Is Fear Standing in The Way of Recovery?

recovery

Fear is one of the primary components of addiction. It would be difficult for any one person, in recovery or still active, to deny the role that fright has had in their life. It has been said on numerous occasions, by countless people, that when you strip away all the layers of an addict or alcoholic, what you find is fear. Underneath the anger, resentment, dishonesty, et al., you see a person who trembles at the thought of living another day with substances, or without drugs and alcohol.

Let’s be clear, people living with substance use disorders are not a bunch of scaredy-cats. You might even say that Fear, as it pertains to people struggling with addiction is more of a philosophical dilemma than the typical worries that the average human contends with from day to day. Existential angst may be a more fitting description of the addict’s condition. When a person can’t live with something while simultaneously being unable to live without it, it is a dilemma in the strictest sense of the word—a cruel paradox.

Many articles have touched upon the subject of fear and the part it plays with mental illness and how it can be a catalyst for addiction. With that in mind, getting to the roots of people’s unease, or “dis-ease” for that matter, is an integral component of addiction recovery. Ironically, people only learn this after they have made the courageous “fear-less” decision to ask for assistance and valiantly accept help. In a sense, those who go into treatment choose to resist against their fear, and ignore the chatter in their head that says, ‘you’re not worth it, you will fail, and think what you stand to lose?’

Creation In Spite of Addiction

If you are not in recovery or do not struggle with addiction, the question above may seem baffling. You may ask yourself, ‘what could a person caught in the grips of mental illness have to lose by choosing recovery?’ It’s a good question, and the answer may not be an obvious one, so perhaps you can keep an open mind for a time.

Please consider for a moment that not every person with a substance use disorder in need of treatment is in the final iteration of the disease. Most people who require treatment are somehow managing to hold things together, at least on the surface. Each day, countless active using addicts and alcoholics get up, and go through the same motions as “normal” people; a significant number of people living with mental illness are successful, talented, and in quite a few cases—famous. We probably do not have to run down the list of all well-respected artists, musicians, authors, and performers who are both actively using or are in recovery.

We can probably all agree that it’s possible to make some of your dreams come true despite drugs and alcohol dependence. In spite of the pain, heartache, guilt, and shame that comes with addiction, individuals can create a masterpiece using their preferred medium. One could even argue, and many have, that substance use is a form of muse that guides them toward creation. Whether such a suggestion is right or wrong is debatable, what is certain is that no matter what excuse people have for continuing use, the choice comes at a significant cost— often, the ultimate price.

Identity is Important to Everyone. Even in Recovery!

Years of drug and alcohol use shapes people in many ways. Those caught in the cycle of addiction often define themselves by their struggle, convinced that their fight while deadly, is beautiful. What’s more, since humans are prone to gauge who they Are by how they see themselves in the eyes of others, one can easily convince their self that giving up drugs and alcohol will result in people viewing them differently. We all strive for consistency in how people see us, the thought of people changing their view (even when it is for the better) can be too much to stomach.

Addiction becomes a part of people’s identity; therefore, the thought of abstaining is tantamount to sacrificing (real or imagined) who they Are in the name of health. If a person’s identity is inextricably bound to that which they create, it’s difficult to justify anything (recovery) that could jeopardize creation. There is a pervasive mindset among many people with alcohol or substance use disorders who create art; the idea that self-improvement will diminish their ability to create. The fear of losing that which one loves most keeps people rationalizing their behaviors. Fear justifies continued use, one might say to themself, ‘what good is recovery if I’m going to spend the rest of my days mourning the loss of Art?’ For such people, their passion is more valuable than a healthy existence.

So, does recovery hurt the ability to be original and authentic? The simplest answer, and the right answer is, NO! Sadly, many people never come to that determination because their life was cut short by the disease.

Does Recovery Kill Great Writing?

Those who find the strength to stand up to their disease and give recovery an honest chance, discover an exponentially more exceptional ability to create. Fear is a dominant force, but it is not all-powerful. Fear can convince people that they have the answers to questions without having to do any research. Being convinced of something without conducting a proper study, is to live in ignorance. The only way to know what is possible in recovery is to do the work; only by openly and honestly giving a program of healing a chance can you answer the lingering questions bound to your fear.

Saying that anything is possible in recovery may sound suspiciously catchy; that doesn’t make it any less accurate. Recently, an article appearing in The New York Time’s Magazine, set its sights on the topic of recovery affecting creativity. The article is adapted from Leslie Jamison’s “The Recovering: Intoxication and Its Aftermath,” to be published next month. Jamison is an author who has several years sober in recovery which, like many artists, struggles with fear. The piece covers many areas relevant to people in recovery and in-need-of recovery. Even if you are artistically inept, everyone can relate to fear.

Jamison’s adaptation can speak to anyone, regardless of artistic background; but, it is likely to resonate most with people who have a penchant for reading and writing. Please find time to read this article, if you have used up your free NYT online articles for the month, the mobile site should still work. Reading the piece might serve to allay the fears of people still teetering on the fence of recovery; it can show you that there is beauty in recovery, resisting doubt is a beautiful struggle. Hopefully, it inspires you to pick up the phone and reach out for help. Making the brave decision to resist fear and seek change could lead you to create your best work yet; naturally, there is only one way to find out, just as Leslie Jamison would discover.

During days spent in the archives and during the midnight hours of my own attempts to write, it was liberating to start questioning the ways I’d understood torment as a prerequisite to beauty. It was liberating to start imagining that there could be meaningful stories told about wreckage, sure, but also meaningful stories told about what it might mean to pull yourself out from under it: stories about showing up for work, for intimacy, for other people; stories about getting through ordinary days without drinking enough vodka to forget yourself entirely. The lie wasn’t that addiction could yield truth. The lie was that addiction had a monopoly on it.

