addiction counselor

Healing the Heart for Connection & Happiness

Healing the Heart for Connection & Happiness

There’s a story I share with my clients that comes from Robert Bly, an author and poet who wrote a book called “A Little Book About the Human Shadow”.  He says we’re all born as beautiful, loving golden globes of light and energy. As we grow up in our families, go to school and develop friends, we feel loved or not, to varying degrees. In response, we often give up parts of ourselves to please our parents, our teachers, churches, friends, etc.

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)  

Make a Spending Habit, Break a Spending Habit!

Feel like a hamster on a never-ending-habit treadmill?  Losing weight and keeping it off has always been tough. But bad spending habits can be just as challenging and destructive. Now there are Apps like Urge or Make a Habit, Break a Habit to make it easier to stay on track.

What kind of bad money habits do you have?  Are you an unconscious spender? Do you go to the mall and two hours later have bags of purchases and you can’t really remember what exactly you paid for them?  Are you an unconscious spender or secret shopper? And, I don’t mean the kind that’s hired by Safeway to check up on their customer service. I mean, do you sneak your purchases home when your husband is busy and hide them so you don’t feel guilty, or get grilled? Do you struggle to maintain a budget or is budget a behavior you resist with all your might?

Changing our habits is not easy, but with practice certainly achievable. We need repetition to build awareness. Like poor spending habits or money management, food, weight and exercise habits have been particularly tough to change long term.  Behavorial Modification programs are getting positive attention again and are based on making small incremental changes that build progress over time. You may be surprised to know that Weight Watchers is basically a behavorial modification program and it’s one of the most effective.

For those of you that have a money problem, try Urge which “prompts users to hold off on impulse purchases to hit budgeting goals.”

As an addiction counselor for over 20 years I love the new Apps. Check out NY Daily News Addictions & Answers for Lynn's tips on Compulsive Shopping. They make paying attention and taking a pause from cravings and impulses so much easier than will power alone and they work because they improve on the principles of good ol’ 12 Step Programs – support, feedback, slow steady changes and the good feelings that come with healthy change.  (The Perfected Self by David H Freedman, The Atlantic June 2012)

 

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

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?

Cory Monteith - Just Another Sad Addiction Statistic?

My cousin Kim was up in July for my sister Lane's memorial. My smart, sweet, difficult sister who died at 56 from alcoholism. Kim and I were lamenting about Lane's death and Cory Monteith's. Sad, very sad. Cory's death touched a national chord and Lane's our personal one because we have a family riddled with addiction. I’ve also worked as an addiction counselor with clients struggling with alcohol and drug recovery for 25 years.

Tragedy strikes every day with thousands of other alcohol or drug related deaths a year. The National Council on Alcohol & Drug Addiction states 2.5 million a year die from alcohol. Three hundred and twenty thousand young people age 15-29 die each year worldwide.

Addiction is not just a deadly disease but an expensive one. It costs Americans more than $500 billion a year in lost earnings, accidents and crime. The state and federal governments spending $15 billion a year.* That's not including all the emotional devastation to families and friends.

The long-term sobriety failure rate is estimated at 70% according to Dr. Harold Urschel, author of Healing the Addicted Brain. I am very sad to say that statistic hasn’t budged much since 1985 when I was training as an addiction intern.

What has this addiction counselor learned in the last 25 years? That the old model of in-patient and out-patient treatment, for those that can afford it or who have insurance that will cover it, is a very small part of the solution. What happens after a 30 day stay is essential to long term recovery.

The standard treatment recommendations are basically: In-patient or out-patient program for 30 days, after release attend 90 AA or NA meetings in 90 days, get an AA/NA sponsor, don’t drink or use, keep stress to a minimum, get therapy if you can, work the 12 steps with a sponsor and consider that relapse is part of recovery. My sister went through 3 treatment programs and was sober 5 years at one point.

The new standard of care needs to include longer stays at inpatient facilities or sober recovery homes depending on the length of the addiction, the substances used and family support. I recently had a long term heroin addict come to see me. I recommended a long-term (90 days – 6 months) sober living program because he’d already been through a 30-day treatment program. I also recommended he be on one of the anti-addiction medications such as Suboxone or Subutex to help prevent cravings and begin to repair the brain. If this young man follows these and the basic recommendations of his program he has a much better chance of staying sober.  

We collectively need to do a better job treating alcohol and drug addiction. We took smoking addiction from 50% of the male population in the 50s to only 20% today. We did that with early childhood prevention and education, Public Service Announcements, warning labels, and smoking cessation programs funded by the Federal Government and physicans talking to their patients. We can do better with addiction treatment and we must!

(*Source: article: Healing the Addicted Brain from Advances in Addiction & Recovery – Official Publication of NAADAC- Summer 2013 Vol 1, No 2, Intentional JOY: How to Turn Stress, Fear & Addiction into Freedom

Dr. Drew Pinsky: Not Responsible for "Celebrity" Deaths?

Is Dr. Drew Pinsky is responsible for the celebrity death of Mindy McCready, a 37-year-old country singer who appeared on his "Celebrity Rehab" television show?* No, not fully, but certainly he is partiaily responsible. Like Dr. Phil who has clients on TV for entertainment value, so does Dr. Drew. Dr. Pinsky says he hasn't seen Ms. McCready in years so he's not responsible. I get it. Am I responsible for a client of mine who leaves counseling and later starts using again? I'm not legally responsible, but in my heart it feels different. That heart-ache is part caring, part over-responsibility and part helplessness about the nature of addiction, treatment and recovery. I imagine Dr. Drew has similar feelings.

What's the real problem Dr. Drew is faced with? A national television show means it's in the spotlight.The spotlight shines very brightly on the good and the bad and the ugly.That's what makes these types of reality shows popular. People love the drama and the trauma. But while dating shows can cause hurt and pain, addiction is a volatile, dangerous subject, a risky subject to address on national television. People die from the disease of addiction every day. (approximately 40,000 from alcohol in 2010 alone). That's not Dr. Drew's fault, it's the collective responsibility of the medical and therapeutic community that our treatment approaches haven't changed much over the last 30 years. 

So what's a celebrity Reality Show Star like Dr. Drew to do? Keep talking about addiction. Keep talking about the reality of what it takes for people to get and stay sober. Continue talking about the fact alcoholism and addiction are diseases that need to be treated, not judged as a morality issue. Keep talking about the abysmal recovery rates and the lack of prevention, early education and lack of money for treatment options for poor and middle-class folks with no insurance. Talk about the effective medications now available like Vivitrol, a once a month injection that cuts the high of alcohol (like antabuse) and reduces cravings. Use the platform and use it to help educate and move us toward better treatment. Using the limelight to educate as well as entertain is Dr. Drew's responsibility.

 

 

*NY Times article "Where Rehab TV Meets Reality" June 9, 2013

 

 

 

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/