Loading
Todays Date:
Inspiring Success on the Road to Recovery

Monday, February 29, 2016

KEEPING THEM SAFE

AN IMPORTANT MESSAGE FOR ALL PARENTS FROM THE GOVERNOR’S OFFICE OF YOUTH, FAITH and FAMILY

By Deborrah Miller, MEd.

When Governor Doug Ducey announced the appointment of Debbie Moak as director of the Governor's Office of Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF) last year, he began a new direction for the State in addressing Substance Abuse Prevention, Treatment and Recovery. “Every one of us knows someone who has experienced or been impacted by substance abuse or addiction,” said Governor Ducey.  “If we’re going to be successful in our efforts to combat this disease, we must remove the stigma and eliminate community denial about what addiction is and who it affects. It’s time to turn the discussion to prevention, early intervention and treatment.”

As Director of GOYFF, Debbie Moak brings 16 years of experience working with parents and youth regarding substance abuse. She and her staff, took Governor Ducey’s message, and developed a family guide, “Keep Them Safe” to assist parents with beginning the conversation with their youth regarding prevention and early intervention of substance use.


Ms. Moak is a mother who faced her own son’s addiction. As the co-founder of the non-profit organization, www.notMYkid.org, Ms. Moak created prevention-based programs for six behavioral health issues facing children, including substance abuse, bullying, dating violence, internet safety, depression and eating disorders. Additionally, Ms. Moak has personally presented substance abuse education programs to thousands of parents and faculties in Arizona, as well as several other states and internationally in Scotland, Thailand and Guatemala. She has spearheaded two national annual awareness campaigns educating hundreds of thousands of adults and their children in cities across the United States.

“One of the most important things that any parent will do this year is to prevent their child from using drugs,” stated Ms. Moak. She wants parents to know that they have the ability to prevent drug use. With the practical education, communication skills and recognizing the warning signs of substance abuse, parents really can prevent drug use from occurring in their child’s life. While it’s not always easy to talk with children and teens, the time and effort invested now is much easier than a lifetime of addiction.

Prevention is the only 100% safe and effective treatment.


Parents need to talk with their children often. “I think we need to be open, but at the same time age appropriate,” Ms. Moak said. “Make sure the conversations stay focused on the child, not you.” Ninety percent of all addiction occurs because of what happens during the teen years. That’s the statistic parents really need to hear, says Ms. Moak. She also advises parents not to wait until a crisis to intervene in their child’s life. That is why our office has developed the “Keep Them Safe” brochure and the Family Prevention Substance Abuse Plan; we want to provide the tools necessary for parents to have a successful, realistic conversation and plan to address substance use and abuse. With a plan, open and on-going dialogue, we need to prevent first substance use.

Talk to Each Other

Good communication between parents and children is the foundation of strong families. By developing good communication skills, parents can often catch problems early, support positive behavior and stay involved with their children’s lives. Talking with your child about substance use should be a process, not a single event.  New opportunities and temptations are on-going and, unfortunately, with increasing frequency as your child enters adolescence and the teenage years. “You are your child's most important role model and their best defense against substance abuse. Start early and answer the questions about drugs before they are asked,” said Moak. Research shows that children who hear the facts about drugs and alcohol from their parents are significantly less likely to use them.
Parents are often reluctant to start this conversation, so how does a parent address or begin the conversation? Parents need to gather their thoughts before approaching their sons or daughters, says Moak. They should have a plan to keep the conversation going, be honest and rational, and be completely clear that you do not want them using drugs and alcohol. Moak suggests that parents be calm and patient; control your thoughts and actions; listen with respect; avoid lengthy responses that may be perceived as a lecture; repeat what your child has said to be sure you understand what your child is saying; and if necessary, take a break and come back to the conversation at a planned later time.

Children feel more comfortable bringing issues and situations to their parents when they know they will be heard and not accused. Listening means paying special attention to what is said, both verbally and non-verbally.

Why is it difficult for parents to open up this conversation? 

Many parents are hesitant to start the conversation because they are afraid that they’ll be asked about their own prior drug use, says Moak. Despite their intentions to convey anti-substance-use messages, parent's discussion of their prior use may in some ways downplay the emphasis on the negative consequences of using substances. Knowing that their parents tried substances may actually normalize this behavior for youth and make it seem okay, thereby making youth think their parents wouldn't really disapprove of them using substances and thinking that more kids around them do use.
Moak suggested these strategies to use when your child asks about your past:
In your child’s world, drugs are readily available and much more powerful than the ones you experimented with when you were young. Your focus should be with what your child is facing, and how you can assist them. Keep the conversation centered on them and the dangers of today’s drugs.

Get educated on the drugs that may be around your youth today and use the correct terms or slang they may hear. In short, stay credible.

You should say something like, “The thing that matters is what lies ahead of you, not what is in the past. I want to help you focus on what drugs can do to you and your future.” Or, “The past has taught me some valuable lessons, but we’re not going to focus on me, we’re going to focus on your future and what you can achieve by not using drugs.”

Avoid giving your child more information than she or he asked for, you can say too much. You should say something like, “Everybody makes mistakes. Using drugs is a big one. Nothing good comes from drug use. I love you too much to watch you make bad decisions.” Or, “Drugs affect everyone differently. Even if drugs didn’t ruin my life, I’ve seen them ruin other people’s lives. And I don’t want you to be someone whose life was ruined by drugs.”

It’s a parent’s job to use love and experience to correct mistakes and poor choices. By using a mix of praise and criticism, you can correct your child’s behavior without saying your child is bad. This helps children build self-confidence and learn how to make healthy and safe choices. In time, making smart choices, on their own will become easier. You should say something like. “Do you ever feel pressure to try drugs?”
Ms. Moak also suggests parents find out what their children already know. Ask your child, what have you heard about drugs at school or from your friends? Be sure to educate yourself, so you will be able to answer their questions. Remember, if you don’t know the answer, don’t guess. These discussions do not need to be long. Being clear about your expectations and asking your children’s opinions can take only a few moments. Boundaries help a child feel secure, loved and supported.

By using any opportunity to have a conversation, Ms. Moak believes that parents can easily take advantage of "teachable moments” to discuss drug use with their child. Teachable moments can happen while driving in the car, at the dinner table while discussing a situation at school or a current event in the news. If you see a character in a movie or on TV with a cigarette, talk about smoking addiction, and what smoking does to a person's body. This can lead into a discussion about other drugs and how they could cause harm. News, such as steroid use in professional sports, can be springboards for casual conversations about current events. Texting is an increasingly popular way for parents to communicate with their children. Send positive text messages to your child or follow up a conversation with a text that reinforces what you just talked about. Use these discussions to give your children information about the risks of drugs.

Monitoring your child’s activity is also very important says Moak. Research shows that children whose parents use effective monitoring practices are less likely to make poor decisions. Monitoring should start in early childhood and continue throughout the teen years. Know where your teen goes and who he or she hangs out with. Talk with your child about how he or she spends time or whether he or she is making safe choices.  It’s also important to routinely check potential hiding places for drugs—in backpacks, between books on a shelf, make-up cases, or light switches, etc.
Moak suggests that parents encourage other interests and social activities; look for ways to get your child involved in sports, hobbies, school clubs, and other activities that reduce boredom and excess free time.  Encourage positive friendships and interests, and look for activities that you and your child can do together. Helping youth engage in positive extra-curricular activities can pay lifelong benefits.
Talk to your child about underlying issues. Drug use can be the result of other problems says Moak. Is your child having trouble fitting in? Children need to learn that doing something they know is wrong is not a good way to “fit in” or feel accepted by others. Has there been a recent major change, like a move or divorce, which is causing stress?  If your child has the confidence, assertiveness, and strength to handle tough times, he or she will be less likely to try drugs, alcohol, and tobacco to feel better or to please friends.

