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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. 

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

We stood at the turning point
– From Chapter 5 of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous 

Staying sober requires we develop skills that further long-term abstinence. While there are many ways to achieve recovery, I would like to discuss an idea which has been invaluable to me and a host of clients I’ve worked with over the last 32 years.

Being Present is related to the practice of focusing your attention and awareness based on the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation. While Being Present is a relatively new approach to addiction recovery I have found this concept to have merit. I quit using alcohol and drugs over 36 years ago and have found success by incorporating this idea into my recovery and my life. 

In 1985 I read a book entitled Chop Wood, Carry Water. The book bills itself as a spiritual treatise, a guide for dealing with the distress and chaos of daily life. I didn’t resonate with the spiritual aspects of the book, however, the title has remained with me and has reminded me of a simple truth: if you can’t chop wood, carry water. It’s the notion of playing to your strengths. Playing to your strengths is one of the keys to developing resilience and a major component in Being Present. 

Contrary to popular belief, human beings cannot multitask. Rather, we are capable of handling a number of tasks in rapid succession. It’s akin to mixing automatic and conscious tasks and being mindful we can only do one thing at a time, no matter how much we wish for this to be different. 

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

When the word relapse is mentioned, it can automatically bring about negative connotations. Words like failure, loser, and defeat arise. Relapse is certainly not a desirable event, but it can and does happen to people daily. Twelve-Step programs have taught us that a relapse does not have to be the end-of-the-world nor does it mean that we are doomed failures. After a relapse there are multiple things that can be learned to help build recovery in the future.

Does Relapse Equal Failure?

People relapse for hundreds of different reasons, however it all comes down to the person believing they can control their drug/alcohol usage or giving up on their sobriety. Sometimes after a relapse there is a turning point or much needed “wake up call” for somebodies recovery. Relapse does not have to be a part of your recovery, however it can occur (Click to View Common Relapse Warning Signs). Here are some positive things to consider after a relapse:

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5 Things You Can Learn After a Relapse
  • Reaffirm Your Powerlessness Over Addiction: Many times when people go back to drinking or using drugs it is because they think that they can control it ‘this time’. Perhaps they feel that a few months of sobriety, a new job, or a change of location will allow them to regain some control over their addiction. When a relapse occurs, it often smashes the idea of being able to enjoy recreational alcohol/drug use and strengthens the addicted persons need for recovery.
  • Identify Weaknesses in Your Recovery: Although a relapse may seem like a sudden slip or instantaneous mistake, it generally is a process of little things that lead up to the actual relapse. The most important thing is being able to trace back the thought patterns that lead to relapse. Did you let up on your recovery meetings? Did you stop talking to your therapist, sponsor, or friends? Have you been unwilling to take some of the more difficult actions required to stay sober?
  • Find New Ways to Strengthen Your Recovery: Just like identifying weaknesses, a relapse gives you an opportunity to learn more about strengthening your recovery. After a relapse it may be helpful to start attending more 12 step meetings than before, get more involved with local recovery, engage in service commitments or service, work more with other people in addiction, etc. Sometimes a relapse can show us just what was lacking in our recovery program.
  • Increase Your Dedication to Recovery: A bad relapse can be a huge motivator for rededicating yourself to your sobriety. An awful hangover, bad withdrawals, and the other grim realities of addiction can redouble our effort to stay clean and sober. Again, relapse is not a requirement but if it does occur, it can be a platform to rebuild your sobriety upon.
  • Preventing a Relapse in the Future: If a relapse occurs, it can be helpful to review the mental, emotional, and spiritual causes or shortcomings that lead back to alcohol and drug usage. What mental thoughts preceded the relapse? What moods were occurring when the relapse happened? Finding the answers to these questions can be helpful in preventing future relapses.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

 

Next week I will celebrate 36 years of sobriety. As I approach the eve of my anniversary I am reminded of the model of recovery that has made this milestone possible.  When I got sober my grandparents (both of whom survived Auschwitz) asked me to develop a mission statement that would guide my sobriety which I would like to share with you: staying sober is the single most important thing in my life, and if anything jeopardizes my recovery, it's eliminated.  This kind of commitment and absolute focus has supported me to remain sober through hardship and loss, through sadness and despair.  Absolutely nothing else is as important as staying sober.

