15 Minutes Can Change Your Life

Change [including how one deals with a loved one’s addiction or with a loved one deeply affected by secondhand drinking (aka codependency)] begins in the mind. As such, a person can use their mind to change their lives. To help readers better understand this concept, Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT, shares the following post. To read her longer version, please click here.

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.

 

15 Minutes Can Change Your Life by Darlene Lancer, JD, MFT

15 Minutes Can Change Your Life

Darlene Lancer, author of “Codependency for Dummies,” shares her post on how to change your life with just 15 minutes a day.

Our thoughts are powerful – for better or worse. Thoughts can set off chain reactions that build self-esteem or undermine it. Authority over our mind is the ultimate power. “Mind is everything. What you think you become,” said Buddha. Thoughts affect not only our mental health, relationships, and the ability to achieve our goals, but also our physical health – our digestion, circulation, respiration, immunity, and nervous system.

Next are our actions. Change begins in the mind, but is manifested and amplified by our actions. How we behave can change our thoughts and feelings. They change us. Spend 15 minutes doing the following each day, and watch your whole life change:

Mindfulness

Mindfulness brings awareness to our thoughts. It’s merely the ability to observe our thinking in a dispassionate, neutral way. Research has shown that mindfulness mediation has numerous benefits, including:
• Reduced rumination
• Reduced stress
• Increased working memory
• Increased ability to focus
• Increased empathy
• Increased self-esteem and self-compassion
• Reduced reactivity
• Increased cognitive flexibility
• Increased relationship satisfaction
• Increased speed of information processing
• Other benefits. Mindfulness has been shown to enhance self-insight, morality, intuition and fear modulation, and other health and brain functioning benefits.

Shining the light of consciousness on our mental process differs from being caught up in thoughts and the stories we create and react to as if they were true. Observing thoughts tends to dissipate unhelpful, repetitive ones and helps free us from self-judgment and the need to control. Mindfulness also brings us into the present moment, in contrast to the focusing on achieving or fixing things or being lost in obsessive thoughts about other people, the past, or future. It increases our ability to question, challenge, replace, or stop our thoughts and actions. In this way, we’re better able to make constructive changes and avoid repeating past mistakes.

Mindfulness also changes how we perceive reality, so that events don’t automatically affect us and our self-concept. We develop the ability to experience reality in a non-evaluative manner and less reactive way. Because our self-worth is less dependent on external reality, we’re able to embrace our inner-self rather than relying on others for validation. There is evidence that high levels of mindfulness correlate with higher levels of self-esteem and more secure self-worth.

This skill represents a higher level of awareness and consciousness. (You can take a quiz to score your degree of mindfulness.) Like learning any skill, it takes practice. Meditation or another spiritual practice can develop mindfulness. There are many types of meditation. Some involve chanting, walking, qigong, yoga, or breathing exercises, described in more detail in Codependency for Dummies, as well as the many other mental, emotional, and physical benefits of meditation.

Encourage Yourself

According to research, how you speak to yourself can have a huge effect on self-esteem. Self-talk can improve or ruin your mindset, mood, relationships, and job satisfaction and performance. Self-criticism is the biggest obstacle to good self-esteem. To overcome self-criticism, the first step is becoming conscious of your negative self-talk. Mindfulness helps, but so does writing down your negative self-talk. (See 10 Steps to Self-Esteem: The Ultimate Guide to Stop Self-Criticism.) Start replacing the negative with positive, self-affirming statements. Beware, however, that if you tell yourself things you don’t believe, your efforts can backfire. Your unconscious is very literal and doesn’t distinguish between what you tell yourself and what others say to you.

