That’s the average number of times the attention of a ‘normal’ person will break … that’s every 6 to 10 seconds for anyone who doesn’t want to do the math. This number is even less for those people who start talking or reading something and then … SQUIRREL!
So let’s apply this fact to someone in early recovery. It’s important to remember that their neural and bio chemicals have literally been trashed by the use of their drug or drugs of choice. Not to mention the physical damage done to the actual brain itself by both the harsh chemicals, and the sever lack of nutrition over extended periods of time. Sadly, active brain scans of people who have used drugs heavily in the past leave the ‘activity’ in the brain looking like a piece of Swiss Cheese.
So why is this tid bit of information important for people in recovery, and even more so for those that are trying to help those very people? Because it SHOULD greatly impact how we, as professional’s present our information to those we are helping, especially those just entering treatment. We would be doing them a great disservice if we were to just keep repeating the same old information over and over again, without trying to help them in their ability to actually understand what we were saying. It would be like trying to help someone who only speaks Russian, by only speaking English and then blaming ‘them’ because they didn’t apply what we ‘told’ them to do. Talk about the definition of insanity! Yet many ‘recovery centers’ do just that very thing.
The simple and redundant mantra of “go to meetings, find a sponsor, and work the steps” followed by the idea that if you don’t you are going to die or go to jail is repeated over and over by ‘counselors’ and the like. Granted, this IS great information … for those that understand and are ready to listen and then apply what they hear or read. However, it is a far cry from being the ONLY thing that people new to recovery need to hear.
If we really want to help, we should try to embrace the idea that talking therapy isn’t going to do much good until people can actually ~ pay attention, understand, and remember what is or was being said. Jesus himself could be teaching a recovery course, but if I can’t understand what’s being said nor remember what was covered, it’s not going to impact my life very much. It is also more frustrating than beneficial to try and read a paragraph 8 times but still not remember what you just read!
It is, or would be, very beneficial for those trying to help, to understanding that certain chemicals MUST be back in play again before people have the cognitive ability to focus effectively. Another key component is understanding that ‘paying attention’ is actually a ‘skill’ and all skills can get better with practice. Que the intro music for meditation, and mindfulness. If these two things are not being applied to a recovery program, you are missing a big part of the pie (and we can cover these in a future blog).
Another key component that is often lacking in ‘recovery centers’ is nutrition and exercise information and guidance. Good nutrition is not only helpful, but a necessity for those just entering recovery. Nutrition helps with the minds ability to create dopamine, which helps with the person’s attention and motivation. It also helps with serotonin for sleep mood and impulse control, with GABA for stressors, and with norepinephrine for alertness and a positive self-esteem. Exercise helps force the body to create these chemicals on a more regular basis, and at higher levels. It also has the added benefit of increased focus and cognition, as well as stress relief, sense of well-being, and positive self-image. The beneficial storm these two help to create is an extremely helpful cocktail for recovery!
Helping those in early recovery, to help themselves, by initiating the stabilization of their bio and neural chemicals literally sets the stage for all their future treatments to have the greatest possible impact. So by your own actions as treatment professionals, we are either helping to set them up for success or literally ‘hamstringing’ them before the greatest race of their lives!
This blog is for friends and families of those dealing with someone in addiction, in order to maybe better help you understand.
Understand that the drugs or alcohol is a symptom of the true issue … like pain being a symptom of a piece of glass in your leg. If you stop the pain ~ stop the symptom ~ it doesn't deal with the fact that a piece of glass in still in the leg.
Addiction is the same way, but on a much grander and more complicated way. Let me try to explain.
First ~ the drugs (meaning both drugs or alcohol) cause a dependence. It is emotional, physical, chemical, and habitual. Therefore "just say no" would be like someone telling you to "just stop loving your child" … probably not going to 'just' happen.
Second ~ there is the real driving reason that they continued to do drugs to begin with (the piece of glass). This can be one thing, many, a combination there of and is almost always in combination with co-occurring disorders: depression, anxiety, and the like.
