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Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Humbled and Exalted

Would you mop the floor of someone who defeated you? Probably not. Yet there might be gold in such an experience.

Akoni Pule was elected to the Hawaii State House of Representatives in 1947. He served for two years and then he was defeated for re-election. Then Mr. Pule did something hardly anyone would do. He took a job as a janitor in the congress building so he could continue to be in the energy of politics and learn more about how the legislature worked. It must have been very humbling for Mr. Pule to mop the floor behind the man who defeated him.

Two years later Pule ran for election again, he was elected, and he went on to serve continuously from 1952 until 1965—one of the longest runs in the history of Hawaii. During that time he championed highway construction, a thriving seaport, and progressed the state such that he became a beloved congressman. After a ten-year effort to build a road that allowed local residents to get to jobs at a new hotel, the highway was named after him.

The Bible tells us, “He who humbles himself shall be exalted.” When you feel disappointed or hurt, it’s tempting to get on a soapbox of ego. Yet if we can trust that somehow the tide of events is moving in our favor, we are often led to higher ground.

When I was looking for a business manager, I narrowed the field of candidates to two, one a fellow who was new to the industry and another who had more experience. When I hired the more experienced applicant, the other fellow was disappointed, but he told me that if I had any projects for him, he would be happy to work on them. I gave him one project. After a few months I found the new manager’s motivation lacking, and he did such a poor job that the business was faltering. It was clear that I needed to let him go. The other fellow had done a great job on his one project, so I hired him to take over the business. He did an excellent job and we worked together for seven years, during which the business prospered.

In the Talmud we are told, “He who seeks reputation shall lose it. He who does not seek reputation shall gain it.” The alternative to seeking reputation is to seek to help people. Albert Schweitzer said, “The only ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought and found how to serve.”

When things appear to be going wrong, they may be part of a bigger picture that is going right. The ego judges by individual incidents. The spirit is more interested in themes and energy. A friend of mine used to sell cars. One day a big deal fell through and he got depressed. “Don’t worry about it,” the boss told him. “It’s all in the averages.” The record books never show the score at halftime.

The fascinating documentary, Kings of Pastry, showcases an exclusive contest in France held once every four years. Talented chefs came to compete for a coveted title as Master Pastry Chef, bestowed only upon a few. One chef, Philippe, prepared for months to create a complex pastry sculpture, a towering jaw-dropping work of art. Just to look at it was inspiring! As Philippe delicately placed his piece de r├ęsistance on the judges’ table, a piece at the bottom broke off and the entire sculpture crumbled to the floor, into a thousand pieces. 

What a gut-wrenching loss for this chef who had put his heart and soul into the project! In the wake of such catastrophe, there was no way he would win the title. The man broke into tears, along with the previously stone-faced judges. It was a disastrous moment. 
But instead of dropping out, Chef Philippe went back to the kitchen and fashioned a very modest replacement, nothing like the original. He submitted it not for the quality of the piece, but for the sake of dignity.

At the end of the contest five of the sixteen applicants were awarded the coveted title. To my amazement, Chef Philippe was among them. I believe he won because the judges evaluated him not on the basis of the one piece that fell apart, but because they had observed him in the process of creating it and they saw it before it hit the floor. They judged him on his overall talent rather than one presentation.

We all have experiences that are humbling, as well as those that are exalting. If we seek praise, we shall crash. If we seek talent, integrity, and service, we shall soar. Even if you do not have a highway named after you or you do not get the coveted title, your soul will be satisfied and you will be at peace with yourself. Life asks no more of you than this.

Alan Cohen is the author of many inspirational books. Join Alan’s Life Coach Training Program, beginning September 1, to become a professional life coach or incorporate life coaching skills in your career or personal life. For more information about this program, Alan’s Hawaii Retreat, books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com.

Out of My Mind

Most of us are going out of our minds, meaning we operate and guide our daily lives from that part of who we are. 

There are a couple of problems with doing that. The first one is, it’s a bit like looking at the world through a straw. It leaves us very limited in our perception because we are not seeing all that is available to us in order to make the best possible decisions. In addition, we are missing some very important tools available to us. Another problem is we have difficulty distinguishing between our mind, our soul and our spirit.

To help us understand a bit better, imagine a huge telephone cable with three large cables inside. The whole cable is one unit however, it contain three other cables with distinctly different jobs called mind, soul and spirit. 

Our mind is that part of us that deals with business as usual in our day-to-day process. We learn, we work, we apply new awareness and we seek new information in order to run our lives efficiently. It holds our human fear and the human joy we experience.

The mind is also where the ego resides and its job is not only to push us toward achievements but also to protect us. So, it may often tell us things such as… “Don’t try out for that job; you’ll never get it.” Or, it might say, “you better watch out, your wife is cheating, or you really looked like a klutz in that meeting. Next time keep you mouth shut.” 

When your ego says things like that to you, it is trying to protect you from the humiliation or pain you may have experienced as a child. Its worries are seldom true and are mostly from the past. So the best thing you can do is imagine those voices to be in the back seat of the car you are driving through life and just turn around and tell them to settle down because you’ve got this!

Your soul is that part of you that contains all of your life experiences from incarnation after incarnation. It has eons of experience and knowledge and when you are in touch with it you are wiser. Those feelings of deja vu, or I have been here or done this before come from your soul experiences. It is the accumulation of all that you are and all you have learned.

Your Spirit is that part of you that is connected to the creative energy or Divine Mind in the Universe. In much the same way a drop of water is part of the ocean, we are part of that energy and we have access to all that it is and knows when we are consciously connected to it. It is essentially light and truth. When we think of good and evil, what we are really experiencing is either an alignment with that source or being out of alignment. Evil is literally translated missing the mark or operating out of alignment with the creative processor Spirit. As we awaken to all of our potential, we are better able to embrace the power of bringing all these aspects of ourselves to the process of creating our lives and manifesting joy.

