Recovery Doldrums: Staying Out of the Trap

Recovery Doldrums: Staying Out of the Trap

May 1, 2014

It happens in every person’s recovery if they stick around long enough: the recovery doldrums.

God-Reliance, Not Self-Reliance

“No human power can relieve us of our alcoholism”…So why do we think we have the answers?

Simple: because we are sick. We have this twisted notion that we should have all this whole alcoholism and addiction thing worked out, all the while forgetting that we never had the answer. We simply did what was suggested, and it worked out.

We have not been cured. There was no brilliant stroke of genius on our part, other than seeing the irrefutable truth that the lives we had prior to our disease now laid before us in smoldering ruins once we got our hands on them.

So how were we supposed to keep that from happening again? Again, the answer is simple: we were not. God was.

God was, has, and is managing the insanity we bring to the table, and which proved to be too much for us. Every so often, though, that thought still creeps in; “Thanks God, but I got it from here.” And, being the loving father He is, He allows us to absolutely wreck all the patient, hard work he has put into rebuilding our lives.

Instead of trying to manage the unmanageable, there are a few things we can do.

Try New Meetings

Sometimes, it is that feeling of things being too familiar. There is nothing wrong with things being familiar, but part of the spice of life is experiencing all there is. Ask any kid who has eaten too much candy on Halloween if there can be too much of a good thing…

Trying new meetings is a good start because it will do one of two things: give you a new meeting that can help reinvigorate your recovery, or it will make you grateful for the meetings you already attend.

That might sound a bit backhanded, but there is a good reason different meetings appeal to different groups and personalities.

Work With Others

Of course, the whole purpose behind meetings is to find new people to work with. Recovery does not come from meetings; it comes from one addict or alcoholic working with another with the common goal of staying clean and sober. Meetings, as originally intended, are nothing more than a means to that end.

Of course, the actual application of that has changed a lot. Now, meetings tend to be the focal point of the Fellowship.

If your relationships and the ties to people in meetings you have long attended are falling apart, despite trying to mend them, perhaps it is time to look elsewhere. After all, doing something because that is always how it has been done would have put us in the grave a long time ago.

A good rule of thumb: if you are ever in a funk, talk to a newcomer, and things will almost always start looking brighter.

Recovery Doldrums

What do you do when you get in the recovery doldrums? Let us know in the comments below!


Addiction Emergencies

Addiction Emergencies

May 3, 2014

Our daily lives often have us braving addiction emergencies, but how do we get through them? What can we do to ensure our best chances of staying clean and sober day in and day out? These are some very good starting points.

Know Your Limits

Of course, knowing your limits is crucial. What might put one person into intense cravings might completely put another person off.

We all have our own thresholds, and we need not test them to the brink—all we need to know is when they are being tested. Is it a person, or maybe a place? Perhaps it is a smell or a familiar taste that gets our thinking going to those dark places. Whatever it is, the inner dialogue that results is one of turmoil. When that happens…

Have An Escape Plan

Every emergency worker will tell you that the first thing you should do when entering a high-risk environment is having a plan for getting out of that environment. Addiction emergencies are no different.

Going to risky locations and environments are much the same way for us. We need a way out if things get shaky. It does not need to be some James Bond or Mission: Impossible type master plan. No, simply knowing what to say under certain circumstances is a good start, as is having a handy excuse to leave in case things get uncomfortable. Rehearsing is not a bad idea, either, depending on the circumstances.

It might seem excessive, but it is a small step for something that could otherwise end poorly.

Have Phone Numbers

Fellow addicts and alcoholics, a sponsor, spiritual advisor, friends, the local central offices, sponsees, a therapist or councilor…there should be no excuse for not getting someone on the line. Yes, that phone is heavy, but not as heavy as the heart after a relapse.

Those working a solid program know that for us to stay clean and sober, we have to give it away to keep it. We have to help those in need. If we do not, it might not be that particular time that sends us back to the drinking and drugs, but eventually it will happen. Most of us would rather take that late night call than the alternative, both for personal reasons as well as the behalf of the caller.

