Addiction Education

Ocean County Forum – Your Kids Count: Can We Talk?

We encourage Ocean County residents to join Former New York Giants Running Back Keith Elias and local community leaders on Thursday, December 12th, 2013, for a critically important forum: “Your Kids Count: Can We Talk?”. This event is to help Ocean County parents and guardians combat the growth of illicit substance use and impact on the kids. Several influential and dynamic speakers will help teach the skills needed to open important dialogue with children about drug use and abuse.

Representatives form Sunrise Detox will be at the forum, to provide additional insights about options for getting help when help is needed with substance abuse and related traumas.

Flyer for DART coalition of Ocean County special forum for parents and guardians entitled "Your Kids Count: Can We Talk?"

DART coalition of Ocean County special forum for parents and guardians entitled “Your Kids Count: Can We Talk?” Featuring Former NY Giant Keith Elias, 12/12/2013 at Stafford Township Arts Center/OceanFirst Theater.

This event is sponsored by the DART Coalition of Ocean County, the Ocean County Prosecutors Office, the Office of the Attorney General General for the State of New Jersey, Project Medicine Drop, and the Barnabas Health Institute for Prevention.

The event will guide attendees through substance abuse issues affecting children in the community. Participants will see the effects drugs can have on youth, and gain a working knowledge of the signs and symptoms of drug use and abuse. John Moriarty of Sunrise Detox will be on hand to help those seeking advice on how to get started seeking assistance for substance abuse issues, and to explain specifics of private treatment and counseling options that are not commonly understood and often not obvious to those suddenly in need of assistance.

A prescription drug drop-off service will be provided at the event. Attendees are encouraged to bring expired or unused prescription medications, for safe and legal disposal.

Featuring guest speaker Keith Elias, Former Running Back, NY Giants (and former Lacey Township High School football standout), along with Ocean County Prosecutor Joseph D. Coronato, and retired DEA agent Douglas S. Collier. A feature presentation “Jesse's Journey – The Aftermath of Experimental Drug Use”, is being sponsored by the Morella family.

The event will be held at Stafford Township Arts Center/OceanFirst Theater, 1000 McKinley Avenue, Manahawkin, NJ 08050. Due to the overwhelming popularity of this event, seating is limited. Registration is STRONGLY encouraged by Monday, December 9th. Questions may be directed to (732)886-4757.

How Long Do Cravings Last After You Stop Using?

“I still have strong cravings to use, so my question is, does it get easier with time and treatment, or will I feel like this forever?”

The cravings that you feel should moderate soon.  It would be nice to be able to give you a simple yes or no, but you need to know a bit about what addiction actually is before you get our answer.

Drugs (including alcohol) make us feel good by imitating or increasing the levels of chemicals in the brain that act on the brain’s reward center. Different drugs do it in varied ways, but the overall effect is to overstimulate that part of the brain that gives us pleasurable sensations.

When over-stimulation occurs, our bodies try to bring things back into balance by reducing the natural production of those chemicals (neurotransmitters). Often, when the drugs wear off, we feel uncomfortable until the natural production of the chemicals resumes. We call this period of withdrawal a “hangover.”

With continued presence of the drugs, the body takes further steps: it begins to increase the number of receptor sites for the specific neurotransmitters in order to use up the surplus. Because of this, continued drug use causes “tolerance.” We need more of the drugs to fill up those extra hungry receptors, and we begin to feel uncomfortable when we don’t have them present in our bodies, or if they are present at too low a level. The process of addiction has begun.

Further drug use doesn't only increase the receptor sites. In its attempts to bring things back to normal, the brain slows production of the natural neurotransmitters. That means that when we stop the drugs, there are insufficient natural neurotransmitters, and we feel cravings and other symptoms of acute withdrawal. These vary, depending on how the drugs affected us to begin with, but they are generally the opposite of however we felt when we were using.

These feelings are most acute during the time the drugs are leaving our bodies, and begin to subside within days. However, the fun isn’t over. As George Carlin said, “Just because the monkey’s off your back, it doesn’t mean the circus has left town.” We will continue to feel discomfort until the body has shut down the extra receptor sites so that they are no longer begging for drugs, and until the natural production of neurotransmitters has resumed. This can take several months, and is referred to as Post-Acute Withdrawal.

Many authorities believe that the extra receptor sites just shut down, and don’t go away. They believe that they can easily be re-activated if drugs are reintroduced into the body.  That certainly seems to fit what we observe in real life.  That’s why we recommend abstinence. In most addicts, any drug use seems to slow and soon reverse the recovery process.

