Stress

Joy Training for the Addictive Brain!

Joy Training for the Addictive Brain!

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.

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)

 

5 Easy Steps to Train the Addictive Brain For JOY

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.

Addicts and those of us in the addiction field know that negativity, stress and fear are part of addiction and that recovery includes good coping skills.

Rick Hanson, author of Hardwiring Happiness says that the brain’s thinking naturally skews to the negative. “The brain is velcro for the negative and Teflon for the positive.”

The brain has a “negativity bias” and that’s good for survival.  Those happy, joyful, la la people apparently didn’t make it because they didn’t see and respond to the dangers of life.

BUT, this negativity bias makes it harder to find JOY in our adult lives. Not kids – kids ARE happy for the most part. It’s sad to say, but we grown ups have to WORK at JOY.

Twenty-five years ago I went on a quest for JOY when I recognized my own tendency to react to stress, be run by anxiety and negativity. That led me to The Course In Miracles. Another time.

The other truism is that “what fires together, wires together.” To counter the natural negativity of the brain and CREATE more JOY it takes practice, practice, practice.

Here’s a simple practice that if you’ll do over the next 30 days will lower stress and anxiety and increase happiness. (*Abbreviated from Hardwiring Happiness by Rick Hanson)

Take In The Good

1)   Notice what you’re thinking or feeling without changing anything. Notice your body. Breathe and begin to relax.

2)   Think about a strength you have or recognize protections such as a friend nearby. Notice that you’re all right, right now.

3)   Bring to mind one or more things you’re grateful for or glad about. Think about something that makes you happy.

4)   Think about one or more people (or a pet) who care about you. Feel appreciated, liked or loved. Be aware of your own warmth and caring for others.

5)   Let this sense of peace or contentment weave together and rest. Imagine moving through your day with this sense.

Practice for 30 days a 3 or 4 times a day for 20-30 seconds at a time.  Brain research shows that this type of practice counters the negativity bias of the brain and increases feelings of contentment, peace – even JOY.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER OR ON YOUR WEB SITE?

You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Lynn Telford-Sahl, M.A. Psychology, Certified Addiction Counselor, National Speaker & Author of Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom, writes the blog for addictionmodesto.com from her 25 years experience and research in the addiction field. 

PTSD & Relapse Prevention – Emotional Freedom Technique Will Help!

Relapsing is really hard and not any fun. Going to 12 step meetings, having a sponsor, all those things help but sometimes you need more.  Emotional Freedom Technique is a weird little technique millions have used to help themselves feel better fast. You really can tap yourself to what feels like freedom because you have a way to reduce cravings, stress or anxiety - all releapse triggers.

Traumatic Stress and addiction go hand in hand. Pain seeks relief and relief can come in many forms; alcohol, pot, vicidin, sex. You name it, people have used it to distract themselves from pain. Post traumatic Stress Disorder was first named after Vietnam veterans came home traumatized from war.

Here’s how Emotional Freedom Technique might help you:  If you struggle with staying sober, if you keep relapsing after a regular amounts of time – 90 days, or a year or if you have particular triggers, say, fights with a spouse that give you a good excuse to get drunk,  overreacting to anger or pain, or stress or anxiety that fuel cravings then seriously consider learning  Emotional Freedom Technique.

Emotional Freedom Technique is easy to learn and super effective to release anxiety, stress or upset and it's faster than traditional therapy. As an addiction counselor I’ve used EFT for 15 years with my clients on everything from childhood trauma to car accidents, to snake phobias, to driving phobias to simple anxiety or migraine headaches. One client reduced migraines from over 20 a month to less than 5. EFT was developed by Gary Craig, an engineer. He simplified an older process called Thought Field Therapy.

As an addiction counselor I LOVE that once learned I can send clients out the door with the instructions on how to use EFT in hand and they can go home and practice on real life situations that push their buttons. What that means is say you’re about to pick up the kids from your ex and you’re feeling anxious – you can spend a few minutes tapping to relieve anxiety. Or, let’s come back to relapse – you’re having a craving so you spend 5 minutes tapping and bring the craving down from a 9 or 10 to a 3 or 4.  Having an easy to use tool makes relapse is less likely - of course, you have to use it.

For more on Emotional Freedom Technique check out Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Anxiety (there's a FREE Mp3 download bottom of page) and/or go to www.emofree.com or call me for a FREE 15 minute Consult to see if EFT is right for what's bothering you.

The Blessing of Addiction Relapse?

The Blessing of Relapse? Really. Yes, really. Let's say Joe has been using alcohol and pot since he was 13. At 29 he's tired of being exhausted, broke, fighting with his girlfriend, having his parents upset with him. He's done. Joe starts attending AA/NA 12 step meetings. But, he doesn't do the 90 meetings in 90 days as suggested. He doesn't get a sponsor. H's doing ok. Four long sober months go by and the stresses of every day life are getting to him. He may be romancing the feeling that a beer or a toke will give him. His cravings come up especially when he's struggling to pay the bills or his girlfriend is on his case about there not being enough money. Joe's thinking about using to solve his problems becomes a daily thing. He's still going to meetings, but he's not talking about what he's thinking or feeling. You know what happens.... Joe stops by his friend Don's on the way home from work - like hs used to. He gets high. He's off and running for the weekend. He's relapsed.

