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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Wednesday, December 2, 2015

A New Tool for Healing the Cause

By Rosemary Ellsworth Brown, PhD, with Laura MacKay

Editor’s note: Much of this article is excerpted from Addiction Is the Symptom: Heal the Cause and Prevent Relapse with 12 Steps That Really Work (www.addiction-is-the-symptom.com).
Do you want to keep from relapsing? Are you in relapse and don't even recognize it? To really understand relapse — and to heal ourselves — we first have to step back and ask anew, what is addiction, and what causes it?
Over the course of a lifetime, I’ve experienced addiction personally, researched it academically, and, as a psychologist, treated it professionally. And I’ve come to define it more broadly than most: an addiction is any person, substance, or situation over which we have lost choice or believe we cannot live without — as evidenced by our continuing to consume or do or just want it despite the consequences for our health, mental state, family, and freedom. 

Alcohol and other drugs, food, gambling, shopping, sex, relationships, money . . . We can develop an unhealthy emotional and often physical dependency on any one of these and many more. And when we put down one, we very often pick up another. At any substance recovery meeting (and in the course of forty years, I’ve probably been to upwards of two thousand), you will find plenty of coffee, cigarettes, and sugar.
Years ago, while focused on relapse and twelve-step treatment as part of pursuing my PhD, I came to recognize the substitution of a different addiction, including a nonchemical for a chemical one, as a form of relapse. The substitution may be less—or more—immediately life threatening, but logically, any substitution indicates that the underlying problem has not been addressed. 

This interchangeability also suggests the fundamental sameness of addictive behaviors. In other words, the behaviors are the shape-shifting symptoms of a single underlying problem. Yet most treatment still focuses on the symptoms, one at a time. Consider the proliferation of Twelve Step groups, a different one for every symptom, and treatment centers with their niches.

And what is the underlying problem? I believe it is emotional dependency. All our relationships are emotion-based, not just those we have with people. And so it is emotional dependency, not alcoholism or codependency or overeating, that I have been treating with good results for three decades, both as a sponsor and in private practice. My tool is the spiritual process that is the Twelve Steps—but modified to target cause instead of symptom. 

The Roots of Addiction

Before I describe emotional dependency itself, let me explain where it comes from. Emotional dependency is deeply conditioned during childhood. Now, don’t think I’m blaming your mother; the parenting system is much bigger than any parent. It’s a trap in which we are all caught. One that crosses time and culture. The objective of this conditioning is control—the original addiction. And what better way to control children, to ensure their obedience, than to teach dependency? 
Dependency is readily achieved through rewards and punishments, and the fear they inspire. We never learn how to meet our own needs, only how to use others to get them met. Long before we ever take a drink or shoot up or start eating entire cartons of ice cream in one sitting, we become users. 

And to one degree or another, this is the model for all our relationships—with substances, with other people, even with ourselves. You don’t have to have what most people would characterize as an addiction to find your life compromised by emotional dependency. It casts a long shadow.
So back to emotional dependency itself. What happens when you are emotionally dependent in this way? What does emotional dependency look like? 

Emotional Dependency: The User Mentality

First, to be emotionally dependent is to be afraid. What else can you be when, deep down, you believe that you can’t help yourself but must instead rely on others for your survival? It is an encompassing fear that you will lose what you think you have or not get what you need or want. It can manifest as a general anxiety, or as quite specific fears. What will I do if I lose this job? What if she won't marry me? What if he leaves me? What if I get sick? What if I get fat? What if I can never lose this weight? What if I don’t succeed? What if . . . ? 

Relapse begins here. This fear, in turn, triggers conscious or unconscious attempts to control and manipulate—others, yourself, substances—the goal being to fill the need. How can I fix it? What can I say? What can I do to make him love me? What can I do to get my way? 
The subsequent behaviors are endlessly inventive. They may involve rewards or punishments, or they may be less directly manipulative. They can be as extreme as stalking a girlfriend, starving yourself, or getting sick to elicit sympathy, or as subtle as telling a white lie or speaking very softly (a way to manipulate people into giving you their attention, as is yelling). Yes, all these attempts to control and manipulate others are symptoms of emotional dependency, i.e. addiction.

But the strategy of control and manipulation can only fail. Ultimately, we are all powerless over everything outside ourselves, are we not? We can’t control what other people do or feel, we can’t control events. And so the fear, control, and manipulation (aka addictive behaviors) perpetuate themselves and progressively worsen. We don't get what we want, we still aren’t happy, so we become yet more fearful and desperate, more controlling and manipulative. 
When you continually look outside yourself to meet your needs, you may become dependent on a specific “other,” be it a person, situation, or thing. On the deep level at which the conditioning of emotional dependency took place, you believe that you need . . . insert your addiction here . . . to survive. So when the object of your dependency is withdrawn or is threatened to be, fear, control, and manipulation become even more intense, in proportion to the intensity of the dependency. Anxiety turns to dread; dread turns to panic; pleas escalate to threats and finally to violence. Drinking a little becomes drinking a lot becomes drinking yourself into the gutter or into an early grave. 
All of this is reenactment of the parent-child dynamic, but it can simultaneously be simple pain relief. 

When our control efforts fail, as they must, we feel not only fear but also pain. Some of us will reach for a drink or other drug, legal or illegal. Others for a slice of cake (or the whole thing), a sexual encounter, a roll of the dice, more time at work, a new outfit, a new relationship, more exercise, more therapy, more twelve-step meetings, more, more, more . . . And so the behavior both perpetuates and temporarily alleviates, or at least distracts us from, our pain. A vicious circle within the vicious circle. Talk about a trap.

Dismantling the Trap: Step One

Through my many years of research, sponsoring people as a member of AA, and working as a psychologist in private practice, I developed a precise and truly comprehensive modification of the steps—I call it the Brown Method—that shifts the primary focus from symptom to cause, starting with the foundational Step One:

We admitted we were powerless over life—people, situations, circumstances, substances—and that our lives and our minds were unmanageable when we tried to control any part of it.
So revised, this step requires much more of us, and it gives much more as well.

To think you can control that which is outside yourself is the very definition of insanity. The first step out of the vicious circle is to recognize your powerlessness over all of life, not just over your drug of choice.

In this respect, the original Twelve Steps set you up for failure. From the outset, you are focusing on the symptom—“powerless over X”—not the underlying control issues. Therefore you are likely doomed to drift from one twelve-step program to another as you engage in symptom substitution, or to give up in frustration because progress is so slow. As long as you are in a losing power struggle with everything and everyone around you, and as long as you are blaming anyone else for your misery, healing is impossible. 

It’s true that it is difficult to accept our fundamental powerlessness. (Steps Six and Seven speak to this, as does the mantra “Let go and let God.”) Consequently, acceptance is a lifelong daily spiritual practice. Indeed, Step One, understood in the broad way I’ve described, marked the beginning of my own spiritual life and continues to be its foundation; after all these years, I still have control issues. However, you can come very far, very fast. I’ve seen so many clients do it. And the rewards are tremendous. 

Once you recognize your powerlessness over other people and things, you have taken the first step toward personal power, toward self-control, toward restoring choice, toward healthy independence. In other words, Step One, practiced in this way, is the beginning of the end of emotional dependency, and thereby of addiction. 

Step Four: An Inventory of All Relationships

The place where the real work of the Brown Method gets done, though, is Step Four, “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Along with the associated fifth step, it is the focus of my step method. As I’ve modified it, it’s a precise and qualitatively different inventory of all relationships that directly addresses emotional dependency. It is the key to healing.  

One thing that makes the original Step Four a stumbling block for many people is the practice of doing it by personal interpretation, i.e., by trial and error. The very control issues that drive addictive behavior are responsible for the prevailing understanding in the program that no one can or should tell you how to do this step, or any other for that matter. Consequently, everyone muddles through, often going from one person to the next in search of suggestions. While you might luck out and find relief from your primary symptom, you won’t heal its cause.

And so I devised what I call the Fourth Step Algorithm: a set of precise instructions (outlined in full detail in my book) that empowers you to work the step with a facilitator—a professional therapist or counselor. Very little is left to chance. No more trial and error. 

But the algorithm does more than give structure to Step Four. The traditional approach to the step tends to focus on the wrongs you’ve done. Is it any wonder that many people relapse in the midst of this step, or never work up the courage to attempt it? The Fourth Step Algorithm turns this old approach on its head by exploring every relationship in which you have been emotionally hurt—including your relationship with yourself. Thus I’ve changed the step from “made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves” to “made a searching and fearless moral inventory of all relationships.” Let me repeat, it’s not about how you may have hurt others, but about the lifetime of hurts you yourself have suffered.

