Break Habits

We Must Do Better with Alcoholism Treatment - Remember Smoking?

We must and can do better to prevent and treat alcohoism and addiction. We have had success with another addiction - smoking. The U.S. reduced smoking rates from nearly 60% in the 1950s to about 20% today. We did it with a collective will to stop that killer and with a focus on prevention and treatment through Public Service Announcements, early education in the school system, and government supported smoking cessation programs.

Alcoholism is the 3rd leading cause of death in the United States and it's an expensive illness both emotionally to those struggling with it and their families. Financially, alcoholism is incredibly costly. "Each year medical problems caused by addiction, along with lost earnings, accidents and crime, cost Americans more than $500 billion."* 

Very troubling to me as an addiction counselor is that the failure rate for long term sobriety is a grim 70%. This is a shocking statistic because treatment success rates have remained virtually unchanged for the 30 years I've been in the counseling profession. The majority of addiction professionals and the medical community treat the problem primarily with behavorial and psychosocial approaches meaning group therapy, 12 Step meetings and education. This is important, but the newly sober brain often can't process or remember well until the brain has had time to heal - 4-12 months for most.

Part of what gets in the way of better treatment is that society still views addiction as a moral rather than a medical issue. But there's plenty of scientific evidence that concludes "...addiction is a chronic, progressive disease of the brain with many simiarities to other chronic diseases such as diabetes, hypertension and asthma..."*

Cutting edge treatment for alcoholism includes medications such as Vivitrol and Campral. Vivitrol is a once a month, extended-release injected medication (naltrexone), approved by the FDA in 2006. Vivitrol reduces the high that someone gets from drinking, and it decreases cravings. Because it's prescribed once a month, it eliminates the daily decision making that goes with Antabuse.  

Another effective medication is Campral approved by FDA in 2004. Campral also reduces cravings and "...restores the balance in certain neurotransmitter pathways altered by chronic use." Campral can accelerate brain healing which normally takes 4-12 months after someone stops drinking. Vivitrol and Campral can be prescribed together to enhance the effects according to Dr. Urschel* and he recommends usage for 18 months on average. 

Society needs to get over judging alcoholics and drug addicts as moral failures, treat addiction as the medical problem it is and spend the right kind of money on prevention, early education and treatment. We can change the course of this disease as we've done with smoking.  


 

*Healing the Addicted Brain by Harold C Urschel, III, MD, MMA, Advances in Addiction and Recovery Magazine Spring 2013

Wealth Addicts: Is There Ever Enough Money?

How much money is enough? There's never enough! If I ask people how much money will make them happy many say: "Just MORE." How much more? They don't know. The quest for more money without a specific number or goal keeps us acting like hamsters on the wheel - running, running, running toward MORE and often away from meaning, purpose and happiness.

Sam Polk, author of the NY Times article, "For the Love of Money", is a former hedge-fund trader whose last bonus was $3.6 million and it wasn't enough. Sam grew up with little, but in his new career cwas soon making millions. Over the years, his goal was to make a billion dollars and he truthfully admits money meant power. Sam says his "wealth addicted" co-workers are like "alcoholics driving drunk and are responsible for the ever widening rift between rich and poor." Remember McDonalds C.E.O., Don Thompson, with an 8.5 million bonus and a brochure for his workers about how to survive on low wages? Addiction anyone? (NY Times Jan 19, 2014)

Sam's awakening came through his bosses and co-workers who were endlessly greedy and never satisfied. He says we are letting money addiction drive too much of our society. Sam, was lucky because as a recovering addict he recognized the signs of addiction - always looking for the next high, doing whatever it takes to get that high - including lying, cheating, stealing, denial of how your behavior is affecting yourself or others, emotional numbness, emotional isolation. 

I think the difference between wealth addicts and the average American, besides the money, is that wealth addicts are power seekers and most middle-class Americans are happiness seekers. Money does provide power - especially in large amounts, but it can't provide happiness.  "Money can bring pleasure, but it will never provide JOY." Robert Holden, of Happiness Now.

Most of us aren't wealth addicts. But be aware of that push to always want MORE money. My advice is to figure out how much money is enough for you. My enough number is $80,000 a year. Harvard Researchers and authors of Happy Money state that after $75,000 more money does not increase happiness - AT ALL!!

Lynn Telford-Sahl, M.A. Psychology, Certified Addiction Counselor, Certified Money Coach, author of Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom, National Speaker. Lynn has a private practice in Modesto, CA and specializes in treating addiction, anxiety, co-dependency and family addictive concerns. As a Certified Money Coach she works to identify top money challenges and create positive strategies to move forward.  

 

 

Pills for Problems: What To Do Instead

Pills for problems - can't take just one. Pills, pills, pills. By pills I mean Vicodin, Lortab, OxyContin. So many pills for so many problems. Got pain? Feeling sad or blue? Not happy enough? Or, do you just want to get high? Take a few pills.

As an addiction counselor I've seen the number of folks with pain pill problems increase over the years.

"Prescription drugs account for about three-quarters of all drug overdose deaths in the United States, with the number of deaths from narcotic painkillers, or opioids quadrupling since 1999, according to federal data." (Modesto Bee 10-25-13)

We know painkillers can be appropriately prescribed and used, but we also know there's a lot of street selling or these same drugs. I would say most of the clients I've worked with that are taking painkillers aren't getting them through their doctors. They get some pills at a party, then they raid their parents pain prescription bottle, then they start buying them off friends or the street or ordering online if they have the money. 

Here are a few assessment questions and suggestions for slowing down or stopping.

1) Be honest with yourself first about how much you're taking a day and for how long. 

2) Talk to a friend, family member about what's going on - how much you're using and for how long. If you're not willing to do this, you're probably not ready to get help.