Additionally, Ms. Moak is an advocate for using home drug test kits as a prevention or early intervention tool. These can help to deter first use and relieve some of the peer pressure placed on our youth. This can be one additional tool in a parents’ toolbox to protect their youth today.
Spend time with your child and get to know their friends and their friends’ parents. Children who feel a close bond with a parent or other adult are less likely to want to disappoint them. Encourage your child to be an independent thinker, praise them for having the courage to resist peer pressure and make wise choices. The more parents and other family members get involved in children’s lives, the more positive they will feel about themselves and the more likely they will be to respond favorably to their parents.

Set clear standards and expectations around all types of substance abuse. Family rules about substance abuse give children something to fall back on when they are tempted to make poor decisions. Provide your child with words and strategies to use to remove themselves from situations where they are offered drugs. Here are some examples of rules that parenting experts recommend: “If you’re at a party and you see that drugs or alcohol are being used, the rule is to leave that party. Call me and I’ll come and get you.” “I don’t want you using alcohol, tobacco or drugs.” “I love you and I want the best for you, so I don’t want you using marijuana or any other drug.”

Parents should not feel they need to do this on their own or alone, says Moak, ask for help. Raising children is complicated, and you may need help. Consider taking a parenting class or going to a family counselor. Hospitals and community centers often offer such classes.

In addition to the “Keep Them Safe” brochure and the Family Prevention Substance Abuse Plan, GOYFF has launched a website, www.SubstanceAbuse.az.gov. This website provides a Locator for use by anyone seeking help with prevention, treatment and recovery resources. By clicking on the Prevention, Treatment or Recovery box at the top of the site, and providing an Arizona zip code, users can find numerous state agencies and non-profits that can assist with their specific needs.
By utilizing the education tools and strategies provided in the “Keep Them Safe” brochure, as well as completing the Family Substance Abuse Prevention Plan, both parents and youth can make good decisions in the future to avoid substance use. As Joseph Califano once stated, “A child who reaches the age of 21 without smoking, using illegal drugs or abusing alcohol is virtually never to do so.” Ms. Moak stated, “For me, that’s the goal. I wish I had the opportunity to go back and get this right, but I don’t. Many of you reading this still have the opportunity to get this right.”

The Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family is committed to instilling a proactive approach to teen and parenting issues by raising awareness through educational programs like “Keep Them Safe”.

In February 2015, Governor Doug Ducey announced the appointment of Debbie Moak as Director of the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family (GOYFF). Debbie is co-founder of the non-profit organization, NotMYkid and for more than three decades, has been doing exceptional work to educate, inspire and empower youth, families and communities in Arizona.


Raising Awareness of Opioid Addiction -Chasing the Dragon

FBI, DEA Release Documentary Aimed at Youth

The film can be downloaded for free at www.fbi.gov/ChasingTheDragon.

FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA)—use investigative resources to target the supply side in the war against drugs.

But even with numerous law enforcement successes in this area, the demand for drugs continues. And one of the more worrisome trends is a growing epidemic of prescription opiate and heroin abuse, especially among young people.

In an effort to help educate students and young adults about the dangers of opioid addiction, the FBI and DEA unveiled a documentary called Chasing the Dragon: The Life of an Opiate Addict at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. The 45-minute film, whose title refers to the never-ending pursuit of the original or ultimate high, features stark first-person accounts told by individuals who have abused opioids or whose children have abused opioids, with tragic consequences.

“This film may be difficult to watch,” explains FBI Director James Comey, “but we hope it educates our students and young adults about the tragic consequences that come with abusing these drugs and that it will cause people to think twice before becoming its next victim.”

And according to Acting DEA Administrator Chuck Rosenberg, “The numbers are appalling—tens of thousands of Americans will die this year from drug-related deaths, and more than half of these deaths are from heroin and prescription opioid overdoses. I hope this [documentary] will be a wakeup call for folks.”

Katrina, a former business executive and mother who became addicted to opiates after self-medicating with pain pills and alcohol and whose own daughter died of a drug overdose. “You can’t go back and say, ‘I’m sorry,’ or set a better example, or talk ‘em out of it,” she says. And of her own addiction, she explains, “The spiral down is so fast...and I lost everything. I lost my daughter first and foremost. So all the work I did, all those dreams I had, it’s like I’m starting over again with a huge weight on my shoulder...all for a pill.”

Matt, began using marijuana at 11 and became addicted to opiates at age 15. “In the beginning,” he explains, “I would always try to get pills because you know what you’re getting. Eventually, that got too expensive, so I went for heroin because it’s cheaper.”
Trish, whose daughter Cierra—an honor roll student in high school—died after a heroin overdose. “Cierra did not take life for granted until she started using,” says her mother. “It is much stronger than you, and it will win.” Noting the broader impact of addiction, Trish adds, “It affects everyone in your family for the rest of their life...we’re the ones stuck missing you.”

Chasing the Dragon features interviews with medical and law enforcement professionals discussing a variety of issues, including how quickly addiction can set in, how the increasing costs of prescription opioids can lead to the use of heroin as a less expensive alternative, the horrors of withdrawal, the ties between addiction and crime, and the fact that, contrary to popular belief, opiate abuse is prevalent in all segments of society.
The documentary is available on this website for viewing or downloading. Copies can also be obtained by contacting your local FBI or DEA field office.

Embrace it All



“I love the truth that sometimes it’s not my circus and therefore, not my monkey. The awareness that we each get to learn at our own pace, in our own way is freeing. I respect that and know it’s not my job to fix anyone. My job is simply to be truly present....”






In my twenties, while siting in an old Italian restaurant, I noticed a couple of people wandering around from table to table. One was selling roses and the other a fortune teller, dressed as a gypsy, who eventually approached our table. She quietly saddled up beside each of us and when she got to me, one thing I still remember that she said,” You will have a long life. You will live to be 76.” Something inside resonated with that. On the 12th of this month, I turn seventy-four.

In 74 years, you learn a lot, especially what you love and what you don’t. I hate injustice, the misuse of power, the inequality of women and minorities and kale. I love life and the lessons I created this time around. As you become less able to jump off tall buildings and solve the world’s greatest problems, you start smiling quietly inside about the things you love, for instance, my sixty-year-old toy poodle, Gracie.

Years ago, I learned from the love of my life that food can be satisfying and not just fuel. Hence, I have no shame having just finished the other half of the very satisfying hamburger that I couldn’t eat last night...and it’s only ten am. Stopping to savor the taste is now next in importance to great sex. I love non-slip socks and slippers. I love lingering hugs, an occasional Diet Pepsi and popcorn. Most of all I love learning.

In a close second, is my cashmere coat, my down quilt and my car with bells and whistles.

And then there is the soul work, the gifts you can’t touch or live without. I treasure the many truths I have learned and look forward to sharing with you. The kind that sear a path up your spine and rattle your teeth, such as there really is life after death and the, albeit over-used, truth that I create my own reality. I love the truth that sometimes it’s not my circus and therefore, not my monkey. The awareness that we each get to learn at our own pace, in our own way is freeing. I respect that and know it’s not my job to fix anyone. My job is simply to be truly present, offer the best of what I have to offer, and then it’s not my business what people do with it.
As you get older you may realize that life cannot be categorized, compartmentalized or even tidy. Life is messy and marvelous. It’s filled with opportunities to accept differences, learn about your own willingness to grow and change and most importantly find your true self.

If you edit and judge avoid and parse from life only things you agree with, you will have missed the point. Be fearless and open. There is no one standing behind you making you believe anything.