Work Our Program

Last and most importantly, we need to pick up and use the tools we have so generously been given.

Trust in God. Find someone to help. Be open and honest about what is happening. It might be what saves us from that fate that too many addicts and alcoholics meet. At the end of the day, we are all still drunks and drug addicts. Just because we have dodged the bullet for as long as we have does not mean that will continue to be the case. When we stop being humble, and instead choose to save our face instead of our backsides, we can save neither.

Addiction Emergencies

What are some of your tips on dealing with addiction emergencies? Let us know in the comments below!


Medical Marijuana Recall

Medical Marijuana Recall

May 8, 2014

Canada recently experienced the world’s first medical marijuana recall last month.

The details are incredibly sketchy. All that was said by the company was that it was voluntarily recalling a batch that affected 63 users, citing “issues with production practices.” Users were urged to cease use of the product immediately.

As we have mentioned many times before, marijuana is all too often thought of as harmless. Like any drug—legal or illegal—it has side effects, and while some of those may be tolerable, others may not. Pretending that marijuana is the sole exception to this rule is not only dishonest, but it is factually wrong..

What is factually accurate is that drugs—again, good or bad—change you. Whether recreational use of marijuana or the subject of the medical marijuana recall, marijuana causes negative changes to the brain “in areas you don’t want to make changes.”

You might not think there is a problem—I mean, hey, it is “only” weed, right?—but recent research from Northwestern University and Harvard shows that relatively light marijuana use causes density, volume, and shape changes in the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala. These areas are responsible for regulating motivation, but also emotions and some forms of mental illness.

Perhaps more disturbingly, there is a direct correlation between the amount of marijuana used and the extent of the aforementioned changes to these regions of the brain. Although correlation does not necessarily equal causation, it is hard to ignore that there seems to be a relationship between the two.

Further, it has been shown that there is a decline in regular marijuana users’ IQ. Especially since the brain is still developing between the late twenties and early thirties, these collective findings show that marijuana may not be as bad as heroin or cocaine, but they certainly are not without their own risks as well.

That is one of the trade-offs: the more people come to use marijuana and the more widely accepted it becomes, the more information will come out. Not all of this information will be bad, but not all of it will be good, either. As a highly politicized issue, there is a definite trend for both advocates and opponents to dig their respective heels into the ground.

At this stage, as evidenced by the medical marijuana recall, many agencies around the world are in a period of trial and error, seeing what works, and what needs to be changed. There is no telling how long this period will be, and there is no telling what the consequences will be for those who are impacted by poor policies or laxed regulation.

For now, it looks like it is here to stay, but the grass is not always greener on the other side of the fence.

Medical Marijuana Recall

What do you think about the medical marijuana recall or policies? Should we be concerned, or is this a part of the process for legalizing a previously illegal substance? Let us know in the comments


Big Book: To Wives

Big Book: To Wives

Oct 10, 2014

Despite being a man, one of my favorite sections of the Big Book is Chapter 8: To Wives. I have never understood why this section is not mentioned more in standard meeting formats, especially in meetings with lots of Old Timers who have had time to mend the broken relationships they have had, or the new ones they have started.

Although there is an asterisk in the title stating that this section can also be applied by men living with a female alcoholic, perhaps a more pertinent note would have been that this section applies to both men and women whether they are living with an addict or alcoholic or not.

The information contained within this chapter, whether living with an alcoholic or not, is good advice. For those who have yet to read this section, it can be a new source of ideas for dealing with those of our ilk. For those who have already read it, read it again. Chances are you missed something the last time. I know I often do.

It teaches that patience and understanding is the path to our own redeemed sanity. More than that, though, it teaches that reasonableness is a virtue. Now, reasonableness does not mean being a doormat. It certainly does not mean allowing the alcoholic or addict to run rampant throughout town, sowing chaos and madness wherever he or she may go, simply because he or she is a sick person. No, it means simply: be reasonable. If there is one thing we know about living and dealing with alcoholics and addicts, it is that we/they make some pretty wildly unreasonable requests and demands at times.

