The Craving Brain – Q & A with Author Dr Anderson Spickard

I was invited to read and review The Craving Brain: Science, Spirituality and the Road to Recovery recently. Unfortunately I am unable to do so at this time, but I was so intrigued by the title and book summary that I wanted to share a Q & A with one of the books co-authors, Dr. Anderson Spickard, Jr.

Dr. Anderson Spickard, Jr. is an emeritus professor of medicine and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University Medical Center who has been active in the practice and teaching of internal medicine for more than 45 years. Dr. Spickard is a nationally recognized expert in the areas of substance abuse and addiction having served as a certified addictionologist, founding director of the Vanderbilt Institute for Treatment of Addiction, founder of the Center for Professional Health at Vanderbilt, national program director of the Robert Wood Johnson “Fighting Back” program and leader in the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse. His books include, Dying for a Drink: What You and Your Family Should Know About Alcoholism, Stay With Me, and The Craving Brain: Science, Spirituality and the Road to Recovery.

Over your 45 years working in addiction treatment, what has changed the most about the approach physicians take in working with people struggling with substance abuse?

The Craving Brain - Q & A with Author Dr Anderson Spickard

Dr. Anderson Spickard answers questions about his newly released book, “The Craving Brain: Science, Spirituality and the Road to Recovery.”

Protocols for detoxification from alcohol addiction provide medications to help the individual become symptom free in about five days. Other medications like naltrexone help to control alcohol craving and suboxone used in the treatment of opioid dependence can be lifesaving.

The most important discovery has been the research that has defined addiction as a disease of the brain and the hijacking of the brain’s reward system by dopamine, the neurotransmitter of the addictive process that produces negative behaviors in all addicts (craving, denial, anger, minimization, etc.).

The most impressive result of treatment (80%-85% recovery) is seen in addicted physicians who are treated in a program for four months or more and who are under a five-year contract not to use their substances of addiction and are monitored by regular observed urine screens. If their contract is broken by using, they are at risk of losing their license to practice medicine and their professional position in a hospital or clinic. This close observation and monitoring of addicted prisoners on parole has also been reported as effective.

Barbara Thompson and I began this journey of writing about addiction after I founded the Vanderbilt Institute for Treatment of Addiction in 1984. She and I co-authored our first book, “Dying for a Drink – What You and Your Family Should Know about Alcoholism” published by Word Books. The revision in 2005 was published by Thomas Nelson. There are seven foreign translations. The Russian translation has been distributed to the treatment centers in Moscow.

What role does spirituality play in substance abuse and recovery?

The underlying spiritual issues of the addict are the guilt and shame of their addiction- guilt, about what they have done while addicted and shame about who they are and have become. The power and love of God as the individual knows Him in the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous will lead the addict to a spiritual awakening that will sustain the person as they “work the steps” daily with a sponsor and a home group of other addicts who are working to break the bonds of addiction. The family members who attend Alanon and Naranon and work the steps also can have amazing peace and understanding of their loved ones illness. The Serenity Prayer prayed by all the addicts and their families is a spiritual healing prayer.

How has the opioid crisis influenced your work?

The tragedy of the opioid crisis has reinforced the urgency I feel to distribute “The Craving Brain” to everyone who will read it. In addition to that commitment, I have reactivated my membership in the Association for Medical Education and Research in Substance Abuse so that my colleagues and I, who teach in our nation’s medical and nursing schools, will expand and accelerate teaching of the early diagnosis and referral for treatment protocols for patients with abuse and addiction to all addictive substances.

Tell us about your connection to James B. and his role in writing this book with you.

James B. was an acquaintance of Barbara Thompson, the writer of the book, and she asked him if we could use his story in the book. His detailed description for us about the importance of the addict working each of the 12 Steps, having a sponsor and home group was critical for me since in our treatment unit at Vanderbilt we could only finish the first three steps. I have used James’ method of the addicted person working each step thoroughly to make a new questionnaire for all the steps. This has become the document I use in teaching addicts in a homeless shelter, Matthew 25, in Nashville. The spiritual awakening in about half of the men is wonderful to see. I am hopeful that this process will reinforce their commitment to sobriety when they are discharged to a job and drug- and alcohol-free housing. James’ testimony about his illness, the recovery process and his present state of continued sobriety is a wonderful story.

