Thinking about the triggers to abuse

Staying sober takes dedication and a constant vigilance to avoid the people and situations that trigger an urge to abuse. The triggers are not always obvious, and things like camping, watching football and making ribs are now off limits to me as I battle one day at a time to stay sober.

Only I can know when I feel the urge to drink, and therefore only I must be responsible for staying away from temptation. It’s not easy to change your life, but when you get sober, you relearn what’s really important, and avoiding the rest doesn’t seem so bad.

One of the best ways to ensure long term sobriety is simply to minimize the temptations, and make the daily battle as painless as possible. It sounds easy; I mean how tough is it to not walk into a bar right? But the reality is different, and the triggers to abuse can be very subtle and pervasive things.

Triggers

  • It sounds funny, but I can’t watch football anymore. I spent every Sunday for years at home with a case of cold beers, enjoying the games of the day. The memories of what I used to do, combined with more beer commercials than I can count, make a seemingly innocuous pastime a pretty dangerous thing for me. I can’t even read the box scores without thinking about a drink!
  • I also used to make some pretty mean BBQ, but although no one makes ribs like I do, I always drank while tending the cue, and even the smell of wood smoke gets me thinking about cracking open a cold one. Like everything else, these triggers to use are strong at first, and gradually fade in intensity, but I still pay heed to the teachings of my therapist, and I still avoid any situation or environment that has even the slightest possibility of temptation.

Rehab taught me to really examine my life, and to think about the situations that put me at risk to take that first drink. Not only the obvious triggers to abuse, like not hanging out with old drinking buddies and not visiting the places you used to abuse, but also the more subtle, and therefore more dangerous triggers. I know the responsibility to steer clear of temptation lies only with me, and only I can know when I start to feel that urge. No one would think less of me for wanting to go camping, but I know that in my mind, the great outdoors will be forever linked with Jack Daniels, and only I can know that camping is a very dangerous place for me.

To stay sober, you need to be vigilant and responsible for your own actions. Rehab taught me that I need to be accountable to myself and that only I could keep out of dangerous places. One of the best ways to stay sober is simply to avoid temptation, and for me that’s meant a lot of changes. I’d rather be at home watching the game, but on a Sunday afternoon, you’ll probably find me out with my wife, at an antique show, at the mall, or in the park…anywhere but home!

I may not love these pastimes, but I love my wife, and if I can make her happy while keeping myself free from temptation, it’s a pretty good thing. The sound of my kids laughing, and waking up clear headed to bagels, sunshine and a paper on a Saturday morning; for this…I’ll pay any price.

Staying sober takes dedication and a constant vigilance to avoid the people and situations that trigger an urge to abuse. The triggers are not always obvious, and things like camping, watching football and making ribs are now off limits to me as I battle one day at a time to stay sober.

Only I can know when I feel the urge to drink, and therefore only I must be responsible for staying away from temptation. It’s not easy to change your life, but when you get sober, you relearn what’s really important, and avoiding the rest doesn’t seem so bad.

One of the best ways to ensure long term sobriety is simply to minimize the temptations, and make the daily battle as painless as possible. It sounds easy; I mean how tough is it to not walk into a bar right? But the reality is different, and the triggers to abuse can be very subtle and pervasive things.

Triggers

  • It sounds funny, but I can’t watch football anymore. I spent every Sunday for years at home with a case of cold beers, enjoying the games of the day. The memories of what I used to do, combined with more beer commercials than I can count, make a seemingly innocuous pastime a pretty dangerous thing for me. I can’t even read the box scores without thinking about a drink!
  • I also used to make some pretty mean BBQ, but although no one makes ribs like I do, I always drank while tending the cue, and even the smell of wood smoke gets me thinking about cracking open a cold one. Like everything else, these triggers to use are strong at first, and gradually fade in intensity, but I still pay heed to the teachings of my therapist, and I still avoid any situation or environment that has even the slightest possibility of temptation.

Rehab taught me to really examine my life, and to think about the situations that put me at risk to take that first drink. Not only the obvious triggers to abuse, like not hanging out with old drinking buddies and not visiting the places you used to abuse, but also the more subtle, and therefore more dangerous triggers. I know the responsibility to steer clear of temptation lies only with me, and only I can know when I start to feel that urge. No one would think less of me for wanting to go camping, but I know that in my mind, the great outdoors will be forever linked with Jack Daniels, and only I can know that camping is a very dangerous place for me.

To stay sober, you need to be vigilant and responsible for your own actions. Rehab taught me that I need to be accountable to myself and that only I could keep out of dangerous places. One of the best ways to stay sober is simply to avoid temptation, and for me that’s meant a lot of changes. I’d rather be at home watching the game, but on a Sunday afternoon, you’ll probably find me out with my wife, at an antique show, at the mall, or in the park…anywhere but home!

I may not love these pastimes, but I love my wife, and if I can make her happy while keeping myself free from temptation, it’s a pretty good thing. The sound of my kids laughing, and waking up clear headed to bagels, sunshine and a paper on a Saturday morning; for this…I’ll pay any price.

Can Heavy Drinking Turn You Gay?

A lot of people do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do while drunk – and more than a few marriages have ended over the indiscretions of a drunken spouse. There is something magically horrible in alcohol, which makes us feel increased sexual desire, while losing the ordinary good sense to just go home at the end of the night.

But if you’re wondering why alcohol makes you so weak – take some solace from the humble fruit fly – alcohol intoxication can actually turn him gay.

It’s true, researchers have known that acute alcohol intoxication decreases sexual inhibition in fruit flies, but it turns out that when given repeated doses of alcohol, over a matter of days (designed to replicate the experience of alcohol abuse or alcoholism) male fruit flies, who are normally quite macho, will seek out other males for copulation.

The researchers say that fruit flies are a fairly accurate model for the neurobiological effects of alcohol on mammals, like humans, and research using them can help to explain human alcohol affected sexual behavior.

