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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Trauma and Addiction

Working Towards Understanding and Empathy

Addiction is a concept that can be extremely difficult to understand, for both those in it’s grasp and those observing it’s destruction. Understanding and treating addiction can be overwhelming and complex. Oftentimes we don’t know where to begin. In my experience over the last ten years working in the mental health field, I’ve learned about the important role that trauma plays in developing addiction, whether that be to a substance or destructive behavior. As a result, I’m a firm believer that one can’t find themselves addicted without first experiencing some level of trauma.
CREATES THE PERFECT STORM”Oftentimes we view trauma as something dramatic and in your face. We conjure up images of war, death and violent assaults. But the reality is that the majority of trauma is much more insidious and understated. Having a parent who sent you the message that nothing you did was ever good enough. Never feeling like you really fit in growing up. The loss of a serious romantic relationship. I’ve heard trauma described as “anything less than nurturing”. If that is true, we have all experienced trauma at some point in our lives. And if this trauma hasn’t been processed, we are walking around with an open wound.
Trauma can be far reaching in its influence on one’s life. Trauma can impact our beliefs about ourselves, the quality of our relationships, even how our brain biology works. It can lead to feelings of low self worth, chronic hypervigilance and can result in self destructive behaviors. Addiction can be understood as an attempt to cope with the discomfort of trauma, to escape and deny the painful reality of what one has experienced, to create a false confidence when inside one is falling apart or questioning their worth. Addiction is utilized as a chemical solution to a soul problem. And trauma creates the perfect storm for desperation to feel better, any way that we can. Thus, the addiction isn’t necessarily the problem, but the attempted solution to the real problem. And if we aren’t treating the real problem, our trauma, we aren’t treating our addiction.


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Posted by on in Other Addictions

Brighton Recovery posted an incredible and true story today of a an inspiring woman who spent over a decade addicted to self harm. She also struggled with codependency and drug addiction. After years of battle, she was able to find recovery and now helps others do the same through recreational therapy. 

Quotes from: "Addicted to Pain and People

"I had never seen or heard of anyone self harming, but it became my first addiction at the age of 13. I remember the first time I made the decision to do it, not knowing where I got the idea from. I had learned at a young age that I shouldn’t cry, yet I had all of this pain built up inside of me. I got to the point where I didn’t want to live anymore, but I also didn’t know how to die. Cutting became a way for me to release the pain. I couldn’t control my emotional pain, but I could control the physical pain. The moment I pressed a dull multi-tool blade against my skin, I became instantly addicted to pain.

The self harm was never about attention. I didn’t want anyone to know I was cutting, but because I was doing it on my arms, one of my peers noticed during gym class one afternoon and told the school counselor. As if the rumors from the trip weren’t enough, now I was some crazy attention-seeker cutting herself. I remember coming home from school one day and my mother was sitting in the living room crying. All she said was, “Why would you do this?” She didn’t even ask if I was okay, or try to talk to me about what was going on. Being addicted to pain became a way for me to survive. It was the only tool I had. Releasing the pain" 

The story continues to talk about her childhood but eventually her life turns to sex and drugs as she moves to young adult and adult life. 

"I walked into the treatment center thinking that I’d be out of there in three months because I knew what therapists wanted to hear and how to work the system. I made a good friend name Emily and we worked our way through the program, quickly becoming two of the leaders in the house. This awarded us extra responsibilities and privileges. We’d do all sorts of sneaky things to rebel against the program. We’d huff nail polish remover, one time we tried to smoke incense, we even drank toner. All of these were horrible ideas, of course, but we just wanted to get fucked up by any means. I was still addicted to pain and the self-harming continued, too. About 4 months into the program Emily and I made a plan to run. Of course, we failed in our attempt, which lead me into a deep depression.


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

What are Boundaries in Recovery?