However, the more you understand another’s truth and how and why that truth is true for him or her, the more your respect and acceptance of that person will grow...even if you disagree.
For instance, my oldest daughter is a Jehovah’s Witness. She left my life, her brother and sister at age eighteen. It broke my heart not to know my grandchildren or hold my daughter. Nevertheless, as I told her, " You are doing exactly what I taught you to do which is live your beliefs and therefore I can respect and love you you even if it hurts.”


One of the things I value the most is the truth that life is never just this or that. It’s all of it. There is a bit of truth in every lie. There is a bit of pain in every joy. There is a gift in the center of every challenge. At this age I offer you that truth so that you, more quickly than I, can stand arms and heart wide open bravely unafraid to let all of life in.

Dr. Evan specializes in relationships, personal and professional empowerment, compassion and consciousness. 602-997-1200, email DrDinaEvan@cox.net and www.DrDinaEvan.com.

Groundhog Day & Reincarnation

by Cary Bayer

As I write this piece, it’s February 2, Groundhog Day, and I’m doing what I’ve done for umpteenth Groundhog Days before this one—watching Harold Ramis’s comic spiritual masterpiece, Groundhog Day. What makes this comedy by the director of Caddyshack, National Lampoon’s Vacation, and Analyze This a spiritual film? The biggest reason: it’s a funny romantic metaphor for reincarnation. More on this later, but first the plot.

Phil Connors, egocentric acerbic weatherman for a Pittsburgh television station, portrayed by uber wise guy Bill Murray, is transformed on Groundhog Day in Punxsutawney, PA, where the annual event has been occurring for 130 years. Everyone experiences the festivities in one day but for him that day keeps on going many times over. It’s a Capra-esque/Serling-esque picture—think It’s a Wonderful Life meets The Twilight Zone.

When Murray’s character wakes up on February 3, it’s still February 2 for everyone, but he soon knows exactly what will happen when it will happen because he keeps living the same day. For him there’s no tomorrow, just eternal February 2. He tells his producer Rita (Andie MacDowell) that he’s a god. She forgets this the following “day,” as does everyone else who forgets everything that he does.

Beyond Karma

He soon discovers that he can do anything he wants without facing lasting consequences; in other words, he’s transcended karma. So after the frustration of living the same day fades, he hedonistically indulges in sensual pleasures like gluttony, lust, and greed. After tiring of this, he falls into despair and attempts to kill himself many times, only to wake up the next day safely just where he was “the day before” at 6 AM with Sonny and Cher singing “I Got you Babe” on his clock radio alarm.
In time, he becomes attracted to his producer, who he previously dismissed for her apple pie view of life. He spends “day” after day learning what she loves to manipulate his chances at carnal pleasure. He learns piano and French, but all to no avail. On one date, she says, “It’s a perfect day. You couldn’t plan a day like this.” To which he replies, “Well, you can. It just takes an awful lot of work.”

As his love for her grows, his concern for humanity grows, as well. In “time,” with each new “incarnation,” he becomes a kind of saint-like hero, treating a homeless beggar who he knows will die that night to a bountiful lunch; he repeatedly saves a boy falling out of a tree; and performs Heimlich on a choking diner every “day.”

Reincarnation: Life as a Do-Over

Those who believe in reincarnation see it as a way in which the Universe offers a giant do-over. You can indulge any desire you choose, do anything you choose, and you’ll keep coming back to Earth in a new body, says this doctrine, until you discover the deeper meaning of existence. In other words, until you get it right. The “it” is the realization that you are, in fact, an undying eternal Spirit. The experience of this fact is known in spiritual circles as Enlightenment, Awakening, or Nirvana. It’s the release from the wheel of karma and the cycle of life after death after life that we call reincarnation.
In the case of Groundhog Day, Murray’s weatherman doesn’t actually gain Self-Knowledge, but he does learn true love, a Hollywood metaphor for the more sublime consciousness that the Buddha taught. The Murray character has a major shift in consciousness; what was once an arrogant know-it-all, firmly rooted in his ego, has softened to become someone who genuinely cares about everyone. He becomes the most beloved person in town. And he treats Rita like the Bodhisattvas of Buddhism treat humanity—prioritizing her happiness over his own, the way they’re dedicated to the awakening of all others, even before that of their own. When he truly loves her more than anything else, his spell is broken, just like in the fairy tales, and when he wakes up it’s finally February 3. He’s liberated from an endless February 2, and he’s metaphorically liberated from having to come back. He has found that life is worth living and loving.

Seven Doorways Out of Guilt

by Alan Cohen

Do you suffer from guilt? Do you impose guilt on others? Nearly every religion, family, and belief system plays on guilt to keep its adherents in line. Yet there are ways to escape from the prison of guilt. Here are the top seven, along with practical applications to become free.

1. Know that guilt is not natural
No human being is born with guilt. Guilt is entirely learned, passed down from generation to generation like a dark, heavy, ill-fitting cloak. Innocence, freedom, and inner peace are our natural state. All else is an anomaly to our true essence. Genuine happiness abides within you, you deserve it, and it is your destiny.
Take a moment to recall a time in your life, when you were very young, before you learned to feel guilty. Or when you were older and for a brief time you rose above the clouds of judgment. How did you feel? Can you remember the freedom and aliveness you experienced? Even if you capture a moment of such a feeling, you have a key to your natural state. Practice such feelings as often as you can, and tilt the balance of your life from learned guilt to original innocence.

2. Identify every moment as a choice between fear and love. 
Every thought you think, word you speak, and action you take proceeds from either love or fear. Peace and upset, innocence and guilt, healing and illness all spring from that one fundamental choice.

If you become upset or face a challenging situation, ask yourself, “What is the voice of fear or guilt saying to me now?” Clearly identify the words and energy of the critical voice. Then ask, “What would the voice of kindness and encouragement say to me by contrast?” When you recognize the experiential difference between the harsh demanding voice and the gentle releasing voice, you will see clearly what to do and how to live.

3. Release yourself from guilt by not casting it upon others. 
When you hold someone else in the prison of your judgments, you must sit at the door of his cell to make sure he doesn’t escape. When you judge others, you become susceptible to judgments, your own and theirs. When you release others from the burden of your judgments, you release yourself.
Consider one person you judge, and identify the trait or action for which you judge that person. Notice the feelings your judgment generates within you. At such a moment you are as far from peace as you could possibly be. Now imagine releasing that person from your judgment. For a moment, suspend your upset. Notice the freedom you experience. All that you give, you give to yourself.

4. Reframe experiences in your favor.
You can choose to see any situation from a viewpoint that brings you peace rather than misery. The facts do not change, but your perspective does, along with your experience.
One night while watching a video with some friends at their home, I went into the kitchen to make some tea. Not finding a tea kettle, I poured water into a glass coffee carafe and placed it over a gas flame. I returned to the living room, and a minute later smelled something burning. We ran into the kitchen to find that the plastic handle of the carafe had caught fire. Quickly I put the fire out. Terribly embarrassed, I turned to my host and told him, “Sorry about that.”
He smiled and replied, “I didn’t know you were such a good fireman!” I was judging myself for starting the fire, and my friend was complimenting me for putting it out. Same situation, entirely different perspective, which led to an entirely different experience. While we cannot always choose the situations we encounter, we can choose whether to regard them with guilt or innocence. Therein lies our true power and freedom.
Take an experience about which you feel guilty, or one for which you consider someone else guilty, and choose another perspective that feels better. Interpret the event in your favor rather than using it to drag you or the other person down.

5. Quit beating yourself up for your past.
The only place the past lives is in your mind. The events that occurred matter less than how you think about them now. We’ve all made mistakes. What we do with them determines our current experience. If you keep going over your mistakes, they rule your life. If you bless them for your learning and find ways to look at them that bring you peace, they become your friend.
Consider a mistake you keep berating yourself for. What did you learn from this experience? How has it served you or others? Is there another way of looking at it that will help you move on with your life?