Because of this continued potential for discomfort, if we don’t take care of ourselves physically and mentally during the post-acute period, our risk of relapse is high. However, the discomfort tends to come and go, with good days and bad. Eventually the good days become more common, and the bad ones tend to occur less often and with reduced discomfort, until things are more-or-less back to normal.

You can most certainly look forward to a time when you no longer have the cravings, and those that you have will begin to ease off within a few more days. If you stay clean, eventually the discomfort will disappear entirely. Naturally, as addicts we want to feel better immediately, but it doesn’t work that way. We spent months or years getting our bodies used to drugs, so it’s hardly surprising that it takes quite a while to get over the effects.

Shame About Alcohol Use May Increase The Likelihood Of Relapse

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia, shows that behavioral displays of shame strongly predicted whether recovering alcoholics would relapse in the future.

Denial Ain’t Just A River In Africa

When we get into recovery, regardless of the path we take, it won't be long until someone tells that us we are in denial about something. In fact, the chances are good that we heard that a number of times before we even thought about recovery. But what is denial?

Actually, denial is an important part of coping with day to day living. If we accepted as fact everything unpleasant that someone said about us, we wouldn’t be able to function very well, if at all. If we weren’t able to put aside the tragic reality of a death in the family and tend to business, we’d never be able to get through it. Denial helps us overlook the rough spots in life so that the immediate impact is lessened, and we can deal with the issues gradually. However, it becomes a problem when we use it to help us ignore important issues.

Denial is of interest to addicts (and therapists) when it gets in the way of our recognition of behavioral problems. We alcoholics and other addicts use denial to smooth the path of our addictions, help us ignore the cold, hard facts, and continue doing what our instincts tell us we have to do. It becomes automatic. In order to recover we need to be able to recognize denial, become able to see the effect it is having on our recovery, and adjust our thinking. As the old 12-step saying goes,

Lying to others is rude, but lying to ourselves is often fatal.

There are many forms of denial, and all sorts of names to describe them. We’ve listed some of the common ones, with examples of how we use them to protect our addictive behavior. There are dozens of other examples and names, but denial generally falls into the following categories.

Normalizing: “Everyone has a few drinks on a weekend” (their birthday, to celebrate, during the game, etc.) “A couple of beers never hurt anyone.” (See minimizing)

Minimizing: “I only had a couple! (Of 6-packs). “I only drink socially.” (Five nights a week) “I might have had a couple more than I should have.” (I couldn’t stand up.)

Rationalizing: “I don’t have a problem, I’ve quit for months at a time. I just don’t feel like stopping right now.” “I have to socialize with people, it’s part of my job!” “It’s a prescription drug; my doctor knows what he’s doing.”  “I deserve it!”

Comparing: “Joe’s been married three times, in jail twice, lost his license and has to go to those meetings. That’s what happens when you drink too much. I’m doing fine.”

Uniqueness: “You don’t understand.” “If I go to treatment now, the business will fall apart and fifty people will lose their jobs.” “My family has an exceptional capacity for alcohol. I never get drunk.”

Deflecting is making jokes, changing the subject, angry outbursts that intimidate the opponent, threats, “important” phone calls, blowups when confronted and similar ways to take the focus off the issue.

Omitting: Leaving out information, or telling just enough of the story to satisfy the other person while leaving out the part that will get you in more trouble. “The doc said my health is great!” (Except if I don’t stop drinking I’ll be dead in five years.) Simply ignoring the other person’s remarks falls under this category as well.

Blaming: “If you had to put up with (my wife, boss, kids).” “I was doing just fine until I found George doing lines in the bathroom.” “The doctor keeps giving me prescriptions!”

Intellectualizing: This is coming up with all sorts of explanations that “obviously” anyone who thinks about the matter has to agree with, in an attempt to make questioners feel off base and uninformed. “The latest studies show that a couple of drinks a day are good for you.” It’s also a good way to fool ourselves.

Poor Me: “I’ve tried and I just can’t quit. I can’t do it no matter how hard I try.” “I give up, I’m just going to die drunk.” “My life’s in the toilet, I might as well….”

Manipulating is using power, lies, money, sex, or guilt to defuse the issue. “Remember who you’re talking to here!” “Don’t talk that way to your mother!” “Would I ever say something like that to you?” “Mommy doesn’t need to know about this. Here’s some money. Go shopping”

Compartmentalizing is doing things that you keep separate from other parts of your life. If you find yourself thinking something like “If he only knew,” or “If anyone ever found out,” then you’re compartmentalizing.

If we're honest with ourselves, it probably won't take us long to recognize some of our old — and perhaps not so old — tricks.  And maybe, just maybe, we ought to pay attention to the next person who accuses us of denial.


