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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Arming yourself with information about the way myths and stigmas affect addicts and how people respond to them, can go a long way in supporting people to find recovery. Effective treatment for substance use disorders requires an understanding of the myths and stigmas of addiction. I'd like examine a few myths that surround addiction and foster a misunderstanding of how to best support people to find recovery.


<strong>1. Everyone needs to reach bottom before quitting.</strong>

Early in my career I worked with adolescents. One of the clients on my caseload was a 17 year-old girl who had a long history of prostitution, a significant legal history, and a span of alcohol and drug use that began when she was five. During treatment she spent time talking about her alcohol and drug history and how that affected the decisions in her life. She had various opportunities to quit using chemicals but she reasoned that she wasn’t ready. While she came to a place where she was able to give up her chemical use, she never escaped her history of prostitution. She was able to develop a motto that supported her to quit using alcohol and drugs: <em>your bottom is when you stop digging.</em>



Posted by on in Drug Addiction

A friend writes to say he is feeling blue. He is not in recovery so his blues are not as dire as mine, but they are just as painful. When I ask what is wrong, he replies, “life.” Life – the whole befuddling catastrophe; he and I share a tragic worldview. I have written previously about the German word for such an existential crisis: weltschmertz – worldpain.

Eager to help, I dash off a breezy response about all we need to be grateful for that seems as brittle and unsubstantial as the falling leaves outside. The Buddha tells us that pain has four sources: Death, disease, old-age and poverty. These are what Siddhartha saw from his palace window that compelled his quest for the relief of suffering. Note that the first three are inevitable; the fourth, poverty, seems reparable, but I suspect the Buddha means despair a spiritual poverty that accompanies grinding want.

I have never been impoverished myself but am intimately acquainted with despair. When you have a true depression it is never far away, lurking on the periphery out of sight but never out of mind. Think of Prufrock’s yellow smoke rubbing its muzzle on the windowpane. Prufrock notes it in a lovesong, for surely wanting another invites suffering. How many others have I dreamed of, pursued, cherished briefly and lost? Smoke evaporates but leaves a scent behind. It is the lingering smell of longing that causes suffering or as the Buddha describes it . . . our attachments.

Last year I attached myself to a man, one who lives 1000 miles away and was clearly out of my league. He seemed interested, I fantasized, wondering if this was a person who could really know, who would finally see me for me. The secret places of the heart long for such recognition, to be seen as the self sees itself without blemish or flaw. Of course such a disembodied love is impossible; bodies meet where souls never do. Hence the lovesong, a paean not to one person but to the ineffable shadow that lives in our imaginations.

He went back to his perfect life. I hear that he has a new lover of over a year. His facebook page is studded with smiling selfies on exotic backgrounds. “In the room the women come and go talking of Michelangelo.”


Posted by on in Alcoholism

As I sit in my weekly home-group meeting, I comb my fingers through my hair while listening to the chairperson tell a compelling story of resilience and gratitude. I look around the room at everyone's faces and see that they are all astonished at what the chairperson is revealing to his trusted support group. As I scan the room, my eyes end up at the spot on the table directly in front of me and I make a horrifying discovery. My hair is all over it! I wish I could say this is the first time that's happened...but it's not. Suddenly, I can no longer hear the chairperson speaking because the voice in my head is screaming "HOLY CRAP! I'M BALDING! BUT I LOVE MY HAIR! HOW CAN THIS BE HAPPENING TO ME?!" I scan the room again and realize that almost every single person has a great head of hair! I find one man, Bill, who is bald. Bill is much older than I am and the longer I stare at him, I start seeing my face on his body and hairless head! "That's me in 30 years!" I fearfully exclaim to myself. 

As I sink off into deep thought and lamentation, the thought process in my follicley challenged head goes as follows:

Why am I so panicked about my hair loss? Why do I find myself immediately creating resentments towards 99% of people in recovery that still have their head of hair in tact?

The answer to that question...Pride and Ego. I've spent my life so concerned with my outward appearance. Constantly exercising to tone my body, spending money on expensive clothes, and trying the newest hairstyle. My "outsides" mattered so much to me because if I looked good on the outside, maybe people won't notice who I am on the inside. While I was still in active addiction, my self esteem was all based on false principles. That went on for years and even though I've attained a number of years in recovery now, clearly, old habits die hard. 

During my time away from drugs and alcohol, I've learned what real self-esteem feels like. Evidence-based self esteem that I've earned from doing esteemable acts. I've learned to love myself and accept myself for who I am, and not for the fraudulent person I used to portray. I no longer have to hide behind materialistic concepts but, instead am free to expose my true self for I am no longer ashamed of the person I am today. With these lessons in mind, I come to the realization that my hair loss needn't matter much because it is not a fancy outfit or trendy haircut that defines me. What defines me are my actions, my efforts, and my intentions leaving anything else to just be an added bonus. False pride and ego have slowly faded and what I am left with makes me...