Early in the process it can be frustrating to figure out what a boundary is, how to create boundaries that will be effective, and most importantly, how to reinforce our boundaries when they are threatened or violated. Like any new skill, it may take several clumsy but well-meaning attempts before we begin to learn how to apply even the most basic principles. The important thing to remember is, as with any skill, the more we practice, the easier it gets and the more proficient we become.

A common misconception, which often goes unchallenged, relates to the idea that boundaries are meant to somehow teach a lesson to the one with the addiction. We mistakenly believe that the more harsh our consequences and the more strict our expectations, the more they will see how serious we are and “snap out of it.” It doesn’t take long to realize that, sadly, the monster which is controlling them has no interest in learning anything from us at all. Therefore, our efforts must be turned towards protecting ourselves and those in the path of their destruction.

Do not try to go about establishing boundaries in recovery on your own for the first time. Let those who specialize in this deadly disease guide you through the process until you feel comfortable enough to stand on your own.

For more on setting boundaries, check out this great resource

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Posted by on in Other Addictions

One thing I have found to be common among recovering addicts is that, when their primary coping source (drugs) is taken away, they turn immediately to physical intimacy for coping. This can lead manifest itself in sex and love addiction along with codependency. Recently I had the chance to film two wonderful podcast/vodcast episodes on both the topic of sex and love addiction and the topic of codependency and addiction. Both are a great source of information, but I wanted to include some of the highlights here for this amazing community at Addiction Land. 

I didn't exactly understand codependency until author, therapist, and recovering addict D.J. Burr put it in these simple words. 

“Codependency is a dysfunctional relationship with yourself that is typically manifested with other people.” – D.J. Burr, LMHC, NCC, S-PSB

He gave an example of being in a conversation with someone you just met, but in the back of your mind you are only thinking of all the negative things this person might be thinking about you. Of course, that person is probably not thinking anything of the sort, but that's a codependent behavior.  D.J. is a great resource for more information on this topic and I highly recommend hearing what he has to say on the podcast. 

On thing that really stood out to me about sex and love addiction was something that John Taylor said in his podcast episode. 


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Current hurdles to providing individualized addiction treatment:

According to the Centers for Disease Control, an estimated 142 Americans die every single day from drug overdose. These people need saved, and it has to happen on an individual basis. As of now, there just is no other way to do it. Some may argue a broader approach by doing things like reducing access to opioids. Though this could help some, the problem is actually more complex. As access is limited, people are increasingly turning to street opioids, heroin, fentanyl, cocaine, a mixture of each, or other dangerous and illegal drugs. The real problem is that despite all our efforts, only 10 percent of the almost 21 million Americans addicted to drugs receive any level of treatment. Lack of access to health care and the fear of stigma contribute to this epidemic.

This video explains the need for individualized addiction treatment in more detail:

Also, more information can be found here.

The statistic mentioned above are from the Commission Interim Report

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

I started with lines of Meth but quickly wanted to try shooting it. I asked one of my friends who was shooting Meth and he said to me, “This will change your life.” I thought he was being dramatic, but in all honesty, it did change my life, because I got just as addicted to that needle as anything. It was all in the ritual and the process. Getting it, burning it, making it, pulling that cloud of blood, and pushing it back in. You get the taste of it in your mouth before it’s even in your body. I loved the ritual so much that if I had drugs but no needle, I’d hold onto the drugs until I could get one. It’s overwhelming what that needle did to me and how it controlled my life for the next ten years.

My drug addiction overtook my life and I started doing crazy things. I’d go to Las Vegas to score a bunch of dope get loaded for days on end. I’d sell drugs to support my habit, I began ripping off everyone I knew, and started to get into a little bit of trouble with the law.

Because of my hookups, I could get pills for around $5 each, then turn around and sell them for $40. I’d use the money to purchase Meth and Heroine. If I didn’t have the money, I’d steal, manipulate, and hustle to get the drugs. I’d even walk into convenience stores, grab two cases of beer, and walk right out like I owned the place. I wasn’t even stealing the good beer either, I’d take two 30-packs of Stroh’s because that’s as much as I could carry. One time a big Polynesian lady gave chase and, being 130 pounds, I couldn’t outrun her with a case in each hand. I was running as fast as I could but she was catching up to me, so I had to ditch one of the 30s. It must have looked really interesting to the bystanders as I ran down the road, hugging a case of 30s while a big Polynesian lady chased me.