I am grateful I found a homegroup where I feel comfortable and feel like my contributions are valued. In the last two years I've seen an increase in membership and a significant amount of relapse.  While relapse can be part of recovery, it certainly doesn't have to be a part of your story. A casual review of the people who have relapsed in the last year demonstrates a startling pattern: every single person that relapsed gave a detailed version of their relapse, and without question they placed more importance on other aspects of their life versus the need to stay sober. 

I have mentioned the following concepts in another article I wrote for this site, but I believe it's worthy of restating them here: I attach a tremendous amount of emotional pain to the thought of using and a tremendous amount of pleasure to the thought of remaining chemical free.  Not only do I stay sober because I made a commitment to my grandmother (pleasure) I do not use chemicals because it creates more problems than it solves (pain).  I was able to quit as the people I knew who used drugs and alcohol had different goals than I did.  I wanted more from my life than I was currently getting.  I no longer saw drug use as fun, and everything I wanted in my life conflicted with using alcohol and drugs. I did not want to be asleep on my life.  Anything I wanted in my life and the relationships I created are vastly more important than any chemical I would use or alcohol I would drink.

Oftentimes I hear people suggest they don't like the program because all they hear is pain.  I don't see pain when I attend meetings, rather, I see possibility.  I am reminded of Ivan Denisovich, the protagonist in the novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, a story about a prisoner in a stalinist labor camp in the 1950s. The story offers a stark parallel to an AA member trying to stay sober.  Ivan does whatever he needs to do to make it through the day so he can eat.  He endures hardship and trouble as he understands the reward for existing one more day. He exists because he knows that staying alive and pursuing freedom is its own reward.  The protagonist in this story also draws a parallel to Viktor Frankl, a survivor of the Holocaust and the author of Man's Search for Meaning.  Frankl' noted that we must endure, and that suffering will, with a proper attitude, bring light.  He recounted that the will to survive (a man's attitude) and not the conditions of a particular camp, generally determined if this same man survived.  Frankl' believed that possibility is the natural outgrowth of pain.

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

In today’s recovery community relapse is no longer a rare occurrence. The truth is that relapse is now a common step in many people’s path to long-term sobriety. Relapse is a part of my story, although it certainly does not need to be a part of your story. The types of relapses and duration of the relapse vary among people. Being involved in a 12-step program and interning at an outpatient addiction recovery center I have seen dozens of strangers, friends, and patients relapse. With this and my own relapse as the core of my background, I cover the top ten most common warning signs of a relapse. These are behaviors or actions that often precede a relapse and should be red flags in sobriety.

1.       1. Isolation - People who suffer a relapse often tend to isolate themselves from their support groups and family. This can show as a reduction in recovery meetings, failure to reach out to friends, and anti-social tendencies.

2.       2. Dishonesty – A common sign of a possible relapse is a slip back into dishonest behaviors. This could be lying about your feelings or what you are doing. In my opinion, dishonesty is a sign of internal conflict and can signal a return to addictive behaviors and relapse.

3.       3. Question if You’re Really an Alcoholic/Addict – One of the most important steps in getting sober is admitting that you are powerless over substances. It is dangerous when a person begins to wonder if possibly they made a mistake. If they start to believe they can control their drinking or using, then a relapse will follow.

4.       4. Romanticize a Drink or Drug – Another warning sign is when a person begins to glorify a drink or drug. They have forgotten the pain and misery that their addiction caused. They start to think a drink or drug will make them feel better. It is important to realize that there is not a problem or situation that drinking or using will make any better.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Originally Posted @ http://www.newbridgerecovery.com/understanding-cross-addiction/

Bill’s Story

Bill is 28 years old and has recently gotten over a decade long prescription pill addiction. During his addiction, Bill ignored alcohol and instead spent all his time and money on supporting his drug habit. Now 6 months sober, Bill starts to have thoughts about drinking. He thinks “If I was addicted to pills, why can’t I drink?” Slowly Bill begins to convince himself that his problems were because of pills and that he will be able to responsibly drink alcohol. He starts drinking with no immediate problems. At first he has great experiences with drinking and has no real consequences. However, he finds that alcohol does not quite give him the feelings that his pills used to. Then a few months later Bill gets pretty intoxicated one night and calls up his old drug dealer. In his inhibited state of mind, he desires the old feelings that the pills used to give him. Quickly Bill starts up his drug habit again and finds himself worse off than he was before he got sober. “How did this happen?” Bill desperately asks himself.