Third ~ the age that they started 'using' at, is the age they still are! This is VERY important to understand as it impacts their judgement, understanding, motivation and the like. A 12 year old doesn't understand the responsibility of an adult or parent; they don't understand long term consequences or goals; they are much more concerned with the 'now' vs what 'could' happen if they do "x, y and z"; they have a tendency to lie or stretch the truth; they have not learned life coping skills; and the list could go on and on.
Fourth ~ their environment is just as important to change as their own mind, but that's not always easy. It's would be like asking you to leave everyone you know and love, and move to a place where you know no one … and just start over. People keep using "just" like it should be no big deal. Trust me folks, everything about trying to change in addiction is a big deal. You must understand this was their life! For most people, their world revolved around drugs … period! Eating even becomes an afterthought! This is why the push to change people/places/things that you hear about in AA/NA.
Fifth ~ YOU must change! Yes, you the helper/caregiver/family member needs to change as well! YOU need to go to meetings so you know what you should or shouldn't do. YOU need to research addiction so you understand what you are battling. The irony is … the very people yelling "just say no" and "why don't they just quit" won't do the work they need to do either. The same excuses … I don't have time, I didn't do this, I have a life, and the like. So understand that you won't change ONE thing about you, but you want them to "just" change their WHOLE life … hypocrisy much?
I hope this sheds some light on what addiction really is. Change starts with understanding!
There is a Buddhist phrase that goes something along the lines of: holding on to a grudge or a resentment is like holding onto a hot coal waiting to throw it at someone ~ it's only burning you!
Forgiveness, lets you set the hot coal down. If you have people in your life, that if they were to walk into the room right now, it would impact your mood in a negative way ~ you have work to do! First off, WHY would you give other people that much control over your life? Second, why would you spend that much energy on people who most likely don't care how you feel anyway?
Maybe it's time to start looking past the 'event' and to just look at the person. Every person on the planet is a divine being! Yep the rapist, the murder, the child molester, and even the judge who didn't kill the person you wanted them too ... is a divine being. It's the ACT'S that you don't like! Learn to separate the person, from the act and you will find your opportunity to forgive the person.
The forgiveness is for YOU, not them! They still have to come to terms with their own demons, if they are to ever forgive themselves. Think about it. Hasn't someone forgiven you for something, but you still felt bad about it? Maybe you should start learning how to forgive others, by looking at some of the things you did in the past and forgiving yourself! You might find that it is much easier to forgive others than it is yourself.
Do the work! Set down the rage, guilt, animosity, remorse, and the like. I promise you, that it will be well worth your time and effort!
I just thought I'd chime in on what seems to be all the 'new rage'. Of epic fail of a governments idea of letting all these 'non-violent' drug offenders out. Let me clue you in on something that maybe you didn't think about. They are letting them out of PRISON, not the county lock up. Let me remind the gentle reader of what one must do to be locked up in PRISON for a non-violent crime, as you see your 'weekend user' and your 'partier' doesn't just get tossed into PRISON for smoking a joint.
Let's with the fact that I have talked to 1000's of people ADDICTED to drugs who all have multiple drug offenses, and even repeat ones ~ yet only a handful have actually been to prison and then only because violence WAS used!
So to end up in prison on a non-violent offense, you must be an extreme repeat offender and are most likely either selling on school grounds, bringing it in country, or selling enough volume to fall into the 'trafficking' category.
Let's also clear up ~ non-violent crime. Arson is on the non-violent list, so are illegals walking across the border. Everything from burglary of your home or car, prostitution, and vandalism are also non-violent crimes. So we should just let all the arsonists go, all the thieves, all the … well you get the point.
I'll give you one more stat ~ drug and alcohol abuse costs society over $110 billion a year in accidental death and injuries, health care, dependency treatment, criminal behavior, and more.
