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!

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Adolescents in Recovery – Generation Z

Recently I attended a conference in San Diego, Innovations in Recovery 2016.  One of the main topics being discussed was Adolescents in Recovery and clearly from the exhibits and booths on display there was an ever present showcase of treatment centers and addiction therapy that is solely focused on this demographic.  Adolescents are defined as 13-19 year olds, so it’s your basic teenager.  Which they alone are a challenging and difficult demographic to study on their own, let alone adding an addicted or mental health disorder to really confuse the problem.  One of the biggest issues to address is how prevalent this grouping is to living and breathing their lives on social media.  This new generation is being touted as Generation Z.  Move over Millenials, there’s a new kid in town.    

In attending a morning keynote discussion at the Conference, the topic was, Adolescent Dual Diagnosis Treatment:  Emerging trends, Challenges and Solutions.  This discussion focused on how difficult it is to determine adolescents being addicted or being diagnosed with ADHD, Bi-polar, depression and the like.  Further on explaining that we know alcohol is dangerous and harmful – but what about pot? According to John D. Lieberman, of Visions Adolescent Treatment Centers, pot is readily accessible to kids today and its being glamorized within our pop culture (i.e., Snoop Dog, Miley Cyrus, Rhianna, you get the idea).  He further shared that they have these adolescents write them a letter as to why they like to smoke pot.  They then read this letter to us, and their parents, and then realize how stupid it really sounds.  Mind you they are clean and sober when they are in treatment, its keeping them off drugs and alcohol when they return to their normal lives that is the biggest challenge.  That is why recovery really begins when someone leaves treatment.  Treatment is the foundation for their recovery, and especially being a teenager you are going to have a more difficult time staying sober.   It really is a One Day at a Time process. 

I also attended a lecture on Building Resilience in Young Adults:  Why the Family Matters, where the main topic was how the whole Family needs to be involved in recovery.  More than 8 million children live with parents that are substance abusers, and these children have a much higher rate of becoming addicted - which we all know is the genetic and environmental component. The panel speaker went on to stress the importance of family based recovery and how everyone plays a part. In discussing the Millenials, she talked about how the legalization of marijuana is playing a huge part in addiction with the younger population and how crime in Colorado and California (not yet legal) has increased tremendously because of this.  Clearly the legalization of pot isn’t doing anything to help our young people in living a sober life. 

The one great thing this generation has is that they are armed with an amazing offering of  resources, such as treatment centers and mental health professionals, that are focused solely on the Adolescent problem.   Let’s hope this Generation will find sobriety sooner rather than later.

Friday, April 8, 2016

Non-alcoholic Beer & Wine; Friend or Foe?

This post was most recently featured on

In my first year of sobriety there were so many new things to learn and test out and that first year for me was pivotal in building a strong foundation of recovery.  I did what I was told – I was a good little soldier.  I did 90 meetings in 90 days (more than that actually) and I got a sponsor and started working the 12 steps.  My life quickly got better and I was so relieved to be living a life of honesty and integrity.

I remember in my first month I was out to dinner with an old friend, and she knew I had recently quit drinking, but this was the first time I was out to dinner with someone that wasn’t in the program.  I felt weird, awkward and not comfortable at all, as she and I used to drink a lot together.  I ordered a non-alcoholic beer.  The thing is, it tasted like normal beer.  It was odd and I didn’t think I should drink it, but I drank the whole thing and something just didn’t feel right.  I didn’t tell my sponsor.  I didn’t tell anyone.  A few months later found me back home visiting my family for an engagement party and the same thing happened again.  Here is how that story goes:

He brought non-alcoholic red wine to the party and he knew I quit drinking also.  He poured some for himself and asked if I wanted to have a glass. I figured sure, why not, it can’t hurt, and I’ll feel more comfortable at the party with a wine glass in my hand. I was nervous taking a sip, and it tasted like cheap red wine.  I remembered that taste and I liked it, which made me leery about drinking it.  I remembered hearing about how people would relapse on non-alcoholic beer and wine and thinking that could happen to me.  I was concerned that I would pick up somebody else’s wine glass that looked like mine, and then it’d be all over.  I thought about just drinking then and saying screw it, I’ll get sober again when I get back to San Diego, this is just too difficult.  If I can drink this glass of non-alcoholic wine, why not just drink a normal glass? One glass won’t hurt. 
            I looked at Suzy and she asked, “How is it?  Is it weird?  Are you sure you should be drinking that?” 
            I thought for a minute and put it down and looked at her. “You know, I can’t drink this, it’s too slippery of a slope for me.  It’ll make me want to drink a real glass of wine.” 

