Friday, April 29, 2016

Hey, who wants a drink?

How many times have you heard that thrown at you when you walk into a party, family gathering or business event?  This used to be one of my most favorite sayings before I got sober.  Now, not so much. 

I was really lucky when I got sober in that I wasn’t around other drinkers in my early sobriety.  I was living in paradise, Encinitas, CA, right by the beach and surrounded by healthy yogini’s and surfers at every turn.  While 3,000 miles away my family and friends, that I had long drinking careers with, were living their lives in Philly.   I was grateful that I was ensconced in my San Diego bubble with my sober peeps for the first five years of my sobriety and life wasn’t offering any major challenges, besides getting and staying sober. 

When I moved back East after five years of being sober, I found myself around my family frequently and that’s when Life got Lifey.  Drinking was much more abundant in my surroundings, and granted by this time I felt pretty secure in my sobriety and being around alcohol didn’t bother me, or did it? I would be attending company work events and family gatherings where just smelling alcohol on someone else’s breath annoyed the crap outta me.  I learned to just go with the flow for the evening, stay there for the appropriate amount of time, usually a couple hours, and then leave.  I learned not to make any excuses for leaving and usually by that time I left people were so buzzed no one cared to ask where I was running off to.  When I started hearing the same stories twice and folks were getting louder by the minute, that was usually my que. 

I have to say though, that wasn’t the case for me early on in my sobriety.  A couple times a year, I’d fly back East to visit my family and those visits were challenging as it was hard to feel comfortable in my own skin. I felt like such an outsider, more so because I didn’t have my confidence booster of booze.  When I was nine months sober, I attended my brother’s wedding in Chicago.  The whole family convened for the event.  The drinks kept on flowing, and flowing.  It was one of the hardest things I had to go through as I didn’t have my sober network with me, nor did I have anyone else there who understood what I was dealing with. I was so nervous about sipping someone else’s drink that I remember sniffing my diet coke each time I took a sip to make sure it was still my drink.  I had to leave the event every 20 minutes or so to smoke and call a sober friend, because I felt so out of place and awkward.  I felt like I was in a different world with people I didn’t know – and the worse part was I was my family; aunts, uncles, siblings, my parents and friends of the family I’d known for years.  Suffice to say I survived the night and only because I did what others told me to do.  I called people, I was aware of my surroundings, and I kept tabs on what I was drinking.  I remember going to a meeting before the Wedding at the local Mustard Seed chapter in Chicago, and the women gave me their phone numbers and told me to call them.  I didn’t call - but it was a comfort to have them, just in case.

This post was originally posted on the  Sanford House website.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Prince - Why this one hurts so much.

Normally I blog about alcoholism and addiction - and hopefully we won't need to do that with an upcoming Prince post, but todays post is about Prince and why this one hurts so much.

Over the past few days I’ve been just as sad and distraught (is that too strong of a word?) as the global force of humans has been over the loss of our famed US Artist Prince.  I have to say, I wasn’t a big Bowie fan, so that one didn’t sting as much, and I was a big and still am an Eagles fan, and Glenn Fry was very sad and tragic – but this one hurts to the core -  to the I need a tissue and I’m gonna cry a bit while I listen to this song or hear this tribute or watch this person say how Prince affected their life.  I don’t know if it’s because I’m in the right genre when his music burst onto the radio scene back in the 80s (I’m in my late 40s) or if it’s because he’s was the coolest most badass entertainer who had these bitchin' clothes and mysterious personality – but it hurts. 

It’s only been a few days and I still find myself listening to the tributes and following the news about his death.   One of the biggest questions is “how did he die?”  and I guess I could write a whole other piece about that, but I’ll wait until the toxicology report comes back, because if he was trying to manage pain with a doctor prescribed opiate, then yes, that’s a whole other article where I could bitch and complain about god damn doctor’s prescribing pain medication to anyone, let anyone healthy vegans who don’t use drugs or drink, to manage their pain - but I don’t know the full story there, so I’ll leave that be for now.   

For me personally, Prince embodied more than just an amazing talent who was a great humanitarian and only wanted to help others with his gift of song writing and kindness.  He was part of my teen years and my coming of age – he gave us license to say “Shit yah and let loose.  He gave us energy, dance and inspiration to be whomever, and whatever, we wanted to be. Not that I crafted my life because Prince was my sole inspiration, but because I could feel him more than the others.  I could feel that pain of wanting to be loved and accepted and I could understand what his lyrics meant and I got it.  I could feel carefree and I could be okay with doing the hand gestures that collided with “I would die for you” and I could connect with my girlfriends in such a way that only one artist could make us do that – Prince.  Granted I too loved MJ and Madonna (and still do) and I was a follower of the Grateful Dead, but that’s a whole other connection that lasted for years, and still does.  However, with Prince he is reminding me and bringing me back to that time in my life where I didn’t have any responsibilities, car payments or TO DO lists.  It was so much easier back then - driving around in VF park with your car windows down, singing lyrics light-heartedly and laughing and hanging out.  Life was just easier than for our generation.  This loss for me is letting me mourn a time in my life that I didn't know needed mourning. A time in my life, that although its over 30 years ago, seems like yesterday and makes me want to reach out and grasp for it just one more time.  Our time was real and it was special - no social media, no worrying about being home before dark - we connected on a human level where you could taste it.  Little did we know it was probably some of the best times of our life, and for that I’m forever grateful for Prince and The Purple Rain.

