Thursday, December 1, 2016

A Newcomers Road to Long Term Recovery

People who are new to the rooms of recovery, may at times feel like they are on a different planet than they were before. In a room with a group of people who share a common experience, stories of both their life in addiction and in recovery are revealed. For over 80 years, people have worked with each other to abstain from alcohol or any other mind altering substance that has the power to ruin lives.

If you are in your first thirty days of sobriety, hopefully you have gone to the front of the meeting room to collect a “newcomer” chip. The newcomer chip may seem unimportant when compared to yearly anniversary chips, and some people in early sobriety may opt out or walking to the front to get an under 30-day sober chip. However, some would argue, and they would be right in doing so, the newcomer chip is the most important as it could be considered one’s first introduction to humility.

It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of a group of relative strangers, and identify as a newcomer. It is an action that says you are willing to put ego and every other potential shortcoming aside, declaring that you are in fact an alcoholic and/or addict. It says that you are ready to surrender, that your way isn’t working and that you are ready to do whatever it takes to be free from the bondage of self.

Perhaps you have witnessed someone pick up an anniversary or sobriety birthday chip, and maybe they were given a chip that acknowledges decades of abstinence. If so, you may have found yourself in awe. With your inner voice saying, “How?” The answer to that question, to the puzzle of how someone can abstain from drink or drug for multiple decades, is simple; you just keep coming back and don’t use drugs or alcohol no matter what.

Recovery is a gift that is given freely, but one that requires continued vigilance against the snares of addiction to hold onto. One manages to work a successful program of recovery by following in the footsteps of those who have walked the road before you. Those who have managed to acquire significant time in the program are fully aware of the fact that they cannot keep what they have unless they give it away. If you don’t have a sponsor, find someone with significant “time,” a person whose words resonate with you.

Long term sobriety is possible, and by continuing to practice the principles of recovery in all your affairs, you too may one day find yourself walking to the front of your homegroup to collect a chip acknowledging decades of recovery. You may find yourself in front of newcomers who are thinking exactly what you were thinking all those years ago. Recovery has the power to take a fragile newcomer and turn them into an inspiration to a new generation of recovering addicts and alcoholics.

But for now, next time you are at a meeting take stock of all the years of collective recovery in the room. People with decades, like Jeanne McAlister who just celebrated 60 years of sobriety, taking her last drink in 1956, The CW6 reports. She, like many with significant time, chose to use her recovery to help others, founding an addiction treatment center in San Diego in 1977.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center and Sage Retreat, we would like to honor Jeanne McAlister steadfast dedication to helping others find the gifts of recovery.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Facing Addiction in America

Addiction is a clinically accepted form of mental illness, a debilitating disease of the brain that can steal everything good from you—even your life. Certainly, people have been dying from alcohol and tobacco related complications for millennia, even though those substances are typically legal for adult consumption in today’s world. When that occurs, it is not uncommon for members of the general public to think that they died from a character flaw that they were unable to change. It is a line of thinking that could not be further from the truth, a veritably “flawed” line of reasoning, to be sure.

For nearly twenty years, Americans have been battling with opioid addiction. Rampant over-prescribing of opioid painkillers resulted in over two million people developing an opioid use disorder. Efforts to alter prescribing practices in America, via putting ceilings on the number of pills that can be prescribed and the duration of a prescription, did manage to reduce prescription opioid abuse in the United States. However, making it more difficult for Americans to acquire opioid painkillers, resulted in the creation of a vacuum, which in turn led to a scourge of heroin abuse and the importation of even more deadly opioids.

The Great Lengths of Addiction


Attempts at curbing the American opioid epidemic, in some ways, is analogous to playing a game of Whack-o-Mole—only with a darker outcome. Making it harder to get prescription opioids, only served to create a larger demand for heroin, fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. In many cases people with an opioid use disorder traded deadly drugs for even more deadly narcotics. Fentanyl is 100 times more potent than morphine and 80 times stronger than medical grade heroin. Law enforcement officials and medical professionals have seen a surge in fentanyl abuse and subsequent overdose deaths.

