Divine House is a luxury treatment center specializing in holistic treatment for chemical dependency and co-occurring mental health conditions located in San Diego County. Situated on a spacious property in the city of La Mesa – just nine miles outside of downtown San Diego – Divine House offers medical care and supervised detox from drugs and alcohol in several modalities, including individual therapy, group therapy, medication management, SMART Recovery, and 12-step, as well as short-term and long-term residential treatment (both outpatient and inpatient). Divine House's website notes that its staff of medical professionals and caregivers seeks to create "a smooth medical detox and residential treatment for patients" and an environment where they can "flourish in their journey towards better health."When asked in a poll what brought them to Divine House, the majority of former patients, as well as several family members of patients, responded that the motivating factor was dependency on alcohol. Several listed an unspecified addiction or rehabilitation, while others noted that they sought help with mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder, "severe depression," and "a mental health diversion." Length of stay for these patients averaged 45 days, though others noted treatment ranging from 30 days to "over a year."Of the many reasons for seeking help with dependency issues at Divine House, nearly all respondents stated that quality of treatment was the motivating factor. A number of former patients also noted that Divine House's acceptance of insurance also weighed into their decision. Other significant factors for patients included privacy, the quality of the food and accommodations, and the amenities and recreational activities offered to patients as part of their stay at Divine House.In regard to their fellow former patients, respondents said that the "spectrum was covered socioeconomically." Ages varied from "18 and up" and "25 to 55," with most described as "working professionals" or "people getting on their feet." However, nearly all respondents said that their interaction with fellow patients was positive. "Everyone was friendly," stated one, while others wrote that the people they met at Divine House were "relatable" or "friendly and supportive." One respondent stated that the "intimate setting" afforded by Divine House "allowed for a personal experience" that let them get to know each resident. That community environment was "key to [their] recovery."The quality of food at Divine House was described with almost universal praise. "Gourmet" was offered as a description by several respondents, with others noting that the choices were not only plentiful – "good daily alternatives," wrote one respondent – but also very healthy. The facility's chefs "had amazing meals prepared on time every day," wrote another, who also noted that portions favored "as much as you wanted." Snacks, including fruits and sweets, are available at all times, and "individualized to accommodate every resident," according to one respondent. Coffee is "available 24/7."Among the meals singled out for praise were the Asian dishes, which one respondent wrote that they "always looked forward" to. Simpler fare, such as burgers and soup, also rated rave reviews, and desserts also earned high grades. "There is nothing that stands out as something I didn't like," wrote one former patient, although a couple former residents mentioned their least favorite was the tilapia.According to our poll respondents, days at Divine House are an equal balance of structure, privacy, and community. Chores are part of their daily responsibilities, but as one respondent noted, they largely hinge on "clean[ing] up after yourself (make your bed, do your laundry, etc.)." Others saw that pitching in to keep their environment in order was second nature: "I tried to help around the house as much as possible, taking out the trash, doing dishes, etc." Room arrangements are private, though others mentioned the presence of "Jack and Jill" bathrooms, which for one respondent was a positive experience: "The relationship I established with this other woman has created a bond that is invaluable to my recovery," she wrote.Religion is not a primary component of treatment. "Finding a higher power, whatever that may be," as one former patient wrote, was given more emphasis. Another noted that a non-denominational service was provided to patients via Zoom, and while more patients sought access to such services during that patient's stay, "no one would have been forced to" attend the service. A parent of a patient also commented that her daughter's religion was "handled with all respect" by the facility staff.Additionally, treatment focuses on "spiritual healing," which includes but is not focused on 12-step treatment. "No other facility" had attempted such treatment, according to one respondent, who said that this focus allowed them "the opportunity to open up and feel comfortable" speaking about their issues. Alternative methods to treatment are given equal attention by the facility staff, such as meditation and energy work, but the elements that resonated for many former clients were group discussions. Communication between therapists and residents was cited as "the best treatment," while others pointed to the "intimacy of the group" as a positive factorThe quality of treatment carried over to the help provided by the medical professionals at Divine House. One parent of a patient wrote that they couldn't "count the number of times" a doctor went "above and beyond" with their son. Others noted that the doctors "seemed as if they were prepared for just about everything health-concerned." According to general consensus, doctors and registered nurses were "always available" or "readily available at any given time."Treatment was viewed as a "fair mix between" tough love and a more permissive stance. "Not too strict to a point where you felt overwhelmed," wrote one respondent. "Tough love for those that needed it, and more permissive for those already on a good track," wrote another. Phone and computer access is "dependent on residents' needs," according to one former client, but the general consensus among former clients was that phone and internet were accessible whenever groups were not in session, while television was available in "most bedrooms" and in the main common area.Activities and amenities at Divine House are both accessible and enjoyable. Fitness classes are offered twice a week, while other avenues of exercise, from workout equipment (with a personal trainer), basketball, daily walks and swimming are always open to clients. The pool and spa are "beautiful," and clients can also participate in art, music, and yoga classes. Weekend outings are "decided upon by the residents," as one respondent wrote.When asked about whether they were able to abstain from their particular dependencies or issues after leaving Divine House, nearly all respondents answered that they are currently clean and sober. Divine House was directly cited as the reason for their status: "The process at Divine built my foundation," wrote one participant, while another said, "The Diving House is the reason I am sober today." The parent of a patient summed up their son's experience in powerful terms: "I can reasonably say that he wouldn't be sober now… without the intervention of Divine House in his life."
How to Keep Your Children Safe OnlineIt's important to talk to kids about social media risks and drug abuse because both can lead to harmful results, especially when combined. Kids need to learn about the dangers of buying things through social media, especially drugs. They also need to realize that those they meet through social media are not likely to be who they seem. But more importantly, they must know where to get help if they need it and how to protect themselves better.Drug Dealers Targeting Kids on Social Media Unfortunately, countless drug dealers are reaching kids on social media, such as Snapchat, using a cryptic code of emojis with tragic results. Federal investigators are warning parents about social media's role in assisting youths in getting their hands on dangerous drugs, mainly fentanyl.Investigators are increasingly finding more and more online tools, from cute emojis to games, that drug dealers are using to target kids. Although social media can be an excellent way for kids to stay connected with their friends, it can also be dangerous. Kids need to be aware of the risks of meeting strangers online and sharing personal information. Drug dealing on social media has also become a considerable risk for kids, sometimes with fatal consequences.Fentanyl Youth Fatalities Are on the RiseAlthough studies show that overdose deaths surged in the first half of 2021, the expected numbers for 2022 are much grimmer. According to a recent Guardian analysis of federal data, youth under 24 years of age have been the hardest-hit victims of the fentanyl influx into our country, with drug deaths up by 50% in that age group.Pills made to look like Oxycontin, Percocet, Xanax, or Adderall, laced with illicit fentanyl, are readily available on social media platforms. Although Instagram says it does not allow the buying and selling of drugs on its platform, a recent report from the Tech Transparency Project (TTP) found an actual "drug pipeline" in which kids are able to find drugs with just a few clicks.Although purchasing drugs is one of the most talked-about risks for kids on the internet right now, it is not the only threat. Here are some examples of the risks associated with social media for kids:Addiction and Overdose: CDC warned the public in late 2021 of a significant spike of drug overdoses on young people, driven by fentanyl often mixed into counterfeit pills. Teenagers are buying deadly drugs on social media, mistaking them for pharmaceutical-grade drugs.Cyberbullying: According to dosomething.org, 71 percent of students have been cyberbullied, and 34 percent have cyberbullied someone else. Cyberbullying can be highly damaging to kids' mental health and self-esteem. Predators: Predators use social media platforms to target kids for sexual exploitation and kidnapping. According to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, one in five children who use social media will be contacted by a predator. Inappropriate content: Kids can easily stumble across inappropriate content on social media, including pornography, violence, and drug use. Internet addiction: Kids can develop an unhealthy obsession with online life and spend too much time on social media instead of interacting with people in the real world, which may lead to anti-social personality disorder, anxiety, and extreme depression.Identity theft or fraud: Kids can reveal too much personal information online, putting themselves and their loved ones at risk for identity theft and other types of crimes and fraud. Drug Dealers Have Invaded Our Homes Drug dealers are targeting our kids and robbing them of their lives via social media, and we are not doing enough to stop them. Tragically, we have now been introduced to a world where thousands of parents are losing children to fentanyl pills. Even more troubling is the cartels have found the perfect drug delivery tool – social media. Drugs are coming from China and Mexico at a rate never before seen. There is easy access to drug sales on apps such as Reddit, Snapchat, and Instagram, and an unimaginable number of kids are dying right before our eyes. Snapchat has disclosed new efforts to battle drug dealing. Efforts are being made as drug-related deaths among U.S. high school and college-aged youth are exploding. The company announced an immediate improvement on automated drug detection systems, enhanced partnerships with law enforcement agencies, and a brand-new portal educating users on the risks of drugs.How To Protect Your Kids from the InternetIt is essential to talk to your kids about internet safety and the dangers of using it. You should also make sure that you know what your kids are searching online. Monitor their activities and talk to them about what they are doing on the internet. Be open and honest with them and let them know that you are there to help them if they ever encounter a problem while online.With drugs being so accessible, you may feel overwhelmed to keep your young loved ones safe. Here are some ways that can help:Help your child feel connected to you by keeping an open line of communication. Let them tell you about their friends, what's happening in school, or what they feel. Try being more receptive and less judgmental.Ensure they know how much danger there is in buying drugs online.Being a parent is a tremendous responsibility that continues to be increasingly challenging. Being in constant communication with your child's friends and teachers can help you keep up with what they're doing while preventing any problems before they arise!Please share the news of kids their age overdosing after trying one single pill for the first time.Be aware of payments they might be making to unknown vendors.Monitor delivered packages. Drugs are often sent in unmarked and discreet packages.With so many dangers at your child’s fingertips, it is almost impossible to ensure their absolute safety. Social media has made illicit drugs more accessible than ever and dealers have a total disregard for someone’s age, ability to make decisions, or wellbeing. One of the most important things you can do is educate yourself on what’s going on in the world and your child’s life while maintaining a good relationship with them. Reviewed by Clare Waismann, Registered Addiction Specialist (RAS), Substance Use Disorder Certified Counselor (SUDCC), founder of Waismann Method® Advanced Treatment for Opiate DependenceClare Waismann is an authority and expert on opioid dependence, opioid use disorder, substance dependence, detoxification treatments, and detox recovery.