I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain………

Friday, April 22, 2016

Women and Alcohol

Historically, alcoholism was thought of as a men’s disease. Although women did drink, and most certainly have always struggled with alcoholism, it wasn’t something that was discussed or researched. By and large, men made up the bulk of problem drinkers. This is likely due to societal influences and expectations. Getting drunk was simply not ladylike.

To this day, the Alcoholic’s Anonymous Big Book has a section devoted “To wives” of alcoholics. While this chapter can indeed apply to anyone, male or female, who is involved with an alcoholic, the message is clear. It’s a man’s disease for women to deal with.

Today, things are different. For years, men statistically drank far more than women, but that gap has closed. Women are just as likely as men to struggle with alcoholism, and in some ways, even more so.

What Research Shows About Women And Alcohol

It wasn’t until about 20 years ago that any type of serious research was done on women, alcohol and addiction. It wasn’t a topic of interest, and treatment for women alcoholics meant integrating into men’s programs that were opened to women. Fortunately, science and medicine have come quite a ways in the last couple decades, and what they’ve found is that while men and women are both vulnerable to alcohol abuse and alcohol addiction, there are some marked differences in the way they are affected by alcohol both mentally and physically, the rate at which they become addicted, and the consequences of alcohol abuse and addiction.

Here are some facts about women and alcohol that you may not know:

     Women tend to become addicted more quickly than men, even though they may consume less alcohol for a shorter time.
     Hormones, menstruation, pregnancy and menopause may influence the way women respond to alcohol and other drugs, and the rate and severity of addiction.
     Women are more likely to use alcohol and drugs as a response to sexual abuse or assault or other trauma. Research estimates that up to 70% of female alcoholics are survivors of childhood or adult sexual trauma or physical abuse.
     Women’s brains behave differently in response to alcohol and drug abuse.
     Women are more likely to overdose or suffer physical consequences of alcohol and drug abuse.
     Women are more likely to drink as a response to stress or negative emotions, while men are more likely to drink to have fun or to fit in with friends.
     Women are more likely to also suffer from a co-occurring mental disorder along with their alcoholism.
     Women are less likely to seek treatment for their alcohol problem than men. And, doctors are more likely to misdiagnose an alcohol problem in a woman, and often mistake substance abuse for depression or anxiety, which may lead to prescribing potentially addictive medications such as benzodiazepines.

Social consequences differ, as well. Alcoholism in women is less tolerated than alcoholism in men. This is particularly the case when that alcoholic is also a mother. Age-old expectations of how a woman should behave still permeate everyday life. The fact that alcohol use is often associated with lowered inhibitions and promiscuity affects how women alcoholics are perceived. Women with children may be viewed especially harshly. A mother who is an alcoholic may be seen as more selfish and less responsible than a man who is an alcoholic.

Guilt and shame may play a big part in the fact that women are generally less likely to get treatment than men. Other reasons may include lack of family support, being the primary caregiver for young children or being in an abusive relationship or a relationship with a fellow alcoholic. Lack of access to healthcare is also an issue among some populations.

How Different Approaches To Treatment Can Help

Clearly, women and men experience alcoholism differently. When women abuse alcohol, their motivations, needs and responses are often different than those of their male counterparts. Women are more likely to relapse, and to relapse for different reasons. Because women are more likely to be struggling with unaddressed trauma and abuse, and because women are more likely to be in an abusive relationship, these issues must be addressed in conjunction with the alcoholism in order to achieve long-term sobriety.

For these reasons, treatment must be approached differently. A women’s treatment center is an effective solution, because it is able to address the unique needs of women in a way that a coed treatment environment can’t. While gender-specific treatment centers are becoming more common, their numbers are still small, and there are simply not enough safe, supportive facilities for women in desperate need of recovery and healing.

Rose Lockinger is passionate member of the recovery community. A rebel who found her cause, she uses blogging and social media to raise the awareness about the disease of addiction. She has visited all over North and South America. Single mom to two beautiful children she has learned parenting is without a doubt the most rewarding job in the world. Currently the Outreach Director at Stodzy Internet Marketing.

You can find her on LinkedIn, Facebook, & Instagram

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Compendium of Cocaine

This week we have a guest blog post by Ocean Breeze Recovery.

Unfortunately, cocaine addiction in the United States holds behind it a dark and destructive past. From the initial onset of the cocaine epidemic of the 1980’s, American’s nationwide bared witness to a cultural shift in the attitudes and relationships the country, and every individual in it, had behind mind altering drugs. Thankfully, both reported and consumed use has largely plummeted across, not only in the United States, but much of the rest of the world.

While the numbers behind the reported production and distribution of cocaine remains fairly low, paradoxically, use of it remains substantially high across the country, with reported admissions in treatment centers around the country. This is not to say it poses a problem like it did in the 1980s’, but rather that if not kept under a close eye, due to the potency of the drug itself, it has the ability to make a comeback onto the American scene.

