadows. Joyce earned a Bachelors of Education from the University of Akron.  After teaching for several years, Joyce pursued and earned a Masters in Counseling from the University of Phoenix.  Joyce has been in the Counseling Field since 1996.

Joyce has worked extensively in the addictions field. Joyce’s specialties include treatment for addictions, bereavement, trauma, depression and anxiety. Joyce has a special interest in mindfulness and helping people connect their emotional, spiritual, mindful and physiological selves with compassion and respect. 

Mellody P. (1989). Facing Codependence. 
New York: Harper Collins.
National Institute of Health, National Institute of Mental Health. (n.d) Statistics; Any Disorder Among Adults. Retrieved March 5, 2013, from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/statistics
www.allaboutdepression.com, www.forbes.com/sites/, alicegwalton/2014/08/12

The Meadows is a multi-disorder facility specializing in the treatment of trauma and addictions. The Meadows’ clinical experts reach beyond single-level treatment of addictions, behavioral disorders and psychological conditions to diagnose and treat the underlying problems. www.themeadows.com  (888) 289-6177.

Decision Point Center expands with acquisition of Carleton Recovery Center

Decision Point Center, a renowned name in the treatment industry, announced the acquisition of Carleton Recovery Center as of September 15, 2014. Decision Point Center’s focus is helping individuals that have dual-diagnosis, drug and alcohol addiction, compulsive behaviors, codependency, underlying trauma and behavioral health issues. 

 Decision Point has been treating adults since 2002, with a unique blend of 12 Step, holistic, adventure and individualized therapy to ensure that every one of our clients receives the most effective treatment. According to Decision Point Center’s CEO, Michael McGill, “Acquiring 

Carleton will allow Decision Point Center to serve more clients and continue its mission of cognitively clarifying clients’ concerns, while introducing them to the 12 Step philosophy with a goal of lifelong recovery.”

With this acquisition, Decision Point Center will become the largest residential treatment center in Prescott, AZ, expanding from 45 to 105 beds including 8 beds for detox services. Decision Point Center’s Executive Director, Gail Chase-Quinn, enthusiastically stated, “This is very exciting news for us! Carleton Recovery Center has been successful in helping so many people over the years and we look forward to integrating the two companies. The transition will be unified with absolutely no interruption to our clients’ care and daily routines.” 

The staff at both facilities have many years of experience in the field of addiction and recovery. This newly combined staff will only add to the level of expertise. “Decision Point Center’s acquisition of Carleton is a win-win for our clients, present and future, as well as our employees. Our culture is one of collegiality and sharing where each clinician knows they not only have my support but the support of every member of the team.” states Gary Hees, Decision Point Center’s Clinical Director. “The addition of the years of expertise and experience of the Carleton team will greatly enhance our ability to effectively address the developmental and spiritual malady of addiction.” 
For more information visit www.DecisionPointCenter.com or contact call 888-966-9279. 

12 Tips for Getting Out of a Bad Mood


Large and rapidly moving, ominous clouds of negativity roll into my mind, infuse my thoughts and deeply darken my mood. As I exhale, I feel the irritability fume from my nostrils like fiery smoke from a dragon’s. As I bristle with defensiveness and hostility, I feel the energetic spikes of anger jet from my spine, creating a non-verbal warning to others to steer clear. My eyes narrow and shoot lasers of fury. My tongue sharpens and my words become cutting and biting. As waves of anger ripple through my body, my energy and power grows. My walk becomes a stomp and I can almost feel the slash of my tail as a move, determined to defend myself and survive anything that comes my way.
“I’m in a bad mood today,” I said to my dear friend and colleague.

I feared she could see the dragon, was ashamed of my rage, and wanted to give her warning of my mood-state to protect our relationship.
“Really? You seem totally fine,” she said.
Interestingly, more often than not, others do not see the dragon. I have spent a lifetime hiding her and have apparently gotten quite good at it.
“Anyway, you are entitled to be in a bad mood with what you have going on,” she added. What? Entitled to be in a bad mood? This was a radical new concept to me, and one that changed my life.