Make a Gratitude List

Cultivating “An attitude of gratitude” has numerous health and psychological benefits. Among them, studies show that it will:
• Increased quality sleep
• Increased time exercising
• Increased vitality and energy
• Increased physical and psychological health
• Increased empathy
• Increased self-esteem
• Increase productivity and decision-making ability
• Increased resiliency in overcoming trauma
• Reduced depression (by a whopping 35%)

It can be hard to feel grateful when you don’t, especially when you have depression, anxiety, trauma, or physical pain. An easy way to begin is to keep a daily journal, and write 3-10 things you’re grateful for. In doing this daily, your mind will start looking for things each day to add to your list. In this way your outlook on life begins to change. You’ll have even greater benefits if you do this with a friend, sponsor, or your partner and read your list aloud. Here are more tips on developing gratitude.

Make a Plan

Not only has research shown that goal setting increases both motivation and performance, it also enhances positive feelings and our sense of well-being, self-efficacy, success, and job satisfaction. Each day write daily objectives. For me, it works better to do this the night before. If you have a lot on your mind that interferes with falling sleep, making a to-do list can get them off your mind. It’s important not to abandon yourself. When you don’t feel like doing something, like paying bills or exercising, do it anyway. Larger goals require more thought and planning, but research shows that the more difficult the goal, the greater the pay-off. This makes sense since the greater achievement would build more self-confidence and self-esteem. When you have a bigger goal, break it down into small, daily, actionable steps.

Do Esteemable Acts

Actions count a lot. Doing things in line with your values that raises your self-esteem and elevates your mood. Conversely, doing things that make you feel ashamed or guilty undermines self-worth. Aside from living in accordance with our values, such as not lying or stealing, making an effort to do things that build self-esteem pays off. (See How to Raise Your Self-Esteem.) Plan to do one each day. Examples are:
• Writing a thank you note
• Sending birthday cards
• Calling a sick friend
• Cleaning out a closet
• Staying on top of filing, bill-paying, etc. (not procrastinating)
• Volunteering to help someone or a group
• Setting a boundary
• Speaking up about your wants and needs
• Showing appreciation to others
• Apologizing when you’re wrong
• Making a special meal
• Self-care, including keeping medical appointments

All this may sound like too much and too time-consuming, but mediating a mere 10 minutes a day develops a healthy habit. It can take less than 5 minutes to write goals for the day, a grateful list, and negative and positive self-talk. At the end of the day, you can write three things you did well, and feel grateful and proud. Go to sleep with a smile, knowing that you improved yourself and your life. 🙂

©Darlene Lancer 2017

My AA Family – They Loved Me Until I Was Able to Love Myself

There is a great deal of confusion, stigma, shame and discrimination surrounding addiction and addiction treatment and recovery. Yet those who have the chronic, often relapsing brain disease of addiction and are in recovery live healthy, productive, engaged lives — the same kinds of lives as people who do not have this disease. But all the words and definitions and explanations in the world are not as powerful as the people themselves. To that end, we are grateful to the people in recovery who have decided to share their experiences so that we all may put a Face to Addiction Treatment and Recovery.

It is my great pleasure to share my good friend and HR Director for Change Addiction Now (United We CAN), Regina Eversole’s, story in today’s post and thank her for joining the Faces of Recovery on BreakingTheCycles.com. Regina can be reached by email at ReginaE@changeaddictionnow.org.

My AA Family — They Loved Me Until I Was Able to Love Myself by Regina Eversole

My recovery started at a hospital in Cincinnati, Ohio, May 2000. My drug of choice was alcohol.

My AA Family - They Loved Me Until I Was Able to Love Myself

Regina Eversole found recovery through the 12 Steps of AA and the love of her AA Family.

By the time I found myself at the hospital my body was already starting to shut down. I had the shakes really bad; I was dehydrated, malnourished and my liver was damaged. The doctors were at the point of putting a feeding tube down my throat if I didn’t start eating. I spent a week in the hospital while they worked to get my physical body working again.

While the doctors were trying to mend my body, they brought a physiatrist in to speak to me. He spent every day talking to me about recovery. To this day I still remember his exact words to me: “There is nothing wrong with you, except you need recovery, you need to leave this hospital and find an AA meeting.” That is exactly what I did. Once I was physically okay, I left the hospital, and the very next day went to my first AA meeting.