An exclusive interview with researcher Tarlise Townsend, Ph.D., reveals a definitive need for harm reduction policies plus investment in treatment in marginalized communities. In these communities, particularly lower-income African American and Latino neighborhoods, the opioid epidemic has combined with stimulant abuse to create a sharp spike in overdoses. These findings, from a study funded by the National Institutes of Health that examined death certificate data in the dozen years before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, were published last month in the American Journal of Epidemiology.Driven by the three-headed dragon of fentanyl, prescription painkillers, and heroin, drug overdoses kill over a hundred thousand people every year in the United States. However, from 2007 to 2019, drug overdose deaths involving more than one substance increased dramatically across the board nationwide. Additionally, these multi-drug overdoses had a more noticeable spike in traditionally marginalized communities that lack substance disorder education, prevention efforts, and treatment opportunities.The Fix is honored to interview Dr. Tarlise Townsend about the implications of her study.The Fix: Why is the combination of stimulant abuse like cocaine or methamphetamines and opioid use disorder like heroin or prescription painkiller misuse hitting marginalized racial and ethnic communities so hard? As opposed to one or the other, what do you think is the reason for the two-headed dragon?Dr. Tarlise Townsend: The overarching response to that question, unfortunately, is that we don’t have an answer. Although we have diagnosed and identified the problem, we still desperately need to understand what’s driving it: Why are marginalized communities, particularly Black Americans, being hit proportionately hard by these combined overdose deaths? At the same time, the reality is that structural racism shapes everything, including access to resources. There is a lack of harm reduction options in this community, a historical lack of trust in healthcare providers, and a profound lack of access to treatment for substance use disorder.Also, criminalization is a really big factor when it comes to the increased risk of overdose. It is so much less likely that authorities will be contacted in time to administer overdose antagonists like Naloxone. After all, Black Americans, particularly men, are so much more likely to be criminalized for just being in possession of these drugs.As a result, there are many factors contributing to these racial disparities. Also, these disparities may not be specific to just these two types of drugs; stimulants and opioids. It may be a more systemic problem that right now is just manifesting as increased overdose due to the combination of stimulants and opioids. When you put this issue into the context of fundamental cause theory, you realize that the fundamental causes of health issues like socioeconomic status or racism affect health outcomes in almost every context in these communities. These overarching causes fundamentally affect people in so many ways because they basically bleed into everything.Even if you try to address other causes of these health disparities, socioeconomic status and racism will find another way to generate other challenges. Indeed, socioeconomic status and racism have been and continue to be fundamental causes of adverse health outcomes in these marginalized communities. The problem is not just the increased use of stimulants and opioids leading to more overdoses. It also is a lack of recovery resources, educational opportunities, and substance use disorder treatment in these communities.What drug is playing the driving role in this overdose crisis? Is heroin or cocaine proving to be more destructive in these communities?Our study did not look specifically at the type of opioids contributing to these overdose deaths. However, other recent research looking at the problem of opioid-stimulant deaths has found that fentanyl is playing the driving role. The story of this rise in overdoses is due primarily to a surge in fentanyl exposure. There is a contamination of these street drugs that the person who is using does not realize. Despite the increase in combined opioid-stimulant use, the inclusion of fentanyl in that picture is the driving force. In developing countries, particularly in Southeast Asia, methamphetamine use has been connected with working long hours. Is that happening in the U.S. as well? I don’t feel like I can answer that question with any expertise or confidence, but it does bring up another perspective. There is evidence of people who use opioids in homeless populations on the street intentionally using stimulants to stay alert. First, these people are more readily targeted and criminalized for using. Second, they cannot afford to be oblivious when living in such extreme conditions. It could be that the stimulants counteract the opioids, allowing these people to avoid what we would describe as loitering and remain aware of external threats.Thus, the co-use of these two drugs by homeless populations could be described as an effort to cope with really trying conditions. However, despite such hypotheses about what is going on, there is not a lot of proven research. Thus, we know very little about those specific dynamics. Still, the idea of homeless people addicted to opioids using stimulants as a survival mechanism is a notion that deserves greater investigation.Specifically, what kind of harm reduction and evidence-based SUD treatment services are needed in Black and Latino neighborhoods? For example, if you had a billion dollars in funding to fight this crisis, how would you spend it? We need to look at both the money is no object question, and money is an object, so what do we do question. For the first, we need all the things. There is no specific policy solution or harm reduction solution that is going to address everything. There is no quick and easy fix to eliminate rising disparities in opioid and stimulant overdose deaths. We would think that when we implement a societal health intervention, the population in our society that needs the most help will receive the most benefit from such an intervention. However, this is not the case because health disparities will often widen unless you specifically target the communities with the greatest needs. If you want to help those communities, you have to target the barriers preventing them from accessing the help they need, like resource barriers, stigma issues, socioeconomic gaps, and racial and ethnic challenges. Often, the people who benefit the most from societal health interventions are the people with the most resources. The lack of resources in marginalized communities results in such health interventions often proving ineffective.In general, when we are thinking about policies and programs designed to target disparities in substance use and overdose, we need to be intentional about tailoring those interventions to the communities that need them most. We need culturally informed and competent efforts tailored to address the needs of these specific communities that are being hit the hardest by opioid and stimulant overdose deaths. Highlighting such tailoring, we need education and outreach materials translated into the languages primarily spoken in these communities. Awareness of substance use disorder treatment and harm reduction programs need to be raised in contexts that people in these communities trust. A great example is the role that Black churches are playing in Black communities. Since that setting implies a greater trust, it leads to a greater uptake of these recovery options. There is a lot of distrust in these communities when it comes to traditional healthcare settings.Beyond these efforts, I also think we need to be thinking bigger. For example, the safe consumption sites that just opened in New York are encouraging, and initial evaluations are already underway. Researchers are looking at how effectively they reduce opioid mortality and increase the uptake of treatment for substance use disorder and other health intervention efforts. I’m also eager to see what effects decriminalization like we are seeing now in Oregon will have on overdose mortality trends. When it comes to spending money to combat these problems, whether it is the limited funds that are now accessible or an imaginary unlimited amount, researchers need in-depth cost-effectiveness analyses. No matter how much money is being spent, many health interventions that people thought would lead to major results did not give us the greatest bang for our buck. In reality, resources are limited and scarce. Thus, the money spent needs to be used in the best way possible. We need to study which of these programs and policies will prove cost-effective. An example of such a cost-effective study is seen today in the use of Naloxone, the opioid antagonist that can reverse an overdose in an emergency. Distributing Naloxone to people who most likely will experience overdose is highly cost-effective and saves lives. It has proven to be one of the most cost-effective medications on the market. Our experience with Naloxone so far is a good model for figuring out how we can best use limited resources to address this crisis and reduce the health disparities in these marginalized communities.
When you think about a healthy heart, what comes to mind? We all know the importance of regular exercise and avoiding too many saturated fats when it comes to keeping our cardiovascular system operating at its best. But living a heart-healthy lifestyle goes well beyond just diet and exercise. Drinking and drug use, especially when it crosses the line into addiction, can have a massive impact on heart health.Since cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for adults in this country, it’s important to reflect on all the ways that behaviors can impact our cardiovascular health — including the choice to drink or use drugs.Alcohol can affect blood pressure: for better or worse. Everyone loves to hear how a glass of red wine — or dark chocolate for that matter — is good for heart health. While it’s true that some research has shown a connection between moderate consumption of red wine and health health, the American Heart Association emphasizes that correlation doesn’t equal causation. The benefit for heart health likely has more to do with people’s actions, like living a low-stress or active lifestyle, than their consumption of wine.What’s crystal clear, however, is that drinking heavily can raise your blood pressure. Having high blood pressure, also known as hypertension, increases your risk for heart attack and stroke. If you have high blood pressure and consume more than one standard drink a day, your doctor will likely talk to you about reducing your alcohol consumption as part of an overall heart-healthy lifestyle.Boosting your blood pressure isn’t the only way that alcohol use affects your heart health. Drinking heavily is one of the leading causes of cardiomyopathy, a disorder where the heart isn’t able to pump blood efficiently. People who develop cardiomyopathy due to alcohol use often experience heart failure, and many need a heart transplant in order to survive.Alcohol may make heart disease more common among young peopleIn most cases, cardiovascular disease becomes more common as people age, and is relatively rare in young people. However, a new study finds that alcohol and recreational drug use can increase risk of premature cardiovascular disease. Researchers found that people who drink alcohol, use tobacco or use recreational drugs including cocaine, amphetamines and cannabis all had increased risk for heart disease.“All subgroups of recreational substances were independently associated with a higher likelihood of premature and extremely premature,” cardiovascular disease, the study authors wrote.The more substances you use, the higher risk you are at. The study found that people who use four or more substances regularly had a nearly 9-times increased risk for heart disease.Alcohol as part of a heart-healthy lifestyleEven if you’re concentrating on your heart health, it’s ok to have an occasional glass of wine. You can even substitute in a beer or cocktail, but it’s important to only drink in moderation. That means having no more than one drink a day for women and two drinks a day for men. Remember, that means standard drinks — not a generous pour.If you have trouble sticking to that limit, it might be time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol. Unhealthy patterns like binge drinking can exist alongside or without substance use disorder. Any time you’re drinking too much — whether overall or in one sitting — it can have a big impact on your immediate and long-term health. You might need professional guidance to change your interactions with alcohol and switch to a healthier drinking pattern.Taking care of your mental health, including addressing any underlying traumas or illnesses, can reduce stress. Keeping your stress to a minimum is important for controlling your blood pressure and cardiovascular health.Heart health is important, but it doesn’t exist in a vacuum. Taking care of your heart means taking care of your physical, mental and emotional health. Think about the steps you can take to be a healthier version of yourself.Learn more about Oceanside Malibu at http://oceansidemalibu.com/. Reach Oceanside Malibu by phone at (866) 738-6550. Find Oceanside Malibu on Facebook.
They say all roads lead to Al-Anon, but every time I take my seat in a dank church basement at a meeting that delves into control, I inevitably end up wanting to run away. Because the thing is, there can be a lot of love in an enmeshed family and I have not yet been able to cut those cords. It’s the love I don’t want to lose, as well as the qualities I’ve gained from being a part of a codependent system. The gifts I’ve acquired – like going the extra mile and being the kind of person others can depend on – are things I like about me.I come from a family who polls every decision, vibrates with panic, and shapeshifts into blurred roles and lines constantly, and these are some of the challenging patterns I continue to work on as a codependent person. But at the same time, I’ve been able to use some of the aforementioned CODA skills to help animals, specifically shelter dogs. Yeah, it’s a loophole, of sorts. Everything has a light side and a dark side. But the tangled-up, deep love I’ve learned to practice in my family of origin, the kind of love that almost hurts, has allowed me to have positive relationships with rescue dogs who need help. And as I’ve learned to engage in this kind of love with them, I inadvertently stopped being codependent with people, because loving dogs well involved me wanting to get them right in the mind. That taught me to implement boundaries. I know it’s a stretch but trust me: walking down a shelter corridor and taking in all that pain, very much makes one want to do right by those animals. It will mean more than wanting to feel like a savior. It will become less about you. What a relief, right?Am I really making a case for codependency here? I am.Because once we understand something and experience it fully, with awareness, we can know how to stop it.I want to take a minute to point out that codependency can feel like the encouragement to abandon oneself and put others first. It’s a cutting off self, a lack of identity. It’s a dangerous game when we can’t speak our needs or share a truth, and I don’t want to gloss over those agonizing elements of this unhealthy dynamic or make the dysfunction sound fun. But it’s humans I’ve experienced this with, it’s people who have disappointed me when it comes to a codependent paradigm. It's my family I haven’t been able to change the nature of our relationship with.As I type these words, my 17-year old Beagle mix, Ophelia, my first rescue dog, is snoring on my lap. She has never, not once, pushed me to forget myself, has never shoved her guilt onto me or held on tighter when I walked out the door. My dog waits patiently, she dances when I come home, she accepts what I want, and she lets me know what she wants, as if it’s all okay just the way we are, as if we can be together or apart, but the love isn’t dependent on either and it won’t ever be affected by imperfections or mistakes or feelings. I adore Ophelia, I am devoted to her, and because of her, I have grown to love myself. Because of her, I’ve also adopted many other dogs and fostered many other dogs, each time proving to myself again that being codependent on dogs is safe. Here exactly is why:You never have to sell yourself out for a dog’s affection and companionship. You never have to perform to earn their approval. You just have to be halfway decent. For me, going into an animal shelter, bearing that world of hurt and taking in the ugly smells and earsplitting barks and eager eyes from behind kennel bars, was all I had to do to be rewarded with unconditional friendship from someone who needed just one friend in the world. It makes me feel proud to be that friend, and I can admit that a part of me still needs to be needed. Perhaps that part of me is a continuation of codependency instead of a cure, but it’s also a safe place to park my natural/nurture-al symbiotic spirit there so that I don’t keep handing it over to humans who will without a doubt let me down. It’s my great, grand ability to be disappointed that I’ve found hard to deal with. But my old Beagle, my shelter pets, they never let me down. They continue to need me and I am not above saying it because when we speak honestly, we can hopefully prevent the fallout of defects run rampant. Emotionally relying on a dog who relies on me is also acceptable in my book because it can actually strengthen the bond. A dog requires consistent checking in, and every time we do that, every time we engage in communication with our dogs, they are looking back at us with those devoted eyes that in and of themselves are an honor. And because all this happens without words, it will make you believe in the power of communicating, in sharing your needs as well as attempting to understand another’s, with willingness. It will make you get quiet enough to hear yourself. My dogs and I are in a constant feedback loop of connection. Each time I try to reach out and understand or be understood by them, they are doing the same, they are there to receive it, cherish it, and reciprocate. I’m not saying animals are here to serve us, but I am saying that an indirect benefit of loving Ophelia has been enjoying a relationship where codependency feels nontoxic precisely because there is no risk of being rejected. Sometimes it feels like she and I are one. Sometimes other people don’t get that. But I don’t care, and in this light, being codependent with a dog might be the best way towards self-discovery – because I have found that I can be somebody who doesn’t care what others think. Go figure! A dog will become a justifiable excuse to say no when you need to say no, even embolden you to say it. Practicing saying no in order to go feed my dog, walk her, and take care of her has been incredibly therapeutic for me. It has dared me to try saying no at other times. Am I using her? Maybe a little. Does she mind? I don’t think so. Because whether Ophelia catches me picking my nose or declining a call I should answer or being a general asshole, she doesn’t judge me, and that has helped me stop judging myself, at least a little bit. Furthermore, because of how much I love dogs, they make me careful not to make them codependent on me. As a foster mom, my job is to get them ready to go to happy homes and enjoy the smoothest transition possible into their new life. This means I must allow them to experience discomfort, tolerate limitations, learn independence, and be balanced. And in giving these gifts to them, I’ve learned how to give them to myself. Over the years, as I have had to trust my intuition about what I think my dogs are telling me, it has compelled me to trust myself. I think that is the muscle I’ve most needed to build in order to loosen my codependency on other people. Ophelia has shown me that I can count on myself, on what I perceive or sense, and that I’m often right. And that when I’m not, it’s not the end of the world, I can try again. More forgiveness has been the result.So maybe I am looking for a workaround, an excuse to be codependent in a way that serves me because it’s so hard to change our own mental patterns. Sure, I’ll probably return to Al-Anon again in six months on the edge of reason. But I will still have dogs in my life to walk through recovery with me, wherever I am on that journey. And for now, this area of my recovery remains the final frontier. Because I love my family, I do, and the only border I’ve been able to implement between us is made up of four-legged friends. I’ve learned to pour my CODA into purpose, into these tender animals who deserve a chance at a good life, and miraculously they’re helping me evolve. They’re helping me feel good about what I give. They’re helping me feel worthwhile and worth loving.What’s ironic is that as I engage in a sacred love with Ophelia, my codependency is morphing because I am in the practice of letting go. Because my precious pets will not live as long as I do, and thus I will have no choice but to grow the resilience and self-care needed in order to go on. In this most generous last act, dogs help heal us of codependency’s grip, showing us what we’re made of, how strong we really are, and that we can live beyond heartache. I look at Ophelia with utter gratitude even though I know what’s coming. She will leave me standing on my own two feet, less codependent than I was before her. Proud of what we were together, forever. And there is always another shelter, there are always more dogs to take in and learn from, learn with. And on and on it goes, the world turns, and we redefine ourselves each day by the ones who love us. But when it comes to dogs, they leave us loving ourselves most in the end.