Growing up in my family, it was never acceptable to be in a bad mood. Angry feelings were not viewed as normal responses to life events, they were viewed as bad behavior. I was expected to be the happy, good girl. My feelings of anger were often invalidated. Subsequently, feelings of shame, guilt and anxiety were internalized.

Would my dragon exist had I been allowed to experience and express normal feelings of anger?
As I move through my own personal psycho-spiritual journey, I consciously strive for self-compassion for my negative feelings and less desirable aspects of self. I’m dedicated to a life aligned with love for self and others.

Because we are human, anger and foul moods are a natural and normal part of life. However, they need not be shameful nor destructive. They can be navigated and managed successfully, with little or no harm to any.

After 20 years of counseling clients and being dedicated to my own personal work, I recommend the following to pull out of a bad mood:

Don’t fight it. Fighting a bad mood is like flailing in water when drowning or panicking in quicksand—it makes things worse. Simply be mindful of your mood-state and accept that, “it is as it is.” 
Look for the lesson. Was there a trigger for this? Is there a hidden blessing or something to be learned? For example, I often get in a bad mood when I have over-extended and have not set healthy boundaries for myself. Sometimes negative consequences are opportunities for learning and growth.

Embrace it. Anger can be mobilizing, energizing and empowering. I secretly sometimes love my dragon energy. Man, do I get stuff done when I am in that state. I’m fearless and determined—-aspects of that can feel quite good and work to my benefit. Ask yourself, how can your negative mood state work to your advantage?

Understand that your feelings are always normal. Our feelings may be irrational, but they are always normal responses to our nature and our nurture. Sometimes a current event taps into a well of old feelings from the past, so our emotional response appears disproportionate to the event, but is actually understandable when you consider the full picture.

Cut yourself some slack. Nobody is perfect and we are all works in progress. Practice a mantra such as, “I am only human and I am doing the best that I can.” Accept and forgive yourself as you would your best friend or somebody you love very much.

Bring your attention to the present. Don’t exacerbate your bad mood by ruminating about the past or worrying about the future. Practice mindfulness techniques such as deep breathing to reboot your mind, body and spirit.

Pay attention to your thinking. You can observe your negative thoughts and choose not to listen to them. Look for anything good, as gratitude promotes positivity. Compassionately coach yourself through the mood (i.e. “It’s completely understandable that you are upset…Take one thing at a time…It’s going to be okay,” etc.

Take pause. Give yourself a mental time out. A bad mood is a good time to take a walk around the block or shut your office door to have a few quiet moments. It’s not a good time to initiate important conversations about work or relationships! Let loved ones know that your not at your best and hold your tongue so you don’t say things you will regret later.

Infuse yourself with self-care. Think of it like an epi-pen shot of self-love. Give yourself what you need, even if it is as simple as a good cup of coffee, a meal, a bubble bath or an early night to bed. 
Keep the self-care healthy, as compulsive behaviors can masquerade as self-care but may be more harmful in the end. Think of it as being your own good parent and take loving care of yourself.

Tell people what you need. Don’t expect others to be mind-readers or you might end up in an unwanted conflict. Use assertive communication to ask for support or space, depending on your needs.

Know that you are not your anger. You might feel like you are the dragon, but you are not. You the unique spirit of light and love that your anger is temporarily eclipsing.

Understand, this too, shall pass. Like the waves of the tide, your moods ebb and flow. You can trust in the ways of the universe—your low mood will lift in time.

The more you practice self-compassion and self-care, the sooner your spikes and claws will retract and the dark clouds will clear from your mind. Inner peace and serenity will be restored. 
That is, until the tides change and life presents you with another lesson!

Identity Theft

As I read my credit card statement, my eyes bulged. I was being billed for two $5,000 cash advances I had not taken. Then there was a clothing shopping spree in Dallas.  Someone had stolen my credit card information and went to town on it. Fortunately, the credit card company absorbed those losses, but they are not unusual. Every day crooks steal the identities of thousands of people, and as a result banks and Internet businesses go to elaborate security measures to protect customers’ identities.
There is an even more insidious form of identity theft that has hijacked far more than your credit card account. This theft has caused you to forget who you are and believe that you are small, limited, and powerless — a photographic negative of your true self.

