God in a Bottle? The Spirituality of Intoxication.

Why are we here? Is there anything beyond this? What started it all?

We all exist somewhat on our spiritual planes, whether consciously or not, and finding peace through a personal acceptance and understanding of individual spirituality is one of life’s more important tasks – a task less frequently attended to in the here-and-now age we live in.

But even though we do not necessarily devote time or conscious energy to our spiritual growth (as we perhaps should) we cannot fight our deepest impulses, and whether consciously or not, we do seek out answers. I’m not the first to say this, nor close to the wisest, but I believe that intoxication (and too often addiction) emerges in part out of a misdirected search for spiritual enlightenment – finding God in a bottle.

From the time we figured out eons ago that eating or smoking things changed our perceptions, human beings have been getting high, and more often than not getting high got intermingled with spirituality…and finding answers through hallucinogenic drugs was/is a pretty common source of spiritual enlightenment. We grow up as kids and young teens on a journey of subdued exploration, and then one day we get drunk, or we get high. And WOW, all of a sudden, things look pretty different – and although we probably don’t put words to it and we are probably more interested in the fun of it all, it feels as though there are answers to be had through altered consciousness.

Most people seem to be able to take it as it is, just a transient and ultimately meaningless shift of perceptions; but some of us seem to take more-or need more-from the experience. And it’s fun too, we go on merrily getting high and getting drunk, bouncing around, seeing what’s out there…and it feels important. We have deep talks about meaningful things while high, and that feels important too. Not that you’d ever say "Hey, I’m on a spiritual journey here…" but that vague sense is there, an undercurrent of meaning lending importance to the otherwise frivolous and indulgent experience.

And some of us, the foolish seekers, we just keep on at it, sort of searching, until one day it’s sort of all we know. And one day, usually more than a bit too late, we realize that it was all a sham.

Maybe there is truth and wisdom to be found through intoxication, maybe not…but any cosmic truth intertwined with intoxication probably reveals itself after the first few sessions or so, and certainly by the first few dozens of experiences, and after a hundred-a thousand-or more times getting drunk or high, well; we’re not getting much out of it – other than high. Fools that we are, we keep at it, and at it for way too long. Spiritual understanding doesn’t come served in a bottle or a pipe. It takes work and growth, and a searching for meaning through hard-fought experience. When we rely on the easy and cheap spiritually of intoxication, there is no growth – no real searching, just an endless and blind stumbling.

There are no answers at the bottom of that bottle, and so that bottle can never provide any of the spiritual peace that we crave, whether consciously or not. I see it now, in hindsight only. It took getting sober, and a long while after that, to even start figuring things out for real.

Why are we here? Is there anything beyond this? What started it all?

We all exist somewhat on our spiritual planes, whether consciously or not, and finding peace through a personal acceptance and understanding of individual spirituality is one of life’s more important tasks – a task less frequently attended to in the here-and-now age we live in.

But even though we do not necessarily devote time or conscious energy to our spiritual growth (as we perhaps should) we cannot fight our deepest impulses, and whether consciously or not, we do seek out answers. I’m not the first to say this, nor close to the wisest, but I believe that intoxication (and too often addiction) emerges in part out of a misdirected search for spiritual enlightenment – finding God in a bottle.

From the time we figured out eons ago that eating or smoking things changed our perceptions, human beings have been getting high, and more often than not getting high got intermingled with spirituality…and finding answers through hallucinogenic drugs was/is a pretty common source of spiritual enlightenment. We grow up as kids and young teens on a journey of subdued exploration, and then one day we get drunk, or we get high. And WOW, all of a sudden, things look pretty different – and although we probably don’t put words to it and we are probably more interested in the fun of it all, it feels as though there are answers to be had through altered consciousness.

Most people seem to be able to take it as it is, just a transient and ultimately meaningless shift of perceptions; but some of us seem to take more-or need more-from the experience. And it’s fun too, we go on merrily getting high and getting drunk, bouncing around, seeing what’s out there…and it feels important. We have deep talks about meaningful things while high, and that feels important too. Not that you’d ever say "Hey, I’m on a spiritual journey here…" but that vague sense is there, an undercurrent of meaning lending importance to the otherwise frivolous and indulgent experience.

