Saturday, January 30, 2016

THE METH TO THE MADNESS

AMC's hit series, Breaking Bad provided many of us with a peak into the horrors of meth use. However, unless you see it for yourself, you cannot fully understand how ugly this drug really is. I unfortunately, can say that I have witnessed, first hand the devastation meth can reak.

Let me tell you the story of my friend Chris...

I first met Chris in my freshman year at college. We were randomly paired to be roommates. It was
indeed an odd coupling. Here I was, a lanky long-haired slacker from Southern New Jersey, unsure of what I was really doing at a university. And here is Chris, a driven, confident, overachiever. In our first few days on campus he had already volunteered to assist in the local mayoral campaign. I was intimidated. I thought to myself: I'm lost compared to this guy. I haven't even considered a major. Chris came to college as valedictorian of his high school under his belt. I came in with loose jeans because I had forgotten to pack a belt. I may have been awarded "most likely to fall asleep during class."

Surprisingly, we got along very well. In fact, we remain friends today, nearly 15 years later. While in school, we didn't remain living together for all four years, but had mutual friends and kept in touch. After graduation, Chris immediately acquired a great job with a promising career. He landed with a large, nationally-recognized consulting firm. I started a little more slowly but nabbed an entry-level position at a small marketing company with room for growth. Given our college career, this contrast was no surprise. Chris always reached for the stars. I reached for the next keg beer.

Of course we grew apart somewhat and lost touch in our mid-twenties. It often happens with college friendships. However, we saw each other at an alumni function about five years ago. We exchanged the good news of our lives. I was doing well - married, and somewhat financially secure. Chris had recently come out as a gay male, met someone special, and became an executive-level employee at his firm. Things were ho-hum for us both and it was good to catch up. I wasn't surprised at all by his success.

Some years later, Chris and I coincidentally wound living in the same city, merely blocks from one another. Upon recently discovering this, we agreed to reconnect. I recall being nervous about telling Chris of my divorce.

Before I could even broach that touch subject, Chris came out to me again. Only this time, it was about his meth abuse.

I was astonished. Not this guy, I thought to myself. I can imagine 1,000 others with whom we graduated turning to hard drugs before Chris. When the initial shock of the confession wore off, I saw Chris as friend in need. I knew he was struggling, but I also know that he is capable of greatness. With the support of his friends and family, I figured we can help him through this difficult time. I decided to spend as much time as possible in the following weeks. In hindsight, this was not enough. Boy was I wrong about that and I regret not insisting an inpatient program for Chris sooner.

I'll go back to the TV show, Breaking Bad. The way it depicts meth abusers is somewhat accurate and well-done. However, when you see a close friend in the throes of a meth addiction, it isn't compelling and interesting like a TV show. It's downright terrifying and confusing.

It's confusing because that person you know disappears in the obsession of his or her drug use. The once driven, earnest executive, becomes a manipulative liar - feeding false stories to his friends and family to mitigate the level of his problem. Everything he says and does is deigned for you to feel better about his situation. So that you let your guard down. So that he may be soon left on his own to use again. It's a scary metamorphosis.

Meth users often experience a severe “crash” or physical and mental breakdown after the effects of the drug wears off. Because continued use of the drug decreases natural feelings of hunger, users can experience extreme weight loss. I saw this in Chris. He was 60-pounds lighter than the last time I saw him. Negative effects can also include disturbed sleep patterns, hyperactivity, nausea, delusions of power, increased aggressiveness and irritability. Other serious effects can include insomnia, confusion, hallucinations, anxiety and paranoia. In some cases, use can cause convulsions that lead to death. In my weeks with Chris, he displayed all of the symptoms. I knew something drastic needed to occur, but I wasn't sure how to force the action.

Last week I received a desperate call from Chris. He was rambling incoherently and spoke with paranoia and fear in his voice. I rushed over to him but really didn't know what to do when I arrived. Seeing "the crash" of meth first hand was a wakeup call. My friend can't do this on his own. He needs professional help. I fed him, stayed up the entire night as he came down and drove him to his parents' house in the suburbs. A temporary solution.

A few days later and another horrifying episode. This time, I decided to call an ambulance. Chris was even more paranoid and more incoherent as the the previous relapse. We went to the emergency room and then later, to the psych ward at another hospital. He remains under their care now, and is looking to enter an inpatient program.

For Chris, it is one of three outcomes: recovery, jail, or death. He is lucky he has a chance at recovery. Many never get this opportunity. Many have permanent brain damage and some have convulsions, which lead to death. Meth is a drug that can take hold of anyone, even the fittest and strongest of beings.

Chris has a good support circle of family and friends. We all hope he puts in the work and chooses recovery and restores his life. We all know that for our beloved friend, it's recovery, jail, or death. It's now or never.


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.