So lets play with this process a bit. Lets say you are awake, using all parts of your mind, soul and spirit, and suddenly you believe Mr. or Miss Right just walked through the door. You are instantly smitten! Mind says Va Va Voom! Get up and go for it!

Soul says …Wait a minute take your time. She’s feeling awfully familiar. Are we repeating a pattern from the past? 

And spirit says… Okay, You deserve a relationship and are ready for it. Let’s get to know her and find out if she is someone who can support you in being your highest and best self without all those side trips into drama and chaos.

The point, of course, is that when you are using all the parts of who you are to make decisions, the chance that you will make successful, self-loving choices that are aligned with your purpose is greatly increased. Therefore, I invite you to go out of your mind. Have a sit down with your soul and spirit and make your decisions from a place that is balanced with all three. 

What you discover will be amazing…because you are.
 

NEWS

Putting Alcohol Ignition Interlocks in New Cars Could Prevent Many Deaths


If all new cars had devices that prevent drunk drivers from starting the engine, an estimated 85 percent of alcohol-related deaths could be prevented in the United States, a new study concludes.
The devices, called alcohol ignition interlocks, could prevent more than 59,000 crash fatalities and more than 1.25 million non-fatal injuries, according to the University of Michigan researchers.
The findings appear in the American Journal of Public Health.

“Alcohol interlocks are used very effectively in all 50 states as a component of sentencing or as a condition for having a license reinstated after DUIs, but this only works for the drunk drivers caught by police and it doesn’t catch the people who choose to drive without a license to avoid having the interlock installed,” said lead author Dr. Patrick Carter.

He said most drunk drivers make about 80 trips under the influence of alcohol before they are stopped for a DUI. “If we decided that every new car should have an alcohol ignition interlock that’s seamless to use for the driver and doesn’t take any time or effort, we suddenly have a way to significantly reduce fatalities and injuries that doesn’t rely solely on police,” he told Reuters.

The study assumed it would take 15 years for older cars to be replaced with new vehicles that required interlock devices, which detect blood-alcohol levels. The devices prevent drivers above a certain threshold from starting the vehicle.
While all age groups would suffer fewer deaths and injuries if they used the interlock devices, the youngest drivers would benefit the most, the study found. Among drivers ages 21 to 29 years, 481,000 deaths and injuries could be prevented. Among drivers under 21, almost 195,000 deaths and injuries could be avoided.

“It is often difficult to penetrate these age groups with effective public health interventions and policies to prevent drinking and driving,” Carter said.

Big Increase in Marijuana Potency Since 1980s, Colorado Lab Finds

Marijuana being grown today is much more potent than marijuana grown 20 or 30 years ago, according to a study by a Colorado-based lab.
“I would say the average potency of marijuana has probably increased by a factor of at least three. 

We’re looking at average potencies right now of around 20 percent THC,” said Charas Scientific lab founder Andy LaFrate, PhD. He presented his findings this week at the annual meeting of the American Chemical Society.

THC is the psychoactive compound in marijuana that produces the feeling of being high.
“As far as potency goes, it’s been surprising how strong a lot of the marijuana is,” said LaFrate. “We’ve seen potency values close to 30 percent THC, which is huge.”

Federal officials say THC levels in marijuana averaged 4 percent in the 1980s, CBS News reports.

Current THC levels found by Charas exceed those reported by federal officials. In 2012, the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA) said marijuana confiscated by polices agencies nationwide had THC levels that averaged about 15 percent.
NIDA notes that increases in potency may account for the rise in emergency department visits involving marijuana use. “For frequent users, it may mean a greater risk for addiction if they are exposing themselves to high doses on a regular basis. However, the full range of consequences associated with marijuana’s higher potency is not well understood,” NIDA notes on its website.

Many samples tested by Charas had little or no cannabidiol, a compound in marijuana many researchers believe has potential medical uses, the article notes.
The lab also found contaminants in many marijuana samples, such as fungus, bacteria or traces of heavy metals. Contamination testing is required in Washington state, but not in Colorado. Both states have legalized the recreational use of marijuana.

Dedicated to Bill

Dedicated to Bill

It’s hard to believe this month marks the 5th year since the passing of not only my husband, but the founder of this newspaper, Bill Brown. 
Bill volunteering for Crystal Darkness

While the last five years have been quite a ride without him by my side — my journey of recovery has deepened and dedication to this paper has never wavered.

Bill started this paper when he was a year and a half sober. His vision was to reach our community, providing resourceful information to help others realize life can be quite magnificent without the shackles of drugs or alcohol that drags many of us into the darkness.

Nothing was more important to him than helping someone. I wonder how many times he handed out his phone number or a big Book. Being of service was his mission. I know for a fact — he never said No when asked to be of assistance. 

Am I making it sound like he walked on water? 

Oh, he had his quirks and faults, like all of us — but there was always a beaming ray of hope emanating from his twinkling eyes and the combination of his kind and open heart, and openness to share his own story.

Nothing came before his sobriety or his Higher Power. 


Nothing. Not his work, his son, me, or his golf game!

Every day for Bill started with meditation and prayer. I still have his stack of morning reading books by my bedside. Most pages are highlighted in yellow with notes and scribbles I still can’t decipher. The binding on his Big Book is tattered — and many of the pages are hanging on by barely a thread. Yet when I hold that book, there is always a sense of peace surrounding me.

Even though Bill is no longer physically with us, his spirit and love live on — there is nothing better for an addict or alcoholic in recovery than trudging this path together. 

Best,
Barbara


Sunday, March 1, 2015

You Can’t Beat the House

By Bobbe McGinley, MA, MBA, LISAC, NCGC II, CADAC


Virtually every major culture that exists in recorded history exhibited some manifestation of gambling. Whether it was ancient card games in China or dice-based gambling in the Roman Empire, gambling has been around for a long time. In many ancient cultures gambling was seen as a reasonable method of bloodless conflict resolution. A legend exists that around the year 1000 A.D. the King of Norway and King of Sweden peacefully settled a territorial dispute based on a few rolls of dice.