Posted by on in Alcoholism

It's the 4th quarter of the NFL Super Bowl. There are 10 seconds on the clock, it's 4th down, on the 10 yard line, and the Dolphins (sorry, but I'm a Dolphins fan so I'm using them as an example) are down by 5 points. The opposing teams fans are screaming their heads off as the Dolphins try to decide on the next play. The most important play of the game. They come to an agreement, they all take a serious look at each other almost to say "this is what we've been waiting for! It's our turn to take the trophy home." They line up opposite their opponents. They are shaking with anticipation and almost look as if they are cars revving their engines at the starting line of a NASCAR race. The quarterback yells "hike!" The receivers take off to the end zone with their arms flailing to catch the quarterbacks attention. "Im open! Im open" one yells. The quarterback scans the field yet disregards their cries to pass them the ball. He can see they aren't actually open and realizes he has to make a decision as the time clock fades. He's running it himself! He takes off towards the end-zone and the defense quickly realizes what is happening. They all start gunning for the quarterback, to take him down and to earn what they feel is rightfully theirs. The quarterback doges one tackle...8-yard line...jukes another...5 yard line...hurdles over a defender, making an attempt to dive towards the goal line...he lands and both teams pile up on him. Did he make it?? Did he score?? Did he cross the goal-line?? The referees manage to clear away the battling teams. The crowd is silent awaiting the signal from the ref. The referees arms go straight up in to the air...TOUCHDOWN!!!!

For days after the big game, once the trophy has already found its new home for the year, all anyone can talk about was that quarterback's daring run to the end-zone. "He did the impossible. What luck!" the sports announcers say. "How did he do that" or "It was a miracle!". With all of the hoopla and opinions of that day, the only person that knows what really happened that day is the quarterback himself. He knows it wasn't a miracle. It wasn't luck. What the outside world is failing to realize is the effort he put into training himself to react the way he did during that stressful situation. He was able to think clearly under pressure because he's practiced that exact situation thousands of times, over and over again, in his head. He ran drills for years, trained his body, taught his mind to adapt. The big game may have come down to one moment for the world, but for him it was about years of training his body and mind to do exactly what he accomplished that night.

At this point, you are probably wondering "what does this have to do with recovery?" There's no doubt that was an exciting sports story but why did I take the time to write that. Let me explain...

If anyone has ever experienced a craving, they know it can be debilitating. I'm not talking about a fleeting thought of your favorite drink or drug of choice. I'm talking about a real craving. An urge so powerful it takes the wind out of you. Something or someone triggers something deep within your subconscious and suddenly you can't think of anything besides drinking or drugging. These happen in recovery, especially early on. How do we deal with that feeling? What do we do?

From early on in recovery, we typically are taught to follow various sets of rituals, whether they be call a sponsor everyday, frequently attend support meetings, find a home group, develop a support group and stay in contact with them, pray daily, etc... We are "trained" to do these actions daily. We are told to call our supports even when we have the slightest thought of using allowing the process of reaching out for help to become an easy practice to accomplish. I like to look at these practices as putting deposits in the "spiritual bank". All of these rituals are put in place for a reason though. It's not just to manage the instability of early recovery. The main reason we practice these daily rituals is so we can be ready when that massive craving hits, that's our "big game."  We won't have time to think rationally about the consequences of using. We aren't able to "play the tape all the way through." We have to act on our trained instinct during that time. All of the practice of picking up the phone and calling our sponsors or supports. All of the times we've prayed for a minor craving or obsessive thought to be removed. The repetitive efforts in our recovery, the deposits to the "spiritual bank" all now protect us during this difficult time. We are able to utilize our tools that we've engrained in ourselves day in and day out. Our past efforts have allowed us to adapt our body and mind to react in a positive way to the powerful phenomenon of craving. 


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

In a hypothetical situation, if a friend of mine asked "would you wish the disease of addiction on your worst enemy?", my answer would invariably be "no". The pain, the heartache, the withdrawals, the family problems, the stress...the list can go on forever. Being in active addiction and feeling completely hopeless is quite possibly one of the most difficult things for a person to go through. Yet, with all of that being said, I cannot stand here today and tell you that I am not grateful for having gone through my addiction. In fact, to put it simply...I am very grateful.