6. Let joy be your compass.
Your happiness does not detract from the good of others; it only adds to it. When you are at peace with yourself, you uplift everyone you meet by the energy you express. Keep choosing in harmony with your joy, and you will attract success for yourself and stimulate others to achieve theirs. Consider a choice that would truly make you happy. How will this choice bless and serve others rather than removing their good?

7. Redefine success as inner peace.
Most of the ways we have been taught to attain success make us miserable. Yet the only real measure of success is inner peace. When you are happy inside, you fulfill your purpose in life.
Notice what you are doing in the name of success that is making you unhappy. If you were to make inner peace your top priority, what you would quit doing? What would you do more of?
We have come to the point in human evolution when we are ready to leave guilt behind and claim the gifts of our natural innocence. You can lead others to freedom by claiming your own.

Alan Cohen is the author of many inspirational books, including the new groundbreaking A Course in Miracles Made Easy: Mastering the Journey from Fear to Love. For more information about this program visit www.AlanCohen.com.

Changing the Conversation

Changing the Conversation

Our feature story, “Keeping Them Safe” is part of the campaign on family awareness through the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family. It’s no secret drugs are stealing the lives of young people every day. Switch on any news channel and horrifying stories are filling the airwaves.  There are solutions, beginning with opening the doors of conversation. 

The stigma attached to drug and alcohol abuse is still a factor deterring many from discussing the problem. Think of it this way — if opening up and talking about it meant not having to lose a child, neighbor or friend— isn’t that conversation worth everything meaningful in the world? 

Of course springing a serious conversation on your kids may make them feel ambushed and defensive. Give them a heads up before hand and make sure to be clear about what the conversation will entail, so everyone in the family can be on the same page.

"Tomorrow night let's have a talk about drinking and drugs. You're not in trouble. I just want to talk about where we stand and hear any concerns you might be having."

Get Help

I personally recommend every parent visit www.SubstanceAbuse.az.gov. This informative website provides a locator for anyone seeking help with prevention, treatment and recovery resources. By clicking on the Prevention, Treatment or Recovery box at the top of the site, and providing an Arizona zip code, where users can find numerous state agencies and non-profits that can assist with their specific needs. 

Together, we can remove the elephant from the room, we can acknowledge the problems we face and find solutions for strong and healthy families. The biggest step is asking for help and there should not be any fear of judgment in that.

My heart felt thanks goes out to the team from the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith and Family; Ms. Debbie Moak, Deborrah Miller, Tonya Hamilton and Sam Burba for providing our readers with this important information.

And, throughout the year, Together AZ will be working closely with the GOYFF on a continuing basis to bring you updates and ways you can find solutions for your family and those you care about. One sure way to pay it forward is keeping the conversation going.

Are you with us? 



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Love Thyself

By Mary DeYon

What does LOVE have to do with addiction? I once believed love could conquer all—my addictions as well as my Dad’s and husbands. Isn’t that what all the songs say?  “Love is the Answer, All You Need is Love and Love Will Find a Way.”
Growing up I thought if I loved my Dad enough by being the perfect he would stop drinking and yelling. When I married, I thought if I loved my husband enough by being the perfect wife he would stop drinking, drugging and carousing.  But it wasn’t until my second marriage I finally understood it was love of MYSELF that was the answer.

Like many of us I was raised to be a people pleaser. So if I followed the rules and was perfect I wouldn’t get scolded (as much). I relied on my parents for food and shelter and my emotional well-being. I learned early on that life was better when I behaved in a way that gained their approval.
When I entered Catholic school the same rules applied. If I behaved I didn’t get punished. I tried to be ‘good’ but with strict rules at home and school it was difficult to contain myself.

In fifth grade after a bout of orneriness, my teacher broke my arm in exasperation. Weren’t the nuns supposed to be God’s representatives on earth? I couldn’t believe God thought I was so bad I deserved such punishment. Even worse, my mother believed the school authorities when they said I had come to school with a broken arm. 

So my love affair with food began there, it was the only thing that never betrayed me. I could numb every feeling of shame and guilt with candy, cake and cookies. I got a high from the sugar and the added weight served as a protective barrier from the world and its pain. As a child I was a victim because I had no control and relied on my parents and teachers for everything. I had no choice but to live under the tyranny of home and school. 

On my own in college I became empowered by being able to make my own choices. Sometimes they were the typical rebelliousness of a girl after Catholic school and sometimes I made bad choices like dropping a college class  — just because I could.

The freedom was amazing but with this new power came an obsessive need to control. First, with diet and exercise. My weight went up, then down in a continuous cycle of control and loss of control. I didn’t apply this control only to food and exercise but when I married and tried to be the perfect wife. I lived by the ‘70’s Aretha song, “I want to be what he wants, when he wants it and whenever he needs it.” 

In my career I worked extra hours to make more sales. All the while tending to everything at home. Living by the words from a fragrance commercial, “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan and never let you forget you’re a man.”

These things make me laugh now, but they were the early anthems of the women’s liberation movement for those of us who believed them. I loved the accomplishments of being out in the real world. But still felt I had to keep up with the housecleaning, cooking and all of my son’s needs.
Exhausted from trying to control the Universe and not knowing how to continue I finally surrendered in my second marriage only because I could do no more. In that surrender I finally understood the concept of “detachment.” I had heard about it in many Al-Anon meetings. It had never made sense to me before. It felt unloving to detach from my supposed “soul mate.”

What I found in that wonderful place of detachment was how little control I had over how much my husband drank or what he did. In fact, I realized I had no control over what mood my boss was in or how my son would act in school, or how my mother would continue to criticize me. All I could manage was my reaction to them.
I could never control everything outside me enough to get the approval I so fervently sought, the approval had to come from within.

There was such freedom in realizing I could step back and watch all the craziness unfolding before me like watching a movie. I didn’t have to get emotionally involved with any of it. I had so little control over it anyway.

Finally the Serenity Prayer began to make more sense. “Accept the things you cannot change” became my new mantra. Why was that so hard?

This journey from victimhood to empowerment to surrender then enlightenment is the spiritual journey I write about in my book. It brought me back to being able to love myself.

Loving Myself

When I felt the true feeling of detachment it was a feeling of being at one with God. But at the same time I was separate and only able to control myself and my reactions to the world around me.
It wasn’t that I was no longer responsible as my husband’s wife or my son’s mother. I looked at them differently and could see they were responsible for their own choices and consequences.

I began to see my son as the man he was growing into instead of a reflection of me and my value as a mother. When he mooned the school bus, I was able to see the humor in it rather than thinking the whole school along with the whole town would think I was a terrible mother because of it.
I changed my focus from counting my husband’s drinks and obsessing over my son’s behavior — to me and what I needed. I honored myself every morning by spending time reading spiritual books, meditating and exercising. Getting centered each morning helped me to react to the day’s craziness from a place of peace. This practice helped me to make peace with God as I realized it was the nun who betrayed me — not God.

Now that I was learning be at peace with most of my life, it was time to make peace with my body. Forty years of my journals showed “lose weight” as the number one goal on any list. No matter what I weighed I hadn’t been happy with my body since fifth grade.
I thought about why a few extra pounds should make so much difference in how I felt about myself. 

When friends of mine gained or lost weight, did it make a difference to me? No, they were still my friends. Nothing changed except for my bit of jealousy when they lost weight. Then I immediately wanted to know how they did it.