Fast forward to today, as the theme this year for the National Council on Compulsive Gambling in Washington, D.C. is “Problem Gambling: Have the Conversation,” and that is my intention here.
For many people gambling is a simple form of entertainment, to others — it becomes an uncontrollable behavior. It can start so innocently. You had a little bet on the big game and lost, or overspent a little on the horses. So, you tell yourself, “So what, I won’t do it next time.” But the fact is, for some what starts out as a harmless dabble, quickly grows into an obsession.


Many terms are used to describe a person with a problem from pathological gambler, gambling addict, compulsive gambler, to problem gambler. All these words can describe anyone when gambling becomes more than an innocent diversion.

‘Problem gambling’ will be used in this article as an umbrella term to describe a situation where gambling disrupts one’s life, but the extent of the disruption is not defined. Problem gambling includes pathological gambling, which is a more severe condition and has a specific medical meaning.

Pathological Gambling Defined

Pathological gambling is recognized as a medical disorder by the American Psychiatric Association and has elements of addiction similar to alcohol and drug addiction. It describes a gambler who loses control over this behavior with damaging personal, social and financial effects. Very often, the pathological gambler suffers from legal problems. Because they are losing control it has been referred to by mental health practitioners as an impulse disorder. Pathological gambling is a progressive disease, meaning the symptoms will get worse over time. Mental health professionals see it as a complex disease often in conjunction with other disorders including depression and chemical dependency.

Mick, Sarah and Ian know what it’s like to lose control. They all reached the point when gambling ruined their lives. They know what it’s like to lose everything, from family and friends, to money, possessions, dignity and self-esteem. Ian says an addiction to gambling is like an allergy. “For people who may be allergic to bees, they won’t go sitting near a beehive, I’m allergic to gambling.”

Lives Destroyed

Graphic stories exist of lives destroyed by pathological gambling, and the media readily tells the tales. Examples like these:


  • A 40 year old Illinois woman gambled away her family’s savings and her wedding ring on a riverboat casino. When she found out the sheriff was on his way to evict her and her family for missing 17 consecutive mortgage payments, she drove to a mall parking lot and shot herself. She left a husband who did not know she gambled, let alone had a gambling problem.
  • A young man killed himself after running up a huge gambling loss. He left a suicide note which simply read, “I’m out of control.” He was 19 years old.
  • An Asian immigrant fatally shot two friends and later committed suicide. He was despondent over his gambling debts and owed as much as $200,000.
  • A bank robbery occurred in San Jose, CA. The robber was found within a couple of hours waiting for a seat at the gaming tables inside a club.
  • In Oregon, a County Commissioner was recalled after pleading guilty to embezzling county funds to fuel his compulsive gambling.


Tragic examples such as these receive an enormous amount of publicity and are often used by anti-gambling groups to fight the spread of legalized gambling. Industry observers credit attention from these stories as blocking laws that would have relaxed betting limit regulations in some states.

Describing the behavior is simpler than explaining why the gambler persists in such damaging behavior. There are several models used to describe the problem gambler. Mental health professionals prefer the term “pathological gambling” because it stresses the disease aspect of the issue. Pathological gambling is a progressive and chronic disorder that is clearly distinguished from social gambling.
Psychiatrist Richard J. Rosenthal, who wrote the official medical definition, defined it as: “a progressive disorder characterized by a continuous or periodic loss of control over gambling; a preoccupation with gambling and with obtaining money with which to gamble; irrational thinking; and a continuation of the behavior despite adverse consequences.”
The results can be quite devastating. The disorder is incapacitating.

Most pathological gamblers are unable to maintain solvency or provide basic support for themselves or family. When their borrowing resources are strained, they may resort to antisocial behavior to obtain money — theft, embezzlement, fraud and other crimes. In Omaha, a Catholic nun was accused of taking more than $250,000 from the Archdiocese and gambling it away. She was sentenced to 20 years in prison. A significant percentage of pathological gamblers also have a second addiction to drugs or alcohol.

In recent years the definition of pathological gambling has undergone major changes. At first, the emphasis was on the damage and disruption caused by the disease and the motive was of little importance. Subsequent versions have changed this description and revised the criteria for pathological gambling, emphasizing the addictive nature of the disease. It mentions tolerance and withdrawal, suggesting a physiological basis for the disorder. In the case of the pathological gambler, tolerance refers to the increasing need for gambling and usually gambling with greater risks to the same emotional effect. Those who have chemical dependency, withdrawal refers to the pain and discomfort associated with not practicing the behavior.

According to the (The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) DSM-5, persistent and recurrent problematic gambling behavior leading to clinically significant impairment or distress, is indicated by someone exhibiting four (or more) of the following in a 12-month period:
Needs to gamble with increasing amounts of money in order to achieve excitement.
Is restless or irritable when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
Has made repeated unsuccessful efforts to control, cut back, or stop.
Is often preoccupied with gambling (e.g., having persistent thoughts of reliving past gambling experiences, handicapping or planning the next venture, thinking of ways to get money with which to gamble).

Often gambles when feeling distressed (e.g., helpless, guilty, anxious, depressed).

  • After losing money gambling, often returns another day to get even (“chasing” one’s losses).
  • Lies to conceal the extent of involvement with gambling.
  • Has jeopardized or lost a significant relationship, job, educational or career opportunity because of gambling.
  • Relies on others to provide money to relieve desperate financial situation caused by gambling.


Researchers consider pathological gambling an invisible problem with symptoms hard to distinguish from non-pathological gambling. This contrasts with drug or alcohol addiction where there are obvious symptoms of intoxication. Research has also shown there are factors that increase the risk of being a pathological gambler. Pathological gamblers show a greater proportion of:

  • males,
  • children of pathological gamblers,
  • people with the attitude that money causes and is also the solution to their problems,
  • individuals with a poor education,
  • single people, and
  • individual’s whose household income is below the mean.


These findings are from prevalence surveys, NOT from studies of who is in treatment. White middle-aged males are the pathological gamblers most likely to seek help.