Saturday, January 16, 2016

TIME TO QUIT ON THE 'QUITTERS' JOKE

I was driving home from work the other day. Same route, same timing. Nothing unusual about this mundane sliver of my day. I was approximately five minutes from touching down on the homefront, when I pulled behind a small stationary sedan at a red light. The car donned a bumper sticker that read:  "REHAB IS FOR QUITTERS."

At first, I thought nothing of it. I've seen worse jokes decaled on T-shirts and coffee mugs, some pushing the envelope on racism, sexism, and agism. But then I considered the addict in recovery who might pull up behind this car, or even worse hear this joke directed to them in conversation.

This "quitter joke," seemingly innocent to many, is at least irritating and for the most part, impertinent.

To the recovery community, this joke is downright insulting - the equivalent to any other offenseive duratory slur. Even the really bad ones. We do not have to name them here. In our ever politically correct society, certain words have become taboo. These words, which we all know, can lead to public backlash, probation or even termination when used carelessly in public forums or workplaces. These words and phrases are so forbidden, I'm even afraid to scribble them here, in the purest academic and intellectual sense.

Do you think anyone would be fired for uttering the joke, "Rehab is for quitters?" If you have witnessed someone get penalized for this joke, in any way, please share your experience.

Back to the topic of the uber-taboo words: It has taken great evolution and understanding as a society to move toward eradicating these from our lexicon. When we are young we hear these words. Most of us are  exposed to irascible figures who spew such terms of hate. Some of these people don't realize they are guilty of an offense. Perhaps they were born of an unaware generation or lack sensitivity due to their upbringing. Our hope is that as we grow older and wiser, we learn not to use these words and spread the message. We strive to correct others who use them ignorantly and explain why it is offensive. Education on the subject is key. We all know that no one should call a disabled person a "retard." Nor should anyone call a Hispanic person a "wetback." And we should all come to recognize that no one should call someone in recovery from substance abuse a "quitter."

Why is that when an alcoholic in recovery refuses a beer, it is more common for us to call that person "a quitter," than calling a diabetic who refuses candy, "no fun?"

It's like calling a cancer patient "baldy," or a pregnant woman, well pregnant. You deserve that slap across the face. The same goes with the "quitter" joke.

Recovery from substance abuse is one of the most difficult diseases to overcome. 50% - 90% of those new in recovery will relapse, even after rehabilitation. Imagine you are diagnosed with a disease that has no cure, but only a challenging and arduous recovery. Oh, and your biggest obstacle to this recovery is yourself. Your uncontrollably obsessed brain, your dependent body, and your entire social stratosphere are all against you. And the daunting truth is that most people do not understand this disease and might view it as your own moral failing, or a choice to reject self-control. No one judges a cancer patient. No one admonishes someone managing cystic fibrosis.

So the next time, you see or hear the joke, "rehab is for quitters," remember that it is offensive and derogatory. Put it in the same box as the other taboo terms we should be omitting from everyday communication.

Afterall, admitting that you are powerless to your addiction is the complete opposite of quitting. It is the beginning of a potentially new and better life. It deserves your support, not your lame jokes.


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.

Friday, January 8, 2016

A SOBER NEW YEAR IS WITHIN REACH

The New Year is a time when people make all types of resolutions. This is because waking up on the 1st of January is like getting a clean sheet. People want to do things a bit differently than the year before. A common resolution for people to make as the clock strikes midnight is to quit alcohol. Such a change can bring many benefits to the life of the individual. For some, it will mean escaping a life of misery. Unfortunately most people do not keep their resolution to quit alcohol for long. They may have reverted to their old drinking patterns within a matter of weeks. There are things that people can do to increase their chances of being successful with this resolution.

Motives for Giving Up Alcohol in the New Year 

These are some of the most common reasons people may decide to give up alcohol in the New Year: 

* The most common reason for why people decide to give up alcohol is that they are worried about their current level of consumption. Such people may not yet have developed any of the symptoms of addiction, but they just feel uneasy with the amount they are currently drinking.

* If people are already addicted to alcohol they may decide that the New Year is a good time to end their misery.

* Those overweight individuals who are serious about shedding the pounds in the New Year may decide to eliminate alcohol. This will mean that they will avoid consuming all those empty calories that are found in alcoholic drinks.

* Many individuals decide to give up alcohol because they just want to live a healthier life. Excessive alcohol consumption is responsible for a great deal of ill-health and disease.

* Some individuals who want to follow a spiritual path may decide to give up alcohol for the New Year. Practices such as meditation will be almost impossible for people who abuse alcohol, because of the impact the alcohol has on concentration levels.

* Some people just give up alcohol because of boredom. They have been spending too much time in bars or drinking at home and want to experience something new in the New Year.

Good Reasons to Give Up Alcohol 

People do not need to have developed serious alcohol problems before deciding to give up alcohol.

These are some of the good reasons for giving up alcohol:

 * If people continue to abuse alcohol, it can lead them into physical and psychological dependence. Alcoholism sucks all the good out of life. If the individual is unable to escape the downward spiral, it will lead them to insanity and death.

