Drunk Driving Decreases as Drug Driving on the Rise

March 17, 2016 by  
Filed under General Topics, Laws and Legalization

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While substance abuse is directly detrimental to the specific user’s health and overall well-being, the issue becomes a societal hazard when getting behind the wheel of a vehicle.

According to the CDC, an average of 30 American’s die every day from alcohol related crashes. In 2010, 1.4 million drivers were arrested for being under the influence, which is roughly 1 percent of the 112 million American’s who self-reported that they had had an episode of impaired driving.

With statistical totals of this magnitude, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has a vested interest in following the national trends of impaired driving. A recent study entitled, “2014 Roadside Survey of Alcohol and Drug Use by Drivers,” found that drivers with alcohol in their systems had decreased by more than one-third since 2007, but drivers with drugs or other inhibiting chemicals in their systems had increased to a 1 to 4 ratio.

Naturally, it is extremely difficult to classify or even narrow down the wide array of ‘inhibiting chemicals’ that drivers are testing positive for. Drunk driving has rather simple symptoms that have been clearly defined. Driving under the influence of marijuana, methamphetamines, opiates, pharmaceuticals, hallucinogens or stimulants creates an impossible classification process.

Since marijuana usage is arguably the most popular and widely used substance, the NHTSA has focused recent research on correlating whether or not there is a bridge between smoking marijuana and car crashes. The study found that pot users were 25 percent more likely to be involved in a car accident than a sober driver, but upon further investigation the statistics were found to be somewhat misleading.

When researchers factored in age and gender to their statistical analysis they found that young men were the most likely group to be involved in car crashes, but also the most likely to under the influence of marijuana. The objective was to see if there was a link between marijuana and car crashes, but the demographics make it all but impossible to tell if age or substance is the major factor in the crash.

“Once we controlled for those demographic factors, we did not find a significantly higher crash risk among marijuana users as compared to those who did not have marijuana in their system,” NHTSA spokesman Gordon Trowbridge said.

The issue grows even more complex when trying to classify different levels of chemically impaired driving. A Breathalyzer test will immediately determine the severity of a person’s alcohol intake, but it is far more difficult to conclude “how high” an individual is. There are a slew of factors that go into the issue depending on the substance and the amount ingested.

Overall what can be concluded is that the recent NHTSA studies show signs of progress when it comes to impaired driving. While there isn’t necessarily a preferable chemical to be ingesting behind the wheel of a vehicle, alcohol can be looked at as having the most potential for negative impact. Since the research clearly shows that drunk driving statistics are down from their previous totals, education as well as legislation seem to be having a positive effect.

With drunk driving on the decline the NHTSA will likely continue to research and lobby for an increased focus on driving while under the influence of other chemicals. In 2007 survey research showed that 16.3 percent drivers were under the influence of a substance, but in 2014 the total had jumped to 20 percent. Drivers with marijuana in their systems also increased from 9 percent in 2007 to 13 percent in 2014.

As stated earlier, driving under the influence of anything can be extremely dangerous seeing as how thousands of pounds of metal traveling at high rates of speed possess a physics nightmare for the driver and anyone else within eyeshot. While the NHTSA research looks to be promising there is still a great deal to be done to ensure the safety of all drivers at all times.


Chad Arias has a B.A. in journalism and is a contributor for the Latino Post and Opposing Views. In his free time, Arias writes poetry, short stories and is currently working on a novel detailing his experiences with substance abuse. He is most interested on the philosophical and psychological aspects of the subject.

You Are Who Your Friends Are: The Importance of Peer Influence

November 10, 2015 by  
Filed under General Topics

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Two of the basic psychological processes that occur as a result of participation in a group activity have been social facilitation and social loafing [1]. Social facilitation is the increase in individual’s performance or output as a result of working in a group. Often, social facilitation occurs when the members of the group are being monitored for their individual performance. They are easily recognized, or there may be a competition between the members of the group. Social loafing is the actual decrease of an individual performance or output as a result of being in a group. Social loafing is more likely to occur when the performance of individuals in the group is not monitored and the collective effort of all the group members is being measured. At that point, there is no competition between the members and the individual members in the group feel anonymous.

An example of social facilitation occurs among athletes who perform better in a group when competing against others than they do alone against the clock. An example of social loafing that most people can relate to occurs when certain members who work in a group project at school where the evaluation is based on the overall group performance do not put in very much effort into the final project and coast on the efforts of others.

Drinking and Social Facilitation

Groups affect the behavior of individuals in many other ways. For instance, many of us unconsciously attempt to conform to the norms or values of the types of groups that we identify with such that the clothes that we wear, many of the sayings that we use and even our attitudes are often shaped to conform to the behavior of the groups that we identify with. Conformity can be thought of another aspect of social facilitation.

A great deal of alcohol use and other substance use occurs in a social context, especially for younger people. One of the strongest predictors of substance use is peer substance use, especially among younger individuals. There has been a good deal of experimental studies in artificial conditions or survey research that have indicated that the mere presence of other people drinking alcohol affects the amount and the rate at which individuals consume alcohol [2]. A recent study attempted to test the notion in real world conditions that young people increase their drinking behavior if the group they were is drinking and in increases in size [3].