Researchers have been less successful in determining what causes problem gambling and what the differences are between problem and normal gamblers. There are many people who have a variety of risk factors but don’t become problem gamblers. Studies show there is one to five percent incidence of problem gambling in the adult population. Studies usually show the following results:
Over their lifetime, about 1 to 5 percent of the population are problem gamblers. This includes individuals currently experiencing problems as those who may have experienced problems in the past.

Subsets of problem gamblers, a group that may be as large as one to three percent of the total population, are pathological gamblers. This figure is the most recent encyclopedia of mental illnesses, but there remains some dispute over the actual level.

These incidence figures are surveys for the adult population as a whole. The rate of compulsive gambling among teens may be higher, reaching seven to eleven percent.
Mental health professionals who treat pathological gamblers tend to believe legalization leads to increased compulsive gambling. The DSM specifically notes that the onset of pathological gambling can result from greater exposure to gambling.

Counselors form this belief based on their experience and the nature of addiction. They tend to hold the view that some people may be predisposed to an addiction. If a person were predisposed to have a drinking problem, but never came into contact with alcohol, they would not become an alcoholic. The pathology of their predisposing factors may still cause some damage to themselves or others. They might also be some other kind of addict, but not alcoholic. In the same way, a person with a predisposition to problem gambling may not see it manifested until access to gambling becomes available. Another element of this is legalization leads to greater acceptance of gambling and greater exposure for the average person.

This behavioral pattern occurs because pathological gambling is a problem of impulse control. The more accessible gambling is, the harder it is to maintain the control. Despite the logic of this line of reasoning, there are no prevalence studies that prove the notion that expanded gambling will lead to increased problem gambling.

Video and Slot Machines

Another theory of problem gambling counselors is that electronic games such as slots and video lottery terminals are especially addictive. They refer to these as the “crack cocaine of gambling,” because of the low cost per wager and their rapid play. This connection is disputed. Those disagreeing will point to survey results from South Dakota. The amount of video lottery sales in the state increased, but prevalence of gambling problems remained unchanged.
Regardless of any possible links, legal gambling probably cannot be blamed for all pathological gambling. Research in Texas before the lottery began operating showed a small percentage of Texas had gambling. In Louisiana, a recent study showed a very high rate of gambling problems and problem gamblers tended to spend more than those in other states. Louisiana has a great deal of accessible legal gambling.

If gambling were prohibited, would probably gambling stop?
Probably not. During Prohibition, did drinking alcohol stop?

According to Keith Whyte, executive director of the National Council on Problem Gambling, “Problem gambling is going to exist despite the availability of legalized gambling or the lack thereof. Many problem and compulsive gamblers have problems with sports betting which is predominantly illegal in this country.

With so many different types of gambling opportunities, the course of the disease can be broken into two types:


  • The Escape/Relief Gambler: This is the gambler who prefers slot machines, bingo, and lotteries. They are often female and are married to men who are addicts of some kind. They tend to be depressed and use gambling to numb themselves.
  • The Action Gambler: They prefer cards, dice, racing, sports, and stocks or commodities. They are competitive and concerned about status and see themselves exercising skill in their gambling. They are more likely to be male and gamble for much longer before seeking treatment than the escape gambler.


Historically, problem gambling was regarded as an individual failing rather than as a medical or social problem. As such, little treatment was available. The original treatment for problem gamblers was Gamblers Anonymous. It is also known by GA. GA was established in 1957 and until the 1970’s, it was the only program in the U.S. for problem gamblers. The program of Gambler’s Anonymous is based upon Alcoholics Anonymous. AA is a spiritual program that uses twelve steps as a guide to help program participants recover from alcoholism and its effects. GA uses the same basic twelve steps for treating uncontrolled gambling. The program is supported entirely by member contributions. The only requirement for membership is a desire to stop gambling.

Getting Support

Like alcoholics, GA members attend meetings and talk of their experiences. GA members believe that they cannot control their gambling and must abstain. They learn to avoid gambling establishments and also learn that gambling won’t solve their problems. For the problem gambler, the fellowship of GA represents a source of comfort, friendship, and social activities rather than turning to gambling.

The National Council on Compulsive Gambling was founded in 1972. The first inpatient treatment program for compulsive gambling was established at the Veterans Administration Hospital in Ohio that same year. There are a number of treatment programs for compulsive gambling and ACT-Counseling & Education was the first in Arizona to provide treatment for gamblers with a contract established by state legislatures in response to concerns voiced by the opponents of legalized gambling.

Treatment consists of 12-step programs, behavioral modification and counseling, including individual, group, and family therapy. Yet, treatment is complicated by the nature of the disease.
Addicts are in denial of their disease and they cannot be relied upon to accurately report their condition. Many GA members were in therapy prior to joining GA, usually for depression, anxiety, and marital conflict, but their gambling problem was not admitted, recognized or discussed. Employers can be a valuable tool in requiring an employee to receive treatment. But because gambling is a disease that involves loss of control over money, any pathological gambler who is handling money is especially reluctant to let their employer know they have a problem.

The Costs of Treatment

Another complicating factor is pathological gamblers often don’t have insurance to cover treatment. Many are having financial and employment problems so they don’t have health insurance. If they have insurance it may cover alcohol or drug treatment but only — rarely gambling. If a gambler is not aware of what their state may offer for prevention, education and treatment, they take that much longer before seeking any type of help or treatment for themselves or family members.
Pathological gamblers can be quite successfully treated, if they have a desire to learn to do something different, especially when the treatment is combined with GA.