A lot of people do things they wouldn’t ordinarily do while drunk – and more than a few marriages have ended over the indiscretions of a drunken spouse. There is something magically horrible in alcohol, which makes us feel increased sexual desire, while losing the ordinary good sense to just go home at the end of the night.

But if you’re wondering why alcohol makes you so weak – take some solace from the humble fruit fly – alcohol intoxication can actually turn him gay.

It’s true, researchers have known that acute alcohol intoxication decreases sexual inhibition in fruit flies, but it turns out that when given repeated doses of alcohol, over a matter of days (designed to replicate the experience of alcohol abuse or alcoholism) male fruit flies, who are normally quite macho, will seek out other males for copulation.

The researchers say that fruit flies are a fairly accurate model for the neurobiological effects of alcohol on mammals, like humans, and research using them can help to explain human alcohol affected sexual behavior.

A Considered Life – Addiction Treatment and the Secret to Lasting Happiness

In a funny way, drug addicts and alcoholics are some of the luckiest people around. Addiction brings only pain – but that pain, through the recovery process, sometimes births true self knowledge and the courage to truly live.

The considered life is a happy life. Living a considered life means appreciating life, and working towards a life you appreciate – and although conceptually simple, it’s a rare thing. It takes understanding and courage, and it takes effort.

Most of us live reactionary lives – Frenzied, busy lives; stuck on our paths, too busy or scared to think about change. The addicted life epitomizes reactionary living. It’s an extreme knee-jerk case, and so it brings us deep unhappiness. Some of us, when it gets bad enough, take a courageous step and get some help. We don’t know what we need, but we know that we’ve got isn’t it. We walk into that meeting or that hospital, yearning for change, and ready to listen. And if we do listen, we are taught the most important truths of all.

Addiction Treatment – Self-Knowledge, Courage and Spirituality

Addiction treatment, at its best, teaches us real personal honesty, it demands true courage, and it prompts emotional and spiritual growth. Teaching us who we are and what we want – and how to get there. Teaching us that change takes courage and determination, but that the rewards can be great, and teaching that however we define it, that we all exist within the spiritual realm, in part, and through spiritual self-knowledge comes peace.

We walk into treatment to learn how to live right, and we walk out having learned how to live happy. And that’s why we are so lucky to be drunks or junkies or what-have-you, because we are given a golden opportunity. Someone is going to show us the secret to happiness and unlike most people at most points in their lives – we are ready to listen!

Addiction Treatment and the Secret to Happiness

We would all like to leave this earth having few regrets, having no thoughts of time wasted and happiness squandered. Yet few of us are willing to look seriously at what makes us happy, and even fewer have the courage to strive towards happiness in life.

And that’s because it’s hard!

Some of us periodically consider our happiness, deeply; but it takes real effort to make the kind of changes that are needed to live an honest and considered life – and since life as we know it already demands so much from us, few of us can spare the time.

Addicts in recovery are given the time, in fact they are often pushed into the process. Not many are given a month or two to work on emotional growth, free from other responsibility or worry – addicts in recovery are given a gift.

Personal Honesty

Reactionary living has us blame other people and other things for how we feel and how we act. How we feel actually comes from inside, and so when we feel bad and we react against the world, we never change the source of our true discontentment.

Considered living has us recognize that we control how we act, and to a large extent, how we feel. When we feel bad, we recognize the discontent as internal, and take steps that will change how we feel, and will lead to greater happiness.

But to live this honest and considered life, we need to have an honest understanding of our strengths, and more importantly, of our weaknesses. Addiction treatment demands that we look at ourselves through new, and less distorted lenses. Something is clearly wrong, and we need to figure out how we are contributing to the problem – and whether it is through the 12 steps, and a personal inventory, group therapy or individual therapy; a large part of any addiction treatment is focused on gaining self awareness.

It’s often painful, and sometimes when we get to know ourselves a little bit better we don’t much like whom we meet, but it’s necessary, and once we gain a better understanding of our natures, we are granted the opportunity to improve ourselves.

Courage

We are brave to varying degrees, but courage takes practice and determination, and it’s something you can get better at.

  • It takes a great deal of courage to admit that you have a problem – that you are powerless to control yourself, and to reach out for help. It’s a very tough thing for most of us to do.
  • It takes courage to make amends. To approach people you have wronged and to try to make things right, knowing that some of them are justifiably angry with you, and not knowing what to expect.
  • It takes courage to look at yourself warts and all, and to reveal your true nature to others.

Recovery is a succession of steps, all requiring courage – and the funny thing is, after a while it makes us courageous!

The considered life takes courage too. There is no sense in knowing yourself and understanding what makes you happy, if you don’t have the courage to make changes. Quitting a job that makes you miserable takes courage, finding real love takes courage; living as you are and not how others say you should be – takes courage.

Living the life you want on your terms is the only kind of life that makes any sense, but so many never do. Through recovery we find the courage to change.

Spirituality

We exist in the mind and in the body. Yet there’s more, we exist also on a spiritual plane – but figuring out this third part of our being takes a little effort.

Spirituality can mean religion or it can mean God, but it doesn’t have to – and many self professed religious people aren’t all that spiritual. Spirituality can be understood as an experience and understanding of our place in this greater universe.

At a very basic level, the interaction of body and mind together creates something larger than the sum of its parts. And learning to appreciate and understand the body-mind effect can lead to a greater understanding of our existence on a more metaphysical plane. Recovery activities like meditation or yoga attune us to this interplay. In many recovery programs, we go searching for God – or at least, God as we understand Him, as well.

And finding something larger than yourself, with the power to help you, can bring a lot of peace. We are spiritual beings. Humanity and the human experience has always been an oscillating quest for pleasure, power or spirituality. However you define it – spirituality is real, and coming to understand how you fit in the universe inures you from a lot of the inconsequential unhappiness’s of the unconsidered life.

Recovery Is for Life – and or Happiness

We create so much pain while using or drinking, that it hardly seems fair that we are also granted this opportunity for such lasting peace and happiness. But we are and we should be grateful and seize this opportunity – make up for time wasted and live a life that will leave no regrets.