To thoroughly understand why cocaine has the power that it has, one has to fundamentally understand cocaine itself, its effects on the body and mind, and what long term effects it leaves behind on its users.

What Is Cocaine?

Cocaine was first introduced in the early to mid 1980’s, a hectic time with the growing influence and prominent use of cocaine around the country; most notably behind the closed doors of the rich and famous, where cocaine use was being so commonly reported, that baseball teams were being federally investigated for widespread use. One instance is the Pittsburgh MLB Cocaine scandal of the early 1980’s, where a federal investigation on the Pittsburgh Pirates opened the doors to wide spread, nationwide cocaine abuse rings and its prominence in American culture. The Pittsburgh scandal remains one of the MLB’s largest and most embarrassing incidents to date.

Around this same time period, cocaine was fast becoming part of the American cultural and this created thriving business endeavors for the cartels and gangs in control of distributing the illegal substances. According to the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), it was the cocaine market that created the rebellious and violent factions in control of many different south and central American countries today. One of the biggest gangs around the world, MS-13, was created as a paramilitary group directly sponsored by the large number of cocaine sales in the United States.

Competition between drug factions, while growing increasingly violent, never seemed to curb the cropping up of secondary dealers or causing the overall price of cocaine to fluctuate dramatically. In this strange and tumultuous atmosphere, came the creation of crack cocaine, a cheaper and monumentally stronger alternative to regular cocaine. Cocaine is typically consumed in powdered form, where the users either snort or orally ingest the drug, which creates a semi-delayed high. However, with the creation of a crystallized and rock form of cocaine, users were now able to directly smoke the drug, which lead to longer lasting and stronger highs than one would typically receive by the “simpler” powdered form. In fact, crack actually got its name from the sound it makes when under a small fire, like that of a lighter.

Not only was crack a monumentally stronger form of cocaine, it was also enormously cheaper, which lead to soaring addiction rates and higher demand for the drug. While the precise reason behind the boom of crack cocaine is often debated, the main culprit has been mostly understood to be its cheap cost of creation.

What Does Cocaine Do?

To understand just how powerful smoking crack is, relative to snorting it as is done in the case of cocaine, take an inhaler for example. People with asthma usually have an inhaler to help them combat asthma, and through the use of the inhaler, we can see how in a matter of seconds, the medication gets absorbed into the lungs and directly into the bloodstream. In that same sense, it is similar to the act of smoking crack. Studies conducted on the drug have found that while snorting cocaine takes anywhere around ten to twelve minutes to enter and run within the bloodstream, smoking crack takes only about 8 seconds.

However, once absorbed by the bloodstream and into the brain, the chemical makeup of both crack and cocaine are essentially the same. Reports of those who have used the drugs, exhibit symptoms of hyper-awareness and excess energy. In the brain itself, cocaine immediately acts on the “Ventral Tegmental Area”, or VTA, an area that controls the release of the chemical dopamine, which is also the chemical responsible for our feelings of pleasure and euphoria.

Once the large amounts of dopamine are released and begin passing between brain cells, they then begin binding to dopamine receptors, which initially trigger those feeling of euphoria. Typically, after some time the dopamine is released it is then transported back into the VTA; however, in the case of cocaine, it alters this process by not allowing the dopamine to return, leaving it continuously activating the dopamine receptors. Because cocaine stops the natural process of releasing and transferring and over stimulating the receptors, the users then often exhibit the peak of the high, or extreme feelings of euphoria.

Because cocaine avoids the reabsorption of dopamine, once the high is over it leads its users into feelings of extreme lows, due to a lack of the chemical dopamine. Thus low levels of dopamine reached after the high dissipates creates a dependence. Users will then feel the urge to seek that high again, simply because their brain is running low on naturally released dopamine chemicals.

The Bottom Line

Once the high of crack cocaine dissipates, users then dependent on the drug will often begin to feel the initial onset of the withdrawal process. During the withdrawal process, remnants of cocaine in the system begin to affect the user both physically and mentally. Users undergoing withdrawal often report feelings of impending doom, insomnia, nightmares, increased irritability, restlessness and paranoia. However, in more severe case, some users have been reported to suffer through delusional parasitosis.

Delusional parasitosis is the feeling of having ants or bugs crawling around the skin. This delusion can often become so severe that in more extreme case users have doused themselves in fire to rid themselves of an infestation that only occurs in their own mind. However, the most severe side effect reported is a cocaine induced heart attack, which according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), has occurred nearly 5,000 times yearly averaged out over the last 15 years.

It is vitally important to understand that addiction to cocaine is a disease of the mind, that corrupts an individual to a point that often times, the addiction itself is beyond their control. Due to the nature of cocaine and addiction, for one to succeed in substance abuse treatment success lies on the prospect of seeking help in the first place.

This guest post by Ocean Breeze really resonates with me as Cocaine was my second drug of choice, behind alcohol of course - but its such an insidious drug, I'm so grateful I was able to put it down when I put down the booze; thanks Ocean Breeze for sharing!