You Just Never Know

For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, I’m a recovering addict. My sober anniversary was last Wednesday, and since this is the time of the year when I make a point of looking back at how things were, I offer the following story.

Twenty-odd years ago, when my life was substantially different from the way it is today, I was handed an assignment by my boss, the Chief of Police. I’m a touch vague on the dates, but that doesn’t matter.

The job was to wade through a bunch of sworn affidavits that had been provided by the local hospital as fruits of a civil case, interview some folks, and find out if there were appropriate criminal charges to be brought against some people. After a week or so reading a lot of boring statements and talking to a lot of people, I came to the following conclusions.

  • The Board of Directors had for some years given the hospital administrator carte blanche, and he had taken advantage of it to the tune of about three million dollars in cash unaccounted for and unauthorized credit card purchases.
  • Contractors working on additions to the complex also had their fingers in the till.
  • There were substantial indications that fraud and embezzlement had been committed, but our department lacked the investigative resources to bring a case to trial that was comprised largely of accounting work.
  • The case should be turned over to the State Attorney for further investigation. (Ultimately, it went to the state Department of Law Enforcement.)

The administrator, an active and advanced alcoholic, ended up serving three years. It turned out that much of the money had gone for expensive inpatient treatment for himself, a daughter and his wife, all of whom were eventually successful at getting sober. The ex-administrator got sober in prison.

Now here’s the point: always be nice to folks, even when you don’t have to.

The drunken hospital administrator, because of his interest in the subject, had founded a treatment center on the 6th floor of the hospital. Although closed now due to corporate decisions, it was at one time well-known as one of the best treatment centers in the country. A few years later, when the Chief saved my life by forcing me into treatment — and made sure that my wife got treatment as well when she asked for it — we got sober on the sixth floor of that hospital.

And the ex-administrator, whom I had helped send to prison, eventually became my  sponsor.


Hawaii Big Island study on fetal alcohol, drug exposure

The…group surveyed 2,300 women across the Big Island surveyed over the past three years and found that 1,158 admitted to drinking alcohol or other substance abuse while pregnant, the West Hawaii Today (( reported. There is no known safe amount of alcohol to consume while pregnant.

Alcohol-exposed pregnancy is the leading cause of miscarriage, stillbirth, birth defects and other disorders, said Naomi Imai, child and youth program specialist for the state Family Health Services Division.

Big Island study on fetal alcohol, drug exposure |

Sponsors and Sponsorship

In the early days of AA, the fellowship was really anonymous. The only way you even found out that there was such an organization was to have someone invite and escort you to a meeting. This person was your sponsor, and became responsible for showing you the ropes, making sure that you got to meetings, and so forth. Later on, after Bill Wilson wrote the Steps and they were adopted by AA, sponsors began guiding their “pigeons” (as newcomers were called back then) through the process that has since become pretty-much standard for all 12-Step groups.

Over time, the relationship of newcomers and sponsors has changed a bit, but the essential idea behind sponsorship has not. A sponsor is a person with substantial sobriety or clean time, who agrees to help a newcomer through the steps. And that is all a sponsor is, as far as the fellowships are concerned. He or she may become a friend and mentor in other respects, but the principal responsibility remains the same — to insure that the “sponsee” makes it through the first few months of sobriety with the skills to continue on the path to recovery. [Read more…]

Michigan Bans Alcoholic Energy Drinks

Michigan has banned all alcoholic, caffeinated energy drinks from being sold in the state after nine Washington college students were hospitalized last month after consuming Four Loko, known as “blackout in a can.”
Reversing its earlier approval, the Michigan Liquor Control Commission yesterday banned Four Loko and 54 similar fruity, high-caffeine, high-alcohol drinks, Detroit Free Press reports. Other banned drinks include Joose and Smirnoff Raw Tea. Manufacturers have 30 days to remove their products from stores.
Read more…

Alcohol Messes Up Kids’ Brains Way More Than Adult Brains

Occasionally some kid will ask, “I have my whole life to get clean, why bother now?  I'm having fun!”

Let's get real.  If you're reading stuff on this web site, you already sort of know that you or someone you know has a problem, and you may suspect that there are some important reasons why quitting now is a much better idea than waiting.