In a funny way, drug addicts and alcoholics are some of the luckiest people around. Addiction brings only pain – but that pain, through the recovery process, sometimes births true self knowledge and the courage to truly live.

The considered life is a happy life. Living a considered life means appreciating life, and working towards a life you appreciate – and although conceptually simple, it’s a rare thing. It takes understanding and courage, and it takes effort.

Most of us live reactionary lives – Frenzied, busy lives; stuck on our paths, too busy or scared to think about change. The addicted life epitomizes reactionary living. It’s an extreme knee-jerk case, and so it brings us deep unhappiness. Some of us, when it gets bad enough, take a courageous step and get some help. We don’t know what we need, but we know that we’ve got isn’t it. We walk into that meeting or that hospital, yearning for change, and ready to listen. And if we do listen, we are taught the most important truths of all.

Addiction Treatment – Self-Knowledge, Courage and Spirituality

Addiction treatment, at its best, teaches us real personal honesty, it demands true courage, and it prompts emotional and spiritual growth. Teaching us who we are and what we want – and how to get there. Teaching us that change takes courage and determination, but that the rewards can be great, and teaching that however we define it, that we all exist within the spiritual realm, in part, and through spiritual self-knowledge comes peace.

We walk into treatment to learn how to live right, and we walk out having learned how to live happy. And that’s why we are so lucky to be drunks or junkies or what-have-you, because we are given a golden opportunity. Someone is going to show us the secret to happiness and unlike most people at most points in their lives – we are ready to listen!

Addiction Treatment and the Secret to Happiness

We would all like to leave this earth having few regrets, having no thoughts of time wasted and happiness squandered. Yet few of us are willing to look seriously at what makes us happy, and even fewer have the courage to strive towards happiness in life.

And that’s because it’s hard!

Some of us periodically consider our happiness, deeply; but it takes real effort to make the kind of changes that are needed to live an honest and considered life – and since life as we know it already demands so much from us, few of us can spare the time.

Addicts in recovery are given the time, in fact they are often pushed into the process. Not many are given a month or two to work on emotional growth, free from other responsibility or worry – addicts in recovery are given a gift.

Personal Honesty

Reactionary living has us blame other people and other things for how we feel and how we act. How we feel actually comes from inside, and so when we feel bad and we react against the world, we never change the source of our true discontentment.

Considered living has us recognize that we control how we act, and to a large extent, how we feel. When we feel bad, we recognize the discontent as internal, and take steps that will change how we feel, and will lead to greater happiness.

But to live this honest and considered life, we need to have an honest understanding of our strengths, and more importantly, of our weaknesses. Addiction treatment demands that we look at ourselves through new, and less distorted lenses. Something is clearly wrong, and we need to figure out how we are contributing to the problem – and whether it is through the 12 steps, and a personal inventory, group therapy or individual therapy; a large part of any addiction treatment is focused on gaining self awareness.

It’s often painful, and sometimes when we get to know ourselves a little bit better we don’t much like whom we meet, but it’s necessary, and once we gain a better understanding of our natures, we are granted the opportunity to improve ourselves.

Courage

We are brave to varying degrees, but courage takes practice and determination, and it’s something you can get better at.

  • It takes a great deal of courage to admit that you have a problem – that you are powerless to control yourself, and to reach out for help. It’s a very tough thing for most of us to do.
  • It takes courage to make amends. To approach people you have wronged and to try to make things right, knowing that some of them are justifiably angry with you, and not knowing what to expect.
  • It takes courage to look at yourself warts and all, and to reveal your true nature to others.

Recovery is a succession of steps, all requiring courage – and the funny thing is, after a while it makes us courageous!

The considered life takes courage too. There is no sense in knowing yourself and understanding what makes you happy, if you don’t have the courage to make changes. Quitting a job that makes you miserable takes courage, finding real love takes courage; living as you are and not how others say you should be – takes courage.

Living the life you want on your terms is the only kind of life that makes any sense, but so many never do. Through recovery we find the courage to change.

Spirituality

We exist in the mind and in the body. Yet there’s more, we exist also on a spiritual plane – but figuring out this third part of our being takes a little effort.

Spirituality can mean religion or it can mean God, but it doesn’t have to – and many self professed religious people aren’t all that spiritual. Spirituality can be understood as an experience and understanding of our place in this greater universe.

At a very basic level, the interaction of body and mind together creates something larger than the sum of its parts. And learning to appreciate and understand the body-mind effect can lead to a greater understanding of our existence on a more metaphysical plane. Recovery activities like meditation or yoga attune us to this interplay. In many recovery programs, we go searching for God – or at least, God as we understand Him, as well.

And finding something larger than yourself, with the power to help you, can bring a lot of peace. We are spiritual beings. Humanity and the human experience has always been an oscillating quest for pleasure, power or spirituality. However you define it – spirituality is real, and coming to understand how you fit in the universe inures you from a lot of the inconsequential unhappiness’s of the unconsidered life.

Recovery Is for Life – and or Happiness

We create so much pain while using or drinking, that it hardly seems fair that we are also granted this opportunity for such lasting peace and happiness. But we are and we should be grateful and seize this opportunity – make up for time wasted and live a life that will leave no regrets.

About to Relapse? Think Like a Buddhist

About to relapse? Feel like you can’t hold out any longer? Try some simple Buddhist techniques to clear your head, soothe your soul, and gain a little of that serenity that we in recovery so dearly need.

Now, let me begin with a caveat. I am not a Buddhist and certainly not an expert on the religion or on meditation in general. I do practice certain Buddhist techniques, and I find them very helpful, especially in moments of temptation. I urge you to try these techniques – but to find full knowledge of them on your own, through readings or the teachings of someone more qualified than I.

So, disclaimer aside – here goes.