If fentanyl weren’t scary enough, it turns out that there are even more deadly opioid narcotics that can be acquired with ease and in some cases, legally over the Internet. The drug we are referring to is carfentanil, which is 10,000 times more potent than morphine and should only be used for sedating large animals, such as elephants. Yet, Americans are ordering the fentanyl-analog online to be used by humans.

The behaviors being exhibited is nothing short of mind-boggling. Just a pinhead sized amount of carfentanil touching the skin can be lethal, nevertheless people are still taking the risk. It just goes to show that you make it next to impossible for an addict to get their hands on a particular mind altering substance, and they will find a way to maintain their addiction. Risk of life is seemingly of little consequence. With such great stakes at risk, it is hard to view addiction as being a mere character flaw, rather than a mental illness or disease of the mind. People will go to extraordinary lengths to avoid opioid withdrawal symptoms. Which is why we need to put more emphasis on treating addiction, rather than making it harder to get drugs or punishing those who are afflicted by the disease.

Viewing Addiction Differently


Addiction is a disability that affects millions of Americans each year, thousands of which will not live to see the end of the year. Instead of looking at or talking about addiction as being a moral failing or a character flaw, we need to look at addiction the same way we would any potentially fatal disease. Just like a diabetic requires insulin maintenance to live, an addict requires treatment, followed by a lifelong course of spiritual maintenance.

The U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Vivek Murthy, released a report on addiction: A call to action that demands we look at addiction as what it really is—a mental illness. In "Facing Addiction in America: The Surgeon General’s Report on Alcohol, Drugs and Health," Murthy points out that for every dollar spent on addiction treatment services, saves $4 in health care costs and $7 in criminal justice costs every year, according to USA Today. The Surgeon General's report calls for a paradigm shift regarding how society looks at addiction. Murthy would like to see the end of stigma and discrimination—seeing fewer prisoners and more patients.

“We have to recognize (addiction) isn't evidence of a character flaw or a moral failing,” Murthy said. “It’s a chronic disease of the brain that deserves the same compassion that any other chronic illness does, like diabetes or heart disease.” 

Please take a few minutes to watch the video below:

If you are having trouble watching the video clip, please click here.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we offer a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Children Dying of Opioid Overdoses

Parents who use drugs and/or alcohol in unhealthy ways are at risk of seriously impacting their children. Setting aside the fact that addiction often runs in the family (that is, there is a heredity factor to consider), exposure to unhealthy behaviors can lead children to adopting such behaviors themselves. Young people are extremely impressionable; if they see something, then they are more likely to want to try it, too. It is a tendency that can be extremely dangerous and even fatal.

There are some other issues to keep in mind when active addiction occurs in the household. People who are under the influence of mind altering substances are not always fully aware of what is happening around them, i.e. what their kids are getting into. Teenagers who sneak a drink of alcohol, here or there, may not be cause for concern; but, when it comes to drugs like prescription opioids, the stakes are exponentially higher.

The American opioid epidemic has been deadly to say the least. And, while the death toll associated with opioid use is usually referenced with regard to adult overdose deaths, it is important to point out that the adolescent death toll in recent years has sharply increased. Children across the country have been dying from accidental poisonings, overdoses and overdose suicides. What’s more, they are getting their hands on prescription opioids primarily at home.

Opioids In The House

A new study, conducted by researchers from the Yale School of Medicine, showed that the number of children who received emergency care for a drug overdose more than doubled between 1997 and 2012, NBC News reports. The research team found that the incidence of hospitalizations every year for opioid poisonings per 100,000 children aged 1 to 19 years, increased from 1.40 to 3.71 (165 percent). The findings were published in the Journal of the American Medical Association's JAMA Pediatrics.