Again, I was in a situation where I didn’t feel comfortable and I thought I needed that liquid courage to make me feel okay in a social situation.  Moments after this occurrence, I remembered a story my sponsor had told me where she had relapsed because she started drinking non-alcoholic wine.  If that wasn’t God working in my life at that moment - then I dunno what is.  I’m so grateful that story popped into my head and my girlfriend had the wherewithal to ask me how I was feeling. 

I remembered I shared this story at a meeting soon after and a wise woman in recovery came up to me afterwards and said, “I’m not going to tell you what to do, but drinking anything non-alcoholic is like a junkie putting a needle in his arm using water as his drug” .  It’s kind of like the AA adage, “You walk into a Barber shop one too many times, you’ll end up getting a haircut.”  Yup, I get it – no need to test this out anymore. 

In my time in sobriety, and in speaking with other people in recovery, I have found that alcoholics unanimously recommend staying away from non-alcoholic beer and wine stating that it will trigger cravings and induce relapses. I can completely agree with that statement.  I don’t know why I didn’t start drinking after those two occurrences, because both tasted like booze.  For me, I had to play that tape in my head.  I had to go back and remember what would occur if I started drinking again.  Inevitably it would start out okay at a nice ritzy bar or restaurant, but fast forward a few hours into the night and I’m at the local watering hole looking to score drugs and find others that will partake with my lifestyle.  Why I do know this scenario? Because this was my life for over 20 years.  I know it well.

So for me today, I relish in going out to restaurants and looking at the Non-Alcoholic Beverage Menu.  I love ordering a fruity Lemonade, a fizzy flavored water or just a plain Iced Tea.  Because for this Alcoholic, no fake booze drink is going to take away the amazing life I have today in recovery.  It’s not worth it as being sober is worth so much more.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Navigating Labels In Addiction

Rose Lockinger, another sober and passionate member of the Recovery community is sharing an important article she wrote that I wanted to share on my blog:

Addict. Alcoholic. Drunk. Lush. Junkie. Offender. Criminal. Sober. Clean. Recovering Addict.

These are some words, labels and terms that are frequently tossed around in and out of the addiction and recovery community. They can be confusing. They can be derogatory. One simple word, turned into a label, can have the power to change your life and the way people see you. So what does it all mean, and what needs to change?

Labels And Stigma

First, let’s address the power of labels in society. Society loves labels. Labels are a way of identifying, categorizing and filtering. As people, we often use labels to save us the trouble of digging any deeper. We run across many people in our lives, and we frequently use labels to help us determine who we should avoid, who is important, who we can be friends with, and who we should be afraid of. Labels are limiting and damaging.

When it comes to the disease of addiction, labels are thrown around pretty casually, and they can have a significant impact on how a person is viewed in society. Take the words “addict” and “alcoholic.” Within the addiction recovery and treatment world, these words aren’t negative. They are identifying terms that indicate someone has a problem, or had a problem. Outside of this community, the label “addict” can cause people a great deal of alarm. Alcoholic is generally not viewed quite as badly, but there is still a great deal of stigma in both those labels.

More derogatory labels include: Junkie, drunk, crackhead, tweaker, lush, etc. These are words that are used by many to describe people who are struggling with the disease of addiction. People who may die if they don’t get help, and people who are capable of recovering and leading full, satisfying and successful lives if they do get help.

These derogatory terms are used to criminalize and make a moral judgement against the people who are struggling with this powerful illness. It is no different than making a derogatory label for someone who is fighting cancer or diabetes, but people think nothing of throwing around a term like “junkie” for a person who is facing death each and every day.