However, for those of us living in such a situation, that also does not mean dismissing every request outright. We have to remember that we are dealing with people who do not think “normally.” That is okay, but it can prove more than a little challenging, especially when both people think they have the answer!

If the worst comes, it is not the end of the world. It very likely will feel that way, but where relationships cannot be mended, others can be built with friendship and support, both in the rooms of recovery and in the community.

Let’s not fool ourselves, though. This is a life or death struggle. However, To Wives offers men and women, addict/alcoholic and co-dependent/loved one alike, keys to living with those of us afflicted by the disease of alcoholism and addiction.

The Big Book: To Wives or To All?

What do you think? Should more attention be paid to this section of the Big Book? Let us know in the comments!


Alcoholism Medication: Does It Work?

Alcoholism Medication: Does It Work?

Oct 10, 2014

Maybe it is a cultural phenomenon, maybe it is our disease at work, but scientists have been searching for an alcoholism medication that works for as long as alcoholism has existed. That claim was made again via yet one more study that does not tell the whole story.

The article’s headline only states that medication is effective, but the subheading then states that the results of a study show medication and psychological treatment are the best way of combatting addiction. This is an important distinction. Without therapy and a support system, the drugs do little at best.

Part of the reason addiction and alcoholism medication is not prescribed often is because of the risks involved. Naltrexone, for example, is one of the two primary medications named in the study. However, what is not stated is that naltrexone results in higher sensitivity and grater likelihood of opiate overdose.

With opiate addiction reaching ever-increasing numbers, this can be a huge and fatal mistake. Many addicts and alcoholics using multiple substances sometimes believe that they have a problem with one substance, but not others. In the event that an addict/alcoholic believes his or her drinking is the problem, but sees no issue with Vicodin they received for a back injury years ago, an alcoholism medication could be a deadly prescription.

Acamprosate, the other medication mentioned by name in the study, only works together with abstinence and support groups. However, because abstinence and support groups are still necessary, why is a medication necessary in the first place?

Further, the numbers used in many studies are based on small windows. For example, even with both naltrexone and acomprosate together with therapy, the average amount of time it took for the users to relapse was 37.32 days within an 84-day timespan. Without diminishing the importance of extra days clean and sober, it is safe to say claiming a treatment method to be effective should be longer than slightly more than a month. When people hear addiction and alcoholism medication can help them stop drinking, the assumption is that such a change will be long-term.

Unfortunately, most people unfamiliar with addiction and alcoholism recovery still think that the drug or alcohol is the issue. It is not. The issue is how addicts and alcoholics think and behave. The substance, as the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous so plainly states, is but a symptom of a much bigger problem. This is also evidenced by the need for continuing with support groups and abstinence whenever such medications are used.

We do not advocate the use of these medications because we do not feel like the benefits outweigh the risks associated with them. Perhaps the most dangerous side effect to an addict or alcoholic is a false sense of security, while simultaneously tampering with how his or her body responds to opiates, especially when addiction manifests itself in multiple substances.

Alcoholism Medication

What do you think? Will there ever be a truly effective alcoholism medication? Let us know in the comments section below!


Change in Recovery

What If Rehab Doesn’t Work?

May 16, 2014

All too often, change in recovery is seen as a negative, especially when we are new. It does not have to be that way.

Some changes are obviously good ones: our health improves, our closest relationships stabilize, new ones form, and maybe we find steady employment. Others are not so good. Some relationships we thought would last end up collapsing, old activities lose their appeal, or maybe we actually lose a job due to the turmoil our drinking and using has caused.

Most of us would prefer the former, but even the latter changes in recovery can be turned into positives. Maybe that job was doing you and your loved ones more harm than good; maybe those people who are no where to be found are gone for the better.

The hard part is reading the situations and finding that silver lining.

The Fellowship and work with our sponsors and sponsees helps us read these situations more clearly. Often times, addicts and alcoholics get so wrapped up in the fear of something new that any benefits are quickly forgotten in exchange of fear.

