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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Why The Stigma of Drug and Alcohol Addiction Holds Everyone Back


Stigma is the look on their face when they find out you've done drugs. It's the judgment that crossed their minds. It's the assumption that you must have a lesser mental capacity than most. It's having to lie about your past for fear of being viewed as a criminal. It's not always obvious, except to the addict and likely to those who have loved an addict. Common misconceptions include thinking that willpower can cure addiction, or that more severe punishments will motivate addicts to stop using. Many even think that terming addiction a ‘disease’ is just an excuse. When it comes to addiction recovery, this stigma can be the biggest hurdle of all.


Stigma increases the difficulty individuals and families face when seeking the help they desperately need. This results in many people preferring to delay or avoid treatment rather than face the stigma from co-workers, managers, friends, and even family. This tends to only deepens the isolation and the addictions. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration has estimated that 22.7 million Americans need drug and alcohol addiction treatment, but only 2.5 million people receive it. That's less than a one in ten.



Posted by on in Gambling Addiction

Hello and Happy Holidays Recovery Friends,

So another holiday season is upon us and those of us in recovery can have a tough time around the holidays. I have in the past with self-sabotaging my Christmas season. How do you ask? Let me share a "war story of Christmas past." We can learn and grow in recovery when we safely look at "Then & Now of Christmas's Past" as an addicted or problem gambler."

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Many of us in recovery advocate to show to others who still suffer from this cunning addiction the importance of sharing our experiences, strength, and hope with others when we do tell some of our "war stories." It does show how insidious this addiction is. It is one the area's I don't feel is proper about 12-Step programs. They tell us not to share war stories as it could maybe trigger someone in a meeting. But, if we don't learn from these mistakes or choices, how do look back and find growth in our recovery? Yes, you can see growth by just doing the 12-steps, but many need more than that to recover fully. I know I did.

I recall one Christmas that has to be my worst within my gambling addiction and will never forget because I was gambling out of desperation. And it is why I make sure all holidays now are safe, happy and full of JOY. It was back in 2005. Our home we had lived and worked very hard for had to be sold through a short sale or we would have lost everything we put into it. But even then, it felt like we lost it as we are still paying on the balance that was not covered by the sale. It also caused me to make a few bad choices, residual addicted "thinking,: I had committed a crime that big catastrophy I wrote about in my memoir, and I was reeling. I stopped taking my bipolar meds, then took them all at once! I was so angry with myself, feeling so much shame, guilt, low self-worth and again suicidal because I knew it was because of my past gambling is how we got into this mess in the first place! Of course, no excuse’s, just insights.

We were so financially broke. The guilt and shame would hit me each year hard as I knew much was my fault why we were. I remember being in JCPenney walking around aimlessly wishing I could buy this or that for the family for Christmas. Luckily all our family lived in other states than Oregon. So I had to do the same lame thing I had done for many past Christmas's, just send a card. It was tough already that we both had job loss, the very beginning of the economy and markets were getting ready to pop. We had a hard time finding good paying jobs, and I ended up back in an addiction/mental health crisis again with another breakdown right after the holidays. It was all too much!

When I got released from the crisis center, I knew I had a lot more recovery inner work< which included financial inventory to take and work on. I had been doing well in my recovery and gamble free at the time, but something was nagging at me. See, you need to know that no matter the addiction, it’s always waiting for us. 


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 Drug Addiction

Originally Posted @

One of the biggest paradoxes in recovery is the idea of ‘surrendering to win’. In our society, the idea of admitting defeat is seen as a sign of weakness. When it comes to addiction and alcoholism however, conceding to the fact that you have a disease is the first step in getting and staying sober.

Many people struggling with addiction and alcohol abuse are experts at rationalization and denial. Working at a detox or treatment center, it is common to hear people argue “I don’t have a problem, I can stop when I want!” or “It’s not like I got a DUI, it can’t be that bad”. In fact, almost every person struggling with substance abuse issues try to come up with excuses as to why they don’t have a problem. An addict or alcoholic in denial may say things like “I have a job and a house, I’m not an alcoholic”. Often times people think of an alcoholic or drug addict as the dirty old bum panhandling and sleeping under a bridge drinking warm wine out of a brown paper bag. The reality is that addiction comes in a wide variety of shapes and sizes. One thing that research into addiction has discovered is that substance abuse seems to not discriminate between race, gender, or economic status. It has also become obvious that addiction is a progressive disease, and that some people can function at a high level, be very successful, and still struggle with addiction.

Why Surrender?

Getting sober, it is important to come to terms with addiction as a disease. I encourage people to research the disease concept of addiction, and to realize that addiction is not a matter of willpower or strength, but instead a medical anomaly that the person suffering can’t control. This is where the concept of surrendering to win comes in. Once the person comes to terms with their situation and accepts that they can’t fix their substance abuse problems on their own, a foundation for sobriety is laid. In 12 step programs the first step is about admitting our powerlessness over drugs and alcohol. This is very similar to surrendering, because it requires the person to admit they need help and can’t handle it on their own. Once they become willing to take suggestions and become open-minded to new things, recovery can occur. Some people find strength in therapy, spirituality, fellowship, or service. When surrendering occurs, the previously close-minded person is often more willing to try unfamiliar actives that will ultimately bring them relief and strength.

