Author Archives: Eliza

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

What makes you truly happy?

Busting the myth that “All young people experiment with drugs”

Jon DailyJon Daly of Recovery Happens Counseling Center disputes the myth that All  adolescents & young adults ”experiment” with  drugs. Here is the reality, according to Jon:  Statistics show that the rate of drug use remains at a very high  level for young people (1).  Part of the  myth of “experimentation” is that drug use is a naturally occurring “rite  of passage” from adolescence in to adulthood. However, not every young person  has tried or will try drugs. In addition, not all will pass through their drug  use without experiencing negative consequences from their use.   Drug use is risky and unhealthy  behavior.  In today’s society even  “experimentation” can lead to car accidents, driving while under the influence,  unplanned sexual activity, date rape, and sometimes death.  Moreover, the word “experimentation” can be  misleading.  When we get calls from  parents seeking counseling for their adolescent or young adult child, we often  hear the words, “I think my son is experimenting with drugs.”  When asked how long the parent has been aware  of the drug use, the reply can be anywhere from weeks to years.  The parent’s response implies that “experimentation”  is a phase, when “experimentation”  is not a phase at all.  In fact, it is a “one-time  event. ” (2) Once intoxication  has been experienced, the experiment is over.  The user has achieved the results of the  experiment, “I like this feeling,” or ” I don’t like this  feeling.”  Subsequent intoxication  indicates misuse, abuse or addiction.

When  helping young people with substance use disorders, at the end of the day what  we are assess and treating is a “pathological relationship to  intoxication.”  The name of the drug  they are using is an illusion .  They  need to know they are not hooked on weed, they are hooked on intoxication and  therefore must see all intoxicating substances as the same. Take away weed from  the pot smoker and they drink and/or take pills.  Take away Oxycontin for the opiate user and  they use benzodiazepines and marijuana.   This is because they were not hooked on the particular drug, they were  hooked on “intoxication.”   The  focus of treatment for young people is to severe their pathological  relationship to intoxication so as to open up their capacity to have regulating  relationships with their counselor, support groups, rebuilt family  relationships and healthy peer groups.   Such social supports promote dopamine(3), and endogenous opiates (4)  which the user has been chasing on the streets, but can be created in health  relationships as they were intended to.   Helping them and the family to understand this and supporting their  growth in this way is the core of treatment after we have helped them to become  drug-free

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Do you appreciate the transformation in your life?

Forewarned is forearmed: little-known causes of relapse

5820 Chestnut Ave Orangevale-small-003-21-003-666x444-72dpiThis is a guest post from John Perry, a co-founder of Clean & Sober Recovery Services located near Sacramento, California.

It’s an indescribable relief when a loved one enters treatment where they can gain the skills and tools of recovery. And while we know that treatment offers the choice of life free from drugs or alcohol, it’s important to understand that addiction is a chronic, lifetime disease that doesn’t simply go away. For example, here are some little-known vulnerabilities that persist after treatment:

Sometimes people think, “Pills were my problem, but I can still have a glass of wine.” It doesn’t work that way: Substance use disorder is a brain disease, and people who have become dependent upon alcohol or other drugs cannot take any mood-or mind-altering substances.

A relapse can be triggered by substances that aren’t even on the radar screen. The hidden wine in the fish sauce can set the wheels of relapse in motion, even though the person in recovery didn’t want it or even notice it.

It’s essential to be vigilant during and after medical treatment. For example, the anti-inflammatory medication Tramadol is not universally known as a danger to those in recovery. Tramadol is in a class of medications called opiate agonists, and only a few states classify it as a narcotic. Still, it is often dispensed in ERs and it can trigger a relapse.

You and your dentist might not notice that the mouthwash used routinely in the dentist’s office contains alcohol. Double-check the ingredients in mouthwash and all over-the-counter meds, and make sure your medical and dental charts are marked to indicate that you can’t have alcohol or other addictive medications.

We’ve designed our treatment program to help our residents understand and avoid relapse so they can join 23 million Americans in long-term recovery. Here’s to their health – and yours.