The researchers in this study followed about 200 young adult drinkers in Switzerland. The research participants answered questionnaires on their smart phone every hour while they were drinking. They reported that the number of friends present and the number of drinks they had consumed, and answered several other questions every Thursday, Friday and Saturday evening over the course of 5 weekends. This allowed the researchers to look at a number of variables including how drinking behavior was influenced by the number of friends drinking with them. The results indicated that as the number of friends present increased the number of drinks that the participants consumed also increased. The effect was stronger for men than women, but both men and women showed an increase in their drinking behavior as the number of friends they were with increased.

What Does This Mean?

In essence, the study applies theoretical constructs developed in laboratory conditions to the real world. It indicates that if you are out with a group of friends who are drinking alcohol or using some other substance the chances are that you will increase your usage without really thinking about it. As more people in your group drink, you are more likely to drink more. This is not an absolute; it certainly does not suggest that you absolutely will drink more in this situation or that anyone will increase their drinking in such a situation, but that it is more likely that a person in a group of people who are drinking alcohol (or using some other substance) will increase their usage without really paying attention to their behavior.

There are also implied aspects to this study that can be helpful for those in recovery. If someone is attempting to control their drinking behavior or substance usage, the study suggests that continuing to go out with groups of friends who continue to engage in these behaviors would increase the risk that the person will not reach their goals. Again, it is important to understand that there is no guarantee that going out with groups of friends who are using will absolutely result in the person using; however, doing so is a risky situation for individuals trying to moderate or abstain from using alcohol or drugs. Likewise, we would expect the opposite condition to hold some relevance even though not formally tested: if we are in a large group who are not drinking or using drugs, we would drink less or not at all. Thus, the 12-Step notion of avoiding people, places and things or situations associated with past abuse does get some support from this research. Going out with a mixed bag of folks–drinkers and nondrinkers–would actually increase your chances of not drinking.

Finally, knowledge is power. If you know that going out in a group of people that are going to drink is a risky situation but for some reason you still have to go you can designate a person to watch over you and to remind you either not the drink or if you are limiting your drinking count your drinks for you and remind you of when you need to stop. That one loyal friend in the group who understands you and has your best interests at heart can go a long way in helping you. Announcing to the group that you do not wish to drink and asking for their assistance can sometimes help, although not always, especially as certain members get more intoxicated. The bottom line here is to stay focused on your behavior and not on the behavior of others.

One Last Caveat

Some people will look at this type of research and conclude that it is a “no brainer” or that it is simply common sense that these findings would hold true, which is actually called a hindsight bias; However, it is important to remember that any notion, any idea, or any theory has significantly more validity and is better understood when it is confirmed empirically.

It is also common sense that “haste makes waste” and that “a stitch in time saves nine.” But how can both be true? They both are usually claimed to be true only after the facts or results are known and not beforehand. Under what conditions do these common sense sayings, which are total opposites, apply? How can you use them to predict your own behavior in an upcoming situation so that you act accordingly in all situations? You would have to research them and understand their dynamics in order to find out when they are relevant and when they are not. Likewise, we should use research findings in addition to help us guide our recovery.

References

[1] Witte, E. H., & Davis, J. H. (Eds.). (2013).Understanding Group Behavior: Volume 1: Consensual Action By Small Groups; Volume 2: Small Group Processes and Interpersonal Relations. Psychology Press.

[2] Halim, A., Hasking, P., & Allen, F. (2012). The role of social drinking motives in the relationship between social norms and alcohol consumption.Addictive behaviors,37(12), 1335-1341.

[3] Thrul, J., & Kuntsche, E. (2015). The impact of friends on young adults’ drinking over the course of the evening–an event?level analysis.Addiction, 110(4), 619-626.


Dr. Hatfield is a clinical neuropsychologist with extensive experience assessing and treating neurological and psychiatric disorders. His areas of expertise include neurobiology, behavior, dementia, head injury, addiction, abnormal psychology, personality disorders, statistics, rehabilitation psychology and research methodology.

What Is Synthetic Marijuana?

October 8, 2014 by  
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TGDGmarijuanaThe average citizen in the U.S. is familiar with marijuana, at least anecdotally. Nearly half of the states in the country have legalized marijuana for medicinal use, and two states – Colorado and Washington – have legalized marijuana for recreational use. For many people living in the 48 U.S. states where marijuana is not legal for recreational use, a legal alternative has become popular over the last few years: synthetic marijuana. This mock cannabis is widely accessible and notably dangerous.

Understanding Synthetic Marijuana

Synthetic Marijuana is considered a “designer drug” with effects that are intended to mimic the effects of real marijuana. Two popular brand names for this drug are K2 and Spice. These two drugs contain synthetic cannabinoids that are similar to THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol), the psychoactive component found in actual marijuana. The synthetic cannabinoids that are used in synthetic marijuana are considered unsafe, causing extreme anxiety or psychotic episodes in many instances, and have been banned in some European countries for years. The U.S. also banned these synthetic cannabinoids in July 2012. However, synthetic marijuana sales continue legally today because many brands have simply replaced the synthetic cannabinoids that had been banned with others that are not.

Despite the assumed similarities between synthetic marijuana and actual marijuana, the differences are stark. Synthetic marijuana is considerably more unpredictable and dangerous than real marijuana. The use of synthetic marijuana has been associated with acute psychosis, the worsening of mental illness (even if stable at the time of use), hypertension, accelerated heart rate, heart attack, seizures, hallucinations, convulsions, panic attacks, high blood pressure, nausea, blurred vision, agitation, and long-term psychotic disorder for those who were already at risk for mental illness.