Watching a loved one struggle with drugs or alcohol can be incredibly painful. Oftentimes, as a family member, you will notice problematic behaviors before your loved one sees them or is willing to acknowledge them. That can put you in a powerful position to point out your concern and help your loved one get into substance abuse treatment before things reach a crisis point.In an ideal world, talking to a loved one about addiction can bring you closer and get them into treatment. But this can also be a fraught conversation ripe with pitfalls and opportunities for hurt feelings. To make the discussion go a bit more smoothly, it’s best to prepare ahead of time. Here’s how.Evaluate your own emotions and responses.Before you involve your loved one, start by taking an honest inventory of your own emotions and feelings. Oftentimes, we bring our own history into the current situation, which can cloud how we see things and confuse the conversation. Maybe you have your own personal experience with sobriety, or perhaps you grew up with a parent that was an alcoholic. Either of those scenarios can make you more sensitive to a loved one’s substance use and more likely to react, rather than have a thoughtful and logical discussion.Be sure that you’re expressing genuine concern for your loved one, and that you’re not merely being triggered by their behavior. If you have a trusted third-party — like a therapist or confidential friend — to talk through your concerns. Practice formatting your concerns in a way that centers your loved one, not yourself. Putting your own experiences aside might help your loved one take you more seriously.Organize your talking points.People in active addiction often don’t realize the ways that their behavior has escalated. Helping them see their actions can highlight that they really do need help. The key is doing this in an objective way. No one wants to feel scolded or judged; instead they want to feel seen.Think about what behaviors you are most concerned about. For example, you might say something like, “I noticed you’ve been drinking every day after work,” or “The kids mentioned that you slept through your alarm three times last week.” Show your loved one their behavior through your eyes, but don’t shove it in their face.Use “I” statements.It’s easy for difficult conversations to escalate, becoming more and more emotional. An emotional, reactive discussion rarely leads to a productive place. One way to deescalate the situation and remove some of the negative emotion is by using “I” statements.Here’s how it works: rather than coming at your loved one with everything they’ve done, you focus on the impact that has on you. For example, instead of saying “You’re drinking every night and ignoring your responsibilities,” say “I have to take care of the animals and dinner chores alone when you’re drinking after work.” I statements can incorporate emotions and feelings, too. You might say, “I get scared when you’re out late and I haven’t heard from you.”Using “I” statements removes some of the arguing and pushback. Your loved one might disagree about the details of their behavior, but they can’t argue with your experience.Keep expectations realistic.Everyone is familiar with the idea of a big, dramatic intervention that results in someone leaving immediately for treatment. In reality, your discussion is unlikely to look like that. Your loved one might not even agree that there is a problem. That’s ok — this can be the first step in an ongoing conversation. That’s why it’s important to have a positive conversation and leave the door open for your loved one to come back to you after they’ve thought about what you said.Of course, there are situations where waiting isn’t the right answer. If your loved one is endangering themselves or others, or having a negative impact on your emotional or mental wellbeing, it is entirely ok to set boundaries and stick with them. Only you can decide what boundaries are right for you at a given time.Be prepared to offer help.Even after a person realizes that they might need treatment, the logistics can be overwhelming. Be prepared before you even start the conversation by gathering some resources on recovery options, different programs, local meetings, and more. That way, you can capitalize on your loved one’s willingness to accept help as soon as they express it.Only the person who is struggling with drug or alcohol use can make the decision to get treatment. However, as a family member or close friend, you have an important role to play in encouraging them and planting the seed for recovery.Learn more about Oceanside Malibu at http://oceansidemalibu.com/. Reach Oceanside Malibu by phone at (866) 738-6550. Find Oceanside Malibu on Facebook.
Before you can start the work of recovery, you need to go through detox — the process of allowing all drugs or alcohol to leave your body. For many people, detox is the most intimidating part of the recovery process. It can be physically painful and even dangerous. That’s why many people opt for going to an inpatient detox. For others, however, the thought of leaving their home and family can cause even more distress. If you’re one of those people, outpatient detox can be a great option.During outpatient detox, like that offered at Vanity Wellness Center, you’ll meet with a medical team every day. They check up on you to make sure that you’re healthy, and also provide the accountability that can make all the difference during the tough moments of detox. Wondering if outpatient detox is right for you? Keep reading to find out.What is detox?If you’re using drugs or alcohol frequently, you might be tempted to just stop. Well-meaning friends and family members can give that advice as well. However, suddenly stopping drugs or alcohol can make you very sick and be dangerous.That’s because when you use, your body becomes physically dependent on your substance of choice. You need more and more of it just to feel normal. If you don’t use, you might experience symptoms of dope sickness, like nausea or sweating, or symptoms of alcohol withdrawal, including tremors and anxiety.The physical and mental effects of detox can be severe. Because of that, it’s important to have a medical team by your side. They know what typical detox looks like. They can help you understand what to expect and where you are in the process. And if you experience complications — like hallucination — they’re at the ready to get you the medical help you need.How does outpatient detox work?When you sign up for outpatient detox, you’ll talk with your providers about what to expect. Part of that discussion will include how long your detox process is likely to last. In most cases, withdrawal from alcohol and opioids lasts about three days, but some people experience symptoms for less time or for longer.When your detox begins, you’ll visit the treatment provider each morning. They’ll take your vital to make sure that you’re stable. They’ll discuss symptoms, talk to you about coping strategies, and possibly connect you with other people who are going through detox. After that visit, you’ll return home or to another safe space to continue detoxing. You’ll return to your provider again the next morning.Medical supervision of detox is incredibly important. So is the fellowship that you’ll feel knowing that someone else is on your team. Detox can be isolating — you’re beginning to cut yourself off from the people you used drugs with, and your sober friend or family don’t understand what you’re going through. In that vulnerable moment, the support provider by your outpatient detox center can make the difference between failure and success.Does outpatient detox work?Some people have more success detoxing when they’re completely removed from their day-to-day lives. For these people, an inpatient detox is a good option.However, inpatient detox isn’t for everyone. Many people feel more comfortable in their own homes, around the people they love. With the support of an outpatient detox program, you can clear your system of drugs or alcohol just as safely and effectively at home as you can in a residential program.When you use an outpatient detox program you have a team of professionals ready to help you meet the challenges that daily life presents. They’ll help you figure out how to talk to your boss about your illness, or cope with your children’s questions. All of that can make it easier to get through detox. Most importantly, the team will connect you with treatment immediately following detox so that you have a clear next step in your recovery process.Unfortunately, outpatient detox isn’t a quick fix or easy option. Simply put, there’s no quick and easy detox. But for many people, outpatient detox is the best of both worlds: it provides you peace of mind through medical supervision, and optimizes your comfort by having you stay in your own bed. If that’s appealing, outpatient detox can be the first step toward your new, sober life.
Addiction can have a massive impact on your relationships, emotional health and mental well-being. That can make it easy to forget that using drugs or alcohol — even recreationally — can raise your risk for some physical illnesses, including cardiovascular disease and cancer. Considering the physical impacts of substance use can be scary, but there’s good news: getting sober or reevaluating your relationship with drugs or alcohol can help you reclaim control over your health.Here’s what you should consider about the physical impact of drugs and alcohol, and how they fit within the larger social, environmental and personal framework that impacts our health.What drug and alcohol do to the bodyThe exact physical effects of addiction will depend on your drug of choice. Most people know that drinking alcohol excessively can take a toll on your liver, while using meth can deteriorate your oral hygiene and the appearance of your teeth. Living with active addiction can impact your sleep patterns and nutrition, leaving you looking haggard or generally unwell.There are also links between drug and alcohol use and serious illness. It’s important to recognize that you don’t have to be addicted to experience these effects. Even recreational use can raise your risk for disease. For example, people who have one drink per day are at increased risk for cancer compared with people who don’t drink. It’s estimated that about 20,000 people in the United States die each year from cancers that are alcohol related.Recreational alcohol use can also have an impact on your heart, which is especially concerning considering that cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for adults in the U.S. and Canada. This trend holds true among young people, who are generally at a lower risk for cardiovascular disease. According to a 2021 study, young people who use cocaine, marijuana, and alcohol increased their risk of premature heart disease by up to three times. People who use four or more different substances recreationally had a nine-times higher risk of heart disease than their peers who didn’t use drugs or alcohol recreationally.Physical illness, addiction and traumaResearch shows a clear correlation between substance use and chronic illnesses like cancer and cardiovascular disease. But the story of causation is trickier to pinpoint. People who are at higher risk for substance use might also be at higher risk for certain diseases.Consider the research on Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs). These are potentially traumatic events in childhood, ranging from abuse to having a parent with mental illness to having an incarcerated parent. These events can create toxic stress, which changes how the brain and body function. Because of that, people who experience a significant amount of ACEs are more likely to experience mental illness, addiction, cardiovascular disease and cancer.People who drink heavily or use illicit drugs might wonder if those decisions impacted their cancer diagnosis or heart health. The truth is that a complex variety of biological processes, behavioral choices and environmental factors influence our health over the lifetime.Sobriety and physical wellnessIt’s never too late to take charge of your overall health. The first step is getting treatment for substance use disorder and evaluating the past traumas that might be impacting how you interact with drugs or alcohol. Counseling can help you understand the ways in which your past is still affecting your current behaviors and future health.When you stop using drugs and alcohol, you might notice some immediate changes to your physical health. You may begin sleeping better or notice a change to your weight. Your immune system, which can be depressed by alcohol, will likely rebound, offering you more protection against everything from a cold to COVID. In addition, paying more attention to your health can help you notice concerning symptoms and connect with care early on, preventing more serious outcomes.Over time, the health implications of drinking less and not using drugs add up. People who drink less alcohol and don’t use recreational drugs are less likely to develop heart disease or cancer than those who indulge heavily. It’s too late to change the past, but you can take control of your future health today by exploring sobriety.Sunshine Coast Health Centre is a non 12-step drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in British Columbia. Learn more here.