How has writing a book with a recovering addict influenced your perspective in conveying ideas to the public?

I believe that working and writing with James B. has reinforced my excitement about the disease of addiction and its effect on individuals. I know from our joint presentation at the Southern Festival of Books this fall that being on the podium together was a profound experience for both of us. If we had more opportunities to be together in a teaching environment, we could present an impressive program. Both of us are Christians and we could be very helpful to a group of Christians struggling with addiction issues in themselves or their families.

What has surprised you most about working in addiction, either scientifically or emotionally?

The most wonderful surprise has been the understanding of the brain changes that defines addiction as a disease of the brain. Everyone who deals with addicted persons just couldn’t understand why they couldn’t stop drinking, snorting cocaine, taking opioids, etc. When the research uncovered the presence of dopamine as the neurotransmitter in the brain’s reward system that hijacked this system and kept it moving on its own and causing these strange uncontrolled behaviors seen in the addict, it became clear that the addict wouldn’t stop because they couldn’t stop using. This is the most “AHA!” moment in my professional life.

The other part of this story is that the neurons participating in this brain injury by the substances begin to repair themselves once the use of the substance stops and recovery begins. Those neurons that are not destroyed start to regenerate themselves and in some cases restore the damaged brain.

Finally, it has been shown that parts of the neuron involved in the addictive process can remain poised to become stimulated again if the person starts to use again even years after they completed their recovery program years before. There may be similar processes in the person’s brain who has a father or grandfather who is an addict and the person inherits that susceptibility to become an addict too. These principles of addiction make teaching about addiction more scientifically established and exciting. Medications that block the neurotransmitter process in the reward system could lead to blocking craving completely. Even now naltrexone given by mouth daily and by injection (Vivatrol) once a month controls much of the craving seen in alcoholics.

What aspect of addiction recovery do you find the most interesting to study?

At Vanderbilt, we have researchers who are experts in studying the reward system, and I will keep up to date by observing their work. My particular interest now is using the 12 Step questionnaire I created to teach homeless addicted men about their addiction and the way out of it.

What new research have you seen lately on addiction, and how do you think the future of substance abuse recovery seems to be unfolding?

The research on the effect of medications on craving, denial, etc. from the reward system hijacked by dopamine will be the most exciting result of present day research labs. The importance of detailed and comprehensive reviews of the 12 Steps in homeless populations will be another fertile field of study. I haven’t mentioned yet the value of a comprehensive program of prevention in communities and especially on our college campuses. We are hoping to begin such a program at Vanderbilt.

What led you to become so involved in working with people battling problems with alcohol and drugs?

I was trained in the usual complications of alcoholism in medical school but was totally surprised when a physician colleague who was my patient committed suicide during a drinking binge. This event became the wake-up call for me to learn what addiction is and what I could have known to prevent this tragic event and the other behaviors of alcoholics that I should have learned in medical school and residency. Absolutely no training in medical school and residency at Vanderbilt and Johns Hopkins prepared me for this moment. I tell people this was God’s call to me to learn as much as I could and teach the medical students under my leadership that this disease can be treated and we can know what to do when confronted with this strange behavior. The leader of the psychiatry department at Vanderbilt at the time, believed alcoholism was a “bad habit.” I knew that wasn’t right so I started the journey, beginning at St. Mary’s rehabilitation center in Minneapolis, MN, to learn what alcoholism and drug addiction is and what can be done about it. The books “Dying for a Drink-What You and Your Family Should Know about Alcoholism” and “The Craving Brain-Science, Spirituality and the Road to Recovery” contain all that I have learned in the last 40 years about addiction.

What is on the horizon that gives you hope?