Changing the language we use to label people who are addicted can help reduce stigma, shame and help in decriminalizing people who are sick and need help. A place to start this change would be in the treatment setting itself.  Starting with changing the way that addicts talk about themselves early on would be key in revolutionizing the way that they view themselves.  It should be stressed that instead of addict they have a problem with substance use.  Residential treatment is an appropriate setting to start this change as an important part is education and information on the disease itself. 

12 Step Confusion

Even within the addiction and recovery community, labels can be confusing. You will hear the terms “addict” and “alcoholic” used interchangeably, and you will also hear “sober” “clean” and “clean and sober” used frequently. This is a common issue in twelve step programs such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. Alcoholics Anonymous keeps the focus on alcohol, although plenty of recovering alcoholics also struggled with drugs. Narcotics anonymous considers alcohol a drug, so regardless of what substance you struggled with,  you are an addict, or a recovering addict. If you are an addict who is no longer using, you are considered “clean.” People of either fellowship who are working a program, are considered to be in recovery. You can see where all this terminology can create confusion.

Being A Recovering Addict Or Alcoholic

There are times when disclosing that you are in recovery will happen. Unfortunately, when you identify yourself with the label recovering addict or alcoholic, you run the risk that people may only hear the second word. People often have the mistaken belief that being an addict or alcoholic means that you are somehow damaged beyond repair, and that people who have struggled with addiction can’t change or are bad people. This is a belief that must change, and the stigma of addiction must be removed. When this happens, these labels will cease to have the negative power that they currently still hold.

How Can It Change?

It is changing, albeit slowly. There was a time when addiction was simply not talked about. People didn’t admit that they had a problem to just anyone, and they didn’t talk about their recovery, either. High profile people kept their struggles under wraps as best they could. Being an addict or an alcoholic was shameful, and other than the inevitable gossip, it simply wasn’t addressed. This has changed. More and more people are “coming out” as being in recovery.  People are sharing their stories, publicly. Awareness of addiction is increasing. There is still a long way to go. People still insist on holding on to derogatory labels and stereotypes, but education and awareness is starting to chip away at it.

Today not only do we see the public struggles that celebrities have with substances but it also becoming a hip thing to share that you are in recovery. Celebrities and their struggle with substance abuse is nothing new.  In the year of 2015 there were tragic struggles with substance abuse and celebrity drug related death.  More and more people are coming forward and talking about how they sought help and recovered. They are even starting to fight for increased awareness and acceptance, many of them coming forward publicly to speak about their own struggles.

Social movements are also contributing to changing labels.  The movements of Young People in Recovery and I am Not Anonymous are both organizations that are advocating for change in the way that addicts talk about themselves and about each other. Labels are powerful and affect the way that we think about ourselves there is even a psychological term that refers to the power they have.  Self Fulfilling Prophecy- is when a person unknowingly causes a prediction to come true, due to the simple fact that he or she expects it to come true. In other words, an expectation about a subject, such as a person or event, can affect our behavior towards that subject, which causes the expectation to be realized.  This is important to remember how many things have you willed into your life because of distorted expectations of yourself?  Personally this is a criticism I have of 12-step programs that they need to encourage the use of recovering addict or alcoholic not the terms alone.   What we say and think about ourselves is so powerful!  Please remember this the next time you want to call yourself an idiot or stupid. 

As science learns more about the disease of addiction and educates the public about
what it is, people will begin to understand that it is an illness, not a moral or criminal issue.  What is going to make the biggest impact is the continued efforts of people raising their voices and saying I am in Recovery I was an addict.  People coming forward and breaking the silence showing that recovery is possible and does happen with treatment.  The thing is we do not shame or silence people for having other chronic health problems, why should we continue to do this with addiction.

Whether you consider yourself a recovering addict or alcoholic, either way you are a miracle. If you are still struggling with the disease of addiction, know that recovery is possible.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

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

The Riddle of Addiction by Ocean Breeze Recovery:

What is addiction?

Typically, the textbook example of addiction says that, addiction is a condition in which an individual ingests some substance or participates in a behavior harmful to themselves or others, but is also found pleasurable to the point that the neural networks in the brain hardwire that behavior into the individuals framework.

This very black and white explanation is great on the surface, but for us flawed humans, tends to not factor into it the behavior we all exhibit relating to it. There is a mystery to the way many see addiction. Can it be said that one is addicted to water? Most certainly, without water we would most certainly die. If starved from water long enough, wed long for it like a euphoric paradise.