When it comes to recovering from drugs and alcohol surrendering is actually a sign of strength and courage. It goes against our human nature and society to admit defeat, but in doing so we actually become willing to overcome our setbacks. Admitting powerlessness over substances does mean you have to be a slave anymore, instead it is a sign of upcoming freedom and growth.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism


Working at an outpatient treatment center I am always interested by new methods for helping people get sober. There are constantly new theories evolving from psychology in the field of substance abuse. Community Reinforcement Approach and Family Training (CRAFT) is an unconventional means of getting an addict or alcoholic to seek help and enter treatment. Remarkably, the creators of CRAFT claim a 64% success rate compared to conventional interventions (25%) and Al-Anon (14%). This statistic is based on the percentage of people staying sober after attending outpatient under the directive of each respective system. When I looked into CRAFT I could only find a handful of sites and articles on the subject. If it is so effective, then why is this method not more widespread and more importantly what is it?

What is CRAFT?

The basis of CRAFT is quite simple. Instead of using threats and confrontation to convince an addict or alcoholic to get help, the family or therapist of the person uses what they call a “motivational model of help”. Unlike many other ways of dealing with substance abuse CRAFT is based on reward-based positive reinforcement. Instead of punishing or condemning a person when they abuse drugs, CRAFT rewards the person for abstinence and good behavior. When someone is abusing drugs CRAFT suggests that the family distance themselves emotional and physically until the person sobers up. The core idea behind CRAFT is in the interaction between family and the alcoholic when they are sober. CRAFT aims to make sobriety seem desirable and appealing, so that someone with a substance abuse problem realizes what their addiction is making them miss out on.

CRAFT shows you how to develop your loved one’s motivation to change by helping you figure out how to appropriately reward healthy behavior. You learn how to make sober activities more attractive to your loved one, and drug- or alcohol-using activities less inviting. In this way, you minimize conflict and maximize cooperative relationship-enhancing interactions with your loved one.

According to the creators of the program an addict will enter treatment only when the reasons not to use outweigh the reasons to continue using.  By making sobriety seem more attractive they claim to be “raising the bottom” of the person so that they do not have to experience dire consequences before seeking help. CRAFT makes sobriety more attractive by showing the addict or alcoholic the fun activities possible only when sober. When sober the family gives affection, kindness, and attention to the person and ceases this if the person begins using again.  CRAFT also puts an emphasis on improving communication of the family members and instituting non-violent communication into dialogue.


Posted by on in Alcoholism --->Originally posted by me

As Thanksgiving looms around the corner, the term gratitude gets used more frequently. Many people think gratitude just means being thankful for all the wonderful things in your life. Is this a good definition of gratitude? In my opinion it is not. Having had my share of both good and bad luck in life, I have learned that gratitude is a deliberate daily practice that is not influenced by material possessions or success. As David Steindl-Rast once wrote,

“Good luck can make us happy, but it cannot give us lasting joy. The root of joy is gratefulness. We tend to misunderstand the link between joy and gratefulness. We notice that joyful people are grateful and suppose that they are grateful for their joy. But the reverse is true: their joy springs from gratefulness. If one has all the good luck in the world, but takes it for granted, it will not give one joy. Yet even bad luck will give joy to those who manage to be grateful for it.”

It is easy to be grateful when things are going your way; it is much harder to find the silver lining in setbacks and tragedy. However practicing gratitude in the challenging phases of your life can truly transform your outlook and ultimately your happiness. The concept of gratitude has importance in recovery, 12 step programs, and spirituality. Wise members of these groups see the benefits of remaining grateful in trying times, such as early sobriety or the loss of a loved one. The psychology behind practicing gratitude is fairly simple; when we acknowledge the blessings in our life it keeps us in a positive mindset. This is especially helpful when we are depressed or stressed out. In such times we often find ourselves looking at the world through a negative lens, but making a list of things we are grateful for in our life often disrupts the negative thinking. Remaining grateful is a practice, and can take time to become a daily habit. Many people report that making a simple list of the things they are grateful for in their life is a great start to incorporating gratitude into their everyday lives. Others make sure to think of one thing they are grateful for before every meal. Gratitude is about pausing throughout our busy lives to take a minute and focus on the blessings of life.

How can gratitude change your life?


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Girls with childhoods like mine don’t live long and they don’t grow up to become doctors. They die young and if they happen to stay alive, they end up in prison or living on the streets forever. I grew up in a family infected with incest that can be traced as far back as my genealogy extends. I was not protected or safe in my own home. Like thousands of young girls before me, I turned to drugs and alcohol to escape.

By 14, I was hooked on meth. I didn’t have the luxury of wealthy parents which meant I had to commit crimes and offer my body to men more than twice my age to stay high. I spent my adolescence immersed in the child welfare system, living in and out of foster homes, juvenile facilities, treatment centers, and the streets. Every junkie has a story and I have mine. Suffice it to say that I have paid my dues in that world and paid heavily. After a violent rape that nearly killed me, I vowed in the hospital that nobody would ever look at me with the disgust and revulsion that the doctors and police officers did that day. I have remained committed and true to my promise.