The study found that older adolescents were hospitalized the most, but the largest increase in opioid hospitalization rates were among toddlers and preschoolers, according to the article. The researchers write:

“During the course of 16 years, hospitalizations attributed to opioid poisonings rose nearly 2-fold in the pediatric population. Hospitalizations increased across all age groups, yet young children and older adolescents were most vulnerable to the risks of opioid exposure. Mitigating these risks will require comprehensive strategies that target opioid storage, packaging, and misuse.” 

Protecting Children

Whether you are taking prescription opioids for pain, as prescribed, or are abusing them, it is vital that your prescription narcotics can’t be accessed by your children—regardless of age. As is evident by the death rates, opioids can easily lead to an overdose. If you have an opioid use disorder, recovery may not only save your life, but the life of a child as well. Together we can, and do recover from the disease of addiction.

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we offer a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization, a Family Program and Recovery Residences.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.

Friday, October 28, 2016


You might scoff at the idea. Being addicted to the Internet? That's not a thing. That's like telling your loved one he or she is a workaholic, just because you miss them, right? It's just another tiresome example of a generational gap difference.

"Would it kill you to put down your phone for a minute to talk your dear old dad?"

"When I was a kid... yada yada yada." Right?

Well, NO. Sacrificing quality human interaction for work is a problem for many and the same is true for spending too much time browsing the web. Internet Addiction Disorder (IAD) is real, it's here, and it's growing at an alarming rate. It's prevalent in our young people. 1-in-4 children are addicted to the Internet. Children. They really shouldn't be addicts of anything.

In today's wired world, a restaurant providing free WiFi is as or more important to some, than the quality of service or food. Internet obsessed patrons do not notice the actual rat scurrying out from the kitchen because they're glued to a digital device streaming the movie, Ratatouille.

Just take a look around at younger folks in your favorite eatery next time you're dining out (they won't notice). First course of action isn't perusing the menu for tasty offerings. It's pulling out the smart phone and plugging into cyberspace. Why? They may have missed a few virtual "likes" on the filtered photo they posted just before that annoying 5-minute walk from the car to the entrance. Damn actual time and space, forcing us to monitor our own steps.

So, OK. It's a little annoying for a server forced to revisit the table several times due to Internet obsessed diners. But what are the real issues with our children, teens, and young adults craving constant connection? Well actually, there are several.

But let's look at two important, yet suffering, issues to start: relationships and sleep.

In Japan, it is said that some 500,000 teenagers are addicted to the Internet. It has recently been added to the DSM-5, with a request for additional research. Psychologists can already point to direct negative affects.

Nomura Kazataka, a therapist working in one a Yokohama cyber detox clinic, described how internet addiction can impact lives. ‘In the worst cases, kids drop out of school and are not able to catch up with school curriculum.’

Many experts also attribute social anxiety issues to Internet compulsion. Kids just aren't connecting face-to-face as much. This of course, can lead to a poor social life and unhealthy relationships with friends and family members.

In fact, the problem is so ubiquitous in Japan that online detox retreat centers are popping up all over the island nation. One such program is the Kushunada Co. which offers a “digital detox” vacation package in Atami, Shizuoka Prefecture (Japan).

“We want our travelers to experience something that is not part of their usual routine. By turning off their mobile phones, we want people to appreciate the moment and realize things which are often ignored when our digital devices are there,” said Mirei Eguchi, the organization's Chief Executive Officer.

Here at home - and in Europe - the trend is catching on, with digital detox retreats such as Camp Grounded in the woods of northern California and programs at resorts, such as the Westin Dublin Hotel in Ireland have been drawing crowds for “unplugged” holidays.

The concept isn't purely that these devices are bad for us, but like anything else... best in moderation.

“It is not that we want people to totally abandon going digital but rather, we want them to realize how important items such as mobile phones are in our lives and have a healthy relationship with these electronic devices,” Eguchi, 31, said.

The potential physical affects on one's health can be detrimental as well. Not getting the proper rest leads to sleep deprivation and additional stress.