Can it be said that one is addicted to food? Definitely. Some more than others, but for the most part we all are. Without food our very society might collapse. Famine alone has been known to cause wars and bring about the darker side of humanity, but all in all we still need it.

The only reason we even need these substances is because our brain knows it needs them to survive. It will then manipulate the emotions and taint the actions of whoever it controls, to the point we eventually become powerless to the needs of the flesh.  Without our brain reacting to these external factors that might cause the body harm, we would most likely not be here as a species, hence is the very nature of the universe. But what if the brain is getting a misinterpretation of what the body was feeding it?

What if the brain cant tell the difference between something the soul wants and something the body needs?

The brain is the command hub of every living being. It will always call the shots as to what the body does. Through our daily motions, we feed information to this command hub, which will then interpret and give out commands. But all to often we feed it wrong and manipulated information regarding the world around it. We tell it that we crave that extra cigarette like we crave water when were thirsty. Soon the brain will react accordingly. The brain doesnt know the difference between water and the cigarette, it just knows that according to the body it controls, it needs it. Through time and error, we eventually lie and manipulate the brain into thinking this is part of its reality. No longer will the brain try and sort out that information. Now it knows that whatever substance the body craves, it must crave because it's vital.

It is this that makes addiction so prevalent and confusing to many.

Addiction over time becomes another element in nature like water is to the laymen. The addict unknowingly modified the brain into thinking something about reality that isnt real. But in all its glory as the most complicated and successful machine we know of yet in the universe, it adapts and does its job fantastically. Addiction now has became a certain part of what the brain considers reality, and changing neural superhighways in the brain, created in this mass exodus of new information, can sometimes be a life long struggle.

It is because this strange paradox of addiction that many have an even harder time to understand it.

If a man were walking around with a visibly crushed foot, it wouldnt take long for someone to stop him and take him to a hospital. The damage is clearly debilitating, if not excruciating. Rarely if ever, would we hear of someone saying that the person is weak That the person should just suck it up. If anybody would ever say such ludicrous things, they would be seen as a person gone mad.

We now know addiction changes and cripples the brain like the crushed foot of the man earlier. But somehow because the injury isnt visible, we treat it completely differently.

This type of thinking is the antithesis of what it is to think rationally. We know now, more than ever before what is going on in the mind of an addict. The disease of addiction, like viruses manipulating the DNA it invades, changes the way the brain will react to external stimuli. Simply because the way addictions are formed, anything and everything can cause it. The reason we as rational human beings dont get addicted to everything is because we build within ourselves a resiliency.

Understanding Addiction

A simple and easy way to understand the very many faces of addiction is to use going to the gym as an example. Going to the gym is difficult for most people, reason being that we are putting time aside from our day only to inflict pain and stress on our body. Naturally the human body will fight this by way of procrastinating and making up excuses as to why not to go. It is in this phase that it is easy to fall into temptation and give up, as many people do.

How, might one ask is addiction prevalent to that?

How would anyone get addicted to pain and stress?

If one were to ask around to those people we see wake up early every morning to go for a run, or people who go the gym after work day after day, many will give the same excuse: they feel terrible when they dont. In their brain they have cemented a benevolent addiction of sorts, that only after forcing their bodys to withstanding it, the brain eventual responded by making room for this new information, information the body thinks is important enough to warrant it a permanent mental task.

Giving the example of the gym and running might seem absurd to some, but I used those examples only to show the strength at which the brain will make real estate in itself for any task we deem important. The brain doesnt know whether a certain activity is good for it or if something else is bad for it. What it knows is positive stimuli and negative stimuli. When the body responds positively to an action, the brain records it and makes a note. Depending on how much the body want it, it will actively seek whatever that might be, creating the addiction.

Addiction is something that every living being will always have to deal with.

It is a mechanism that our very own body created for our survival, but that mechanism is easily able to change and run amuck unknowingly. Becoming more aware and understanding what addiction is and how one can benefit from it rather than suffer from it, is vital for all our futures. Understanding that we can use its own momentum for us rather than against us.

