12 Steps Back to the Bottle

My previous sponsor sent me something I felt compelled to share. I’m certain most of you in recovery have heard of HALT (Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired). Each can truly be a trigger for relapse. The following, however, really puts things into perspective.

  1. Exhaustion. Allowing yourself to become overly tired or in poor health. Some alcoholics are also prone to work addictions, perhaps in a hurry to make up for lost time. Good health and enough rest are important. If you feel well, you are more apt to think well. Feel poorly and your thinking is likely to deteriorate. Feel bad enough and you might begin thinking a drink couldn’t make it any worse.
  2. Dishonesty. This begins with a pattern of unnecessary little lies and deceits with co-workers, friends and family. Then come important lies you tell yourself. This is called rationalizing. Making excuses for not doing what you do not want to do, or doing what you should not do.
  3. Impatience. Things are not happening fast enough. Others are not doing what they should do or what you want them to do.
  4.  Argumentativeness. Arguing small and ridiculous points of view indicates a need to always be right. “Why don’t you be reasonable and agree with me?” Looking for an excuse to drink?
  5. Depression. Unreasonable and unaccountable despair (hopeless, helpless) may occur in cycles, and should be dealt with or talked about. The best way to deal with depression is to take some form of action.
  6. Frustration. Toward life, at people, and also because things may not be going your way. Remember, everything is not going to be just the way you want it.
  7. Self-Pity. Feeling sorry for yourself. Why do these things happen to me? Why must I be an alcoholic? Chemically dependent? Nobody appreciates all the things I’m doing for them.
  8. Cockiness. Got it made. No longer fearing alcoholism or chemical dependency. Going into drinking situations to prove to others you have no problem. Do this often enough and it will wear down your defenses.
  9. Complacency. “Drinking was the furthest thing from my mind.” Not drinking was no longer a conscious thought either. It’s dangerous to let up just because everything is going well. To always have a little fear is a good thing. More relapses occur when things are going well than otherwise.
  10. Expecting Too Much From Others. “I’ve changed, why hasn’t everyone else?” It’s a plus if they do, but it is still your problem if they don’t. They do not trust you yet, and may still be looking for further proof. You cannot expect others to change their lifestyle just because you have.
  11. Letting Up on Disciplines. Prayer, meditation, daily inventory, attendance at meetings. This can stem either from complacency or boredom. You cannot afford to be bored with your program. The cost of relapse is always too great.
  12. It Can’t Happen to Me. This is dangerous thinking. Almost anything can happen to you if you get careless. Remember, you have a progressive terminal disease, and you will be in worse shape if you relapse.

10 Spiritual Tips For Recovery

Your freedom from addiction must first be gained in the spiritual realm before it can be experienced in the physical and emotional realms. Take to heart the following tips as you walk down the road to recovery.

#1 The time to begin your recovery is today. “Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion.” (Hebrews 3:15)

#2 Realize that recovery is a lifelong process, not a onetime event. “Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me.” (Phillipians 3:12)

#3 Pray daily for victory! It is through prayer that God protects you. “Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Matthew 26:41)

#4 Read your Bible every day in order to get strength from God. “My soul is weary with sorrow; strengthen me according to your word.” (Psalm 119:28)

#5 Meditate on Scripture to fight against falling into sin. “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” (Psalm 119:11)

#6 Attend church every week to worship God and grow with others. “Let us consider how we may spur one another toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another.” (Hebrews 10:24-25.)

#7. Share your struggles with caring loved ones. “Confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed.” (James 5:16)

#8. Have confidence in God! Prioritize growing in your relationship with Him. “Seek first His Kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.” (Matthew 6:33)

#9 Depend on Christ’s strength to stay drug free. “I Can do everything through Him who give me strength.” (Phillipians 4:13)

#10. Know that permanent change is possible. “Nothing is impossible with God.” (Luke 1:37)

Pennsylvania’s ABC-MAP Program (Statewide Database)

Pennsylvania’s ABC-MAP program is an expansion of the pre-existing prescription drug monitoring program. The anagram ABC-MAP means “achieving better care by monitoring all prescriptions.” ABC-MAP will also aid regulatory and law enforcement agencies in detecting and preventing fraud and abuse. Making sure prescription drugs are not being over-prescribed is a necessary first step in curtailing drug addiction and also curbing the supply of excess drugs that can be used illicitly.

