Family and Friends

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.

People, Places And Things

Many of the folks who attend the groups at Sunrise Detox wonder about “people, places and things,” and question how merely seeing someone, or being in a particular place, can trigger a powerful desire to drink or use other drugs.

Maybe the best way of understanding this is to consider a number of recent experiments (update: no longer available on the web) that studied the brain activity of subjects while they were exposed to certain stimuli. Rats, rabbits, and non-human primates will seek the same drugs that we humans abuse, and will begin seeking them again — even after months of deprivation — when exposed to the drugs themselves or to visual cues that they have associated with drugs in the past. Along with these, brain-imaging studies on human addicts indicate that visual cues can cause the addict to recall the pleasure of drug* use, and can cause enhanced activity in areas of the brain that are associated with cravings.

This research shows scientifically what people in the rooms have known for a long time, often demonstrated in sayings like “If you don’t want to slip, stay out of slippery places.” It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that if you want to stay sober you don’t go into a bar, order a drink, and sit and look at it. There’s a technical term for folks who test themselves that way: relapsers.

It shouldn’t take a lot more thought to see how less obvious things can have similar effects. Ordering a club soda and hanging with our drinking friends, seeing our dealer in a crowded club, passing the shop where we purchased our wine, even sitting in front of the TV with our buddies watching a game — all of these thing can trigger a desire to use, the “just one won't hurt” thought that has killed so many of us .


Consider that stress is one of the greatest causes of relapse, because it was one of our biggest excuses for using. Family arguments, the presence of people whom we believe disapprove of us, being around other people who are behaving the way we used to, animosity from people we harmed during our addictions — all of these things are powerful stressors, along with financial, legal and romantic complications. Some of these things are going to be parts of our early recovery, but it certainly makes sense not to complicate the problem with temptations and stressors that can be avoided. Of course these things are part of live, and of course we’ll have to deal with them eventually, but that doesn’t mean we should try when our brains are still in early recovery and the likelihood of relapse is at its greatest.

Thus, to the extent possible, we need to avoid the old people, places and things until we have enough sobriety under our belts to deal with the stress and temptation. Even then, smart addicts moderate periods of tension by attending extra meetings, calling people in the program, and generally stepping up their involvement in recovery.

Many sensible strategies, such as living in halfway houses, staying out of home areas, putting off jobs, relationships and other potential stressors can seem counter to the idea of recovery. After all, isn’t it about carrying on with life? That it is, but carrying on with life means doing so effectively, which means clean and sober, with some good recovery under our belts. Recovery is difficult enough without standing at the plate begging for curve balls. Trying to “make up for lost time” is an excellent way to lose even more of it, and perhaps our jobs, families, or even our lives along with it.

*When the writer uses the term “drug” he includes alcohol, which is simply a legal drug.

Pure Truth

“Children have never been very good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them.” – James Baldwin

Sobriety Got Me Though One Heck Of A Week

Occasionally in life we have periods that just plain suck. As a sponsor of mine was fond of saying, “When I got sober, life didn’t get better right away, but it got real clear!” The difference is, in sobriety we're able to feel our pain, work our way through it, and come out the other side in a healthy way, instead of stuffing all those feelings and having to deal with them later when they start squishing through the cracks in our mental armor.

One of my oldest friends passed away last Friday. I’ve known Ed since I was about 10 years old. He was one of the first kids I met when I moved to a new town, and his friendship made a huge difference in my adjustment to an environment that I was in no way prepared to deal with. Over the next six or so years we weren’t inseparable, by any means, but most of the time each knew where the other was and pretty much what he was doing.

Ed and I studied, worried about the things teenage boys do, hung out, camped and hunted, and did all the usual high school stuff — most of it together. We even had a singing act that we were known to inflict on folks occasionally. (Neither of us ended up in show biz.) Along with a couple of other guys, we almost literally dragged each other out of the confusion of adolescence into whatever state you’re in when you graduate from high school. My girlfriend and I set him up on a double-date with Judy, the girl he was eventually married to for nearly 50 years. Ed and I were tight.