Photo: El PhotopakismoWe spend a lot of our lives living outside the moment, and as any Buddhist will tell you, this aint’ the path to happiness. We walk through life partially unaware, we are here, but our minds are elsewhere.

A great way to achieve some serenity in life is to train yourself to enjoy and appreciate your life, moment by moment. To literally stop and smell the roses, and just keep on smellin’ them!

Using the roses analogy as a starting point – lets imagine you are walking through a park on a lovely Indian summer Saturday. It’s beautiful, and pleasant, and you’re feeling alright. But you’re also stressing about a work presentation to come on Monday, wondering if the parking meter has expired, thinking about what you need to pick up at the store for dinner…etc. etc. You are in the park, but at the same time, your mind is elsewhere, and as a result you don’t enjoy the experience nearly as much as you would have if you had just been in the moment, and forgotten all your troubles and worries for a while.

And unfortunately, all that mental effort you expended to keep that internal dialogue running through your mind probably didn’t amount to much good at all. That work presentation is still coming, the parking meter was OK, or it wasn’t – and you will likely do just fine at the grocery store without a whole lot of preplanning. In fact, you’d probably do better on that presentation for giving your mind a rest and gaining a little clarity.

Without effort, we suffer a constant barrage of mindless internal dialogue. Our brain just seems to like to blather on to itself. Not much comes out of it, usually, but it’s all most of us know, and so we don’t think about it. Worse, for those of us struggling with sobriety, that voice inside our head seems determined to sabotage our efforts. The voice of addicted thinking, it tells us we can’t hold on any longer, argues that we could maybe have just one drink and runs a dialogue blaming someone or something else for how we’re feeling right now.

If you could just shut that voice up – you’d find you thought about taking a drink or a hit, or whatever, a whole lot less often.

Part of achieving serenity through Buddhism is accomplished by eliminating that voice inside your head, and enjoying the still and silence of your mind for a while, appreciating the moment you’re in for what it offers.

How to Silence the Voice

OK – so now, if you’re game – try a little experiment right now. Turn away from your computer screen for a sec, and just sit there, not thinking about anything, and see how long you can keep your inner voice silent for.

OK, so it’s not easy!

But it’s not as hard as you think either, it just takes a little practice, and there are some techniques you can use to help you stay focused.

Step 1

In this first step, you don’t even need to silence your inner voice; you just need to keep yourself focused on the present moment. You can get into a meditation position or whatever, but you don’t even need to do that, just sit somewhere comfortable, and start to think about this moment.

And not this moment as in around this moment, I mean this moment, second by second. Forget about anything that happened before this second, and don’t think about anything that’s coming after this second – just be. For this moment, don’t be a mom or a dad, don’t be a worker or a boss, don’t be a drunk or a junky – try to be nothing, to leave everything in your life behind. Take a break from all that, free from any responsibility or worry – this time is yours alone, and you deserve a little vacation. Use your senses, in this first stage, you don’t need to quiet your inner voice, you can still think to yourself about anything around you, but only as it comes.

  • Listen – to the noises in your environment.
  • Feel – think about the feeling of the ground on your feet, the sun on your face.
  • See – really look at what’s around you.
  • Smell – what does your environment smell like?

Just concentrate on your sensations as they arise, and try to stay focused on them for as long as you can. At first, you’ll find your mind wandering away frequently. Don’t worry, it’s normal, just bring it back to the present whenever that happens. The more you do this, the easier it gets, and the longer the intervals will be between wanderings. It’s a liberating experience to leave your worries behind for a while. Rarely is there anything very troubling in our immediate environment, and so this experience tends to be calming, and pleasant. It may sound boring, but really, it’s not at all – it’s a relaxing break.

Step 2

Once you get comfortable staying in the present for a while, perform the same exercise, but this time quiet the inner voice.

Feel the sun, but don’t commentate on it to yourself, just experience it. Hear the birds, enjoy the sounds, but don’t "think" about them Just be in the moment, free from worries, and in the silence of your mind. Again, at first it’s a bit tough to quiet the voice, but every time you start hear it, just turn it off, and refocus.

With practice you’ll find it easier to stay silent. Once you can do this, you’ll understand what I’m talking about here! It’s an amazing thing to be able to sit quietly, in peace, with no worries, and enjoy the experience without talking about it to yourself.

It is serenity embodied, and you will find it carries over into the rest of your day – leaving you less prone to stress and worry, and less prone to relapse provoking thoughts. And then whenever you do feel temptation arise – forget about day by day, tune out that voice for a while, live second by second for a bit – and when you return – you’ll feel a whole lot better, and that urge to drink; it will likely be gone.

These simple exercises will help you to stay sober, but more than that they teach you happiness. Live in the moment, enjoy what comes – and learn that a lot of what you worry about – what makes you miserable – is not as important as you think.

About to relapse? Feel like you can’t hold out any longer? Try some simple Buddhist techniques to clear your head, soothe your soul, and gain a little of that serenity that we in recovery so dearly need.

Now, let me begin with a caveat. I am not a Buddhist and certainly not an expert on the religion or on meditation in general. I do practice certain Buddhist techniques, and I find them very helpful, especially in moments of temptation. I urge you to try these techniques – but to find full knowledge of them on your own, through readings or the teachings of someone more qualified than I.

So, disclaimer aside – here goes.

Photo: El PhotopakismoWe spend a lot of our lives living outside the moment, and as any Buddhist will tell you, this aint’ the path to happiness. We walk through life partially unaware, we are here, but our minds are elsewhere.

A great way to achieve some serenity in life is to train yourself to enjoy and appreciate your life, moment by moment. To literally stop and smell the roses, and just keep on smellin’ them!

Using the roses analogy as a starting point – lets imagine you are walking through a park on a lovely Indian summer Saturday. It’s beautiful, and pleasant, and you’re feeling alright. But you’re also stressing about a work presentation to come on Monday, wondering if the parking meter has expired, thinking about what you need to pick up at the store for dinner…etc. etc. You are in the park, but at the same time, your mind is elsewhere, and as a result you don’t enjoy the experience nearly as much as you would have if you had just been in the moment, and forgotten all your troubles and worries for a while.