What are the steps that brought Joe to relapse? According to Terence Gorski and Merlene Miller, Relapse Specialists,  there are warning signs that show up before the first drink or use.  

Here are 5:

1) You aren't attending meetings or meeting with your sponsor as much as you were before - you're slacking off.

2) Stress level is building: This could be from a major change - job, family financial or the daily build up of problems, mood swings or bigger emotional ups and downs.

3) Denial:  You might start thinking "I didn't have that big of a problem." "It wasn't so bad." 

4) Behavior Change:  Your healthy, sober daily routine slips back to old behavior - not getting up on time, not staying honest with yourself, overworking again or not thinking things through.

5) Social:  You make excuses not to socialize, stop hanging around sober friends or withdraw from family.

Following these 5 steps you have set up the perfect scenarios for drinking or using again.

I love this quote by Terence Gorski: "Abstinence from alcohol and other drugs is only the beginning of sobriety. It's the ticket to get into the theatre, not the movie we are going to see."   

Relapse Prevention Recipe: (Gorski)

1) Write up list of personal warning signs. For example Joe's could include: Less attendance at meetings,  stress building up or conflict with girlfriend.

2) Warning sign management - what to do with stress:  Write, journal, talk to sponsor or other 12 step friends, exercise, get enough sleep.

3) Stay away from risky enviroments - bars, old using friends. Don't let others pressure you to drink/use. Hang out with new sober friends.

4) Pay attention to how you feel - angry, sad, afraid, guilty - write or acknowledge and breathe. Talk about at meetings.

5) Work to change negative thinking - catch the negative thoughts early - Use image of a BIG RED STOP SIGN or Cancel Cancel words and replace with opposite or more positive words.

The blessing of relapse is when the experience and process leads back to more stable recovery. Recovery as every one says is a process. What's one change you'll make today to prevent relapse?

Holistic Help for Anxiety & Depression in Recovery: Try Amino Acids

 

Struggling with Anxiety or Depression in recovery?  Try Amino Acids. No surprise many addicted folks are anxious, depressed or stressed and self-medicating with their drug or food of choice. Many years ago I discovered I suffered from anxiety while giving a client an anxiety assessment. (Physician heal thyself!) As I scored the clients responses, I mentally checked off and scored my own. Momentarily shocked, I realized the pit in my stomach that was so normal was anxiety based. (*For quiz & treatment see book: From Panic to Power by Lucinda Bassett)

 

I wanted natural, rather than pharmaceutical treatment for myself and clients and discovered the power of amino acid supplementation for mild to moderate anxiety and depression. Amino acids are naturally occurring substances in the body that we (especially anyone with an addiction) can become deficient in. I love them because, unlike many prescription drugs, they do not have side effects other than a mild headache if the dosage is too high. If that occurs, drink lots of water and take Vitamin C to flush it quickly out of system. Amino acids are best taken on a empty stomach. They are available at health food stores. If you’re a health care practitioner you may purchase them wholesale through Infinity Health (800) 733-9293.


Here are my top 3 suggestions:

GABA: For anxiety or stress:  (*See Julia Ross’s Mood Cure or Diet Cure books)
Recommended dosage one 500 mg. capsule on empty stomach. (Can take 1- 3 capsules depending on severity of mood 2 or 3X a day or at night if having trouble getting to, or staying asleep.)

5 HTP : For  mild to moderate anxiety or depression. Helps sleep and can lessen addictive cravings. Improves serotonin functioning in brain. (Important: Do not take if currently using an anti-depressant.)

Recommended Dosage: One-three 50 mg. capsules on empty stomach during afternoon or at bedtime. (Try 1 capsule first) (See Julia Ross’s Mood Cure or Diet Cure books)

P.S. Very helpful for the 3:00 - 5:00 p.m. low-energy dip or if you have afternoon sugar or carb cravings. Serotonin levels are lowest in the late afternoon which is why cravings get more intense then.

WANT TO USE THIS ARTICLE IN YOUR NEWSLETTER OR ON YOUR WEB SITE?

You can, as long as you include this complete blurb with it:

Lynn Telford-Sahl, M.A. Psychology, Certified Addiction Counselor, author of Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom.   


aminoacidsL-Theanine: Amino acid found in green tea.

Supports mental calmness, focus and relaxation. Dr. John Gray suggests 200-400 mg 2-3X a day, as needed. He says taken at bedtime it melts away stress.

RESOURCES

Dr. Gray: Just released Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice)

Julia Ross: The Mood Cure or The Diet Cure

(* Disclaimer: I am not a doctor and am not prescribing any supplementation. Please take responsibility and be an informed consumer. Do your own research – see resources above)

relaxed_kitten

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!