After all, fear is a land in which we dwelled and travelled for a very, very long time. For all intents and purposes, we are learning how to walk again. We are learning how to function in normal, happy lives both with the outside community, but more importantly, with God and ourselves.

That is not to diminish the importance of the fear; fear is the go-to emotion for many (if not most) of us. Suddenly, we are faced with that terrifying question of, “Now what?” While many might laugh, I know that not having any answers to those kinds of questions took me back out more than once.

It was not until later that I found out not having an answer is okay—not just “okay,” but preferable. We are not expected to have all the answers. Hell, any answers we have when we first come in are usually wrong, or responses to the wrong questions!

No, the fear of change in recovery and life becomes as mundane and banal as breathing. It is constant. We learn to adapt. The only real difference is that we now have the tools to deal with those changes as they occur—including the big ones.

If we stick around long enough, those big ones will come. It is only a matter of time. Even those are not as terrifying, though, for we know that whatever comes our way, God will see fit to do and provide for us what we cannot do or provide for ourselves.

Eventually, we also find hope in change where we used to find fear. We know now that even though the good times and bad times will come, they are temporary. What are not temporary are the Fellowship and the Program…at least, they are not temporary, provided we keep coming back and trying. Neither those of us in recovery nor God will give up, provided you keep fighting your battle as well.

Change in Recovery

What is your experience with change in recovery? Let us know in the comments section below!


What If Rehab Doesn’t Work?

What If Rehab Doesn’t Work?

Oct 12, 2014

Admitted or not, all of us at one time or another wonder, “What if rehab doesn’t work? What if I or my loved one is doomed to this disease?” It is a life-altering decision; it is a question bound to come up.

Perhaps we are not looking at it from the right perspective, though.

Although it is undoubtedly an uphill battle, addicts and alcoholics have never before been more likely to recover from drug and alcohol addiction than they are today. Resources—both financial and services—are literally just a phone call away. Today, there is hope; whereas in the past, an addict or alcoholic was written off as certainly doomed. The fact that alcoholism and addiction is not an automatic death sentence any longer should give many pause when considering whether or not rehab works.

Socially and culturally, things have changed dramatically as well. The general popular opinion of addicts and alcoholics is now one of compassion. Those who have a loved one or family member who is an addict or alcoholic are not looked down on. Most people see these people for who they are; caring individuals dealing with a sick person. That was not always the case. These days almost everyone knows an addict or alcoholic on some level.

That said…even with all these benefits, long-term recovery is a rare occurrence. Every day is a victory for us. Look at the statistics and it becomes clear why every recovering addict and alcoholic is so elated to make it one more day clean and sober. The numbers do not work in our favor, so especially when we get years under our belts, it makes these miracles all the more spectacular. In this sense, each day in recovery is a day in which said rehab program works

No Gradual Onset

Further, who is to say that a rehab program works or not? Relapses may occur (and statistically, are likely to) after completing a rehab program, but there is a silver lining: the seed has been planted. There is only so long we can continue to go on fooling ourselves before the real addicts and alcoholics among us have to face the facts and realize our lived had become unmanageable. Hopefully, we survive the time in between. The experiences of those relapses very well may be the incidents that convince us beyond any doubt that we have a problem with drinking and using, and that something has to change.

While it may not happen the way we want, there is no question that many have benefitted from rehab programs clean and sober, and some for the rest of their lives. We rarely shied away from things we knew were bad decisions while we were in our disease, so why do we suddenly question and doubt when we start to make some positive changes in ourselves and the world around us?

Does Rehab Work?

What is your experience? Did rehab work for you? Let’s hear the stories in the comments section below!

Snorting powdered alcohol sounds like it might be a cool novelty for practicing alcoholics. It is not. Because alcohol is naturally a liquid that evaporates, artificial means have to be used to convert the liquid into a solid powder.


Powdered Alcohol: 4 Reasons It Sucks

Powdered Alcohol: 4 Reasons It Sucks

Oct 12, 2014

Powdered alcohol was the hot new thing on the internet for about a week before it suddenly vanished. The FDA rescinded its approval for Palcohol—a commercially available product that brought powdered alcohol into the limelight amidst a sea of disapproval from parents, community leaders, government officials, and just about everyone else under the sun. There is a very good reason for that: powdered alcohol really sucks.

