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Posted by on in Alcoholism

“Man, you’ve got the saddest story I have ever heard”.  I am shocked and in disbelief.  I have just finished telling my story in front of death row inmates at the maximum-security prison in Potosi, Missouri.  George whose mouth those words came out of was on death row waiting for his time to be put to death.  He reminded me of the man who played the prisoner in the movie, The Green Mile.  One of the biggest men I have ever seen.  Ninety-nine percent of these men were in prison for issues that one way or another alcohol and drugs played a role.

My journey to this point started 6 years ago when I came into recovery.  At that point I was willing to do anything to stay clean and sober and when a friend asked if I would participate in REC’s, residents (prisoners) encounter Christ, I said sure, not having a clue what that meant.  I was working on 3 DWI’S, hadn’t paid or filed taxes in three years, my house was close to foreclosure, one car was repossessed, my wife and kids long gone, my business was close to being taken away, friends gone, I threw my father and siblings out of my life.  If someone told me to jump off of a cliff to stay sober, I would have jumped.  I was emotionally, physically and spiritually dead.

This was my first time working with death row inmates but it had the biggest impact on me.  If I swerved just a little one of those thousands of nights driving home, I could easily be sitting in a maximum-security prison.  Over the previous 6 years I had worked with prisoners in maximum-security prisons and once at a women’s prison.  Each experience is unique and I had participated in about 10 REC’s to date.

REC’s are not a recovery program, it is run through Catholic Ministries.  The bottom line is to let the prisoners know they are not alone, find Christ in their lives and seek salvation.  Their families and friends don’t visit so they are always suspicious of why we are there.  I am not a very religious person but some of what I witnessed during those REC’s was truly a miracle.  It takes place over a long weekend.  We do everything with the prisoners except stay over night.  As you can imagine the guards watch closely over us and they do not really care for these weekends.  It disrupts the daily routines.  But wardens have said that when a REC is taking place the prison quiets down during and for a little while after.  Prisoners are specially chosen and are only able to participate in one or two REC’s the rest of their lives.  This is a very special occasion for them and they won’t let another prisoner get out of line for fear of losing their weekend.

We sing songs, tell stories, speak about Christ, have a rise day like Christ rose, a die day like Christ died. We wash each other’s feet as Christ did.  We dine on the horrible prison food and act as it is the best food ever.  I still remember the awful stench in the dining area to this day.   We put on plays with the prisoners, bring in fresh vegetables and fruit, which the prisoners never have.  On the final night we always have a local restaurant cater the final meal, kind of like the last supper. All in all an extremely powerful weekend, far from the bars and country clubs that I was used to. It is hard to describe the feeling I had when four or five prisoners had their hands on my head praying for me to help with my talk.  I think I filled a bucket with tears.  Nobody had ever prayed over me like that, what an emotional, moving moment that was.  By the end of the weekend there are hugs all around and not a dry eye in sight, including the guards.  We just spent almost 72 hours with these men and we know each other inside and out.

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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:

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

The debate over the nature of alcoholism has been around long before anyone perfected the recipe for a manhattan or shook a vodka martini and poured it into a frosted glass. There’s no blood test, and no x-ray to provide solid answers. When it comes to alcohol addiction, only the problem drinker can diagnose himself as an alcoholic.

No one likes to admit they need help. Most alcohol detox centers and treatment programs have undoubtedly seen countless people come through the door with a great deal of denial about their alcohol abuse. Typical statements are “it’s not that bad. I can handle it. It’s not like I got a DUI and got thrown in jail!” Or the passionate plea, “leave me alone already!!!”

When confronted before or during detox and alcohol rehabilitation over their issues and shortcomings, more often than not the person will fight back, in fear that their substance of choice will be “taken away” from them. Their experience may be marked with hostility, fear, belligerence, defiance and/or violence. It may sound extreme, and while it’s painfully obvious to the person’s family, friends and workers at alcohol rehab, the end is (or should be) hopefully near.

Alcohol was their last and only friend. And for the person who’s been beaten down by alcohol into a reluctant state of submission, depending how far down the road they’ve gone, facing detox from alcohol and ending up at an alcohol rehab center feels like an extended stay at the last house on the block.

Again, this is clearly an extreme example… but is it?

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Posted by on in Recommended Reading

Have you ever shown up to a family function only to leave as a much younger version of yourself?  I sure have.

