5 Things to Know About Addiction – Recovery | National Recovery Month

It’s almost September, and in my work, that means one of my favorite months of the year is just around the corner — NATIONAL RECOVERY MONTH!

And this year, there is so much to celebrate!

National Recovery Month

Addiction recovery has come a long, long, looooong way since the world rang in the 21st Century in 2000, and what we know today vs. what we knew then about addiction and recovery is nothing short of WOW! WOW!! WOW!!!

Much of this new understanding is the result of advances in neuroscience and imaging technologies that now allow scientists and medical professionals to study the live human brain in action and over time.

For example:

1.  Addiction has long been called a disease, but we now know the nature of this disease…

We now know addiction is a chronic, often relapsing brain disease.

The Addiction Project (NIDA, NIAAA, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and HBO collaboration)

Drugs, Brains, and Behavior: The Science of Addiction (NIDA)

2.  Relapse has long been viewed as the person’s fault, a character defect, a lack of will power – “they just didn’t want it badly enough” – but we now know that’s a big, fat lie!

We now know relapse is a “hallmark” of the brain disease of addiction

Child's brain goes through critical developmental processes aged 5-20 and continues until around 22 for girls and 24 for boys. Source: NIDA, "Cormorbidity: Addiction and Other Mental Illnesses," p. 4

Advances in imaging technologies now allow scientists and medical professionals to study the live human brain in action and over time.

…primarily because of how the disease hijacks brain function, not understanding the power of addiction cravings and not treating the underlying risk factors that contributed to the development of the disease. An example of the latter is not treating co-occurring disorders (which is having an addiction and a mental illness – two brain function changers) at the same time. (In other words, co-occurring disorders require co-occurring treatment.)

Understanding Relapse (The Addiction Project)

Let’s Talk About Cravings (The Addiction Project)

Why Do Some People Become Addicted – (The Addiction Project)

3. If you’re not in a 12-step program, you’re not in Recovery

We now know there are many, many paths to recovery because recovery is personal.

Raising awareness there is no one-size-fits-all path to recovery is opening the doors of recovery to millions of people like never before – people who need help with tamping down the cravings while battling their triggers; or treating co-occurring disorders; or sorting out the impacts of childhood trauma and its early influence on their early brain wiring.

Working Definition of Recovery (SAMHSA)

Principles of Effective Treatment: A Research-Based Guide (Third Edition) (NIDA)

4.  It’s long been assumed that once the person with addiction finds recovery, all is well for the family, too. We now know that’s impossible because the family has experienced their own physical and emotional health consequences as a result of secondhand drinking | secondhand drugging (SHD) and SHD’s chronic activation of the fight-or-flight stress response system.

We now know the family needs their own recovery

…and that in their recovery, the family member(s) is/are better able to help themselves, which in turn helps their loved one succeed in their own recovery or seek recovery if they haven’t thus far.

Family Disease (National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence, Inc. [NCADD])

The Fight-or-Flight Stress Response – Secondhand Drinking Connection (Lisa Frederiksen, BreakingTheCycles.com)

5.  Recovery is not just behind closed doors anymore. In fact, thousands – thousands! – of people are standing up to share their recovery stories.

We now know over 23 Million Americans are living their lives in RECOVERY!

UNITE to Face Addiction (huge grassroots rally on The Mall in Washington, D.C., 10.4.15)

The Anonymous People Documentary Film

Faces and Voices of Recovery

Bottom Line

These are exciting times – EXCITING times! Recovery is out of the closet, addiction is out of the closet, families are out of the closet. We are standing, we are shouting, we are proud to say, “Addiction Recovery is Real. It happens to real people. And it happens all the time!”

So please stand, join the shout and proudly spread these 5 things to know about Addiction – Recovery as part of your National Recovery Month 2015 celebration.

And if you can be anywhere near Washington, D.C. on 10.4.15, join the massive UNITE to Face Addiction Rally. Watch this short video and you’ll understand why. Hope to see you there!

Involving Family Members in Addiction Treatment | Guest Author – Nadine Herring

I can so relate to Nadine Herring’s guest post, today. What is so often missing in treatment programs for those seeking help with a substance use disorder is a comprehensive program directed specifically to helping their family members and friends. The presumption by the person in treatment, family members and friends, and society as a whole, for that matter, is “fix the addict | alcoholic and everything will be fine.” Nothing could be further from the truth.