It is the riddle that addiction truly is. Terrible, destructive, and yet undoubtedly needed. It is a tool that can burden us for eternity, or simply make us stronger to it. However, it ultimately depends on the person using it that will determine its inevitable outcome.

 Contact Ocean Breeze Recovery Today
 If you or a loved one is suffering from addiction, contact Ocean Breeze Recovery today at 1.855.960.5341 to speak to an addiction specialist about getting help now. Dont wait.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Living an Honest Life

One of my biggest reliefs when I got sober was that I could stop lying.  The jig was up – no more BS and lies to family and friends about “what I was doing”.  It was such a relief not to carry that bag around with me, especially because I wasn’t a good liar.  I got caught a lot – whether it was white lies or stealing or making up stories (that was one of my biggest charades), it seemed no one really ever believed me.  Or at least I didn’t think they did. I was able to compartmentalize my indiscretions and turn into who you wanted me to be.  I did this for a very long time and surrounded myself with others that seemed to be doing the same thing. 

So when I made the choice to get sober, the lying stopped.  I had nothing to lie about anymore.  The freedom I felt from that is unlike any other.  It’s hard to explain, but to use an analogy it was kind of like living in color vs. black and white.  I found the yellow brick road and my life made sense.  I realized that not living an honest life was such a draw back to who I was as a person that I didn’t even realize what being honest was all about.  Sure it was easy to be cash register honest, but to be truly honest with who I was and what kind of a person I wanted to be came slowly.  I had to ask my new sober tribe how to be honest and what did that look like?  Two Examples:  I was a few years sober and was traveling in Palm Springs with my sober tribe and when we were leaving to travel back home and driving out of the hotel, sober driver commented, “Hey what’s with all the towels in the back seat?” I piped in, “Oh those are mine, I snagged them from the Hotel.”  Apparently that is called stealing.  Even at three years sober I didn’t realize some of my prior behaviors were still considered dishonest.  Who knew? 

The stronger example would be on the crush I had on someone when I was newly sober, I called him my “imaginary boyfriend” and my sponsor at the time said I wasn’t sober enough yet to tell him how I truly felt.  The thought of telling anyone how I truly felt, let alone a guy, was just so unfathomable to me.  When I was sober almost a year, I did tell this person how I felt – we were good friends – so it wasn’t awkward for me to have normal daily conversations with him.  So when I was finally guided by my sponsor and another wise sober woman on how to communicate my feelings to Mr. Imaginary, I felt like I was a teenager and fraught with nervous energy.  That was the first time I had to get really honest with someone in early recovery and it was so hard to do.  Be honest.  Share how you feel.  Be true to yourself.  All of that – just gut wrenching.  Mr. Imaginary was kind in his response, but not interested.  I was crushed – but I learned so much from that experience.  It gave me confidence, self-worth and integrity, and really helped me move forward on my journey of sobriety and recovery.   Fast forward almost 12 years later and speaking my truth isn’t as difficult as it was then. I rarely lie – and if I do – well it’s not as bad as it used to be.  I think my most recent lie was to my boss about “attending a family event” for a 4 day vacation trip to San Diego to attend a recovery conference.  I don’t really think that’s lying, I think it’s just taking care of myself and not offering personal info to my boss.  My anonymity is important to me and when, and if I see a need to divulge that, then I will, but for now no need .

A friend of mine, who has relapsed off and on for the past few years, recently said to me, “I want to live an honest life” and I totally understood what he meant. It’s a rush to live our lives with honesty and integrity.  It’s just a shame that not everyone is on the same path as my sober self and I can only hope that the Universe knows I’m doing my best one honest day at a time. 

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Getting a sponsor - its important - at least it was for me!

Did you get a sponsor yet?

That was the $64,000 question I kept hearing when I walked into the rooms.  I didn’t really know what a Sponsor was, but I was so annoyed that everyone kept asking me that it definitely pushed me to get one sooner rather than later.

In my first week of sobriety I went to my first women’s meeting, as it was suggested for me to do, and that’s where I found my first sponsor.  She was a nice lady who said Hi to me in the bathroom.  First Sponsor had a nice outfit on, her smile made me feel at home and she was about the same age as me. Also, she had this confidence and air about her that made me feel relaxed and calm.  Moreover, when I heard her share at the meeting she shared about her anger towards her husband and how he pissed her off so much she fled the house and checked into the most expensive hotel in town – I knew right then and there, I wanted her to be my Sponsor.  I related to that feeling of “F you” and I’ll do whatever I damn well please.  She was exactly what I needed in my first year of recovery. 