According to current statistics, an approximate 23 million people are in addiction recovery in the United States. Recovery, in any modality – inpatient, outpatient, 12-step, or otherwise – can be an emotionally, mentally, and physically challenging experience for the person seeking to break the grip of addiction, and for their friends and family. Recovery holds special challenges for the latter group, who have seen their loved ones struggle with addiction, and in some cases, may have endured negative experiences because of that addiction.However, support from those around the addicted individual is crucial to their success in recovery. It may be difficult to know exactly how to provide that support in a time of crisis. Following are 10 ways you can support a family member or friend as they take their first steps in recovery.1. Supporting isn't enabling – know the difference.Cynical wisdom may suggest that any support for an addict is enabling their behavior. However, the two actions are not the same: support is offering help while maintaining healthy boundaries, while enabling is support at the expense of your own well-being. Support requires honesty, while enabling excuses and even participates in addictive behavior ("he/she can't help it"). And support allows you to question addictive behavior while maintaining love and affection; enabling strangles healthy inquiry for fear of reprisal or recrimination.2. Educate yourself on recovery.Misinformation is a hot button topic of late, and the addiction and recovery worlds are no stranger to misguided, judgmental, and just plain wrong material in both print and online form as well. So it's important that you know a few facts as your loved one undergoes recovery: addiction is not a sign of physical, mental, or moral weakness. It's an imbalance in the chemical components of the brain which undoes impulse control and leaves the individual with a neural road map studded with triggers that, when tripped, set off addictive behavior, often without the individual's conscious choice. It's also important to understand that relapse is a common occurrence with individuals in recovery: there is no such thing as a "cure" for addiction. Understanding these core truths provides you with a foundation for a fuller and more accurate picture of the struggles your loved one is facing.3. Communicate clearly and without judgment.Remember that it's okay to ask your loved one how they are feeling, and let them know that they can communicate with you as well. Assuring them that they can speak without fear of judgment allays a lot of concerns experienced by individuals in recovery. If they seem unsure of how to begin the conversation, give them a question that allows them to elaborate on their feelings, rather than a yes/no query ("Are you feeling all right?"). Though you may also experience anxiety about your loved one's condition, try to avoid an interrogatory tone when asking about their well-being. Be honest: saying that you're unsure or uncomfortable, but that you still want to ask about them, is the sort of honesty they crave. Choosing words that don't carry a lot of negative freight helps, too: some people don't mind the words "addict" or "rehab," but your loved one may feel like those terms carry a stigma.4. Help them build good coping skills.External and internal stressors play havoc with everyone's sense of well-being, but for individuals in the grip of addiction, or in the process of recovery, they can lead to a relapse. Your loved one will hopefully learn many ways to contend with stress while in recovery, but there's simply no way to completely remove all stressors from life. Illness, personal loss, professional changes, and even differences in daily routines can all spark a stressful response. You can help by listening to your loved one when they feel stressed, and help them process and address their feelings. Discuss practical ways to solve those stressors, if possible, as well as coping mechanisms they've learned as part of their recovery.5. Know the signs of relapse.Relapse is a common occurrence during and after recovery. The National Institute for Drug Abuse notes that 40 to 60 percent of individuals with a substance addiction will relapse. To that end, it's important for loved ones to first understand what a relapse is. From a clinical standpoint, relapse occurs when a clinical condition that had previously improved experiences a sudden decline. In terms of addiction, that typically means a return to substance use. Relapses are not only troubling in terms of the individual's emotional and mental wellbeing, but they also pose physical danger: tolerance levels drop for many people who abstain from substance use over an extended period of time, and returning to drug use may lead to an overdose.Relapses don't appear without provocation. The typical signs of relapse began with a change in the individual's outlook: they may seem more negative about recovery, or downbeat about their existence. Old patterns of behavior may return: they may have mood swings, bursts of anger, or resistance to taking responsibility for their actions. From there, the individual withdraws from help, turning away from family, friends, and the support provided by recovery. Return to actual substance use is usually sparked by an emotional conflict of some kind; it could be a major issue, like family clashes or exposure to addictive substances, or it could be a less combustive concern, such as apathy, depression, or an encounter with a location where addictive behavior took place.If relapse occurs, it's natural for both you and your loved one to feel a lot of emotions: anger, shame, grief, and even despondency. It's important for you to follow some of the guidelines mentioned here: establish boundaries, listen to your loved one, offer support where you can without enabling, and most importantly, understand that relapse isn't failure. Your loved one has experienced a setback, and needs to return to treating the disease.Tarzana Recovery Center is a luxury addiction treatment center in Tarzana, CA. For more info, visit their website or Facebook, or call 866-514-1748.
Fentanyl is a powerful opioid that has been making headlines lately because of its role in increasing overdose deaths across North America. There are two main types of fentanyl: illicit fentanyl and pharmaceutical fentanyl. Understanding the difference between these two types of drugs is essential, as they have very different purposes and implications. In this blog post, we will discuss the differences between illicit and pharmaceutical fentanyl, the dangers of both types, and tips to stay safe.What is Fentanyl?Fentanyl is a potent synthetic opioid that was introduced into the medical field as an intravenous anesthetic under the trade name of Sublimaze in the 1960s. It is a powerful, short-acting painkiller that's about 100 times more potent than morphine. It has high lipid solubility and quickly crosses the blood-brain barrier to produce relief from pain.Pharmaceutical grade fentanyl is currently available as:Actiq®- oral transmucosal lozenges, commonly referred to as the fentanyl "lollipops." Fentora®- effervescent buccal tablets Abstral®- sublingual tablet Subsys®- sublingual spray Lazanda®- nasal spray Duragesic®- transdermal patches, and injectable formulations.In 2015 there were six million prescriptions dispensed per year, with two thirds going to patients with cancer or other painful medical conditions. Still, during peak times for the opioid crisis (2016-2017), this changed drastically when widespread abuse led many doctors to stop prescribing them altogether because they could not distinguish between legitimate patient needs and addiction, which caused many patients to feel abandoned and desperate.Illicit FentanylAccording to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), synthetic opioids — namely illicit fentanyl — remain the primary cause of fatal overdoses in the United States. China is the main country of origin for illicit fentanyl, and its analogs are trafficked into the United States. In 2019, China fulfilled a pledge to U.S. authorities by placing all forms on a regulatory schedule designed primarily as drug substances or raw materials used in the manufacturing of fentanyl. While China’s shipment of these lethal materials directly into America has decreased, shipments coming in through Mexico have been increasing at record numbers. The connection between China and Mexico has grown due to increased fentanyl precursor sales by Chinese traffickers. In March 2021, Matthew Donahue described this situation as "an unlimited supply" that would keep arriving at Mexican cartels' doors without end — a description which perfectly fits the tasks currently facing law enforcement agencies throughout both countries today. The waves of fentanyl coming into the United States from Mexico are not just reaching our shores, they're crashing on top of us. In recent months, multiple busts with arrests and seizures link these pill mills in Juarez to make finished Chinese sourced precursors for trafficking across America's US - Mexico border right here at home!Hidden Fentanyl Deaths: How Drug Makers Are Killing Americans Fentanyl is currently found in most counterfeit oxycodone pills and other medications. It is difficult to distinguish between the actual medications from the illicit ones because, as they can easily pass for legal drugs due to its near-identical appearance with many different manufacturers' logos on each pill or capsule. When this lethal drug is found in other substances, like benzodiazepines, cocaine, and methamphetamines, users with no tolerance to opioids are at much higher risks of dying. Some advocates consider hidden fentanyl deaths as murder by poisoning.The Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) data, shows that fentanyl is now widely encountered in powder form and as prescription drugs such as oxycodone or Xanax. The danger of illicit fentanyl comes from its potency. A tiny granule of this lethal substance can cause override the body's natural reflexes to breathe, leading to respiratory depression and death.Border Crisis Continue to Fuel Fentanyl DeathsThe United States Drug Enforcement Administration has seen a record number of seizures along the southwest border, with agents remarking that one reason for this uptick in drug trafficking is due to increased migration from Central America. During last year’s surge in illegal immigration, Border Patrol agents were relocated to process the migrants. This surge led to the closing of inspection checkpoints, allowing drug traffickers to go undetected. The unprecedented upsurge of fentanyl coming into the USA has had disastrous consequences on our citizens and generations to come. Unfortunately, this tragic situation continues to evolve.Fentanyl Overdose and Narcan Narcan (naloxone) is a life-saving drug that can reverse the effects of an opioid overdose. The issue is that not everyone who needs Narcan knows how to use it or where to get it. Many people believe that Narcan is only for police or first responders, which is not the case. Narcan can be administered by anyone – a friend, family member, or stranger.It is vital to let the public know about Narcan's ability to reverse an overdose, where to get this life-saving medication, and how to use it. We need to make sure that people have access to this life-saving drug in case of an overdose.If you are using illicit drugs, be especially careful and take steps to reduce your risk of exposure to fentanyl. These steps include not using drugs alone, carrying naloxone (Narcan), and being aware of the signs of an overdose. If you think someone may be overdosing on fentanyl, the symptoms may include having trouble breathing or swallowing; extreme sleepiness with no response when called upon. The most common overdose responses are:Lips turning blueGurgling sounds Body stiffness or seizure-like activityFoaming at the mouthConfusion or bizarre behavior before becoming unresponsiveGetting TreatmentIf you are struggling with fentanyl dependence, please seek help. Many resources are available, including medically assisted detox treatment centers, drug rehabs, and support groups. Don't let fentanyl take your life – there is hope for recovery.It is essential to clearly understand the differences between a medical detox program and substance abuse rehabilitation. At the same time, both help those struggling with drug addiction, medical detoxification monitors and manages the physical symptoms of withdrawal, while rehabs mainly offer psychological and peer support.Fentanyl addiction is frightening and, more than ever, a dangerous activity. Withdrawal from fentanyl can be challenging and intense; although opioid withdrawal is generally not considered life-threatening on its own; however, some of the medical and psychological symptoms may lead to complications that can be deadly. It is always good to get assistance from medical and mental health professionals through detoxification who can utilize multiple strategies for managing withdrawal effects while keeping patients safe.Sources:https://www.deadiversion.usdoj.gov/drug_chem_info/fentanyl.pdfhttps://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19876859/https://www.dea.gov/sites/default/files/sites/getsmartaboutdrugs.com/files/publications/DoA_2017Ed_Updated_6.16.17.pdf#page=40https://www.uscc.gov/sites/default/files/2021-08/Illicit_Fentanyl_from_China-An_Evolving_Global_Operation.pdf