I remembered being scared, ashamed and confused. However, it didn’t take long for me to feel right at home. The people in those rooms were telling my story. I finally found those who understood me. They accepted and embraced me. I immediately obtained a sponsor and started working the steps (one thing for me was that I was able to take what worked for me and leave the rest).

I can’t explain it, but as soon as I was able to admit to myself and others that I had a problem, all cravings and desire to drink were gone. (Even today that floors me because I had lost everything to this disease and was in active addiction close to 20 years and all the sudden all those desires were gone!)

I was always told to do 90 meetings in 90 days, so that was my goal. I worked, went to meetings, hung out with those in the groups, and before I knew it, I was going to one to two meetings a day, every day, for almost 9 months.

Fourteen days before my 9 months anniversary, I was hit by a car which left me in the hospital for 7 months and resulted in me losing my right leg above the knee. I remember being more scared of getting addicted to the pain medication then I was living without a leg. They brought a retired nurse who had been in the program for 20 years to talk to me because I wouldn’t take the pain meds. Her exact words to me were, “Your body needs this medication to heal, and if you get addicted, that is what we are here for.”  I started taking the meds but still was terrified because I didn’t want to go back to active addiction.

My AA family surrounded me during that 7 months. I literally had numerous visitors every single day. They came to my hospital room and had meetings. I found my strength through those around me. They loved me until I was able to love myself.

I never got addicted to the pain meds (which I think was a miracle!).  And once out of the hospital, I continued going to meetings. Before I knew it, those days turned into months and those months into years.

I now have 17 years of continual recovery. I don’t know why AA worked for me and doesn’t for others. I just know it did. I don’t attend meetings on a regular basis these days, but I do work with addiction and recovery on a daily basis.

In closing, I want to remind readers that this is my story of recovery. One thing I have learned over the years is that one path does not work for everyone and that’s okay. There are a lot of different variables that go into finding the right path to recovery for each individual. For me, it was the 12 Steps of AA and my AA family.

Untreated ACEs Can Make Addiction Recovery Difficult

Compare the changes in the Smart Phone of 2007 to the Smart Phone of today, 2017. Radical, revolutionary, life-changing, who could have imagined? The superlatives to describe this comparison are endless.

Those same superlatives can be applied to the changes in our understanding of the human brain; changes that explain how ACEs (Adverse Childhood Experiences) can cause a person to develop addiction (aka substance use disorder) and how untreated ACEs can make addiction recovery difficult.

This brain research explains:

  • how the brain works, wires, develops, and maps to control everything we think, feel, say, and do
  • how alcohol or other drugs, trauma, toxic stress, genetics, and environment can negatively change or influence that wiring, development, and mapping
  • how addiction, aka substance use disorders, is a developmental brain disease that starts with substance misuse changing brain structure and functioning, making the brain more vulnerable to the five key risk factors for developing the disease [these risk factors include childhood trauma (adverse childhood experiences, aka ACEs), social environment, mental illness, early use, and genetics]
  • how childhood trauma (adverse childhood experiences, aka ACEs) can cause toxic stress and how toxic stress can actually change a child’s brain architecture, negatively affecting their lifetime physical and emotional health
  • how a person must heal their trauma (ACEs) in order to heal their brain and thereby improve their lives
  • that the brain is plastic, meaning it can rewire, it can heal from the impacts of substance use disorders and trauma-related toxic stress.

Treating ACEs for Success in Addiction Recovery

As important as these brain research advances and findings are to understanding the disease of addiction and what it takes to effectively treat it is the ACEs [Adverse Childhood Experiences] Study. This study measured the impact of adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) on a person’s health across a lifetime.

According to SAMHSA’s paper, “The Role of Adverse Childhood Experiences in Substance Abuse and Related Behavioral Health Problems,”

Adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are stressful or traumatic experiences, including abuse, neglect and a range of household dysfunction such as witnessing domestic violence, or growing up with substance abuse, mental illness, parental discord, or crime in the home. ACEs are strongly related to development and prevalence of a wide range of health problems, including substance abuse, throughout the lifespan.