After high school and college we had only occasional contact for the next thirty years or so. I, of course, became a drunk — some other things, true, but still a drunk and addict. About to get drafted into the Army after college, Ed joined the Air Force instead. In typical all-or-nothing fashion, he went on to become a highly-decorated officer. As head of the White House communications unit, he accompanied Presidents Ford and Carter everywhere they went. As a lieutenant colonel, he headed the communications team that travels with Delta Force. As a full colonel he was boss of an outfit so secret I don’t even know what it was. Then, although he was being groomed for general, he retired. He told me he did so because he decided his family needed some stability after being dragged all over the world. So he put down the sword and took up the plow as a teacher, dean, contributor to the community we grew up in, and as a man of god.

To say that I “miss” Ed would devalue our relationship, which was the kind where you just take up the conversation you didn’t finish the last time you were together — however many years ago that may have been. I didn’t have to be around him during those years. I just knew that he was wherever, and I was wherever, that our friendship stretched between, and I had faith that it might stretch but that it would never break.

If I'd still been drinking and drugging I would have missed the last years of that friendship, of getting to know Ed as “elder statesman.” I would have missed the bittersweet pleasure of meeting his grown kids and grandkids this week. I would have missed the grace and poise of the Colonel’s Lady, putting guests and old friends at ease while her heart was breaking. I would have missed my own grief, and my appreciation for the man Ed was and for what he gave to his country, his god, the thousands of other friends he accumulated over his nearly 69 years — and to me.

Ed’s life reminded me, once again, that it ain’t over until it’s over. If I’d ended mine with booze and drugs all those years ago, there’s so much I would have missed, a lot more than just Ed. I would have accomplished virtually none of the things that I consider important in my own life. I wouldn’t be writing this, and I think the message is pretty important:

Sobriety is worth a little pain now and then.

So are you.

Relapse Triggers — They Don’t Keep Cat Food In The Beer Cooler

Speaking of relapse triggers, it happened that two or three days after I got out of treatment back in 1989, I went to the supermarket to buy some cat food. I was walking through the store, and just for the heck of it I turned down the beer aisle. (That's what folks who work in the field call “testing yourself.”  It's considered to be pretty dumb.) After my stroll down memory lane, I was pleased to note that I hadn’t had even a twinge of a desire for my drug of choice. I was pretty proud.  Yesiree.

The next day, at “day care,” I bragged about it to Ron, my counselor. He looked at me with disgust, and shouted, “You stupid shit! They don’t keep cat food in the beer cooler!


I knew enough to understand immediately what he meant, and I never consciously did anything like that again. Some years later, after having worked with Ron at a different treatment center, I had the sad honor of telling that story at his memorial service. Everyone laughed and nodded their heads; they knew Ron, just like Ron knew me.

A big mistake that we alcoholics and other addicts make is believing that we are different; that only we know what’s best for us. In the rooms, we call this terminal uniqueness. The fact is that when it comes to addiction, our similarities are far more important than our differences. That’s because, in all of us, addiction works the same way: it causes certain changes in our brains that alter our priorities and put our drugs of choice first in every part of our lives, and every part of our lives that have to do with obtaining or using those substances become of paramount importance.

Recent studies involving addicts who viewed selected images while being scanned in an MRI revealed that certain stimuli can activate the portion of the primitive brain that controls cravings for alcohol and other drugs.  We relate certain situations and places, along with certain smells, visual and audible cues, to obtaining and using drugs and alcohol. These associations take place in a part of our brain that we cannot directly control, any more than we can control our tendency to flinch at unexpected loud noises.

Walking down the beer aisle won’t always trigger cravings, just as driving past the corner where we used to cop drugs won’t always trigger them. But in all addicts, the wrong combination of trigger, mood, hunger, distress with life and a million other things can cause those synapses to go “click.” Then all of a sudden we’re handing the guy a twenty and he’s dropping a little baggie into our hand, or we’re walking out of the corner store with a bottle of Smirnoff's.

That’s why one of the ideas that we pound into clients’ heads (or try to) is stay away from the old people, places and things until you have some sobriety — preferably, a lot of it — under your belt.  Our families hard-wired our buttons for us, and we can play each other like a cheap barroom piano. Our drinking buddies make us think of those good times (we rarely remember the bad ones), and may themselves not have our best interest at heart. They (and our families) may find that they prefer the old us to the newly-sober variety. And it should hardly need to be said (if it does, we’re in trouble already) that we don’t keep a six-pack or a baggie of blow around “for guests,” or hang around the corner bar because we like to shoot pool.