Until now, neither physicians nor dispensers had access to information that would help them address the growing negative effects of non-monitored scheduled drugs on the health and safety of Pennsylvanians. ABC-MAP will rectify this and give healthcare professionals the ability to address potentially fatal drug abuse and provide improved and streamlined care to their patients.

The ABC-MAP Board was created under Act 191 of 2014. This Board will help develop the policies and procedures that expand the state’s prescription drug monitoring program as outlined by the ABC-MAP initiative.

Dispensers and pharmacies must electronically submit information to the
system for each controlled substance dispensed, to include the name of the prescriber,
the prescriber’s DEA number, date the prescription was written, date the prescription was dispensed, name, date of birth, gender and address of the person receiving the prescription, the medication’s National Drug Code, the quantity and number of days supply, DEA registration number and National Provider Identifier of the dispenser, and the method of payment for the prescription.
Prescribers must query the system for each patient the first time a patient is
prescribed a controlled substance by the prescriber. If a prescriber believes the patient may be abusing or diverting narcotic pain medication, the prescriber must indicate the information obtained from the system in the patient’s medical record if the patient is new, or if it is determined that the drug should not be prescribed based upon information from the system.

Drug Overdose Deaths Hit Record Numbers

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that drug overdose deaths hit record numbers in 2014, with more than 47,000 deaths nationwide. CDC has outlined steps for stopping the overdose death epidemic. Pennsylvania Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs Secretary Gary Tennis issued the following statement in response:

Like the rest of the nation, Pennsylvania is in the throes of the worst overdose death epidemic ever. In 2014, nearly 2,500 Pennsylvanians died from a drug overdose. With one in four families in the Commonwealth suffering with the disease of addiction, Pennsylvania, at the direction of Governor Tom Wolf, has made addressing this epidemic a priority. The Department of Drug and Alcohol Programs is working hard with its partners in the Department of Health and the Department of Human Services and other agencies to execute a plan to stem the rising tide of overdose deaths.

We have become a nation awash in prescription opioids due to the historic and ill-fated medical movement toward overprescribing for pain over the past two decades. Opioid prescribing has quadrupled, and today four out of five individuals with heroin addiction start out with prescription opioids. Our initiatives therefore focus largely on prescription opioids, as well as preventing overdose deaths and expanding access to clinically appropriate treatment.

“The record level of opioid overdose deaths around the country and here in Pennsylvania is tragic,” said Department of Health Secretary Dr. Karen Murphy. “My department is working expeditiously to address this crisis on all fronts. Our primary goal is to work at prevention as well as providing treatment for those in need.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is leading an effort to build upon the prescribing guidelines already created, including guidelines to address emergency department pain treatment with opioids, opioids in dental practice and opioids to treat chronic non-cancer pain. These guidelines give healthcare providers direction for safe and effective pain relief practices, with greater emphasis on non-opioid therapies and greater caution to prevent addiction and diversion.

Landmark Adolescent Brain Cognitive Development

September 25, 2015

Reposting a blog from the Collaborative Research on Addiction by Nora Volkow (Director, NIDA), George Koob (Director, NIAAA), Alan Guttmacher (Director, NICHD), Bob Croyle (Director, Division of Cancer Control and Population Sciences, NCI), Thomas Insel (Director, NIMH), and William Riley (Director, OBSSR).