There has been at least one death associated with the use of synthetic marijuana and several deaths that are being investigated in association with the use of this drug. A teenage girl who used synthetic marijuana daily for two weeks experienced several strokes, brain damage, blindness, and paralysis.

Because of a lack of oversight and regulation of this product, effects and ingredients seem to vary widely from batch to batch. A German lab that tested synthetic marijuana concluded that the ingredients listed on the packet were not an accurate representation of the ingredients contained within the product itself.

Effects of Synthetic Marijuana

There are many negative side effects from use of synthetic marijuana. The substance has been linked to serious health conditions and even death. The immediate effects of synthetic marijuana are said to be similar to those of real marijuana, but more short-lived. Many users of synthetic marijuana have claimed to experience a simple feeling of relaxation after using the drug.

Synthetic marijuana is especially popular among high school students. The drug is difficult to detect through drug testing. When compared to actual marijuana, synthetic marijuana is much more powerful. Marijuana activists have been outspoken about their disapproval of synthetic marijuana – especially its name. Many people believe that “synthetic marijuana” is a dangerous misnomer, leading users to assume that the drug is not as dangerous as actual marijuana when, in fact, the consensus is that this drug is highly dangerous.

Elizabeth Seward has written about health and wellness for Discovery Health, National Geographic, How Stuff Works Health, and many other online and print publications. As a former touring rock musician, Elizabeth has firsthand experience with the struggles of substance abuse and the loss of loved ones because of it. She believes in the restorative power of yoga, meditation, talk therapy, and plant-based diets and she is an advocate for progressive drug policy reform.

Addiction from the Outside Looking in

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beauty girl cryHeath Ledger, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Cory Monteith, River Phoenix – and other talented celebrities we had all seen and grown to love, only to later learn that these gifted individuals were are all victims of addiction. During my own active addiction I had many friends who overdosed, went to jail or passed away due to their drug abuse. Unfortunately, these crises weren’t concerning enough for me to get sober. It took more internally-driven motivation for me to straighten out and, after years of drug use, I finally got clean and am now standing on the outside of addiction looking in.

Celebrity Deaths

For most people, it is normal to not feel emotional about a celebrity who dies in tragic circumstances. Let’s be honest here: It’s not like they are family or we know them personally. But as an addict in recovery, I can’t help but feel a strong sense of sympathy and concern–not only sadness over the loss of a great human being, but for the family of the deceased. It had been almost a full year since I had chosen to get sober when I heard the news of Cory Monteith’s passing. As many people know, he was one of the stars on the hit T.V. show Glee. When I read the news on the Internet, I immediately started crying. I wasn’t sure if I was crying for Lea Michele, his on-screen and off-screen girlfriend; his family who had lost such a young member of their clan; or if it was the fact that he had overdosed alone. He died in a hotel room, by himself. The same sick, terrifying feeling overcame me when I saw the breaking news of Phillip Seymour Hoffman’s death. The feeling was almost a morbid sense of relief that I never had to worry about that kind of ending for myself, but it was an intense reminder that a relapse is only one step in the wrong direction. Addiction has many faces. It can afflict a celebrity, a friend or a respectable-looking passerby in the street. I often remind myself that it is humbling to feel sad when someone passes away from drug or alcohol addiction.

Personal Acquaintances

Two months after I had gotten sober, I was told that a former friend of mine had passed away due to substance abuse. It was a friend I used to use with, so it wasn’t a huge surprise, but that did not lessen the blow. It was a strange, overwhelming feeling that I had never experienced, even with the loss of other people unrelated to substance abuse. In this instance there was something about the possibility that it could have been me. I have now cut off all contact with my old ‘playgrounds and playmates’ so I definitely don’t surround myself with any negative influences, but I still pray for the sick and suffering. It doesn’t cause any less pain to know that people I used to see everyday are out there still living in the same sick cycle that I had been caught in. I have a strange sense of compassion when I think of the path I was on that many people are still traveling.

Feeling Empathy

It’s odd to discover that people you barely know or don’t know at all can affect you. When a addict you were acquainted with dies, the feeling is similar what you feel when a celebrity you like dies, except it almost seems more real, in a sense. We generally put celebrities up on a pedestal, which places them at a distance, one step removed. However, when another “regular” person dies from addiction, it engulfs you. Before an AA meeting, if a regular member of the meeting has passed, they will be recognized at the beginning of the meeting. When this happens, it seems as if a cloud has fallen over his or her friends and the rest of us who were unfamiliar still feel empathy. It took a long time for me to realize that it is okay to feel such sadness for those who fall victim to addiction and lose the battle.

I think too many people with addiction problems often feel judged by those who have not experienced substance abuse – as if it others expect that they should just be able to get clean. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. So, if you find yourself crying or feeling upset over someone who has lost their battle with addiction and paid the ultimate price, then let it all out. When you’ve never been an addict or have a good amount of sobriety under your belt, it’s easy to forget about the small things on your gratitude list. Having empathy for others who have struggled with addiction is never a bad thing, and is a poignant reminder of how important it is to stay sober.

 

Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

Devil’s Breath: What Is It and Should We Be Afraid?

