addict

Why Can’t Recovering Addicts Use In Moderation?

A client asks: If we can change our thinking in order to abstain from using alcohol and other drugs, then why can’t we change our thinking to be able to use in moderation?

Why can't addicts use in moderation?  Think about it: why couldn’t we simply use “in moderation” without all the hassle of detox, treatment, and a program of recovery? If we couldn’t do it then, why should we be able to do it now? Those are the real questions!

The key is “change our thinking.” We don’t think our way out of addiction. We make a decision to get clean and sober, and to follow the suggestions of our program of choice, in order to facilitate abstinence. The thinking and process of our programs of recovery relieve some of the emotional pressures we created with our addiction and equip us to live sober lives, but they do not “cure” the addiction.

Abstinence and the subsequent repairs that our bodies are able to effect in our brains allow our addiction(s) to enter remission. Our brains slowly deactivate the extra receptor sites that clamored for more drugs and caused our compulsion to use, and at the same time the production of chemicals normally found in the brain has to ramp back up from being suppressed by the presence of the drugs. Not until this process is complete — and it can take months — do we reach the point of feeling relatively normal, although we begin to feel better long before the job is done.

Feeling better is part of the problem, too. Because the repairs to our brains depend on abstinence, as long as there are any of a wide variety of abusable drugs in our systems, the repairs can’t take place. And because they also take time, and that means that the desire to use won’t go away entirely for quite awhile; it will come and go. We can easily decide that we’ve been clean for a while so we ought to be able to “handle it.” But if we give in and use, even a little, the repairs to our brain will slow down, prolonging the physical recovery process. It is also quite likely that the combination of reuniting with our old obsession, combined with the indisputable fact that people on drugs do stupid things, will cause us to decide more would be better. Continued use will reverse the recovery process and kick us back into full-blown addiction.

Recovery is not a matter of willpower. If it were, we would have simply ignored the compulsion and stopped. The compulsion comes from a part of the brain that isn’t affected by conscious thought. We can’t think our way into sobriety; we need abstinence too. Here at Sunrise Detox, we see a lot of folks who think that they can use in moderation.  Again, and again, and again….

Things Clients Say In Detox — Denial On The Hoof

We thought we would list some of the things that we hear clients say.  You can substitute any drug for any other drug in any statement or comment.  Denial ain’t just a river in Africa, remember?

I don't even know why I'm here.  I'm not an addict.

You're here for some reason.  You didn't just walk in to see what it was like.  Some major problem in your life got you through the doors.  You may as well hang out for a while and see if we can help you with the problem — whatever it is.

Marijuana isn’t addictive, because there’s no withdrawal.

It is true that years ago there was no noticeable withdrawal from marijuana use, but in those days cannabis had only about 1/10th the active ingredients that today’s hybridized varieties have.  Even then, chronic users often had trouble quitting.

Today, there is acute withdrawal that involves irritability, sleeping difficulties, mood swings, loss of appetite and other issues.  We also know that there is a post-acute withdrawal syndrome (PAWS) that  includes depression and cognitive disorders, and that can last for many months.

I'll stop drinking, but I'm still going to smoke a blunt now and then.

Recovery requires abstaining from all mood-altering drugs.  We cannot pick and choose.  All drugs work on our reward system.  Addiction occurs when the reward system loses the ability to make us feel good without the extra stimulation of drugs.  If we continue to stimulate the reward system so that it cannot return to normal, then we will continue to have cravings.

I only drink wine or beer.

All ethyl alcohol (ethanol) affects the human body the same way, and one six-ounce glass of wine, one 12 ounce beer, and one shot of 80 proof liquor all contain roughly the same amount of alcohol.

I only drink on weekends.

It is not important when we drink.  What matters is how much, and why.  If we are waking up with a hangover, which is really alcohol withdrawal, we are drinking enough to cause changes in our brains, even if we only do it two or three days out of the week.  And are we really remaining totally abstinent the rest of the week, or are we having a couple to “relax” each evening?  If that is the case, why do we need alcohol to relax?

I only use (pick a drug) occasionally, so I won’t become addicted.

There are millions of addicts who have found out the hard way that, despite their denial, the occasions tend to get closer and closer together until they have merged, so that we need the drug to be comfortable.  When we are more comfortable under the influence of drugs than we are without them, we are well on the way to addiction.

Alcohol doesn’t bother me; I can drink all my buddies under the table.

Increasing tolerance for alcohol or any other drug is the first sign of addiction.  If we can drink, snort, swallow or shoot more than we used to be able to handle, we’re in trouble.