And some of us, the foolish seekers, we just keep on at it, sort of searching, until one day it’s sort of all we know. And one day, usually more than a bit too late, we realize that it was all a sham.

Maybe there is truth and wisdom to be found through intoxication, maybe not…but any cosmic truth intertwined with intoxication probably reveals itself after the first few sessions or so, and certainly by the first few dozens of experiences, and after a hundred-a thousand-or more times getting drunk or high, well; we’re not getting much out of it – other than high. Fools that we are, we keep at it, and at it for way too long. Spiritual understanding doesn’t come served in a bottle or a pipe. It takes work and growth, and a searching for meaning through hard-fought experience. When we rely on the easy and cheap spiritually of intoxication, there is no growth – no real searching, just an endless and blind stumbling.

There are no answers at the bottom of that bottle, and so that bottle can never provide any of the spiritual peace that we crave, whether consciously or not. I see it now, in hindsight only. It took getting sober, and a long while after that, to even start figuring things out for real.

Addiction Recovery…Don’t Do It Alone

We, as humans, are social animals.

From birth we learn from our family; as children, friends take on a bigger role until when in our teens, the collective wisdom of our peers exerts a primal influence. As adults we tend to think it all past us, but in reality our peer environment still influences our actions and perceptions, and the people we choose to associate with tend to have a profound impact on our lives.

And this is why although recovery alone is possible, recovery in a group is far more possible, and for the best likelihood of success recovery should harness the power of the group.

As using addicts or alcoholics, we tend to associate socially with others who share our life-focus for intoxication; it’s a natural byproduct of the disease! We take our social cues from our group of peers, and in a big way what we perceive to be acceptable standards of behaviors are derived from what others around us are also doing.

If I drink 12 beers a day but my friend drinks 24 beers a day, well, I’m a moderate drinker!

Getting into rehab offers a lot. It offers a period of enforced sobriety, which can transform a life on its own. It offers the wisdom and guidance of addictions professionals, and it offers classes in relapse avoidance and life skills that impart the tools we’ll need to succeed. But more, much more than this, it also offers us the inspiration of others also in recovery.

We learn through the process of group recovery that although we are unique as individuals, our problems with drugs and alcohol share an incredible similarity. We also see that if others, who have it just as bad as we do, can recover – then there is no reason why we can’t too. There is a real sense of inspiration that comes from working together towards a common goal with others who share the same troubles; and it can work a real magic on even the most reluctant and hard-headed of addicts.

Rehab is supposed to be a place of transformation, and there is true power in this collective effort of recovery. You might be able to do it alone, but it’s easier and far more likely done in a group setting.

Find a place of healing where you can find your inspiration. Find a group of fellow alcoholics or addicts who understand you as you understand them, and start your journey towards recovery together. It helps.

We, as humans, are social animals.

From birth we learn from our family; as children, friends take on a bigger role until when in our teens, the collective wisdom of our peers exerts a primal influence. As adults we tend to think it all past us, but in reality our peer environment still influences our actions and perceptions, and the people we choose to associate with tend to have a profound impact on our lives.

And this is why although recovery alone is possible, recovery in a group is far more possible, and for the best likelihood of success recovery should harness the power of the group.

As using addicts or alcoholics, we tend to associate socially with others who share our life-focus for intoxication; it’s a natural byproduct of the disease! We take our social cues from our group of peers, and in a big way what we perceive to be acceptable standards of behaviors are derived from what others around us are also doing.

If I drink 12 beers a day but my friend drinks 24 beers a day, well, I’m a moderate drinker!

Getting into rehab offers a lot. It offers a period of enforced sobriety, which can transform a life on its own. It offers the wisdom and guidance of addictions professionals, and it offers classes in relapse avoidance and life skills that impart the tools we’ll need to succeed. But more, much more than this, it also offers us the inspiration of others also in recovery.

We learn through the process of group recovery that although we are unique as individuals, our problems with drugs and alcohol share an incredible similarity. We also see that if others, who have it just as bad as we do, can recover – then there is no reason why we can’t too. There is a real sense of inspiration that comes from working together towards a common goal with others who share the same troubles; and it can work a real magic on even the most reluctant and hard-headed of addicts.