One of my favorite authors, Malcom Gladwell, wrote a book called "David and Goliath". The book uses a number of different historical events, some more famous than others, to describe various times that the underdog has overcome in the face of great adversity, just like David did against Goliath. He discusses a phenomenon regarding a large number of dyslexics that, in spite of their learning disability, run many of the largest, most successful companies in the world. In another chapter, he tells of a study that was done involving some of the most famous men and women throughout history and how an enormous percentage of them lost a parent at a very early age. Despite their great loss and major tragedy, they managed to overcome and succeed in their respective areas. Gladwell told story after story of people overcoming adversity and translating it into success, and all I kept thinking about was how much each of these stories related to the recovery process post active drug/alcohol addiction.

Every single one of us that has overcome our addictions and that can stand tall today while proudly saying "I'm in recovery!" are the underdogs that claim triumph over the addiction epidemic. We are the minority, that have been cursed with an affliction so terrible that 100's of people die from it everyday, yet we still stand

My addiction brought me to my knees...but my knees is exactly where I needed to be. While on them, crying my eyes out, and hoping for something to just take my pain away, I learned humility. I found a higher power there (and learned I wasn't the higher power). Throughout early recovery, I learned the benefits of hard work and dedication. As recovery went on, I learned of perseverance, meditation, and personal expression. I learned to love myself and trust in a God of my understanding. I find myself applying these principles I learned throughout my recovery in everyday life now and can easily say that recovery truly led me to places I didn't think were written in the cards for me. 

We are blessed with this disease of addiction, not cursed. We have been given the trials and tribulations that we needed to develop as functional men and woman. My only wish is that everyone who struggled with addiction could overcome in the way that we have. I sometimes hear in meetings "we will have to walk over bodies if we want to stay sober" and I think that, maybe, that is true. The fact that so many people pass away from this disease makes those that recover from addiction all that much more special. We are the David and addiction is the Goliath. Many perished to Goliath before David showed up and took him down. But we, this special group of David's, did not perish. We survived to become an example that proves that it is, in fact, possible to overcome and there is hope for the seemingly hopeless.


Posted by on in Alcoholism

I want to start out by saying, “You can get sober.” Period. Whether it is through 12-step programs, psychotherapy, coaching, psychiatry, exercise, nutrition, Reiki, whatever, I’ve heard it all. And while I once was a proud, Big Book-thumping alcoholic, I’ve heard enough stories of recovery to prove that there is no one-way to beat addiction. For me, a spiritual path has been vital to long-lasting recovery from alcohol and other substances, but I recognize some prefer a more rational approach. What I tell clients now is that as long as you’re honest about what is working and what is not, then there is a great amount of freedom available in recovery.

What is most up for me right now around my recovery is the question of selfishness and self-centeredness as it pertains to addiction. When I first got sober and was participating heavily in 12-step work, it was clear to me that my actions were hurtful to others. I acted selfishly and irresponsibly in nearly every aspect of my life as I pursued substance abuse by any means necessary. There was no debate when I was told that I needed to acknowledge my selfish behavior if I was to find a relationship to a Higher Power—one necessary to heal my obsession around substances.

But now I’ve been sober for about as long as I was drinking. My life is much different than it once was. And while I trust I can never drink moderately, I do wonder, is this tendency toward self-centeredness really something I need to buy into anymore? Upon contemplation, my answer today is no. I honestly and humbly do not believe myself to be any more selfish or self-centered than my fellows, and I honor this truth as a testament to the power of recovery, not some denial of my condition. I can get frustrated at times when I’m in meetings and hear others talk about the steps as a way of dealing with a stagnant, permanent condition. Just because we are addicts, doesn’t mean we need to struggle with life the same way we did when we initially got sober.

I guess what I’m saying is, let some space come into your experience. You don’t have to stay stuck. Allow a orientation to manifest in your thoughts and actions. You don’t have to be the same selfish person that got sober. You’re not obligated to tirelessly and repetitively slave over step work in order to overcome moral failings. You can be transformed. The twelfth step states that we have had a spiritual awakening. Renewal through the twelve steps is possible—mind, body, and soul. You are not the addict or alcoholic you once were, and you don’t have to ever be again. From this viewpoint, while we may always be alcoholics, we no longer have to identify with our selfish, self-centered actions of old. We can embrace an entirely new life, free of guilt and shame, open to fresh ways of being in the world.

Chris Cole is the best-selling author of The Body of Chris: A Memoir of Obsession, Addiction, and Madness. He works as a life coach for people in recovery. Follow Chris and his work at

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

            Serenity is the absence of conflict in our thoughts.  We who have committed ourselves to the program (the Twelve Steps) of Alcoholics Anonymous have deemed that it is the program itself which must come first in our lives. Alongside such a commitment comes a personal relationship with a supreme power, such as God. Living by these honorable ideals ushers the blessings of serenity into the stream of our lives - no matter what transpires.