Through a literal inventory—a handwritten list—of all your relationships, you gain a comprehensive view of your emotional history. This may sound daunting, but again, the algorithm gives precise instructions, and all you’re really doing is spending twenty to thirty minutes a day making a list. Memory by memory, line by written line, you begin to see how you were conditioned into fear and how (once you were old enough to make choices for yourself) you designed ways to control and manipulate people, substances, and situations to meet your needs. You begin to see how all of this shaped and continues to shape your relationships. That is, you will become acutely aware of a lifetime of emotional trauma and addictive behavior—fear, control, and manipulation..
Simultaneously, the process begins to expose the part you’ve played in creating the majority of these hurtful experiences. With this awareness comes the ability—the power—to let go of the past, accept full responsibility for your actions, choose different behaviors, and create a very different life.

The Foundation for Healing

I won’t tell you the Brown Method is easy, but it is simple. Not to mention, in my considerable experience with sponsees and clients, far more effective than the traditional steps. 
Why does this process work? That question is best answered by doing it, but the short answer is this: because it is the beginning of self-parenting, and therefore of healthy self-reliance, also known as freedom. Through these modified steps, particularly the Fourth Step Algorithm, you become acutely aware of the unconscious conditioning that’s been driving your addictive behaviors. Your learned dependency becomes the independence that is your birthright as you learn instead to turn to a higher power within for what you need. Most of all, you begin a lifelong journey of spiritual self-discovery that is the foundation of healing. That is, you can leave relapse and mere symptom management behind. 

What I’m telling you is that you have the power to heal yourself of addiction. I should say that if you’re addicted to chemicals, this doesn’t mean it will magically become safe for you to use; it means you’ll be able to stay stopped and feel good doing it. Whatever your addiction, or to whatever extent emotional dependency is running your life, you will regain choice. You will no longer have an addiction, in the broadest, deepest sense of the word. I myself am testament to this, along with my clients, several of whom you can meet via their testimonials in my book and in the video at my website.

Yes, I know . . . this directly contradicts everything many of us have been told about addiction, to alcohol in particular (“You don't graduate from the program”). Consequently, my work has not always been well received by people who are addicted or my peers in the treatment business. But the label “chronic” or “incurable” does not mean that something can’t be healed, only that no one has figured out how to do it. It’s taken me a lifetime, but I have figured out how to do it. My book is meant to empower you to do it too.

Let me leave you with this thought: You are not your addictive behavior. If you do the work of the Brown Method, you will come to see this more clearly. There is nothing wrong with you. What's wrong is all the garbage—the conditioning—piled on top of you. Take that thought to the mirror each morning, and try, for even a moment, to see who you really are. Not “an addict,” “an alcoholic,” “a binge eater,” “a sexaholic,” or whatever false identity you’ve been saddled with. No. A person. And a beautiful one at that.


About the Author
Dr. Rosemary Ellsworth Brown is a psychologist. She graduated from Smith College as an Ada Comstock Scholar in 1989 and completed her doctorate in counseling psychology at the Union Institute in 1993. Her academic research focused on relapse, in particular on why AA and its myriad Twelve Step offshoots proved ineffective for the majority of their members. 

Dr. Brown's research has been not only academic and professional in nature, but also personal. She attended her first AA meeting in 1968, stayed sober for a year, and then experienced a tragic two-year relapse. She returned to the program determined to understand and solve the problem of relapse and devoted the rest of her professional life, and much of her personal life, to doing so. 

Ultimately, she identified the primary cause of all addictive behaviors and modified the Twelve Steps to address it, eliminating their traditional symptom focus and trial-and-error aspect. She has been using her step method to heal the cause of addictive behavior and prevent relapse among her clients and sponsees for upwards of thirty years.

The Codependents Guide to a Happy Holiday

By Mary deYon

Are you looking forward to the holidays — or dreading the upcoming family gatherings? There is the worry about money, or deciding on the perfect gifts. I remember having the fear of impending doom every year while trying get into the Christmas spirit.

My family was not like the Christmas movies. But every year I would declare, “This year will be different.” I’d set about decorating the house and planning the menus that would make the holiday perfect.

One year I was intent on making a Martha Stewart cake from scratch. I focused on sifting the flour, fluffing the eggs separately, creaming in the sugar, not to mention the elaborate directions for the frosting. It took all day to make this cake resemble something like a snowball. Spending all that time on the cake made me really behind in preparing the rest of the feast. I had to stay up all night Christmas Eve to finish. The next day no one even cut into my snowball masterpiece, eating the cookies and fudge everyone else brought.

Another year I got lost decorating three Christmas trees. I searched for the perfect lights and perfect color of red ribbon for each one. Did I think if we had three Christmas trees instead of one I would insure a perfect holiday?

I remember getting up early every Christmas morning to make the stuffing for the turkey. I’d chop the onions and celery, sauté them while cutting up the stale bread to make the homemade stuffing that had been a tradition in my family for years. My son always asked me to make the stuffing out of the box too. Which I did, for years. Slaving over the homemade dressing AND making the box stuff that everyone liked better. Why couldn’t I let that old, worn out tradition go?

I made pounds of fudge each year to give away but that hardly ever happened. I needed plenty of sugar to go comatose from all the drama around me. I was not unlike my husband in his drunken stupor.

All of this obsessing over decorating and preparing the perfect meals was a definite form of denial. If I made myself really busy under the guise of creating the perfect holiday I wouldn’t have to deal with the real issues in my life.

Even when we were invited somewhere else for the main event, I would worry whether my gourmet salad would be up to their standards. Or if my sister would point out the 20 pounds I had gained or if my mother would say, “I liked your hair better before you cut it.”

There was the worry they wouldn’t like the gifts I spent way too much money on or in how many ways my husband would embarrass me this year. Many times I either feigned illness or made myself sick to get out of going to these events. I wish I would have learned earlier what I know now.

We have no control how people will react to the dish we prepare, the presents we have chosen or how our alcoholic or addict will act.

When I learned this beautiful thing called detachment, my life became so much happier. The holidays are a great time to practice detachment.

What if you could step back from the drama, stress, worry and look at the whole situation like an extremely comical Christmas movie?

If I had I would have seen the humor in my Dad passing out in his plate and actually blowing bubbles in his gravy. Or I would have laughed about the sitcom-like event watching my husband falling down drunk in the driveway, then sitting at the Thanksgiving table in a bloody shirt and a forever changing purple goose egg on his forehead.

And I would have laughed when my daughter-in-law spit out my goat cheese and arugula salad saying, “Yuck, that tastes like dirty feet!” rather than looking at her in horror.
What if you could step back and see the humor in all the drama unfolding in your life? When we laugh we alter our consciousness from the reality in front of us. Isn’t that what we are trying to do when we turn to drinking, drugging or eating too much—altering our consciousness?

Laughter is a great way to change your attitude about what’s going on. Then you might be having too much fun to notice the craziness.

What if this holiday season you don’t overspend on gifts to get approval or you don’t worry whether the ribbons match or that the cake and stuffing you made came out of a box or that your sister thinks you are fat?

What if instead of doing everything perfectly, you decided 80% was good enough? What if instead of doing it all yourself, you let others help you. People like to be involved, it makes them feel included in the party.

What if you declined invitations instead of making yourself sick to avoid them? What if you said, “I’m not able to do that,” instead of taking on other people’s responsibilities? You have the right to be happy and joyful through the holidays in spite of the crazy people around you. Remember:

It doesn’t have to be perfect. 80% is good enough.
Ask for help. You don’t have to do it all.
You are allowed to have boundaries. It is OK to say “NO.”
Honor yourself. Eat well, rest. Take a nap if you need it.
Don’t overspend to get approval.
Be realistic in your expectations of having the “perfect family.”
As drama unfolds, step back and pretend you are watching a comical movie.

Mary DeYon is an author, speaker and Codependency Coach who insists on bringing humor to the Truth. For more about her programs, Podcasts and events, visit marydeyon.com. You can contact Mary at mary@marydeyon.com.

Buzzed.....


The holiday season is right around the corner. As Americans prepare for festivities with family and friends, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants to remind all drivers that it’s dangerous to drive after drinking. You have to choose your role before drinking begins: will you drink or will you drive? Remember, even if you only have a little bit to drink and think you’re “okay to drive,” you could still be over the legal limit, because Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving.

A lot of folks think they know their own limits. They think that if they’re just a little ‘buzzed,’ then they’re still good to drive.” But this couldn’t be further from the truth. “Time and again, drivers who may have only had a couple of drinks put themselves and others at serious risk.  Driving with any alcohol in your system can be dangerous.

For some people, it doesn’t take much to reach the dangerous level. All Arizona drivers need to understand that you don’t have to be falling-down drunk to be impaired to drive.
This anti-drunk-driving campaign aims to inform all Americans about the dangers of driving after drinking — even after drinking just a little. Drunk driving is a terrible killer on our nation’s roads. In 2013, 10,076 people were killed in drunk driving crashes. This time of year is especially dangerous due to holiday celebrations and frequent parties. In December 2013 alone, there were 733 people killed in crashes involving at least one drunk driver or motorcycle operator. In 2013, a third (31%) of all crash fatalities in America involved drunk driving.