Rehab is supposed to be a place of transformation, and there is true power in this collective effort of recovery. You might be able to do it alone, but it’s easier and far more likely done in a group setting.

Find a place of healing where you can find your inspiration. Find a group of fellow alcoholics or addicts who understand you as you understand them, and start your journey towards recovery together. It helps.

How My Dog Keeps Me Sober

Lord help me be the kind of person my dog thinks I am

Ran across this quote the other day, and I can’t think of a better ambition for life than that! My dog thinks I’m kind, generous (except with the doggie treats, which he must think I hoard miserably) wise and a whole lot of fun to be with.

I can’t think of anyone else in this world who thinks quite as highly of me as my dog. I gotta admit my inspiration is coming from some odd sources these days, but hey, I’ll take it where I can get it…(God works in mysterious ways?). So for today, I’m going to try to live up to these lofty doggy ideals of perceived conduct. I’m going to try to be as kind and wonderful to all as he thinks I am.

I’m going to try on wisdom for a change by talking half as much and listening a whole lot more, and when I have something negative to say, I won’t. I’m not going to drink too -he honestly doesn’t have strong feelings on this one – but I’m going to add it on the list. I’ll try it on for today, and see how it fits, and maybe tomorrow too.

I won’t be what he thinks I am, but if I can get halfway there, I’d be twice what I am now!

Lord help me be the kind of person my dog thinks I am

Ran across this quote the other day, and I can’t think of a better ambition for life than that! My dog thinks I’m kind, generous (except with the doggie treats, which he must think I hoard miserably) wise and a whole lot of fun to be with.

I can’t think of anyone else in this world who thinks quite as highly of me as my dog. I gotta admit my inspiration is coming from some odd sources these days, but hey, I’ll take it where I can get it…(God works in mysterious ways?). So for today, I’m going to try to live up to these lofty doggy ideals of perceived conduct. I’m going to try to be as kind and wonderful to all as he thinks I am.

I’m going to try on wisdom for a change by talking half as much and listening a whole lot more, and when I have something negative to say, I won’t. I’m not going to drink too -he honestly doesn’t have strong feelings on this one – but I’m going to add it on the list. I’ll try it on for today, and see how it fits, and maybe tomorrow too.

I won’t be what he thinks I am, but if I can get halfway there, I’d be twice what I am now!

15% of New England Teens Are Substance Abusers…Too Many!

Teens visiting the doctor throughout New England were given a confidential questionnaire to fill out surveying their alcohol and drug use behaviors.

Now, we know that a lot of teens are using drugs and alcohol, and we know that about 80% of teens will have done so by the time they finish senior year in high school, but we didn’t know that so many of these teens that are experimenting with drugs and alcohol are consuming these substances at such a significant rate.

Fifteen percent of teens screened in New England self reported substance use behaviors that met the criteria for substance abuse. Not substance use, substance abuse.

We know that the earlier teens start taking drugs and alcohol in quantity the more likely they are to become addicted and also to experience psychiatric illness. We also know that early intervention and preventative screenings that unearth problematic use behaviors can make a real difference. Sometimes all it takes is a few words from a doctor or a school counselor, in private, about use behaviors and the risks of those behaviors to make a real behavioral difference.

The study leaders call for an increase in substance abuse screenings and preventative interventions nation-wide. Let’s hope they get heard by those that can enact such changes, and let’s hope that we can stop a lot of these preventable tragedies…before abuse becomes addiction and pain.

Teens visiting the doctor throughout New England were given a confidential questionnaire to fill out surveying their alcohol and drug use behaviors.

Now, we know that a lot of teens are using drugs and alcohol, and we know that about 80% of teens will have done so by the time they finish senior year in high school, but we didn’t know that so many of these teens that are experimenting with drugs and alcohol are consuming these substances at such a significant rate.

Fifteen percent of teens screened in New England self reported substance use behaviors that met the criteria for substance abuse. Not substance use, substance abuse.

We know that the earlier teens start taking drugs and alcohol in quantity the more likely they are to become addicted and also to experience psychiatric illness. We also know that early intervention and preventative screenings that unearth problematic use behaviors can make a real difference. Sometimes all it takes is a few words from a doctor or a school counselor, in private, about use behaviors and the risks of those behaviors to make a real behavioral difference.