Medications for treating addiction to alcohol, opioids and tobacco have been available now for some time. Naltrexone is one of them and has demonstrated effects on reducing craving in severe alcoholics. Naloxone is a rapid acting medication that reverses the effects of opioid overdoses. The pressure of craving that drives the compulsion to drink alcohol or take addictive drugs is being intensely studied by researchers. An emerging molecular imaging technique using PET scans and (CT) computerized tomography of the brain have allowed researchers to study the craving of alcoholics and perhaps develop new medications to block their compulsive desire to continue taking the addictive substance.

What kinds of collaborations would you like to see among those in this field to better serve those with addictions?

Programs to prevent use, abuse and addiction to alcohol and drugs in high school students are in place now that demonstrate effective strategies. The program STARS (Students Taking a Right Stand) that is in place in many high schools and middle schools of Tennessee that has shown positive results. The principles of STARS translated into colleges and universities provides ideal approaches to reducing the tragic consequences of binge drinking experienced now on our college and university campuses. Also, community organizations in most of our states, organized by the Community Anti-Drug Coalitions of America (CADCA), have successfully approached the abuse and addiction problems in each community and provide blueprints for successful prevention strategies.

What has your work with men experiencing both homelessness and addiction taught you?

The addicted homeless men that I have taught at Matthew 25, a local homeless shelter, are a group of addicted men that respond as well to the usual detoxification procedures and medications as other patients in treatment centers. The problem of relapse prevention though is complicated by their lack of resources that would enable them to live in a drug and alcohol free environment, being provided medications for co-occuring medical illness and having a good paying job at discharge. I have added to the relapse prevention program for the Matthew 25 men a detailed questionnaire about each of the 12 Steps of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous. The men review each Step, write out their answers and discuss their answers with their group members. We urge them to attend AA and NA meetings, have a sponsor and continue their spiritual program after discharge. We hope they will finish the questionnaire and build a strong spiritual backup for their recovery program.

What do we as a society need to be doing that we are not?

The most effective strategy that I think is important for our country is strong leadership about the issue of addiction as a public health problem underlying many of our social ills. The issues of addiction prevention and treatment are becoming clearer as each day passes. The work by the researchers at the National Institutes of Drug Abuse (NIDA) and other federal facilities uncover additional medications for preventing craving.

The recent publication of the Surgeon General’s Report is an excellent document to use as a blueprint for action. Leadership by our elected officials will be required to put the recommendations into action.

Relationship Killers: Anger | Resentment

Anger | resentment – both can be relationship killers explains today’s guest author,  Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT.  Darlene is the author of Codependency for Dummies and Conquering Shame and Codependency: 8 Steps to Freeing the True You, and her latest eBook is titled, Dealing with a Narcissist, 8 Steps to Raise Self-Esteem and Set Boundaries with Difficult People. She can be reached at info@darlenelancer.com or you may wish to follow her on Facebook or visit her website www.whatiscodependency.com.

Darlene Lancer,

Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, explains how anger | resentment can kill a relationship.

Relationship Killers: Anger and Resentment by Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

Codependents have problems with anger. They have a lot of it for good reason, and they don’t know how to express it effectively. They’re frequently in relationships with people who contribute less that they do, who break promises and commitments, violate their boundaries, or disappointment or betray them. They may feel trapped, burdened with relationships woes, responsibility for children, or with financial troubles. Many don’t see a way out yet still love their partner or feel too guilty to leave.

Codependency Causes Anger and Resentment

Codependent symptoms of denial denial, dependency, lack of boundaries, and dysfunctional communication produce anger. We become angry and resentful, because we:

  1. Expect other people to make us happy, and they don’t.
  2. Agree to things we don’t want to.
  3. Have undisclosed expectations of other people.
  4. Fear confrontation.
  5. Deny or devalue our needs and thus don’t get them met.
  6. Try to control people and things, over which we have no authority.
  7. Ask for things in nonassertive, counterproductive ways; i.e., hinting, blaming, nagging, accusing.
  8. Don’t set boundaries to stop abuse or behavior we don’t want.
  9. Deny reality, and therefore,
  10. Trust and rely on people proven to be untrustworthy and unreliable.
  11. Want people to meet our needs who have shown that they won’t or can’t.
  12. Despite the facts and repeated disappointments, maintain hope and try to change others.
  13. Stay in relationships although we continue to be disappointed or abused.