And unfortunately, all that mental effort you expended to keep that internal dialogue running through your mind probably didn’t amount to much good at all. That work presentation is still coming, the parking meter was OK, or it wasn’t – and you will likely do just fine at the grocery store without a whole lot of preplanning. In fact, you’d probably do better on that presentation for giving your mind a rest and gaining a little clarity.

Without effort, we suffer a constant barrage of mindless internal dialogue. Our brain just seems to like to blather on to itself. Not much comes out of it, usually, but it’s all most of us know, and so we don’t think about it. Worse, for those of us struggling with sobriety, that voice inside our head seems determined to sabotage our efforts. The voice of addicted thinking, it tells us we can’t hold on any longer, argues that we could maybe have just one drink and runs a dialogue blaming someone or something else for how we’re feeling right now.

If you could just shut that voice up – you’d find you thought about taking a drink or a hit, or whatever, a whole lot less often.

Part of achieving serenity through Buddhism is accomplished by eliminating that voice inside your head, and enjoying the still and silence of your mind for a while, appreciating the moment you’re in for what it offers.

How to Silence the Voice

OK – so now, if you’re game – try a little experiment right now. Turn away from your computer screen for a sec, and just sit there, not thinking about anything, and see how long you can keep your inner voice silent for.

OK, so it’s not easy!

But it’s not as hard as you think either, it just takes a little practice, and there are some techniques you can use to help you stay focused.

Step 1

In this first step, you don’t even need to silence your inner voice; you just need to keep yourself focused on the present moment. You can get into a meditation position or whatever, but you don’t even need to do that, just sit somewhere comfortable, and start to think about this moment.

And not this moment as in around this moment, I mean this moment, second by second. Forget about anything that happened before this second, and don’t think about anything that’s coming after this second – just be. For this moment, don’t be a mom or a dad, don’t be a worker or a boss, don’t be a drunk or a junky – try to be nothing, to leave everything in your life behind. Take a break from all that, free from any responsibility or worry – this time is yours alone, and you deserve a little vacation. Use your senses, in this first stage, you don’t need to quiet your inner voice, you can still think to yourself about anything around you, but only as it comes.

  • Listen – to the noises in your environment.
  • Feel – think about the feeling of the ground on your feet, the sun on your face.
  • See – really look at what’s around you.
  • Smell – what does your environment smell like?

Just concentrate on your sensations as they arise, and try to stay focused on them for as long as you can. At first, you’ll find your mind wandering away frequently. Don’t worry, it’s normal, just bring it back to the present whenever that happens. The more you do this, the easier it gets, and the longer the intervals will be between wanderings. It’s a liberating experience to leave your worries behind for a while. Rarely is there anything very troubling in our immediate environment, and so this experience tends to be calming, and pleasant. It may sound boring, but really, it’s not at all – it’s a relaxing break.

Step 2

Once you get comfortable staying in the present for a while, perform the same exercise, but this time quiet the inner voice.

Feel the sun, but don’t commentate on it to yourself, just experience it. Hear the birds, enjoy the sounds, but don’t "think" about them Just be in the moment, free from worries, and in the silence of your mind. Again, at first it’s a bit tough to quiet the voice, but every time you start hear it, just turn it off, and refocus.

With practice you’ll find it easier to stay silent. Once you can do this, you’ll understand what I’m talking about here! It’s an amazing thing to be able to sit quietly, in peace, with no worries, and enjoy the experience without talking about it to yourself.

It is serenity embodied, and you will find it carries over into the rest of your day – leaving you less prone to stress and worry, and less prone to relapse provoking thoughts. And then whenever you do feel temptation arise – forget about day by day, tune out that voice for a while, live second by second for a bit – and when you return – you’ll feel a whole lot better, and that urge to drink; it will likely be gone.

These simple exercises will help you to stay sober, but more than that they teach you happiness. Live in the moment, enjoy what comes – and learn that a lot of what you worry about – what makes you miserable – is not as important as you think.

How’s Your Drinking? How to Know if You Have a Drinking Problem

Do you have a drinking problem? Are you an alcoholic? How can you know, and what do these terms mean anyway?

If you go to the doctor, and she says you have cancer – shows you the MRI pictures, and you see a tumor – you believe it, and start thinking almost immediately about how to get better. It’s black and white, cut and dry – and for the most, the decision to get treatment is an easy one.

Not to belittle the challenge of cancer, but – if only it were that easy for someone with a drinking or drug problem!

People diagnosed with cancer can understand their diagnosis, most will accept it as accurate, and most will accept of the need for treatment. People don’t tend to understand the true meaning of terms such as alcoholic, substance abuser or chemically dependant – although they tend to have a misguided idea in their heads about what these things mean. And they won’t tend to believe a doctor, or anyone else, if they are told that they suffer the disease of addiction.

The term alcoholic is not a medically accepted diagnosis, yet has wide cultural connotations and understanding. It’s a tough and problematic word. People don’t tend to understand it, yet think they do, and since two hallmarks of the disease are delusion and denial – it’s all too easy to self-define alcoholism in such a way so that you don’t meet the criteria – no matter how bad your problem becomes.

For example

You believe that alcoholics are homeless bums – and since you still work, ergo you are not an alcoholic, no matter what drinking is doing to other areas of your life.

The addicted mind, as a defense mechanism preserving the drinking, defines alcoholism as whatever you are not. And that tricky addicted mind can shift those definitions as it needs to, always ensuring that your self-definition of "alcoholic" is anything but what you yourself are.

So Let’s Forget About the Word "Alcoholism"

Just for a second, let’s forget about the term alcoholism. It is a useful term, and understanding the disease of alcoholism can help you to get better, once on a road to recovery – but if you’re still drinking, don’t think you’re an alcoholic, but have a small nagging voice inside your head saying there’s a problem…lets look at things in a different way.