Food was My Addiction

Why did I have to wear mine? An alcoholic could hide their addiction for years. Maybe then the red nose and cheeks showed up on their bloated faces like W.C. Fields. Even cocaine addicts could pass off their sniffling to a cold or allergies. But when your addiction is food, everyone knows. 

Food served me well, comforting me in fifth grade when I was betrayed by the nun and my Mom. It insulated me from the world. Later in life it was a way to make myself unattractive so I wouldn’t be tempted to stray from my unhappy marriage. And, I can never forget the deadening comfort of going comatose from a carbohydrate high.

Food, like cigarettes, had been my friend. But food is not like cigarettes. You can give up smoking, but you have to eat.

Many times, with countless diets, I tried to starve my body into behaving—but it was useless. For example, there was the “Eat whatever you want” diet, which my son had found particularly amusing. I would eat nothing all day and then for one hour each night I could eat whatever I wanted: maple frosted doughnuts, sausage pizza, peanut butter and chocolate ice cream. It didn’t matter, as long as it was within one hour. My son would shake his head and leave me in the kitchen laughing all the way down the hall to his room.  Of course the diet didn’t work but I continued to starve myself with every diet known to man or woman. I would also beat my body into submission with exercise.

I was beginning to learn to accept myself but still kept trying “the next best thing.” I hired a personal trainer built like Arnold Schwarzenegger, who shouted orders like my Dad, until I popped a rib while bench pressing. In another gym stint, I was running around the track, tripped and tore a ligament in my knee. As I limped back to the locker room one of the gym rats said, “You know, not everyone is made for running.” “Thanks for that,” I said looking down at my well rounded body, built way too close to the ground. When I sprained my ankle falling off a treadmill I finally realized some people are just not gym material. 

So I decided to appreciate myself. I thought of everything I had done to my body over the years—overeating, starving, binging, insane exercises, fad diets.
Looking down at my little feet I said, “I’m sorry I’ve given you so much to carry.” I took a good look at my legs, thighs, stomach, chest and arms. “I’m sorry,” I repeated. Through all the torture my body had served me amazingly well. “Thank you, Body,” I said out loud.
God had not made me to be tall and thin. I had made peace with the height part, now it was time to make peace with being thin. God had built me for comfort, not speed.

With that, I made a promise to be kinder to myself. I got rid of my scales and no longer judged each day by how much I weighed. I realized I had treated myself poorly for a long time. The golden rule says, “Treat others as you would like to be treated.” I decided to start treating myself as I would like others to treat me.

And I reasoned further: Why would anyone treat me well, if I wasn’t good to myself? I began treating myself to good shoes, decent face cream and especially good food. I realized I deserved the best food I could afford to buy. No more burnt toast or questionable leftovers in the fridge. These were the beginnings of treating myself well.

I learned to treat my body like it was part of me, instead of something outside of me. I learned to ask my body what it wanted to eat, rather than thrust upon it what the latest diet guru said was good for me. This way I could truly enjoy every bite and I didn’t need as much. When I ate consciously I could tell when I was full and I stopped. It felt so much better than stuffing myself mindlessly. I asked my body what it wanted for exercise , a walk, yoga? Slowly I began to really love my body, fluffy as it was.

Forgiving Myself

Part of learning to love myself was forgiving myself for all my perceived wrong doings. I had set such high standards in my quest to be perfect and try to control everything. No human could accomplish the impossible goals I had set.

I had forgiven my body for wanting it to be something it wasn’t. I knew I needed to forgive myself for not being a perfect wife or mother, my divorces and all my other apparent sins from what I learned in school.

Several clients I have worked with felt stuck in their addictions until they realized they needed to forgive themselves. Some had abortions, others had affairs. When they were able to forgive themselves, their lives changed dramatically.

The guilt and shame from our childhoods and the constant critical voice in our heads needs to be dealt with. There is nothing unforgiveable in God’s eyes. We are human. We make mistakes. The big mistake is not letting it go. We are so forgiving of others. Why not ourselves?
I believe in any situation we are doing the best we can under the circumstances. All can be forgiven. 
Forgive yourself. Love Yourself Everyday

The journey of conquering our addictions is a spiritual journey. It is a journey to learn to love yourself as God loves you. As you do you realize you no longer need to seek approval outside yourself. The kingdom of heaven is within.
What does love have to do with addiction? Everything. Love can conquer all when you love yourself

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

How much are you willing to lose?


How much are you willing to lose?


It has long been warned “the road to hell is paved with good intentions” and perhaps the same can be said to people who try in earnest to connect problem gamblers to much needed resources. Those who work closely with this group through therapy, support groups, or personal associations know that relapse is a constant threat to any success story. The last thing any problem gambling organization or support group wants to be is a stumbling block on someone’s path to stop gambling. That is why it is considered an important rule to remove all gambling based terms and phrases from our vocabularies and speech. Hearing these words can act as a trigger for someone struggling with gambling addiction.

Fear of Triggers

The fear of a trigger word or image negatively affecting a gambler was the overriding concern for the Arizona Office of Problem Gambling as they worked over the past year to create a new marketing campaign. How do you reach every corner of the State blasting the message of problem gambling awareness without actually saying the words slots, betting, casino or showing machines and money? It is not an easy task and one that many potential marketing companies struggled with alongside the OPG team.

A second hardship was found in trying to make the message clear and targeted. You don’t want a gambler thinking the message must be intended for someone else because it did not specifically call out slot players and they only gamble at the slots, or it can’t mean them because they only play the lotto. You want the advertisement to almost call them by name saying “yes you …right there… you have a gambling problem and here is some help!” 

“We looked over pitches from several marketing companies, spent hours in debate within our own office, and went through dozens of drafts before we even got close to a campaign we could use,” said Larissa Pixler, Program Director for the Arizona Office of Problem Gambling. “When you are dealing with a group that has one of the highest rates of suicide of any addiction, the last thing you can do as a prevention and treatment agency is risk doing harm.”
So how do you create targeted and effective advertising that can’t mention anything about the service that’s being provided? It’s a good question, and in the end questions were exactly what the (AZOPG) Arizona Office of Problem Gambling decided to use. 

With the slogan of “Just how much are you willing to lose?” the agency set out to grab the attention of problem gamblers by asking them a question. The ads even offer up a list of potential answers to better drive home what is at stake, or perhaps what someone is already facing in their lives. Billboards and magazine ads ask if you are willing to lose more than just your money to gambling, but also your family or your marriage and kids. Another poses the options of losing your job or savings. 

These mostly black and monotone advertisements feature only the logo of the AZOPG in color. “They are meant to leave the problem gambler thinking about what they have already lost, what they are at risk of losing, and showcasing how they are risking more than just the money they put into each gamble,” said Pixler.

Once the basic format for the advertising was chosen there was still an endless consternation over where to place the ads for the most impact. Placing the new campaign on OPG’s social media such as their @AzOPG Twitter account was easy and cost nothing. Using paid advertising on Facebook was also a low cost way to target particular age groups with certain habits. However, with a limited budget the placement of large ads on billboards and in magazines became a meticulous task. 
“We are fortunate that through excellent relationships with our State’s casinos we have messaging already inside the gaming areas,” said Pixler. “The hard question we faced was where else could we target people that might need to hear this message.”

Strategic areas along major interstates were targeted for the first round of advertising. However, along with location also came decisions over timelines. OPG knew they wanted to kick off the new campaign at the beginning of the year, but they had to balance the start date with the need to still be pushing the message even harder through heavy sports betting periods like the Super Bowl and March Madness. The team also wanted a push during March since it is “Problem Gambling Awareness Month” as well as OPG’s Annual Symposium. 