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Devil's Breath Can Be Confused with Cocaine

Devil’s Breath Can Be Confused with Cocaine

Scopolamine, nicknamed Devil’s Breath, is a Colombian drug known for leaving users or victims in a zombie-like trance and taking away all free-will, temporarily blocking memory receptors in the brain. The drug can take effect while being airborne, ingested by mouth, or absorbed through pores in the skin–all of which make Devil’s Breath a drug to fear.

How Scopolamine Is Administered

Scopolamine is feared and revered in Colombia because of how easy it is to administer to a victim. The most common scheme is to walk down the street, blow the dust in a pedestrian’s face, follow the victim (for approximately five minutes), and then the criminal will take control of the person for his/her own wants and needs. Most people in Colombia go so far as to steer clear of this plant because they are afraid that they will be drugged by walking beside or underneath the flowers.

What Happens on Devil’s Breath?

Victims have been made to empty their bank accounts, perform sexual acts, give up organs, and other abhorrent acts that would normally go against their morals and beliefs. When the drug takes effect, people are easily coerced to do things that they normally would not do. In some instances, people have gone so far as to have victims rape and murder other victims.

Devil’s Breath can be easily camouflaged in another common drug–cocaine. After being ground up, Devil’s Breath (scopolamine) takes on the same color and texture as cocaine, and the two can easily be confused. The white powdery substance is typically stored in small bags or envelopes so that the dealer does not have to physically touch it.

How Devil’s Breath Affects the United States

Devil’s Breath may be a new topic of discussion in the media, but the drug has been around for years. It has even been said that it is more feared than Anthrax. While there are many people who believe that Colombians will keep the drug local, there have been certain instances where people have smuggled some Devil’s Breath across the border in an attempt to test it themselves. Since the United States’ main importer of cocaine is Colombia, Devil’s Breath is definitely a drug to be on the watch for.

 

Cryste Harvey has battled with addiction since the day she was born. From family issues to personal issues, she has seen many things, but she has taken the leap to be sober and to help inform others of the hardships, trials and tribulations associated with addiction. She is now a mother and wife, and she has vowed to help others on their road to recovery. With little to no help from her parents and siblings, she was the first person in her family to graduate high school and then continue on to college. She is currently working towards an English degree, and she hopes to become a published author.

 

 

 

What Is Rock Bottom?

September 10, 2014 by  
Filed under General Topics, Treatment and Recovery News

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TGDGsadgirlWhen you Google the words “rock bottom,” you will find a dictionary definition that classifies this term as a noun that means “the lowest possible level.” When it comes to addiction recovery, the words “rock bottom” can have hundreds of definitions. This is because not everyone’s “rock bottom” will be the same. If only rock bottom truly were that simple.

I know during my active addiction, I often found myself asking what my rock bottom actually was. Unfortunately, that question could not be answered by others. Every addict or alcoholic has a different rock bottom, and the variations can be dramatic. Some addicts may undergo very traumatic life experiences that signify to them that they have hit rock bottom. Some may lose their homes, while others may file bankruptcy or turn to prostitution to earn the income needed to pay for drugs. If you are at the point where you’re wondering if you’ve hit your “rock bottom,” here are three ways to find your answer.

1. Decide If You Have Had Enough

I think the number one question I found myself returning to again and again was if I’d had enough. For many of us, we continue to stretch the limits of how much pain and suffering we can sustain. For some of us, losing our homes or jobs is enough to make us realize how great a problem drugs and alcohol have become. For others, it can take losing the support of friends and family. For many, “enough” comes in the form of overdosing or selling your body for drugs. Deciding you have had enough is a matter of deciding whether you want to live or die, and what lengths you are willing to go to save yourself and get sober.

2. Make a Pros and Cons List

Weighing the pros and cons may seem like a silly way to examine the options of wanting to get clean and sober or not, but I believe you need to do whatever it takes. Some people need to visually see a list of all the consequences of their drug use before they can fully understand the pros of getting sober. A pros and cons list may not be the thing that motivates you to choose to get sober, but many times we can’t see the damage we’re causing until we make a list like this. We may be in the habit of rationalizing away the negative consequences of our addictions, instead of seeing our addiction as a major problem in our lives. The pros of using drugs may seem to be numerous in our heads, but on paper, they are few in number to non-existent.

3. Evaluate What Have You Gained

Addicts regularly encounter people who are incredibly belittling toward those caught in the treacherous cycle of addiction. These people may list all the reasons why using drugs is bad, but when you are active in your addiction, you don’t care. Many addicts are okay with being homeless or broke, since there are many alternative ways to get money, food or anything else we need–as long as we can get our drug of choice. One question I never asked myself as an addict was what I gained from my addiction? Did using drugs gain me friends? Did I gain wisdom and knowledge? Who was benefiting from my drug use? Who was I helping?

Even in our darkest days, we addicts know there are things we want in life aside from drugs or alcohol. Bring those things to light and see if you have accomplished any of them. I wanted to be a writer, but had I published any work? Your dreams and goals are still important, but you may have lost sight of those because you’ve been so focused on how to stay drunk or high.

Finding your own definition of “rock bottom” is a difficult task. Though it’s nearly impossible to define “rock bottom” before you get there, you sort of just know when you hit it. In a way, it almost brings you a feeling of relief to know that you’ve finally had enough. When I hit rock bottom, I was not only relieved but I was beyond grateful that I had found the willingness to quit before it was too late. People say you won’t quit until you’ve had enough and, as insincere as it sounds, it’s true. Search for answers inside yourself and you will find a solution, if you are willing to look at the big picture.