Grand theft identity began soon after you arrived on earth. Parents, teachers, siblings, clergy, and authority figures told you that you are inept, insignificant, ugly, unworthy, and sinful, and the world is a menacing place with threats and danger at every turn. Over time you began to believe these terrible lies, and the day came when you forgot your innate beauty, strength, and innocence. Eventually you adopted an identity contrary to your divine nature and have lived as someone you are not.

If you tell a lie enough, you start to believe it 

When I was in junior high school I went to a Beatles concert in Atlantic City. At school the next day, I decided to impress my classmate Donna by telling her I had met Paul McCartney on his way out of the concert hall. Even more exciting, Paul had given me his guitar pick! To prove it, I showed Donna the pick with his initials “P.M.” carved in it. Her pupils dilated. To thrill her even more, I romantically placed the pick in her hand and told her I wanted her to have it. Donna swooned and gave me a kiss on the cheek, which made my year. Word got around that I had obtained Paul McCartney’s pick, and I had my junior high school day in the sun.

The story, of course, was complete bunk. But I told it so many times over the course of the days that followed, with increasing detail, that now when I think of it, it seems as real as many things that actually happened. I can clearly picture Paul running out the back door of the concert hall and tossing the pick my way. I can feel the excitement of an event that never occurred!
Over your lifetime you have adopted an array of lies about yourself, underscoring what’s wrong with you and the world.  You have been playing out these untruths in your finances, relationships, career, health, and other significant arenas of your life. The world you see is based on a mass of illusions that appear to be real because so many people agree with them and base their lives on them. “If you take enough people to the middle of nowhere, it starts to feel like somewhere.” Yet popularity cannot make fiction true, and habit cannot render fear more substantial than love. The only cure for illusions is truth. The only cure for a mistaken identity is to remember who you really are.

The story is told of a princess who was kidnapped as a child and taken to live among fishmongers. She grew up amidst piles of fish, s
melled like them, and accepted the mentality of a struggling hawker. Years later, one of the king’s servants found the princess and brought her back to the royal palace. Her parents welcomed her profusely and showed her to her elegant bedroom laden with the softest bed, flowers, incense, a breathtaking view, a sumptuous dinner, and servants at her beck and call. During her first night in the palace the princess tossed and turned. “Get me out of here,” she cried out. “I can’t stand this. I want to go home.”

What the princess did not realize was that she was home. Elegance, royalty, and riches were her birthright. But she had gotten so used to living amidst foul smells and poverty that she believed those conditions were her true place in life. Normal does not equal natural. Like the princess, you have become accustomed to living in psychic quarters far shabbier than you deserve.
You can find your way back to the palace by remembering your origin. A Course in Miracles urges us to know, “I am as God created me.”  Your real identity is spiritual and spiritual only. You are not your name, age, weight, address, relationship status, job, bank statement, medical diagnosis, or any other attribute by which the world identifies you. While the world judges and pigeonholes you by fragmented aspects, God sees you as whole. When you share God’s vision of yourself, you know who you are and you live in the love and dignity you merit by virtue of your divine inheritance.
People can steal your credit card number or another physical item, but they cannot steal your soul.

Don’t leave home without it.

Alan Cohen is the author of many inspirational books, including I Had it All the Time: When Self-Improvement Gives Way to Ecstasy.  Join Alan’s upcoming Life Coach Training Program to become a professional life coach or incorporate life coaching skills in your career or personal life, join.  For more information about this program, Hawaii retreats, Alan’s books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com, email info@alancohen.com.

What's Behind the Mask?

To our children we feel we need to be the perfect parent, never having taken a risk, tried a drink or drug, and of course never having had sex a bit too early. I can’t pull that one off because I had my first child at eighteen.
 To our employers we need to be on the corporate bandwagon, upholding corporate cultures and values. I can’t pull that one off either. I could never keep my mouth shut about the gender inequality in salaries, promotions and benefits.
Hence, I work for myself.