“Since most of the campaign is done digitally it allows us to make some small changes to the ads as we progress through the first year. For instance, we were able to add a line to the magazine ads that talked about our upcoming symposium and how people can visit the website www.azgamblingsymposium.com to register. However, once we have the symposium on March 7th we can drop that information moving forward. Since most of the ads are digital it really allows a lot of flexibility, especially as we continue to get new data on the new campaign,” said Pixler. 

The new campaign has been running since the beginning of the year and with only two months of results by which to judge, OPG is already very optimistic that all their hours of debate and careful consideration over the advertisements were worth it. Tracking shows that the campaign has been seen online by thousands of people and a large chunk of that group is choosing to follow different links to available resources. 

It will take a full year of having the campaign in place to truly have enough data to see what impact the new advertisements had in reaching those struggling with gambling addictions or those close to someone with the problem. 
“As we see the number of people reaching out for help and taking advantage of resources for problem gambling drop across the nation we have to try new ways of getting this important message out there. We need people to know there is help available,” said Pixler.

If you would like to learn more about the Arizona Office of Problem Gambling you are encouraged to go onto to their website problemgambling.az.gov and learn more about the upcoming March 7th Symposium and what other resources they offer. 

Hot Topics

Addiction: Few Offer Concrete Proposals on Campaign Trail


Many presidential candidates are talking about addiction, but few are offering concrete proposals to combat it, The Boston Globe reports.
Jeb Bush, Carly Fiorina and Chris Christie regularly speak of addiction struggles among family members.
“For those candidates to say they have these personal stories — fine, we all have these stories. Tell me what you’re going to do. You’re not running to be storyteller-in-chief,” said Patrick Kennedy, a former U.S. representative from Rhode Island who has a personal history of drug and alcohol abuse, and advocates for changing the way addiction is treated in the health care system.”

“Tell me what you’re going to do. You’re not running to be storyteller-in-chief,” said Patrick Kennedy, former U.S. representative from Rhode Island.”

Senator Bernie Sanders called for a radical change in how addiction is treated, he has not explained how he would address the crisis. Hillary Clinton announced a $10 billion proposal to treat addiction in September. While she has released the most details about her plan to treat addiction, some advocates describe her five-point plan as a token fix that expands current ineffective strategies.
Christie unveiled a proposal to create a drug court in each federal court district so nonviolent drug offenders could be offered treatment instead of jail. The funds saved by keeping people out of jail would be used to create more treatment programs, he said. Christie’s critics say he has not been effective in treating addiction in New Jersey.

Bush has released a plan that would focus on better parenting and increased border security to reduce drug trafficking. He said he wants to improve prescription drug monitoring and expand drug courts, but has not explained how much the plan would cost or how it would work.
Trump has said he would build a wall along the Mexican border to keep out drugs, while Ohio Governor John Kasich said teachers should provide students with a weekly antidrug message. Fiorina has said the nation needs to invest more in mental health and addiction treatment, but has not provided details.

Melissa Thornburg joins Prescott House

Established in 1988, Prescott House has provided outstanding services to men and their families from across the country and abroad. Throughout the years, we have found that long-term recovery is best achieved through long-term treatment. Prescott House is committed to providing precisely that: excellent clinical care in a close-knit recovery community. This commitment is founded on a firm belief in recovery of the mind, body, and spirit.
 Melissa has been an active member of Prescott’s 12-Step recoverycommunity for over seventeen years. She began her journey in recovery at a nationally renowned treatment program here in Arizona, back in 1998. Since that time, she’s graduated Magna Cum Laude from Northern Arizona University’s Electronic Media Program where she focused on communications and worked in broadcasting in both radio and television. Her combination of personal recovery and work experience makes her a perfect fit for carrying the message of Prescott House to both professionals and families seeking treatment for men with substance use and/or process disorders, such as sexual addiction.
Melissa carries Life and Health Insurance Licensure in all fifty states, is a 200-Hour Registered Yoga Instructor and has completed both Bessel Van Der Kolk’s Trauma Sensitive Yoga Certification and her first year in Peter Levine’s Somatic Experiencing Practioner Program. For more on Prescott House visit prescotthouse.net.

Mailing Free Nicotine Replacement Patches to Smokers Can Help Some Quit

Mailing free nicotine replacement patches to smokers who are interested in giving up cigarettes can help some of them quit, a new study finds. The smokers in the study did not receive counseling or other support, HealthDay reports.

Researchers sent a five-week course of nicotine patches to 500 smokers. After six months, the rate of participants who said they hadn’t smoked in the past month was more than double the rate of 499 smokers who did not receive free nicotine patches. About half of participants returned saliva samples, which researchers tested to confirm they had stopped smoking.

The rates of smoking cessation in both groups were low—2.8 percent among those receiving patches, compared with 1 percent among those who didn’t receive the patches.
The findings are published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

In another study published this week, researchers found smoking cessation pills are no more effective than nicotine patches or lozenges in helping people quit, according to Reuters.
The study included more than 1,000 smokers who received counseling to help them quit. They were randomly assigned to receive three months of treatment with either nicotine lozenges plus patches; patches alone; or varenicline (Chantix).

After one year, about one-fifth of smokers were able to quit, regardless of which treatment they received, the researchers report in JAMA. Smokers who took varenicline had more side effects, such as insomnia, nausea and constipation.

45,000 Arrests on College Campuses for Drug- and Alcohol-Related Offenses in 2014

There were almost 45,000 arrests on college campuses in 2014 for drug- and alcohol-related offenses, according to a new report. There were also more than 250,000 disciplinary actions on campuses related to drugs and alcohol, according to U.S. News & World Report.

The findings come from a report by ProjectKnow.com, an online referral service for drug and alcohol addiction treatment centers.

Project Know analyzed data from colleges that receive federal funding, which are legally obligated to provide annual reports about crimes that occur on and around their campuses. The report analyzed data from colleges with enrollments of at least 5,000 students, totaling about 1,000 medium- and large-sized colleges.

The researchers found drug arrest rates on college campuses were highest in Montana, West Virginia, South Dakota, Wyoming and Delaware. Those states had on-campus arrest rates that were at least 2.3 times higher than the median state average of 1.08 per 1,000 students. Alabama, Florida and South Carolina accounted for some of the largest jumps in drug arrests on campus when measured by arrests per capita.

New York alcohol arrests rose 44.4 percent between 2013 and 2014, while Nevada alcohol arrests increased 40.7 percent. Six of the top 10 states for drug arrests were also in the top 10 for alcohol arrests: Indiana, Montana, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
The state with the largest drop in drug and alcohol arrests was Rhode Island. The article notes the state enrolls a small number of students, which means any change is amplified.

Do you gamble on your HAPPINESS?

By Coach Cary Bayer  www.carybayer.com

People gamble on lotteries, on slot machines, on football games. Rarely, do you hear someone gamble on happiness. And yet, every day most people actually do.
Most people derive happiness based on what happens that day. If they get a massage, a new client or a raise at work, or their child or grandchild gets a prize they’ll be happy. Conversely, if they lose at tennis, lose a client or a possible promotion at work, or their child or grandchild gets sick they’ll be unhappy. Said differently, their happiness is a function of what happens to them and those they care about. It’s outer-dependent and usually out of their control. Hence, my expression “gambling on their happiness.” Like a roulette wheel, if it shows up red they lose, if it shows up black they win. It’s a tough way to live.

The good news is that there’s a deeper happiness that’s inner-dependent, and even better news is that it’s possible to connect to that happiness daily to live from that state, as well.

Outer-dependent happiness comes about through the senses, your arms, legs and the rest of your body. Inner-dependent happiness doesn’t involve them, and arises when they’re completely at rest. The yogis of India call this inner happiness Ananda, Sanskrit for bliss. Ananda exists in abundance--infinite in fact—at the deepest level of your mind, where your individuality and your universality meet.  