So it is my great pleasure to share’s Nadine’s guest post. She is the owner of Virtually Nadine, a virtual assistant company that provides online administrative support and social media management to addiction specialists and social service organizations. She specializes in working with leaders in this undervalued and overworked field to help them deal with the time consuming process of running an organization. You can connect with Nadine on Facebook, LinkedIn, Google+, Twitter, or her website.

Why Doesn’t Addiction Treatment Involve Family Members? by Nadine Herring

Nadine Herring shares her views on a critical missing piece in addiction treatment - namely treatment specifically for the family.

Nadine Herring shares her thoughts on the importance of involving family members in addiction treatment.

Open and honest discussions are finally taking place about the issues of addiction, but there is one area that needs more discussion that hits very close to home for many of us. The following is from my article dated August 18, 2015 “Why Aren’t Families Involved in Addiction Treatment?” appearing on my Virtually Nadine blog.

Addiction: some say it is a disease, some say it is a choice; others say it is a weakness in character or a moral failing… There is a lot of open, honest discussion taking place about the issue of addiction, and I, for one, say it’s about damn time, but there is one area that needs more discussion and hits very close to home for many of us.

As I’ve written about before, I am the sibling of an alcoholic brother and a crack addict sister. My brother lost his battle with alcoholism 8 years ago, and my sister has been in long-term recovery for 10 years now. My brother was the oldest of 5 children, and my sister was the youngest; imagine that: the oldest and the youngest both suffered from addiction.

Why did they suffer from addiction and my other two sisters and I didn’t?

To this day, no one has ever explained that to us. I know that there is alcoholism on both sides of my family; both my paternal grandfather and my aunt on my mother’s side suffered from it, as well as some cousins, so it may be genetic, but then why did it skip us and affect my brother? Was it genetic or as I suspect, did it have to do with things he experienced while in the army? No one ever noticed my brother’s drinking until he got out of the army, so is that what did it?

With my sister, she started with marijuana. I know because I was there when she went to go smoke with some “friends” for the first time. I suspected something was up with her, so I followed her one night and sure enough, there they were on the side entrance of a local school in our neighborhood smoking weed. Now for all those out there who say marijuana is harmless…maybe it is for most people, I don’t know, but I know that for my sister it was the gateway drug to hell. As far as I know there are no drug users in the family, so where in the world did my sister’s addiction come from? Again, no one has been able to explain this to us either and therein lies the problem….

How are we as family members supposed to help our loved ones suffering from addiction when we don’t even understand it ourselves? If we don’t understand the reason behind the addiction or how it started, why it changes our family members from the loving people we knew into unrecognizable shells of their former selves, how can we understand their behavior and show compassion? How can we be blamed for doing what we think is in the best interest of our loved ones (better known as enabling) when we don’t know what else to do? Do you sense the frustration here?!

So many times an addict is put into a program, whether voluntarily or court-ordered, and they start to get help. They work with clinicians and counselors to understand the root cause of their addiction, why they behave the way they do, how their brains literally change from the drugs and alcohol, and how they can get their lives back. They get the tools they need to cope with their addiction, get to and hopefully stay in long-term recovery. While the addict rightfully receives the help they need, what do we as the families get? Usually nothing.

Let me rephrase that…if we’re lucky we may get a group session once a week for an hour, but that’s about it and that’s only if the treatment center is progressive enough to include the families at all. Why is this? It’s widely accepted now that addiction is a family disease, so why not treat the family as well??? I’ll give you an example that may explain how foolish this type of thinking is…

I was recently diagnosed with type 2 pre-diabetes and put on medication. My doctor told me that I had to completely change how I eat and cut way back on certain foods that my family absolutely loves in order to slow down the inevitable march toward full blown diabetes. Now if I just came home and said to my family: “that’s it, no more pasta, no more pizza, no more white bread, very little sugar (this is THE hardest part for me), I can’t eat it anymore so you can’t either and you’ll just have to deal with it”, do you think that would go over very well? Of course not; they would want to know why, and they would be well within their rights to know what was going on. So I explained to them my diagnosis and why I couldn’t eat this way anymore and had to eliminate some foods and cut way back on others. When I did this, both my husband and daughter completely understood and supported me by saying they would eat the same way; as a result we are ALL getting healthier, not just me. Do you see the point I’m trying to make? My diabetes diagnosis doesn’t just affect me, it affects my whole family, so now that we all know what’s going on, we can all support each other.