Questions In Early Sobriety

I want to share a letter I recently received from a guy in early sobriety, along with the response I gave.  The letter is SO typical of the cares and worries of people in early sobriety that I think most folks will be able to relate.  I edited a bit for brevity, believe it or not.  So…

Hey Bill,

I talked with you once before  when I was about 43 days clean. Today is day 68 and don’t get me wrong I am happy so far.

I have been exercising quite often, mostly running and some weight lifting in the days past, but I still have trouble sleeping at night; I have to wait till like 3 a.m to be able to fall asleep and then I sleep like a hibernating person. At times anxiety comes and attacks me just as depression sets in. From what I have read and researched it seems to point to p.a.w.s. I just really want to be back to normal and never touch the stuff I used to.

Even deep down inside I feel tremendous strength and confidence that I won’t go back to using, some people I know tell me not to be fooled by this deception. I know you have a lot of experience with your own sobriety so I am hoping things will eventually get better for me.

Every day that passes I realize how nice it is to just be alive in the moment even though I have lost everything I have ever owned to this drug. People I have known for ages have distanced themselves, acting as tho they have never known me. I will admit this does hurt, but I try not to let it get to me. Someone once told me that the day we start being clean is the day we start growing emotionally.

Never in my life would I ever think I would be sitting behind the screen typing this and actually counting the days that go by. I count each and every day because it serves me as a reminder of the time I have dedicated towards fighting this disease.

All I want to ask you Bill is if things will eventually get better because depression seems to always be around the corner. There are days when I am happy for most of the day and then there are those times when everything seems dull.

Peace, love and happiness. Take care.


Hi Joe,

Good to hear from you again, and congratulations on the 68 days and 136 nights!

Sorry you’re having trouble sleeping, but that’s pretty normal in early sobriety. You feel draggy, but rest assured that no one ever died from lack of sleep — at least not when they’re able to “sleep like a hibernating person” once they fall off. It sounds like you’re suffering as much from a disturbance in your sleep pattern as from actual lack of sleep.

Try limiting heavy exercise and caffeine to mid-afternoon at the latest. That may help. Also, never force yourself to stay awake. If you get sleepy during the evening, forget about TV or that book. Go to bed. Sometimes a little discipline on the waking side is all it takes. If you can’t sleep, get back up and do something: eat a light meal or snack, low on carbs with a bit of fat and protein (peanut butter on crackers works well for many) and then read or do something non-stimulating until you think you can sleep again. Lying in bed awake just accustoms you to lying in bed awake.

Your mood swings, likewise, are pretty typical. As long as the depression doesn’t become severe, or last for more than a day or so at a time, I wouldn’t be too concerned. Your brain is adjusting to an entirely new balance of neurotransmitters, and your dopamine production is almost certainly still below normal. As long as you’re not having thoughts of worthlessness, life not worth living, etc., you’re likely just going through normal swings. They will become less severe over time, as your brain chemistry slowly returns to normal.

HOWEVER, if the depressed feelings get worse than just feeling blue, you need to take them seriously and talk to a doctor. You might need an antidepressant for a while. Antidepressants won’t interfere with your recovery.

On the other hand, watch out for antianxiety drugs. The most popular ones are benzodiazepines (Ativan, etc.) and they are poison for recovering addicts. They will prevent your brain from recovering properly, and are highly addictive in themselves (regardless of what your doctor may think). Trust me: I spent three weeks in medical detox for benzos. If you need medication for anxiety, there are plenty of non-addictive alternatives. Mainly, though, you need to keep to your program of healthy living and meetings.  In most cases the anxiety will ease off as you begin to feel more comfortable in your recovery.

Your friends are right: overconfidence has killed many an addict. Relapse is a recognized symptom of addiction, and it can happen to anyone, even us old-timers. I know plenty of people with 10+ years who have relapsed — almost always because they got overconfident and stopped doing the things that kept them sober to start with. Don’t get too confident; it leads to carelessness.  That said, as long as you're working a program and doing what you need to do, you needn't worry.  Just remember that recovery is a process, not an event.  It's a sliding scale, and sometimes it's more slippery than others.

The person who told you about emotional growth is correct as well. If our emotional development wasn’t interrupted by some sort of trauma before we started using, it was most certainly brought to a screeching halt when we began getting high regularly. Then when we get sober — and just when our nerves are at their most jangly — along come all those suppressed emotions that we haven’t learned to handle. It can be unnerving, to say the least. This, too, shall pass. Therapy helps, as do the steps of the program. So does experience living clean and sober.