John Perry, Co-Founder, Clean & Sober Recovery Services, Inc.

The Professional’s Perspective: Why do people become addicted?

Photo of Ricki TownsendThis is a guest post from Ricki Townsend , a Registered Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, Ncac1, CADC-CAS, Bri-1, Chaplain and Grief Recovery Specialist

It’s important to understand that those who become chemically-dependent upon alcohol or other drugs had more vulnerable brains than the “Average Joe” before they even began drinking or using. In my practice, I am often aware that some or all of these factors are playing a part in the development of substance use or abuse:

  • Genetics: People who have a strong history of family substance use disorder often share the same genetic vulnerability to addiction as their family members.
  • Trauma: The ACE study demonstrated that children who are exposed to trauma (e.g., poverty, violence, disease) are more likely to develop 40-plus chronic diseases – including substance use disorder – than those who weren’t exposed to trauma. This is because early childhood trauma fundamentally changes the way the brain works structurally, hormonally and in other ways. For this reason, I prefer to use the term “addictive neurology” rather than “addictive personality.” Viewing substance use disorder through this lens often helps families find forgiveness for their loved one’s transgressions. Leaving blame behind can help point the whole family in the direction of healing and recovery.
  • Mental health issues: People who experience mental health issues like depression, anxiety disorder or bi-polar disorder may find that self-medication Brightens their day, gives them confidence or stabilizes their moods. Essentially, they become dependent upon drugs or alcohol to feel “normal.”
  • Environment: parents who drink irresponsibly or abuse drugs, family anger and shaming, bullying in school, peer pressure to “party”…I’ve seen all of these take their toll. The home environment is particularly critical. Consider the home where a child is raised in a loving, firm and watchful way, where communication is valued and mental health issues are noted and cared for. That child will face life’s challenges with life skills, support and guidance. Contrast this scenario with the child who is raised with guilt or shame – or not even noticed – and whose parents mask their own problems with drugs or alcohol. That child is more likely to self-medicate and navigate life with drugs or alcohol as the rudder.

As we know, life is not a straight line, and a person can take many different paths. Let’s all make wise, healthy and informed choices along the way.

 

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Do you see the angel in the clouds?

You don’t get a Get Out of Jail Free card just because addiction is a disease

1254880_shiny_brain_[1]I understand that addiction/alcoholism is a brain disease, but that doesn’t let my beloved addict off the hook or give him excuses like, “I can’t help it!  I’ve got a disease.”  And it doesn’t give me an out either.  If I think, “He can’t help it!  He’s got a disease,” then I am giving him a Get Out of Jail Free card.  I am giving him a reason to keep abusing drugs or alcohol.  I am enabling his  self-destruction, pure and simple.

Yes, my child has a disease, one that he needs to manage as he would diabetes or cancer or heart disease. Here are the rules of the game for those with impaired hearts or bad pancreases or chemically-dependent brains: keep away from the things that are bad for you.  Avoid sugar or fatty meat or – for the chemically dependent – any mood altering substance.  Pot, crack, alcohol, pain pills; these are all the same to the diseased addict/alcoholic brain.  Addicted to one means addicted to all.

As an aside:  I know many parents think, “It’s just pot!  How bad can that be?”  I was one of those naïve parents.  I didn’t know that pot had eight times the THC as in years gone by, or that it was causing psychosis among some users. I didn’t know there were more kids in rehab for pot than for all other drugs combined.  And today’s national landscape makes the picture even murkier: if pot is so dangerous, why is it being legally sold around the country?  That’s a mixed and confusing message for teens and adults alike.

My personal mantra for parental recovery is, “Give your beloved addicts a reason to change.”  The flip side to that is, “Don’t give them an excuse to use.” Don’t let them play the disease card.  Hold them accountable for the choices they make.  We can’t stop them from putting their hand to their mouth or a needle in their arm.  But we can stop making up excuses for them.

The Professional’s Perspective: Who relapses, and why?