Untreated ACEs Can Make Addiction Recovery Difficult

Untreated ACEs can lead to the development of addiction (aka Substance Use Disorders) and make addiction recovery difficult.

Daniel D. Sumrok, MD, FAAFP, DABAM, DFASAM, began incorporating the ACEs questionnaire in his practice after learning about the ACEs study. Dr. Sumrok is the director of the Center for Addiction Sciences at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center’s College of Medicine. As reported by Jane Ellen Stevens in her article, “Addiction doc says: It’s not the drugs. It’s the ACEs – adverse childhood experiences,”

He [Dr. Sumrok] says: Addiction shouldn’t be called “addiction”. It should be called “ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking”.

He [Dr. Sumrok] says: Ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking (what traditionalists call addiction) is a normal response to the adversity experienced in childhood, just like bleeding is a normal response to being stabbed.

He [Dr. Sumrok] says: The solution to changing the illegal or unhealthy ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking behavior of opioid addiction is to address a person’s adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) individually and in group therapy; treat people with respect; provide medication assistance in the form of buprenorphine, an opioid used to treat opioid addiction; and help them find a ritualized compulsive comfort-seeking behavior that won’t kill them or put them in jail.

Click here to learn more about Dr. Sumrok’s approach to helping his patients succeed in recovery by treating their ACEs, as well as the outstanding work being done by other doctors across the country: Dr. Karen Derefinko, Dr. David Stern, and Dr. Altha Stewart.

And to get your ACEs score, click here.

For more on what it takes to effectively treat addiction, check out NIDA’s Principles of Effective Treatment.

I Could Have Developed Alcoholism | I Developed Bulimia Instead

I still look back with great sadness on the 11 years I spent binging and purging (bulimia) and the year I spent “dieting” (anorexia)  — my lost years from ages 16-28.

To the person whose never been bulimic, it’s impossible to understand why someone would “choose” to eat huge quantities of food and then throw it up — over and over and over; time and time and time again. To the person whose never been anorexic, it’s impossible to explain why someone would “choose” to purposely starve themselves. I try to describe what it’s like in my post, When ACEs are Rooted in Secondhand Drinking.

By the same token, it’s impossible to understand why someone “starts,” let alone “chooses” to continue, their alcoholism (aka alcohol use disorder). What causes them to repeatedly break promises to themselves and to their loved ones to stop or cut down? Why don’t they love their loved ones enough to stop?

In my opinion, based on my own experience and that of the hundreds of people whom I’ve helped or who have reached out to me to tell me their similar stories, the answer is unresolved ACEs – Adverse Childhood Experiences. As I wrote in my post, “When Recovering From ACEs is Recovering From Secondhand Drinking & Visa Versa” (retitled and printed below),

Bottom line, I realized I could have developed alcoholism. Instead, I developed bulimia. Others embraced cutting, spiraled into deep depression, developed OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), or experienced a host of toxic stress-related ailments: headaches, stomach problems, skin rashes, anxiety, depression, hair loss, racing heartbeat, back pain, muscle aches, migraines, sleep problems, changes in eating habits (causing obesity or weight loss), and dizziness.

I Could Have Developed Alcoholism | I Developed Bulimia Instead

In 2016, I celebrated 35 years recovery from the eating disorders I’d grappled with from the ages of 16–28. I was 63 years old. But as I shared in my last post, “When ACEs are Rooted in Secondhand Drinking,” I was into my 40s before I realized my anorexia and bulimia were the symptoms of, and soothers for, my deeper, unresolved issues.

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.

*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.

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.

Thus the “voice” that had previously ruled my life with bulimia settled on attacking me for not being important enough, good enough, loveable enough – just plain, enough. Enough to make my various loved ones want to stop drinking and thus stop the crazy, convoluted drinking behaviors it spawned.