This holiday season, plan ahead: designate a sober driver. If you plan on drinking at all, don’t plan on driving. Don’t assume that you’ll know whether you can safely drive or not at the end of the night.
Even one drink can impair your judgment and reaction time and increase the risk of getting arrested for driving drunk or having a crash.
Plan ahead; designate a sober driver before the party begins.

When you know you’ll be drinking, leave your keys at home or give them to someone else.
If you have been drinking, do not drive—even a short distance. Call a taxi, phone a sober friend or family member, use public transportation or UBER. Try NHTSA’s SaferRide mobile app, which allows users to call a taxi or a friend by identifying their location so they can be picked up.
Walking while impaired can be just as dangerous as drunk driving. Designate a sober friend to walk you home.

If you see a drunk driver on the road, contact local law enforcement when it is safe to do so.
If you see someone you think is about to drive while impaired, take their keys and help them get home safely.

Remember, it is never okay to drive after drinking. Buzzed Driving Is Drunk Driving and texting while driving can be just as lethal.



“THOUGHTMAIL™: Mastering the Inner Technology for Happiness

By Cary Bayer

You’ve mastered voicemail and email, now it’s time to master Thoughtmail. Thoughtmail, you ask?  Thoughtmail embraces five inner communication techniques to transform your mind, purify your heart, awaken your Spirit, and create the life you’d love to live. It incorporates these powerful practices:
  • Affirmation (Positive communication with your own mind) 
  • Visualization (Picturing a goal with a mental JPEG) 
  • Meditation (Your mind connecting to your higher Self)
  • Prayer (Your heart speaking with God) 
  • Telepathy (Your mind transmitting to another mind)

Affirmation

Typically, a person affirms a positive message in a repetitive manner in one of five different ways: through thinking, writing, speaking, reading, or listening. To master this inner technology, it’s essential to release a negative thought that’s blocking the affirmation from becoming your reality. Write that thought as step “B. “ Then transform that limited thought through the larger awareness of your higher Self in step “C.” These three steps, comprising one repetition, might look like this:
A) “I can make money doing what I love.”
B) “What you love doing is a hobby people won’t pay you for.” 
C) “People purchase my products and services when I share them enthusiastically.”

Visualization

We say that “Seeing is believing;” the truth is that believing is seeing. In other words, when you believe the images you see in your mind’s eye, the more quickly you’ll manifest them in the physical world, so others see them, too. We also say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but when it’s the picture you’ve visualized within yourself, that picture could easily be worth a thousand dollars--or a million.

Meditation

Meditation is that mental process by which the conscious mind becomes consciousness.  Normally, your mind is conscious of something—the ocean I’m looking at as I write in my office; your thoughts about dinner tonight; your love for your mate, child, or grandchild. There’s you and the object of your consciousness. When you meditate effortlessly, you let the power that beats your heart, breathes for you, and takes you from waking to sleeping to dreaming and back to waking again—take you from waking to your higher Self. This transforms you from a human doing or a human thinking to a human Being. 

Using effort to get to this Transcendent is like using effort to get to sleep; you know how futile that is. That’s because going from one state of consciousness to another always takes place without our effort—the higher Power naturally takes care of this. . In the case of sleep that means turning off the light, laying down in bed and putting your head on the pillow. And then we let a natural process happen. In the case of meditation, that means closing your eyes, sitting comfortably in a chair, and letting the mantra that’s best suited to your nervous system, do the rest.

Prayer

Prayer is a mental or emotional technique in which a human being asks the higher Power for something he or she lacks. When you understand the Law of Attraction, which states that what you focus on expands, your prayer that focuses on what you lack strengthens the lack. 
Affirmative Prayer thanks the higher Power for giving you what it is you might ordinarily pray for before it manifests. The difference between these two ways of praying can be huge.

Telepathy

As a life coach I often teach clients about how to protect their boundaries and respect those of others.  So I don’t recommend invading the thoughts of others. We’ve all had the experience of thinking of a friend and then hearing the phone ring seconds later only to discover that person is calling.  
If you’d like to progress in telepathy, play with it in a light and relaxed spirit, not squeezing your closed eyes tightly to concentrate. In fact, don’t concentrate at all. Just allow the idea that you have access to far more information than you ever thought possible, and see if you can “hear” the thought of the person you’re doing this experiment with. As you become more comfortable mastering these four other Thoughtmail skills, this last one will seem far less daunting.
Enjoy!

Why the Holidays Don't Matter

For the many years I’ve been writing this column, I conclude each year with an inspirational message about the importance of the holidays. This year I would like to take a different approach. I would like to suggest that the holidays don’t really matter and there is nothing you really need to do about them.

Such a suggestion, of course, reads like heresy. “But the holidays do matter!” a voice in your head chides. “They are religiously significant, a season to gather with family, a time to complete the old year and prepare for a new and better one.”

Certainly. But try this approach on for size and see how it might fit:

The holidays, while fun and significant, drive lots of people crazy. There are pressures to buy the right presents for the right people; obligatory family and office gatherings; commercialism up the wazoo; running up credit card debt; pregnant women trampled to death by Black Friday shoppers rampaging the superstore at 5 AM; hassling with companies that don’t ship presents on time; traffic and travel gluts; fielding invasive questions from obnoxious relatives and co-workers about your relationship status; fighting over whether the kids are going to stay with mom or dad; and on and on. 

Thus the season of cheer becomes the season of stress. 
If your holidays have become more and more work and less and less fun, this year don’t do anything for the holidays that grates against your soul. Don’t do anything because you are supposed to. Or because you always have done it that way. Or because you might disappoint someone if you don’t. Or because you feel guilty. Or because you are afraid.  

A coaching client told me she had planned to go on a 10-day silent meditation retreat, but she was receiving lots of pressure from her family and friends to cancel. I asked her why she might not go. “I’m afraid I might lose their friendship,” she answered.
I replied, “So what you are saying is that you have lots of dysfunctional relationships in which other people selfishly want you to live the life they would choose for you to meet their own neurotic needs, and they want you to sacrifice your joy so they can feel secure in their own little controlling world . . . . And you are afraid of losing such demeaning relationships?”

She had to laugh. I was dramatizing the situation, but not by much. Real relationship empowers everyone involved to be more of who they are and to follow their joy. If your holiday relationships fall into that category, they are truly serving you. If people are pressuring you to do what they want you to do, or your inner critic is beating you up for not making someone else happy, you could make this the best holiday season of your life by letting go of everything that is dysfunctional and embracing only what brings you peace. 

We are told that the three wise men followed a star to the Christ child in Bethlehem. The wise men represent the highest use of body, mind, and emotion. The star is the guidance of your soul. The Christ child is your true self. When you follow your inner peace, you are led to the Christ. When you burn the flame of your soul, you light a menorah that can never flicker. It’s all about finding and fanning your inner light, your only purpose in life. 
You are an eternal begin who lives beyond time. You are greater than any cycles that occur in form. Jesus was born on Christmas, but the Christ is eternal. The miracle of Hanukah occurred a long time ago, but there are new miracles, and many, given each day. And why would a New Year’s resolution be any more important or powerful than any affirmation you would declare on any other day of the year?  

A Course in Miracles tells us that the only purpose of time is to learn to make the best use of it. This year make the holidays your own. Do what is uplifting to your soul and release all else. Your primary responsibility is to your spirit. My friend Angela loves Christmas trees. Last year she put up 27 Christmas trees in and around her home. For her, the ritual is holy. She is making the most of her season. Others would rather not go to one party. For them, staying home is holy. 

The holidays are holy not for anything we do, but for the consciousness we bring to our acts. This year choose your activities consciously. Be where you want to be, not where you should be. Be with the people you want to be with. Wipe the slate clean of history, tradition, rules, and expectations, and make each day your own. Start a new tradition of soul honoring. Other people can legislate rituals, but only you can—and must—legislate your consciousness.  Let joy be your compass. 
“Holiday” means “holy day.” Every day is holy. 

The sacred abides with you at every moment, everywhere you are. It is in you. You carry it with you. You are swimming in a sea of blessedness at all times. If you are going to celebrate anything this holiday season, celebrate the light in you and around you at all times. Then the angels will truly sing. 

Alan Cohen is the author of A Course in Miracles Made Easy. Join Alan and intuitive Dougall Fraser in Hawaii, February 21-26 for a life-changing retreat, The Guru in You. For more information about this program, Alan’s Life Coach Training Program, free daily inspirational quotes, and weekly radio show, or visit www.AlanCohen.com.

As Marijuana Use Doubles, Elements’ Dr. David Sack tells Newsweek More People are Seeking Treatment


Marijuana use has more than doubled in the U.S. over the last decade and the increase in addiction during that time was nearly as large, according to a government survey.