Photo of Ricki TownsendThe Professional’s Perspective is a guest post from Ricki Townsend, a Registered Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, Ncac1, CADC-CAS, Bri-1, Chaplain and Grief Recovery Specialist

Relapse is often described as a part of alcoholism and addiction, but relapse isn’t inevitable. Still, people often worry about the possibility that their loved ones will slip back into drug or alcohol use. And while you cannot control your loved one’s decision to use drugs or alcohol, you can control your own tendency to fall back into “the bad old days” of worry, enabling and co-dependency.

A critical first step in your relapse prevention is to learn about enabling so that you don’t fall into the trap of “If they are happy and safe, then I will be happy and safe.” This is particularly important if you are the parent of a young person in treatment.

It would also be empowering for you to find a good family counselor and learn how to create and keep healthy boundaries. Taking those steps puts you in much better shape to prevent relapse – yours or your loved one’s – or to deal with itconstructively, if it does in fact happen.

My clients who fear the possibility of a loved one’s relapse often wonder about the warning signs. Here are some possible signs that a relapse is “building,” with the first three being the ones I see most often in the first year of recovery:
• Complacency
• Grandiosity
• Not attending Recovery meetings
• Dishonesty
• Hanging with old friends who were users
• Not working with a sponsor
• Making major changes in the first year, such as moving to a new town or starting a new relationship

As we look at our loved ones in recovery, we also need to take a good look at ourselves because family members can relapse, too. The following are the most common symptoms of impending relapse for those of us who deeply love our chemically-dependent children, spouses, parents or siblings:
• Focusing on the loved one to the point that it puts our own health at risk.
• Refusing to believe that our loved ones have a problem with drugs or alcohol (AKA “denial”).
• Covering up the messes – financial or legal problems, for example – and keeping secrets.
• Worrying, feeling constantly stressed and walking on eggshells.
• Having a hard time defining where “they” end and “I” begin.
• Yelling and making empty threats about boundaries that we cannot or will not enforce.

At the end of the day, avoiding relapse requires everyone to change: the person who has substance use disorder and those who love him or her.

Ricki Townsend is a Registered Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, Ncac1, CADC-CAS, Bri-1, Chaplain and Grief Recovery Specialist

Sunday Inspiration for Parents of Addicts and Alcoholics

Is your glass half full or half empty?

The Professional’s Perspective: Is my loved one addicted? addict?

Photo of Ricki TownsendThe Professional’s Perspective is a guest post from Ricki Townsend, a Registered Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, Ncac1, CADC-CAS, Bri-1, Chaplain and Grief Recovery Specialist

People often tell me about a loved one’s drinking or drug use, and then they want me to tell them if their loved one is an addict or alcoholic. I would respectfully suggest they can answer that question themselves by asking several other questions:

  • How is drinking or drug use impacting the loved one’s life? How is it impacting others?
  • How is their health? Their job? Their schoolwork? Their family relationships?
  • Have they developed new friendships and left old friendships behind? How’s that working?
  • Do they have legal problems associated with drug or alcohol use?
  • What is their attitude about their lives? Angry? Sad? Argumentative?

When you consider these questions, write down your thoughts – positive and negative – on paper. That can give you perspective and provide support as you objectively assess just how well life is working for your loved one.

And here’s the question I get most often of all: Why don’t they just stop drinking (or drugging)? It’s because addiction/alcoholism is a primary, chronic disease of brain reward, motivation, memory and related circuitry. It is considered a brain disease, rather than a disease of character or will power.

Addiction/alcoholism is characterized by the inability to stop drinking or using drugs in spite of negative consequences like job loss, DUIs and family issues. It is a physical disease, NOT a disease of character or willpower. And it’s a disease that cannot simply be “loved away”

Without treatment or involvement in recovery activities, addiction is progressive and can lead to disability, premature death or involvement in illegal activities and incarceration.

Through treatment, people can learn to live healthy lives free of alcohol and other drugs. They can reclaim their lives, their families, their work and their health. And that’s the best answer of all.

Ricki Townsend is a Registered Interventionist, Drug/Alcohol Counselor, Ncac1, CADC-CAS, Bri-1, Chaplain and Grief Recovery Specialist