Mismanaging Anger

When we can’t manage anger, it can overwhelm us. How we react is influenced by our innate temperament and early family environment. Some people explode, criticize, blame, or say hurtful things they later regret. Others hold it in and say nothing in. They please or withdraw to avoid conflict, but stockpile resentments. Yet anger always finds a way. Codependency can lead to being passive-aggressive, where anger comes out indirectly with sarcasm, grumpiness, irritability, silence, or through behavior, such as cold looks, slamming doors, forgetting, withholding, being late, even cheating.

If we’re in denial of our anger, we don’t allow ourselves to feel it or even mentally acknowledge it. We may not realize we’re angry for days, weeks, years after an event. All of these difficulties with anger are due to poor role models growing up. If one or both parents are aggressive or passive, we would copy one or the other parent. If we’re taught not to raise our voice, told not to feel angry, or were scolded for expressing it, we learned to suppress it. Some of us fear we’ll turn into the aggressive parent we grew up with. Many people believe it’s not Christian, nice, or spiritual to be angry and they feel guilty when they are.

The truth is that anger is a normal, healthy reaction when our needs aren’t met, our boundaries are violated, or our trust is broken. Anger has to move. Unexpressed anger breeds resentment or gets turned against ourselves. Anger requires expression and sometimes action to correct a wrong. It needn’t be loud or hurtful. Most codependents are afraid their anger will hurt or even destroy someone they love. But correctly handled, it can improve a relationship.

Expressing Anger Effectively

Managing our anger is essential to success in work and relationships. The first step is recognizing how it manifests in our body. Identify the physical signs of anger, usually tension and/or heat. Slow your breath and bring it into your belly to calm you. Take time out to cool-off.

Repeating gripes or arguments in our mind is a sign of resentment or “re-sent” anger. Admitting we’re angry, followed by acceptance, prepares us for a constructive response. Anger may signal deeper feelings or hidden pain, unmet needs, or that action is required. Sometimes, resentment is fueled by unresolved guilt. To overcome guilt and self-blame, see Freedom from Guilt and Blame – Finding Self-Forgiveness.

Understanding our reaction to anger includes discovering our beliefs and attitudes about it, what influenced their formation, and what triggers our anger. If we frequently over-react and view others’ actions as hurtful, it’s a sign of shaky self-worth. When we raise our self-esteem and heal internalized shame, we won’t over-react, but can to respond to anger in an assertive manner. Read the examples in How to Speak Your Mind: Become Assertive and Set Limits, and write out scripts and practice the role plays in How to Be Assertive.

Finally, forgiveness doesn’t mean we condone or accept bad behavior. It means that we’ve let go of our anger and resentment. (For suggestions, read “The Challenge of Forgiveness.”)

Working with a counselor is an effective way to learn to manage anger and communicate it effectively.

©Darlene Lancer 2017

To read her original, longer version, please click here.

 

Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week | February 2017

One in four children live in families with a parent addicted to alcohol, according to the National Association of Children of Alcoholics.

Unless you have been a child in a home with untreated, unhealthily discussed alcohol misuse, it’s difficult to image what it’s like to be a child in such a home.

Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week | February 2017

Children of Alcoholics Week, led by the National Association of Children of Alcoholics (NACoA), is an annual, international celebration.

Devastating. Scary. Shame-filled. Life-robbing. Lonely. Isolating. It’s a set-up for a “rest of your life” that NONE of us would ever wish on a child. It’s one of the most distressing examples of secondhand drinking and affects millions of children who struggle to cope with their parent’s changed behaviors. Children do not understand that the drinking behaviors their parent exhibits are due to the chemicals in alcoholic beverages changing brain functioning – not to anything they’ve done or could have done differently. Children do not understand that when their parent’s drinking crosses the line from alcohol abuse to dependence (aka alcoholism), their parent has developed a complex brain disease that changes their rote thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, as well.