The study leaders call for an increase in substance abuse screenings and preventative interventions nation-wide. Let’s hope they get heard by those that can enact such changes, and let’s hope that we can stop a lot of these preventable tragedies…before abuse becomes addiction and pain.

Don’t Enable…Do Help

I hear a lot of true sad stories about people who have had enough of addiction or alcoholism, finally want to get better, but who just don’t have the money they need to get into even the lower cost rehabs right away. They may be eligible for some subsidized care, but with waiting lists as long as two months, this is pretty far from ideal; and a story I get a lot is, "My family has had enough of me, and they won’t help me anymore".

Which I can understand! When we are using and abusing, we tend to do things that force our families away. We burn our bridges, lie, cheat and steal one too many times, and they just get fed up. And they don’t want to enable the abuse either!

And it’s true:

  • When they let us live rent free in the home, getting high in the basement, that doesn’t help us get better.
  • When they give us money for drugs or alcohol when we get desperate…that doesn’t much help either.

They are taught that the only way that they can truly help us to change our ways is to stop enabling, and to start giving a little tough love. And it’s true too, and tough love can help. But tough love gets a little too tough when we finally reach the point when we can no longer deny the extent of the problem, when we accept that things are out of control and when we realize that to have any chance at a better life; we are going to need some help.

When we reach that point and we come pleading for a bit of money for our treatment, turning us away is awfully hard, has nothing to do with enabling or otherwise and just keeps too many of us out of treatments that could really get us up out of the mess we’ve made of things.

We may not deserve it, but we’ll make it up to you once we’re better. You don’t have to give the money to us either, we can understand how that might make you feel a little uncomfortable…pay the treatment center directly.

You won’t regret it.

I hear a lot of true sad stories about people who have had enough of addiction or alcoholism, finally want to get better, but who just don’t have the money they need to get into even the lower cost rehabs right away. They may be eligible for some subsidized care, but with waiting lists as long as two months, this is pretty far from ideal; and a story I get a lot is, "My family has had enough of me, and they won’t help me anymore".

Which I can understand! When we are using and abusing, we tend to do things that force our families away. We burn our bridges, lie, cheat and steal one too many times, and they just get fed up. And they don’t want to enable the abuse either!

And it’s true:

  • When they let us live rent free in the home, getting high in the basement, that doesn’t help us get better.
  • When they give us money for drugs or alcohol when we get desperate…that doesn’t much help either.

They are taught that the only way that they can truly help us to change our ways is to stop enabling, and to start giving a little tough love. And it’s true too, and tough love can help. But tough love gets a little too tough when we finally reach the point when we can no longer deny the extent of the problem, when we accept that things are out of control and when we realize that to have any chance at a better life; we are going to need some help.

When we reach that point and we come pleading for a bit of money for our treatment, turning us away is awfully hard, has nothing to do with enabling or otherwise and just keeps too many of us out of treatments that could really get us up out of the mess we’ve made of things.

We may not deserve it, but we’ll make it up to you once we’re better. You don’t have to give the money to us either, we can understand how that might make you feel a little uncomfortable…pay the treatment center directly.

You won’t regret it.

Naltrexone proven beneficial for people with a genetic history of alcoholism…for others, not so much

There are four drugs currently FDA approved for the treatment of alcoholism, and of those four, naltrexone and acamprosate are the most commonly prescribed. A recent multi disciplinary study sponsored by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Addiction, The COMBINE study, has shown that naltrexone does influence a small but still significant betterment in relapse rates, but acamprosate was ineffective.

But researchers out of the Yale University School of Medicine say that such a gross understanding of the effectiveness of the drugs is actually misleading, and to truly use these drugs effectively, we need to have a better understanding of how well they work on distinct subgroups of alcoholics.

In controlled laboratory studies, the Yale researchers examined the comparative effectiveness of Naltrexone on two distinct subgroups of alcoholics, those with a family history of the disease, and those without a genetic background of alcoholism. The drinking levels of the two groups were compared on a number of different dosage strength of naltrexone.