* Alcohol intoxication means that the individual loses a degree of self-control. This is because their inhibitions are lowered. This is one of the great attractions of alcohol because it means people feel more sociable, but it is also the biggest dangers. It can mean that people are more likely to engage in foolish, risky or illegal activity.

* The individual does not need to be addicted in order to begin developing alcoholic liver disease. It is believed that 90 percent of all heavy drinkers will develop fatty liver, the first stage of alcoholic liver disease.

* Alcohol can cause a lot of damage to the heart. Those who drink excessively are at risk of developing alcoholic cardiomyopathy, which can also increase blood pressure. It is believed that 2 percent of all coronary heart disease is caused directly by excessive alcohol intake.

* Excessive alcohol consumption increases the likelihood that people will develop diabetes.

* Drinking too much can cause alcoholic lung disease.

* Alcohol abuse can have a devastating impact on mental health. It can lead to serious problems such as depression. Most cases of suicide involve people who have been drinking alcohol prior to the act.

* When people drink too much, they do not have time for hobbies and other forms of entertainment. This means that life can begin to feel a bit unsatisfying.

* If people abuse alcohol, they do more than just harm themselves. They also usually inflict pain and suffering for their friends and family. It is not necessary for the individual to be a drunken tyrant before alcohol begins to harm their relationships.

* Alcohol can be expensive, especially if people regularly go to bars. During a night on the town, a heavy drinker could easily spend a couple of hundred dollars. This money could be better used to buy a nice car or go on an exotic holiday.

How to Stop Drinking Alcohol in the New Year 

The problem with New Year resolutions is that people tend to give up on them by the time February comes. It takes a real effort to make such resolutions and stick to them.

These are some tips for increasing the likelihood of staying away from alcohol in the New Year:

* Those who have been abusing alcohol for a long time they may be at risk of withdrawal symptoms. These can make life uncomfortable for a few days, but most individuals only have to put up with mild symptoms. Anyone who has ever had a seizure while attempting to quit alcohol in the past will need to be medically supervised while going through the withdrawal period. It is recommended that heavy drinkers seek advice from their doctor before going through withdrawals alone.

* Heavy drinkers may find that they need support when giving up alcohol. There are a wide variety of resources when they can find such support. Not only are there fellowships such as Alcoholics Anonymous, but also online communities offering support to anyone trying to quit alcohol.

* Many individuals have found that practices such as mindfulness meditation can be a great help when giving up alcohol. This simple practice allows them to deal with cravings without succumbing to them.

* Keeping a journal can be a good idea for anyone who is attempting to quit alcohol. This not only a way of tracing progress, but it can also keep the individual committed to their goal. While trying to quit, most people go through a period in which their commitment begins to waver. Looking back over their journal entries can remind them of their hopes and dreams for the future.

* Modern technology has provided some great resources for people who are trying to quit alcohol in the New Year. Those who have an iPhone or iPad will find that there are a number of useful apps. There are also similar applications available for Android devices.

* If people are coming from a serious alcohol addiction, attending rehab may be the best way to ensure success in their recovery. An impatient program will give the individual the opportunity to stay in an environment that is conducive to escaping addiction. During their stay they will be able to develop the skills and knowledge they need to build a good life away from alcohol.

* Giving up alcohol will often mean saying goodbye to or spending much less time with drinking buddies. It is no longer a good idea to spend time in bars. As they say in Alcoholics Anonymous, if you spend too much time in a barber shop, you will eventually get your hair cut. In order to increase your chances of success, it helps to find sober friends and spend more time with them.

* If people normally spend a great deal of time drinking, they will suddenly have an excessive amount of time on their hands when they become sober. If people become bored, they will be tempted to return to alcohol. It is therefore vital that the individual develop new hobbies and interests that do not involve alcohol.

Alcoholics and Rock Bottom

It is often claimed that alcoholics need to hit rock bottom in order to escape their addiction. This idea often gets misunderstood to mean that the individual needs to lose everything before they can get better. This type of thinking is not only wrong, but it is also highly dangerous. The individual does not need to lose anything in order to put an end to the alcohol abuse. The rock bottom only refers to the point where they have had enough. This is sometimes described as an elevator descending down into hell. It is up to the passenger to decide where they want to get off. Some people have a high rock bottom, where they lose very little. Other people will take the elevator all the way down to the bottom. This is where insanity and death await.

No Need to Wait Until After the New Year to Stop Drinking 

There is no requirement for people to wait until after the New Year before enjoying the joys of sobriety. The best time to quit is right now. The problem with waiting for a special date is that the individual may no longer have the motivation to quit when that day arrives. Those who have a serious alcohol problem will only be adding additional suffering to their life by waiting. New Year can be a good time to embrace sobriety, but it is even more enjoyable to be sober for the New Year.

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.