Overly Complicated

For practicing alcoholics thinking this is going to be the cool new way to get drunk, it is not. Palcohol stated in some of their marketing materials that sometimes liquid alcohol is not always appropriate for a certain setting. Fair enough. However, when has a mysterious white powder ever been more acceptable in the same environment?

Not only that, but since Palcohol is no longer being approved, those who want to try powdered alcohol have a much more complex (and dangerous, but we will get there in a bit) process than just pouring a glass of booze. No, this stuff has to be manufactured from already-liquid alcohol.

No Practical Way to Measure Dosage

Because alcohol is a drug, proper dosage is necessary. If improper consumption of alcohol occurs, it can lead to dehydration, headaches, nausea, vomiting, and death.

When liquid-alcohol is converted into powdered alcohol, the standard procedure for measuring how much alcohol is being consumed goes right out the window. For alcoholics who are trying to find that ever-elusive fine line where one can be acceptably trashed, using powdered alcohol makes finding that already-impossible-to-find line even more unlikely. With people who naturally overshoot and overestimate our abilities to process chemicals, this is somehow an even more incredibly dangerous method of getting hammered.

No Gradual Onset

So what does an alcoholic do if/when he or she overshoots that mark? Nothing. There is not a lot one can do, especially when alone.

According to this article, powdered alcohol does not have the gradual, relatively slow onset that traditional alcohol has. That might not sound important at first, until we realize that alcoholics would have to know exactly how much to consume right then and there. As a recovering alcoholic, I know my first inclination in such a situation would be to do more “just incase it actually wasn’t enough.” I know I am not alone.

More Dangerous

Alcohol is one of the most toxic substances known to man. The reason we have to urinate so frequently when we drink is because our liver is working overtime to flush out the literal poison we just ingested. Feeling drunk is the poison our livers were too overburdened to process. Keep that in mind.

Snorting powdered alcohol sounds like it might be a cool novelty for practicing alcoholics. It is not. Because alcohol is naturally a liquid that evaporates, artificial means have to be used to convert the liquid into a solid powder.

Now, imagine ingesting that same agent that turns liquid alcohol—a substance that already causes dehydration—going up someone’s nose, making contact with the thinner-than-paper membranes. It should not be much of a shock that the writer in the aforementioned article woke up with blood caked all over his face in the morning. This was, of course, after he describes the immediate sensation as having his nose glued up.

Even when ingesting powdered alcohol orally, the same concept comes into play. People already go to the emergency room frequently due to dehydration from alcohol. Now, remember that alcohol is one of the most toxic substances, and consider what happens when there is even less liquid to dilute the chemical wreaking havoc on the body.

Verdict on Powdered Alcohol

Powdered alcohol is a really, exceptionally bad idea for alcoholics who are still in their disease. If someone has to go to these lengths for their drinking, and for the risks being so great, it should be a dead giveaway that life has become unmanageable. There are other ways of living, though. Give us a call, and we’ll be happy to talk to you about them.

What do you think about powdered alcohol? Let us know in the comments below!


Mental and Physical Addiction Are Same

Mental and Physical Addiction Are Same

Oct 10, 2014

Ask addicts whether mental and physical addiction are the same, and many times their answer coincides with their drug of choice. New evidence, however, suggests there is no difference between the two.

But how can that be?

Much of the confusion is based on miscommunication. Addiction is addiction, but how that manifests is different. For instance, heroin is notorious for its intense physical withdrawal, while MDMA (ecstasy) and cocaine are known for their emotional and mental toll. In other words, many people are not comparing mental and physical addiction; they are comparing addiction and physical withdrawal. Of course, this is not always the case, but often enough for the confusion to become almost ubiquitous.