 

Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

Tips from an Insider: Getting the Best out of Rehab

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Signing up for a rehab program is a crucial step in your journey to sobriety

Signing up for a rehab program is a crucial step in your journey to sobriety

One of the hardest pit stops on the journey to sobriety for me was gaining the courage to sign into a rehabilitation center. Although this may be the hardest thing you’ll have to bring yourself to do, if you’re ready, it is a very crucial and beneficial step in your recovery.

Understanding Why You Need Rehab

The number one reason that most people fail in their attempts to get sober is that they try quitting when they are not yet ready to quit. When I went to rehab, it was not because I wanted to go, but because my family had intervened and given me an ultimatum: Go to rehab and get sober or lose all contact with family and loved ones. That ultimatum was a wake-up call for me–it made me realize I was ready to quit using. Even if you’re ready, it’s hard to bring yourself to ask for help, but it is a humbling and helpful step in your recovery. If you still remain unsure about taking that first step to rehab, research different types of rehab programs out there–while they might be similar, some offer different types of therapy that may interest you more than others.

Making Friends in Rehab

Making friends in rehab can be quite tricky, and so is dating while both people are in recovery. Forming bonds with people in the program who come from your geographical area can be extremely advantageous, especially if you’re someone who would appreciate a friend accompanying you to sober recovery meetings. Being willing to share insecurities with someone who shares common interests with you is a lot easier than people you may never see again. As long as you keep your mind focused on sobriety, you will attract others with the same goals. It is important to be aware of and wary of those types of people who are not in rehab to get sober, and are only interested in glorifying their past drug use and talking about how great getting high was–you will likely meet those types in rehab. Don’t worry: One conversation with a person who’s simply there for someone else’s sake will be easy to sniff out and even easier to walk away from.

Accepting All Possible Solutions

Let’s face it: When you’ve finally dried yourself out and are slowly recovering from a week of detoxing, the ugly truths of getting sober and rehab slowly begin to become apparent. This does not stop at rehab, in fact, making amends comes much later, so don’t sweat the small stuff too much during your stay in rehab. Your brain may be flooded with apologies you want to make and people you’d like to repay, but you don’t have to address all that at the beginning. Just take it one day at a time. The employees at a rehab center do keep a certain emotional detachment, but it is only so they can assist everyone with as many possible solutions to help as they can. Some of the suggestions they make to you may sound silly, like yoga or taking up drawing classes, but it is important to stay open minded about the possibilities. Our own choices and decisions are what landed us in the cycle of addiction and in rehab! Suggestions that seem to be out of your comfort zone may turn out to be an exceptional hobby that helps you to stay sober.

Taking a Break From Reality

The stay at the rehab center is only temporary, of course, along with the withdrawals. Going through withdrawals, for lack of a better word, sucks. There isn’t a whole lot they can do for you to diminish the discomfort of withdrawal and, depending on what sort of rehab center you attend, medication may not be an option for you. Just remember, the detox is necessary for your body to recover from addiction. It has withstood months–for some, years–of wear and tear from drug use. Detoxification is a scary but necessary evil for your body to have a fighting chance in recuperating from all of the damage you have done to it. Once the withdrawal symptoms have subsided, it’s easy to instantly think you are ready to be out in the world and seeing your family, but you’re not! Take a few deep breaths, and remember you will be back in the world soon enough, so enjoy your time in rehab. Everyone around you in rehab understands your world needed to stop in order for it to continue, so relax and study the paperwork you’re given, read the big book and enjoy a break from all the aspects of life that can be so overwhelming for everybody.

Rehabilitation centers are wonderful establishments and were created in the best interests of people who need tools and support to help them get sober. Before you decide to sign yourself into rehab, remember all the positive assets that they can equip you with. Many people attend rehab for the wrong reasons and do not take all that they have to offer seriously. The staff in a rehab center can give you the tools to get sober but you must carry and use them on your own.

 

Cassandra Huerta is a freelance writer who lives in an extremely small Michigan town and lives life one day at a time. She enjoys regularly entertaining her six-month-old daughter and can thank her wonderful fiance and coffee for all of her work.

Establishing Healthy Boundaries

August 26, 2014 by  
Filed under General Topics, Treatment and Recovery News

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Establishing healthy boundaries can lead to healthier relationships

Establishing healthy boundaries can lead to healthier relationships

Healthy boundaries are key to healthy relationships rather than dysfunctional, destructive or addictive relationships. Boundaries define what we are willing to give and to take in relationships. Examples of this include: helping others only when truly able, ensuring one is treated respectfully, and maintaining personal safety. Understanding how to establish healthy boundaries in your relationships is a good way to prevent yourself from becoming co-dependent in your relationships. Here are some tips on how to establish clear, healthy boundaries in your relationships.

1. Understand Your Personal Values

A great way to start establishing healthy boundaries is by thinking about personal values. What virtues, ideals, or concepts are most important to you? It is important to understand what we value so that we know where the boundaries should be set.