It’s the same way with addiction.

It’s not just the addict that is sick, it’s the whole family, so the whole family should be treated. How can you possibly expect success if you send a healthy person back into a sick environment; how long do you think that person’s recovery will last? As my husband always says “two sickies don’t make a wellie,” and he is so right. If you only treat the addict and don’t treat the family, how is that helping anyone? And I’m referring to long-term recovery, which is what we all want, right?

Remember when our family member completes their treatment program: whether it be 30, 60, 90, 180 or longer day program, they will eventually be coming home to us, and we are the ones who will have to live and deal with them on a daily basis. If we haven’t been in treatment, and we don’t know how to deal with the addiction, and our loved one comes home a changed person, and we’re stuck back in the mindset we had when they first when in, how well do you think that situation is going to work out for any of us?

I ask these questions because we as the family have to be included in treatment!

Whatever the barriers are that keep us out of treatment now: cost, insurance coverage, mindset of clinicians, whatever it is, they have to be removed. Recovery doesn’t happen in a vacuum; when the addict leaves treatment they come back to the real world which includes their families. Treat us all and the stigma around addiction is destroyed and all the issues surrounding addiction can be addressed with understanding and compassion.

Tapestry of Life – Guest Author Sarah-Pink Welch

For those of you who follow Sarah Pink Welch’s FB page, Sarah Pink’s Promise (she has 23,000 followers!) – you know what a powerful, inspirational, giving woman she is – always leaving us with words of wisdom and hope. So you can imagine how excited I was to learn about her new book, Tapestry of Life, and asked if she’d share some of her story and reasons for writing this book with BTC’s readers. Sarah is an Author/Artist, Certified Life Coach, Certified and Licensed Addiction Specialist, Licensed Interventionist, Certified Sober Coach and Certified Grief Specialist and a Motivational/Inspirational Speaker. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio, with her husband, Kim, and if you look for her, you will find her on the streets of Cincinnati with a large group of homeless children or visiting the women at a local prison. You can also find her doing motivational talks to at-risk children or their parents. Sarah welcomes your emails at simplysarahjazz@fuse.net and phone calls at 513-671-5467. You can also follow her on Twitter @SarahPinksHope. And now – let me introduce Sarah!


Sarah-Pink Elizabeth Welch, shares a bit of her story and her reasons for writing, "Tapestry of Life."

Sarah-Pink Welch, shares a bit of her story and her reasons for writing, “Tapestry of Life.”

Please share a bit of your background…

My background is in medicine (specializing in neurology & psychiatry), education, music, art and writing. I grew up in a middle class family with my younger brother, alcoholic mother, and a wonderful dad. Everything looked great to people on the outside and few knew what was going on inside. We were far from the ideal family.

My twin sister and I were born about two months premature and drunk when we came into the world.  No one knew there were two of us and no one told my very alcoholic mother to stop drinking.  When she gave birth to us my sister only lived a few minutes, we were very yellow and plastered.  My mother had even taken alcohol to the hospital with her.

In spite of this beginning and the craziness that followed, including my heroin addiction, I graduated high school in 6th grade and entered medical school – sadly, high and drunk.


Tell us what helped you find recovery...

I was able to get clean and sober with the help of my dad who took me to a hospital when I was 16.  He had NO idea that I was an alcoholic or a heroin addict.  Once I was off heroin, which took 6 days, I was admitted to the hospital and landed in the Psych ward. There were no rehab facilities at the time that my dad could get me to.  I stayed there for 3 months, was released, and I have not relapsed. I attended meetings, and continued what I had been doing all along, and that was helping other people.  What I truly had the roughest time doing was learning to live my life on life’s terms.  My first clean and sober day was on my 17th birthday, April 1, 1972.


An inspirational story about a woman who rose from the ashes and found her wings. If you have ever had to deal with abuse, addiction, alcoholism, cancer, AIDS... this story is a must read.