              In the Alcoholics Anonymous literature, Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions, such a paragon way of living is elucidated:  "We are no longer frightened and purposeless.  The moment we catch even a glimpse of God's will, the moment we begin to see truth, justice and love as the real and eternal things in life, we are no longer deeply disturbed by all the seeming evidence to the contrary that surrounds us in purely human affairs.  We know that God lovingly watches over us."


             By integrating the Twelve Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous into our lives in such a way that they become our lives, and by manifesting the principles of those steps in our behavior, we have the opportunity to have safe and serene lives. Remembering that joy is not the absence of sorrow, but the presence of God … experience serenity we will.


Posted by on in Drug Addiction ----> Originally Posted by me

In early sobriety using dreams are fairly common occurrences. This phenomenon affects certain people differently. Some people in recovery report never having using dreams, while others have them almost nightly in early sobriety. Read about what a using dream is and how to deal with them if you are experiencing them.

What Are They?

Before I jump into the description of using dreams I’ll explain why they are so common in early recovery. When people are actively abusing alcohol or drugs, the brain hardly ever goes into deep sleep, specifically the important REM sleep. Dreams happen in between Deep Sleep and the REM stage of sleep, when our brain is resting deeply. As a result many people in active addiction report not having dreams frequently, and rarely remember them in the morning. Now when the same person gets sober their brain starts to go into REM overdrive to ‘catch up’ on the lost REM sleep. This process allows for a large number of dreams, and may seem even more frequent because the person is not used to having dreams. So what is a using dream exactly? I loosely define a using dream as “a dream about using drugs or alcohol, often very vivid and easily remembered upon waking”. Many people report dreaming about old memories of drinking or using with old friends or imaginary people. Others report using dreams involving substances they have never even used in real life. The content of the dreams can vary but they all have the same behavior of using substances in common.


How Do I Handle Them?

People responded very differently to using dreams. Many people say they feel guilty and shameful when they wake up from their dreams. Others report feeling fearful and anxious when they awake. The most dangerous reaction is when the person wakes up from a using dream with a desire to drink or use in real life. Using dreams can be a trigger; they can tempt some people into relapse. Despite what your reaction is, there are a few things you can do to get over the dreams and protect your sobriety. The most important thing to do is to share your dream with somebody. This can be a friend, family, or someone from any fellowship you are in. Telling somebody has a powerful effect on the dream; sharing it takes away its strength and can relieve the guilt or anxiety. This is especially important if the dream triggers you to drink or drug and can save you from a relapse. Another thing you can do is to write down the dreams in a dream journal. Recording the dreams can help you to see the progression of your using dreams. Most people start having less frequent using dreams after 30 days of sobriety. The last tip to deal with these dreams is to read some recovery or spiritual literature before bed. This helps reinforce your sobriety can keep away using dreams.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Nine Reasons Recovering Addicts Run

In order to stay sober, the alcoholic and addict need to learn natural ways to get high. It's a crucial part of recovery. Running seems to be a great fit for those who are trying to enjoy live free from alcohol and other drugs.  Here are nine reasons. (adapted from Chasing the Dragon: Running to Get High)

1. You Only Get What You Give

Distance running by its nature lends itself to the addictive personality, if there is such a thing, of rewarding those who blast past barriers. It not only rewards but demands the obsessive brain, the kind who goes to a $5 all-you-can-drink keg party and asks for $10 worth. It's the metaphorical potato chip that, once it's on your taste buds, lights up something deeper within you that craves more.

Yes, addicts can be cowards, immature, fragile, obnoxious, and so on (it's an `in' group thing, so I can get away with saying that) but lazy is one thing we are not. Maybe lazy when it comes to responsibilities, sure, but not lazy when it comes to getting what we want. 


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

First off, I am honored to be featured as the Addictionlands “June Expert”. Then again, my inclination is that anyone who calls themselves an expert has too much certitude for me to trust. Instead, think of these as observations from numerous perspectives and years of experience.  

Here goes:

We live in a world that wants you to get high. In fact, companies need you to get high in order to exist. Their job depends on it.

Right now, pharmaceutical companies are churning out addicts in record numbers. The pain management industry is lucrative. To live in chronic pain is to truly be sick and suffering, so it is an essential, and even compassionate service, but the spin-off is, pills in so many cabinets are creating an incredible number of heroin addicts. The curious teen no longer steals a Bud Lite from their dad’s supply, they take some Vicodin. They learn to chew the pill rather than swallow for a quicker high. They learn how to snort. Soon enough, they learn what it means to be dopesick: the need to do more for the same high, and to maintain a supply.

 An opiate addict is a massive consumer for big pharm. (A pain management client times ten.) But instead of managing their pain, the prescription use causes intense suffering and sickness.


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