I made it back to the hotel and was out on the front porch smoking a cigarette when I saw a police car pull up to the building. I knew that police car was coming for me, but I just didn’t have it in me to run anymore. That was a moment of clarity and serenity for me. I could have taken off and probably got away, because I would have had a huge head start, but I just sat there and smoked that cigarette. I watched them go to the lobby, come up the stairs, walk towards me, and I just surrendered right there. I wanted to be done using but I didn’t know how. I wanted to be sober, but I didn’t think it was possible for me, because once I got sober, that’s when the true pain would begin. They took me to the Utah county jail where I detoxed over the next few days. Detoxing in jail was terrible but I also think it might be the best way to do it. Nobody is going to come and check on you, see how you’re doing or what they can do for you. You just have to suffer and you can’t act like a little bitch about it because you’re in jail. I appeared before the same judge I had to present to many times before, and this judge had given me every chance in the past, but this time he was finally fed up with me and sentenced me to serve a year in jail.

This is a portion of an incredibly moving story I wrote about my friend. Please check out the rest of it at

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

I just wanted to let people know about this amazing Podcast about addiction and alcoholism. It's been a great help to me and many of my friends. You can subscribe on all the regular podcast distributors, but you can also watch it as a Vodcast on the recovery soapbox site.

Recovery Soapbox was started as a place to openly discuss drug addiction, alcoholism and recovery. It's put on by a rehab center in Utah, but it's in no way a commercial for them. This clip is just a short preview, the full episodes are free and about an hour long on average. They are on their 9th episode. Withing the podcast, they do a Women in Recovery series that has been amazing. There are now three episode of Women in Recovery. 

The guests on the podcast really know what they are talking about when it comes to alcoholism, drugs, addiction, rehab and recovery. Check it out if you get a chance or pass it along to someone who may be in need of some extra help. 

This was an episode with a recovering addict named Sarah Kappos. It's one of my favorites. 


Posted by on in Co-dependency

People often forget about the needs of caregivers, especially when you’re caring for someone with a drug or alcohol addiction. It is equally important for you to seek help and develop a support system. Therapists can offer you guidance on how to: stop enabling the person with the addiction, improve communication, set boundaries, avoid caving in to manipulations, promote your own social life and maintain relationships with others, and gain knowledge about addiction. Addiction is a family illness that doesn’t just impact the person addicted to drugs or alcohol.




While there are many benefits to having a support system, there are barriers that often prevent caregivers from reaching out to friends and family. If you fear being judged or rejected by society, you’re not alone. Caregivers often feel shame or have guilt for caring for someone with an addiction, as if they have failed that person. If their child has an addiction, they often feel they have failed as a parent. Sometimes caregivers feel they don’t deserve help, or feel guilty for acknowledging their own pain, as if they are being insensitive to the person with the addiction. It can be difficult admitting and accepting that you need help as the loved one or caregiver, when you spend most of your time caring for and attending to the needs of someone else. Sometimes friends and family aren’t supportive of the caregiver. You might be viewed as being too supportive (enabling) or not supportive enough (abandoning). It may feel like a lose-lose situation, but it is important to put your own needs and mental health first.


Posted by on in Gambling Addiction

Welcome Friends and Visitors!

YES, sorry that it has been a while since I have blogged about my journey and recovery from gambling addiction now 10+years IN!

I also have had many blessings come my way recently and thought I should share what I’m doing in my own recovery path. On of the beautiful things about recovery is we continue to grow when we have a plan in place for whatever life brings us. It can a new trial or test, or it can be an awesome learning opportunity. If we are NOT learning along the way, we become close minded and maybe not open to seeing all the miracles that happen in life and in our recovery journey!