In order to shout down, block out the “voice,” I became a workaholic, married, became a supermom and workaholic, divorced, re-married and created a blended family, and divorced again. Along the way, I turned into a hawk who saw every move of every person in my compulsion to “fix” the various alcohol misusers in my life. And it wasn’t just the alcohol misusers. I was equally compelled to “fix” the scores of others whose lives were crumbling in the wake of their own and my secondhand drinking behaviors.

I didn’t understand that my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors had deeply, deeply intertwined (enmeshed) with the thoughts, feelings, and behaviors of my loved ones. I had no understanding we were locked in a dance, The Dance of the Family Disease of Alcoholism.

Thus I never dreamed of looking at my ”Self” for answers. I just kept frantically doing something, anything to keep the judging voice – my inner critic – at bay. Thus my 30s rolled into my 40s without my finding the real relief I so desperately sought. When asked how I was, I’d answer, “I’m fine,” with absolutely no idea of, let alone ability to name, how I really felt.

I Could Have Developed Alcoholism | I Developed Bulimia Instead

“True” recovery: healing my heart and soul by rewiring my brain

And then one of my loved ones entered a residential treatment program for alcoholism in 2003, and my “true” recovery began. I was plunged into the world of being labeled a codependent, an enabler, and informed addiction* was a disease.

*Addiction is the common term used to describe a dependence on alcohol or other drugs. The common terms for these addictions are alcoholism and drug addiction. New language based on new brain science now refers to addiction as a substance use disorder. In the case of alcohol, it would be an alcohol use disorder. Alcohol use disorders include a variety of drinking patterns: binge drinking, heavy social drinking, and alcohol abuse. The most severe alcohol use disorder is what we commonly refer to as alcoholism.

I baulked at that one. Cancer is a disease, I argued. All they had to do is put down the bottle. Not only that, I’d learned to re-eat and you needed food to survive – you sure didn’t need alcohol!

But I was also “done” – done – done with what I didn’t know, but I knew something had to change. My life had been reduced to rigid absolutes: black or white, truth or a lie, you’re with me-or-you’re-not. And I was so, so angry.

Fortunately, I took to heart what the treatment center’s family therapist said to do. I attended as many family group programs at the center as were available and started participating in a 12-step program for family and friends of a loved one who misuses alcohol. I found a therapist who specialized in the family side of this disease and spent three years in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with him. I needed to unwire the many stress-related, unhealthy, reactionary coping skills I’d adopted in order to stay emotionally safe in the almost four decades I’d spent grappling with secondhand drinking.

It was also in this therapy I discovered the full impact on me of the sexual assault by a boyfriend’s father when I was a teen – another trauma. I had so deeply buried the stripping away of “Lisa” caused by that experience, thus healing that trauma was as important as healing the trauma caused by SHD.

And in the midst of all this, I did what I do – I researched. I had to understand how I went so far down; why I’d tolerated secondhand drinking for so, so, so long; and on what basis treatment professionals could possibly think alcoholism (addiction) was a disease. What I learned and continue to learn has been life changing.

Finally science that puts it all together

Advances in imaging technologies and the resulting brain research provided and continue to provide insights and answers like never before. In fact much of what we know about the human brain has been discovered in the recent 10-15 years.

Research explains:

  • how the brain works, wires, develops, and maps to control everything we think, feel, say, and do
  • alcohol, trauma, toxic stress, genetics, and environment can negatively change or influence that wiring, development, and mapping
  • alcoholism (aka alcohol use disorder/addiction) is a developmental brain disease that starts with alcohol misuse changing brain structure and functioning, making the brain more vulnerable to the five key risk factors for developing the disease
  • trauma can cause toxic stress; toxic stress can actually change a child’s brain architecture, negatively affecting their lifetime physical and emotional health
  • a person must heal their trauma in order to heal their brain and thereby improve their lives
  • the brain is plastic, meaning it can rewire, it can heal from the impacts of alcohol use disorders and trauma-related toxic stress
  • nutrition, exercise, sleep, and mindfulness are critical to brain health and thus are keys to repairing, rewiring, and healing one’s brain for better thoughts, feelings, and behaviors.