When out-of-town family members come for a visit there’s always a get-together. Maybe two. I arrive feeling connected and collected but then something happens and suddenly I’m a wobbly teenager lacking the sense of self-confidence I carried through the front door.

This type of mystical age transformation is not new and something I’ve tried to better understand about myself over the past several years.

In the early stages of recovery many suggested I take a good look at who I am from the inside out. Soon what once made sense didn’t and what didn’t make sense started to. One of the more challenging concepts to accept was that most who battle addiction stop growing emotionally when they first feel a positive jolt from using the drug or behavior of choice.

I felt insulted by even the suggestion this could apply to me. I was a grown woman, successful in the eyes of many in my profession. I’d managed multi-million dollar pieces of business, got married, bought a house, invested in the stock market, and traveled the world. Now I’m to believe that because I started drinking and investigating ways to attain a body not meant for me at 13 I’m emotionally stuck at that age? I don’t think so.

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Posted by on in Recommended Reading

As anyone who has been to drug rehabilitation knows, it can be difficult making new habits to stay clean and sober.

Changes in daily life and lifestyle take time, and patience is not just important, it’s the most valuable tool at your disposal. This is the essence of drug addiction treatment. And you may not be able to see the benefit at first, but over time, the people close to you—family, friends and even acquaintances—will often see positive changes before you do.

However self-destructive some things may have been in your life (not to mention your ability to grow and thrive), some old habits are hard to let go of. Like an old friend, most likely they’ve been at your side a long time, and without them you fear you may be left feeling like the proverbial hole in the donut. Far from suggesting you enter the monkhood and renounce all earthly attachments, there are a few easier, more realistic ways to create new habits in your life starting the day you leave the drug treatment center:

1) Make your bed in the morning, every morning. There’s a reason those in drug rehabilitation centers are asked to do this. It’s a way of creating a positive habit for yourself the first thing you do, setting the tone for the day.

2) Sit down for breakfast, lunch and dinner at the same time, every day. Again, it may sound simple, but it creates consistency for you, which, hopefully, you’ll be grateful for, even if you’re still in drug detox.

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Posted by on in Recommended Reading

Have you ever wondered why, no matter how rationally phrased in your head, the idea of asking for help seems about as reasonable as asking for a snake bite?

Somewhere along life's way I told myself a story that asking for help meant failure, weakness, and a lack of intelligence. The older I got the more I believed this fictional description if I needed the assistance of others. I went to far as to drop projects if the challenge was too great or the outcome would seem less that perfect.

However no one gets through life without some guidance and I'm certainly no exception. The difference for me was I'd silently pray for guidance rather than ask. When someone would offer unprovoked direction I'd smile, thank them kindly for the "reminder" and move on without any idea of what I needed to learn along the way.

This was exactly the approach I took when the whispers about how much I drank and how little I ate began to filter in. I heard only what I wanted to acknowledge and filtered the rest to suit my comfort zone. If someone mentioned I do something that hit too close to home, I'd consider their words as expressions of judgment and therefore white noise.

Upon reflection I knew I'd hit my "bottom" when I finally became willing to listen for the message not just the words. Yet asking for help didn't seem possible for me. In truth, I didn't even know what to ask for.

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction
Addiction is the great equalizer.
 
Why? Because it cuts across every demographic, psychographic and geographic profile that there is. It hits rich and poor, young and old, black and white, big and tall, skinny and fat. It doesn't care how educated you are or what you think about politics, music, or sports. It doesn't care  what your profession is. Addiction cuts across America and the world. As addicts we all have the same traits. Just as my dog wags his tail because because he's a dog. So we addicts behave in certain ways, very distinguishable and identifiable ways,traits and characteristics, because we are addicts.
 
Addiction attacks the top executive at a Fortune 500 company, a housewife,  bus driver,a teacher or student and brings them all to the exact same point. A point of desperation, a point of severe suffering , a point where they know their addiction has entrapped them and is out of control, even if they won't admit it to others, or even themselves.
 
Like a small army of ants can bring down even the strongest and largest buildings that were thought to have such great foundations. We watch as they come crumbling down . The same is true for the addict, addiction eats away at the very core of a persons mind, heart,emotion, soul, body and being. The end result is always destruction.No matter how much they did or what drug they did. The addiction had the same effect on everybody. It destroyed them. And that is why it's the great equalizer.      
 
Do you need a reality check?
 