To our partners we need to be the macho guy capable of taking care of everything, or the sexy partner who is always ready for a romp in bed even with two kids on her hip and an inability to recall a recent decent night’s sleep.
We put on brave long suffering faces, dealing with addictions, infidelity, financial hardships, illnesses and a multitude of other challenges. We pretend to like people we don’t, love people we don’t and act like people we aren’t. But why? What would happen if we just became who we really are, told our truth and made choices that uphold our spirits?

Would the world, as we know it, really end?

 Somehow we got it in our heads that being who we really are isn’t nice, isn’t loving and certainly isn’t acceptable. Truth tellers get shunned, are labeled abusive or inappropriate. Perhaps it’s not the truth telling that is inappropriate…maybe it’s all in the delivery.
For instance, it’s much harder to hear a truth that begins with YOU and ends with WRONG. I recently caught a friend in a lie. I had to tell her about it knowing she is sensitive. So I said, “I value our relationship and don’t think there is a place in it for any kind of lying so I want to make a contract with you that we always tell each other the truth, even when it seems hard. I think that will deepen our bond.” Notice the words YOU, WRONG or BAD were not in that discussion. Most of the time, just asking for what we need, rather than criticizing, gets the job done.
Even in simple things, such as when your partner asks if you like this shirt or that dress on him or her. If you don’t, a supportive way of answering is, “ I think I like the blue one a bit better.” The point is, we can be truthful, without being hurtful. It’s a bit like verbal Tai Chi, and, it’s also you being real.
Why is it important to be real? It’s important because that is how we build trust and safety. We live in a world where I believe we would be aghast if we really knew what is going on in our governments, our corporations, our medical communities and in our service organizations, such as Child Protective

Services and major fund raising organizations. We get lied to all the time and too often we are also the liars. It has to change and the only way that can happen is if you and I make a decision to change it, starting with how we deal with each other and in the world. Think for a minute about how much safer and happier you would be if you knew that the people you deal with and love would always tell you the truth.

Does that mean you have tell everyone everything? Of course not, however, you do have to be truthful and transparent about everything that affects your partner or your relationships.
Be aware that excruciating truth telling isn’t always easy, but, it is always healing. For instance, a withhold, is the same as lying. An exaggeration or embellishment that serves to make you look better in some way is also lying. I don’t believe there is anyone reading this column that does not know when he or she is lying. Let’s start with telling the truth about that. And remember you can always have a do-over. You can always say, “ You know that isn’t quite a whole truth so let me try again.” You will earn greater trust and respect by doing so. There is nothing more ecstatic than being in a family or partnership where both people are committed to their own growth and are evolving their own souls together. There is great joy in the process and you will create much deeper bonds and intimacy in that commitment.

So let’s make a contract to take the masks off. I will celebrate your courage to be who you are and hope you will celebrate mine. After all, isn’t that what we came here to do?

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

Arizona Humanities Launches Two New Programs for Veterans

Arizona Humanities presents two new free programs open to all veterans beginning this month. The goal of the programs is to help veterans reintegrate into the larger community while connecting with other veterans. 

Making Peace: Exploring Personal Experience Through Writing is a writing workshop designed for female veterans to learn writing techniques and share stories. At Home: Veterans Read and Share Stories is a facilitated book discussion for male veterans to read and discuss classic and contemporary literature.

Both programs are free, include all materials with a complimentary meal, and are open to veterans from all eras.

Making Peace: Exploring Personal Experience Through Writing (for women) 

Facilitator: Debra A. Schwartz, Ph.D., Writing Instructor, Arizona State University, Tuesdays, 6:00-8:00pm October 7, 14, 21, 28 at Arizona Humanities, 1242 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ.
To register, contact Hannah Schmidl (hschmidl@azhumanities.org) or call 602-257-0335 x27.