Children of Alcoholics Awareness Week is celebrated internationally each year to raise awareness about these children. It also helps to raise awareness about what can happen to them as an adult when they do not receive the help they need as a child.

Children of Alcoholics

I am a child of an alcoholic and decided to share some of my story this year in honor of Children of Alcoholics Week. I frame my experiences in terms of secondhand drinking (SHD) and adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) and share them here via the opening paragraphs from two of my recent blog posts for ACEs Connection.

When ACEs are Rooted In Secondhand Drinking

My 30s would roll into my 40s before I realized my anorexia and bulimia were the symptoms of, the soothers for, my deeper, unresolved issues. In fact, it wasn’t until 2003 when one of my loved ones entered a residential treatment program for alcoholism that my “true” recovery began.  I say “true” recovery because back in the day (early 1980s) there was no ACE Study, nor an understanding that ACEs are often rooted in secondhand drinking.

About my soothers…

After dropping to 95 pounds on my self-imposed daily food allotment of carrots and a can of shrimp with ketchup, I slowly started eating again. I was 16. But it wasn’t long after giving myself permission to eat that the dam broke.

I vividly recall one night as a teen living at home. Late – very late, after I was sure everyone was asleep – I took a bucket I had hidden in my closet outside my sliding door into the backyard and jammed three fingers down my throat, forcing myself to keep retching until I had thrown up that evening’s food rampage. Anxiously, I washed my hands off under the outdoor hose, slipped back into my bedroom, and returned the bucket to its hiding place. And then I waited in the dark and waited and waited until I was certain the rest of my family was still asleep. Heart pounding, I tiptoed down the hall carrying the bucket to the bathroom. The smell was disgusting.

Locking the door, I flushed my stomach’s contents down the toilet. It took three flushes to get rid of all the bits and pieces in the toilet bowl, adding angst to angst, as I held my breath after each flush – waiting for the tank to fill and allowing a reasonable period of time before flushing again – all the while praying no family member would wake. I then snuck from the bathroom to the laundry room to wash out the bucket, terrified the water running sounded like a waterfall in the quiet of the house. This whole “process” took hours. Hours. And that was in the early stages of my bulimia. It got so much uglier over the ensuing 11 years – so much uglier – as I share in my poem, “Bulging Eyes,” below.

And then one day, 11 years into my bulimia, I read a small column in a Newsweek magazine. I was 28. It was about a woman who’d been eating huge quantities of food and throwing it up – for seven years. I remember the feeling of, “Oh my God – I’m not the only one,” followed by, “Oh my God, if she stopped, maybe I can, too.”

That was over 35 years ago, and it marked the beginning of my ending the binge/purge cycle that had ruled my life. I’m thrilled to share that I succeeded in learning to re-eat. Unfortunately, it wasn’t until 2003 that I fully understood…

anorexia and bulimia were only the symptoms.   Read the full post here.

When Recovering From ACEs is Recovering From Secondhand Drinking and Visa Versa

First recovery: learning to re-eat

As always, my eating disorders recovery “celebration” last year consisted of quiet kudos to self on Thanksgiving Day. I celebrate on Thanksgiving Day as it was the first major food holiday during which I’d managed not to binge and purge.

I write, “quiet kudos to self,” because back in the early 1980s when my eating disorders recovery began, there was little understanding, let alone treatment for people who either didn’t eat (anorexia) or ate huge quantities of food and then purged (bulimia).

In fact the only thing in my area treating this condition was a phobia group led by doctor who said bulimia was a fear of getting fat. Though that was never a driving force behind my binging and purging, I went along with his “treatment” and attended a few of the group meetings. But I soon gave up. I couldn’t relate to the experiences of an agoraphobic, arachnophobic, acrophobic, and others with diagnosed phobias.

Instead, I double-downed on my commitment to do what the woman who had spent seven years eating huge quantities of food and then throwing it up had done. Her very short story appeared in a Newsweek magazine column on bulimarexia. Her recovery success secret? Exercise and nutrition. I remember the feeling of, “Oh my God – I’m not the only one,” followed by, “Oh my God, if she stopped, maybe I can, too.”