Researchers at the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (NIAAA) found that nearly 10% of adults in the U.S. used marijuana in 2012-2013. That’s up from 4% in 2001-2002. The results also showed that three out of every 10 Americans who used marijuana in the last year were classified as having an addictive relationship with the drug, which adds up to about 6.8 million Americans with marijuana use disorder. The study, based on in-person interviews with more than 36,000 adults, was published in JAMA Psychiatry in October.

“These findings highlight the changing cultural norms related to marijuana use, which could bring additional public health challenges related to addiction, drugged driving and access to effective treatment,” said Nora D. Volkow, director of the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), which contributed funding to the study. Twenty-three states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico have legalized medical marijuana and four states — Alaska, Colorado, Oregon and Washington — and the District of Columbia allow marijuana for recreational use.
It’s clear that the new legal landscape reflects a waning in the stigma surrounding marijuana and cannabis products. A new Gallup survey found that 58% of Americans believe marijuana should be legal, a seven-point year-over-year increase. Approval was highest among young adults between the ages of 18 and 34, with 71% backing legalization.

Americans’ support for legalizing marijuana is the highest Gallup has ever measured and the momentum is only expected to increase. “Given the patterns of support by age, that percentage should continue to grow in the future,” Gallup researchers wrote.

Marijuana Harms in Myriad Ways

The legalization and increased availability of marijuana have convinced many people the drug is harmless. However, studies funded by NIDA and NIAAA have shown that marijuana impairs driving performance, and that since the legalization of medicinal marijuana in Colorado, drivers involved in fatal crashes were much more likely to test positive for marijuana. What’s more, a French study linked cannabis with heart problems and past research has found that even casual marijuana use causes critical changes in the brains of adolescents from which they may never recover. Short-term effects of marijuana use include memory loss, distorted perception, trouble with thinking and problem­-solving, and anxiety.

Another false notion surrounding marijuana is that it isn’t addictive. While it’s true that marijuana is less addictive than drugs such as heroin, alcohol and nicotine, a study conducted by NIDA researchers found that 9% of people who try marijuana will become dependent on it. Dr. David Sack, chief medical officer of Elements Behavioral Health and Promises Treatment Centers, recently told Newsweek that the idea that marijuana dependency doesn’t occur is a myth. “It has a very predictable set of withdrawal symptoms. It usually starts in 48 hours and peaks within seven days,” he said. Long-term marijuana users who try to quit experience both mental and physical withdrawal symptoms including irritability, sleeplessness, anxiety, stomach pain, fever, chills and headaches.

Awareness Is Lacking, Dr. Sack Says

Dr. Sack told Newsweek that he has seen a marked increase in the number of people seeking treatment for marijuana use. He particularly worries about baby boomers, who had positive experiences with “grass” in the 1960s and 1970s. “They’re much more likely to use it today,” he said. “They’re familiar with the drug, they’re not afraid of it. I think we have to increase awareness in the general medical community to identify the addiction and to start asking about marijuana use.”

But boomers do have something to fear in today’s pot — sometimes called “trainwreck” or “green crack” — because it’s nothing like the product of a generation ago. The concentration of THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) has been steadily increasing over the last few decades, which, NIDA says, could mean “a greater chance of an adverse or unpredictable reaction.”
Dr. Sack noted that there aren’t specific treatment protocols for marijuana addiction. For his patients, Dr. Sack frequently turns to cognitive behavioral therapy, a form of psychotherapy that is also used to address smoking, problem drinking and other addictions. Medications such as benzodiazepines or antidepressants may also be used to help with withdrawal symptoms, he said. On average, adults seeking treatment for marijuana use disorders have attempted to quit more than six times.

As for the NIAAA’s study and the permissive attitude toward marijuana, the researchers’ findings show the need for a more cautious approach to legalization.
“As is the case with alcohol, many individuals can use marijuana without becoming addicted,” the authors wrote. “However, the clear risk for marijuana use disorders among users suggests that as the number of U.S. users grows, so will the numbers of those experiencing problems related to such use.”
Reprinted with permission http://www.elementsbehavioralhealth.com/

It's all about how you HO HO HO


If you look at the world today, you may feel like it’s a bit hard to be Ho, Ho, Ho-ing. Or you may be out shopping till you drop rather than to even be thinking about it all. My son and I recently had this discussion because he was feeling, understandably, overwhelmed with all the discord in the world and in his life. His sadness made me look at what I most value in my own life and it all came down to choice.

In every parable or story of this season, whether you believe them or not, there is an option for the hero or heroine to make a choice and that choice is the basis for the end result or out come.

Our situation today is no different 

We can get overwhelmed that the world out there does not seem to be changing in a positive way. I would agree. The rhetoric seems more caustic, the news seems more sensationalized and the world seems to be going to pot (no pun intended) …or not. But in my world, the truth is that it doesn’t really matter what the world does. What matters is what I do in the world.
In every situation that arises before us, there is a moment in which we can ask the question, What am I here for, and what is this circumstance here to each me? And, the only thing that matters in that moment is our choice and our answer to that question. No one of us can tackle the issues on this world stage alone. However, if each one of us stands in our own integrity and compassion, that alone can change the world dramatically, one person at a time.  Can you see how powerful you are and what a gift your free choice can be?

  • Where there is fear, you can choose trust in yourself.  
  • Where there is apathy, you can choose commitment. 
  • Where there is distance, you can choose intimacy. 
  • Where there is pain, you can choose healing. 
  • Where there is separation, you can choose connection and unity. 
  • Where there is judgment, you can choose acceptance. 
  • Where there is hatred, you can choose love. 


YOU get to choose and that is the greatest gift of this life and this earthly experience.  You get to choose, and your choice matters more than anything going on in the world anywhere, because when it’s all said and done, and you life is over, you get to say, I did what I came here to do.
So as you celebrate this season and those whom you love and who celebrate with you, try to remember the greatest gift is not the one given during Kwanzaa, or wrapped with a bow or under a tree or near beautifully lit Hanukkah candles. The greatest gift is your choice and you get it every minute of every day all year long.

I know Barbara,  and all of us who are privileged to share our thoughts with you each month are so grateful for you in that you have given us this forum in which we can fulfill part of our purpose which is truth-telling and sharing our deepest beliefs. You have given us a place in which to make that choice and we thank you and we thank Barbara.

Our hearts are with you as be begin a New Year and we invite you to stand with us hand-in-hand and continue to make the choice to be who you can here to be and to fulfill the purpose you came here to fulfill.

We are a circle of light, and no one can make your personal contribution to light in the world but you. The Universe saves your place until you are willing to step into your power and make that choice.
Go ahead.

“Nothing you have ever done in the past and nothing you will ever do in the future diminishes or defines you in this moment. You have the right and all the tools you need to be your best self and the Universe has your back, and so do we.”

Go for it and have the best Holiday and 2016 ever.
           

NEWS

Hunkapi Programs 2015 Farm to Table Gala

Watching a vision come to life is pretty amazing, isn’t it?!
Especially, when you are moving with people driven by purpose, great vision and love.
Hunkapi is a Lakota word meaning we are all related. In essence, we ALL need one another to grow and thrive. Hunkapi Farms therapeutic programs, including horse, garden and mindfulness therapy creates the best care, the strongest relationships and more peace for individuals and families.
Terra Schadd of Hunkapai Farms proves farm is chic! 

On November 22, the first annual Farm to Table Gala benefiting the programs at Hunkapi Farms and sponsored by No Woman Left Behind.

Seventy five percent of the clientele that Hunkapi serves are diagnosed with:autism spectrum disorders, ADD, oppositional defiant disorders, emotional disorders and PTSD.
Congratulations to Terra Schaad, Executive Director, and her team for a most beautiful heart opening event. To learn more about Hunkapai please visit http://hunkapi.org.



CHAPTER 5 Treatment Programs Awarded Behavioral Health Care Accreditation 

Chapter 5 Treatment Programs announced that it has earned The Joint Commission's Gold Seal of Approval® for Behavioral Health Care Accreditation by demonstrating continuous compliance with its performance standards. The Gold Seal of Approval® is a symbol of quality that reflects an organization's commitment to providing safe and effective care.
Chapter 5 underwent a rigorous on-site survey in September, 2015. During the review, compliance with behavioral health care standards related to several areas, including care, treatment, and services; environment of care; leadership; and screening procedures for Yes, September 17, thanks for inquiring. We would love to have your partici=
pation this year. I know Seth Born very well... great guy! the early detection of imminent harm was evaluated. On-site observations and interviews also were conducted.

Established in 1969, The Joint Commission's Behavioral Health Care Accreditation program currently accredits more than 2,100 organizations for a three-year period. Accredited organizations provide treatment and services within a variety of settings across the care continuum for individuals who have mental health, addiction, eating disorder, intellectual/developmental disability, and/or child-welfare related needs.

"Joint Commission accreditation provides behavioral health care organizations with the processes needed to improve in a variety of areas related to the care of individuals and their families," said Tracy Griffin Collander, LCSW, executive director, Behavioral Health Care Accreditation program, The Joint Commission. "We commend Chapter 5 for its efforts to elevate the standard of care it provides and to instill confidence in the community it serves."