However, no one sat me down and told me how to find a sponsor and what to look for.  I didn’t get the crash course in “how to sponsor shop”.  I’m over 11 years sober now and I’ve moved at least four times in sobriety -- so I’ve had a few sponsors.  I wanted to share my cliff notes on what I look for when I’m “sponsor shopping” hoping I’ll be able to help someone else in their quest for a new, or first time sponsor.

1.    You need to want what they have:  I was told this early on in recovery and I didn’t understand what it meant until I did.  I was probably about 45 days sober when I realized that I was surrounded by very good sobriety, specifically the women. They all had double digit sobriety, there were about 7 of them in our Fellowship, and they exuded confidence, grace, wisdom and God in their daily life - I referred to them as the “Spiritual Goddesses” because I wanted what they had.  All those women are still sober today and ladies that I am lucky to call friends.  

2.    Find out if they have a sponsor:  I didn’t know this when I asked my first sponsor.  But it’s important to know that your Sponsor is being sponsored and runs a program as well.  How can they work the steps with you if they too aren’t being active in their own program?  There are many folks in the rooms that don’t work the steps or have a sponsor.  Somehow they can still stay sober, but I usually don’t want what they have.  I want to have a sponsor who is actively working a program and seems to put her program first – that’s the most important thing to me. 

3.    How much sober time do they have?: This is another question I didn’t ask my first sponsor – however, it didn’t matter to me at the time.  However, I think it’s usually important to make sure they have more time in the program than you do.  It’s not a must have, but it makes the sponsor/sponsee relationship more even-keeled.  I started sponsoring my first sponsee when I was eight months sober and she had under 30 days.  It was kind of a fluke, but I took this young gal under my wing and she started calling every day and within a week or so she asked if I’d sponsor her.  It took me by surprise as I didn’t feel qualified to do so, but my sponsor had commented to me that I hmad more time than her and was already mid-way through my steps and that one of the most important pieces of the program was our service to others.  It was such a great experience for me as I learned early on the how to be a good sponsor to someone else.

4.    Find out how they work their program:  Some sponsors like to take you through the Big Book and read it with you and highlight and disucss and do the corresponding step work.  Some like to take you through the 12 x 12 (12 steps and 12 traditions) and some have their own methods using AA or even non AA approved literature.  This is an important question to find out as it may dictate to you whether or not this person would be a good fit for you.  In turn, I would also ask them “What do they expect from you?”  Some sponsors like you to call them daily or weekly and meet each week.  While others may be more easy going – it’s really just a preference as to what “kind” of sponsor you may need at the time. Some of us like discipline and rigidity and thrive in that kind of relationship.  On the other hand, some of us won’t take so easily to that approach and will want a little more softer and gentler approach.  Make sure you find what suits your needs for your recovery.   

5.    Find someone who is a good match with you:  This suggestion may seem a bit off base, but personally, I’ve found it easier to bond with a sponsor who has the same life situation that I may have.  In the beginning, I was single for a while and felt I had a stronger bond with my sponsor that also was single.  Then when I got into a relationship I sought out a sponsor who had been in, or was currently in, a sober relationship so I could go to her with my relationship questions – because let’s face it, getting into a relationship in early sobriety (which for me was a little over a year in) is much more challenging than when we were drinking.  Alternatively, I found too when I was sponsoring that it was easier for me to offer my experiences as a single, or now married, woman in recovery.  Since I’ve never been a Mom and haven’t had any kids, it’s been more challenging for me to sponsor women that have had children, as I wasn’t able to offer any sober life experiences to them. 

Sponsorship is a little like dating.  It’s finding that perfectperson who will inspire you and lift you up.  That person that will make you want to be a better human and push you to the limits of your character.  If you have a sponsor who doesn’t want the best for you and who isn’t available to you, I would strongly suggest getting a new one.  There is no right or wrong kind of sponsor to have – just as long as you get one.  And sometimes the timing could be for a few weeks, a couple of months, or years  - it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you have one.  I don’t feel bad when I have had to switch sponsors either, as each new sponsor is placing different stepping stones along my recovery path.  I truly believe that God has put specific woman in my life at exactly the right time.