How many times have you heard that phrase, "you need a reality check?" That usually means we think that somebody is involved in delusional thinking. That they don't see the truth, facts and the actual circumstances that are happening around them. Thus their definition of reality is not only inaccurate and perverted, but the saddest part is they really think it's real. Now the Russian philosopher Dostoevsky  stated and argued that 2+2 = 5 if indeed that is your belief.  In essence stating that people create their own reality. From a philosophical standpoint we may be able to embrace that concept of thinking. However from a reality standpoint, it just doesn't work. Here's why. Let's assume my perception of the speed limit is it should be 100 miles an hour. So I believe that is the speed limit and so I went 100 miles an hour. When the flashing red lights appear in my rear mirror and the police pull me over and write me a ticket for speeding, regardless of what I tell them my own reality is, they will tell me the reality of the world. So therefore the reality of society and circumstance and law is a reality under which we are all bound by.
 
The addicted person often lives in a world and mindset governed by, and created by, their own definition of reality. Which is usually quite different than their friends, family, society and the world's definitions. The addicts definition of reality is that he can do whatever he wants to make himself feel good at the expense of anyone else. The addicts definition is, we always put our own self desires ahead of anybody else's, regardless of the consequences to other people. As long as we get what we want then nothing else matters. That is truly the reality of the addict. Whether they have consciously chosen to embrace it, or their addiction has overcome them and put them in that position and perception of reality, that is what they think and what their actions are based on. Would it be logical for a person to continue using drugs and alcohol to the extent that it causes him to lose their job, their drivers license, their family and eventually wind up in jail, or dead. Obviously if you were asked that question on an exam, you would answer 'NO" that's not logical, rational or a good idea, and its a terrible perception of reality to have. Yet that is exactly the perception that the addict has. So yes oftentimes the addicts thinking is delusional and above all they need a reality check.
 
However many addicts are in denial. They refuse to accept the world's reality and insist upon accepting and implementing their own warped, perverted definition of reality which justifies them getting anything they want, anyway they have too, at any cost, no matter who they hurt, and blaming everyone else for their circumstance and situation except themselves. Their reality also includes  thinking that the only place they can be accepted, feel-good,  and get relief and escape from the worlds demands, obligations and requirements is by using drugs or alcohol.
 
Now the good news. Oftentimes in recovery the scales come off the addicts eyes and by learning new information and by gaining new knowledge and by having a spiritual awakening, the addict actually sees the reality of life as it truly is. They come to learn to accept themselves for who they are and what they are and see how they can be better and live joyfully and function in the world as it is, instead of creating an alternative addiction world, where they survive miserably until they die or go to prison. So the good news is there's hope for every addicted person. I have learned never to give up on anyone. As God has shown me many miracles in the lives of addicted people who I thought were beyond help and hope.  God showed me no one  is beyond help or hope as long as they are still breathing. Our job is to make sure that when the addicted person seeks help, there's qualified help and information available to show them the way and the path to a better life. We do that by teaching them what their options to recovery are and connecting them with the people who can walk them down the path of success.
 
The great news is that there is a recovery program available for each and every addict that can bring them out of their addiction into the free, joyful, happy life God intended for them to have. So a suitable recovery program is also a great equalizer. It works for all addicts, if they are willing to embrace it, regardless of how long they have been addicted, how much they have used and what they have used.
 
 
Addicts create their own reality.
 
We know that because of their addiction, most addicts are unable to deal with the demands, pressures and obligations of life. So in order to cope and to satisfy the desire to have what they want, when they want, no matter who it hurts, addicted people create their own reality. In this world they are obligated to no one but themselves. They are right about everything. Everyone is wrong about anything that relates to them. Everyone else but them, is to blame for their troubles.
 
They attempt to keep their emotional state and mood at a constant high level by continuing to indulge in their addiction. Thus they continue to use drugs or alcohol and have come to the point where they are dependent on the alcohol or drugs to elevate their  mood to an acceptable or  “bearable” level. The addiction has taken control of them and very often they will engage in risky, certainly detrimental and sometimes criminal behavior. For instance, missing appointments and not showing up for work is common. Blowing off obligations and responsibilities to family and friends is common. Not taking care of their physical health or appearance is common. Spending excessive amounts of money and time indulging their addiction is common. Stealing and lying are also common. The addiction now owns them and controls them so that the only time they can feel calm and in control is when they are indulging in their addiction. The fact of the matter is their lives are spinning out of control and they no longer have control. Yet that is the irony and insidious nature of the disease, it distorts reality completely for those under its grip.
 