"Chapter 5 is pleased to receive Behavioral Health Care Accreditation from The Joint Commission, the premier health care quality improvement and accrediting body in the nation," added Peter Thomas, Executive Director at Chapter 5, "Since our founding in 2003, Chapter 5 has been driven toward consistent quality and improvement. It has always been our goal to serve our clients at the highest level, and to be good neighbors in the community we serve. We are delighted to have achieved accreditation, and by the opportunity it presents for continued quality and improvement."

The Joint Commission's behavioral health care standards are developed in consultation -with health care experts and providers, quality improvement measurement experts, and individuals and their families. The standards are informed by scientific literature and expert consensus to help organizations measure, assess and improve performance.

For details on Chapter 5 in Prescott, AZ: www.chapter5recovery.com, call 888 541-0690  email  Ben@Chapter5Recovery.com.

2016 Arizona Problem Solving Courts Conference

Join fellow criminal justice, healthcare, behavioral health and social work professionals next year for this 2.5-day conference to help improve Arizona’s problem solving courts.
Arizona Association of Drug Court Professionals (AADCP) and the ASU Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy (CABHP) are thrilled to announce that the 2016 Arizona Problem Solving Courts Conference will be held once again in Prescott, AZ, April 25-27, 2016.

This year’s theme is All Rise for Solutions. Join with probation and parole staff, judges, attorneys, behavioral health providers, social workers, law enforcement, and problem solving court coordinators for education on how we can better serve those throughout Arizona who have involvement with problem solving courts.
We are seeking proposals for breakout sessions within a variety of tracks, including Core Principles, Juveniles/Young Adults, Mental Health, Treatment, and Veterans. Click here to submit a presentation proposal. The deadline to submit your proposal is January 1, 2014.
Contact Tara O’Brien, at tara.obrien@asu.edu

Monday, November 30, 2015

Happy Thanks

I’m going to keep this month’s column light and short! Hopefully the space between the lines filled with love, laughter, hope and thanks are felt from me to you.

In many ways it was a hell of a wonderful year, and yes it is true... (It’s hitting me)....the older we get the quicker the time goes.

LOVE

My gratitude which is beyond words, extends to everyone who contributed to the 2015 editions of TGAZ.  We’ve featured some wonderful,inspiring writers with a wealth of information and ideas on addiction recovery as it moves forward and is being released from the shadows of shame. I hope this publication has inspired you to stay with us on this journey because a brighter day is ahead. 

LAUGHTER


I’ve worked too hard, and played too little — but my joy comes from being of service and helping others receive the gifts I have been blessed with. I’ve mended some fences, met wonderful new friends, opened my heart a little more and am completely ready for what God has in store for 2016.

HOPE


There have been so many wonderful events I’ve been privileged to be part of, from the Pitch 4Kidz fundraiser, the In Recovery Gala and Expo in Prescott, Hunkapai Farm to Table Gala, the monthly PCS luncheons, the Passion Cafe’s, and my own baby, The Art of Recovery Expo which turned 10 this year. 

THANKS


I stepped out of my usual comfort zone on a few occasions and traveled solo to a place I truly adore and met some extraordinary people along the way. No wonder I’m tired. 

During this holiday season, I think of my loving husband Bill, who I miss everyday saying, “Be good to yourself.”  He means that for all of us.  In gratitude,

Monday, November 2, 2015

Reckless, Fearless and Young - An interview with Gordie Bufton

In the grip of addiction, no one is invincible.

Gordie Bufton, Speaker, coach and author of Eluding Reality: A Memoir about Drugs, Psych Wards, and Recovery

Editor’s Note: Every addict and alcoholic I know, including myself, have some hair raising tales and stories of survival. Yet, I’m always intrigued when I meet a young person in recovery, someone who has completely turned their life around. Gordie Bufton is one of them. He’s a twenty-something, good looking guy, who upon first meeting one would never think was once an addict. 

I think the stigma of addiction still holds the image of addicts and alcoholics as homeless, tattered, worn, beaten down, weathered, old people. That is not the truth.

Only now is our society recognizing that addiction has many faces, and it touches all of us. It does not discriminate. Addiction can take the lives of the rich or poor, young, old, teen or adolescent at any time. 

Gordie’s story is not unlike many others. What he is accomplishing today in recovery is why I chose to feature him for this edition. 

It is my hope families will read this interview together and open up the discussion. The time is now to talk about it and not run from it. 

All of us can make a difference, we need to keep the conversation going.
 — Barbara Nicholson-Brown

Start with your introduction to drugs and when it became the reason for you to get up in the morning.

Growing up at the golf course in Atlanta, I spent a lot of time with players considerably older than myself. This was my introduction into the world of destructive behaviors. The guys were always talking about wild parties and things they had done. These conversations always interested me, but I was a “good” kid and didn’t want to do anything that could jeopardize my grades or golf career. 
This all shifted when I experienced my first romantic breakup.  I didn’t know how to process the painful emotions. Prior to my senior year of high school, I had tried alcohol and pot a few times. I enjoyed the sensations and feelings from these substances, but didn’t have anything I needed to numb out. This all changed with the breakup.
Smoking pot removed the pain I was in from my broken heart.  
We live in a society that conditions us not to feel emotions and I fell into the bear trap that kept me in its jaws for the next three years.
Somehow smoking everyday didn’t completely destroy my golf game and I managed to get a scholarship to Colorado State University-Pueblo. In college my smoking and dealing escalated and my golf game declined rapidly. I no longer had anyone looking over my shoulder. 
Every morning I was waking up with a bowl of weed next to me and I’d smoke until my eyes were too heavy to keep open. Even though I was stoned, I would always attend class and practice golf, but the rest of my day was spent in a haze dealing to fund my growing habit.
The day golf season ended, my best friend was at my apartment smoking and asked if I wanted to try Ecstasy, (today known as Molly). 
I didn’t educate myself about the real dangers of Ecstasy (depression, mental illness, memory loss, addiction, and death) and tried it. Pot wasn’t creating the same high for me anymore. It was love from the start. This drug allowed me to escape my reality and enter into a drug induced world. 
Attending classes lost their importance — my focus was using and selling drugs. 
I spiraled out of control  using enough Ecstasy to fuel a rave and trying to smoke as much pot as Snoop Dogg every week. 
Two months after my first high on Ecstasy and tens of thousands of dollars later, my folks pulled me out of college. I was broke, and looked like a skeleton after barely eating for two months (Ecstasy depletes the appetite). I stopped using Ecstasy when I moved home, but continued to smoke marijuana and deal for the next few years.

You could have had a career as a professional golfer.  What happened?

During high school I lost the inner drive, becoming more interested in socializing at the course — instead of practicing. Talent without determination and hard work is nothing. Someone I grew up with on the high school team now had four wins on the PGA Tour. I made a different choice. I create more of a positive impact now, than I ever would have made playing professionally.

Do young adults, teens, grade schoolers have greater access to drugs and alcohol today?
Availability to access drugs and alcohol blows my mind. It was easier for me to get drugs than to get booze growing up. Dealers never ask for an ID. What scares me now is who the youth of today look up to as role models. The NFL or NBA doesn’t go a week without an arrest. Musicians love to flaunt their extravagant party lifestyles. This is a direct message to our youth this type of behavior is acceptable. We need to change this as a culture and demand more from these people of influence.  

Would you consider it to be the ‘road less traveled’ for young people who do not engage in addictive behaviors?

As I state in my memoir Eluding Reality:  A Memoir about Drugs, Psych Wards, and Recovery, I chose the path filled with drugs and temptations. Children today have many options to numb their pain. As a society we need to foster a culture where it is okay to talk about feelings and seek help for disharmony in our inner worlds — without judgment. At every talk I have ever given, I stress how the real work begins when we get clean and sober. It begins when we have to deal with stress and pressure using healthy coping mechanisms.



 Speaking about addiction and healthy lifestyle choices at Camp Verde Unified School District High School freshman class.
You share your story with young audiences — do they talk openly about their struggles with drugs and alcohol?

I’ve had the privilege of sharing my story with tens of thousands of youngsters and it amazes me how at such a young age they start using drugs and engaging in dangerous behavior. Two students in a 6th grade class admitted for the first time they were cutting themselves after a presentation, 6th grade! I was able to get them to talk with their school counselor and begin getting the help they so desperately needed. 
Very few kids can resist the peer pressure to use substances. My mission to help raise this minimal percentage. 

What was your bottom? 

My rock bottom was oh-so-low. My mentor, who helped me create a Holistic Addiction Recovery Coaching Program says rock bottom is the moment one decides to change. I love this definition.
Rock bottom is different for every individual. Sometimes we have to experience numerous bottoms before finally making the choice to change. 