"Even on weekends, when you are meant to be resting, if you are connected online you are not really resting," he says. "People need to take time away from their digital gadgets, disconnect, then you can nurture imagination and encourage face to face communication, said Yoneda Tomohiko, who has written a book on his battle with Internet Addiction."

So maybe the next time someone from an older generation takes issue with you being on your phone at the family holiday party, you shouldn't respond with a roll of the eyes. Maybe they just want you to unplug and listen.

It might just be healthy for you both.

Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat offers a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Call Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 or visit our website.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Gambling Disorder and Older Americans

When we speak on the topic of addiction, it is typically with regard to drugs and alcohol. Yet, there are a number of other addictions that can disrupt the course of one’s life that do not involve mind altering substances. One such addiction is that of gambling, and it is not uncommon for people to sacrifice everything with the hopes of hitting it big, just once, on the casino floor. It is a dream that can lead to the loss of savings, home and family. And in the grips of despair, many gambling addicts will choose to take their own life—considering that to be their only option.

Gambling addiction is a condition which on the surface appears to be benign, when compared to substance use disorder, but it can actually be just as insidious. Millions of Americans meet the criteria for gambling disorders, the National Council on Problem Gambling estimates that 2 million adults in the United States meet the criteria for "pathological gambling," and 4 to 6 million are considered "problem gamblers."

Gambling Disorder

There are a many labels that have been placed on people whose gambling has gotten out of control, such as problem, compulsive and pathological. The American Psychiatric Association in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-V) calls the most severe form of the problem—"gambling disorder." While the problem can affect people from all walks of life, the most susceptible demographic is people in their later years.

In fact, casino data indicates that of the 101 million American casino visitors in 2014, about half were ages 50 or older, AARP Bulletin reports. There was time when the only places in America one could gamble were Atlantic City, NJ and Las Vegas, NV. Today, people need not travel far to find a casino, with Indian casinos dotting the landscape across the country. You can just hop in the car and be at a casino in no time at all, which can appear to be low lying fruit for older Americans that have the time and the money to spend. A costly illusion.

Casinos are spending a lot of money and time luring older Americans through their doors. They offer up enticing promotional deals, such as free food, booze and accommodations. And as long as one keeps the ante coming and the slot machines singing, casinos will do whatever they can to keep one in a trance. In 2014, the American casino industry reported racking in $66 billion in gambling revenue, according to the article. Seeing as nearly half of the gamblers are people over the age of 50, it is safe to assume that a lot of that money was spent by people who could ill-afford to spend it. Spending Social Security (SSA) checks, cashing in 401-Ks and mortgaging homes in order to keep playing, are not uncommon.

Gambling Disorder Treatment 

Hopefully, one’s gambling problem can be addressed before the situation gets any worse. Like with any addiction, those who are suffering are often in denial about the problem. It can be hard for someone to make the decision to seek help, and it can be hard for loved one’s to recognize that there is in fact, a problem. The DSM-V lists a number of signs that can indicate that someone has a gambling disorder, including:
  • Unable to cut back or control.
  • Irritable or restless when attempting to cut down or stop gambling.
  • Risks more money to reach desired level of excitement.
  • Gambles to escape problems or depressed mood.
  • “Chases" losses
  • Lies to family and others about gambling.
  • Risks or loses relationships or job because of gambling.
  • Relies on others for financial needs caused by gambling.
In the AARP Bulletin it is reported:
'Slots are also the most addictive form of casino gambling, with the machines designed to maximize your "time on device" until you're out of money. A 2001 study by psychiatrist Hans Breiter, then of Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, confirmed that the machine's nickname—"electronic crack"—is an apt one. Using MRI scanners, he found that in subjects playing slots, the brain's neural circuits fired in a way that was similar to those using cocaine.' 

Seeking help for yourself or a loved one...

At Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat, we offer a full continuum of care including: Acute Medical Detoxification, Rehabilitation, Residential, Older Adult Addiction Treatment, Partial Hospitalization and Recovery Residences.

Please contact Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat 866.273.0868 to begin the journey of recovery.