Never Give Up Hope

Unlike alcohol, drug or nicotine addictions, gambling is tolerated, even encouraged by society and the government, who depend on its revenue. “Our society promotes gambling; it just seems like every thing today is a gamble, and it is minimized so easily,” said recovering gambler, Jane. “But it is such a contradiction because an addiction is an addiction is an addiction.”
Jane has been involved in Gamblers Anonymous since she hit a painful financial bottom in 2003. “It’s been the demise of a lot of people. I’ve come across people who have committed suicide or gone to prison,” she said. The devastation is huge. I had a great career, home, wonderful husband and three children. I begged, borrowed and stole to feed my addiction to slot machines. Sure there were times that I won but even when I did, it didn’t stop me from playing the machines more and more. I rarely left a casino with anything in my wallet.
She continues to make progress with her recovery thanks to the support of her therapist and involvement in GA. “The cure, in my life, is GA,” she said. I will always get the occasional trigger, but I also understand I have to make a choice.”

If you or someone you know needs help contact, National Problem Gambling Helpline, 1-800-522-4700, AZ Office of Problem Gambling 1-800-NEXT STEP, (1-800-639-8783) or ACT Counseling & Education, 602-569-4328.

Bobbe McGinley has worked in the field of Chemical Dependency for 27 years, and with Problem and Compulsive Gamblers and their families since being certified by the Arizona Council on Compulsive Gambling, Inc. and is Nationally Certified. She is founder of ACT-Counseling & Education, a licensed out-patient program with three Valley offices. She is contracted with the Department of Gaming, Office of Problem Gambling to provide services for problem gamblers, their families and provides training for professionals. She is a National Speaker and known expert and consultant on Problem Gambling. 

In addition, she co-founded PITCH4KIDZ, a non-profit organization providing positive interventions targeting communication and healing for children ages 6-12, of alcoholic and drug addict parents/care givers, and is Executive Director of Recovery in the Pines and Recovery in the Desert, Christian extended care facilities for men and women. For more information visit www.actcounseling.com or call 602-569-4328

CALL TO ACTION

Arizona Recovery Housing Association urges you to call your Representative in opposition to HB 2563


Update: AzRHA and NARA are working together with other stakeholders at the legislature to find a resolution to concerns regarding Prescott and HB2563. We feel confident that the commitment of our associations to offer a self regulated industry that works with our communities and provides an important service with best practices in mind will be highlighted through this stakeholder process. We look forward to finding a solution that works for Prescott and the providers. “

A bill before the AZ Legislature — HB 2563 is attempting to require non-medical recovery housing providers (sober living) to become licensed under ADBHS. If you are a sober living house and want to operate you would need to meet the criteria which a licensed facility must pass. This goes against everything AzRHA has worked at for so long. It violates Federal Fair Housing Law because addicts and alcoholics are a protected class— this bill unfairly targets them.

What Can You Do? 

We must act and let our representatives know how we will be adversely impacted, how our business will not be able to operate if this bill passes, and how many thousands of Arizonans will likely become homeless if we can’t provide our services. 
You will need to call your representative in the House for your legislative district and call the committee members debating this bill. Everyone should do this — operators, stakeholders, alumni, anyone who has been helped by sober living. You have a voice and it must be heard to make a difference. 
 

Talking Points

Community based recovery homes are not medical service providers, they provide a safe, clean living environment for people in recovery. They are the bridge between medical substance abuse services and community living that creates long-term recovery, which transforms addicts and alcoholics that require extra support into productive, contributing members of society.
ADBHS licensure regulates organizations provide healthcare services such as hospitals, residential substance abuse treatment facilities.
Recovery housing providers do not provide mental or physical healthcare services and should not be held to the standards of healthcare organizations.
Recovery homes are classified as “Group Homes for the Handicapped” under the Federal Fair Housing Act. State law cannot usurp Federal Law.
Non-medical recovery housing providers do not have the human or financial capital to support being held to healthcare standards and paying licensing fees. They will be driven out of business if this legislation passes, creating hundreds of homeless individuals. Non-medical recovery housing providers are subject to their city’s zoning ordinances and rules.

AzRHA member programs receive certification annually upon passing AzRHA inspection, which certifies them as a quality recovery housing provider. www.myazrha.org.

What We Hold

By Dr. Marlo Archer

I can keep a secret — a lot of secrets. I can, and do, and have, kept hundreds of thousands of secrets over the course of my career. 
I have not told parents their teens are sexually active, or gay. Or that they’ve tried alcohol or marijuana. I have not told the single male 4:00 p.m. client the 5:00 p.m. female client his age is also single and shares his love of Country Music and Great Danes. 

I have made sure that one Tempe Police officer doesn’t pass another in my waiting room by strategically not offering them adjacent appointments. I have not told the father of a 19 year-old that his son was no longer attending appointments, even after the father shared he had been giving his son money weekly to do so. I don’t leave voice mail messages on people’s phones or send mail to their homes without their permission. 

I don’t use people’s names in the waiting room when others are there. I haven’t told a single soul about the celebrities to whom I have provided services. I don’t tell husbands and wives that their partners are contemplating divorce. I cannot share when I have a client who wins a sporting event or gets elected to office. I cannot tell my cousin that I’m seeing a client whose first name is my cousin’s father’s name and whose last name is my cousin’s mother’s name. I am seeing a client I am certain is the sister of another one of my clients although neither has mentioned it, so I believe they each picked me independently and don’t know the other one sees me and they may not have even told each other they’re seeing a therapist at all. 

I don’t tell anyone you were raped several times as a teen when you were drunk at a party. I don’t tell anyone you went through the drive-through after dinner last night and ate a whole second dinner. I don’t tell anyone that you fantasize about your old girlfriend while you make love to your wife because your wife has gotten so overweight you no longer find her attractive, but you love her and would never leave her.

I Hold This 

I hold this for you. I hold this so you can heal from your wounds and do the difficult work therapy requires without fearing for your privacy. Every therapist holds all of this for their clients. We are bound to confidentiality or we will lose our license to practice. We take the vow very seriously.
That said, I sometimes want to talk to someone about “my day.” It used to be the case I could come home and tell my husband when I had a rough day without violating anyone’s privacy. To simply tell him that I’d had a rough day doesn’t give him any client information. 
I also became expert at telling him only the parts that mattered to me, without linking them in any recognizable way to a client. For example, I might tell him a client came in and told me that they had been contacted on Facebook by an old flame and the client didn’t tell their spouse and I am worried they might be thinking about cheating on their spouse. Without even stating the client’s gender or the gender of the old romance or the gender of the spouse, my husband would have no earthly clue to whom I might be referring, and he wouldn’t care. 