Cross Addiction Explained

I tell this hypothetical story to illustrate the dangers of cross addiction. I loosely define cross addiction as switching or replacing one addiction with another unhealthy addiction. While the story above is made up, the theme of it is all too real. I have seen many sober alcoholics relapse on prescription pills or marijuana, because they think that their problems only relate to alcohol. Likewise, I have seen many sober drug addicts relapse on alcohol, thinking that alcohol won’t affect them like drugs did. The reality is that if you have an addiction to one substance, you are at a high risk of developing addictions to other substances. This is because alcohol, narcotics, and pills act upon the brain in the same way, stimulating the dopamine reward pathways. Habits, such as sex, gambling, smoking, and eating are taken to excess they can even become a cross addiction for an addict or alcoholic. This is because like alcohol and drugs, sex and eating release dopamine in our brains. It is not uncommon for a newly sober alcoholic to develop an unhealthy eating habit or a compulsive smoking addiction.

The Dangers of Cross Addiction

While things like sex and eating are normal and important activities, when taken to excess they can be unhealthy and lead to a relapse. The main danger of cross addiction is a full blown relapse into the original addiction. As in Bill’s story, his cross addiction eventually led him back to the root of his problems. This is a tricky topic because many people who do not know about cross addiction are putting themselves at risk without being aware of the dangers. Cross addictions such as over-eating can lead to health problems such as obesity, diabetes, or high blood pressure. Compulsive sexual behaviors can lead to sexual transmitted infections or infidelity in relationships. The important thing to remember is everything in moderation; even normal behaviors taken to excess can have negative effects.

Avoiding the Pitfall

Recovery is about learning to live and thrive without substances or mind-altering chemicals. It is about becoming satisfied and comfortable with yourself and your emotions. Using any substance or activity to ‘escape’ or numb difficult emotions is not healthy. I encourage everyone in early recovery to learn about cross addiction and develop healthy ways to cope with stress and anxiety.

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

 

While addiction may look similar across the board, from the very beginning there are differences that set men apart from women. When entering recovery, gender specific treatment can help address the issues at hand. One key area that should be examined carefully is common relapse triggers and how these triggers differ by gender.

Overview of Triggers

A trigger is an event or situation that causes an action or additional situation. When talking about recovery from addiction, there are going to be a number of triggers many people may encounter. A recovering addict may have been warned about some of these situations and taught how to best navigate them. Others may need to be avoided altogether.

While specific triggers may vary slightly from person to person, here are some general relapse triggers:

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Posted by on in Drug Addiction

Increase*

“But the thing about remembering is that you don’t forget.”

― Tim O’Brien, The Things They Carried

While addiction is viewed in most corners of the treatment and recovery communities (including the American Society of Addiction Medicine)  as a chronic and relapsing brain disease,  as I have pointed out in previous posts, this is usually a  difficult idea for families and friend of addicts to accept.  It is particularly hard when relapse occurs after a long period of sobriety.  Loved ones wonder how   a loss of control can  occur when life has been normal and predictable   for an extended period of time.  It seems as though the addict made a terrible choice, with no thought at all about the impact such an eventful decision would have on everyone else.  Is that the case?   Yet another complicated question, but it is important to understand that, even after extended periods of sobriety and stability,  brain structure and brain chemistry still matter. (Please continue reading)

Animal studies and imaging studies of the human brain have taught us that all natural reinforcerssuch as food and sex, and all psychoactive drugs  increase the production of dopamine in the nucleus accumbens, which is a structure in the basal forebrain sometimes referred to as the brain’s“pleasure center”.  When this part of the brain receives  a massive  hit of dopamine from the ingestion of a drug, the user feels high, and the experience of this huge reward constitutes  a powerful learning experience. Repeated experiences of intense reward eventually make other parts of life far less interesting and important to the brain than the pursuit and use of addictive substances and activities. Moreover  and very importantly, the flow of dopamine to the nucleus accumbens  increases not only when the addict is using a drug, but when the addict’s brain anticipates receiving it because it is coming into contact with cues that are associated with use.  This is why 12-step programs remind people in recovery to avoid “slippery people places and things”. Those slippery entities are paving the way to relapse by priming the brain with a dopamine rush.