If you’ve ever seen Tom Cruise as a driven sports agent in the award-winning film Jerry Maguire (1996), then you know more about super-agent Leigh Steinberg than you realize. Based on his life experiences, the film's storyline ended before Leigh Steinberg experienced the worst travails of his life. During his career, Steinberg has represented over 300 professional athletes in football, baseball, basketball, boxing, and Olympic sports, including the number one overall pick in the NFL draft a record eight times.Despite his success, Steinberg met his match when it came to alcohol. In 2015, he described his challenging journey into sobriety in his memoir. Today, Steinberg reveals his inspirational journey in an interview with The Fix.The Fix: As a young man, your first client Steve Bartkowski became the No. 1 overall pick in the 1975 NFL draft, catapulting you into the upper echelons. When you look back on the sudden rise of those early days, do you ever feel like it all happened way too fast? Was it challenging to deal with the mighty rush of early success?Leigh Steinberg: I had had the wonderful experience of being student body president at Cal (University of California, Berkeley) in the tumultuous days of the Sixties. At that point, Berkeley was the vortex of student life. From demonstrations and rock music to alternative lifestyles, the school was at the center of the national story. Such an experience really prepared me for the national profile that came with the Bartkowski signing. I never confused newspaper clippings, awards, or external praise for the substance of being a good person and being grounded.From Warren Moon to Oscar De La Hoya, you desired your top clients to be preeminent roles models in their sports. Do you perceive yourself as a role model? How did the process of recovery illuminate this perception?We are all role models to someone. Younger people look up to you, older people will mentor you, and you will find people who will be the models for your future behavior. I had a father who raised us with two core values: The first was to treasure relationships, especially family, and the second was to do your best to make a meaningful difference in the world. It is part of your responsibility to help people who cannot help themselves. The whole nexus of my practice was trying to stimulate the best in young men.When it comes to making a meaningful experience in the world, I learned a lot from my struggles with alcoholism. Being in my twelfth year of recovery, I feel like I have been given the opportunity to help people who are struggling with the same challenges that I faced. It is a real positive that comes out of the experience. If you are reading this right now and you feel hopeless and overwhelmed by your experiences with substance abuse and addictions, I want you to know that there is hope and a light at the end of the tunnel. I have been where you are now, and it does get better.What did you learn from the success of your clients? What did you learn from their failures?For me, the critical key has always been how someone responds to adversity. If we take a quarterback who has thrown a couple of interceptions so the game is getting out of hand and the crowd is starting to boo, what happens next? Can that person summon up the internal focus to tune out extraneous distractions and elevate their level of play in critical situations? Life will knock us all back, but the question is can we stay in the present moment? Can we summon up the strength and energy to perform with excellence in those trying moments? What I saw them do in success is stay grounded and stay hungry. As opposed to bragging about a past achievement or becoming self-absorbed, they were able to stay in process and do the things that created their success in the first place.An old Irish saying goes, "A man takes a drink, the drink takes a drink, the drink takes the man." How would you say this saying applies to your life experience?When it comes to alcohol, it snuck up slowly on me. I didn't drink for most of my life and most of my career. However, when I started drinking, it suddenly stopped becoming a decision and a matter of volition of whether or not to drink. With what seems like little or no warning, it becomes a craving and compulsion. I did not realize until later in my life that I am allergic to alcohol. At this point, the first drink would be a disaster. Knowing the metamorphosis in my brain when I take the first drink gives me no other choice but to stay vigilant.You write in your book, "Consuming alcohol became a form of Russian roulette for me." It's truly a powerful image. Can you explain it further?The first drink was Russian Roulette. After I took the first drink, it wasn't clear what would be the eventual outcome. It could be anything from a blackout where I did not remember what had happened to just falling asleep to something unexpected. It was unclear how an evening would end, and it wasn't going to be positive (laughing). After taking the first drink, I was no longer in control of my own life. It wasn't positive. Depending on how my body was metabolizing alcohol and how much I was drinking, it could lead to many self-destructive behaviors, including drunk driving, hurting other people's feelings, and complete self-absorption. It could lead to a place where I was no longer aware of the choices I was making.Can you describe your "moment of clarity"? What realization led to the start of what is now your long-term recovery?It was a sense of proportionality. I was sitting in my father's room at our family house after closing my office and home. I am at my parent's house in West Los Angeles, and all I have is the next drink. At that moment of despair, there was an epiphany where I gained a sense of proportion. I realized I wasn't a starving peasant in Sudan, I didn't have the last name Steinberg in Nazi Germany, and I didn't have cancer or anything fundamentally wrong with my body. Thus, what excuse did I have not to live up to my dad's admonitions and be a good father? How could I not follow his guidance and try to be helpful to other people? It was a moment of clarity that I needed to overcome the denial that I had a problem. I realized I had to turn my life over to a process that would hopefully lead to a better tomorrow.You believe the success of rookie prospects in the NFL is helped by being drafted by the right teams where successful cultures of strategy and support allow them to grow into professional players. You use the experience of Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City as the ideal example. Do you think that a person's success in recovery might be similar as well?The key to winning in sports is the quality of the organization: Enlightened and stable ownership, a front office that excels at drafting and roster composition, and the quality of a coach who knows how to communicate with his players. All of that is important. Likewise, when it comes to recovery, having the right sponsor, being in the right sober living house, and surrounding yourself with other people who are serious about their recoveries and working the 12 steps is critical. I know it has been critical for me. Going to the right meetings helps you find the people with long-term sobriety who can become your role models. Overall, the concept of being in a healthy environment leading to success is critical in both environments.Can you talk about the role of steroids in professional sports? As an agent who cared about his clients, you write that you gained insight into the danger of steroids early on. Do you think performance-enhancing drugs will always be a part of professional sports?I don't think they have to be, and I hope they won't be. Steroids themselves are a real health danger on both a physical and a mental level. People taking steroids experience such emotional extremes, going from 'roid rage to breaking down in tears in an instant. Steroids play havoc with a person's emotional stability.Today, there are many promising therapies and techniques for training the human body, like nutrition, hyperbaric oxygen therapy, and stem cell therapies. There are so many breakthroughs about enhancing performance and stamina in a natural way. It really shouldn't be necessary to use destructive substances to perform well. One of the major threats in professional sports has been opiates to deal with pain. In a football game, it's like a traffic accident on every play. Since pain is ever-present, it's essential to find alternatives to becoming dependent and ultimately addicted to opioids is critical.Any last words? Any message you want to leave us with today?I have found that the most important life skill is listening. If you can cut below the surface with another human being and listen carefully to their greatest anxieties and fears and their greatest hopes and dreams, you can help them. If you can put yourself in their shoes and connect with their hearts and minds, then it's possible to navigate yourself through life with grace and integrity. Indeed, from the beginning, it was at the heart of my father's message to me.Lastly, I believe one of the keys is to try to live in this moment without being lost in the past or fearful of the future. We don't always have to answer the cell phone that's ringing. You can put focus and energy into the present to derive maximum satisfaction and be a happy person.
Vanity Wellness Center (VWC) is an outpatient and intensive outpatient treatment facility based in Woodland Hills, a neighborhood in California's San Fernando Valley. Treatment at VWC includes outpatient detoxification, group and couples therapy, and several modalities for aftercare, including discharge strategy planning and relapse prevention. They also offer an array of activities and amenities for clients, including art therapy, yoga, and more. The staff at Vanity Wellness Center is committed to aiding patients in overcoming their substance abuse issues by identifying their underlying traumas.When asked why they chose VWC for treatment, surveyed former clients gave a number of reasons. A majority of respondents said that the quality of treatment was the most important factor in their decision. Others gave location, privacy, and insurance reasons as their motivating factors, but the treatment provided by VWC was by far the most frequently cited reasons. "I was tired of failed treatment in Los Angeles where clients are getting high and not taking recovery or life seriously," wrote one former client. Another sought "the best outpatient helpers."Former VWC clients who responded to our survey described fellow residents as "an ethnically diverse group of male and female professionals with ages ranging from 20s to 50s." Most described other clients in positive ways, from "a good group of guys" to "people of my age group… who were able to identify with my issues." Nearly all respondents noted and appreciated the diverse demographics within the client group; respondents felt that their fellow residents were "looking for real help" and found the makeup of the client base "very comfortable."Alumni felt that their daily routine was well balanced at VWC. The facility maintains a schedule of therapy and activities from Monday through Friday, beginning at 9 am and ending at 3 pm, which was considered by respondents as "active and educational," and with "a few awesome groups per day." On average, respondents considered that their days were "filled with group activities" and discussions "on learning tools and techniques to succeed addiction." Most attended between two and five groups per day. In addition to the aforementioned treatment modalities, VWC also offers dual diagnosis treatment for individuals contending with both substance use disorder and mental health issues.When asked about rules at VWC, nearly all respondents believed that the facility regulated with a caring and healthy approach. Many noted that they felt that the staff "really cares" and "was very attentive" to their needs, with one respondent writing that they considered a staff member like "an older brother to me." One respondent elaborated: "They definitely had rules but what I liked was they let people be adults and make choices, good or bad." Another considered the structure "challenging" but added that they also appreciated the tough love route: "It required me to be rigorously honest about my issues," they wrote.Many former clients regarded VWC's medical treatment as "excellent." Medical and psychiatric professionals were described as "thorough," "very pleasant,” and "kind and expedient" with regard to making sure that everyone’s needs were met. For one former patient, doctors and mental health professionals "were and continue to be a great source of physical and mental treatment."While VWC's treatment does include elements of a 12-step program, survey respondents said that the facility's approach embraces other modalities "relevant to individual clients.” As one wrote, "12 step is a commonality in the program but not forced upon [us]. It's recognized that not everyone is the same and other treatment techniques can be healing as well." Many noted that treatment focused on "real life," which at VWC includes planning for life after discharge and relapse prevention.When it came to religious matters, the concept of God was not enforced; rather a "higher power" or other spiritual element was emphasized. The balance between religious and secular approaches was "respectful" and "not in a way that beats you over the head or [makes] one feel judged for not believing." One respondent stated, "We all had the freedom to choose what we believed in.”In general, alumni had praise for the meals offered at VWC, describing food as "quality" and "amazing," with many noting that both "healthy daily catered meals" and "heartier" comfort foods were available to all clients. Coffee was available "anytime," and there was an abundance of snacks and other beverages. Salads were frequently cited as a favorite meal, while sushi, tacos, and steak all received positive responses, but many also noted that their favorite aspect of the meals at VWC was the variety. "I loved it all because I was able to choose what I liked," wrote one survey participant.When not participating in groups or other treatment modalities, clients at VWC had a number of choices in terms of activities, both at the facility and off-site. The former included exercise-based activities like yoga, chiropractic care and massages, meditation and access to a gym. Leisure-time activities were also available, and ranged from gaming and television rooms to a music studio to pool access. There were also therapy modalities using art and music, as well as outings for equestrian therapy at a nearby animal shelter, go-karting, and helicopter rides. Schedules accommodated enough time to pursue these various activities; as one participant wrote, they "are worked into the weekly activities." There is also a private patio for smokers.When asked to summarize their favorite part of the VWC experience, many former patients said that their relationship with the staff was foremost in their minds. Feeling like they "truly care about your recovery and well being," as one participant wrote, was echoed by several alumni, while others appreciated the time devoted to them by therapists. Some felt as if staff members and fellow clients were like family, with one person noting, "I've built a lifelong friendship with almost everyone here." Others felt that the impact of treatment on their lives was the best part of the experience. As one client wrote, "[The] most memorable [part] was how I could finally see change in myself."All respondents to our survey have maintained sobriety after leaving care at VWC, crediting coping and other tools they acquired in treatment, which have "set them up to succeed." Another noted that the facility reinforced in them the need to "[stay] connected and [build] a support network." A number of former clients said that they felt they could reach out to staff at VWC for help and if needed, continued care.