So … do you REALLY think it's a good idea to just let these people back out onto the streets? Do I think our system is broken? Yep. Do I think they might need treatment instead of jail time? Yep. What do I think about just letting them out? I think the people who think this is a good idea, are as high as the 26,000 people who accidentally overdose each year! These people didn't just 'fall' into prison because they smoked an occasional joint!
Have a Coke and a smile! It's Miller time! Did you realize that your body treats the sugars in these two drinks almost identically? Yep! Fructose and ethanol are both sugars. One is an acute toxin that it is taxed, regulated by the ATF, and kept out of the hands of minors until they can choose to 'toxify' their own system. The other, is a chronic toxin (which is why the FDA doesn't intervene) that is not only legal, but is given to infants in the form of juice from WIC! There is a very scientific reason why we are getting six month old babies that are 'obese', and hundreds of thousands more that are dying around the world due to obesity related issues … specifically, 1 in 5 of all deaths!
I introduce you to Fructose! It's most common form is 'high fructose corn syrup', and it has made its way into almost everything we eat! We as a society have gone from having an average of 15 grams of sugar a day, to 72.8 grams! Statistics say we on average now consume 141 pounds of sugar each year!
Why? Well for many reasons but two specifics ones are that fructose is 1/2 the cost of real sugar, and 'low fat' processed foods tastes like cardboard!
Are you skeptical that those in power would do this 'on purpose'? Let's take a soft drink for an easy example. They have caffeine, which is a natural diuretic, meaning you will lose pure water (so you will stay thirsty). They are loaded with salt, which makes you thirstier (so you will drink more). And they are loaded with sugar. Why? A bit of a dual purpose. One is to cover up the taste of all the salt, the other is to shut down your "I'm full" response from your brain. Which is why your 8 year old can eat as much as you do at the fast food restaurant, when they are enjoying their favorite soft drink with their meal!
Everyone has most likely heard about the negative impact of ethanol on the human system. Ethanol, for those that do not know, is the active ingredient in alcohol that gives you that 'buzzed' feeling. However, I'm betting that you didn't know that fructose has 8 out of the 12 negative chronic issues that ethanol has! Yep, hypertension, cardiomyopathy, dyslipidemia, pancreatitis, obesity, hepatic dysfunction, fetal alcohol syndrome, and addiction! In addition, we have all seen the 'beer bellies' from avid beer drinkers. Fructose can create the same thing, as 30% of the totally calories from fructose goes directly to fat stores!
When you look at what's driving the whys, it's really no surprise that obesity is an epidemic in our country! According to the Journal of American Medicine, more than 1/3 (78.6 million) adults in the U.S. are now obese and growing at a rate of over 350%. The National Institutes of Health reports that over 97 million Americans are overweight or obese.
Some of the major medical issues associated with obesity are: hypertension, dyslipidemia, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, stroke, congestive heart failure, coronary heart disease, gallbladder disease, respiratory problems, osteoarthritis, sleep apnea, and endometrial, breast, prostate, and colon cancers. Eight of the obesity-related diseases account for a stagger 75% of healthcare costs in the U.S., creating over a $100 billion dollar tab annually! If you want to know the 'why' behind things, it's often easiest to just follow the money.
Here is the rub. I find it strangely ironic that over 300,000 die from obesity each year (read food addiction), compared to 26,000 to drug addiction, yet we only have a 'war' on drugs. The media (therefore the populace) tend to just focus on those 'evil drugs'. And sadly, like warm maple syrup dripping off the edge of your plate, and running into the cracks on the dining room table, the idea that 'drugs' are the only pure evil out there has even seeped into our mentality … and sugar isn't on it! We are actually told on sites like "SweetSuprise.com" the 'facts' about high fructose corn syrup, and that it’s "basically the same as sugar," and that there is “no scientific evidence that high fructose corn syrup is to blame for obesity and diabetes.” Which proves that you can put any information you want on any website, truth or otherwise; are there are a multitude of independent and non-government funded studies that prove otherwise.