On top of this, many claim that some addictive substances are not physically addictive simply because they do not have the same flu-like, physical symptoms that opiate withdrawals have. The logic here (or lack thereof) should be glaringly obvious, yet still this myth persists. Almost all withdrawals result in restlessness, depression, irritability, and lack of sleep to some degree. One might try to argue that these are mental, but the only reason they presented themselves was because of a physically tangible, chemical change in the addict’s brain.

A lot of this still applies to addiction recovery, though. For instance, many come into treatment just looking to detox or get off drugs, assuming that once the physical withdrawals are done, they can go back to a regular, functional lifestyle. While that may hold true in some cases, they are negligible in comparison.

Mental and physical addiction are the same because the physiological changes from tolerance and withdrawal also result in physical changes to the brain. These physical changes to the brain also change the messages the brain sends to the rest of the body. In essence, we have a chicken-or-the-egg issue.

While addiction, withdrawal, and tolerance are different, and related, at the same time, none of this is truly the problem. The problem is that the addict or alcoholic, whether vomiting or contemplating suicide, has no hope of breaking the cycle outside of death or recovery. The families and other loved ones are left in a perpetual state of fear, chaos, sadness, and anger. Misery is misery; does it really matter what the source is?

Of course it does not. Ultimately, in the context of dealing with an addict or alcoholic in the throes of his or her disease, this is all irrelevant. The debates are nothing but the addict or alcoholic trying to minimize their disease. Semantics do not change that the addict/alcoholic’s life is unmanageable and damage is being done to those around him or her. The addict or alcoholic might not be as bad as others, but what consolation is that to those of you who love that addict or alcoholic?

Are Mental and Physical Addiction the Same?


Legal Marijuana Stopping Drug Cartels?

Mental and Physical Addiction Are Same

Oct 09, 2014

There is a lot of chatter online about legal marijuana stopping drug cartels in Mexico after years of violence. It has been one of the mainstays of the effort to get marijuana legalized, but is it really true?

Not really.

While legal marijuana is certainly putting pressure on the cartels, many advocates seem to forget that laws do not bind these cartels. As such, it does not matter what they sell. In some ways, it might actually make the situation worse.

Those familiar with the cocaine and violence of the late 70’s and early 80’s in Miami might recognize that many of the same introductory factors are coming into play. For instance, cocaine became a primary product simply because weed became too burdensome to transport economically. Sure, the demand for it was there, but eventually, the costs and risks involved with transport made smuggling it pointless.

As such, smugglers and cartels began to focus on cocaine. It was a lot more expensive for users to buy cocaine for the same price and risks during transport, which offset the biggest problem with transporting illegal marijuana. Further, there was an equal or greater demand for cocaine, which made moving the inventory quickly all the more motivating. From a business perspective, if money is not coming in, it is going out.

So what does that have to do with legal marijuana stopping drug cartels today? Simple: cartels will do what they did back then. They will just shift to a new product in a perhaps easier market.

That is not to say cartels will go back to cocaine. Even though cocaine still has a hefty market, crystal meth addiction and opiate addiction are skyrocketing. The market for heroin is surging, and with crystal meth so easy and cheap to produce, it makes far more sense for the cartels to shift to a smaller, growing market with bigger profit margins than sticking with a large but shrinking market for a good that is less profitable but carries the same degree of risk.

Let’s be real about this: the cartels are not going anywhere. As long as a demand for these other products exists, addiction runs rampant, and there are people willing to spend a lot of money to get them, it does not matter if a more lucrative product line replaces a formerly-successful-yet-declining one. How many companies have made that shift in the past?

The truth is, while legal marijuana and recreational marijuana are not causing rioting and bloodbaths in the streets like some thought it would, it is certainly not going as smoothly, either. Therefore, the natural tendency for supporters is fear of that hard-fought privilege being taken away, causing them to grasp for straws wherever they can, looking for tangential “proof” that the idea is still a good one.

That is not only irrelevant; it is also not necessarily true.

Legal marijuana stopping drug cartels

What are your thoughts? Do you think recreational or legal marijuana stopping cartels is possible eventually, or is it just wishful thinking? Let us know in the comments below!