“I can take it or leave it.”  (I just choose to take it.)

Put it down and don’t touch it for two weeks.  Let us know how that works for you.  Try it again.  Learn anything about denial?

I only have a couple of drinks at home, just to relax.

There is nothing wrong with that, unless we cannot relax without the drinks.  In that case we need to do some hard thinking.  We also we need to look at what we consider a “couple of drinks.”  A standard drink is one shot of 80-proof liquor, one six-ounce glass of wine, or one 12-ounce beer.  “Topping off” is cheating.  So is filling an iced-tea glass with ice and booze and calling it “a drink.”

My whole family drinks like me.

Alcoholism has a strong hereditary component, as do some other addictions.  Need we go on?

The bottom line is this: If drugs, including alcohol, are causing problems in our lives, whether they be hangovers, missing work, “discussions” with our spouses or partners, DUI’s, or any other issues, then they are a problem.  There are no two ways about it.  Either they cause problems or they don’t.  Then the big question becomes why we are continuing to do something that continues to cause us problems.

Now that is a good question — a very good question.

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.

 

Hosting An Addict At A Holiday Party

If you're wondering how to deal with a loved one's addiction issues while still making them welcome at a holiday party, this previous post by blogger Bill W. may provide some help and assurance.

Folks in the addiction and alcoholism treatment fields are often asked about how a host should handle a holiday party attended by recovering friends. Social occasions that involve people in recovery, especially those in early recovery — can pose some perplexing problems for a host.

On one hand, a host who is aware of a guest’s need to avoid mood-altering substances may wish to do what is possible to keep from exposing them to temptation. On the other hand, social drinking is a part of everyday American culture. Most social gatherings involve some drinking by some of the guests, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that. Unfortunately, for some of us, it might not be the healthiest of environments, and a host may be at a loss as to how she ought to deal with guests who are in recovery. Here are some pointers on how to handle this delicate situation while, at the same time, being fair to all.

Read more: http://sunrisedetox.com/blog/2011/12/10/addicts-alcoholics-holidays-parties-3/

Why Can’t I Drink Or Smoke A Little Weed? I Was A Pill Addict!

Professionals refer to “addiction,” or “addictive disease,” rather than to heroin addiction, cocaine addiction, etc. The fact of the matter, little understood by the world at large, is that we don’t become addicted to drugs, but to the effects that they have on our brains — specifically on the pleasure center. The pleasure center is located in the sub-cortical region of the brain which means, among other things, that we can't control it directly.  (That's why “Just Say No” is a cruel joke.)

US Dept. of Transportation (dot.gov)

Drugs short-circuit the process by either stimulating the production of these neurotransmitters, or by mimicking their actions.  Drugs allow us to control the production of the good feelings. Since we are pre-programmed to seek those feelings, we tend to do it quite a lot. Over time, actual physical changes take place in our brains in order to accommodate the unnatural levels of chemicals.

This occurs in several ways, but we’ll simplify it by saying that our neurons grow additional receptor sites to deal with the surplus. This means, in turn, that we need more of the drug’s effects to reach the levels that give us pleasure. This tolerance is one of the first signs of developing addiction. Eventually we reach a point where we need the stimulation in order to function anything like normally, and we’re hooked for sure.

When we go “cold turkey,” the sudden absence of chemicals causes the syndromes that we call acute withdrawal. The length of the acute phase lasts anywhere from a few days to several weeks, depending on the drug. Simple drugs, like alcohol, have the shortest acute phases, while those that metabolize into other active compounds can take much longer. Methadone is an excellent example.  It has not only a longer but more severe acute withdrawal than other opiates. The symptoms of withdrawal, generally speaking, are the reverse of whatever effects the drugs had. Opioids, for example, calm us and slow the action of our digestive tract, and the withdrawal symptoms are the jitters, nausea, diarrhea and the creepy-crawlies, among others.

Those extra receptor sites slowly become dormant and stop pestering us for stimulation, but the main thing to remember is that while the body and brain recover from the changes, the changes do not necessarily go away, and if they do, it is usually over a period of years.

If we use drugs or alcohol in early recovery, we will interfere with the progression to normalcy. Any extra stimulation, whether by the drug of choice or another, can have this effect; we don’t have to get drunk or high. The neurotransmitters involved are the same combination, and using any mood-altering drug can lead back to an active addiction.  At the very least, it will prolong the recovery process.