Myths have helped us to understand the world around us. They've lead to a sense of order in a seemingly random world, and established a belief in cause and effect that lies at the root of education and enlightenment. But myths can also foster misinformation and superstition that get in the way of mental, emotional, and spiritual progress. A perfect example of this is the wealth of myths that surround addiction, recovery, and treatment. We've taken the prevalent falsehoods and rumors about getting sober through treatment and exploded them to reveal the core truth behind these beliefs.1. I have to hit rock bottom before I go into treatmentThe concept of "rock bottom" – a breaking point so grievous that an individual must either affect change in their lives or risk permanent incapacitation – is relative: one's idea of their lowest point is different than others, and may not even approach life-or-death scenarios. Waiting for that moment to begin recovery is not only unnecessary but also dangerous, since descending further into addiction can mean greater risk for physical harm (overdose) and mental trauma (loss of family, personal freedom). Recovery can and should begin when an individual feels that their addictions have changed their lives for the worse and wants a new direction.2. Relapse means that treatment didn't workRelapse is a common occurrence during the first stages of recovery, but it doesn't mean that the treatment wasn't effective. Recovery depends on a number of factors which include treatment as well as an aftercare plan, which may include therapy, a 12-step program, outpatient programs, or sober living situations. The individual in recovery must also apply the tools learned during treatment, such as reconfirming or rearranging their relationships, and adopting a healthier lifestyle. Recovery can also require new or additional forms of treatment that were not applied during the initial treatment phase. Above all, relapse does not mean failure; it's a new opportunity for the individual to continue an active role in regaining their lives and making positive changes.3. Relapse means that you can't get soberThinking that a relapse means that the treatment didn't work goes hand in hand with another myth: that a relapse also translates into the cold, hard fact that an individual simply can't achieve sobriety under any circumstances. This is, of course, a total fallacy: sobriety takes work, determination, and the willingness to make changes to one's life, but it can be attained. A relapse may put a roadblock in the path to lasting sobriety, but it doesn't mean that the path is inaccessible or shouldn't be attempted. More damaging to sobriety is the individual's own thinking. Character defects like self-pity and outsized expectations, deluded ideas like moderated used of addictive substances, and refusal to accept help can undo sobriety faster and longer than any relapse.4. I can't afford treatmentFor many individuals seeking assistance with addiction issues, the cost of inpatient or residential treatment is one of the key factors that keep them from seeking out professional help. The truth of the matter is that most facilities accept insurance and medical plans; many facilities accept all forms of insurance, as well as Medicare, Medi-Cal, and Los Angeles County's My Health LA or other city-based programs. The Affordable Care Act (ACA) also includes services for substance abuse to eligible adults in health insurance plans sold via health insurance exchanges or Medicaid, while the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs offers many treatment options for former military personnel with substance abuse and addiction issues.5. Treatment is all based on religionReligion or spirituality is an aspect of some forms of treatment, but not every treatment modality requires an adherence to religious principles or a belief in God. Many individuals considering treatment that express concern over this element are conflating all treatment with 12-step programs, in which God is frequently mentioned. However, it's important to note that most 12-step programs encourage a belief in a higher power – the definition of which is left to the individual, and not necessarily to any understanding of God connected to organized religion.If the "higher power" aspect is too close to religion for some, there are many other forms of treatment. For example, Tarzana Recovery Center in California's San Fernando Valley offers 12-step as just one part of its approach to treatment. The facility also includes evidence-based therapies, such as cognitive behavioral treatment (CBT), dialectical behavioral therapy (DBT), and eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EDMR), in addition to one-on-one meetings with a certified drug counselor and personal therapist.6. I'm too old to get treatmentAccording to statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration on the age of patient admission into recovery programs, more than half (55.8 percent) were between the ages of 31 and 50. Individuals ages 51 to 66 made up 13.6 percent of program admissions, while pre-teens, teenagers, and young adults between the ages of 12 and 30 comprised 43.5% of people admitted to program. People from all age groups, from all walks of life, and from all economic backgrounds get treatment. If age is a factor for attending treatment, there are many age-specific rehab scenarios available to the general public.7. My addiction will go publicFor those entering treatment, the idea that everyone around them will suddenly know about their addiction is an unsettling thought. It is, however, just a fear, and not a reality. What (and to whom) an addict reveals about their condition remains entirely up to them. Privacy about health conditions is protected under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and enforced by the U.S Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. It requires health providers – including treatment centers – to protect patients' health information in any form. Only the individual and their health care providers will have information about their condition.8. I'll lose my job if I go into treatmentAs with the previous myth, there is no credence to the idea that entering treatment, whether inpatient or outpatient, will result in the loss of your livelihood. Both the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) protect those wishing to go into treatment from discrimination and loss of a job. ADA specifically prevents dismissal from a job for addiction or treatment; FMLA allows qualified employees to take 12 weeks of medical leave for issues including substance abuse disorders. The leave is typically unpaid, but individuals can apply for disability benefits until the end of treatment. Many companies also have Employee Assistance Programs to provide assistance to employees, including treatment for addiction.9. I don't need treatment, just detoxDetox is a medical process that helps to remove the addictive substances from the individual's body. It does not, however, remove the mental and emotional aspects of addiction – physical cravings, triggers, character defects and past traumas that lead to substance use and addiction, or the various discomforts that comes with withdrawal. Treatment provides patients with new ways of coping with those feelings and strategies to substitute addictive behavior with healthier activities and aspirations. When detox is combined with a treatment program that includes residential treatment and aftercare, those lingering problems become manageable and a new way of life can be achieved.10. No one in treatment will understand how I feelAlienation, low self-esteem and loneliness all go hand in hand with addictive behavior. Feeling like one doesn't fit in anywhere can motivate people to numb that pain with addictive substances. It can also convince people seeking treatment that their problems are wholly unique, and that no one in rehab – fellow patients and health care providers alike – will fully understand the scope of their feelings. However, if one is willing to risk feelings of vulnerability and open up to others about their problems, they may find that many people in treatment have traveled a path very similar to theirs, one that has led them to find help.Tarzana Recovery Center is a luxury addiction treatment center in Tarzana, CA. For more info, visit their website or Facebook, or call 866-514-1748.
Chapter 5: Do everything you can and don’t get caughtA man is a success if he gets up in the morning and gets to bed at night, and in between he does what he wants to do.—Bob DylanI can’t call it a smuggling “career” since I only did it twice—first in February 1969 when I was 19 years old, full of wanderlust (my love of travel is a Sagittarian trait) and dealing small amounts of hashish in Philly. My second smuggling adventure took place late in 1971, after I started working my chosen profession more regularly.The mission in ‘69 was to buy red Lebanese hashish in Israel and bring it back through Kennedy Airport in Queens, NY, down the Jersey Turnpike, and to the streets of Philly. Joe Brodsky, gay and astrologically Capricorn, came with me on the first trip.Israel was a decent source of hash—fourth behind Lebanon, Pakistan, and king of all hashish producing nations, Afghanistan. Oh, and Nepal, which was famous for its powerful Nepalese Temple Balls.Going to Israel for hashish made perfect sense. Our families thought we were going to the Holy Land to discover our roots. Our friends and fellow hash-heads assumed we went to make money. Actually, we needed to go because neither of us could imagine living another day without taking a hit off a pipe filled with dope. There was no hash in Philly or New York. Every dealer we knew was out of stock.We planned to pay for the trip by selling three-quarters of what we brought back and keeping the rest for ourselves. Joe B. and I really didn’t think of it as smuggling—more like just having to go out of the neighborhood to score.We boarded an airport bus at Kennedy filled to the brim with Hassidic and other assorted Jews. We were driven up to the El Al 747 that would fly us 13 hours nonstop to Ben Gurion Airport in Tel Aviv.Joe B. and I had met when we were in a few plays at Olney High, as members of The Footlighters theater group. After having sought the spotlight, we now were aching to play the invisible man, or Harvey the rabbit.To make this trip, we had each taken a semester off from our studies at Philadelphia Community College, where we spent more time focusing on getting high than achieving a higher education.Our return flight was in three weeks, when we would be cruising though the New York airport named after our most recently assassinated and much-loved president. Both of us returned to the U.S. with 600 grams of hash stuffed in our pants . . . well, not exactly in our pants. The night before our flight back home, we went to a lady’s intimate apparel store on the main drag in Tel Aviv and purchased flesh-toned girdles (nothing sexy about these embarrassments). They were not the whalebone rib-crushers with leather laces but the thigh-to-ribcage, super-slim kind so popular with women who wished to appear more svelte.“I’m buying this for my girlfriend,” I explained. “She’s built just like me.”“So’s mine,” said my accomplice in deception. The shopgirls either took our word for it or knew we were neophyte hash smugglers.The next morning, we helped each other slide the three 200-gram canvas-wrapped bricks into our girdles. Fifty years ago, there was much less airport security, even in Israel. The era of skyjackings didn’t start until 1971. We boarded our return flight unmolested and then realized we had both forgotten to buy silver-plated mezuzahs like normal tourists would. A half-day later, we were back in U.S. airspace.When our plane started to descend to Kennedy Airport, I leaned over Joe’s lap to look out the window at the teeming populace of Long Island—7.5 million people. From his crotch, I could smell the distinctly subtle aroma of red Lebanese hashish rising into the stuffy airplane air. Subtle to humans maybe, but like a runaway slave to a Confederate soldier’s or a customs inspector’s German shepherd. We had talcum powder with us, and through my teeth I said, “You’ve got to go to the bathroom and use more talcum powder. But don’t let any fall on the outside of your girdle and descend like snow out of your pant leg, onto your Florsheim shoes, and leave a trail all the way to Rikers Island.”Bringing in drugs from outside the country is serious business. It’s called “smuggling.” I remember waiting in the customs line that I held my breath almost as often as I breathed. It wasn’t anything floating in the air outside my nostrils that triggered the response. It was the fear inside my bones. That fear gripped me the entire time.The shepherds must have been having a lunch break when we came through. As I cleared customs, I could picture the ump behind home plate at Connie Mack Stadium yelling, “Safe!” Joe got through safe and sound also.Once I was back home, selling the hash was no problem, until I was dealing my last quarter ounce to some guys in a friend’s basement in the Kensington and Allegheny neighborhood of Philadelphia. Instead of reaching into their pockets and pulling out money, they each reached into their belts and pulled out a handgun.One of them put a revolver to my head. The other pressed a .45 automatic to my heart. I remember looking at the revolver pressed at my temple, seeing bullets in all the chambers, and deciding not to give them an argument, or say anything funny. You know the expression, nervous laughter? Well, imagine frightened-to-death, about-to-shit-in-my-pants nervous laughter. Yet I acted calm and nonthreatening. I wanted them to feel happy—happy about their career choice and not trigger happy.Many thoughts went through my mind. The one I remember most vividly: If I ever get an acting role that requires me to be scared to death, this experience will come in handy. Having done plenty of neighborhood theater, this thought was not as far-fetched as you might think.They took the hash plus the two hundred dollars I had with me and then slowly walked me to my car. I wanted them to know that I wasn’t going to panic or do something stupid. I also wanted them to know that I was taking them seriously, and I wasn’t making light of being ripped off. Deciding they were unconcerned with either issue, I kept my mouth shut.As I drove slowly off, tears started streaming down my face, realizing how my life could have come to an end during the loaded drama I had just lived through. At that seminal moment, I came to a firm and unshakable realization and formed an irreversible resolve.Never again, I said to myself, I’m never selling drugs in that neighborhood again.It never entered my mind to quit selling drugs. Before long, it would become my livelihood, my full-time occupation, my raison d’être. Drug dealing was in my blood. A calling if you will. Capitalism in its purest form, just like the cocaine I would soon buy and sell for 13 years. Excerpted from HIGH: Confessions of a Cannabis Addict by Leonard Buschel.