An inspirational story about a woman who rose from the ashes and found her wings. If you have ever had to deal with abuse, addiction, alcoholism, cancer, AIDS… this story is a must read.

What do you hope readers will take away after reading Tapestry of Life?

I am praying that folks who read my book will realize that they are stronger than they believe.  I want them to believe they can start life over and not be ashamed about it.  Know that you matter, you are NO accident, you have within yourself the power to do anything you like. Stop believing the lies you were told as you grew up.  If I can pull myself out of the mess I was in…you can. And I urge anyone with a loved one in prison or rehab or struggling to stay clean and sober to send them a copy of this book for these very same reasons.


To learn more about Sarah, check out her Face of Recovery post on BreakingTheCycles.com.

BTC’s 6th Anniversary – How Far Addiction Recovery Has Come

It’s been six years since I started BreakingTheCycles.com to help the families and friends of those whose loved ones misue alcohol or other drugs. Originally, it consisted of my blog, but has mushroomed and morphed over the years to include the various menu options now offered in the navigation bar above.

But I wanted to use today’s post to celebrate how far addiction recovery has come — not just for the persons with the disease but for the family members and friends, as well.

How Far We've Come in Addiction RecoveryWhen I started my research on all-things addiction in 2003, #1, there was very little in the way of explaing the facts of the brain disease of addiction, let alone the facts of what happens to family members and friends who cope with their loved one’s drinking or drugging behaviors (aka secondhand drinking | secondhand drugging).

But as importantly, #2, there was very little in the way of grassroots movements determined to put a face on addiction recovery; to step out into the spotlight and talk opening about the fact that more than 23 million Americas are living thriving lives, no longer dependent on drug or alcohol use – lives that mirror those of persons who do not have this disease.

And, as importantly, #3, there was nothing in the way of grassroots movements determined to help the families — the 100 million Americans affected by a loved one’s substance use disorder — help that is targeted to helping them find their own recovery and in that effort better help their loved ones find and succeed in theirs.

I am beyond thrilled to tell you, today, that it’s a whole new, exciting world in all three areas.

We Are All In This Addiction Recovery Movement Together and Taking it to The Mall in Washington, D.C., 10.4.15

146 million Americans are affected by the disease of addiction. They include:

Addiction is a Family Disease - Families UNITE to Face Addiction and Stand Up for Addiction Recovery 10.4.15

Addiction is a Family Disease – Families UNITE to Face Addiction and Stand Up for Addiction Recovery on The Mall in D.C. 10.4.15

And WE are joining forces through UNITE to Face Addiction for a massive rally on The Mall on 10.4.15.

For me, it’s been the new brain research that has me so psyched about joining forces with the tens of thousands of others who will gather to stand up for recovery; to end the silence that has kept the disease of addiction shrouded in secrecy and shame, taking millions of lives, shattering families and costing our country billions of dollars every year.

About This Science and 21st Century Research Findings Radicalizing How We Talk About and Stand UP for Recovery

Say it Loud, Say it Proud – I STAND for Addiction Recovery

Not everyone is ready to expose themselves as a person in recovery, and that is totally, 100% fine. It is an individual choice to be sure. But if you can, please spread the word. Addiction Recovery is Real. It Happens to Real People. It Happens All the Time and It Happens to Family Members and Friends, Too!

For an umbrella resource for the Addiction Recovery Movement, check out Faces & Voices of Recovery, founded in 2001.

For an inspirational film that pushed the movement front and center, check out ManyFaces1Voice & The Anonymous People Film. Here’s the trailer:

For an umbrella resource targeting help for the families, check out Change Addiction Now – United We C.A.N. (they have several state chapters around the country, as well).

And please know, there are hundreds and hundreds of more agencies, grassroots movements, nonprofits, treatment providers, medical and mental health providers, public policy leaders and others too numerous to name that are equally committeed to the Addiction Recovery Movement.

It’s our time. So if you can, please join us in whatever capacity you can:

Attend the rally on 10.4.15

Become a Partner (no cost)

Host a House Party to watch a live stream of the actual event (send me an email, and I’ll let you know the details when they’re available, lisaf@BreakingTheCycles.com)

Spread the word

Together WE CAN change the Face of Addiction and bring Addiction Recovery for those who struggle and the family members and friends who love them into the light – front and center – for all Americans to understand and support.