Though I learned to re-eat (the details of which are beyond the scope of this article), I had no idea there was something far deeper that still needed to be fixed. And that something was the emotional underpinning – namely trauma – for my embracing eating disorders in the first place.

And that’s because back in the day (early 1980s), I’d never had words to describe let alone deal with my mother’s alcoholism and the resulting secondhand drinking*** dysfunction in my family. Back in the day, there was little understanding that children coping with secondhand drinking often have multiple relationships with alcohol misusers over the course of their adult life. 

As importantly, critical research about the human brain and emotional health had yet to be discovered.

So while I’d learn to re-eat, I’d never dealt with my secondhand drinking-related trauma; SHD-related trauma that had multiplied in the ensuing decades as my close relationships with other alcohol misusers multiplied.

***Secondhand Drinking (SHD) refers to the negative impacts of a person’s drinking behaviors on others. Drinking behaviors include verbal, physical, emotional abuse; neglect; blackouts; unplanned/unwanted sex, sexual assault; breaking promises to stop or cut down; shaming, blaming, denying; unpredictable behaviors; and driving while impaired, to name a few. Drinking behaviors are caused by a number of drinking patterns, including: binge drinking, heavy social drinking, alcohol abuse, and alcoholism. People engaging in these drinking patterns are referred to as alcohol misusers. The negative impacts a person coping with SHD experiences are related to toxic stress.  Read the full post here.

The Conclusion is Critical

I realize both of these posts are long, so I especially urge you to read the second post through to its end. That’s where the “exciting conclusion” is found and the hope begins.

Thank you for reading!

Relatable Stories of Addicts | Howard Goodman, MA LMFT

Often it is the stories of those who have struggled with a substance use disorder (aka addiction) that help a person either seek or sustain long term recovery. Today’s guest author, Howard P. Goodman, MA LMFT, shares relatable stories of those who struggle with these disorders. Goodman is a licensed psychotherapist and addiction specialist who blogs and speaks regularly about the fight against addiction. Based in Los Angeles, he is the author of the Amazon top-seller, The Staying Sober Handbook, a Step-by-Step Guide to Long-Term Recovery from Addiction.

Sounds Like Me: The Relatable Stories of Addicts by Howard P. Goodman, MA LMFT

Relatable Stories of Addicts | Howard Goodman, MA LMFT

Guest author, Howard Goodman, MA LMFT, shares his post, “relatable stories of addicts,” to help others seek or sustain long-term recovery.

The disease of addiction does not discriminate. It does not favor any gender, socioeconomic group, race or ethnicity. It can plague the lives of young or old, rich or poor, from any culture. There does not appear to be any population of people who are exempt. Interestingly, while the outer circumstances of an addict’s life can be different, “they all seem to share the same basic symptoms. I call them the ‘5 Cs,’” says Dr. George Cave with Malibu Hills Treatment Center, a non 12 step recovery center in California:

  1. Cravings
  2. Compulsion to Use
  3. Loss of Control
  4. Continued Use Despite Consequences
  5. Chronic Use

Cravings

Ben, a 23-year-old newly sober opioid addict recalls, “The craving to use opiates started early. At first it was fun, easy and free. I just went into my mother’s medicine chest and started taking her Vicodin.” It wasn’t long before Ben’s tolerance to opiates started to grow, requiring him to take higher doses to get the same effect. Ben turned to purchasing Vicodin, Percocet, Oxycodone and heroin on the street. As his tolerance rose, so too did his level of cravings. They started as soon as the effects of his high started to wear off. “By the time I started coming down, the craving for more kicked in,” says Ben. “If I didn’t have more on hand, I went into withdrawal. It was awful. I craved opiates like a starving man hungers for food.”

Compulsion to Use

“Obsessive thoughts and the compulsive desire to use can persist long after physical cravings subside,” observes Dr. Cave. He cites the example of Debra, a 28-year-old woman in his care who struggled for months with obsessive thoughts around using. She reports, “Even after I got off heroin, there was a period of time when getting high was the first thing I thought about in the morning and the last thing I thought about at night.” This kind of obsessive thinking is like a kind of nostalgia that is refer to as euphoric recall. “The individual obsessively dwells on moments of drug use that were positive and blocks out all of the negative consequences of their addictive behavior,” explains Dr. Cave.