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Posted by on in Alcoholism

Staying sober requires that we develop skills that further long-term abstinence. While there are many ways to achieve recovery, I would like to discuss Mindfulness as a tool that has been valuable to me and a host of clients I’ve worked with over the last 28 years.

Mindfulness is a concept that talks about the practice of focusing your attention and awareness based on the concept of mindfulness in Buddhist meditation. It has been popularized by Jon Kabat-Zinn. Mindfulness continues to be taught independently of religion.

My sense is that while Mindfulness is a relatively new approach to addiction recovery I have found this concept to have merit. It’s very likely that you’ll find this approach does not conflict with your current program of recovery. I quit using alcohol and drugs over 33 years ago and feel like incorporating the practice of Mindfulness has been very helpful in various parts of my sobriety…..and my life.

While I am certainly not an expert I would like to give you one way to practice mindfulness.

Perhaps you’re at a stage in your recovery where urges, cravings and addictive impulses overwhelm you. Perhaps you feel anxious more than you’d like, or perhaps you’d simply like to add another tool to your toolbox. I sense this method might be helpful to you. I like to explain Mindfulness by way of the acronym S.O.B.E.R:

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Posted by on in Gambling Addiction

Hello Addictionland friends & new Visitor's,

I have shared parts 1 & 2 of "My Gambling Addiction" story done by MyAddiction.com Here now is parts 3 & 4 of my story.....

My Gambling Addiction: Lessons Learned (Part 3 of 4),

By Leanne Hall, Fri, September 27, 2013

In this exclusive interview with MyAddiction.com, Cathy Lyon shares her experiences with gambling addiction and recovery.

*What was your lowest point?*
After both stays in the recovery crisis center in November of 2002 and April of 2006, some of what I had NOT learned was how to actually "break down" the "cycle" of compulsive gambling, piece by piece, and understand – and how to use all of the recovery tools and skills to do that.
At the same time, after my release in 2006, the GA group I was attending was having some trouble within our group. People would gossip about others. We also didn't have many members who had good, solid or long "clean" time. Trusted servants were not "utilizing" all of the by-laws and guidelines from GA. There was no one willing to give up themselves to become sponsors to new members, and no Financial Pressure Relief group meetings were being held. I offered many times to help, and I did, but I couldn't do it all on my own! The reason it's so important, especially for new members, is that we come to GA so in debt and financially broken that we have NO idea where to start on taking our financial inventory.
I had always felt I never really got any financial relief most of my recovery, or trying in vain to stay in recovery, so much so that it lead to my third major event – and lowest point in my life! From April to the beginning of August in 2006, I'd really gotten a good foothold on a clean recovery, but life challenges and financial events turned all of that into a tailspin! Long story short, I had been cleaning homes to make a little money. I was cleaning a friend's home while she was on vacation, and I'd gone home one day for lunch, and my power was turned off! I checked the mail and had a shut-off notice from my gas and phone companies as well. That just put me in panic mode. Instead of working things out with my husband and figuring something out, my old habits and behaviors of my addiction took over. I got into that "have to fix this quick" mindset.

That's why, when you're in recovery, you also need to work on your old way of thinking and learn to solve life's challenges in a healthy way. I hadn't gotten that far in my new recovery. Even though I was not "in gambling action," I'd still used the old habits to try to deal with this financial crisis. I never had that "financial relief" like the GA combo-book had said we would when we stopped gambling. So I did the unthinkable and stole from my friend! When she got back, I could have told her, but I could not bring myself to do it. Just when I got my nerve up to do it, it was too late; she had already called the police. They showed up at my home, asked me about what had happened, arrested me, and off to jail I went. She wanted to press charges against me to learn a lesson.

Needless to say, I did – the hard way. I had a few court dates to go to with a public defender. I was just going to plead guilty; I had to be accountable for the poor choices I had made. This was not only the lowest point in my life, I was so humiliated; people seeing me handcuffed and put into a police car. And if that was not enough, I live in a small town, so of course there was my name in the local newspaper with what I'd done! There went my reputation. All NOT because I was gambling, but worse (and dumb) because I stole from somebody to try to solve my financial problems.
So please learn from me: Make sure you work on all areas of your recovery! I had to learn the hard way. I will say this: Even though I'd not gambled when all of this happened, I still consider the last day that I gambled as Jan. 29, 2007 – my last/sentencing court date. It is my constant reminder of the lowest point in my life....