As important as these brain research advances and findings to my secondhand drinking recovery is the ACEs Study. This study measured the impact of adverse childhood experiences* (ACEs) on a person’s health across a lifetime. Finally! Something that explained what had happened to me AND to my various loved ones.

*Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs) are divided into three categories, neglect; abuse; and household challenges; and include physical, verbal, sexual abuse; physical, emotional neglect; and growing up with a relative with a substance use or mental disorder, to name a few. Click here to get your ACEs Score.

Information that set me free and allowed me to forgive

Over the course of my 13-year secondhand drinking recovery, I’ve become a speaker, educator, and trainer on the research I’ve shared in this article. The connection chart below is one I developed and use in my work to help people understand how closely the connection is between SHD, ACEs and addiction.

I Could Have Developed Alcoholism | I Developed Bulimia Instead

For example, I learned I had exposure to four of the adverse childhood experiences measured in the ACE Study.

I learned my mother, whose alcoholism had so deeply influenced my life’s trajectory, had experienced five. I realized my daughters both had 4, and they were only 14 & 15 ½ at the time I learned of this study.

I found similar ACEs history patterns repeated in my other alcohol misusing loved ones. One had 5, another 3, and a third 6.

And all of us had long-term exposure to secondhand drinking.

I found similar patterns in the stories shared with me by the hundreds of people with whom I’ve worked over this past decade.

And it wasn’t just “us” in our immediate families. It was intergenerational. When a parent does not heal their trauma, their experiences change them. Those changes in them affect their parenting and/or inter-familial relationships in profound ways.*

*Check out the American Academy of Pediatrics’ article,“Adverse Childhood Experiences and the Lifelong Consequences of Trauma.”

Bottom line, I realized I could have developed alcoholism. Instead, I developed bulimia. Others embraced cutting, spiraled into deep depression, developed OCD (obsessive-compulsive disorder), or experienced a host of toxic stress-related ailments: headaches, stomach problems, skin rashes, anxiety, depression, hair loss, racing heartbeat, back pain, muscle aches, migraines, sleep problems, changes in eating habits (causing obesity or weight loss), and dizziness.

It was all of these understandings that gave me the information – the “ah ha’s” – I needed to forgive my loved ones and to forgive myself. And it was the forgiveness that really set me free. Not the kind of forgiveness that excuses horrific behaviors, rather the kind of forgiveness that lets go of wishing for a different outcome. It is the kind of forgiveness that recognizes we were all doing the best we could with what we knew at the time. And for almost four decades, that wasn’t much. Sadly, for most Americans in this situation, it still isn’t.

Which is where my hope comes in

… for the 90 M Americans who experience secondhand drinking and the 18+ million Americans who struggle with alcohol use disorders and the thousands of communities within which we work, go to school, and live.

It is my hope that understanding the connection between SHD, ACEs and the risk factors for developing addiction emboldens us to embrace a middle ground, namely that we all have been affected and need our respective recoveries. It no longer has to be an us against them, or my hell is your fault, or stop your drinking and all will be well for me.

It is my hope that understanding this connection can be the “Oh my God” moments a person may need to start their own recovery journey.

Sure… our recoveries will be different depending on what went into developing the brain we have, but our recoveries can also be similar in that we can go on to live healthy, joy-filled lives having healed, re-wired our brains. We just need to do it differently.

We need to take advantage of the ACE study findings and modern brain science to create a new framework. In this framework we can discuss, work together, and enhance therapies, preventions, and interventions to affect real recovery from ACEs, SHD, and alcohol use disorders (addiction).

Within this framework, we can break the cycles!

______________________________________________

I leave you with links to a few of my blog posts covering some of the details of my 13-year secondhand drinking recovery journey….