At Home: Veterans Read and Share Stories (for men) 

Facilitator: Dan Shilling, Ph.D. Arizona State University and Vietnam Veteran, Wednesdays, 6:30-8:00 pm. October 15 & 29, November 12 & 26, December 10. At Burton Barr Central Library — Meeting Room C. 1221 N. Central Avenue, Phoenix, AZ. To register, contact Nancy Dallett (nancy.dallett@asu.edu) or call 480-965-9331.
 Since 2001, over two million American men and women have been deployed in the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, and for the first time in a generation, Americans have lived with the ongoing consequences of war. Brenda Thomson, Executive Director of Arizona Humanities remarked, “We are proud to launch these new programs for veterans. Our goal is not only to learn more about their experiences as they served our country, but also the challenges they face as they return to civilian life. We are interested in the stories they have to tell, and also the impact that their service has had on all of us, friends, family and supporters.”
 For more information and to register for Veterans Programs, visit our website www.azhumanities.org or contact Hannah Schmidl, Marketing and Programs Assistant, 602-257-0335 x27 /Email hschmidl@azhumanities.org.

Family Support for a Gambling Addiction

About 2 million Americans have a serious gambling addiction. Gambling is the act of wagering on the outcome of an event. The thrill of risk-taking sometimes becomes an addiction. Like all addictions, it takes a toll on the addict’s family. An addicted gambler often consistently places his need to wager above the needs and wants of his loved ones. There are several ways for concerned family members to help a gambling addict get treatment.

About Compulsive Gambling

Compulsive gambling, also called problem gambling or a gambling addiction, is a form of mental illness. It is an impulse control disorder. Gambling addicts cannot control the urge to gamble whenever the opportunity presents itself, despite knowing the negative impact gambling has on their lives. Gambling addictions can lead to debt, divorce, alienation from family and friends, job loss, depression and suicide. The Minnesota Department of Human Services reports that about 2 million Americans are pathological gamblers.

Steps for Families

It is a natural reaction to feel responsible for helping a loved one with an addiction. The first step is to realize that the addict is ultimately responsible for his problem, and he is the only one who can decide to break the addiction. You can help by learning about the addiction and its treatments. Consider joining a peer support group or seeing a therapist to help deal with the conflicting feelings that addict’s family members often face.
You must also set a strategy for handling money and dealing with the addict’s requests for money. This may include taking control over the family finances. A counselor may be able to help you make these difficult decisions.

Resources for Families

Gam-Anon is a free peer support organization for the families and loved ones of gambling addicts. Gam-Anon works as a support group by bringing together people affected by a gambling addict so they can share experiences and encouragement.  Call the Arizona Helpline 1-800-777-7207,  www.azccg.org/Arizona_GA___GAM-ANON.html

Support for Addicts

In informal support groups, people with addictions meet to talk about their problem, share success stories and support one another. Gamblers Anonymous is a 12-step program modeled after the one used by Alcoholics Anonymous. The organization’s website includes a page of 20 questions that help a person determine whether they have a gambling problem.

Arizona Office of Problem Gambling, 1-800-NEXT STEP
(1-800-639-8783), https://problemgambling.az.gov/
Gamblers Anonymous —  http://www.gaphoenix.org/
ACT Counseling & Education, 602-569-4328, www.actcounseling.com

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

My favorite four letter word

This word means: I believe and trust something way greater than me has the divine plan.

When I was acting out in addiction, hope meant nothing more than “hoping to get out of a jam; God, I hope to get away with the lies; hope I don’t get caught;  hope no one I knew saw me in such a state of oblivion; hope I don’t lose my job and so on.” For all the hoping I did — my life was dark and shadowy. From just about losing my friends and family, to employment, or a place to live… everyone was simply tired of my empty promises to change.
Why some of us make it in recovery and why others don’t is reality. Being shackled to the bottle, drugs or any other addiction are tough chains to break  — but it can be done.
At the start of my journey, the most I could hope for a was a glimmer, a sliver of something better. I was offered hope by people who were on the path ahead of me, and I started to believe and trust them. Being clean and sober was uncharted territory, I was scared, who knows, maybe hope was growing within, micro-inch by micro-inch.
Like any human being, many things I’ve hoped for did not turn out ‘my’ way. There have been major losses and changes, pain, tears and a few ‘WTF’s’?   Now it’s up to me how I approach challenges, it’s up to me to share my story and reality, it’s up to me to ask for help whenever I get lost or stuck.
Today, I believe that hope will never die inside me — because when it does so will I.

A special thank you to all who supported and attended the 9th Annual Art of Recovery Expo and making it the success that it was. I am truly grateful.