It works for some…a disaster for others

The researchers were pleased to see that naltrexone did have significant betterment effect on the hereditary alcoholics, and the higher the dose given, the less these alcoholics drank. Contrarily, the drug did not work for those without a family history of alcoholism, and when given in higher does, these alcoholics even drank more!

The study leaders conclude that naltrexone may have more value than limited success rates calculated from large field trials may indicate, and with a better understanding of the effects of the drug on different sub groups of alcoholics, the drug may be prescribed in a more targeted and more effective manner.

More research is clearly needed

Hopefully, as researchers gain a broader understanding of the different manifestations of subgroups of alcoholic use, treatments in general will evolve to better match the needs of the individual alcoholics. The results of the study indicate a promising role for naltrexone, and it’s obviously very beneficial to know that when prescribed to non hereditary alcoholics, it seems to worsen the problem! The study further indicates how powerfully influential the genetic component to alcoholism is, and although still poorly understood, many of the secrets to effective treatments may well emerge as scientists better understand the genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

There are four drugs currently FDA approved for the treatment of alcoholism, and of those four, naltrexone and acamprosate are the most commonly prescribed. A recent multi disciplinary study sponsored by the National Institute on Alcoholism and Addiction, The COMBINE study, has shown that naltrexone does influence a small but still significant betterment in relapse rates, but acamprosate was ineffective.

But researchers out of the Yale University School of Medicine say that such a gross understanding of the effectiveness of the drugs is actually misleading, and to truly use these drugs effectively, we need to have a better understanding of how well they work on distinct subgroups of alcoholics.

In controlled laboratory studies, the Yale researchers examined the comparative effectiveness of Naltrexone on two distinct subgroups of alcoholics, those with a family history of the disease, and those without a genetic background of alcoholism. The drinking levels of the two groups were compared on a number of different dosage strength of naltrexone.

It works for some…a disaster for others

The researchers were pleased to see that naltrexone did have significant betterment effect on the hereditary alcoholics, and the higher the dose given, the less these alcoholics drank. Contrarily, the drug did not work for those without a family history of alcoholism, and when given in higher does, these alcoholics even drank more!

The study leaders conclude that naltrexone may have more value than limited success rates calculated from large field trials may indicate, and with a better understanding of the effects of the drug on different sub groups of alcoholics, the drug may be prescribed in a more targeted and more effective manner.

More research is clearly needed

Hopefully, as researchers gain a broader understanding of the different manifestations of subgroups of alcoholic use, treatments in general will evolve to better match the needs of the individual alcoholics. The results of the study indicate a promising role for naltrexone, and it’s obviously very beneficial to know that when prescribed to non hereditary alcoholics, it seems to worsen the problem! The study further indicates how powerfully influential the genetic component to alcoholism is, and although still poorly understood, many of the secrets to effective treatments may well emerge as scientists better understand the genetic predisposition to alcohol abuse and alcoholism.

The Dangers of Alcohol Advertising, and What We Can Do About It

There is no doubt that alcohol marketing campaigns work, and beer and spirits companies would unlikely invest billions of annual dollars in intensive print and TV campaigns if they didn’t reap dividends. These same companies can (as far as I’m concerned) argue until they’re blue in the face that they advertise solely for market share and brand awareness, and while this motivation undoubtedly exists; they also advertise heavily as a recruitment tool, and to convince every emerging generation of prospective consumers about just how cool, handsome, beautiful, athletic and sexy alcohol can make you.

I mean, just how much does a television commercial of bikini clad women and rippled torsoed men enjoying an (intoxicated?) beach volley ball game tell us about the taste of a drink?

Alcohol advertising leans heavily on subliminal implications that using alcohol makes life more fun, and those people that use it live somehow more charmed lives than those that don’t. And those subliminal messages do seem to hit home with the consumers that beer and liquor companies’ value most…teens soon to join the legal market, and very likely already consuming. High school students, who were heavily exposed to beer or liquor advertisements when polled about the attributes of people who used alcohol, responded that drinkers were more likely to be attractive, wealthy and successful than non drinkers…which is surely far removed from any kind of reality. High school kids also responded that viewing beer or liquor ads made them want to try drinking, and 77% of parents polled believed that alcohol advertising was significantly influential in their children’s lives.

So what’s the answer?