And for more on secondhand drinking:

 

Finding Happiness After Addiction – Trevor McDonald

There is a great deal of confusion, stigma, shame and discrimination surrounding addiction and addiction treatment and recovery. Yet those who have the chronic, often relapsing brain disease of addiction and are in recovery live healthy, productive, engaged lives — the same kinds of lives as people who do not have this disease. But all the words and definitions and explanations in the world are not as powerful as the people themselves. To that end, we are grateful to the people in recovery who have decided to share their experiences so that we all may put a Face to Addiction Treatment and Recovery.

It is my great pleasure to share Trevor McDonald’s story in today’s post and thank him for joining the Faces of Recovery on BreakingTheCycles.com. Trevor can be reached by email at trevorc.mcdonald@gmail.com; via LinkedIn; or through his Website

How Did Your Addiction to Alcohol Start?

Finding Happiness After Addiction - Trevor McDonald

Trevor McDonald shares his story of recovery from alcohol use disorder.

I was in college and I was always stressed, constantly overwhelmed, and I started using alcohol to escape. I guess it started socially – I would drink with friends, always drinking a bit more than them. The difference is that they were drinking alcohol because they were having fun, I was drinking it because I wasn’t.

It didn’t start to get bad for several years. Or at least I didn’t notice it. Then one day I look up and I’m drinking every day. At home, after work, at the bar. It just didn’t end. Of course, I lied to myself for a long time. “I can quit any time I want to”. I didn’t learn until years later that this type of self-deception is actually a normal part of addiction. I tried to stop the first time when my wife asked me to. When I couldn’t, I hated myself. I was sneaking alcohol behind her back – meanwhile pretending that everything was fine.

What was the turning point for you – the start of your addiction recovery?

I knew I had a problem a long time before I realized I had to quit. I had to hit rock bottom, I lost everything, my job, my house, my wife. It was a hard thing to face – being a 30-year-old who has to go live with his parents because he can’t get himself under control. My mom and dad stipulated that to stay with them I’d have to detox. They helped me so much, researching my options, finding a clinic, even booking everything for me.

What was your initial treatment?

Like almost everyone, I used the 12-step model to help overcome my addiction. After I went through detox I went to therapy – I learned a lot of things, like how to recognize my triggers and how to cope with them, how to handle stress, and how to approach my addiction like a disease and not like a character flaw. 12 step was incredibly helpful for me because I had people to talk to. I feel like a big thing was that I was always held accountable. My group made sure that I stayed sober, that I stayed grounded and didn’t try to blame slipups on anyone but myself. They made me recognize that I’m not the most important thing, that asking for help is okay, and that I’m in control of my own destiny. I didn’t think so at first of course. But I went anyway – I had to try something. And then one day, sitting listening to a garbage collector talking about how powerless he felt every time he was around alcohol, I felt like he might as well have been talking about me. I started being more active, sharing, discussing, pushing and being pushed. And it worked.

Do you do anything differently, today?

I’ve been out of recovery for 2 years now but I still attend meetings. I still work to live by the 12 steps, taking personal inventory, admitting my wrongs, working to change myself before problems become bad. I’ve also taken up mindfulness and I feel like that helps a lot.

What is your life like, now?

My life is pretty great. I’m back with my wife, I’ve been working at my current job for a year. I see my parents on the weekend. I’m happy. It’s such a weird thing to say because it eluded me for all those years while I was chasing it as an alcoholic, but I really am.

Do you have anything you’d like to share with someone currently struggling with a substance misuse problem or an addiction?

If you’re struggling with an addiction, don’t give up. It’s hard getting over addiction, but you can do it. Get help, talk to people. Substance use changes your brain and you need help if you want to get your life back. Everyone I know who’s gotten better has been through that shift of realizing they need help and eventually getting it. Don’t be afraid to ask.

How about anything you’d like to share with their family and friends?

Be there, be supportive, even when they don’t deserve it. You could be the difference between someone you love making it into recovery and them not.

What is the best part of your recovery?

Realizing I could be myself again. Learning how to be happy. Taking pleasure in simple things. When you’re addicted, the only thing that matters is alcohol and it’s incredible to rediscover life again.