My Gambling Addiction: Recovery and Life After Gambling (Part 4 of 4)

By Leanne Hall, Mon, September 30, 2013

In this exclusive interview with MyAddiction.com, Cathy Lyon shares her experiences with gambling addiction and recovery.

*Who helped you the most in your recovery?*

An "angel" came to my rescue when I was going through the legal process of my theft conviction. His name is Boyd Sherbourne, PsyD. At the time, he was an Addictions PsyD from the crisis center I was admitted to. Since the friend I'd stole from was also in my treatment program, they were going to kick me out of the program. I'd never met Boyd, but a little problem came up with my husband and my treatment councilor, and Boyd overheard them heatedly talking and asked my husband if he could talk with him in his office. He helped and talked with my husband for a while (while I was still in jail waiting to be processed and released). Boyd told him what had happened and also explained to my husband most likely why I did what I'd done due to financial stress, even though I was not gambling.

Then a few days went by, and Boyd called me on his own even though he didn't know me. It was a God intervention moment. He asked if I was willing to meet with him, so I did. He wanted to help me with support and teach me how to not only breakdown the "cycle" but also learn better ways of handling life challenges in recovery. He taught me how to change the unhealthy, lingering habits and behaviors of addiction. I thank God every day for Boyd taking me on, and he did it a whole year! I can never repay him for helping me get my life back and save my marriage. He helped me stay on a healthy, clean, balanced recovery.

*What advice do you have for other compulsive gamblers?*

We are truly blessed that we live in a world with wonderful technology, and it has turned the recovery process around! For those of you who gamble but are not sure whether you have a problem, you can take the "20 Questions" quiz on the Gamblers Anonymous website. If you answer those questions honestly, you'll know if you're a problem gambler. The Internet has provided "safe and secure" websites for recovery help. There are places with live chat rooms 24 hours a day, on-line meetings, free treatment and therapy. A support group is vitial to a balanced recovery plan. I attend Gamblers Anonymous meetings, of course, but Safe Harbor compulsive gambling hub is another great support community! They offer online meetings, 24/7 live chat rooms and a fantastic "Resource Recovery Room," which includes the "top compulsive gambling recovery sites."

There you will find the top 100 recovery sites on the web, which is how I found this great site, MyAddiction.com. I believe that in order to have a well-balanced recovery, you also need to have a "spiritual" well-being. We reach out for help with such broken spirits, souls and hearts. Not everyone has faith per say. But I do believe in a power greater than myself has helped me return to sanity from the insane, cunning addiction of compulsive gambling. My own quote, which I say all the time, is, "Addiction and recovery have only one thing in common: They are both selfish!" We are very selfish when we are in the depths of our gambling addiction. And you have to be selfish and put yourself first in your recovery in order to be successful! Just remember: No one person on this Earth is perfect. We are all a wrok in progress.

*What are your favorite activities now that you don't gamble?*

I enjoy so many things now that I have not placed a bet in six years. It's like I shared before, having a well-balanced recovery is important. There are activities that I feel are vital to my recovery which keep me from getting too complacent. I enjoy writing, and I love to read all kinds of books. Now that I'm a published author, I have met so many great writers and authors (even a few famous ones!) who have really helped me develop as a writer – along with some good book clubs. I love to cook, and I love gardening (growing flowers mostly). I also enjoy volunteer work; it really helped me fill a lot of the free time I had.

I've been unable to work outside the home for the past few years due to some health issues and the medications I take for my bipolar II, panic and agoraphobia disorders. My husband and I enjoy the first Friday art walk each month in our community, which helps me to get out. In the Summer, we like to river raft and hike on my good days.I have my blog in which I'm able to "visit" with new friends I've made in recovery. I use the Gamblers Anonymous blue and red books daily. I write in my journal daily. I attend online 12-step meetings. I read and post daily on Safe Harbor and still go to some GA meetings as well. I've also started writing my second & third books.

*My Mission today through my Book, and my New Recovery Blog: http://CatherineLyonaddictedtodimes.wordpress.com I invite anyone who may need Support and Recovery Resources from Compulsive Addicted Gambling. I continue my On-Line Journel of my story*......
**Thanks for taking time to read *My Story* and visiting me here on *Addictionland**

Warm Regards & Blessings,Author, Catherine Townsend-Lyon

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