Young people's brains are designed to learn a lot, quickly.  Their brains have “plasticity,” the ability to form new neural connections as necessary in order to develop the parts of the brain needed for certain skills. This involves building billions of bridges among brain cells, and it is the continuous formation of these bridges that makes the adolescent brain especially vulnerable to alcohol. Drinking alcohol not only interferes with building connections in the brain, it also prevents the protective “insulation” on the nerve cells from developing the way it is supposed to. That prevents your brain cells from transmitting signals properly, and can cause interference in adjacent cells.  Other drugs complicate things even more.

These changes are clearly visible on brain scans.  It isn't sci-fi, and it's not just some scare tactic thought up by people who don't want you to have fun.

The fact is, when you drink heavily and use drugs in your teens, it can keep your brain from developing into a normal adult brain. The chances are good that you will never have a brain that functions with full efficiency.  The drop in problem-solving skills and other factors such as IQ is clearly measurable. This may be reversable to a degree, but the more you use, the less likely you are to end up with all the smarts you were supposed to.

Furthermore, according to Peter M. Monti, Professor of Medical Sciences and director of the Center for Alcohol and Addiction Studies at Brown University, “As heavy drinking continues, the likelihood of neuronal damage increases, because the brain is no longer able to compensate for the disruption caused by alcohol.”  In other words, The damage gets worse the longer you drink.

This means that in addition to other, more obvious problems, such as behavioral difficulties, risk-taking, drunk driving and associated accidents, adolescents who drink may also be unable to learn some of the skills that are necessary to function as adults. There is even a name for this: Alcohol Abuse Disorder. It involves reduced ability to solve problems, reduction of verbal memory (the ability to find the right word for a particular meaning and use it properly), disturbed visual-spatial skills (judging relationships of objects in space, a critical skill for driving, games, and similar activities), and general memory problems.

So, on top of the “normal” problems of growing up, there are far-reaching effects of drinking that can change your life and make it much more difficult. If you are thinking about drinking, think again.  If you are drinking more than one or two drinks occasionally, cut back.  If you can't cut back, get help. Your entire life depends on how you treat your developing brain today.

How Do I Stage An Intervention?

The intervention concept has been popularized by the excellent A & E television series of the same name, several of which have been recorded right here at Sunrise Detox. Many folks have seen the show and are familiar with the basic idea, but I thought it might be a good idea to go over some points here.

First of all, we need to understand that interventions are the “big gun” when it comes to getting addicts (including alcoholics) to turn the corner and become willing to deal with their addictions. Done properly, they can have a terrific effect, allowing the client to see how his addiction has affected others, and getting him into treatment before his denial can kick in and before he can begin to justify his behavior.

On the other hand, an intervention is pretty much a one-shot deal. If it doesn't work the first time, it is highly unlikely to work on subsequent tries. It is, therefore, important to get it right.

A proper intervention involves an addiction professional (leader), and as many of the client's family members, friends and co-workers as can be gathered together at one place and time, including his employer or immediate supervisor if possible.

The leader will, ahead of time, instruct the participants to prepare carefully. Each person will need to think about the way the client's addiction has impacted their life, and be ready to tell the addict about it. A spouse can speak about how she misses the man she married; a child about how he felt when Dad missed his graduation. A friend can tell how much he misses his buddy, the employer about how the client is a valued worker, and how he would very much like to see him become his “old self” again (and keep his job).

It is important that the client not know what is going to happen. Sometimes the group can assemble at a restaurant meeting room. The home might be appropriate, or some other location. Ideally, the client will walk in unaware of anything in store, for maximum shock value.

Most important of all is that the participants talk about how the client's addiction has impacted them, about their feelings, and not direct comments at the client: “You did this to me,” “You ruined our family,” and so forth. The object is to let the person know how his actions have affected others, rather than putting him on the defensive. That can be nearly impossible for angry members, another reason the leader, trained in interventions, is necessary: to act as a guide for the participants and keep them on track, both before and during the actual intervention.

Finally, it is vitally important to have the next step ready to go. If the addict acknowledges the problem and promises to “do something about it,” he needs to be presented with packed bags, an open car door, and a prearranged admission to a treatment facility — another reason the professional is there.

As we saw above, this is a one-shot project. Once the client's denial is broken, the next steps have to be definite — and put into place before he can change his mind. It is easy to see how, once exposed to an intervention, the addict's likelihood of responding positively to a second one is vanishingly small. Done properly, however, an intervention can literally be the difference between life and death.

It was for this addict/alcoholic.