“It was a sunny day in southwest Florida and I was sitting on the beach smoking pot with my friends when this divine message hit me. Lose your addiction or you will lose your life. I had never heard a message so loud and clear in all my life.” Now seriously wouldn’t it be great if rock bottom was actually like that?    Mine wasn’t so harmonious. 

Rock bottom was a three week span — fueled by a three week cocaine binge. I was living at home and my coke usage escalated. Heck, I didn’t even like it very much, but that’s how addictions work. 
My parents had finally had enough of me and had to kick me out. I had a few grand left and figured I could fund my lifestyle as a dealer.

They confiscated my cell phone and Mom had demanded Dad search me for drugs before leaving home. I had a half ounce of pot in my pocket. Dad found it and Mom went off the deep end, ran for the phone to call the cops, as dad barricaded the door. He walked down the hall for a moment, and I took the opportunity to jump out the window and run for my freedom. He chased me down the street screaming. 

As fate would have it, a kid I sold drugs to was about to snort a line of coke in a secluded location on my escape route, and I demanded he give me a ride out of the neighborhood. We did coke all night. 
The next few days I bounced around friends’ couches, paying my way with drugs and using non stop to numb the pain.

Some of my friends and I were at the beach a few days into my couch surfing career when some kids asked me to buy them beer and I figured since I had a fake ID being 19, I took the opportunity to make a few bucks. When I returned to the beach I couldn’t find my friends. So I “borrowed” the truck of the guy where I was crashing, and went back to clean up.  

It was now time to put into play the plan I been scheming to get the cash and hash in my bedroom. Since no one was home, I smashed in my window and walked right out the front door. As I was driving back to find my friends, I got pulled over. 

A gram of hash in my pocket (a controlled substance) warranting lots of jail time. My dealer at the beach informed me the cops found an assortment of drugs in my room and had issued a warrant for my arrest. 

I just couldn’t go to jail as I handed over my fake ID to the cop, but within a few minutes I was arrested. 

During the week in jail I desperately tried to get bailed out. I turned 20 years old behind bars. Not the way I envisioned entering my twenties.

When I was released, the first thing I did was get stoned.  Even the friends I used drugs with everyday had reached their limit and kicked me out. Homeless and friendless I spent a few nights on the streets or sleeping on the beach. 
At this point my only option was to take a bus to visit my best friend from third grade in Macon, GA.

When I arrived in Macon I was strung out and had smoked the last of my weed. I spent all day looking for my friend. It was impossible to think clearly.
I remember it was night and stumbling around Macon I spotted a group of young guys and asked them for help. But they had other plans for me.

One grabbed the back of my collar and started punching me in the back of the skull. The punches were so brutal I felt something warm running down the back of my neck. After four or five punches I heard something hit the cement, it was a red brick. After the brute dropped the brick, he then slammed me on the cement trying to break my neck. I was bracing myself with my left wrist as my body was bouncing off the pavement. During one of these throws I lost consciousness. Life flashed before my eyes and the images weren’t pretty. Twentieth birthday in jail, parents kicked me out, and my addiction out of control. A choice had to be made in that moment — maybe it wasn’t a choice.

I spent the night in the hospital and was released the next morning with a broken wrist and 12 stitches in my head. I was given painkillers, and like any good addict I abused them. After a few days at my best friends, he placed me on another bus.

I returned to Florida and spent another night on the beach. I didn’t sleep much because I knew a tough decision had to be made. Either continue down this path which will land me back in jail or dead…or get sober.

It wasn’t easy and my entry into recovery was anything but smooth. 

What message can you give parents on how to talk with their kids on this uncomfortable topic.

Be an adult and get uncomfortable as your child’s life is at jeopardy. I have spent some time with Dr. Drew Pinsky one of the leading experts on addiction and he says there are two conversations to have with your children about drugs. 
  1. Do not tell your kids what you did during your adolescence, young adulthood, unless you want your kids to do the same.
  2. Be honest about your addiction and talk to them about your recovery and how vital this is to your life. 
If kids know their parents have used drugs they think it’s okay for themselves to experiment. 
To those parents who provide the substance thinking they’d rather kids do it around them. It’s illegal and you’re risking going to jail. It only takes a moment to have a fatal reaction. 

With celebrities and pop culture icons losing their lives to overdoses, do you think young people believe it won’t happen to them, that they are invincible?

At every school audience I speak to I have the privilege to get the concept across no one is invincible. Dangerous life altering effects happen from bad choices. It takes one wrong decision to end a life. Life is fragile and we should treat it as a gift not an entitlement. 

Talk about your time in institutions.

When I got sober as anyone in recovery will tell you, it wasn’t rainbows and gumdrops. I had to deal with life for the first time in years without a way to numb my emotions.
I was known to relapse and smoke pot and go into a drug induced psychosis. These episodes would land me psych wards. The first stay was two weeks and I was given lots of antipsychotic medication. I’d taken a lot of powerful substances in my using days, but these pills were stronger and the positive side effects nowhere to be found. 

During one of the stays I escaped the institution. Two helicopters and six police dogs were searching for the mentally ill man in boxers. They couldn’t find me for hours. When they did, I was strapped to a hospital bed for days and they wouldn’t let me up for any reason. I was there for 30 days. 
I was admitted five times to three  different facilities and labeled bipolar, schizophrenic, and depressed. I spent over two months locked away. 

Was I crazy? That is debatable, but a judge did label me legally insane. 

To learn about how normal people are in psych wards and all the details check out Eluding Reality on Amazon.

I was fortunate to be sent to a rehab center now located in Sedona, AZ, Alternative to Meds Center. 
This center specializes in medication withdrawal. They did a slow taper off the antipsychotic medications and rebalanced my brain chemistry with supplements, exercise, nutritious food, massage, yoga and sauna detox.  I have never taken prescription medication since and now live a “normal” life. Warning: never stop taking prescription medication without the permission from a medical doctor. 

How can we change the perception that substance use and alcoholism are and can be deadly? 

It’s important for those who have lost loved ones to speak up. It’s important for those who have almost died because of their addictions to speak up. As someone in recovery I feel a civil duty to share my story with others to inspire hope.

Do you view today’s youth as too entitled to believe they can do whatever they want without consequences?

No. I strive to empower more youth to know they can accomplish whatever it is they set their hearts to. I had a chat with a 16 year old entrepreneur who said,  “fail young fail fast, it’s just learning experiences.” He will have challenges of course, but at least he’s playing the game of life and not sitting on the sideline and wondering what could be. 

The consequences for breaking the law are strict and part of the reason over two million addicts are incarcerated. Today’s youth need to be taught the consequences for their actions in school and if they still decide to break the law, it’s on them. When I was dealing drugs I knew the possible sentences, but still did it.

What does it mean to be in recovery?

In recovery is going to mean something different for every single one of us. Personally, I choose not to drink alcohol or use any mind altering substance since April 22, 2010. I don’t even like taking Advil.

Does this mean the hard-core IV drug addict who now has a beer once a month has to restart his clean date every time this happens? I don’t think so. In recovery we tend to hold others up to our own standards. This mindset can be detrimental and creates a lot of shame. Who am I to judge what being in recovery means to you?

If I choose to drink or smoke pot I know the potential consequences and it’s a risk I’m NOT willing to take. My life is so much better without alcohol or drugs.

As an addict, always looking for a quick fix, why does recovery seem to take so long?

When I was active in my addiction it consumed my life 24/7, 365 days a year. It never took weekends, nights or holidays off. Why should recovery be any different? I spent around two hours every day working on my recovery, an hour exercising, thirty minutes meditating, and thirty minutes reading or learning something new. 

This doesn’t include all the time I spend advocating or mentoring others. Recovery is a way of life for me a way of being present in the world. Being willing to examine my behavior and change what’s no longer serving me.

If there’s anything I can do to help you in your recovery or have any further questions please reach out to me gordiebufton@gmail.com or gordiebufton.com or any social media platforms. I look forward to hearing from you. We are the Creators of our Destiny.

Gordie has shared his story with tens of thousands of students and has spoken at over 85 different events. His passion is educating young people about the real dangers of substance abuse. He authentically shares his experience to inspire others to live into whatever their hearts desire and fulfill their dreams. Eluding Reality: A Memoir about Drugs, Psych Wards, and Recovery is available on Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/Eluding-Reality-Memoir-about-Recovery-ebook. To preview the 30 Day Video Series on Overcoming Addiction visit https://www.avanoo.com/spa/corp/#/first3/470

The Day the Silence Ended: UNITE to Face Addiction, Washington DC

By Jeff Grubert

What’s exciting about the recovery movement sweeping our nation is that we finally have a way of speaking about long-term recovery without breaking the anonymity set forth in Alcoholics Anonymous. 

Why would a person with long-term sobriety want to learn a new way of speaking about recovery? 

