Addiction

The Challenge and Freedom of Letting Go

Are you faced with a big breakup and having trouble letting go?  We all know breaking up is hard to do. It’s tough whether you’re in a failing relationship, a waning friendship, a job that isn’t working out, a partnership that feels splintered, or any relationship that has simply stopped serving you. What if that relationship you so desperately need to end is your relationship with drugs and alcohol? What if the relationship that isn’t serving you is your relationship with your anger or greed? Being faced with a breakup of this caliber is tough.   It’s not ironic to …

The Suburban Rise of Heroin Use

Heroin use is on the rise. After the makers of Oxycontin changed their formula, presumably making it harder to abuse, something unforeseen happened: heroin use began to rise amongst white suburbanites. This is a significant shift from the historically urban prevalence of heroin use. It used to be that heroin was the drug of choice for city-dwelling, young, male minorities. However, the current path to heroin use is paved with prescription opioids. The reality is, addiction doesn’t have any real barriers; it has a broad reach and an even broader topography.   When 9,000 patients in treatment centers nationwide were …

A New SAMHSA Report Brings Xanax Front and Center

According to a new report issued by SAMHSA  (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration), there has been an increase in ER visits due to the recreational use of alprazolam, commonly known as Xanax.  Per the report, “The number of emergency department visits involving non-medical use of the sedative alprazolam (Xanax) doubled from 57, 419 to 124, 902 from 2005 to 2010, and then remained stable at 123, 744 in 2011.”   Xanax is part of a class of medications called benxodiazapenes and is indicated for the treatment of anxiety disorders. Benzodiazepenes work on the brain and the nerves – …

Foundations in Recovery: Being of Service

What is evident in any recovery practice is the encouragement and urging to be of service. The call to be of service starts in treatment and continues into aftercare and beyond.  Service work is a foundational piece in recovery, and it is something that provides a salient way to recognize we are not alone.   Often times, someone comes into recovery with a sense of feeling alone, unheard, empty, vulnerable, and emotionally and sometimes physically shattered. Parents and loved ones are often worn down from the negative impact of their child’s poor actions and disruptive behavior that resulted from their …

Looking at the Roots of Addiction

Addiction is an effect of human unhappiness and human suffering. When people are distressed, they want to soothe their distress; when people are in pain, they want to soothe their pain. So the real question is not “why the addiction,” but “why the pain.”  Gabor Maté   This is a profound statement from Gabor Maté about addiction. In his work, Maté focuses on the link to childhood attachment and trauma as the source of addiction.  Similarly, Terra Holbrook, MSW, LCSW, CADC, utilizes the lens of codependency to explore the ways in which deficits in early childhood development shape our thinking, …

What’s Really in Those E-Cigs?

The latest research shows that there are tiny particles of metals in the vapor from E-Cigs. Dr. Stanton Glantz from University of California at San Francisco, and one of the leading researchers on E-Cigs, says, “If you are around somebody who is using e-cigarettes, you are breathing in ultra-fine particles and you are breathing in nicotine.”  Scientist Prue Talbot and her research team at the University of Riverside is one are one of the first to analyze the vapor itself. The findings were metals and more metals in the vapor; along with some oxygen, they found tin, copper and some …

What is Refuge Recovery?

Noah Levine’s Refuge Recovery provides another approach to recovery–one seeped in Buddhist practice. We were inspired by his talk at this year’s Innovations in Recovery conference. Since 1935, Alcoholics Anonymous has been a foundational component of recovery for millions of alcoholics and addicts. It is free, it is available for all ages, it is simple in the way it’s shared and processed, and it also hasn’t really changed. When I take sponsees through the steps, they often comment on my old, tattered copies of the Twelve and Twelve and Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.  Over the years, however, my perception …

Finding Hope in Recovery and Beyond

Hope is fleeting or nonexistent for someone locked in the downward spiral of mental illness and substance abuse. In many ways, the transient quality of hope in the mind of the sufferer creates a sense of dissonance; it always seems to be out of reach. Recovery makes space for a more tangible kind of hope to develop and take root.  The hope we do have when we are in our diseases is hope for an escape. However, the hope we have in recovery is revised to resemble its true meaning: a desire for something good to happen and the capability to …

Alumni Voices: Alcoholics Anonymous Through the Lens of Adolescence

We are really honored to be able to share another alumni post, this one talking about community-latigo rocksAlcoholics Anonymous through the lens of a young person.  Having come to recovery as a young adult myself, her words resonate with me. It’s not easy walking in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous as a young person, but the beauty of young peoples’ meetings is the camaraderie and unspoken understanding amidst the community.  No one wants to hang out in a smokey room, drinking bad coffee on a Saturday night…unless you have to be there. And these young people get that. They get that they have to be there and they show up, week after week, day after day, learning ways in which to show up for themselves and their recovery:

 

Walking into a room of Alcoholics Anonymous may be the most defining moment in an alcoholic’s life. I know it was pretty life changing for me. Not necessarily in the sense that my life was being threatened by my drug use (although my behavior was), but in the sense that if I hadn’t made it to rehab and to these rooms, I would not be where I am or who I am today.

I sat in the pre-meeting the other night, waiting for it to begin, when it struck me. “Where would I be if I hadn’t gone to rehab and been introduced to these rooms? What would my life look like?” Many people in the Young People’s rooms go through Treatment, many don’t. What matters is that whoever they are, if they are alcoholic, they make it to the rooms of AA.