Each new experience with these women strengthens my recovery and makes me feel like I fit in and belong.  And isn’t that what we all strive for? That sense of belonging and completeness?  Pretty sure that’s what makes me keep coming back.  

Saturday, February 13, 2016

In honor of Valentine's Day tomorrow, thought I'd share an old post from my 2011 Wedding - short and sweet!

...and now let me introduce Mrs....

YES, its official.  October 7, 2011 I was married!  I just happened to find an amazing man whom I adore and love being with.  I couldn't ask for anyone better! We started planning on a "hometown" main line wedding, but very soon after that planning was underway we instead decided to get married in Las Vegas! It was becoming too much about everyone else and the $$ that would be spent that we both decided we wanted what we wanted for our special day.  We got hitched at the Luxor Wedding Chapel (highly recommend it-as it was PERFECT!) and had a backyard evening reception at Liam's mothers home - and she happened to live 10 min from the Strip! It worked out quite well.  With my sister as my maid of honor, and "my girls" (both Calif and PA) in tow, it was again, PERFECT! I loved my Wedding and my gown, my makeup, the ceremony, reception, dancing and becoming Mr & Mrs. Enuf said on that for now.....

Friday, January 29, 2016

My Ego is not my Amigo

I used to hear this saying all the time in early sobriety.  I was living in San Diego then, so I it definitely made sense to have a Spanish rhyme become part of the AA mantra that was going around.  Through the years, I’ve used this mantra in all areas of my life, not just recovery.  What I’ve realized is just how true this phrase is.  If you go back and read any of Eckhart Tolle, Marianne Williamson or Wayne Dyer’s writings, they all place a lot of importance on the Ego and how it is such an enemy to the human spirt and mind.   I’ve been reading the Illuminata Prayer book lately by Marianne and she talks about how our Ego ruins relationships because folks don’t want to put the time and energy into really doing the work.  The work of separating mind from Ego.  Its hard stuff and it shouldn’t be brushed to the side.  Its where the real inner work of our spirit and who we are come together.

Which made me realize that anything worth having or worth keeping, requires work.  Careers, friendships, marriages, and relationships, as well as our physical, mental and spiritual health - they all require work.   Doing what we need to, and not just people in 12 step programs, it’s an everyday maintenance program.  Some days I just want to take a break from the praying, the journaling, the helping others and getting out of myself.  I just want to say Adios for a while, and coast along.  However, I’ve done this before and very quickly saw that if my spiritual well-being isn’t being exercised every day - I can get a bit koo-koo and then start trying to manage and control my life on my own.  Which turns into a disaster.    I realized I can’t sit idle and sometimes I even have to increase my daily regime.  I’ve started praying with my husband in the morning, reading a daily passage from a spiritual book and then doing a 5 minute meditation.  I’ve only been doing this for 3 weeks now, but so far, I’m feeling so much more fulfilled.  (Check back with me in a month!)

During my years in recovery, I’ve learned that the Ego is our biggest enemy.  It gives us a very warped sense of self, which in turns leads to an over inflated ego.  I can’t tell you home many times I’ve heard, “they relapsed and won’t come back (to AA) because they are ashamed”.  Our ego literally kills us and the only defense we have against any of this is that we need to get serious about who we really are.  Be true to our inner core and get honest with ourselves.  This is the hardest part about recovery.  Admitting we have a problem, and willing to be okay with the choices we’ve made in our life.  Recovery is about starting over and making new and healthier choices.  Choices that aren’t made by our Ego. 

I’m so grateful that I’ve walked my path in recovery and yes, I’m not much but I’m all I think about – so clearly I have an Ego issue as well.  But if I keep it in check and surround myself with others that call me out on my BS and make me accountable, I end up living a much more structured life - with balance and serenity.  My sponsor calls me out all the time because of my Ego and the best thing about it is that I listen and move forward and put “MY” best self to the side so I can reflect on being the kind of person God intended me to be. 