There are two fundamental answers to advertising that encourages the use of a dangerous and harmful (but legal) drug. The first is to greatly reduce or even ban the marketing of alcohol, and the second is to mandate or fund a heavy campaign of counter advertisements. An alcohol counter advertisement is a public service ad that counters the promotional nature of a marketing spot with sobering and accurate information the dangers of alcohol, the health risks of drinking, or the societal costs of alcohol abuse. The intent is to create a more balanced and accurate perception of the dangers versus the pleasures of using alcohol.

Experts agree that counter advertisements work, and counter advertisements used against tobacco usage have proven effective. While the will exists to create and display the ads, the barrier is money, and all public service groups combined command nothing close to the advertising budget of even a single massive brewery. The National Alcohol Tax Coalition has the answer to that problem though, and they estimate that by raising the price of a single drink by only a dime, more than 4 billion dollars a year could be raised to fund effective and accurate public service alcohol counter advertising campaigns.

I don’t believe that prohibition is ever the answer, and I’m not even sure that companies selling a still legal product should be denied the right to market their wares; but due to the massive societal destruction wreaked by alcohol, I do believe that these alcohol promotions cannot be allowed to go unanswered. We need to make sure that kids and teens are getting a balanced and accurate picture of the realities of alcohol use.

Write to your State and Federal elected officials and demand that for every Bud ad, we get a grieving mother after a drunk driving fatality, and that for every beer beach party spot we also learn about the dangers of alcohol and brain damage.

There is no doubt that alcohol marketing campaigns work, and beer and spirits companies would unlikely invest billions of annual dollars in intensive print and TV campaigns if they didn’t reap dividends. These same companies can (as far as I’m concerned) argue until they’re blue in the face that they advertise solely for market share and brand awareness, and while this motivation undoubtedly exists; they also advertise heavily as a recruitment tool, and to convince every emerging generation of prospective consumers about just how cool, handsome, beautiful, athletic and sexy alcohol can make you.

I mean, just how much does a television commercial of bikini clad women and rippled torsoed men enjoying an (intoxicated?) beach volley ball game tell us about the taste of a drink?

Alcohol advertising leans heavily on subliminal implications that using alcohol makes life more fun, and those people that use it live somehow more charmed lives than those that don’t. And those subliminal messages do seem to hit home with the consumers that beer and liquor companies’ value most…teens soon to join the legal market, and very likely already consuming. High school students, who were heavily exposed to beer or liquor advertisements when polled about the attributes of people who used alcohol, responded that drinkers were more likely to be attractive, wealthy and successful than non drinkers…which is surely far removed from any kind of reality. High school kids also responded that viewing beer or liquor ads made them want to try drinking, and 77% of parents polled believed that alcohol advertising was significantly influential in their children’s lives.

So what’s the answer?

There are two fundamental answers to advertising that encourages the use of a dangerous and harmful (but legal) drug. The first is to greatly reduce or even ban the marketing of alcohol, and the second is to mandate or fund a heavy campaign of counter advertisements. An alcohol counter advertisement is a public service ad that counters the promotional nature of a marketing spot with sobering and accurate information the dangers of alcohol, the health risks of drinking, or the societal costs of alcohol abuse. The intent is to create a more balanced and accurate perception of the dangers versus the pleasures of using alcohol.

Experts agree that counter advertisements work, and counter advertisements used against tobacco usage have proven effective. While the will exists to create and display the ads, the barrier is money, and all public service groups combined command nothing close to the advertising budget of even a single massive brewery. The National Alcohol Tax Coalition has the answer to that problem though, and they estimate that by raising the price of a single drink by only a dime, more than 4 billion dollars a year could be raised to fund effective and accurate public service alcohol counter advertising campaigns.

I don’t believe that prohibition is ever the answer, and I’m not even sure that companies selling a still legal product should be denied the right to market their wares; but due to the massive societal destruction wreaked by alcohol, I do believe that these alcohol promotions cannot be allowed to go unanswered. We need to make sure that kids and teens are getting a balanced and accurate picture of the realities of alcohol use.

Write to your State and Federal elected officials and demand that for every Bud ad, we get a grieving mother after a drunk driving fatality, and that for every beer beach party spot we also learn about the dangers of alcohol and brain damage.