Simply put, everything we have experienced in long term recovery is due to the fact that we are sober, that we have a loving relationship with a Higher Power, and that we have become aware that there are millions of people still suffering from the disease of addiction. In fact, the numbers reveal that there are not enough AA meetings available in the US for the number of people who need treatment. With this fact in mind I have come to support all roads to recovery and I want to help open more doors for people who need treatment now.  

How can those of us who have long term recovery stay stagnant in the guilt and shame that plagues our spiritual growth and not step out of our comfort zone to reach more people who suffer from this cunning, baffling and powerful disease?

The New Recovery Advocacy Movement

It is all about removing the stigmas associated with the disease of addiction. It’s about suiting up and showing up as a recovered person to work, speak, and vote for positive changes in healthcare and justice systems. There is a long history of members of AA getting involved in advocacy for people who still suffer.

Even Bill W. himself appeared in front of Congress advocating on behalf of the alcoholic. I was moved deeply by the movie depicting his commitment beyond the rooms of AA and that film is now available on Netflix — Anonymous People. 

October 4, 2015, with Hurricane Joachim threatening to cancel the gathering, I stepped out of my comfort zone and flew to Washington DC to stand with Joe Walsh, Steven Tyler, Sheryl Crow, The Fray, Jason Isbell, Dr. OZ, Patrick Kennedy, the Surgeon General of the United States, and thousands of people with long term recovery as a public witness asking for US policy changes related to the way people with the disease of addiction are being treated in the United States. 

Thousands of us showed up to say we are no longer going to stand on the sidelines and watch those who suffer from addiction being treated with discrimination. We stood together in the hope of a future where the medical establishment would incorporate the incredible insights that have come forth from 12 step meetings on how best to treat addiction and combine it with the hundreds of ways recovery can be offered to the alcoholic who still suffers. We acknowledge openly that Bill W. had a spiritual experience in a hospital and we demand better medical care at the entry level but also better long term care that will follow the patient for as long as they need it.  We gathered in Washington DC to end the silence, to step out of the guilt and shame that plagues us when we are drinking and even when we are sober.

From the front stage with electric guitars pounding for 6 hours to the back row of a standing room only crowd gathered at the Washington monument in DC, the cries for change could be felt and heard. I met parents who marched with pictures of love ones lost to the disease and people carrying posters reading, “We Recover and WE Vote,” and “Incarceration is NOT treatment.”

The most important news was delivered by Vivek H. Murthy, Surgeon General of the United States who walked out on stage and delivered these words while pointing enthusiastically at the crowd, “I’m on your side,” then went on to announce that his office has completed a comprehensive report on drug addiction in America. It will be released in 2016. This historic moment was met with a standing ovation and cheers from the crowd. The significance of the SG’s report is as important as its publication on smoking in 2014. Dr. Murthy spoke passionately about his commitment to ending the stigma of the disease of addiction and to challenge the federal government to uphold the current healthcare laws that the insurance companies are disregarding.

The founders of United To Face Addiction (facingaddiction.org) made a special plea to all people in the United States who enjoy the benefits of long-term recovery to become more aware of the crisis we are facing as it relates to the treatment and incarceration of people who suffer from this disease. They spoke loud and clear that we must use our vote to help those who still suffer, especially as more and more people seek recovery.  

If 23 million people in the United States would vote for candidates that advocate for better insurance coverage and treatment instead of incarceration we would not only solve the massive crowding in prisons across the country, but people suffering from addiction would receive fair treatment options so they could be guided toward the incredible gifts of living a life of recovery. 
Ironically, the day the silence ended, October 4, 2015 was the Feast Day of St. Francis of Assisi, whose prayer has been suggested as the backbone of Step 11 for over 75 years. What I experienced in Washington DC on October 4, 2015 was surely a manifestation and promise of the prayer of St. Francis. It was a spiritual experience for me and countless others who weathered the storm to take a stand.  I have almost 27 years of sobriety, three beautiful daughters, and all of the blessings that have come from the hard work I got to do in the first half of my life. Even still, the march on Washington DC with UNITE to Face Addiction has given me a new vision and new passion for the sober life. 
Now, what is available to those of us in long term recovery who want to make a difference is not only the gifts of community that come from local meetings, sponsorship, and commitments on a local level, but a doorway to enter a bigger room with a bigger mission to end discrimination for people who suffer from our disease. 

We can and will make it possible for millions more to follow in our footsteps. I support ALL roads to recovery! I am UNITED to Face Addiction! I am a proud, anonymous member of AA, committed to the health and sustainability of Alcoholics Anonymous, but when I step out of the holy ground of those rooms, I am on fire as a person in long term recovery working, speaking, writing, and now advocating for those of us who still suffer. Why don’t you join us?

Jeffrey Bryan Grubert, was raised in the San Francisco Bay Area in the 1960”s and 70”s. He spent 30 years building a successful home entertainment company in Laguna Beach, CA. He voluntarily entered a treatment center for alcohol and drug addiction and has spent most of his life committed to practicing and teaching the art of living a sober life with the help of disciplines including the 12 steps, the Catholic faith, and Zen meditation. 

Effective Treatments for Long-Term Recovery From Addiction

by Elisabeth Davies
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, 24.6 million Americans used illicit drugs in 2013. One in 10 were dependent on alcohol. Approximately 65% of those who did not struggle with addiction, were negatively affected by a family member’s addiction.  Addiction is a chronic brain disease causing a person to pathologically pursue reward or relief by using a substance or behavior. Their inability to abstain causes destructive consequences to their mental, physical and spiritual health, relationships, finances and life success.  There is not a one treatment fits all remedy. A combination of treatments is the most effective recovery plan. The top nine treatments that have been shown to be effective include:

1. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy: Based on the idea a person’s thoughts cause their feelings and motivate their behaviors. Changing the way they think will change the way they feel, leading them to respond better, even if a situation does not change. In 2010 the National Institute of Health published a study showing approximately 60% of individuals diagnosed with a substance use disorder were able to remain abstinent for 52 weeks with Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

2. Recovery Support Groups: Based on people in the group supporting the common goal of abstinence from drugs and alcohol. Some recovery support groups include Alcoholics Anonymous or 12 step groups, SMART Recovery, Rational Recovery, Women for Sobriety, and Celebrate Recovery. These groups provide opportunities to build healthy alliances and accountability. Research professor Dr. Scott Tonigan at the Center on Alcoholism, Substance Abuse, and Addictions says, “Having a group dynamic involved in your support system, is a critical piece of long-term recovery.” 

3. Mindfulness: Teaches people with substance use disorders to create distance between their impulses and cravings, so they have a chance to change their behavior. Mindfulness is deliberately paying attention, non-judgmentally so they can be aware of what is present for them mentally and physically each moment. The National Center for Biotechnology Information published research in 2009 showing Mindfulness interrupts the tendency to respond using maladaptive behaviors such as unhealthy substances.

4. Meditation: We shut out the external world and bring our attention to the breath. Alpha brain wave activity increases creating a wakeful rest state. One of the techniques in meditation is to be able to allow thoughts, feelings and sensations to arise while maintaining a non-judgmental, detached attitude. This practice decreases the effect ‘using thoughts’ have that can make a person who struggles with addiction vulnerable to relapse. Dr. David Simon, author of Freedom from Addiction says, “Daily meditation decreases relapses.”

5. Nutrition/Exercise: Critical for biochemical balance in the body. Poor nutrition, stress, exposure to toxins and genetic vulnerabilities are the top four risk factors that usually result in compulsive substance use. Dr. Charles Gant, author of End Your Addiction Now, says, “Eating natural foods and exercising 30 minutes a day treats 3 of the 4 risk factors.” 

6. Body Work: Based on the belief that your emotional history is stored in your body. Therapeutic massage, Acupuncture, Reiki, Somatic Experiencing, and a Sensory Deprivation Chamber are all body treatments that help release stored emotional trauma and abuse. Dr. Pat Ogden, author of Trauma and the Body says, “Body work manipulates your body to help relieve the cravings and other symptoms associated with compulsive behaviors so that the person does not seek substances and compulsive behaviors to soothe uncomfortable emotions.”

7. Journaling: Develops a person’s creative, personal and emotional process. Journaling can be used as a written emotional expression to clear the mind, deepen self-reflection and gain more perspective. It allows a person struggling with addiction to track their recovery progress. Writing down distressing thoughts and experiences helps relieve negative emotions, rather than using substances or unhealthy behaviors to cope. The Journal of Substance Abuse Treatment published research in 1999 stating, “Clients who used journaling as a treatment reported lower values for craving intensity and a decrease in substance use.” 

8. Self- Respect: Pride and confidence in ones integrity, a feeling that they are behaving with honor and dignity. One symptom every person struggling with an addiction has in common is they do not unconditionally love themselves. Ways to build self-respect include, not being self-critical, not allowing other people to mistreat them, recognizing their individual talents and abilities, forgiving their mistakes, encouraging themselves to reach their goals. A persons choices are a direct reflection of the value they have for themselves. When a person respects the gift of life , they will make choices that do not destroy it.