The National Institutes of Health awarded 13 five-year grants to U.S. research institutions that will spearhead the landmark project over the first half of its roughly 10-year duration. Researchers at these institutions will follow approximately 10,000 children, recruited initially at age 9 or 10 (i.e., before they are likely to have started using drugs), conducting behavioral interviews and gathering neuroimaging, genetic, and other health data at periodic intervals until they are young adults. The data gathered will enable researchers to assess the effects of different patterns of alcohol, tobacco, and drug use (including no use) on the developing brain, on mental health, and on outcomes like academic achievement, as well as a wide range of other factors affecting young Americans’ life and health.

The teen years are the period of highest risk for substance use and for the development of other behavioral disorders, and they are also a period when the brain is changing dramatically.

A study of this scope will yield an unprecedented amount of detailed information about how the brain develops and how its development is affected by a multitude of factors alone and in combination with each other. It will allow us to look not only at exposure to substances including nicotine, alcohol, and marijuana and other drugs, but also at mental illnesses, the effects of brain traumas from injuries, and influences of other environmental factors like family and peer influences, and socioeconomic status. The inclusion of genetic data will give us crucial information about genes’ influence on adolescent development and on vulnerability to mental illness and the effects of substance use.

Current high levels of underage binge drinking and increased intensity of binge drinking in adolescents are causes of significant concern, for example, and this study will clarify how various levels of alcohol exposure, as well as alcohol use in combination with other substances, affect the developing brain. Given the changing laws around marijuana in some states that will likely make this drug more accessible to youth, a similarly nuanced picture of marijuana’s effects is also crucial to acquire. Although cigarette use among adolescents has declined, the surge in use of e-cigarettes (which deliver nicotine and other chemicals to the user) and other tobacco products like little cigars, makes it very important to learn more about the impact of nicotine and tobacco use on the adolescent brain, including how their use affects the brain’s response to other drugs. The ABCD study will also provide crucial insight into the developmental effects of new synthetic cannabinoids (“K2,” “Spice”) and synthetic cathinones (bath salts), about which we have practically no knowledge at this point.

The large number of teens that the ABCD study hopes to recruit and retain for its decade-long duration will not just yield vast amounts of data on the effects of substance use but will also greatly clarify our picture of normal healthy brain development. It is important to remember that most young people never develop drug or alcohol problems, and only about half use an illicit drug before leaving high school. High-risk groups will be oversampled in order to ensure that enough data on substance users are collected. But the ABCD study data on typically developing, healthy adolescents with minimal or no substance use exposure will also be extremely valuable for comparison, both in this and future studies. These data will be a great contribution to science, as currently no normal imaging standards for adolescents exist to enable researchers to make such comparisons.

I Shattered Like Glass

I’ve met some newcomers recently at 12 Step meetings, some of them very young. My age at the time I headed off to state prison for three years. I wrote this poem after contemplating just how many times I can play close to the edge before falling into the abyss.

The Accidental Poet

Moving ever closer to the edge,
I try to peak; get a glimpse, you know;
I need to see how far it is
to the bottom; to calculate how far I’d fall
If I were to fall at all.

Just curious, that’s all, nothing more.
No harm in knowing the risk.
I’ve been living life close to the brink for decades,
Yet I’m still here. What harm will come if I were to
Continue rollicking near the edge?

“This time you’ll be dead if you fall,”
said a voice from behind.
“There will be no more chances this time.”
I didn’t believe it; I never heeded the many warnings
No matter from whom they came.

“I’m going to live forever,” I told the voice.
(But I was beginning to grasp the true price tag
constant reckless behavior brings);
What an insane and daring undertaking my life has been!
It’s as…

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From “The Conversation: Learning to be a Poet” by Dawn Porter

In The Life of Poetry, Muriel Rukeyser prefers to use the word witness rather than reader or listener because it “includes the act of seeing or knowing by personal experience, as well as the act of giving evidence.” The overtone of responsibility in this word is not present in the others; and the tension of the law makes a climate here which is that climate of excitement and revelation giving air to the work of art, announcing with the poem that we are about to change, that work is being done on the self. These three terms of relationship—poet, poem, and witness—are none of them static. We are changing, living beings experiencing the inner change of poetry.

I have never found something written about poetry to be so true. – The Accidental Poet