We’d just be able to talk about the importance of not keeping secrets like that in marriages in general and in our marriage, specifically. However, now that my husband is my office manager, I can no longer say those sorts of things because even if he doesn’t try to guess, it’s not that hard to figure out which one of our clients I might be talking about if our day included two single women, a couple of teenagers, an elderly man who doesn’t even have a smartphone, and a sour-looking woman whose husband stopped attending sessions with her months ago. 

I might have a client who is cruising along in therapy, working on routine issues, and they come in and tell me that their cousins were out hunting together and one of the cousins accidentally shot and killed their grandfather, and after a session like that, I am shocked and would really love to just tell him that something really major just went down, and even that much would be a violation of client privacy. So, what I do, what all ethical counselors do, is we keep your secrets, we manage our emotional reactions to the things we hold, and we engage in an extraordinary amount of self-care. We take time to rest, we journal to process our emotions and then shred them. We have our own therapists. We take vacations,  we cry, join causes, hug our children, spouses, and pets. We exercise, drink enough water, go to the movies with friends, go to bed at a reasonable hour, eat reasonable portions of nutritious foods, engage in spiritual practices, read, have creative hobbies, and express our feelings respectfully to appropriate audiences at well-chosen times. 

You have a hard story to know. Each therapist has his or her own hard story to know as well as thousands of others. Self-Care is the key to staying in the field a long time in a healthy way that does service to the clients.
___________________________
Dr. Marlo Archer is a licensed psychologist who works with kids, teens, and their families and can be reached at 480-705-5007 or DrMarlo.com. An international presenter, she also trains therapists and other professionals to use the action methods of psychodrama in their work or life through www.AzPsychodrama.com.

Benzodiazepines: Helpful or Harmful?

The mere thought of climbing into a car sends Jenn spiraling into a state of agitation and fear.
Jenn, a 30-year-old freelance book editor who lives in North Carolina, survived two near-fatal car accidents as a teenager. Since then, she’s battled post-traumatic stress disorder and panic attacks. She has visited a therapist, and she regularly takes Zoloft, a medication that treats depression, anxiety and other conditions. But the only thing that truly quells her nerves before sliding into a vehicle’s passenger seat, she says, is Valium.
“I notice that once I go ahead and take it, I feel so much better — like I can finally relax,” she says. “Sometimes that makes all the difference in the world.”

Valium is a medication that’s part of a larger class of drugs called benzodiazepines. 

Benzodiazepines are commonly prescribed for anxiety and agitation. They can also be used for insomnia, seizures and alcohol withdrawal.

Some types of benzodiazepines are instantly recognizable; Ativan and Xanax, for example, have infiltrated popular culture and are now colloquially considered “quick fixes” for everything from poor sleep to panic disorders. But other forms include – but aren’t limited to – the drugs Klonopin and Valium.

Benzodiazepines are some of the most common medications in the world; a recent study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health found that about 1 in 20 adults received a prescription for them in 2008. They’re extremely effective for patients like Jennm, who have crippling anxiety. Unlike medications like selective-serotonin reuptake inhibitors, which take several weeks to reach full efficacy, benzodiazepines work almost immediately. They can also be good for treating chronic anxiety in patients who have adverse reactions to SSRIs and similar medicines.

The Drawbacks? 

Benzodiazepines can be habit-forming. And they carry a host of dangerous side effects — including impaired cognition and mobility in older individuals, and potentially life-threatening withdrawal symptoms in people with severe addictions.
A study sponsored by the National Institute of Mental Health recently linked long-term use of benzodiazepines to a heightened risk for Alzheimer’s. And data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention showed that benzodiazepines, along with opioid pain relievers, are the prescription drugs most often responsible for emergency department visits and drug-related deaths.

So are benzodiazepines helpful or dangerous? Like most pharmaceutical drugs, experts say, they’re a mixed bag. Despite studies suggesting that physicians over-prescribe them, even those in the medical community tend to disagree on whether the benefits of benzodiazepines outweigh the risks. For every doctor who writes a prescription for Xanax, there’s another who refuses to do so, says Jerrold Rosenbaum, chief of psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital.

“It’s amazing how polarizing the conversation gets,” Rosenbaum says. “There is a constituency that views [benzodiazepines] as evil and harmful; they tend to come out of the substance use disorder community. They’re not perfect drugs, but they do work for conditions for which nothing else [is as effective].”

However, experts say most physicians agree on the following guidelines – independent of whether or not they themselves prescribe benzodiazepines.
Benzodiazepines can be safe for short-term use. “Benzodiazapines are very effective, particularly in the short term, for the treatment of acute anxiety and insomnia,” says Larissa Mooney, an assistant professor of psychiatry and director of the Addiction Medicine Clinic at the University of California-Los Angeles. “They calm people down, and they help people fall asleep and stay asleep.”
Most doctors say benzodiazepines should not be prescribed for more than a few weeks. The body slowly builds up a dependency to the pills, which can be averted by not taking them for an extended duration. Patients should also make sure to follow their doctor’s dosage instructions, and to slowly taper off the medication instead of stopping cold turkey.

In some cases, though, long-term use of benzodiazepines can be acceptable, Mooney says.
“There are a subset of people who seem to respond very well to long-term benzodiazepines,” she says. “They may be maintained on a low dose and never need anything higher — meaning they don’t develop a tolerance. They may be intolerant to other classes of medications. And it seems to augment their treatment for anxiety.”

All of the above are true for Jenn, who has sporadically taken Valium over the years. She sticks to a low dosage, goes periods of time without taking the medicine and says she’s never felt any physical side effects. She’s also had bad reactions to other antianxiety drugs; Valium is the only medicine she’s taken that hasn’t produced physical side effects. And while Zoloft helps her anxiety, Valium is more effective at halting her nightmares and panic attacks.