Every day, in thousands of church basements, community centers, and clubhouses across America, people who can boast anything from a few hours to many decades without alcohol gather to collect one more sober day. Nearly all these meetings of Alcoholics Anonymous begin with members collectively reciting something called the AA Preamble, a statement of purpose for the AA group and reminder that AA’s “primary purpose is to stay sober and help other alcoholics achieve sobriety.”I first heard the Preamble in 2009, during my earliest attempt at sobriety, and have heard it hundreds more times since. The Preamble is so ubiquitous in the AA program that almost all members can recite it by heart. The Preamble is short, just two paragraphs comprised of five sentences. Until last year, it was exactly 100 words. It is now 98. The loss of three words, and addition of one, might seem small, almost meaningless, to anyone outside of the AA program. But for an organization that has stubbornly resisted most edits to its doctrines and covenants since its genesis over 80 years ago, it is earthshaking. And for those of us who want AA to change – who hope the program that did so much to save our lives can adequately respond to new, more inclusive cultural norms – it is a sign that AA is not a relic or a curiosity but a living, evolving thing, still in search of the best way to carry the message.For 74 years, the Preamble told members that AA is “a fellowship of men and women who … help others to recover from alcoholism.” Here’s the big change: “men and women” has been dropped and replaced with “people.” There’s a poetic simplicity to this that shouldn’t undermine its significance. No longer does AA’s self-constructed statement of purpose reduce members to men or women, Box A or Box B, this or that. AA is full of queer, trans, and non-binary addicts who for decades were greeted at every meeting with a recitation that excluded them. That is no longer the case.To understand why the change to the Preamble is so important, you first must understand just how rooted in antiquity much of AA is. I’m a gay atheist, and my first few years in “the rooms” were spent largely trying to see how, or if, I could fit in. No easy task. The central text of Alcoholics Anonymous is the “Big Book,” originally written in 1939 by famed AA founder Bill Wilson with assistance from other founding members. The Big Book’s first 164 pages, the pages thought of as the “nuts and bolts” of the AA program and authored primarily by the near-mythic Bill W., have remained largely set in stone, subject only to grammatical and semantic edits. Wilson’s vision of a set of principles and practices to get and keep a drunk sober remains intact. And many of those principles read as outdated at best, and offensive at worst, to modern eyes.Consider the chapter that caused me the most distress. “We Agnostics” purports to be the AA welcome wagon for the irreligious, but it is deeply condescending to those who don’t believe in God. The chapter begins reasonably enough, with sympathies toward those who have found organized religion corrupt or otherwise distasteful. It then turns toward AA’s unique, somewhat incomprehensible notion of spirituality, a vague sense that there is a “God of our understanding” who is in some way “bigger” than us. This can all be read metaphorically, which most godless AA members do, as a call to get out of our own heads and kill our egos. But there is a hard religious turn toward the end, a nod to our “Creator,” and a parable of a drunk redeemed through faith that wouldn’t be out of place on a megachurch’s Instagram feed. The overall message of “We Agnostics” is: Perhaps you don’t believe in God now, but you will, if you want to get sober.Arguably worse is “To Wives,” chapter 8 of the Big Book. As the title might have tipped you off, “To Wives” is sexist, heteronormative nonsense. Written in a confessional style, “To Wives” purports to tell the story of the long-suffering wife of the alcoholic – “Oh, how she cried!,” that sort of thing. The unspoken assumption is that alcoholics are men, and AA membership is mostly men, and these members are straight and married to women. In that sense, the old Preamble – written eight years after the Big Book and when AA was becoming more established – sounds downright progressive in its inclusion of both “men and women.”None of this should be surprising. Wilson was the product of both his time and his spiritual biography. In 1939, women had only been voting for 20 years, and the teaching of evolution could still be outlawed by states. For his part, Wilson had put down the bottle with the help of the Oxford Group, an anti-hierarchical, but explicitly Christian, sect focused on adherence to high moral standards and surrender to God. He incorporated many of the Oxford Group’s teachings into the Big Book. The roots of AA are Christian ones, and as a result, there is a religious lean to much AA literature. Some members are happier about this than others. When I was first trying to stay clean, I told a longtime member I was an atheist. He responded, missing the point entirely, that this was fine: “All you need to believe is there is a God, and you ain’t Him!”Both “To Wives” and “We Agnostics” remain, unchanged, in the Big Book today, although there have been unsuccessful movements to remove or rewrite them. It is no exaggeration to say that the change to the Preamble is the biggest move toward modernity AA has taken in perhaps its entire history. How did it happen? Well, making a complex process simple: any AA meeting can propose changes through their elected representative, who then takes those proposals to an annual conference, where they are voted on by all the area delegates. (There are 93 “areas” in the US. Some states have one, bigger states have more – New York has four.) It is at these General Service Conferences where the big decisions about the most fundamental tenets of Alcoholics Anonymous are made.The Preamble vote took place at the 2020 Conference. One New York area delegate put together a charming PowerPoint presentation, appropriately titled “AA In A Time of Change,” laying out the broad procedural steps, and I am cribbing from that here. AA groups in New York, D.C., and Louisiana pushed to have the change debated at the Conference. One committee initially voted down the proposal, finding that they needed “more information.” And that could have been where the change died – smothered in committee and consigned to next year’s conference.It wasn’t to be. As per the delegate, “in rapid succession,” members brought four floor actions. A floor action is discouraged at a Conference – it is outside of the normal “process” by which change is made within AA, and can be voted down immediately. There is a radical bent to a floor action, and for a body that requires 2/3 majorities to pass anything, the Conference process is nothing if not deliberative. But “I guess we’re alcoholics,” notes the welcomingly wry delegate, and members pushed. And so, after a “spirited” debate, the floor actions passed, and on May 1, 2020, Alcoholics Anonymous formally voted to make the Preamble inclusive of non-binary recovering alcoholics. It was announced in Grapevine in 2021, and was introduced at AA groups throughout the summer and fall.I wanted to find out just how spirited the conference debate was. The voting debates at the General Service Conference are not public, even to other AA members. While writing this article, I reached out to six area delegates to hear their recollections of the Preamble debate and vote. Only one responded, and he declined to speak. I anticipated their hesitancy – one of the most religiously observed creeds of Alcoholics Anonymous as an organization is its refusal to engage in what it deems “politics.” This is so important that it is even part of the Preamble itself, which states, “AA…does not wish to engage in any controversy [and] neither endorses nor opposes any causes.” And so, AA takes no position on medication, health coverage, drug legalization, or any of the other myriad policy debates that directly touch on addiction.But this is a country that bans trans people from public restrooms, that mandates genital inspections for children to play sports. In that context, yes, making the Preamble queer-inclusive was “engaging in controversy,” and it is silly to pretend it isn’t. Certainly the opponents of the change, in private Facebook groups, attacked it in political terms. “Extraterrestrials are going to feel excluded now.” “More Cancel Culture, Politically Correct BULLSHIT.” One member’s post I saw bluntly stated that her group would refuse to read the new Preamble. And again and again, members expressed annoyance that AA would take up what they call an “outside issue.”The “outside issue” trope is an old one in the program, drawn from the language of the Tenth Tradition, which tells members that AA “has no opinion on outside issues,” and thus will “never be drawn into public controversy.” It is deeply connected to AA’s refusal to engage in “politics.” The justification here is that anything not explicitly related to sobriety can alienate addicts from the program, and thus keep them mired in active addiction. But there’s an equally salient point – by not engaging in the everyday realities of members’ lives, AA can seem distant, naïve, and unfeeling. Plus, as in the case of the Preamble change, the ban on outside issues can be weaponized by bigots.Addiction is inherently bound up in issues of class, race, sexuality, religion, and yes, gender – the exact “outside issues” that AA members are taught to check outside the meeting room doors. AA teachings discourage these discussions in any formal or public setting, and so, newcomers living in poverty are told that this is no barrier to a spiritual awakening, minorities are told to overcome their “victimhood,” and old timers – usually white men with decades sober – often spitefully attack any mention of drugs other than alcohol in meetings. Yes, even drug use is considered an “outside issue” by many AA members. As it has with the Preamble, the outside issues rule is vague enough to be targeted at any inter-group discussions some members don’t like.Try as I might, I could not get an AA representative to comment on the record for this story. I had a lengthy chat with a very nice employee at AA’s General Services Office who asked me to forward some questions and refused to be quoted. Those questions were not responded to. I wasn’t surprised – I’ve written about AA and politics in the past, and was castigated by some for even identifying myself as an AA member in public. There is an overarching fear of sunlight in AA that is at odds with our current cultural moment, where institutions both private and public are held accountable for their internal rules and processes.The Preamble’s change is a sign that the tide is turning in Alcoholics Anonymous. As older addicts are replaced by younger ones, the wall AA has built around its teachings weakens a little more. As one Facebook commenter put it: “Stop debating queer and trans members because we’ve been here and stayed sober even when we weren’t included, don’t get it twisted nothing any of ya’ll have to say will change my sobriety date.” Exactly.
With vaccinations on board and safety measures in place, more of us are cautiously getting together with our families, celebrating postponed birthday parties and weddings. When you discuss these plans with friends or colleagues, however, you might notice a trend. Although most people have some excitement for family gatherings, there’s also an ever-present current of dread. For every sweet moment, there’s an awkward or irritating conversation with a family member — or, even worse, a sense of things left unsaid. These moments can be amplified in families that are touched by substance use disorder or mental illness.It’s easy to fall into a cycle of ignoring family dynamics, thinking that they’re never going to change. However, that doesn’t have to be the way. Addressing negative family dynamics can change the patterns among your loved ones and make for more meaningful connections. Here’s how to get started.Identify the issue you most want to address. When it comes to family, there are probably plenty of things that annoy you. Unfortunately, this isn’t the time to come in with a laundry list. Think about the one thing that would make the biggest difference in your relationships with your loved ones. Maybe you want to ask them not to make comments about your substance use or recovery. Perhaps you’d like to break the cycle of talking about other family members behind their back. Whatever it might be, take time to identify what would be most beneficial to the relationship.Once you have that in mind, talk with your loved one. In most cases it’s best to have a one-on-one conversation, but in some families a ground dynamic is better. Bring up your request gently, without blaming your loved one. Emphasize that you’re looking to move toward a better relationship.Make amends. Many recovery programs emphasize the need to make amends and heal past wrongs. This can be particularly important if you’re early in recovery, perhaps having just gotten through your first sober holiday. Again, it’s important to keep it limited. Think about the thing that you’ve done that’s eroded trust from your relationships. Next time you’re together with your loved one, apologize for that action.It’s important to make amends without expectations. You can’t assume that because you’ve said sorry your relationship will instantly change. You have to resist the urge to expect your loved one to apologize in return for the hurt they have caused you. Remember, they might not be doing the same personal work that you’re doing, so making amends should be something that benefits you in and of itself, regardless of whether your loved one responds in an ideal way.Define your boundaries. People tend to put up with a lot of unkind or unacceptable behavior just because it’s coming from family members. Buck that trend by defining boundaries. This is something you must think about on your own before you get together with family. Once you’ve defined your boundary, decide what the consequences will be if someone violates it. Next comes the hard part: communicating the boundary with your family member and sticking to your resolve if they violate it.Your boundaries are entirely up to you. Maybe this year you’re unable to be around people who offer your drinks, those who have different approaches to COVID precautions, or those who make off-color comments. Let your loved ones know, and be prepared to leave the gathering or otherwise respond if they don’t respect your boundary.Know when to stop. Sometimes, family dynamics are so toxic that they cannot be fixed. For some people, cutting off contact or having limited contact with family members is the healthiest option. This is most often the case when your loved one has repeatedly violated your boundaries.There is a huge stigma around family estrangement. But an estrangement that is thought out and not made out of anger is a healthy choice, not a failure. If your family members continue to impact your health and wellness in a negative way, it’s entirely fine to distance yourself.That might mean skipping the post-quarantine dinner, or going no-contact.Family relationships can be a lot. Remember that no one has the right to negatively impact your health and wellness, even if they are your family. Taking steps to heal relationships, putting boundaries in place, and possibly distancing yourself from family can make for a happier and healthier recovery.Learn more about Oceanside Malibu at http://oceansidemalibu.com/. Reach Oceanside Malibu by phone at (866) 738-6550. Find Oceanside Malibu on Facebook.
If you’re in early recovery, you’ve probably spent a lot of time lately focused on yourself. You’ve recognized your problems with substance use, and made the brave step of going to treatment. You’ve got your housing and job in order, and established a routine in recovery. Now that you’re clean and sober you might feel better than you have in a long time, and if you’re single you’re probably keen to share the new you with someone else. With Valentine’s Day on the horizon, it might be time for your first sober date.But if you mention a desire to find love or even just companionship to other people in recovery, you may get a side eye. Dating is usually discouraged in early recovery, and there’s little consensus on how long a recovering alcoholic should wait before dating.Here’s what you should think about before you start sober dating, and how you might know you’re ready to jump in.Dating in Early RecoveryIt’s common to come out of rehab, or your first few weeks of meetings, feeling like a new person. But before you sign up for a sober dating website, it’s a good idea to take some time to focus on yourself. Traditionally, 12-step philosophy teaches that people shouldn’t start dating, or make any other major life decisions, during the first year of sobriety.That probably sounds like a really long time, but hear it out. The first year of sobriety is a risky time. Relapse rates are high, and even if you manage to stay sober, you’re learning to cope with the ups and downs of life without turning to alcohol.Dating — which is stressful under the best of circumstances — can add to that rollercoaster. Breakups, being stood up, or even the euphoria of a great date can disrupt the balance of sobriety that you’ve just painstakingly established. So, take the first year after ditching alcohol to build a rock solid foundation in sobriety. Then you’ll be ready to find a partner to create a life with on that bedrock.Do I Really Have To Wait A Year?Deciding when to date is an incredibly personal decision. While a year of sobriety is a good benchmark to keep in mind, that won’t be right for everyone. Perhaps you are hoping to have children and feel your biological clock ticking. Maybe you have a timeline for other reasons, and waiting for a year just feels unrealistic.In that case, you should take a close look at your motivations for dating, and honestly evaluate whether you are ready to be in a relationship. Ask yourself:Why do you want to date now? What mental, emotional or physical need are you trying to fulfill with dating? Are you really just afraid or uncomfortable with being alone?Are you secure in your sobriety? If you’re confident in your sober life, and not still figuring it out on the fly, you might be ready to date.How will you cope with upset? Dating can be rough. Think about how you’ll feel when things don’t go well.Will dating affect your recovery routine? When you’re in a relationship, will you still be able to put your recovery first?If you decide to begin dating before a year of sobriety, proceed with caution. Remember that if dating right now feels overwhelming or begins to dominate your life, you can always pause and start dating again later.Sober Dating TipsWhen you are ready to rejoin the dating game, you might find yourself feeling a bit rusty. After all, you’ve likely had a year or more off of dating. Because of that, it’s a good idea to go in with few expectations. Allow yourself to simply get to know people and have fun, rather than looking for The One.Now that you’re abstaining from alcohol, dates might be different than outings you had in the past. Brushing up on sober dating tips can help.This starts before you even go on a date. Take some time to reflect on who you are and how that has changed since you got sober. An added perk: this will help you fill out your dating profile, and make more meaningful matches.Before you date, think about the following:What are you looking for? Casual dating looks very different than dating with the intention of getting married or having kids.What do you want to share? Think about your recovery story, and how you will discuss it on your first date. You don’t have to get into the details, but it’s likely to come up and it’s best to be prepared. This can be as simple as saying, “I don’t drink,” or much more complex.Who do you want to date? You probably have your preferences in mind for a partner, but now there’s a new choice: do you want to date someone who is also in recovery? Are you alright with dating someone who uses alcohol? Both decisions come with benefits and drawbacks.It’s normal to want to get back into the world of romance as soon as possible after getting sober. However, taking time to focus on yourself and establish your recovery can make you a more desirable partner, and help you have a happy and healthy relationship long term.