Do You Have a Drinking Problem?

People without drinking problems almost never experience problems because of their drinking. If drinking causes you some problems, in any area of your life, yet you still drink – then you have a drinking problem.

There – it’s as simple as that. If drinking causes you problems, you have a drinking problem. If you have a drinking problem, you should change your behaviors.

While drinking, we tend to associate with others that also drink. While drinking heavily, we associate with others that drink heavily – and we use our associates as a way to gauge our own problem. Not a great diagnostic technique, obviously, but it’s human nature to peer model, and it’s also a great defense mechanism for the addicted mind.

It is not normal to get drunk a lot. About half of Americans basically don’t drink at all.

Forget about comparing yourself to your friends. It’s tempting, but it doesn’t offer you any real insight into yourself. Keep it simple. If drinking is causing you any problems, you have a drinking problem.

Not sure?

Write it down. On a piece of paper, make two columns describing your drinking – one for benefits, and one for costs. Start with the benefits, and in the benefit column, write down anything and everything positive that you can think of about drinking.

You might say: It relaxes me I enjoy the taste of…. I enjoy socializing with friends at the bar.

Whatever, be thorough, and make a full list of everything good that you can think of about drinking. Now – do the same for costs, but this time, do it in a more structured way, and be honest – there is little point in the exercise of you are not being honest with yourself.

Firstly, write down how many drinks you have a week. No lying, is it, 20 – 50 – 150?

Photo: PescatelloHealth

Now think about health, and think of any influence your drinking has on your health. Has your drinking affected your weight, your fitness, your heart, your blood pressure, your liver, your energy or your mind? Do you think that if you keep drinking at the level you are drinking now, you will start to experience any health problems?

Social/Relationships

Has drinking ever caused you personal problems? Has it ever affected your relationship with your spouse, friends, children or family? Has your drinking ever caused you to miss an important social event? Would you like to see your children drink as much as you do? Would your spouse/mom/brother be happier if you drank less?

School/Career

Has your drinking ever caused you to perform poorly at work or school? Do you go to work with a hangover on a regular basis (more than once a month)? Do you perform as well at work when you are hung-over? Have you ever been noticed for being hung-over or drunk at work? Do you sometimes call in sick to work due to a hang-over? Would you be a better employee if you didn’t drink? Have you ever lost a job or been reprimanded due to alcohol?

Legal

Have you ever had any contact with law enforcement as a result of your drinking?

Now Take a Look

OK, that’s it. Now you should have two columns. What do your columns look like?

If you’re feeling really brave – have someone that knows you well complete the same "costs" exercise for you. See what problems they think your drinking is causing you. If you are a social drinker, with nothing to worry about – your "costs" column will be empty.

If that column aint’ empty – you have something to worry about.

Drinking should bring only pleasure – if it brings any kind of problem on a regular basis – and you don’t stop drinking, then you have a drinking problem, and you either need to quit on your own, or get some help so that you can. When self-diagnosing the problem, forget about the term alcoholic – and just decide if you have a drinking problem or not – and if you do – think about how much you are willing to sacrifice to keep on drinking.

 

Do you have a drinking problem? Are you an alcoholic? How can you know, and what do these terms mean anyway?

If you go to the doctor, and she says you have cancer – shows you the MRI pictures, and you see a tumor – you believe it, and start thinking almost immediately about how to get better. It’s black and white, cut and dry – and for the most, the decision to get treatment is an easy one.

Not to belittle the challenge of cancer, but – if only it were that easy for someone with a drinking or drug problem!

People diagnosed with cancer can understand their diagnosis, most will accept it as accurate, and most will accept of the need for treatment. People don’t tend to understand the true meaning of terms such as alcoholic, substance abuser or chemically dependant – although they tend to have a misguided idea in their heads about what these things mean. And they won’t tend to believe a doctor, or anyone else, if they are told that they suffer the disease of addiction.

The term alcoholic is not a medically accepted diagnosis, yet has wide cultural connotations and understanding. It’s a tough and problematic word. People don’t tend to understand it, yet think they do, and since two hallmarks of the disease are delusion and denial – it’s all too easy to self-define alcoholism in such a way so that you don’t meet the criteria – no matter how bad your problem becomes.

For example

You believe that alcoholics are homeless bums – and since you still work, ergo you are not an alcoholic, no matter what drinking is doing to other areas of your life.

The addicted mind, as a defense mechanism preserving the drinking, defines alcoholism as whatever you are not. And that tricky addicted mind can shift those definitions as it needs to, always ensuring that your self-definition of "alcoholic" is anything but what you yourself are.

So Let’s Forget About the Word "Alcoholism"

Just for a second, let’s forget about the term alcoholism. It is a useful term, and understanding the disease of alcoholism can help you to get better, once on a road to recovery – but if you’re still drinking, don’t think you’re an alcoholic, but have a small nagging voice inside your head saying there’s a problem…lets look at things in a different way.

Do You Have a Drinking Problem?

People without drinking problems almost never experience problems because of their drinking. If drinking causes you some problems, in any area of your life, yet you still drink – then you have a drinking problem.

There – it’s as simple as that. If drinking causes you problems, you have a drinking problem. If you have a drinking problem, you should change your behaviors.

While drinking, we tend to associate with others that also drink. While drinking heavily, we associate with others that drink heavily – and we use our associates as a way to gauge our own problem. Not a great diagnostic technique, obviously, but it’s human nature to peer model, and it’s also a great defense mechanism for the addicted mind.

It is not normal to get drunk a lot. About half of Americans basically don’t drink at all.

Forget about comparing yourself to your friends. It’s tempting, but it doesn’t offer you any real insight into yourself. Keep it simple. If drinking is causing you any problems, you have a drinking problem.

Not sure?

Write it down. On a piece of paper, make two columns describing your drinking – one for benefits, and one for costs. Start with the benefits, and in the benefit column, write down anything and everything positive that you can think of about drinking.

You might say: It relaxes me I enjoy the taste of…. I enjoy socializing with friends at the bar.