Lately,  I have been on a journey myself of living wellness in LIFE. Yes, in life, not just in recovery. I have been craving more than “just” living a life in recovery and have learned we have many choices to get there. Our recovery is only a part of life. Living an authentic fun and peaceful life from addiction should be a goal when reaching long-term recovery.

We need to explore what we need to do to maintain and continue to grow, and there are many ways to accomplish this in both the treatment side and doing our inner work side, especially for those coming early into recovery. TWO great tools I have been using is an Educational DVD Series and finished reading the book; “Addiction To Recovery: Unlocking Your Potential.” They both have transformed my recovery. The book is the material used for the DVD’S.

And if you have been in recovery from gambling addiction long-term, let’s face it; you don’t need to be a person who works in the field of treating gambling addicts to know there has not been much development in treatment options for those of us who become addicted gambling. And, there is much confusion of what to call a gambler who becomes addicted. Labeling a disease I feel adds to the “stigma” around many addictions let alone gambling, and hampers many who may seek for help.


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

"Piece of shit" the young woman blew a strand of hair out of her face and tried cranking the tired Caprice classic again. All the engine would do when she flipped the key to crank it was go.... Click. She laid her head on her hands on the steering wheel. Silently she sat back up and unbuckled her seatbelt then with a resigned sigh,  she opened her car door and stepped out.  Of all places to break down she would have to pick here where the closest familiar face was that of the most psychotic human that she had ever met. Melvin Schwartz was a killer. Dangerous, utterly without conscience. A genuine wild eyed Southern boy. With long blonde hair and snapping black eyes that blazed with madness. He used to be a Pentecostal preacher. At this moment, her car had chosen to lay down on her just a minutes walk away from his wrecking yard. Sighing with resignation, she got out of her traitorous automobile and locked it up. She walked to the nearest home and knocked on the door. A cautious looking housewife open the door. She asked to borrow her phone to make a call because her car was broken down. The suspicious lady let her in and she made her call. Afterward she thanked the lady. Then refusing the woman's offer of hospitality she made her exit and begin to walk to the wrecking yard. She got down to the property heavy laden with now dead automobiles. She walked up to the long since retired yellow school bus, which Melvin had turned into a makeshift office. As she neared she thought she heard voices emanating from the old bus, so she knocked on the door. The voices immediately stopped and she heard a scuffling inside. After a moment the door to the bus swung open. There stood Melvin looking suspiciously at the young woman. Upon recognizing her he smiled. " oh it's you. Come on In. " the young woman explained the situation and thrust herself on his mercy (that was non-existent). But Melvin had a grudging respect for her husband who was also a known no nonsense drug dealer. He invited her in and offered her a seat telling her she was more than welcome to wait for her husband here. He was animated today and almost jolly. Very out of character for him. In fact she had never seen him so cordial. A moment later he cocked his head to one side and told her to excuse him that he would be right back. He stepped out of the door and it seemed like in the same moment she heard a knock on the school bus door followed by "Police!! Open the door!! "  then without waiting for an answer, the school bus door swung open. The city police and the county officers piled up into the bus filling it up. They began firing questions at the young woman demanding that she produce Melvin. She stared at them in confusion. It seemed impossible that they would not have seen Melvin as he exited the bus. How could it be? She asked the officers "Didn't you see him? " they responded "no ma'am." After a moment's hesitation she replied "Well I can't help you I don't know where he is. I'm just waiting on my ride." "Where's the girl? " they demanded. Again she looked at them stupidly,  " what girl? " she asked. "The Patton girl. The one that he's holding hostage." Answered the officer. Suddenly as if in answer to the man's question she heard a noise from the back of the bus. "Who's back there? " an office shouted.  "Come on out with your hands where we can see them!" He was answered with silence. "You better come on out. If we have to drag you out it's gonna go worse for you!!" The cop continued to yell. Finally a single shaking hand appeared, followed by a second similar hand. Then a bone thin young girl with long, dark, wild hair gradually came into sight. The young woman with car problems couldn't contain a gasp. The skinny creature was barely recognizable as a person. Someone had obviously beaten her black and blue. Her scalp was bleeding where hunks of hair were missing. She was trembling so badly that she could barely stand. She hung her head down like a kicked cur. Her face was bleeding, and her swollen eyes gazed out flatly. Tear stains ran in rivers down her mistreated face from between wet lashes. The police officer asked the broken creature "So are you the Patton girl?" She nodded barely perceptible. The officer asked her "What happened this morning?" She mumbled but you couldn't understand what she was saying so he said "We got a report that he had tied up his mom and his dad and his kids and threatened to burn the house down over them after he got through kiling you. Is that correct?" she just stood there obviously terrified and not offering anything up anyway the information. The officer said "are you willing to sign a statement against him when we catch him? "  all she would do was shake her head violently in the negative he told her "You have to sign a statement in order for us to prosecute." again she shook her head violently no she would not be willing to. The officer looked at her and told the young woman "If she's not willing to sign a statement there's nothing more we can do to help her." He turned away, dismissing her, "Canvas the area. " he told the officers. They filed out of the bus. The young woman was left with the battered girl. "Paula?" The young woman tried out the name as the one that had recently been associated with Melvin. The girl hesitated, then nodded her head jerkily. "What happened? " the woman asked. After a moment the girl began to recount the morning's horrors. The police were correct it would seem. Melvin had indeed tied up his elderly parents and his young children and had promised to burn the house down over them when he finished killing Paula. Later on,  the young woman would learn that a neighbor had seen him dragging the weeping girl by the hair in the direction of the wrecking yard. Horrified the neighbor had called the authorities. The girl's story ended with "and he put the 12 gauge shotgun in my mouth then you knocked. " The young woman sat silently trying to absorb everything that she had just heard. After a moment she asked "So what now? " The skinny girl looked at her in confusion. "What do you mean? " she asked.  "What I mean is in just a few moments the police will be gone and I will be gone unless you do something about it you will be here to facing him alone. So what are you going to do" The girl suddenly looked terror-stricken. "What I'm talking about is Melvin making good on his promise once we're all gone." "What should I do?" she asked, her face chalk white "You should get out of here somehow." the young woman said. "I don't know, let me see. I need to talk to the police officer's." As if they'd been summoned the officers reappeared and said " Well there's no sign of him out here now" the young woman answered "Listen she needs to get out of here somehow but can you make it look like it's against her will ?" He thought for a moment. "We can arrest her and if he's watching he will see that she's going against her will in cuffs. After that we can take her to a women's shelter, where he won't know where she is or be able to contact her." "Yes let's do that." said the young woman. She turn to the skinny girl and said "Do you understand what we're talking about? " The skinny girl nodded slowly "Yes I think I do. "Is this acceptable to you? "The young woman continued pressing the thin, shaking waif. Then she answered "You're right I should get out of here. But he will kill me if he finds me." "Well hopefully that will never happen." Said the young woman. So the police put her in handcuffs and amidst great struggle they led her out into the wrecking yard and up to the police cars waiting at the top of the hill. The police all got into their respective cars and drove away. The young woman sat in silence inside the bus. Only the chirping of the birds could be heard outside. Suddenly as if blown by a great wind the door swung open and the long blonde haired young man burst into the room. " What did she say? What did she tell them?" he asked obviously agitated. "You know as much as I know." the young woman answered "The police asked her questions and she refused to answer. So they arrested her. Now I've got to go up to the car and wait on Derek." She gathered her belongings together and made her way around him and out into the bright sunlight. As she made her way up the hill toward her car she reflected on the crazy events of the day and how she hoped the skinny young girl could find some happiness after all this nightmare.

And I barely knew her name but it all happened just like that. True story. 

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