Personal values come from many sources. For most, the primary source of values is the family in which they were raised. Family loyalty, hard work, the importance of education, and personal appearance values are often formed within the family during childhood. For example, a family that highly values family loyalty over education may frown upon a high school graduate leaving the immediate area to pursue a college education, while a family that highly values education would celebrate such a move.

Personal values are also influenced by community and culture. Consider how the civil rights and feminist movements changed how many people think about minorities and women. More recently, culture has changed in ways that impact how many people view celebrity, political involvement, violence in football, marijuana use, and even carbohydrate intake. Our appearance, entertainment choices, and career choices are often highly influenced by our culture.

Once we understand our personal values, we can set boundaries that help us establish when and where we are not going to allow others to cause us to violate our values. For example, if you value honesty and your spouse wants to cheat on your taxes, setting a boundary may mean insisting on honesty or filing separate returns. If you are trying to avoid being a workaholic and value family time, and your boss wants you to work overtime on a regular basis, you may need to tell her, “No,” or begin looking for another position. If you are a recovering addict or feel uncomfortable around people who have addictive behaviors, you might establish a personal boundary that you will not get into relationships with addicts or even date recovering addicts.

2. Know the Benefits of Boundary Setting

There are many benefits associated with healthy boundaries. Setting boundaries allows you to be at your best for the things you value the most. It can be a freeing experience to refuse to accept unwanted activities or behaviors that cause you fear, stress, pain or a sense of being overwhelmed. Healthy boundaries are a form of self-care. They help to build self-esteem and self-worth. When you are responsible for your self-care by limiting how much you help others, and you allow others to be responsible to do some things without your help, it gives them the opportunity to learn and grow. Sometimes setting boundaries is hard, but knowing the benefits can motivate you to follow through and stick to your plan without caving in to the demands of others.

3. Set Boundaries Early in the Relationship

It is ideal to set boundaries at the beginning of a relationship. For example, when starting a new job, state which days of the week you are available for staying late or, when meeting for a first date, make it clear your rule is to do so in a public place. Establishing boundaries early makes boundaries easier for you to maintain and allows the other party to decide if they are comfortable with your boundaries and would like to be in the relationship. If Wednesday night Bible study is important to you and an employer often needs employees to work late on Wednesday nights, it may not be the right job for you. Failing to state your boundaries at the outset could lead to problems as either you or your employer will be dissatisfied in the future.

Often setting boundaries early in a relationship is not an option. Making a decision to reset the relationship boundaries may be the next best thing. Here are examples of how to reset a relationship where boundaries were fuzzy in the past. “I know I have laughed when you made jokes about my weight in the past, but I really don’t find them funny. They actually make me feel bad. I’d appreciate it if you can stop making those jokes as of today.” “I enjoyed volunteering a lot in the past, but I cannot do it now. I will call you when I’m available again.” In each example, the speaker acknowledged the past was different from what is true now, or is about to occur, which alerts the listener to the reality of the change.

4. Express Boundaries Verbally and Clearly

In most cases, boundaries will need to be expressed clearly and verbally. Sometimes our boundaries are violated because we assume the other party knows and understands our boundaries, but we simply have not adequately communicated what those are. Here are a few examples:

  • An office worker who highly values organization becomes frustrated when others use his desk and move items, but he says nothing because he assumes adults should know better.
  • A parent complains his teenager borrows a car full of fuel and returns it without refueling.
  • The teen thinks as long as it is not on empty it is okay, unaware of the parent’s unspoken expectation of at least half a tank full of gas.

Unspoken boundaries are certain to be violated. Learning to state boundaries may be a struggle at first. It does take practice. When talking with someone directly, maintain eye contact and state your boundaries clearly. Remember, stating your boundaries is about stating a need, not a want or a hope. It is not necessary to over-explain or defend your boundary. “I will not be lending you any money. You can use me as a reference for that part-time job you were talking about, though,” is an example of a statement that is very clear and also demonstrates concern for the other person. If instead the person said, “I can’t lend you any money. I’m short this month myself and my car just broke down,” the speaker has positioned herself for an argument. The would-be borrower can challenge the speaker. “Short this month” could mean you’re okay to help out next month. If you are concerned about stating boundaries with confidence, practice in a mirror or try setting boundaries with strangers first.

5. Establish Appropriate Consequences

Many boundaries are presented in an “if, then…” format. If you do X, then I will do Y. We need to be careful about what we establish as the consequences if boundaries are not respected. Consequences that are not the appropriate in severity or effectively punish the wrong person will result in the boundary being broken repeatedly. Consider the following rather extreme example: A parent tells a child, “If you don’t clean up your room by Saturday, I’m throwing everything out.” If the parent follows through with this, the parent will find themselves doing a lot of shopping in the future. Instead, the parent could say, “If you don’t clean up your room by Saturday, I’m throwing out everything I don’t think you need.” We need to avoid setting up consequences we really do not mean.

Setting boundaries can be difficult work, but it is well worth the hard work when you take the time to do it, and can lead to more fulfilling relationships and a more fulfilling life.

Cyndy Adeniyi is a counselor and founder of Out of the Woods Life Coaching.  She enjoys hiking, Zumba, and flea markets in her spare time. She lives with her husband and two children in Maryland.

The Power of Thought Stopping

August 19, 2014 by  
Filed under General Topics, Treatment and Recovery News

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Proactively stop negative thoughts and follow them with distracting actions

Proactively stop negative thoughts and follow them with distracting actions

Sometimes unwanted thoughts simply will not go away and we spend a lot of time and energy focused on the wrong things. Thought stopping is a simple, but effective tool for getting rid of those unwanted and unnecessary thoughts.