Meditation is the primary path to this concentrated happiness; the yogis of India call this brief experience of the inner Self Samadhi, which translates from the Sanskrit as “steady mind.” In other words, when the mind is steadiest, when it comes to rest and your conscious mind becomes consciousness, no longer aware of any thing in particular but awake within itself, Samadhi is achieved. Even the word “achieved” is a misnomer, because Samadhi isn’t something you can achieve like writing a book, cooking a meal, or even walking to the mailbox. It’s a state of Being, beyond the doing of your everyday actions, beyond the perceptions of your five senses, and beyond the thoughts of your thinking mind. It’s a fourth state of consciousness, as distinct from waking, dreaming, and sleeping, as each of them is from each other.

This is the knowledge elucidated by the yogis, and I can vouch for it from my own personal experience of having meditated since the age of 17 and taught Transcendental Meditation since three years after that until 2010 when I began teaching Higher Self Healing Meditation. 

A fleeting experience of Samadhi that lasts for maybe a second or two or a minute or more brings a concentrated download of happiness into your mind. So when you come out of meditation your mind is infused with this happy state, making it so much easier to derive happiness out of the simplest things that you may see or do immediately afterwards. In an hour or so, almost all of that happiness fades out of consciousness; that’s not a bad thing, per se, it’s just the way of things. A little of it, however, still remains.

Regular exposure to the experience of Being within enables more and more of this precious bliss to habituate itself into the nature of your mind. Over the course of years of such exposure, the individual mind becomes saturated with that happiness; in fact, the mind comes to live in a state of happiness. The yogis of India have a name for this as well: Moksha, or liberation. In English, we call this Self-Realization, when you have come to identify yourself as both an individual being, who the world knows you as, and one with the Universal Being. This state of Enlightenment enables you to bring a truckload of happiness with you wherever you go and to whatever you do. This makes the activity of outer-dependent happiness, of course, much easier to achieve. 

In the Emerald City in The Wizard of Oz everyone wore green glasses, so that everything appeared to be green. When you wear happiness glasses, it’s awfully hard not to see happiness, AND your gambling on happiness has ended.

Hard Lessons about Mental Illness


Looking back, the signs were there, she realizes now. The extreme bursts of energy and creativity, the sudden low moods, the sleep problems, the sensitivity to sounds and light, even the infidelities. But at the time, all that seemed clear to Sheila Hamilton was that her brilliant and passionate husband, David, the father of her child, was becoming someone she no longer recognized.
It was a transformation that would not be explained until almost a decade into their marriage, when he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

“I just couldn’t piece it together. David was incredibly intelligent, very high functioning. And his doctors said they’d never seen a case in which a person with such a severe mental disorder was able to compensate without hospitalization or any medication,” Sheila said. “I think that he probably knew that something was wrong, but he was raised in a family that believed that mental illness was a moral weakness, a failing. And so he was very ashamed to ask for help and did everything he could to hide, to deny, to compartmentalize.”

In December 2006, six weeks after his bipolar disorder diagnosis and the day after his release from an enforced hospitalization, David took his life, leaving behind an emotionally devastated wife and 9-year-old daughter. That devastation increased when Sheila discovered hundreds of thousands in debt David had hidden when his construction business became too overwhelming for him to handle.

As a type of therapy, Sheila began to write about what had happened. “It was an attempt to try to figure out my own trauma,” she explained, “and hold myself accountable for the signs and symptoms I had missed and why I had been so wholly unprepared to deal with someone with a mental illness.”
Somewhere along the way, she shifted from memoir to include an investigation of the nation’s mental health crisis, calling upon her experience as a journalist to do so; she’s a writer, a broadcaster, a well-known Portland radio personality and news director, and a five-time Emmy winner.

The result of that effort is All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness, a book that combines a heart-wrenching narrative of upended lives with practical information for others who find themselves struggling to understand and deal with a mental illness, whether their own or that of a loved one.
“What I found was the outcome that our family had experienced wasn’t at all uncommon, and that’s why I ended up publishing the book,” she said. “I felt very much like other people could learn from my experience since it turned out to be quite a universal one.”

Inside the Trauma
Each chapter in the book begins with personal narrative and concludes with a concise exploration of mental health issues related to her husband’s story. She examines hypersexuality, for example, which many of those with bipolar disorder report experiencing when in a manic phase and which she believes played a part in David’s relationships with other women during their marriage. There are also discussions of involuntary hospitalization, suicide, denial, children and grief, and the troubling consequences of privacy laws, which can keep even the spouse of a patient from being informed of a diagnosis.
Most troubling, she said, is the heavy dependence on and the shortcomings of psychiatric drugs, especially those known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs). These are often prescribed for illnesses such as depression and bipolar disorder despite the fact that numerous studies indicate such drugs can sometimes make bipolar disorder worse by sparking rapid cycling of moods, she said.
It’s what happened to her husband, Sheila said. He finally reached out for help from a friend who was a physician and was prescribed SSRIs. “He didn’t sleep for almost five and a half weeks. He lost about 35 pounds in a month. He was pacing all night long and having olfactory hallucinations,” she said. “And so during that time he attempted suicide twice and was finally hospitalized.”
Instead of helping, the hospitalization “actually traumatized him further because all that happened was that doctors would see him for a med check, prescribe more pharmaceuticals that weren’t actually working for him and told him that his life as he’d known it was over and he’d have this disability for the rest of his life. So the day after he was released from the hospital, he died by suicide.”
What she wishes David had known, and what she learned in the aftermath of his death, is that much can be done to address and recover from mental illness, especially with early treatment. And, as she explains in the book, each passing day brings greater understanding of mental health issues in both the medical community and society, and better and more holistic treatment strategies.
Most encouraging to her is the sense that the stigma that keeps so many from admitting to their struggles and reaching out for help is slowly lessening — a state of affairs she credits in large part to the young. “If you go in the Twittersphere, there is a lot of conversation about ‘I have an anxiety disorder; this is how I cope.’ ‘I have PTSD.’ ‘I have bipolar.’ There’s not that kind of damnation around it. So I do think that stigma is going to die away with older generations. I believe 10 years from now we’ll be able to talk about mental illness like we talk about breast cancer or diabetes or any other type of illness.”
One of those enlightened young people is Sophie, her daughter with David, who is now a college student studying psychology and business at Stanford. “She’s really interested in how she can use the experience of her life, the most defining experience really, to help other people.”

Moments Matter

by Dr. Dina Evan


My Saturday evening was quiet. There was a gentle energy of discomfort in my body and discontent in the air that I couldn’t shake. My friend Jeanne Cordova was somehow with me. I knew she was leaving, dying and I could not release that knowing to focus on anything else. We have known each other for more than 30 years and life had happened in the last ten years, separating us in time and distance. She was in L.A. with her partner Lynn Ballen and I was in Phoenix. 

However, only moments matter…the moments we created in the thirty years kept rising in my memory, bubbling up from my heart, creating smiles and tears and a sense that I wanted to be with her. Friendships of that length and texture are gold, not to be dismissed by earthly limitations. 

They are of the Beloved.

I smiled remembering the times we bumped heads over my metaphysical beliefs and her Catholic up bringing. Eventually we began to vibrate somewhere in the middle where she began collecting the symbols of her heritage in large Mexican blankets, pots and Indian statues with wondrous stories and I dug deeper exploring the spirit of my soul in metaphysical teaching and energy magic. We shared our discoveries late at night wrapped up in quilts and blankets on the floor as we taught each other, laughed at each other and cried together. So this night, I sat with her in spirit as we had before, and I knew. I asked the Universe to clothe her in peace and safety and eventually I went to bed.
At quarter to five in the morning my phone rang with a text message from Lynn. “Jeanne was dying…would I call?” I did and for the next two hours Lynn, Jeanne’s beloved partner of more than twenty-six years and I walked our precious Jeanne home. 