Not a  cure-all

Many people with panic disorder or acute anxiety use benzodiazepines as a first-line method of treatment until they’re able to find another coping mechanism. But they might also have underlying issues that contribute to their anxiety, Rosenbaum says. These problems might be best addressed by tackling life stressors, taking an antidepressant that helps with anxiety or trying cognitive-behavioral therapy.

Certain people should not take benzodiazepines.

People with a history of alcoholism or drug addiction are advised against taking benzodiazepines. Similarly, elderly people face an increased risk of falls, cognitive disturbance, sleep apnea and a potentially heightened chance of dementia, says Charles Reynolds, a professor of geriatric psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
However, he says, certain factors that often appear with aging — for instance, bereavement, insomnia and low-grade depression complicated by anxiety — mean benzodiazepines “do have a place in the management of emotional distress in older adults.” In these cases, he says their best bet is a short-acting benzodiazepine prescribed for a limited duration.

And it goes without saying, he adds, that anyone taking benzodiazepines should avoid depressants such as alcohol or opioids. Doctors should carefully monitor patients’ use of benzodiazepines.
“In most cases of benzodiazepine dependence, addiction begins with a legitimate prescription,” says Tiffany Jones-Rouse, a licensed social worker and substance abuse counselor based in the Baltimore-District of Columbia metro area. “Folks seek intervention for a variety of conditions, from muscle spasms to chronic anxiety disorders, and they’re often issued a prescription for Xanax, Valium, Klonazepam, Ativan or another tranquilizer.”

These drugs, she says, can be beneficial for people who have never demonstrated drug or alcohol dependence. In this case, their dosage should always be time-limited and closely monitored by a physician who addresses the potential for addiction.

The problem, Jones-Rouse says, is that while many physicians impose prescription time limits and address the risks and side effects, others might not. Over time, a patient will sometimes develop a tolerance toward the benzodiazepines. Their negative symptoms will return, and they will either request a larger dosage from their doctors, buy the medicine illegally or turn to another substance, like alcohol.

In certain cases, Jones-Rouse adds, people don’t recognize that they’re dependent until they make the decision to stop taking the medication. They’ll quickly find that they experience uncomfortable withdrawal symptoms such as mood swings, agitation and irritability, and changes in appetite and sleep patterns, among others.
In worst-case scenarios, unmonitored benzodiazepine withdrawal can lead to stroke, seizures and heart attacks. And benzodiazepines, when combined with other drugs, can result in overdose and death.

It’s possible to safely withdraw from benzodiazepines, even after extended use or abuse.
According to Jones-Rouse, hospitals and treatment programs provide medical monitoring for the detoxification phase. Therapists, social workers and psychologists trained in dealing with substance abuse can provide longer-term psychological care. And public support programs such as the 12-step programs Narcotics Anonymous and Chemically Dependents Anonymous provide a social support network that aids in recovery.


Keep Calm & Trudge On

There is always something I can learn about staying on the sober path because on this journey the magic and mystery never ends. But it’s never been as simple as getting from point A to point B for me.

I’ve questioned others, defended my opinion, listened, but not followed through with sage advice; so my process still can be painful at times — yet it’s probably the best way I learn important lessons.
Early in sobriety, I heard the word humility used quite a bit and thought it must be another way of saying humiliation. Humble was never part of my being.

I was judgmental about myself and others, so I numbed my flaws and defects through substances and alcohol. I wasn’t grateful for anything and believed I was dealt a bad hand.

I completely related to the song “Born Under a Bad Sign,” and used it as one of my thousand excuses to continue my destructive behaviors. To this day, I’ve never read anywhere that Pisces are bad people, or the black sheep on the astrology chart. But it seemed like a good excuse to justify what I was doing. When I made mistakes (which were many) I couldn’t own up to them.

At the height of my drinking, I was “terminated” by my brother from his graphic design firm. He had list of really good reasons: accounting errors, sloppy work, but mostly coming to work either ‘half in the bag’ or ‘hung-over from hell’ those sealed the firing.

After that, the rebel in me (I’ll show YOU!) drank and used more, and I clung to a nasty resentment about the whole ordeal. Years later he told me it would have made more sense to pay me not to come in at all. Humble. Accountable. Words that did not apply to me.

All I can change is me. I’ve learned how to listen. No one is out to get me anymore — no one ever was.

I’m grateful something (my Higher Power) greater saw a reason to keep me on this planet. By all accounts I shouldn’t be here. I have my health, friends, family, and colleagues that mean the world to me.

Thank you all for trudging this amazing road with me.

Characters, Including You

I am a character. I have always known I was different. I always felt I played outside of everyone else’s circle. I thought it was because I grew up in an empty room, had middle child syndrome, or was just born weird. I had no idea how much of a character I was until a client, who after a particularly tearful session, paused at the doorway and turned around to flip me a bird, and softly say, Thank you.” She knew I would get it and her because she too was a character.

I tell my truth

I have no illusion that my truth is the truth. It’s just my truth, and most of the time after 30 plus years of counseling, and all the truth my college courses didn’t teach me, but my clients did — usually hits home. I love the truth. Truth has the same vibrational frequency as love. The truth always heals. It’s not always comfortable, but it is always healing, and that’s a truth you can count on that is universal.
Another truth that is valuable, is that without characters in our world, not only would life be boring, but, in addition, we would never learn anything about who we are at a core level. Whenever we have an encounter with a character, it is your response to that person that gives you a peek into your own integrity and need for sameness. 
  • Do we judge? 
  • Do we feel uncomfortable? 
  • Do we want the person to change so we can be comfortable? 
  • Do we try to emulate him or her? 
  • Do we see his or her presence in our life as a gift?
 
There is so much to learn, and so many gifts if we are aware enough to notice.