Today, I stand as a woman who’s risen above the darkness. I live free of chemicals and the obsession to use them. I can’t remember the last time I committed a crime or considered killing myself. I put in years of hard work to earn the privilege of being called Dr. Garrison and have dedicated my last ten years to helping others.

I’ve lived my life one step away from becoming a statistic. The question I get asked most frequently is “What advice do you have for others in your situation?” Here’s what I know about beating the odds.

1. Your labels don’t define you


Posted by on in Alcoholism


Behind the fundamental goal of recovery, being addiction-free, there is another objective. Whether we call it the profound personality change spoken of in the traditional Twelve Step model, or the personal transformation of a more contemporary approach, we strive to become a different and better person. The thoughts, feelings and behaviors of the person that used drugs and alcohol just won't work in an addiction-free life. Growth and change are essential.


Sometimes trampled under the rallying cries of "keep it simple", "avoid projecting" and "one day at a time", is the idea of thinking ahead. The concept is nearly taboo. A limiting idea has arisen: FUTURE is a dirty word. 



Posted by on in Gambling Addiction

Hello and Happy Valentines Day Recovery Friends,

Sometimes our higher power brings others in our lives at "just that right moment" when we start to think why we do what we do in recovery for others. I know I have felt this way before myself many times. Just when all the writing, blogging, freelance articles, and having my soul lay open bare for all to read, you wonder if anyone is listening. If there are people being helped with my God given purpose in life to help others recover from the financial ravages and devastation of addicted gambling addiction. Adnan's story is very sensational, but the truth is what he say's about how he felt. About being driven by a disease that is so cunning, that the disease will invade and corrupt even your thoughts and feelings that drive action. NO, no excuses here, nor any denial or blame.

Just insight as to how any addition can drive you to a point of hopelessness and poor choices. Adnan has taken his ownership and accountability for what he has done within his gambling addiction. He currently is serving a 17 year prison sentence. And has wrote and was just published this past Fall. So it's why I'm sharing a blog post I just did on my own recovery blog. His story needs to be shared and heard everywhere, as it serves as a "wake up call" to the constant expansion of Casinos and States Lotteries.

Here's Adnan Alisic Story:

A true story straight out of the News Headlines about an Addicted Gambler ~ Lets put faces behind Gambling Addiction the Disease. . .
“Not only is a group of men charged in the theft of $2 million cash from an armored truck at an East Valley casino, but they could also be accused of stealing from some Hollywood scripts. A FBI search warrant affidavit and federal indictment records provide new details of the July 21 attempted robbery of Casino Arizona at Talking Stick that some movie buffs might find familiar.”

Attempted Casino Arizona robbery like a Hollywood movie” ~ said the Associated Press ~

ASSOCIATED PRESS – The attempted robbery of $2 million from a casino on the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community east of Phoenix sounds more like a Hollywood movie than a real-life incident, according to newly released court documents.

Officials are charging Ismar K, Adnan Alisic, Bakil, and Daniel M{ not wanting to use the others charged – full names}, with conspiracy, interference with commerce by threats, violence and robbery, and use of a firearm in a crime of violence in the July 21 attempted robbery of Casino Arizona at Talking Stick, according to their indictment and a FBI search warrant affidavit outlined.

Adnan Alisic made fake manhole covers so they would be lighter and easier to lift, and then switched them with two others the day before the robbery. The men placed ladders and ropes in the manholes and parked an all-terrain vehicle in the sewer system so they could race the money from one manhole to the other. Holes were cut in the floorboards of two vans for access to the manhole covers, a trick Steve McQueen pulled in 1972’s “The Getaway.”
The men’s gear included blue coveralls, gas masks, pepper spray, bear attack deterrent, smoke grenades, cell phones, two-way radios, a 9-millimeter handgun and a plastic pellet gun.


Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Recovering from addiction can be difficult, and it may even feel impossible at times, but it is possible and it is worth it. Here are 5 tips that can help you be successful on your road to recovery.

1) Invest in Positive Relationships

Surround yourself with positive and supportive people. Whether this includes family, friends, or strangers you meet at support groups, there are people out there that want to help you and will be there for you at a moment's notice. Now is a great time to find a sponsor who will help you stay on track. You may need to end friendships with people who enable your addiction and are a bad influence on you, but changing your environment is the first step to changing your life.

2) Focus on the Now

Take it one day at a time. You will have good days and bad days, and you will need to take them all in stride. It is easy to get complacent when things are going great, and it is especially easy to give up when things are really difficult. Remember that it is about the journey, and the most important thing is not giving in today. You can worry about tomorrow when it gets here.

3) Put Your Needs First

It is very important that you make your recovery top priority in your life. Do whatever it takes to be successful, whether that means checking yourself into a facility, attending support groups, or taking time off from certain activities that are stressful for you. Put yourself first so that you can be there to help others later.

4) Take Care of Yourself

Something simple you can do that will make a huge difference is take care of your body. Eat a healthy diet and find time to exercise every day. You will not only become stronger physically but mentally as well.


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