AA

Make a Habit, Break a Habit: Here's How:

Make a habit, break a habit. Are addictions treatable habits? Yes, but it's just a little more complicated than that. If you're wondering if you have a drinking problem, do you remember when you first started drinking, what it was you were really going for? Some of my clients report everyone else was doing it - these are usually teens.  For many the drinking provides temporary relief from stress or anxiety, a way to shed the days worries. Or, just to relax and have fun socially. Over time, a habit forms and gets bigger because it creates a craving which can become an obsession.  The habit of self-treating anxiety or stress with a few glasses of wine or a 6 pack of beer. That's when people start to feel really out of control of the addictive habit.

Is it possible to shift drinking behaviors and other addictive habits by developing new routines which become new habits?  Of course. AA members know the truth of this. Sceptical new members attend meetings where they see that seasoned members are staying sober because they've developed the "habit" of attending meetings rather than drinking.  Group support becomes part of the new habit.

What's the process to change a habit?  Let's say you have a slight drinking issue you'd like to adjust. You come home and drink a glass of wine each night with a meal and you're not happy about the weight gain. How do you begin? First of all identify the "cue" or what's driving the craving. For this wine drinking woman, the cue is stress relief. She comes home stressed, tired and a glass of wine relaxes her. The "routine" is getting the bottle out and pouring a glass of wine. The reward is the "relief" as the stress and anxiety melts away as she drinks her wine with her meal.

To change this habit she needs to look at other more positive ways to relieve stress and anxiety. New behaviors which turn into routines could be stopping at the gym and working out for an hour between work and home. Here the cue is the still the stress, but the routine is different and leads to the reward of relaxation AND weight loss. Practicing this change over 90 days will cement in the new habit. The reward of stress reduction with exercise and weight loss helps to keep the new habit in place.  (For more:  read The Power of Habit by Charles Duhigg)

 

The Pain and Shame of Addiction: How to Move Through Loss

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.  

 

Americans Addicted to Legal & Illegal Drugs - Oxycontin Anyone?

Americans are addicted to legal and illegal drugs and by drugs I mean pharmaceutical drugs. Pharmaceutical companies are the most profitable industry in the world. Marcia Angell, M.D. first woman editor-in-chief of the New England Journal of Medicine reports that in 2002 the $35.9 billion the top drug companies earned were greater than the profits of the other 490 Fortune 500 companies combined.

In my city of Modesto, California, (and two other small cities) there are 31 Walgreens, CVS and Rite-Aid pharmacies.  This doesn’t count all the pharmacies within grocery stores, Target or Walmart. Many of these have been build in the last few years.

In 1997 the FDA reversed it’s policy on direct-to-consumer advertising. At that time, 220 million a year was spent by pharmaceutical companies on advertising. In 2002, the amount was 2.8 billion. Big pharma spends twice as much on advertising as research and development and it’s working.

Perhaps we’re buying so many more prescription drugs because we’re being brainwashed to believe we need what they’re selling. “Tv advertising, works by mobilizing the appeal of group morale. "By showing you pictures of beautiful, happy people, they persuade you that everyone else in the world is having a terrific time, only you are left out. Want to stop being a lonely loser? Join them -- just tune into this, or buy that,” says Bill Manville, ex advertising copywriter for Grey Advertising and now NY Daily News columnist.

Pharmaceutical ads subtly increase fear and worry about medical conditions. For example, statins were first prescribed only to those with heart problems. Now, they’re routinely prescribed for anyone with high cholesterol.

As an addiction specialist of 25 years I understand and support the benefits of medications for the right reasons. I’ve seen suicidal clients survive because of the anti-depressant they were taking. I’ve also seen clients so over-medicated they were zombies. Somewhere there’s a healthy meeting place between personal responsibility, the medicine now available and all the seductive advertising. The good news is that many of us are looking for ways to combine traditional with non-traditional medicine. The National Center for Complimentary & Alternative Medicine states that consumers spend 33.9 billion out of pocket on complimentary and alternative therapies.

As consumers we need to ask questions when we see new research come out. To change the control big corporations have on advertising, and us, it will take thinking outside the box. As Einstein said, “You cannot solve a problem from the same consciousness that created it. You must learn to see the world anew.”  

If you're struggling with an addiction or dependence to oxycontin, vicidin or other drugs of this type, there is help available.  Check out AA or NA groups. Try 6 before you decide you don't "like" them - do you "like" being addicted?  And, look for 1 thing each meeting that you can take and use for yourself. The tendency for the mind is to throw the baby out with the bathwater, but a focus on 1 positive thing you can take for yourself is good.  Also, see a physician, or a treatment program in your area, and get help for the withdrawal process. It's not recommended to stop taking the medications cold turkey. Others have quit and created a good life for themselves. You can too!