Simple ideas.  A little rough on the “Me, me, me…I want, I want, I want” part of our addict brains, but really not complicated.  Relapse triggers: If you want to stay on your feet, stay off the slippery places.

Next to People, Places, and Things, relationships and physical stress are the greatest relapse triggers. More about them to come.

Parent, Sibling Military Deployment Raises Drug Abuse Risk in Teens

Study results showed that youth whose parents or siblings were deployed were at 14 percent higher risk of abusing drugs than other people. Researchers found that military deployment of parents or siblings increased both recent and lifetime use of drugs, but not smoking.


Looking Ahead To A Sober New Year

Now that we’ve had a Merry Christmas, let’s look ahead to the start of a sober New Year: the last day of this year and the first few hours of 2013.  Back in The Day, we used to call New Year’s Eve “Amateur Night.” Be that as it may, there is no question that December 31st and the early hours of the following year are the premier venues for chemically-enhanced “fun.”

Traditionally, on New Year’s Eve the rules are loosened up a bit and behavior that would be looked at askance (at best) on other occasions is tolerated and even encouraged. That being the case, it’s a minefield for people in recovery, especially newcomers. So we here at Sunrise Detox thought we’d share some of the strategies that have helped us have a sober new year, year after year.

First of all, we heartily recommend the alkathons that are held at recovery clubs, meeting halls and some treatment centers. These are usually a string of meetings throughout the day — often for 24 hours — on occasions deemed especially hazardous to us recovering folks. Not infrequently they include a dinner at some point, but they always include fellowship and the assurance that it’s really possible to have fun on holidays with our brain chemistry intact. NA has similar meeting marathons, and perhaps other fellowships do as well. These are almost always open meetings, and addicts of all stripes are welcome.

We don’t recommend private or public celebrations outside the rooms for the first couple of years at least, but if we feel we must expose ourselves to temptation, there are a few safeguards that we must not bypass:

  1. Always go to a meeting first, or plan on one afterward — and keep the commitment.
  2. Always take another sober person along to share the merriment. (It's more fun watching drunks when you have a sober companion.)
  3. Always make provision for your own transportation. If you’re riding with someone, have enough money for cab fare if needed. One of you might not make it through the night.
  4. Arrive late and leave early.
  5. Always have a non-alcoholic drink in your hand. It keeps well-meaning revelers from pestering you to let them get you a drink.
  6. Always prepare your own drinks, or watch closely as they are prepared.  Even if you say you aren't drinking, some well-meaning bartender or friend may decide you need  a snort to loosen you up.  You don't know how you would react to a mouthful of alcohol.  Don't take the chance.
  7. Always watch your drink. Never set it down and turn your back. You might confuse it with someone else’s when you reach for it, or someone may have added a little surprise. Pocket flasks, roofies and other equipment are not uncommon on New Year’s Eve.
  8. If you do accidentally take a swallow of booze, or think you may have ingested a drug, leave immediately!!!  Alcohol and other drugs make us stupid.  You need to get to a place where your have fewer harmful decisions to make.
  9. Always have an agreement with your sober companion that if either party is uncomfortable both will leave immediately. You are there to support each other, not to hang out until someone finds a hookup.
  10. Always stick together unless someone relapses. If that happens, the sober person needs to get out of Dodge. It’s not your job to save someone who doesn’t want to be saved. You’re not that powerful. If you were able to keep someone else from drinking or drugging, your buddy wouldn’t have relapsed. It’s not your responsibility. Get to a safe place and call someone in the program.
  11. Mind your own business!  Don't lecture others about their drinking.  It wastes your time, and it annoys the drinker.  Be an example, not a pain in the butt.
  12. Don’t forget the meeting afterward, even it it’s just a couple of drunks or druggies in a coffee shop. It’s the best way to keep our primary purpose in mind.

With a little planning, it’s possible to have a safe, happy and sober New Year. Don’t let some silly nostalgic idea that you have to be messed up to have fun cause you to blow it. Trust us — it won’t be fun when you wake up in 2013.

If you do wake up.