My beliefs vary when it comes down to an alcoholic’s diagnosis. Sometimes I believe that an alcoholic is born an alcoholic, sometimes I believe they become one. When it comes to myself, I don’t exactly know. I still struggle with identifying, even at meetings, and especially when a speaker has a gnarly story.

I believe this is a common thread in the rooms of AA. Comparing ourselves to others is pretty standard among alcoholics, particularly in the rooms with young people. I used to think that the young people’s meetings were fake and ridiculous. I thought it was like a talent show. Everyone gets all dressed up just to call attention to themselves. That’s not what the principles state and its not what the program is about.

I know now that I was just uncomfortable and insecure, and I was projecting my feelings of dislike for myself into the room. One of my favorite counselors in rehab, who was a young person in the program and who I was very close to and respected very much, challenged my dislike and asked “Where else are we going to get all dressed up to go on a Saturday night?”

When you walk into the rooms of a young peoples’ meeting, a thick smog of E-cig vapor coats the room. It’s so clouded that if the lighting is right and you are sitting far back enough, sometimes you can’t even see the speaker clearly. Everyone is uncomfortable and many people are new to the program. There are a handful of people that are “chronic relapsers,” but they keep coming back. That’s what’s so special about this program.

Altogether, there are many years of sobriety in the room. These meetings are popular; even a few from the older crowd shuffle in. We are all for having a good time, yet most people take the meeting very seriously; it’s life and death for many people. That’s what’s so special about these meetings.

Some of us are very judgmental, its honestly because we are insecure about ourselves. Many of us have been through the wringer, and we are sick and tired of being sick and tired. We are the only people who truly get one another. That’s what’s so special about people in recovery.

 

 

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Addiction and Mental Health: Inspired by David Sheff

We recently had the opportunity to hear David Sheff, author of “Beautiful Boy” and “Clean“, speak about addiction and mental health at UCLA’s Friends of the Semel Institute’s Open Mind series.  recoverypathSheff is a journalist, and New York Times best-selling author who writes and speaks about addiction and recovery though the lens of a parent and as a well-researched journalist. Our family program is dedicated to approaching recovery from the eyes of the addict and those within the family system. David Sheff reminded me of the parental side of addiction and mental health that we don’t always hear.

 

Our kids are our babies: we see them as our innocent, silly, curious, innocent offspring. When it comes to addiction and mental health issues, parents often hang on to this ideology, telling themselves, “Not OUR kids. Addiction and mental health issues happen to other families.”  There is a natural contradiction that occurs, marking the innocence parents seek to hold on to and the utter despair and devastation that is actually taking place.  Addiction and mental health could care less about your financial status, race, religion, or gender, or age.  What David Sheff does is talk about it. He names the elephant in the room. He invites parents to face the shadow side of addiction and mental health and bring it into the fore. He challenges us as a culture to unabashedly squash the stigma associated with addiction and mental health.

 

This stigma I’m talking about increases the suffering families experience around addiction and mental health. It inhibits one’s ability to move through the processes required to heal. If worry and concern about what people migt say hangs over the head of a family, how willing will they be to do the work? How frequently will they suffer in silence? How long will they go before asking for help? Shame is the muzzle of addiction.

 

Sheff pointed out some staggering facts:

 

  • 80% of children will try drugs or alcohol before age 18.
  • Addiction is the #3 killer
  • The #1 reason teens use drugs: Stress
  • 90% of addictions begin before 21
  • Only 6% of pediatricians are able to recognize drug use
  • There are 3000 addiction informed physicians and over 3 million addicts

 

But he also reminds us of this: these kids who are suffering from addiction and mental health issues aren’t bad kids; they are our kids. The focus needs to be on what is causing the use of drugs and alcohol, not the drugs and alcohol themselves.  Kids are using because of stress, anxiety, social situations, trauma, et cetera. Our kids live in an environment that resembles a pressure cooker. I teach yoga to teens and tweens and I can tell you from my experiences with my students, the main reason they are there is because of stress and anxiety. And part of my work with them is teaching them tools for self-regulation.

These kids, our kids, need a reprieve from their overwhelm. Sure, drugs might offer a quick fix, but they don’t offer a solution. The solution has to come in the form of recovery, stress management and developing healthier means of self-regulation that allow for a better approach to being overwhelmed, anxious, and stressed out.  If there are addiction or issues of mental health, it becomes imperative to give them a voice. Shame keeps us silent. Shame keeps us sick. Shame increases our suffering.

 

Dr. Tim Fong, an addiction psychiatrist at UCLA also had some salient things to say that evening, but one that really strikes home is this.  Families need the following 4 things for recovery:

 

1. A healthy home

2. Mental and physical health

3. Sense of purpose

4. To have and build a sense of community

 

I encourage parents to seek help if they recognize that their child is in trouble. You are not alone in your fear, your suffering, or your need to be heard. Your child needs to be seen and heard as well, and the sooner you can get them the help they need, the sooner the recovery process can begin. Remember this: if your child has some hiccups in their recovery, YOUR recovery doesn’t have to hiccup as well.

 

I will leave you with this, a quote from Anne Lamott: “Never compare your insides to other people’s outsides.”

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