There are many different kinds of characters in the world. Some are on the lower end of the consciousness frequency who are only concerned with their own survival, material wealth and physical beauty. Depending upon our response to them, we can get a peek at our tendencies to become envious and resentful. We can decide the world is unfair instead of creating what we really want in our own lives.

Then, there are the characters who are crass, loathsome and often down right bullies, with personality traits we hate. We forget those traits are born from the maiming of a childhood, their own insecurities or lack of self-esteem. These characters teach us forgiveness and acceptance even in the face of the immediate need for showers and deep gut efforts not to fight back. We may label these characters as unworthy or unlovable …or we could wonder what pain they are in that causes their perception of life and reflect back understanding instead of loathing.

There are the characters who say the weirdest things, things we have never considered before, things that don’t fit in our wheelhouse of experience. They push us out of complacency and out of the status quo and make us think. I love these folks because they make us question beliefs and thoughts that we may have previously thought to be solid, unshakable truths. I seek these characters out and ask to be shaken. It is so much fun.
So the point of all this is that we can open our hearts and minds and embrace difference, uncertainty, change and characters one and all. 

They are master teachers for us and without them life would be boring. No only do I want you to embrace them - look out here it comes —- I want you to be one.
  • Stand in your truth. 
  • Speak your mind. 
  • Be willing to change. 
  • Be accepting of difference. 

When you feel yourself resisting, be brave enough to ask what it is that you fear. Life gets very exciting when you are brave enough in each moment, each new greeting, each new experience to ask yourself, what is my response to this and why. There is no way to be bored when you do this because this planet and everyone whose life touches yours is someone you have chosen as a teacher, here to teach you something about yourself. They are not here so you can change them. They are here so you can change you. That’s when the ride gets exciting. So go be the character you always knew was in you waiting to get out. We are waiting, and no one else can take your place.

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

Whatever Spirit Wants

A friend of mine was eager to get her book published, so she attended a panel discussion by successful inspirational authors at a large publishing convention. The authors went into gnarly detail about all the requirements for a new author to be published. As prerequisite piled upon prerequisite and the number of hoops she would have to jump through added up, my friend grew discouraged. “I’ll never be able to do all these things they are telling me I need to do!” she anxiously thought.
Then the spotlight turned to panel member Clarissa Pinkola Est├ęs, author of the hugely popular Women Who Run with the Wolves. Her comment was brief: “If Spirit wants your book published, it will be published.”

And so it is.

When I wrote my first book, The Dragon Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, I submitted the manuscript to a dozen publishers, all of whom went thumbs down. So I published the book myself, using money my mother gave me—her life savings. As I was about to leave the printer’s office after making the deal, he said to me, “You know they say you don’t make any money until your third book.” Not what I wanted to hear. I replied, “That’s what they may say, but what they may not know is that my agent is God.” I was not being arrogant; I just had to uphold my work rather than letting it fall prey to negative limiting beliefs.

Soon after the book was printed I found a brochure from the company that printed and distributed A Course in Miracles and related books. I considered sending my book to this company, but being shy to promote myself, I tossed the brochure in the wastebasket. The next day I received a letter from a friend, containing a copy of the exact brochure I had tossed. “I think you should send your book to this company,” she told me. Taking the clue, I sent the company my book. They printed and distributed the book and sent out gratis copies to churches and spiritual centers. Before long ministers were quoting the book from the pulpit, it became a bestseller, I received a multitude of invitations to speak, and my life changed in amazing ways.

In the musical Damn Yankees, seductress Lola sings, “Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets.” We might even more authoritatively say, “Whatever Spirit wants, Spirit gets.” A Course in Miracles tells us that there are not conflicting wills in the universe. There is only the will of God. What God wills is always good, and it will always happen.

Bob Friedman, then-president of Hampton Roads, the company that published the wildly popular Conversations with God series by Neale Donald Walsch, was giving me a tour of the company’s facilities. “When I received Neale’s manuscript, I was not impressed, so I tossed it in the wastebasket,” he told me. “Then my daughter, who was working for me, noticed it and was intrigued by the title. She took the manuscript home, read it, and the next morning told me, ‘Dad, you have to publish this book.’ I reconsidered and published it.” Bob laughed as he pointed to the warehouse full of Conversations with God. “This is the house that Neale built.”
More accurately, “the house that Spirit built.” Higher Power gave that book to Neale, who eloquently followed through and did his part. That same Spirit worked through Bob Friedman’s daughter. It was no accident that book and Neale’s subsequent books have been so successful. Whatever Spirit wants, Spirit gets.

If your life and your work are aligned with the intentions of Higher Power, the same Force will give you all you need to succeed. God will help bring your creative expression to the people who can benefit from it. You don’t need to manufacture success alone. You are in partnership with the Intelligence and Love that guides the entire Universe.

Great Events are not Random 

They are a part of a divine design. Author Ayn Rand found her way to America from her native Russia in 1926. Struggling to earn a living, she landed in Los Angeles. On her second day, she missed an early bus and took a later one. As she walked along a street in Hollywood, iconic movie director Cecil B. DeMille was exiting his driveway. She said hello to him, they chatted, and he invited her to go to the studio with him, where he was filming King of Kings. DeMille gave her a job as an extra and later hired her as a junior screenwriter. Rand worked her way up to being a screenwriter and eventually wrote the classic novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, two of the most intellectually influential books of the twentieth century. None of the events in that chain were an accident. They were all Spirit’s will.

The Big IF

If Spirit wants your book published, or your song, or your art, or for you to be with a particular partner, it will happen. Don’t be daunted by all the human rules you are told you must follow. Humans make up human rules, and God makes up God rules. A Course in Miracles tells us, “Your holiness reverses the laws of the world.” Listen to the lecture on how things get done, but remember how things really get done.

Alan Cohen is the author of many inspirational books, including Relax into Wealth. 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. For more information about this program, Alan’s books, free daily inspirational quotes, and his weekly radio show, visit www.alancohen.com, email info@alancohen.com.