Loss of Control

In the case of Patricia, a mother of three from an affluent family, “One drink was too many and 100 were not enough.” She could go for weeks, sometimes months at a time without drinking. This led her into the fantasy that she didn’t really have a problem and that she could control her drinking and have a glass of wine occasionally. The reality, however, was quite different. Even if she was able to drink in moderation on one of two occasions, Patricia inevitably reverted back to a pattern of alcoholic binge drinking that resulted in her life spinning out of control. “Binge drinkers often confuse the fact they can put together periods of abstinence with the ability to drink in moderation,” says Dr. Cave.

Continued Use Despite Consequences/Chronic Use

The chronic use of alcohol, despite increasingly negative consequences is at the center of Nolan’s story: “I was an expert at rationalizing or discounting the seriousness of my drinking,” the 45-year-old businessman reports. He dismissed the advice of loved ones and friends who cautioned him to moderate his drinking as “meddling” and told them to mind their own business.

“I could have saved myself and those around me a lot of heartache if I had listened,” Nolan reflects. It wasn’t until his wife left him, he was fired from his job and lost his driver’s license that he was forced to confront the devastating consequences of his chronic alcohol use. Sober now for three years, Dr. Cave reports progress: “Nolan is back home with his wife. He is working on repairing the damage his addiction did to the marriage. He’s also found a less stressful career at which he is more successful and enjoys more. It is amazing to see what is possible in sobriety.”

Bottom Line…

Though these different addicts’ stories are unique in their specific circumstances, there is a common link between each one. Acknowledging the existence of some (or all) of the 5 Cs can be a great first step toward a meaningful recovery.

6 Signs Indicating You’ve Lost Control of Your Addiction

Sharing six signs indicating you have lost control of addiction is the topic of today’s guest post by Carl Towns. Carl writes:

I’m a 28-year-old wanna-be writer; I am also a recovering addict in the path of self-discovery. My goal is to learn as many things as possible and to seize every single moment I live, pretty much trying to make up for all that I missed on the years I was lost in drugs and alcohol (among other things). I’m in love with tech, cars and pretty much anything that can be found online. My recovery angel? AspenRidge North Recovery

6 Signs Indicating You’ve Lost Control of Your Addiction by Carl Towns

6 Signs Indicating You've Lost Control of Your Addiction

What are the signs that indicate you’ve lost control of your addiction? Guest author, Carl Towns, shares six.

Living with an addiction can be one of the toughest things anyone could ever experience. Having dealt with it for years, I lost and regained control of my life, my mind and my body after what felt like an eternity of struggle, anxiety, and depression. The world might as well have collapsed onto itself and it would’ve mattered just the same to me. When I started using I felt like all of my worries were left on standby. All of my fears and problems suddenly mixed and vanished throughout that overwhelming feeling of fake joy and happiness that ultimately lead to my darkest hour. One of the hardest stages of my addiction were the first couple months before actually going into rehab. Not being able to acknowledge I had a problem was what took control of my every day and made me dig like a madman in my own mind looking for excuses and reasons to justify my attitude, until I finally realized it had taken away everything I cared about, everyone I ever loved and every dream I ever had. Here are 6 signs that opened my eyes to let me see how I lost control of my life.

Life seems to be only doom and gloom

When I was a heavy user, it didn’t matter what or how much of it I took, life would just not get the colors that it once had. Depression took over me like a heavy blanket that stopped me from moving in any direction. Everything seemed to be a lost cause and the sense of regret I started feeling could only be compared with the disappointment I knew I was causing to my loved ones. It was like life’s only mission was to remind me of how many mistakes I had made and how much I was hurting everyone around me. It was a never ending cycle where depression and anxiety passed the ball onto each other’s court and my only way out was to increase the amount I was using. Obviously, by using more and more often, the spiral of self-destruction I was involved in took its darkest and heaviest turn and made me feel I was reaching a point of no return. At this stage, the anxiety and the gloom in life became such a burden that even though I was using to escape, it was only pushing me harder into my addiction.