3) If you don't have a SAFE family member or friend to talk to, find an addiction counselor, or go to 12 Step meetings like Narcotics Anonymous. You can find them listed online. 

4) Before you go stop using here are some SAFETY guidelines:  Talk to your doctor about your usage and that you want to stop or wean yourself.  Going cold turkey is dangerous - I don't recommend it.  iI you've been using for a number of months and want to wean yourself do so with your doctors help, or talk to your counselor.

5) 12 Step Meeting Suggestions:  Go to 6 meetings before you decide if you like them or not. You don't have to speak if you don't want to. Just say I pass. Pay attention to the positive things said in the meeting. Focus on getting 1 thing out of the meeting that is helpful for you. If you keep attending and following the program you will make new friends and you will start to feel different.

6) If 12 Step meeting aren't working for you then check out Out-patient treatment, In-patient depending on the length of time and dosage you've been taking or Long Term Sober Living Environements. These are community based, inexpensive treatment options to help people develop a schedule, have daily support and education about their illness.

7) Opioids affect the feel good chemicals in the brain so once you've stopped using it takes time for the brain to heal - 4-12 months. I know. During this time exercise helps you feel better. Eating well is helpful. Not eating to many sweets will help. You can also try Amino Acid therapy as recommended by another addiction expert Julia Ross in her book Mood Cure.  Amino acid therapy helps you feel better.

8)  Stress and anxiety increase in early recovery so check out my FREE 7 1/2 Tips to Reduce Stress & Anxiety - they're easy and short audio tips that come every couple days and help you practice stress reduction.

Email me with questions - lynntelfordsahl@gmail.com

Food Addiction: Create a Pause Button For Sugar Cravings

Sugar lights up the pleasure centers in the brain like the 4th of July.  It seems we humans can become addicted to anything that makes us feel good. And, sugar feels GOOD. "Princeton Univeristy and University of Florida researchers have found that sugar-binging rats show signs of opiatelike withdrawal when their sugar is taken away-including chattering teeth, tremoring forepaws and the shakes." Yikes, sugar sounds like a drug to me!! (NY Times Well 9-23-12)

In 1994 I started groups for women with "food addiction" issues. My goal for the groups was to interrupt the addictive cycle of feeling stressed or upset and then going for food to submerge the feelings rather than consciously feel them. The method introduced was to become aware of the yo-yo cycle of dieting and to develop skills to deal with cravings in new, healthier ways.

We practiced breathing exercises to effectively cope with stress and develop an ability to be more centered. The beginnings of what eventually became the Pause Button formed when women talked about the uncontrollable cravings they would have with their food of choice - cookies, ice cream, salty and crunchy foods.  Awareness is the first step of change and this was new information back then. Notice we don't become addicted to healthy foods like lettuce or carrots.  (Free Mp3download of Intentional JOY's Pause Button Available).

Food Addiction treatment has come a long ways since 1994 and yet obesity is on the rise. The world is more stressful, not less. We have more coming at us, more processed foods available than ever. The pace of life, the rushing to get from here to there makes it really important to stay aware with your feelings, to take 10 BREATHS and to Pause before deciding what you're going to eat.  Dr. Pamela Peeke, author of "The Hunger Fix," (& Fight Fat After 40 - excellent) says what I did so long ago - "...that meditation and exercise can help engage the brain to overcome food addiction..."  And, to replace or find food alternatives that give pleasure but don't set off the fired up craving response - for example: a fruit smoothie instead of ice cream.  ((NY Times Well 9-23-12)

Addictive America Pt. 2: The "Lite" Addictions

Are all Americans addicted? Of course not. However, there are many that are "addictive."  Meaning they have what I call "Lite" addictions.  These normal Americans do a little shopping when stressed, work compulsively when anxious, or drink a couple glasses of wine a night to relax. In my book Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom I explain and explore why we are so addictive and give strategies for coping with stress. One example is the TARA process below.

Addiction can be thought of on a continuum. Imagine a line across the page and at one of the line are those that have no addictive behaviors and at the other end are those whose lives are unmanageable or out of control. Most people that have addictive issues, sit somewhere between those two end spots. 

Stress or anxiety escapes such as a glass of wine (or 3 or 4) or a hit of pot, or shopping, or food, temporarily distract us from life problems, but don’t solve anything, and don’t deal with the underlying feelings. If you find yourself relating, take a breath, and try to be nonjudgmental. There are ways to to cope with stress, upset and life in feel better ways.

 What’s The Solution?

There are three strategies I’ve been teaching for 20 years that help to quickly and easily reduce the stress and anxiety that are under most addictions. I’ll talk about others in future blogs, but let’s look at Touch, Accept, Release, Action today.

Touch, Accept, Release, Action – Imagine you’ve just been fired. You’re stressed, angry, hurt, sad, afraid – lots of emotions boiling away. You have this irrational desire to go shopping. But that's crazy - you can't afford to. What do you do with all those feelings instead? A healthy way of “processing” (therapist term) is to stay present or with the feelings and really FEEL them. You know how your 3 year old will bug you until you give her attention? Well, our emotions are a bit like that. When you pay attention and go into them, rather than resist or avoid, the intensity often lets go and you feel better. This doesn’t change the situation, but does soften the upset. Once you feel more relaxed, the brain can come up with creative solutions and there’s less craving for the temporary relief of shopping. 

The TARA strategy I developed allows you to identify what feelings are underneath the upset in a quick, easy format. New brain neuroscience research shows that just naming emotions is often enough to feel better, but we have to know how.

For FREE PDF of TARA contact Lynn at lynntelfordsahl@gmail.com For a quote from Lynn in NY Daily News article about compulsive shopping:  http://tinyurl.com/c3sfzv6