More than a week into the New Year, you might still be feeling the residual hangover from the holiday season. Too much food, too much socializing and too much alcohol can all take a toll during the busy months of November and December. That makes January the perfect time to reevaluate your relationship with alcohol, and maybe even participate in a Dry January. It’s not too late to jump into the challenge, which can have wide-ranging health benefits for the whole year.What is Dry January?Dry January is a challenge where people who are not normally sober commit to not using alcohol for the 31 days of January. The challenge was started by the awareness group Alcohol Change UK, and it’s since become a global phenomenon with millions of participants.Although the month has already started, it’s not too late to start the challenge. You can even extend it into February to make up for lost time and cover the full 31 days.The timing isn’t necessarily important. What is key is taking the time to reflect on your relationship with alcohol, and become more mindful about how, when and why you drink. For many people, drinking becomes a habit that we engage with rather mindfully. Taking an intentional break from alcohol consumption can shed insight into your alcohol use. That rings true whether you take a break in January, July, October or any other month.“The brilliant thing about Dry January is that it’s not really about January. Being alcohol-free for 31 days shows us that we don’t need alcohol to have fun, to relax, to socialize,” said Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK. “That means that for the rest of the year we are better able to make decisions about our drinking, and to avoid slipping into drinking more than we really want to.”A quick safety note: It’s healthy for most people to scale back on their alcohol use, but stopping cold turkey can be dangerous for very heavy drinkers. If you are dependent on alcohol, it’s best to seek professional treatment to stop use, according to Sunshine Coast Health Centre.Benefits of Dry JanuaryA month is short — just four Friday nights spent sober. And yet, it can have a big impact on health. In 2018, researchers from the UK published a study on Dry January in the British Medical Journal. The paper found that moderate to heavy drinkers who abstained from alcohol for a month saw a reduction in insulin resistance, weight and blood pressure, as well as fewer biomarkers for cancer growth.Dry January can also leave you feeling better, mentally emotionally and financially. Another 2018 study found that roughly 70% of people who participate in Dry January reported getting better sleep, and having more energy. No surprisingly, there was also monetary benefit to laying off the booze: 88% of participants said that they saved money during the challenge.Those benefits last longer than just the month that you’re abstaining. The same 2018 study found that people who started the year with a Dry January were still drinking less in August, suggesting that taking a few weeks off from drinking can result in a lasting change to one’s relationship with alcohol.Dry January During the PandemicDuring the pandemic, many people have been drinking more, often when they are stuck at home. Alcohol stores have even been exempt from many mandated closures. With dreary news about the pandemic spreading with the omicron surge, Dry January could potentially help people from skipping into even more problematic drinking patterns, according to Sharon Wilsnack, a professor of psychiatry and behavioral science at the University of North Dakota."Dry January is a useful tool in telling to what extent we have become dependent on alcohol during the COVID-19 pandemic," Wilsnack told TODAY.Most participants in Dry January reported that the challenge made them think more closely about their relationship with alcohol. More than 70% reported that they realized that they don’t need to drink to have fun and relax. During a time when the negative health implications of alcohol use are on the rise, that can be a welcome change in perspective that helps usher in a new year of health and wellness.Sunshine Coast Health Centre is a non 12-step drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in British Columbia. Learn more here.
Now that the holidays have passed, many of us feel relieved to be done with those obligatory get-togethers and other social functions (Zoom or otherwise). But despite the cookies, and perhaps the cocktails, all that socializing isn’t necessarily a bad thing. In fact, connection can strengthen your recovery from substance abuse or mental health conditions, and even help with physical wellness. So, before you complain about your next social engagement, take a moment to think about the positive impact that connection has on your life.The science of connectionHumans are social creatures. To be our healthiest, most of us require some social connection."One's social life matters above and beyond what we already know about the 'quick fixes,’” like dieting or exercising, researcher Yang Claire Yang told Livestrong.Connection might also be more effective. People with close friends, in general, have their life expectancy extended. Having close connections has as big of an impact on your life expectancy as quitting smoking. In short: it’s super important.Why does connection help keep you healthy? Scientists are still working to answer that, but research has shown that people who have close friendships are less likely to have high blood pressure, and more likely to have healthy immune systems. If you participate in healthy activities like hiking or walking with your friends, the impact on your health can expand even more.Connection as an antidote to addictionHaving a meaningful, fulfilling life can help insulate you from the impact of mental illness and substance use disorder. On the other hand, suffering from loneliness can put you at higher risk for developing behavioral or emotional health issues, because you might not have a meaningful life without personal relationships, says Geoff Thompson, PhD, program director for Sunshine Coast Health Centre in British Columbia.There are two types of loneliness to consider. Situational loneliness is what we’re all familiar with during the pandemic – the inability to see our friends or loved ones in person. Situational loneliness can be painful, but we’re still able to lean on loved ones and friends for support.The more serious type of loneliness, where you feel that you don’t have any close personal relationships. And here’s the thing: you can experience chronic loneliness even when you’re putting yourself out there in the community.“Research suggests that merely increasing social contact—encouraging young people to join the dragon-boat club or arranging card games for the elderly—may not be enough,” Thompson says.Instead, you need to focus on finding meaning in a few core relationships to combat chronic loneliness. Remember this when you’re shuffling around various parties and social functions. When it comes to staying connected, quality is more important than quantity. Take a few minutes to really connect with your friend, sibling, or aunt over a deep conversation, rather than exchanging pleasantries with more people at the party.Social safety netHaving connections, whether friends or family, can help you feel secure that someone will help you if you need it. Relationships can provide a sort of social safety net – you have someone you can call for small things, like picking up a child when you’re running late, or large things, like feeling that your recovery is faltering.Sometimes, especially with family, the people we can count on aren’t necessarily the ones who we feel closest to. You might not be up to date on your brother’s dating life or latest hobby, but you know he would be there if you called in the middle of the night. That’s a different type of connection, but one that is still important.When health means distanceHaving personal relationships can help support health. Unfortunately, not all relationships are healthy ones. If you have connections with friends or family that make you feel drained or unhealthy, rather than invigorated and grateful, you may need to reconsider the role that those people play in your life.While family bonds run deep for many people, you are not obligated to compromise your health or put up with toxicity for anyone – even family.This new year, take time to think about which relationships bring you the most joy. Those are the bonds that will help keep you healthy and support your recovery. Spend more time tending to those relationships, while allowing yourself to step back from relationships that no longer feel meaningful to you.Sunshine Coast Health Centre is a non 12-step drug and alcohol rehabilitation center in British Columbia. Learn more here.
Why Exercise?Substance addiction takes its toll on every part of a person: physical, mental, emotional, and even spiritual. The impact of addiction on the human body is extensive and devastating in many ways: sleeplessness and insomnia, loss of appetite and in coordination, and ultimately, a physical dependency that presents itself through cravings, flu-like symptoms, and changes in appearance that include weight loss and digestive issues. Repairing the physical damage that addiction delivers takes time, just as overcoming its mental and emotional toll does.Studies have shown the regular aerobic exercise – physical activity that increases heart rate and the flow of oxygen through the bloodstream – can help individuals to recover from substance abuse when combined with a comprehensive program that includes therapy, improved diet, and social interaction. Research has indicated that exercise can provide relief and/or assistance with many of the aspects of addiction, from regular and escalating use to binging and relapse. Its impact on the emotional outlook of addicts has also been studied, and studies have shown that it can decrease the depression and anxiety that can often lead to increased use or relapse, and prompt positive feelings – self-esteem, self-confidence – that prompt continued abstinence.Rehabilitation facilities like California's Tarzana Recovery Center offer aerobic exercise as part of their treatment and recovery programs, including gym access, yoga, and numerous sober activities that involve elements of exercise. Individuals in recovery can also pursue exercise options as part of their post-treatment lives, and as part of the daily maintenance of sobriety and abstinence.What's So Good About Exercise in Recovery?Here are just a few of the health benefits provided by exercise during recovery:Stress Reduction. Stress can be a major hurdle during all stages of recovery. Like addiction itself, it produces both physical and mental responses in the body: a person under stress may experience an accelerated heart rate and blood pressure levels, increased body temperature, shallow or rapid breathing. Physical activity, and especially aerobic exercise of any kind, boosts circulation and sends endorphins – neurotransmitters which increase feelings of pleasure and well-being – to the brain, lowering blood pressure, improving mood, and reducing feelings of stress.Mood, Sleep, and Cravings. By reducing stress, exercise can also ease the cravings for substances that come with spikes in anxiety and stress. Positive connections to physical activity and the sense of personal achievement that come with a good workout also boosts the senses of self-esteem and self-control that are sorely damaged by addiction. In some cases, just 30 minutes of exercise a day can have a positive impact on mood. Additionally, many individuals in recovering may find that their sleep schedules, which were severely hindered by substance use, return to a normal and regular pattern with increased exercise.Overall Health. Addiction takes its toll on the body's immune system and makes it more vulnerable to health concerns, including serious conditions like cancer, heart disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis. Exercise improves the circulation of white blood cells, which fight illnesses and diseases, throughout the body; studies also suggest that exercise may even increase the number of white blood cells and specifically T-cells, which protect you from infection and certain diseases. Regular exercise also reduces inflammation in the body, which boosts your immune response to illness.Which Exercises Are Best During Recovery?While studies haven't conclusively determined which exercises are the best to pursue during recovery, the two modalities that delivery the most benefits for physical, mental, and emotional well-being are cardio-related exercises and resistance training. Cardio exercises are any activities that elevate heart rate and the flow of oxygen in circulation their benefits include decreased blood pressure and blood sugar levels, increased HDL cholesterol (the "good" kind), and improve lung capacity and function.They can range in intensity from boxing and aerobics to swimming and even dancing. Hiking has the added benefit of taking you outdoors and providing you with Vitamin D from sunshine, as will relatively low-impact pursuits like gardening or walking. All of these exercises can be modified according to an individual's level of experience, endurance, and ability.Resistance training builds muscle strength and endurance through exercises using weights that are pulled or lifted. Weight training using bodyweights or weight machines, like the kind seen at a gym, is the most common form of resistance training, but can also involve water bottles or any other object with enough weight to create muscle contraction through resistance.The benefits of resistance training are numerous: it lowers the chance of heart disease, blood pressure, and body fat, boosts good cholesterol levels, and reduces the changes of age-related issues such as muscle deterioration and osteoporosis.Things to NoteThe American Heart Association recommends that cardio exercise should be done for at least 30 minutes five to seven days a week. The American College of Sports Medicine suggests that resistance training should be performed for a minimum of two days (non-consecutive) per week, and should consist of eight to 10 different exercises that engage various muscle groups.However, it's important to get guidance before starting any exercise program. Ask your doctor about which exercises might be right for you in your particular demographic (age, weight, exercise and health history). They can determine if a particular course of exercise is right for you. Tarzana Recovery Center is a luxury residential addiction treatment center in Tarzana, California. For more information, call 866-514-1748 or visit their website.
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