9. Spirituality: Increasing the qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. This can be done by asking Spirit -Creator of all life to fill them with spiritual qualities, using their breath and intention to focus on expanding spiritual qualities within them, and consciously practicing spiritual responses in their daily life. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse, spirituality focused addiction treatment programs have resulted in up to 10 percent greater abstinence rates than non-spiritual forms of treatment. 

When people with an addiction make a commitment to stop using unhealthy substances and behaviors, combining these nine effective treatments will support them in long-term recovery. Treatment and sobriety will enhance their mental, physical and spiritual health, their relationships and their ability to have a successful life.

Elisabeth Davies, MC, holds a master’s degree in counseling and has been acounselor since 1989. Her private practice, Bright Alternatives, Inc. is located in Peoria, AZ. She concounsels people in managing addiction, anxiety, depression, low self-esteem, trauma, abuse, and relationship problems.Elisabeth is the author of Good Things Emotional Healing Journal: Addiction. (602) 867-6988 or Elisabeth@ElisabethDavies.com www.ElisabethDavies.com

Is Your Addict Child Making You Crazy? 5 Ways Al-Anon Can Help

Shame and isolation are two unwelcome companions in the daily lives of parents of young addicts. There’s the shame of having a child who is heading for “jail, not Yale.” There’s the shame of having intensely negative feelings about the child you love. And there’s the shame of descending into dysfunctional parenting: enabling, screaming, lecturing, threatening and seething with resentment 24/7.

This abundance of shame tends to isolate parents. After all, what kind of parent wants to admit that their child is making them crazy? Or that they hate the kind of parent they’ve become?
Well-meaning friends offer parenting advice that would never work for a child who doesn’t recognize or care about consequences. And because your friends have never been pushed to the brink by a child with out-of-control behavior — such as lying, stealing, punching holes in walls, getting arrested and being put on psychiatric holds — you’re probably not comfortable telling them that you often feel you’re losing your mind.

Walking alone in shame can have a terrible effect on your mental and physical health. And if you’re feeling desperate and out of control, you’re going to have a hard time helping your child — not to mention doing your job and focusing on the other relationships in your life.

Here are five ways the Al-Anon program can help you regain your sanity and start to enjoy life again:


Lack of judgment. Where else can you stand up in front of a room full of people and say you’re relieved your kid spent the weekend in jail because it bought you a few days of peace? And no one bats an eye? It’s a relief to be able to speak freely and know that no one will judge you, your kid or your parenting.

Validation. Newcomers often hear “you’ve come to the right place.” No matter how bad you think your story is, every Al-Anon member has a similar story, or one that’s even worse. Only people who’ve walked in your shoes can understand the level of fear, desperation and anger common to parents of addicts and out-of-control teens. The empathy and support you gain from a room of your peers can go a long way to divesting you of shame and making you realize you’re not alone.

Boundary-setting. Most parents of young addicts have trouble setting boundaries. They resort to inconsistent parenting, veering from enabling to empty threats. Al-Anon meetings are a great place to learn effective limit-setting techniques from more established members.
Get your life back. You’ve come to Al-Anon because your life revolves around managing the chaos in your home. You spend so much energy putting out fires — confiscating drugs and weapons, calling 911, locking up your valuables, and more — that you’ve neglected your marriage, your other children, and you’ve forgotten how to have fun. Working the Al-Anon program can help you accept that you can’t control the addict and learn to disengage from your worries about his or her outcome.

Have a sense of humor. Living with an active addict, or worrying about one who’s living on the street, is emotionally wrenching. When was the last time you laughed or felt that it was OK to laugh along with your heartache? You’ll hear a lot of laughter in Al-Anon meetings. Members will assure you that nothing productive is gained by walking around with a dark cloud over your head. Having a sense of humor about the absurdity of it all can lift your spirits and give you the stamina to face what’s coming your way.

Going to a 12-step program such as Al-Anon can give you the support you need to regain a sense of control over the most important person in your life: yourself. 
(Reprinted with permisson Elements Behavioral Health.)

The River Source launches Women-Only Residential Program

One of Arizona’s leading drug and alcohol addiction recovery centers, The River Source, has announced the opening of an all-new residential treatment program that specifically caters to women. The new rehab program is located in downtown Mesa, the third-largest city in Arizona.
“We’re excited to offer our unique model of healing to an exclusively female audience,” said The River Source CEO Phill Westbrooks. “Studies show women are more likely to complete a treatment program within a single-gender environment. This program will allow us to provide some services not available at our co-ed adult residential facility in Arizona City.”
In addition to integrative medical detox and holistic therapy services, the program for women 18 years and up will include accommodations for pregnant mothers, as well as couples treatment and family therapy sessions.

The women-only treatment center features such amenities as a yoga ramada, dry sauna, basketball hoop, outdoor fire pit, lounge area with television, quiet seating areas, and beautiful desert landscaping.
“We chose the Mesa location because of its year-round warm weather, sunny skies and great views of the nearby mountains,” Westbrooks said. “Hiking excursions will be offered as part of our holistic therapy services, since exercise is a key component of healing and recovery.”

The River Source accepts patients from all over the nation, offering customized recovery plans and treatment for co-occurring disorders. Located 20 minutes from Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport, the center will house clients for up to 90 days. The River Source also offers a recovery guarantee and full continuum of care, if any patient completes a 90-day program and relapses within one year. They can return for additional treatment free of charge.  

Founded in 2003, The River Source also offers a co-ed addiction treatment at their residential treatment facility in Arizona City and co-ed intensive outpatient program at their outpatient facility near downtown Mesa. Learn more: www.theriversource.org or call 888-687-7332.

The Koans of Yogi Berra

By Coach Cary Bayer  


In the Japanese tradition, mind-blowing koans were used by Zen roshis to help liberate their students. In the American baseball tradition mind-blowing koans came from a yogi, the great yogi known as Berra. Leave it to a mind-mystifying Missouri-born/New York Yankee/Italian American Catholic with a Hindu yogi-sounding name who invoked Japanese Zen koans to die recently on Yom Kippur, the highest holy day in the Jewish calendar.  He was always outside the box.
The most famous koan—“What is the sound of one hand clapping? — like all others has no rational answer. They were designed to confound the mind, to snap it, as it were, into a higher realm of Being. 

Socrates said that, “You have to lose your mind to come to your senses.” Yogi Berra seemed to sense this when he spoke about the mind, saying: “Ninety percent of the game is half mental." His math certainly has us scratching our heads.

While his famous Yogi-isms sometimes make us lose our minds, he certainly helped the Yankees win. His 10 World Series rings are the most of any player in major league baseball history. From 1950-1956, he finished fourth or higher in the balloting for MVP in the American League. Three times he was named the A.L.’s most valuable player, but many times over, he’s been named the English language’s most valuable slayer.

Malapropos or Maya Busters?

On one level, Yogi was clearly a master of malapropos, a niche he shared with the daffy Gracie Allen and the zany Chico Marx. But perhaps he was baseball’s master of Maya busting, as well. Maya is the Sanskrit term for the illusion of the human condition —our higher nature asleep and somehow thinking we’re smaller than we are, like an amnesiac king who behaves like a beggar. While we laugh at the absurdity of Yogi’s malapropos, some of them aren’t so crazy after all.

The Journey

Yogis help their students on their spiritual journeys. So, it’s not surprising that this Yogi would say a few things about the nature of the journey, as well. To wit: “You've got to be very careful if you don't know where you're going, because you might not get there." Or: "If you don't know where you are going, you will wind up somewhere else." 
On the journey there are often important decisions to be made, so "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." And if you do take that fork, you feel secure that you’re moving swiftly along, but when a fellow traveler told Yogi that it seemed as if they were lost, Yogi replied: "Yeah, but we're making great time!"  It’s hard to argue with that. He also discourages the use of certain provisions for the journey. "Why buy good luggage?” he asked. “You only use it when you travel.”

The Now and the Future

Eckhart Tolle wrote about the power of now, but to Yogi the Now isn’t the Now everyone sees. When asked what time it was, his response was unforgettable: “You mean now?” He could be as obtuse about the future as he was about the present: “The future ain’t what it used to be.” It’s hard to argue with that kind of wisdom.

Death

Any true yogi, who can be mystifying about life, can also be mystifying about death. The Yogi Berra was no exception: "You should always go to other people's funerals; otherwise, they won't go to yours," he advised. It makes good sense. He must have even confounded the Angel of Death as he, no doubt, confounded his wife Carmen when she asked him about burial plans if he should die before her, saying, "Yogi, you are from St. Louis, we live in New Jersey, and you played ball in New York. If you go before I do, where would you like me to have you buried?" Yogi replied, "Surprise me."  
It’s possible that as much as he blew the minds of the living, he might even blow the minds of the dead who he meets up with in the afterlife. Especially if you consider this famous Yogi-ism: “Are you dead yet?” This Lawrence Peter Berra may soon have St. Peter scratching his halo.