Joy training for the addictive brain? Yes, it’s possible I’m happy to say. I was at my brother Lee’s 12 Step N.A. meeting when he got his 1 year chip. Yeah Lee!! There were 100 people in the room celebrating each other for their hard work to stay sober from 1 year to 28 years. It was amazing to see and feel the hope, love and JOY in the room.
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.
Holiday stress, anxiety and depression are relapse triggers for the newly sober and just plain stressful for recovering folks depending on the health and sanity of your family.
While the Holidays can be a fun, family time, for many, they are also a sad, depressing, no family time. See picture - is this your family? Perhaps - but remember we can all pose for a picture...
Family celebrations can also be stressful if you're newly sober and there's alcohol around. Or, stressful and anxiety provoking because of family "stuff" - you know - Susie always comes late to dinner and Mom makes excuses for her. Sam's kids get the best presents - obviously mom and dad like them better. Our head tapes can get very active during the Holidays.
Here are some suggestions to keep you sane and healthy during the Holidays:
1) Think about what kind of Christmas Holiday you'd like to have. Then make decisions about whether you'll be staying home in your cozy little place or venturing out to parents or other family. Really, you have a right to choose where you want to be for the holiday, and yes, sometimes that creates a wave of upset with family. However, in my experience, they are able to move past it with time.
2) If you're going into a Holiday celebration that's stressful or anxiety producing, consider setting a time limit and letting folks know ahead of time. "I'm looking forward to being with you all and we'll need to leave by 7 p.m. - or whatever). This allows you to feel you have some control and and will cut down on anxiety.
3) For Family Gatherings:
If you're at a family gathering or office party and you're feeling uncomfortable or anxious ask yourself what's up - what's pushing your buttons - take a breath (you don't have to solve it, just become aware) and then decide if you want to stay or not. If not, find the host, thank them for the party and gently excuse yourself. You don't have to give a reason. "Thank you so much for the party. I'm going to need to get going." (If you need to make up an excuse to politely leave - just say I have to get home to take care of my pet, grandmother, ...)
4) Attend more 12 Step Meetings during the Holidays if you have been going. 12 Step is still the MOST effective treatment approach for addiction because the commaraderie replaces the isolation, the meetings give you a safe place to go instead of drinking or using, and as you build friendships and connections you build trust - in the group and in yourself to stay sober.
5) If you haven't tried 12 Step meetings. Do. See #4 above.
6) For anxiety - breathe - really - take 10 breaths - here's a FREE MP3 that shows you how. Also see Lucinda Bassett's work http://tinyurl.com/nmsudo8 Midwest Center for Anxiety & Depression
7) For depression the path out is with medication for some - talk to your doctor - and by looking at the quality of your thoughts. Part of the illness around addiction are the negative thoughts that generate depression. Resources: Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom and Happy for No Reason Marci Shimoff.
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 - firstname.lastname@example.org
As I talk to people in the business community, at my networking groups and certainly among my clients about my sister Lane's passing I hear story after story of loss: "My brother died at 41 from heroin, my sister at 38, my daughter at 30 from an overdose." The truth is addiction kills the body and the soul of those struggling with it. One woman said to me she doesn't talk about her sister's death because everyone judges addiction so much.
It's true families often feel embarassed, ashamed and want to hide the fact their loved one is ill. Out of a lack of education or ignorance we family members often blame the addict and and let me be clear, I'm not saying addicts are not responsible for their actions - they are. This is where a good Alanon program or philosophy can help a family separate the blame/shame they feel from the love while detaching from the problem - the addiction.
I don't feel ashamed of my sister's illness - not that I liked the way she behaved at times. I feel ashamed of the medical and therapeutic community because the collective WE have not done a better job of treating this illness. The recovery and relapse rates for addiction are abysmal - I'll follow up with stats - but let's just say the recovery rates are in the very low percentages.
Here's what I've seen in my own family: my mother recovered from alcoholism and was sober the last 15 years of her life - yeah mom - but she died from cancer caused by smoking. My aunt has been sober 30 years and quit smoking and is thriving at 79. My son has been sober for 20+ years, my cousin has relapsed and is using Oxycontin (very very bad drug) that is overprescribed for pain relief, my daughter is just coming out of treatment and if she does what she needs to she'll be fine - and now Lane, my sweet sis has died from alcoholism.
Moving Through Loss: Breathe, journal, stay present to your feelings - it's ok - you'll get through this - talk to friends who will listen, not judge, check out Alanon, Co-DA groups, ACA groups or AA. Blocking feelings leads to stress and more anxiety. If necessary get professional help from a substance abuse or addiction counselor in your community.
Stay tuned: Next blog about medications that support sobriety, calm cravings, and can actually help repair the brain.