addiction counseling

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.

Guest Blog - Belle Robertson*

Guest Blog - Belle Robertson*

Guest Blog - Belle Robertson
The sewer, the manhole cover, and the forecast is sunny

Quitting drinking is like getting out from underneath a manhole cover. It’s a big, weighty thing that threatens to slam back down on us if we aren’t careful....

The Opposite of Addiction is Not Sobriety: It’s Connection

The Opposite of Addiction is Not Sobriety: It’s Connection
My friend Marianne Peck, MFT says “people are dumber than rats.” Well, in some circumstances, perhaps. She’s talking about the addictive choices people make. See what you think after reading this article by Johann Hari. Put a rat it in a cage and give it two water bottles. One is just water, and one is water laced with either heroin or cocaine. If you do that, the rat will almost always prefer the drugged water and almost always kill itself very quickly, right, within a couple of weeks. So there you go. It’s our theory of addiction.

Should We Legalize Marijuana? No. Why Pot is NOT a Nothing Drug

Should We Legalize Marijuana? No. Why Pot is NOT a Nothing Drug
Should we legalize marijuana? I say no. Decriminalize, yes. I should be upfront and say I have a skewed bias because I have been working as an addiction counselor since 1985. I know, pot affects people differently so if your experience is that it enhances reality, fine. At the age of 20 I smoked daily for a year and it was the most unproductive, wasted, sleepy year of my life. I was able to take care of my son, clean the house and nap a lot. I remember the realization that sluggishness was not how I wanted to live each day, quit and felt mentally clear. But it took awhile!...

Does Smoking Pot Effect Your IQ?

Does Smoking Pot Effect Your IQ?

Does smoking pot affect your IQ? Yes, if you start smoking under the age of 18. A study from New Zealand's University of Otago of 1,000 people IQ tested and followed from 18 to 34 showed that people who smoked and became dependent by 18 had an average drop of 8 points.  Unfortunately, quitting didn't remove the problem researchers reported.  (Modesto Bee, Tue. 28, 2012)  

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. 

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?

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.  

 

Losing My Sister to Addiction

Losing my sister Lane to addiction - there isn't a tougher subject I could write about. Both as a sister and as an addiction counselor  for nearly 30 years. Addiction is a a killer. It's a disease that touches nearly every family so I write this for myself, but also for those of you that know what it's like to be in the trenches - no matter which side of the ditch you're on.

Usually I write from a safer professional distance about helpful addiction tools and topics but today I write from a deeper personal place. My sister died from alcoholism May 17th 2013 at the age of 56. If you have experienced the loss of a loved one or fear losing a family member, you'll understand from the inside out what I'm talking about when I say there was a mixture of emotions when we got the call that she was gone. I felt relieved, anguished, sick, sad, angry, resentful - because once again there was a mess she was leaving someone else - often me - to deal with from her illness and the choices or lack thereof. 

Lane was artistic, bright, bold and so beautiful. One time she placed a personals ad saying she was "drop dead gorgeous" a phrase I wouldn't have had the brashness to say about myself even if it was true - believing that it's better to under promise and over deliver. But that was Lane.

When I was 4 our parents brought her home from the hospital and placed her in my arms.  It was an incredible moment to look into her face and be filled with wonder about having a sister and what that would mean. By the time she was 2 and had moved into my room the glow had begun to fade. Though we had our moments of joy and closeness, there was a wall of depression and angst that followed Lane throughout her childhood and right into adulthood. Her gifts were many but she had trouble connecting with others and with herself. No doubt her troubles came partly because of parental addiction and due to divorce and being shipped around to relatives.

By her thirties Lane was struggling with alcohol and then began her attempts at sobriety - 3 treatment programs, but not much AA or therapy to bind the learning. Diagnosed as bi-polar disorder she eventually went on disability and lived a financially marginal life. But for many years she was fulfilled by the simplicity of her life and the challenge of her art. I knew her art would be her legacy. As I've shared about her passing, I've heard story after story about others losses - a daughter to heroin at 30, a brother at 41, a sister at 38. 

I'll end on this note - I don't believe the addiction profession has done a good enough job with treatment.  It's complicated and I have more to say about that subject. Also, society has been too slow to release the judgment that addiction is a moral problem rather than a true disease. To Lane and all those that have died too soon, and struggled too long and to us who are on the journey with them - Blessings.....and may the light that shines brightly in our loved ones, find peace.  (Free Mp3 20 minute overview Intentional JOY & Stress Busting Guided Imagery for Peace http://www.addictionmodesto.com/

 

 

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)

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