Thought stopping can be applied to a wide variety of unwanted thoughts, and is particularly helpful as a tool for those in sober recovery or rehab. Any bothersome thought, including anxious thoughts, depressive thoughts, memories of addiction behaviors, thoughts of using drugs or alcohol again, and memories of trauma or abuse, can be addressed through thought stopping. Thought stopping develops the mental discipline needed to consciously take control over an unwanted, unconscious behavior.

Getting Started on Thought Stopping

The first step in thought stopping is to tell yourself, “Stop!” If you are alone, this means shouting, “Stop!” as loud as you can. If not alone, say it to yourself silently. For some, this is enough to break the cycle of unwanted thoughts and move forward. For others, the statement needs to be combined with another type of reinforcement. Perhaps the most famous method is to snap a rubber band kept on one’s wrist. Other, less painful methods include visualizing a stop sign, snapping your fingers, tapping on a table, brief bouts of physical exercise to distract you, or literally turning in the opposite direction.

Thought Replacement

Being clear on what one does not want to think about often is not enough. The unhelpful or negative thought needs to be replaced with a helpful or positive thought, even if the new thought does not have any relationship to the negative thought. To accomplish this, one can visualize a special place, embrace an accurate, logical thought about the situation, or engage in a task that requires concentration and focus.

Real Life Application of Thought Stopping

Sometimes thought stopping is criticized for being an overly simplistic response to complex emotional problems. While this may be a fair criticism, those who are successful at using thought stopping as a coping skill frequently incorporate several types of thought stopping techniques for each unwanted thought. The skill is easy to learn, but using the skill may require practice. Consider the following real life examples.

Mark has been invited to a restaurant he frequented during the height of his alcohol use. He has not been back since he became sober. As he and his friends are ordering, friends begin to order alcohol and Mark experiences unhelpful thoughts arising in his mind. The margaritas here are great. If I only get one I’ll be okay. Everyone else is drinking. Mark recognizes that these are addiction thoughts, and begins the thought stopping process by saying “Stop!” silently to himself because he is with others. He reinforces this by closing his eyes and picturing a stop sign. He replaces the thoughts of alcohol by saying to himself, My sobriety is important to me. I don’t need any poison today. To get his mind focused on something else, he asks the server to make a recommendation for an appetizer.

Diane works in a stressful environment with many deadlines and an incompetent boss. One afternoon her boss begins complaining about problems with her work performance, most of which relate to things she did not do. Diane attempts to return to work, but cannot get anything done because she keeps thinking, My boss is so incompetent. I don’t get why they don’t fire him. As the thought repeats in her mind, she becomes angrier. She shuts the door to her office and says, “Stop!” as loud as she can without attracting attention. She does three jumping jacks and starts to smile as she is beginning to feel silly. Okay, Diane, she says to herself, You have three projects due today. Focus on those. Diane gets to work on her projects.

Mark and Diane demonstrate how effective thought stopping can have multiple steps. If either had merely said, “Stop!” to themselves, there is a high likelihood the unwanted thoughts would have quickly returned. Each of them used thought replacement and an activity to fill their mind with something positive.

Myths that Interfere with Thought Stopping

For thought stopping to be an effective coping skill, one needs to have confidence that the process will work. The following myths and inaccurate assumptions are common hindrances to effective thought stopping:

  • I can think negative thoughts or unhelpful thoughts as long as I don’t act on them
  • No one will ever know if I just think about it
  • I deserve the joy of thinking about my old habit or addiction
  • Thought stopping isn’t really possible–you really can’t control your thoughts
  • This is psychobabble
  • I can maintain my sobriety even if I don’t do practice thought stopping

Each of these myths can turn into an excuse for dwelling on an unwanted thought, which is unnecessary and self-defeating.

Moving Forward

With practice, thought stopping can become a part of daily life. As one consistently replaces unhelpful thoughts with helpful thoughts, the new helpful thoughts become more automatic. Thought stopping can be an effective tool during particularly stressful periods of life, such as the holidays, when there may be more frequent triggers for negative thoughts or relapse into addictive behaviors.

 

Cyndy Adeniyi is a counselor and founder of Out of the Woods Life Coaching.  She enjoys hiking, Zumba, and flea markets in her spare time. She lives with her husband and two children in Maryland.

Sobriety from Serenity, Not Salary

August 12, 2014 by  
Filed under General Topics, Treatment and Recovery News

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You Can Achieve Serenity with Sober Recovery

You Can Achieve Serenity with Sober Recovery

For as long as I can remember becoming a physician was my goal. My father was a physician and the medical world was familiar to me. We lived in a small town, and I saw the admiration and respect that was bestowed upon my father. My siblings and I always had everything we needed from a financial standpoint. Our job growing up was to work extremely hard at our studies. It was an expectation that we would be successful in our professional lives, and I think for all of us success was equated with money. We felt a lot of pressure, and it’s not surprising that we all started using alcohol in high school to “let off steam.”