So what's the initial fix? First understand that the old idea that a calorie is a calorie, is totally false! Second you need to get rid of the idea that if calories in are balanced with calories out you won't gain weight. There are a multitude of beneficial effects from exercise, direct calories burned is the least of them. Let’s be realistic, I would literally have to run a marathon to burn off the calories in one 'blizzard'! Everything is more specifically based on how your body uses those calories!
What can you do to directly help? Don't drink any liquids with sugar in them, stick to water, unsweetened tea, or coffee. Wait 20 min before you have a second portion. Make sure you eat carbs with some fiber. Paleo man used to get 100-300 grams of fiber a day, and on average we now only get 12! Think about the 'packaging' of natural sugars: sugar cane is basically a stick! All fruits has lots of fiber in them.
Crack kills! This is your brain on drugs! Drugs will destroy your life! These are some of the slogans we have heard throughout our generation in mainstream society. Sadly however addiction is not just limited to 'drugs' like cocaine or heroin. Being addicted to food and sugar can create a diabetic coma which can also take your life. Bouncing off a guard rail at 130 mph while chasing that adrenaline rush will take you out just as quick if not quicker than using heroin. Continued infidelity, sleeping with married people, using prostitutes, and having sex in risky places can ruin your life just as easily as being labeled 'a druggie'. And of course those that are constantly driven to "bet the farm" are also no stranger to great loss nor detrimental labels.
I would remind the gentle reader, the person in recovery, the counselor, the doctor, and the media that the 'addiction' people suffer from is actually a symptom of a much deeper issue, or issues. Think of treating a rash; do you treat the red skin or the issue causing the rash, to be most effective? If you said both, you would be correct. Addiction is the same way. You must allow for detox, as well as address the driving cause.
Everyone involved … especially those trying to recover … needs to learn, or relearn that much like the great debate over gun control; it's not really about the guns, it's about the people using them. Because if truth be told, pain killers are used by millions every day and are amazingly done so with no adverse issues. There is even a higher number of people who use alcohol responsible and do so without incident or injury. So is it really the drugs and alcohol that are the issue? Or might the answer lay within the person, rather than the substance?
Now please don't get me wrong. First off I'm definitely no huge fan of big pharma, and second I fully agree that drug addiction is indeed becoming even more rampant, as it is reaching epidemic stages in many places around the world. However, obesity both in children and adults is ALREADY an epidemic! And I promise you, MANY people that I talk to in group rooms continue to use, because of their non-existent self-esteem and very poor self-image. Not addressing childhood obesity IS ALREADY leading to more drug addictions and therefore to more addiction deaths!
We must learn to break the mentality in addiction recovery that "because I've used more, or differently, or longer, or harder drugs" or whatever, that they are beyond help. That they are somehow different from everyone else, because of what they used. It is because of this thinking that they believe that treatments used for others won't have any impact on them. We need to change that paradigm and instead understand that what was used, and how long it was used is only a minor factor in the recovery process. We need to break away from the 'what' of addiction and learn to focus more on the 'why'.
We need to somehow impart into everyone in the recovery process that the drugs have become the chemical dependence, but not the real driving issue. There are way too many people out there who believe that 'detox' is actually 'recovery'. Detox, on the grand scale of the recovery process is just the beginning. Therefore if more people actually understood this, it could help all those involved understand that it doesn't really matter what drugs people used to use, as much as how willing the person is to do the 'inner' work needed, for true recovery.
Here is a blog I did for Treatment Today on helping people new to recovery. I hope you enjoy!
I hope everyone has an awesome day! Expect something good to happen!
Here is a snapshot of my background. It was a personal piece I did for Treatment Today. Please feel free to check it out!
I hope everyone has a wonderful day!
Who am I?
I have been called "Sirthinkalot" and "The mender of souls." I am an addiction specialist and a full-time psychology student on the way to Dr. Davis in clinical psychology. I am currently crusading for the expedited paradigm shift in addiction recovery!