Even after our brains are back as close to normal as they're going to get, exposure to drugs can reactivate those dormant receptor sites, and start the cravings all over again.  This is true of marijuana and booze, as well as other drugs, since they all work by stimulating the reward center.  In addition, drugs tend to make us more likely to do stupid things, like use more drugs. 

So we can obviously drink or use cannabis if we wish.  As addicts are so fond of pointing out, “It's my life!”*  However, if we do so even in small amounts, we are likely to end up deep in addiction again.

*How bogus is that?  Like we have no effect on anyone but ourselves.  Addict thinking.

Research on drug use goes down the toilet

Analysis Of Waste Water May Be The Key To
Determining Community Drug Use

Sewers don’t lie. People may be less than forthright about what they put into their bodies, especially if that includes illicit drugs, but a chemical analysis of what comes out of their bodies removes all mystery. According to drug and addiction researchers, analysing wastewater for remnants of illicit substances provides the only truly objective indicator of drug use patterns in a community.

“Whatever you think about drugs, people need to have objective data so they can at least have an informed discussion,” says Caleb Banta-Green, a research scientist at the University of Washington’s Alcohol and Drug Abuse Institute in Seattle.

Read More…

Are there effective online AA groups and sponsors?

Q. Are there effective online AA groups and sponsors?

[The person asking the question is a public figure, concerned about negative publicity and broken anonymity.]

There are good online AA groups.  Most, if not all, have provisions for connecting newcomers with online sponsors.  Any program of recovery is only as effective as the desire of the individual to work at it.  In that respect, an online program is better than no program at all, and no doubt they do the job for some recovering alcoholics and other addicts.  Consider, however, that the purpose of a program is not only to keep from drinking.  Recovery is about unlearning how to be an addict, and learning how better to function in the world outside of AA, NA or whatever program one has chosen.

During our addictions we learn a great many undesirable habits.  We all lie, to ourselves and to others.  We are all thieves.  We may not take material things, but we steal time from our employers and families.  We steal other people’s pleasure in having a clean and sober family member, friend, or business associate.  We steal the time and resources of courts, social services, hospitals, insurance companies and law enforcement — things that are desperately needed by society to accomplish other purposes.  We steal the health of others by causing them stress, causing accidents, and taking up space in doctors’ offices, emergency rooms and other health facilities.

We also develop dysfunctional ways of dealing with other people, with stress, with personal problems, even efforts to enjoy ourselves.  Those of us who continue to function effectively in society still create our own little worlds of quiet chaos — otherwise, why would we be seeking recovery?

When we first get clean, the habits of addiction are still with us.  We have to unlearn them, and learn other ways of dealing with people, the world at large — and ourselves.  In some cases, we have to relearn skills that we’ve forgotten, or get up to date in our fields of expertise.  We have to clean up the wreckage we left behind, and reestablish ourselves in our families and society.  We have a lot to accomplish.

The Twelve Steps are a template — an agenda, if you will — for getting these things done.  They work exceptionally well, at least as well as any other programs of recovery, and better than the majority.  However, they were developed on the basis of face-to-face contact.  Some “solos” have managed to stay sober by letters and (now) email, but the great majority of successful recovery comes from the meeting halls where we interact with others who can guide us.

Sure, some of that can be done online.  This very article is one of the ways that can occur.  But online does not put us in the presence of others.  Online can’t hug.  Online can’t look at our face and tell that we’re having a crappy day, despite our protestations, and call us on it.  Online can’t give us unconditional love — because we need to see that in the face of another human being.  Online can’t tell when we’re full of b.s. — nor can we tell that about the people we interact with online. Online can’t go out for coffee and a chat, or to a picnic, or just be companionable.  We can’t call online at 3:00 AM, the midnight of the soul.  Online can't phone us to find out how we're doing if it hasn't seen us in awhile.  Nor can we do those things online for others.  In short, it’s a weak substitute for f-2-f meetings.

That’s not to say online meetings can’t be helpful, but in my opinion they should not be substituted for the real thing.  Alcoholics and other addicts need contact with people.  We avoided real interaction by keeping ourselves high and detached.  Now we need to do the reverse.  There are meetings for professionals, held privately, to avoid the issues of unethical media who no longer respect our anonymity as they once did.  A call to our local Intergroup office will probably turn up at least one in our area.

“Rarely have we seen a person fail who has thoroughly followed our path.”  Sitting in front of a monitor, regardless of good intentions, is not being thorough.  This is not meant to take anything away from the good people on line, but merely to say that depending on them alone is likely to be a recipe for disaster.