The Drive to Succeed Can Exert Pressure

I internalized that drive for financial success and combined it with my desire to work in a helping profession. I earned a medical degree. During all those years of education, I refused to acknowledge the voice inside my head that kept telling me this was not the path to my happiness. Drinking alcohol in college had always helped to quiet that voice. I never truly felt at peace with my career decisions. My desire to project a certain image as a medical professional conflicted with what I was feeling deep inside.

I kept telling myself it would get better with time. I thought that with experience I would gain confidence and, with confidence, I would attain peace. I gained confidence and I gained experience and I made sure I knew exactly what I was doing. I earned a solid reputation among my colleagues and patients for being thorough and competent, but that nagging voice never left. I just couldn’t find peace. I pushed that concern away and thought as long as I was good at what I did and made enough money to buy what I wanted, I would achieve happiness. I had to. I had already come so far, I felt that I couldn’t quit now.

Trying to Buy Happiness

The first paycheck I received when I went into medical practice was so exciting. It was such a reward for over a decade of hard work. I loved taking care of my patients and getting to know them and their families, but I was incredibly stressed all of the time. I had a great responsibility, and I criticized and blamed myself any time a patient became unexpectedly ill or progressively sicker. What was I doing wrong? Had I missed something? How could I have prevented that patient’s problem? These were all valid questions that deserved consideration, but I took it to the extreme and ruminated over these issues all of the time.

A Noisy Mind Can Lead to Greater Stress

My brain never shut off. I was constantly thinking about the same stressful job-related issues over and over and over, and never coming up with a different answer. I was unrealistic with my expectations, and I was making myself sicker and sicker with stress. I was exhausting myself. I would go on these binge shopping trips on the weekends and spend hundreds, sometimes thousands, of dollars at a time. I would buy, buy, buy. I would fill the void I felt inside with stuff, and then go home and have a drink. Alcohol was my friend and my comfort. It was the only way my brain ever let go of stress and truly relaxed. Otherwise, I was in a constant state of turmoil, unease, and unrest. I had been this way my entire life. This had always been my “normal.”

I had by that time bought a nice home on the water, I drove a luxury car, had two boats, and wore all of the latest fashions. I was who I thought I was supposed to be. I had achieved the financial success that enabled me to have all of those things–all the things I thought made for a great life. What could possibly be wrong? Why did I feel so empty?

There Has to Be More to Life

I lived that way for a long time. I remember saying to myself a few years after graduating from medical school, “This is it? There has to be more to life than this.” It felt like such a letdown from a personal perspective. I loved my patients and I would have done anything for them. I cried with them. I laughed with them. I watched them grow older. I talked about their families. I sympathized when jobs were lost, when kids graduated and moved away, when family members passed. I learned about their drinking problems. I loved that part of medicine. I loved being trusted and being let into their lives. I hated when they got sick.

Eventually, I left clinical practice and took an administrative role. I thought I would feel better emotionally without having that stress of direct patient care. I also put myself into a position where I could justify drinking and using regularly. No patient care. No weekends. No “on call” responsibilities. No prescriptions to write. I became a nine-to-five budget and policy person. I also no longer had a leash on the monster inside. I quickly became a daily drinker. I functioned that way for many years. I felt even emptier inside once I did not have patients to care for, but I quickly filled that void by using.

Achieving Serenity in Sobriety

Inevitably, I crashed and burned. A suicide attempt marked my “hitting bottom” and also the beginning of my recovery. Years of treatment and supervision in a recovery program designed specifically for licensed professionals provided accountability and support to return to the workforce. I routinely met with other addicted physicians, lawyers, therapists, and nurses. I sat next to CEOs of multimillion dollar global companies. I would talk with the high-profile lawyer from the T.V. commercials, police officers, teachers, elected officials, a singer from a famous band, even a lottery winner. Every socioeconomic level was represented in those addiction treatment and sober recovery groups. There were a staggering number of financially successful people sitting in those chairs, and one thing we all had in common was substance abuse. It was there that I learned that college degrees, large bank accounts, and high status won’t ever fill that void inside. All of the money in the world won’t keep someone sober. We cannot buy serenity.

I thought long and hard over those first few months after I got sober and re-entered the work force. I had learned new coping skills to deal with stress. I had learned how to address the inner demons that led to my using. What I learned in the addiction treatment program and sober recovery groups helped me to make the most important decision I ever made. I chose to retire from medicine. I finally had the courage to pursue the unknown. I had the courage to choose my happiness.

Achieving serenity for me meant making life-changing decisions. I had spent the majority of my life fooling myself into thinking it was the things on the outside that mattered. I had all of that and I still attempted suicide. I had all of that and was still so unhappy and so miserable with my life that I didn’t want to continue living it. While I was in treatment I had episodes of feeling happy–truly happy. It was an amazing feeling. I knew without a doubt that I had never really felt that before. I knew that was the goal I wanted to achieve.

I sold the house, the cars, and the boats, and used some of my retirement money to make ends meet. I met and married a wonderful man who wanted me and not my salary. We live together in an average-sized home in an average neighborhood. I drive a late model SUV. We have a mortgage and credit card bills. I wear jeans and flip-flops. I have achieved more than I ever could have imagined. I am happy. I have serenity.

 

E. Sparks is a recovering alcoholic and addict. She is a wife, mother, and dog lover. She has a medical degree and recently retired from medical practice to focus on her passion for working with abandoned and abused dogs. She is an aspiring writer and hopes by sharing her knowledge and experience that she may help others who struggle with addiction.

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