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Posted by on in Alcoholism

 “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” - Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu

As an addiction medicine psychiatrist, I believe that to change a behavior, we must first recognize that a problem exists. This approach applies whether it's a habit to break or an addictive behavior to stop. Addiction occurs for various reasons and can manifest itself behaviorally or emotionally. Once help is sought, then intervention can begin. 

Given the physical and psychological dependence that accompanies addiction, professional treatment is one of the most effective ways to treat alcohol use disorders. A medically-supervised recovery plan is quicker, less stressful, and safer than a solo attempt. A professional treatment program helps alcoholics manage their cravings, cope with emotional highs and lows, and learn how to maintain sobriety.

What Are the Symptoms of an Alcohol Use Disorder?  

There are certain symptoms and signs which can signify that an individual has an alcohol use disorder and would benefit from treatment. Some commonly occurring symptoms include:


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

As it is often said in the addiction treatment profession, there is a clear separation between abstinence and sobriety. Abstinence can be defined simply as physical free from mind-altering substances. Abstinence doesn’t address behaviors, emotions, mental health, etc. It just means that the person is free of drugs/alcohol. Sobriety includes abstinence, but also encompasses much more than just stopping drinking or abusing drugs. Read and find out why sobriety is the more rewarding and effective method to stopping addiction, and why abstinence is just the bare minimum solution.

Is Abstinence Enough?

In our addiction, many addicts and alcoholics develop unhealthy or negative habits and patterns that go beyond the drugs/alcohol. Perhaps we become dishonest, self-seeking, or reckless. We may say things or do something at the expense of others. The point is that we develop personality traits and behavioral patterns that are not directly a result of addiction. These character defects and selfish tendencies become part of our daily life. We may use them to get what we want or manipulate others. The emotions and feelings of others are cast aside in order to maintain our drug/alcohol habit and lifestyle.

Quitting drugs/alcohol will not completely remove the negative and selfish habits from our addiction. Some people think that when they put down the drugs, they will become this wonderful and admirable person. This is often not the case. In fact, sometimes those negative habits and tendencies get worse when a person stops using drugs. Why is this? During our addiction we used drugs or alcohol for many reasons; to escape, numb emotions, relax, find relief, etc. Once we stop the drugs/alcohol, our greatest coping mechanism (our addiction) has disappeared. Simply, we don’t have the experience, resources, or ability to handle life’s problems and stresses. Without substances to find comfort in, a person may resort to dishonesty, verbal abuse, anger, over-eating, compulsive shopping, co-dependency, etc. to find relief from the realities of life. Abstinence is not enough because it does not replace drugs and alcohol with a solution to face and handle life in a healthy way. On the other hand, sobriety is about finding a new way of living to replace our old life in addiction.

Sobriety: A New Way of Living

The main difference between abstinence and sobriety is that the latter includes a program for self-growth and actualization. Sobriety comes in many different shapes and sizes. There are recovery groups and therapy. These are both great ways to continue to learn about yourself and to get support from others who care about you. There are also other ways to get involved in sobriety, such as searching for spirituality and learning how to meditate. Even simple things such as exercise and reading can help replace some of those negative habits with healthy new habits. Sobriety is about learning how to be a good friend, a loving son or daughter, and a real member of society. Sobriety is about learning how to deal with emotions like pain, embarrassment, disappointment and emerging stronger afterwards. Living life sober, we are given a new lease on life and we have the chance to dramatically change our path. If you are just abstaining from drugs/alcohol and are not actively living sobriety, you are missing out on the true rewards of recovery.

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

I'm sure that many of you can relate to coincidences like when you learn about a new word, you find that you hear it more, but when in reality it's just something new that has come into your awareness, it was really there all along.  This is of course something that happens to me often, but has certainly been my experience since I have been writing this blog, as it is now always in my awareness to look for opportunities for what to discuss next and they just keep popping into my life!

Working in the addiction field, and the job I have in particular, keeps me very focused but also very isolated.  Working in addiction also creates a sort of bubble, being that my clients are all trying to get out of their active addiction, my co-workers are all in recovery, and the doctors are addictionologists.  I had been in California for four or five years and didn’t realize that I was protecting myself in a way, by not branching out of my comfort zone.  So it wasn’t until about two years ago, that I started to go out to new places and interact with new people that have never struggled with an addiction.  (People that experience temporary stress instead of chronic anxiety are still a wonder to me!)

The benefit, however, of the bubble realization was that all of that prep work that I had been doing (working with a sponsor, doing the steps, going to multiple types of therapy to figure out the core issues as to why I was using inhalants, then working on those core issues) was in preparation for returning to the real world and all its challenges and this time having a more positive impact, on myself and on those around me, and it was time to use them!  The tools I have learned (especially emotional regulation, coping skills, and trigger identification) and the resources I have developed have been crucial in my relapse prevention, because life sure does throw me some curveballs and when I did come out of hiding, I found that some of my wreckage from my past was still there waiting for me.  I am definitely grateful that I was given the opportunity to have a second chance, to get to be the same person, but a better version.  By doing the footwork, it allows me to look at the same situations but have different reactions and therefore different outcomes than I would have in the past.

I feel that in order to be effective in communicating with people who are also struggling and/or looking for solutions or education, I need to write about things that truly affect me emotionally, because if what I'm writing doesn't induce some sort of feelings for me, how could it in someone else?  So full disclosure in the hopes that someone can relate and hopefully allowing me to be of service.