Double Standard Stigma Around Addiction

MaryBeth Cichocki’s son, Matt, died of a drug overdose. She is determined to do whatever she can to help another child, another parent, another family, which includes working to extend insurance coverage for 90 days in residential treatment/rehab (vs the current 28 days) and to promote and support efforts to regulate sober living homes in Florida. She also writes a blog, MothersHeartbreak.com, to help others whose child has a drug use problem and welcomes your emails, mmassey4@verizon.net, and phone calls, 302-561-4619.

And now for MaryBeth’s guest post…

Double Standard Stigma by MaryBeth Cichocki

MaryBeth Chichocki is determined to make a difference having lost her son, Matt, to a drug overdose.

MaryBeth Cichocki, whose son, Matt, died of a drug overdose, is determined to make a difference.

As the mother of an addict who overdosed, I’m always saddened by some people’s reaction when I tell my son’s story. Well, he was an addict they say. He did this to himself they say, giving me the feeling that in their twisted minds it’s ok that he died. Almost like he deserved it and why am I so surprised? People who use drugs usually die if they don’t get help and quit.   Like it’s no big deal when just your average addict dies. The stigma of what an addict is resonates through many conversations I’ve had since my son died.

People look at me like oh well sorry about your luck. Like my son was a useless, unproductive, disposable human being. Not the thoughtful, funny man that he truly was who just happened to have a horrible disease.

My question is why is this stigma mostly associated with addicts from certain socioeconomic classes. Why did no one point the finger at Michael Jackson, he had an addiction problem. There was no one in the media saying he deserved his fate. Everyone went into immediate mourning over a beautiful life cut too short. Everyone blamed his doctor and the lawmakers went for an immediate arrest. The music world did amazing tributes to his talent and the world watched as his grieving children said a heart breaking good bye to their loving father. Please don’t get me wrong. I loved his music and talent and mourned for his family. My son was heavy into his addiction when Michael died and I used his death to scare my son into rehab.

Its the same thing for all Hollywood. Heath Ledger died in his apartment from the same deadly combo of drugs that my son used. Once again everyone expressed sadness and shock at another talented life cut too short. Never stating that he had enough money to get help anywhere in the world, yet this disease was stronger than his will to fight. Never heard the addict word. Just an unfortunate accident.

It’s the same for Whitney, Cory and Philip and all the other rich and famous people who die exactly the way our children have died. Drug Overdoses. Yet there are no negative statements or publicity. Public reaction is one of shock, pity and sadness. No one says oh well they were addicts they did it to themselves. No one shuns the families afraid to be associated with the leftovers of the addict. These grieving families are treated with respect and kindness. No talking behind closed doors. In the world of rich and famous it’s just an unfortunate tragedy.

How can a persons wealth and standing in this world make such a difference in how they are judged.   An addict is an addict whether you live in Malibu, The Hampton’s or a middle class neighborhood in any state in this country. This stigma should not be custom tailored for one group of people and not for another.

I’ve watched both Johnny Depp and Joaquin Phoenix show up for interviews on late night tv completely stoned. Did anyone make then feel dirty or disposable. Nope, the audience and the show’s host just thought it was the funniest thing ever. I watched in anger thinking what a pitiful society we have become to think being publicly drunk or stoned is acceptable depending on who you are. If anyone in the audience was displaying the behavior that was being displayed on stage I’d bet security would be called and then the police. Since when does who you are dictate what acceptable behavior is.

My hope is that one day society will stop accepting overdose deaths as a tragedy for some and a self inflicted choice for others. No one deserves to die from an overdose. Examples need to be set that no matter who you are there is nothing funny about addiction. The double standard must stop and every addict should be perceived as someone with a chronic sometimes fatal disease.

Until society changes its perception of addiction and realizes that it is a disease that knows no boundaries, beautiful people will continue to die. Rich and famous or poor and unknown it really doesn’t matter. Like I said, an addict is an addict. All dying of the same demons.


You may also want to read MaryBeth’s two previous guest posts for BreakingTheCycles.com: A Mother’s Heartbreak and The Stigma of Addiction: a Mother’s Point of View.