Lynn was in agony, hearing the painful moans of her partner and could no longer bear it. I asked her to put the phone next to Jeanne’s ear and we began our talk gently…just as we had for so many years before. I reminded her that she had done what she came here to do. Jeanne was an activist for gay rights, women’s rights and the right to free speech. She had riled people’s ire from one coast to the other until people gave in just to get rid of her. They also gave in because in their secret, politically no-so-correct hidden places in their character, they also knew she was right. I told her she was so loved and that she could breathe through the pores in her body now and rest her lungs. 

I told her to hold Lynn’s hand and go check out the other side and then come back. I told her when she was ready to stay there, that her mom, whom I had prayed to the night before, would come and get her and walk her home. Within about thirty minutes the moaning and the pain in the fearful resistance that death creates stopped and there was peace in Jeanne and in the room. “She’s stopped breathing,” Lynn said tearfully. Jeanne was gone, leaving behind only a cancer torn body that was no longer of use to a mighty spirit.

This is not meant to be a sad story! I write about it this month, because it is the month of Valentines and love and because it is about the most meaningful connections in our lives. They are the ones with depth and angst and ups and downs and sometimes years between. They provide meaning and truth and realness. They are the ones that permeate our hearts with commitments beyond human understanding and never let go, no matter what. They are the relationships of recognition through space and time that change the very tapestry of our soul. They crack our hearts open and demand integrity and presence from our spirit. They are amazing and a true gift of love from the Universe. Jeanne with all her edges, just like each of us with ours, was a gift from the Universe to my life. And today, and in each tomorrow, I will celebrate her.

Don’t miss the gifts of love in your life. Sometimes they come in the form of a child, a boss, a teacher, an ex-partner, a friend, a beloved partner, a grandchild or even a stranger in a single moment whom you see and who truly sees you. These are the real blessings of life. Hold them close. Nurture them. Respect them and give them their due. They deserve to be the priority in your life. They deserve your commitment, your presence and your integrity for as long as you have them. Love doesn’t always have to be romantic, or sexual. It only has to be real, because these relationships are the ones that last a lifetime and beyond. Here’s to you Jeanne. I will see you on the other side and we’ll catch up creating new moments wrapped in blankets and love.


Dr. Evan specializes in relationships, personal and professional empowerment, compassion and consciousness. 602-997-1200, email DrDinaEvan@cox.net and www.DrDinaEvan.com
 

Where to Find True Love

My coaching client Jodi has been in a Mormon marriage for nearly 30 years. For all those years she, her husband, and five children have participated avidly in the Mormon Church, rituals, and community.

A few years ago Jodi felt guided to explore other philosophies such as yoga, meditation, and alternative forms of spiritual expression—all no-no’s according to traditional Mormonism, which shuns people who step out of line. So for Jodi to express her desire to delve into non-traditional pathways required a huge leap of faith.

Although Jodi’s husband Don was initially distressed by her dabbling outside the church, he supported her to venture onto other paths of spiritual inquiry. Jodi stopped wearing traditional Mormon garments, took a life coaching course, read books by Paramahansa Yogananda, set up an altar including small statues of Buddha and the Hindu deity Ganesha, and took an unprecedented trip by herself to a residential meditation retreat. If Don had been stuck on their special relationship, he might have hit the ceiling and called in the church fathers to “deprogram” his wife. But, to his credit, he just kept loving Jodi, which endeared him to her all the more. His trust in her explorations did not dissolve their marriage, but strengthened it. When I last spoke to Jodi, she reported that she and Don were doing tantric sex practices. Both of them deserve huge credit for flowing with the changes in their relationship and co-creating a marriage based on love, not fear.

I have often pondered why so many of us have had so much pain in relationships. It’s because we were trained to believe that we are empty or broken, and if we can just get someone to give us what we are missing, we would be happy. Then we must control our supposed source of good so that person will keep doing the things that make us feel loved. As it turns out, it’s the other way around.

The purpose of relationship is to source love within ourself and then extend it to our partner.  When we genuinely love, the joy that passes through our heart to the other person blesses, uplifts, and heals us as it moves through us.
I used to teach about unconditional love, until my mother taught me what unconditional love really is.
When I set out on my spiritual path, I was inspired by the teachings of Jesus. I studied the New Testament and I taped a small picture of Jesus on the dashboard of my car.

My Jewish mother was not exactly pleased as punch to ride with Jesus as co-pilot. When I picked her up to take her shopping, she made fun of the photo. “Were you cold out here last night, Jesus?” she mockingly asked the image, tapping it with her forefinger. “Would you like me to knit you a sweater?”

So out of respect for my mother (especially since she had paid for the car), I removed the photo from the dashboard and placed it in the glove box. The next time my mother sat in the car, she said nothing but she seemed happier, so I figured Jesus was secretly smiling under the dashboard.

A few weeks later when I went to visit my mother at her house, I saw something I had never seen before in my home or in any Jewish home. On the dining room table, propped up against a napkin holder, was a small picture of the Catholic Saint Veronica.
Astonished, I asked, “Mom, where do you get this?”
“I saw it at a garage sale,” she answered nonchalantly. “I thought you would like it.”
I was speechless. In order for my mother to get me that picture, she had to rise above her lifetime belief system and values as a Jew and a Jewish mother. In that moment I realized that unconditional love goes far beyond words. It is an energy we radiate, a principle we live.

Love is not about control, but connection. Not about demanding, but allowing. Not about getting, but overflowing and supporting. As we release fear-based models of love, we open to the gift we were born to receive by giving it.

February is Valentine’s month, when we celebrate great love. If you are searching for love, it may be closer than you think. Kabir said, “I laugh when I hear that the fish in the water is thirsty.” The love of your life might be right where you stand. Even if you are not with your ideal lover, you have friends and family who love you deeply.

If you are with a partner who does not appear to be “The One,” there might be more love available in that relationship than you know. Appreciate and celebrate what you have before asking for more. The gifts that you have been seeking have been laid at your door. When you find beauty and wonder in those around you, you open the door to find it in yourself. Let this month be the one in which you find true love, by discovering the happiness you seek right where you stand.

Alan Cohen is the author of the new groundbreaking book A Course in Miracles Made Easy:  Mastering the Journey from Fear to Love. 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, visit www.AlanCohen.com

From the Heart

When I write these columns, I speak from my heart. I’ve learned to do on my recovery journey.

 I have a box full of coins commemorating my years of sobriety and each and every one of them tells me one important message: Be True to Thyself.


Am I always happy, joyous and free? In all truth, No. Life swings like a pendulum and each day brings its own set of circumstances and challenges. Do I handle them all with perfection and acceptance? I’d be lying if I said I did.

But now more than ever, I know what my true purpose is. The God of my understanding — has shown me the path to take, and it was never anything I could have thought of on my own.

The connection with my Higher Power is the greatest love I have ever known. 

I’m never shamed or slammed; kicked to the curb or under the bus…. And for all my antics while active in my addiction I’ve been forgiven and He loved me through it.

Bill used to say often,  “love people, and trust God.”  He had many words of wisdom and those have stuck with me since he passed.

So when I am true to myself, follow my intuition, attempt to do the next right thing it’s a great day.

When I over extend myself, react to quickly, or expect too much from another human being — that’s where the lessons come in, the stepping back to look at my part and amends — and that too is a pretty great day.
Love is all around every one of us and can be experienced and treasured in a relationship with ourselves. We all are deserving of it. Don’t change to please another person, only change if it enhances your own growth and your love and acceptance of yourself. That is love. 

Happy Valentines!