Whatever, be thorough, and make a full list of everything good that you can think of about drinking. Now – do the same for costs, but this time, do it in a more structured way, and be honest – there is little point in the exercise of you are not being honest with yourself.

Firstly, write down how many drinks you have a week. No lying, is it, 20 – 50 – 150?

Photo: PescatelloHealth

Now think about health, and think of any influence your drinking has on your health. Has your drinking affected your weight, your fitness, your heart, your blood pressure, your liver, your energy or your mind? Do you think that if you keep drinking at the level you are drinking now, you will start to experience any health problems?

Social/Relationships

Has drinking ever caused you personal problems? Has it ever affected your relationship with your spouse, friends, children or family? Has your drinking ever caused you to miss an important social event? Would you like to see your children drink as much as you do? Would your spouse/mom/brother be happier if you drank less?

School/Career

Has your drinking ever caused you to perform poorly at work or school? Do you go to work with a hangover on a regular basis (more than once a month)? Do you perform as well at work when you are hung-over? Have you ever been noticed for being hung-over or drunk at work? Do you sometimes call in sick to work due to a hang-over? Would you be a better employee if you didn’t drink? Have you ever lost a job or been reprimanded due to alcohol?

Legal

Have you ever had any contact with law enforcement as a result of your drinking?

Now Take a Look

OK, that’s it. Now you should have two columns. What do your columns look like?

If you’re feeling really brave – have someone that knows you well complete the same "costs" exercise for you. See what problems they think your drinking is causing you. If you are a social drinker, with nothing to worry about – your "costs" column will be empty.

If that column aint’ empty – you have something to worry about.

Drinking should bring only pleasure – if it brings any kind of problem on a regular basis – and you don’t stop drinking, then you have a drinking problem, and you either need to quit on your own, or get some help so that you can. When self-diagnosing the problem, forget about the term alcoholic – and just decide if you have a drinking problem or not – and if you do – think about how much you are willing to sacrifice to keep on drinking.

 

Parents, Stop Feeling So Guilty – Maybe We Just Like Being Drunk or High

Addiction and alcoholism are some pretty misunderstood phenomena. Doctors don’t really know what’s going on, addicts themselves are hard pressed to explain just why they act as they do, and loved ones can’t fathom how we could let ourselves get and stay this way. And because the whole mess is just so bewildering, a lot of myths and half-truths supplant reality – myths that make a lot of sense, but that just aren’t true.

For example

It’s a myth that people need to hit bottom before they can benefit from treatment. A whole lot of people do finally get help after experiencing the worst, but they could have probably avoided all that pain by getting help sooner.

Treatment works better when it comes earlier. But most people believe the whole rock bottom thingy – and it’s not helpful. Now, I have to be careful here, because a lot of what’s backing my arguments to come are personal experiences, but I don’t think my path to addiction was so unique, in fact I think it’s a pretty common route.

So here goes…

I think that a popularly held conception has it that alcoholics and drug addicts use or drink as a way to escape from life’s problems or from past trauma or abuse. When someone we love becomes an alcoholic or drug addict, we tend to spend a lot of time searching for the reason why. We wonder what in their life was so traumatic as to cause this; and it can make us crazy, and in a lot cases, for parents especially, it can cause unnecessary and undeserved guilt.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

I know that a lot of people do drink or drug to escape past trauma or to self medicate mental health issues – I just think there are also a whole lot of drunks that drink just because they like to drink. I was one of them. Raised by involved, loving and kind parents, given every middle class advantage, reasonably smart, best friends, little league; no unusual and tease-worthy physical defects – I had a fine childhood. And still I spent a decade drinking hard.

I discovered booze in my mid teens, and I loved it, couldn’t believe how much I loved it – loved just about everything about it; and I spent the next many years of my life enjoying it to great excess. I drank because I liked getting drunk too much. It fit just right inside my mind.

Eventually, of course, the drinking got less fun, certainly less exciting, and the negatives of drinking started to weigh heavily on my life and happiness. I knew I had to quit for a long time before I did anything about it. By then of course I was an alcoholic, and by then, quitting wasn’t so easy.

Now, I don’t tell you all this because my story is just so darned interesting – it’s not; but I’ve spent a lot of my life talking with drunks, some still drinking, some not – and as far as I can tell, my story is a pretty common one. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you got yourself addicted, once you are you have a struggle ahead of you, and I don’t think that falling into addiction this way is any "worse" than falling into addiction and abuse for any other reason. Nobody plans to become a desperate drunk, but we are all hardwired to seek out pleasure – and for those of us that seem to get more pleasure out of a drink than others, it’s understandable why we might get ourselves into trouble.

So if you’re tormenting yourself, trying to understand a loved one’s drinking, and just can’t think of any traumatic reason compelling such abuse – maybe there isn’t one – maybe they too just love getting drunk or high. And so maybe you’re being too hard on yourself. If you did something terrible, then you’d know it, probably – and if you can’t think of anything you could have done to cause them to drink or drug in this way – then there probably isn’t anything.

Addiction and alcoholism are some pretty misunderstood phenomena. Doctors don’t really know what’s going on, addicts themselves are hard pressed to explain just why they act as they do, and loved ones can’t fathom how we could let ourselves get and stay this way. And because the whole mess is just so bewildering, a lot of myths and half-truths supplant reality – myths that make a lot of sense, but that just aren’t true.

For example

It’s a myth that people need to hit bottom before they can benefit from treatment. A whole lot of people do finally get help after experiencing the worst, but they could have probably avoided all that pain by getting help sooner.

Treatment works better when it comes earlier. But most people believe the whole rock bottom thingy – and it’s not helpful. Now, I have to be careful here, because a lot of what’s backing my arguments to come are personal experiences, but I don’t think my path to addiction was so unique, in fact I think it’s a pretty common route.