Everything you care about fades away until you lose it

Some of the people I had around me during my time as an addict stood by to help me until the very end, and for that, I’m very grateful. Some others couldn’t take it anymore and left for good because they could just not understand how my addiction worked. Nevertheless, due to how deep into my problems and issues I was, I started to push away even the ones that wanted to stick around to get me out of it. I became so blind with just getting the next hit, that I let it overshadow everything else. I started to report sick at work because I didn’t feel like going. I missed out on dates and gatherings with friends and family because I couldn’t deal with being sober for so long. Life shrunk itself to just one thing, and that very one thing was what turned the lights off in my life to the point where I lost everything I once cared about.

You lose control of your everyday

Willpower was never my strongest suit. When I was using, I can’t even remember how many times I told myself it was the last time. Every one of those times lead to me thinking how it would be ok to just use a little bit more as a “goodbye” to the substances. Depression and anxiety took over and I could no longer face anyone or look people in the eye without feeling regret. I hid in my apartment day and night, neglecting any other responsibilities. When bills came they started to pile up on the table. At times the phone wouldn’t stop ringing because everybody knew there was something wrong going on in my life; I just didn’t want to tell them they were right. I felt like didn’t have control over anything anymore. Not even when, where or even how much I used.

You lie to everyone including yourself

This was perhaps the thing that made things worse than what they could’ve been. My fear of being judged or cast out made me lie so often that in the end, it was almost impossible to keep up with all the things I had made up just to be able to satisfy my addiction. I was borrowing money from friends and family, never being able to give it back. Addiction was ruining my life in many ways, financially, emotionally and biologically. I was abusing my body. I stopped eating, stopped taking care of myself, started losing weight at an alarming rate; everyone knew I was having problems and they all wanted to help, but lying to them and myself just built up a wall between them and me. It builds a yet even bigger and thicker wall between me and myself. I told myself so many stories, arguments and reasons to keep using that I believe I could’ve written a book on poor excuses to abuse drugs.

You chase after getting high to avoid withdrawal

Withdrawal is one of the worst things an addict can experience. The anxiety and all those mixed emotions that make everything feel like hell is something that I wanted to get as far away as possible. I was using to never lose that high feeling because I knew what came after and I couldn’t deal with it. It’s such a powerful and overwhelming situation that you feel like the only way out of it is by using more and more often. And due to the fact that the more I used the more tolerance I built, it became worse within time.

Nothing else matters

After all the excuses were said. All the ties with loved ones were cut by me. All my fears became true and I no longer cared about anything else other than being high. I pushed everyone out of my life and only a few chose to wait outside for the opportunity to arise where they could come back in and help me. I was so blind by my addiction that literally nothing else mattered. My boss fired me, my colleagues stopped calling, most of my family slowly gave up and tried to turn the page. At this stage, words from the ones I loved the most started to bounce inside my head. When I thought everything was lost, when I believed that I had hit rock bottom, I realized I needed help and there were enough around to help me climb out of that dark and deep well I had fallen into.

Living with an addiction is perhaps the hardest thing I have ever been through, and certainly could also be the hardest thing my family and friends have ever experienced. I believe things could’ve been a bit easier on everyone if we all knew a bit more about what addiction means not only to the addict but also to the family. While things were spiraling out of control, those that always stood by me were noticing all these signs that I failed to see at first. Love and patience were two things that saved me and my loved ones. I thought everything was lost but in the end, I went through a recovery process that opened my eyes to a new happy healthy life, where I haven’t forgotten my past but I forgave myself for what I did and asked for forgiveness without shame. It was tough, I won’t lie, but I’m really happy that I wasn’t alone and that I still have people who believed in me until I was back on track. Recognizing these signs can make a huge difference in the life of an addict, letting them know that you still care no matter how bad things will get can be what in the end lights up the path to sobriety.

If you would like to ask questions, or simply share an experience or signs we might have missed, feel free to leave a comment below.