The addicted person’s reality is focused and anchored upon making sure that they are able to indulge their addictions at any and all costs, including physical, financial, spiritual, emotional, and relationship costs. Usually addicted people will suffer in every one of those areas as a result of their ongoing addiction. The sad reality that they are trapped in their addiction is now very clear to the addicted person however, usually, they will ignore this fact and continue spiraling downward in their addictive behavior. They are now literally engulfed by the addiction. It has become the only way of life they know, it is their default survival mechanism. It is what they live for and what they mistakenly believe is the only thing that gives them pleasure, control or peace. In fact they have completely lost touch with reality and their addiction has completely overtaken them. As sad as it is, this is an often necessary step to the recovery process. It is our hope and desire that we see the addicted person “hit bottom” as soon as possible, so that they have felt enough pain, and are willing to do what it takes to begin the recovery journey, which is the ONLY WAY to get back their true life and break free from the bondage and prison of addiction.
 
 
Clear Signs Of Addiction.
 
There are clear signs of addiction that are reflective of the addictive personality... one of them is the addicted person's indulgence in their addiction of choice whether it's drugs, alcohol, gambling or other addictive behavior. These behaviors are indulged in by the addict in order to escape the painful realities of life that cause the addict unhappiness. These are the same realities of life that someone who is not addicted would have no trouble handling, being a part of and enjoying. But for the addict, the everyday responsibilities and circumstances that make up "daily living" need to be avoided at all costs.
 
So the addicted person creates their own reality, their own world, where they are in charge. Their own world where there is no perceived and no responsibility. They create this only and often by indulging in their addiction of choice. Much to the dismay of family and friends, who see their life spiraling downward, the addicted person continues to indulge more and more in their addiction. We know that our bodies build up tolerance to addiction of choice. So that it takes up more of the drug,  or more alcohol or more gambling, for their addictive behavior to provide them with an acceptable amount of "relief" from life's issues.  Thus we see the alcoholic drinking more, the drug addict using more and the gambler gambling more. The tragic thing about addiction is that even though they use more they are unable to have the addiction make them feel as good as they did when they first started indulging their addiction, because now the addiction is no longer pleasurable, but in fact very painful to the addict themselves. It is painful emotionally, spiritually, physically, psychologically and affects every aspect of their life.  They are addicted… and they are unable to break free of this addictive behavior without embracing a recovery program. But first and most importantly they need to hit bottom. To come to the point in their own life where they are willing to accept the help that is available to them, that can show them the way,that can break them free of addiction.
 
The key to it, which is one of the great tragedies for loved ones of addicted people, is we can't choose it for them, they have to choose it themselves. They have to hit bottom and be willing to turn around and want a different way of life and be willing to do what it takes to get it. The better life is there...it exists…there is a road map and path to it through many suitable recovery programs. However the addict himself must choose to recover. I join you in praying that time has come for those you love who are struggling with addiction.
 
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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

NeverEnding Emails—The Transformative Gift that Keeps On Giving 

In 2005, my daily use and addiction to alcohol had become extremely inconvenient.

Translate: I began puking blood.

It became painful to even attempt to drink anything, much less vodka. Since alcohol was never my drug-of-choice (DOC) to begin with, I sought after another way to fill the spiritual void. Painkillers were what I wanted. They were not only my DOC, but my preferred entry into what I can only describe to non-users as "the bliss."

The difficulty with painkillers is you need a prescription. I have ulcerative colitis; it's currently in remission because I'm much healthier today. Back in my using days, I'd visit doctors, seeking to acquire, acquire, acquire. Regularly. They caught on eventually.

That meant that I needed to find another source. For me, that source was tramadol.

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

In this episode of "Together, We are a Force," Dan and Jeremiah confront the connection spirituality has with staying sober.

Click here for this podcast! http://bit.ly/spirituality_pdc2 

Find out how you can get your recovery into high gear!

Peace! Daniel Maurer "Dan the Story Man"

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

When I was in early recovery, in the first weeks and months my brain would continually trick me into thinking I was not an alcoholic and it did this via a combination of  stress and memory.

The process went like this – first I would have an intrusive thought about alcohol and drinking which I did not want and had not consciously put in my own head. Which used to annoy me! So what was it doing there then? I must have put it there right? why else would it be there?

So I must still have wanted to drink?

I would find this thought very threatening, frightening and upsetting. I would try to get rid of it by suppressing it, pushing it out of my consciousness. The problem was this didn’t work.

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