The reason that the ability to have different reactions that produce different and better outcomes is on my mind is due to some events that occurred in my week.  I felt discouraged this week for two reasons, and I feel like they have happened while I have volunteered to write this blog for a reason.  I am a person that falls victim to a certain type of mental trap, where your brain immediately jumps into negative thinking or disaster mode when you hear certain things that are not ideal.  In the treatment facilities I work with, we refer to it as addict brain.

Tagged in: 10th tradition 12 step 12 step recovery AA abstinence accurate self-appraisal action program action steps addict addiction addiction help addiction memoir addiction recovery Addiction Specialist addictive behavior addicts affected affirmations Alcoholics Anonymous answers anxiety anxiety and recovery ask for help Asking for help attitude of gratitude awareness balance being a loving mirror being a loving person being of service Big Book Caring for those who still suffer co-addiction co-occurring disorder compassion courage dealing with a using loved one depression discomfort drug abuse drug addiction emotional management emotional maturity emotional regulation emotional sobriety emotions faith family recovery fear first step goal setting goals gratitude gratitude journey Guest Blogger guilt healing HELPING OTHERS higher self inadequacy inner satisfaction intervention inventory letting go Life Challenges life on life's terms literature memoir mental health mindfulness mindfulness and recovery Motivation My Story openness positive energy program of recovery recovery recovery talk relapse prevention Resilience right action right intention self care Self Love self-compassion self-confidence self-esteem self-help self-honesty serenity shame sobriety sponsor stepwork struggle substance abuse suffering suffering addicts Support surrender tenth tradition thinking thinking errors Trying to save a Life turn it over twelve step recovery twelve steps Twelve Steps and Twelve Traditions twelve steps of aa twelve traditions twelve traditions of aa why i used drugs

Posted by on in Drug Addiction

March 16th marks the beginning of the week for National Inhalants and Poisons Awareness Week!

I work in assisting the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition, a contact I made after my episode of Intervention, when I joined Director Harvey Weiss to speak on a panel with others affected by inhalant abuse in Washington DC.  Many of the people that I have spoken with were once inhalant addicts themselves or friends and family (especially parents) of inhalant users who devistatingly passed away while using inhalants. This is an organization that works on reducing, preventing, and making the public aware of inhalant abuse, a goal that we both have in common.

In their most recent newsletter, the National Inhalant Prevention Coalition (NIPC) defines inhalant abuse as "the intentional misuse, via inhalation, of common household, school and workplace products and chemicals to “get high.”  This definition also infers two primary inhalant abuse slang terms:  “Sniffing” and “Huffing.” In a sense the Process of“huffing” defines the slang terms for the Activity i.e. bagging (huffing from a bag); Glading (misusing air freshener); etc."

NIPC also regularly provides the public with updates and facts imperitive to spread the awareness and prevention of inhalant abuse.  Here is an update of some of the most recent facts:

1.  Any time an inhalant is used, it could be a fatal episode.  This could be the first time you ever use inhalants, or the 100th.  NIPC notes that there is research showing that "of those people who died from huffing, about one-third died at first time use."


Posted by on in Alcoholism


Sobriety is an interesting thing, especially as most people initially attempt to find recovery at a 12-step meeting. The focus of this article is to discuss a different way of staying sober that is outside the confines of AA or NA, or a traditional approach to recovery.

I used alcohol and drugs for a period of 10 years.  After significant social and health problems I was faced with a decision after being in a coma for nearly a month due to my drug use. My experience as a clinician is that everybody who makes a decision to quit using needs to find their own motivation to quit and remain chemical-free.  My motivation came from my grandmother when she said, “I was very concerned that you wouldn’t make it”.  This is significant to me because both of my grandparents survived Auschwitz.  They spent every day not knowing if they would be alive for the next 24 hours. My grandmother is my moral compass and I remember thinking that if she was able to find a way to stay alive for four years in horrific conditions, I could find a way to stay sober.

When I got sober my grandparents asked me to try 12-step meetings.  I attended for some time but I never resonated with the approach.  While some people find recovery through 12-step meetings, I think it’s important to remember that most popular doesn’t always mean most successful.



Posted by on in Alcoholism

Staying sober requires that recovering people remain motivated towards sobriety. Recovering individuals need to become involved in Social Anchoring, a skill which comprises five very distinct actions to enable long-term support for recovery. Through the development of these actions people begin to learn a practical application of principles which offer a sufficient substitute other than alcohol or drugs.

Most newly sober people have trouble evaluating their experience and abilities objectively. This lack of objectivity can result in poor decision making and a lack of awareness which does not put your skills and achievements in a positive light. This article is intended to be a starting place so you can best determine how to best present your specific skills and find various ways to enliven your sobriety.

1) Attendance at recovery based meetings. It is imperative that people who want to remain sober, spend time with other people trying to achieve the same thing. Recovery based fellowship enables people to see what works, what doesn’t, learn skills to support long-term abstinence, and develop friendships so that when one experiences a desire to drink and use, they can call upon their fellows in these meetings, rather than answering the call of their favorite chemical.

2) Remaining accountable. We need to spend time with people who are working a recovery program and exhibit behaviors that are suggestive of a life committed to personal growth and sobriety. Junior members are encouraged to find senior members who “have what they want” and develop a mentor relationship with one another. These junior/senior members meet regularly to discuss how they can apply what they have learned, offer objective feedback, and help you to develop a plan of action for meetings goals.

3) Developing a connection with a Higher Power. This right-of-passage usually involves coming to terms with archaic religious views and discarding the codified structure of what isn’t working, and which prevents people from reaching full integrity in their recovery program. New members are encouraged to set-aside what they know and begin to see things differently. Remembering that setting aside what you know isn’t asking you to discard what you know, rather it is about becoming willing to consider a different viewpoint or understanding that our way doesn’t support us to get what we want.


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