At the end of the day, Ego for me is Edging God Out and I know where that will take me.  So, yes, realizing that my Ego isn’t my Amigo is the best thing I can do for myself each day. 

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Feeling comfortable in my own skin

I hate bathing suit shopping almost as much as I hate going to the dentist. I think both should be classified under worst things in life category for sure. 

Recently I’ve gained about 5 pounds – maybe 6.  I can see it in my belly and I don’t feel good about myself at all.  Has this changed my eating habits? Not yet.  I keep thinking something magical will occur and those 5 pounds will just go away.  However, with the Holidays behind us and a rapid push into 2016, I feel I have no excuses – especially because I live in Florida.  It’s warm here and we have glorious sunny days year round (not lately, but….) and there is no reason for me not to get out of bed at 6 am and hit the gym, go for a bike ride or take Lucy on that 30 minute walk.  Zilch. 

Back to my question of how bad do I need to feel before I have to forgo the bikini and throw on that fun sexy one piece?  I think I’m at a place in my life where I should be able to do and wear whatever I please without feeling self-conscious about my body.  You’d think that a women in her mid-40s is comfortable in her own skin by now.  Well, not this woman.  I’ve struggled with my weight issues for most of my life.  In High School, which goes back over 25 years ago now, I was an acceptable size 8.  I was never slim, but more so had an hour glass figure that showcased my buxomy 36 D bra size by my junior year.  By the time I was 19, I went through a bad break-up which had me imbibing in anything and everything; alcohol, food, cocaine, cigarettes, sex, anything I could do to fill that my never ending black hole.  I had ballooned up to 198 pounds and the sad thing was I didn’t seem very affected by this.  I knew I had gained some weight, but I seriously didn’t think I looked that bad.  My dad had nicknamed me Mamma Cass – the famous 60’s singer from the Mamma’s and the Pappa’s; the lady who died by choking on a ham sandwich.  It was a family joke that was being tossed around and I barely paid any attention to it. 

By the time I was 22 I had quit my office job and was waitresing and found myself on my feet all day long - 11 am until 10 pm most days.  I gave up eating red meat and just focused on working in the restaurant industry – which for an alcoholic coke fiend like me was a perfect career choice.  The weight started falling off and I started feeling better about myself.  This whole process took about two years and by the time I was 25, I decided that having a 36D+ wasn’t going to work for me long-term.  I opted to get a breast reduction and walked out of the hospital with a respectable 36C, and again soon thereafter I was able to shed some more weight and was back down to my size 8.  However, my alcoholism and drug addiction kept humming right along. 

Very soon the trend setting Tankini blasted onto the scene and I jumped into that with full gusto.  I was feeling okay with my body – but seriously I didn’t care that much as all I really cared about was boozing and doing blow.  Those were my two best friends for over 20 years and they didn’t disappoint.  I never went to the gym, or worked out.  I would flirt with it here and there, but nothing ever took.  Fast forward to 2004 when I got sober.  I was 37 years old and within the first few months of getting sober, I started to really take care of myself and be more health and fitness focused.   I was living along the coast of San Diego and it was pretty easy to be healthy in that environment.  I started running along the beach, doing hot yoga, working with a personal trainer and eating uber healthy.  I became very SoCal and fitness trendy.  I started looking healthy – in all areas of my life. Yay for me.  I embraced this lifestyle for the first few years of my sobriety while living in California.  In 2010, I moved back East and was able to continue a moderately healthy lifestyle; Bikram, CrossFit, going to a Gym and Hiking Valley Forge Park, however, the eating healthy wasn’t as good as it could have been, darn those Philly Cheesesteaks.

Now at almost 12 years clean and sober, I find myself stagnant.  I’m older, I’ve had some injuries over the past few months that have curtailed my physical health and I’m back in my corporate career working more than the average 9-5. Needless to say, none of these things are excuses.  But today they are.  Not seeing much progress here, but then again, I’m better than where I was 12 years ago.  And ya know what? I’m totally okay with it today because I like who I am and feeling physically good is an added bonus.  I am comfortable in my own skin today, maybe not all the time, but its progress not perfection.  So, I better get out my one piece, and the two piece as well.  Off to Miami next weekend to see Madonna and I'm sure I'll be ready to Vogue.