Recovery takes time, Joe. We spent years messing up our brains and (to a degree) our bodies. Because we’re addicts we expect immediate results when we stop using, just as we got them when we used, but it takes our bodies months to get back to something like normal. That’s what PAWS (Post-Acute Withdrawal Syndrome) is — the period of healing. It takes time, but it does get better.

Hang in there, and

Keep on keepin’ on!


The Reality of Addiction All Around Us

I had an ironic encounter with someone the night before the Seabrook House Foundation's Charity Golf Tournament that really made me thankful for where I'm at now in my life.

For those who don't know me that well, I have been sober going on 12 years now and abstinent from gambling for the past 4 years. As I was waiting for my colleague's flight to arrive,  I decided to sit and watch the Giant's game that was on TV at the hotel bar. Some people may have raised an eyebrow at a recovering alcoholic/gambler sitting in a hotel lobby bar 7 miles from Atlantic City on a Thursday night watching a football game, but fortunately for me, today I can watch a game with my favorite Diet Coke.

After a while watching the game, my legs were bothering me more than normal,  and that led me to limp a tad more than I normally do. The waitress noticed,  and asked me immediately what I was taking for the pain. When I told her Tylenol she asked me “Why not Oxycontin?“.

Sallie, as I will call her, seemed sincere and innocent with her question. As an addiction professional my mind started to realize the reality of living in a society ignorant about prescription opiates. This young woman spoke of Oxycontin as innocently as a Tylenol.  I expressed to Sallie that I felt the danger of dependence with those types of drugs was not worth the risk. She agreed. When I told her I worked for Sunrise Detox Center and was attending a fundraiser to support a local foundation for treatment, her jaw hit the floor.

After a few moments, Sallie re-engaged me in our conversation.  She confided in me that she had had an addiction problem at one time with Oxycontin. She had stolen from her boyfriend and father in the past to support her habit and now she was on Suboxone,  but felt she couldn't  get off of that either. When I asked her why, she said, “I'm terrified.”

I recognized the look on her face. I knew I was there once before, lost in the panic and confusion of addiction. Sallie told me that her job waiting tables didn't help her avoid addiction either, as some of her colleagues offered her drugs on a daily basis.

I told Sallie that had many options available to her.  I gave her our admissions number – (888)443-3869, and  I strongly recommended detox plus 28 days of rehab. I explained it would give her the best chance of success. I also encouraged her to seek support in 12 steps. Especially as a woman who had long term sobriety.

As I left for the airport to pick up my colleague, I realized that I am lucky to have found recovery, and lucky to be working at Sunrise Detox. I have acquired so much of the knowledge I have today about addiction from my work with Sunrise Detox.

I also left the sports bar thinking that maybe someone or something had put me in that ironic situation,  so that I could possibly affect Sallie's life in a positive way, and be reminded of my good fortune and the results of my own recovery efforts.

A Brief Outline Of The 12 Steps — Step 11

This is the eleventh of a series of posts in which we hope to acquaint our readers with some of the details surrounding the programs that we recommend. There are a variety of other programs, but because we and most other facilities shape our treatment plans around the 12 Step fellowships, those are the ones on which we will concentrate.

Step 11 reads: “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God as we understood him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”

The principle behind Step 11 is spirituality.

Daydreaming Is Meditation

It has been said that prayer is asking for answers, and meditation is listening for them. Whether we believe that the answers come from our subconscious or from God is immaterial. The important thing is that we take time to slow down enough for our head monsters to stop dragging us around by our thoughts.

Folks who are looking for an excuse to find fault with 12-step programs may point to Step 11 as an example of how they are religious organizations. Cults, some people would say. Again, we need to remember that the Steps were written in the late 1930’s. That’s more than 70 years ago. Folks thought differently then, and if Bill Wilson had tried to write about secular spirituality and avoid the mention of God, he would quickly have lost his audience.

Today, some of us understand spirituality differently. Personally, I think of religion as involving dogma, rituals, prayer, a transcendent being of some sort, and a quest for salvation along with an eternal reward. To me, spirituality means the things of the human spirit: love, compassion, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, a sense of responsibility and of harmony, contentment, and joy — the things that bring true happiness to ourselves and others.

In many respects prayer is meditation. What’s important is that we take the time, every day, to give our minds time to wind down. To clear our minds and listen for those answers. If we fail to do so, it is difficult to come to grips with the changes that are happening in our lives, to maintain self-awareness instead of self-pity, and to generally develop healthy, long-lasting sobriety. Whether we practice walking meditation, pray, contemplate, sit zazen or daydream, the result is the same. That is the underlying concept beneath the wording of Step 11, and it is a practice that anyone should be able to embrace, religious or not.

Daydreaming, by the way, is meditation. See, you already know how to do it!