So here goes…

I think that a popularly held conception has it that alcoholics and drug addicts use or drink as a way to escape from life’s problems or from past trauma or abuse. When someone we love becomes an alcoholic or drug addict, we tend to spend a lot of time searching for the reason why. We wonder what in their life was so traumatic as to cause this; and it can make us crazy, and in a lot cases, for parents especially, it can cause unnecessary and undeserved guilt.

Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.

I know that a lot of people do drink or drug to escape past trauma or to self medicate mental health issues – I just think there are also a whole lot of drunks that drink just because they like to drink. I was one of them. Raised by involved, loving and kind parents, given every middle class advantage, reasonably smart, best friends, little league; no unusual and tease-worthy physical defects – I had a fine childhood. And still I spent a decade drinking hard.

I discovered booze in my mid teens, and I loved it, couldn’t believe how much I loved it – loved just about everything about it; and I spent the next many years of my life enjoying it to great excess. I drank because I liked getting drunk too much. It fit just right inside my mind.

Eventually, of course, the drinking got less fun, certainly less exciting, and the negatives of drinking started to weigh heavily on my life and happiness. I knew I had to quit for a long time before I did anything about it. By then of course I was an alcoholic, and by then, quitting wasn’t so easy.

Now, I don’t tell you all this because my story is just so darned interesting – it’s not; but I’ve spent a lot of my life talking with drunks, some still drinking, some not – and as far as I can tell, my story is a pretty common one. In the end, it doesn’t matter how you got yourself addicted, once you are you have a struggle ahead of you, and I don’t think that falling into addiction this way is any "worse" than falling into addiction and abuse for any other reason. Nobody plans to become a desperate drunk, but we are all hardwired to seek out pleasure – and for those of us that seem to get more pleasure out of a drink than others, it’s understandable why we might get ourselves into trouble.

So if you’re tormenting yourself, trying to understand a loved one’s drinking, and just can’t think of any traumatic reason compelling such abuse – maybe there isn’t one – maybe they too just love getting drunk or high. And so maybe you’re being too hard on yourself. If you did something terrible, then you’d know it, probably – and if you can’t think of anything you could have done to cause them to drink or drug in this way – then there probably isn’t anything.

Wet Brain. Why Do We Add Vitamins to Bread, But Not Beer?

Nobody walks away from years of heavy drinking unscathed, it always takes its toll; but for some heavy drinkers, a multi decade party ends in tragedy, with Wernickes-Korsakoffs Syndrome…wet brain.

Wet Brain

Wet brain is a tragic and often fatal syndrome of brain damage caused by years of vitamin B1 deficiency. Most people get all the vitamin B1 they need through a normal diet. Alcoholics, who may eat poorly or have damaged and ill functioning gastro intestinal systems, often do not. And the syndrome is pretty sad, with symptoms of confusion, language deficits, an ill ability to concentrate and social withdrawal just a few of many – and it can and does kill tens of thousands of Americans each year.

A simple vitamin deficiency!

So anyway, I was talking with my mom about wet brain, and she asked me why they didn’t just fortify beer with vitamin B1. And I had no idea. Why didn’t they? There must be some reason though right? It just seems too obvious a solution to such tragedy.

So anyway, a quick peek online confirmed a couple of things. Firstly, that my mom is a pretty smart cookie, and secondly that the AMA has been recommending just such a fortification, and studies have shown that it would work. An Australian study, where researchers actually did fortify beer showed that alcoholics drinking this B1 beer showed cognitive improvements, couldn’t taste the difference, and that the vitamins could be added to beer for about 20 cents per 6000 bottles!

Currently, brewers cannot legally add vitamins to beer, and some have argued that by offering vitamin enriched alcohol, some people might assume that drinking was less dangerous than it is. But hey, legislation is changeable, especially when it makes sense – when it saves lives, and I don’t think adding vitamin fortification to the small print on a case of beer is gonna’ be convincing anyone to drink more than they do now.

But there has got to be something else, right? I mean it can’t be this easy can it…

So for now, if you drink too much, make sure you take a B12 supplement, it could save your life – and maybe one day, one day soon, that just won’t be necessary, and you’ll get all you need in a few "well balanced" beers a day.

Nobody walks away from years of heavy drinking unscathed, it always takes its toll; but for some heavy drinkers, a multi decade party ends in tragedy, with Wernickes-Korsakoffs Syndrome…wet brain.

Wet Brain

Wet brain is a tragic and often fatal syndrome of brain damage caused by years of vitamin B1 deficiency. Most people get all the vitamin B1 they need through a normal diet. Alcoholics, who may eat poorly or have damaged and ill functioning gastro intestinal systems, often do not. And the syndrome is pretty sad, with symptoms of confusion, language deficits, an ill ability to concentrate and social withdrawal just a few of many – and it can and does kill tens of thousands of Americans each year.

A simple vitamin deficiency!

So anyway, I was talking with my mom about wet brain, and she asked me why they didn’t just fortify beer with vitamin B1. And I had no idea. Why didn’t they? There must be some reason though right? It just seems too obvious a solution to such tragedy.

So anyway, a quick peek online confirmed a couple of things. Firstly, that my mom is a pretty smart cookie, and secondly that the AMA has been recommending just such a fortification, and studies have shown that it would work. An Australian study, where researchers actually did fortify beer showed that alcoholics drinking this B1 beer showed cognitive improvements, couldn’t taste the difference, and that the vitamins could be added to beer for about 20 cents per 6000 bottles!

Currently, brewers cannot legally add vitamins to beer, and some have argued that by offering vitamin enriched alcohol, some people might assume that drinking was less dangerous than it is. But hey, legislation is changeable, especially when it makes sense – when it saves lives, and I don’t think adding vitamin fortification to the small print on a case of beer is gonna’ be convincing anyone to drink more than they do now.

But there has got to be something else, right? I mean it can’t be this easy can it…

So for now, if you drink too much, make sure you take a B12 supplement, it could save your life – and maybe one day, one day soon, that just won’t be necessary, and you’ll get all you need in a few "well balanced" beers a day.