Addiction Recovery

It is hard work facing your feelings without the aid of alcohol and drugs. Early recovery is a difficult time for anyone, but what you will discover along the way will change your life for the better. Recovery is not an antidote for fear; it is a tool that allows you the ability to cope with and manage the state of being in healthy ways. Abstinence is the only absolute when it comes to healing, other than that, recovery isn't a trade-off. You will still be You when working a program, arguably an even better version of yourself.

If you are ready to face your fear and embrace changes in your life for the better, please contact PACE Recovery Center to begin a remarkable journey.

Problem Gambling Screening is the Focus of PGAM

problem gambling

Alcohol and substance use disorder are what most people think of when they hear the word “addiction,” and for a good reason—left untreated, they are deadly mental health conditions. The national conversation about addiction, these days, almost always leads to opioids and the ever-growing number of overdose deaths in the U.S. While it is vital that we keep our focus on finding solutions to the American opioid addiction epidemic, it’s paramount we do not lose sight of the big picture. There are a plethora of mental health conditions plaguing Americans; even if individual disorders do not carry the risk of overdose, they can indirectly contribute to premature death; people living with untreated mental illness stand to lose everything if they don’t get help. Such is the case for problem gambling, otherwise known as compulsive gambling.

At PACE, we understand that the complexities of non-substance-related addiction, i.e., eating disorders, sex, shopping, and gambling. Arguably, disorders not involving drugs and alcohol can persist unnoticed far longer than substance abuse disorders. Despite being manifestations of psychological turmoil, it’s difficult for doctors to screen patients for conditions like problem gambling. When a person sees a physician complaining of back pain, it’s unlikely that the caregiver will inquire about how the chips are falling these days. However, primary care doctors can play a role in helping some of the over ten million pathological gamblers in America.

Problem Gambling Signs and Symptoms

People might contend that it’s not a doctor’s place to ask about behaviors that, on the surface, do not bring about physical harm. One could argue that patients have the right to spend their hard-earned cash any way they like, whether it be shopping or at a craps table in a smoke-filled casino. Nevertheless, while non-substance addictive behaviors appear relatively harmless, they most certainly have the power to disrupt and destroy peoples’ lives.

Any practice that persists despite negatively impacting one’s life is concerning. Your average adult can go to a casino for a few hours—win a little or lose a little—and then go home thinking little of their experience ever again. Others may occasionally buy a scratch ticket or Powerball ticket, fully expecting that they just wasted some money for the fun of it; in both examples, such individuals have no illusions about hitting the jackpot. Unfortunately, for many Americans, casinos and the Lotto are not some frivolous activity. What’s more, the costs of gambling can significantly exceed what is lost at the card table.

As with any behavior, the line between casual and problematic is exceedingly thin. People failing to recognize that they have a problem is not uncommon. There are a number of symptoms that could indicate that a problem exists, according to the Mayo Clinic, including but not limited to:

  • Lying to family and friends about your gambling.
  • Attempting to stop gambling without success.
  • Gambling as a method of escape from life problems or to relieve troubling feelings.
  • Gambling to raise money to pay off gambling debts.
  • Losing jobs, relationships, and opportunities because of the behavior.

Anyone can see, the above symptoms are quite similar to the behaviors of your typical substance user.

Problem Gambling Awareness Month 2018

Some of you may be aware that March is Problem Gambling Awareness Month (PGAM), an observance led by the National Council on Problem Gambling (NCPG). Now in its 14th year, the organization wants to steer the national conversation towards problem gambling screening. This year’s theme, “Have the Conversation,” is meant to encourage healthcare providers to screen patients for this concerning mental health disorder.

As with any national observance devoted to raising awareness, events are being held over the month of March to discuss prevention methods and get the word out that treatment and recovery works. The organization has created a toolkit to help doctors identify signs of problem gambling and assist them in talking to patients about their options.

If you are unable to attend an event this month, you can still take part in the campaign to raise awareness. NCPG has created graphics that you can share on your social media accounts.

Problem Gambling Treatment and Recovery

If you or a loved one’s life has become unmanageable due to any type of gambling, please contact PACE Recovery Center for a free consultation. Unchecked problem gambling will continue to complicate your life, the sooner you seek help, the better. We specialize in assisting clients to get to the root of their addictions or behavioral health disorders and provide them with the tools to lead a fulfilling and productive life in recovery.

Recovery Impacted by Smartphones

recovery

Young men and women in recovery must exercise caution when it comes to distractions. It’s paramount that those who begin a program of recovery stay focused if they are going to stay the course; there is a lot to take in, so it is vital that people do what they can to avoid any activity that can stand in the way of their goals. In the age of technology that we live in you can probably see that it’s not that easy to shield oneself from our smartphones constant interruptions. Let’s be honest; cell phones are always vying for our attention via push notifications from people social media apps.

All of us have an internal desire to connect with our peers, even those people who do not live close to us. Our smartphones allow us the opportunity to keep track of the lives of others, and they give us feedback about how peers receive our posts. Naturally, in small doses the behaviors associated with pocket devices can be healthy, social networks are a good thing after all. It’s when a person's digital social network comprises connection with their peers in the “real world” that problems can develop.

Smartphones haven’t been around long, which means scientists do not yet fully grasp the implications of substantial screen time. Common sense dictates that whenever someone prioritizes digital social networking over in-person relationships, it’s bound to lead to some issues. The rub is determining the problems that can stem from scrolling through timelines for hours instead of making a concerted effort to communicate with people outside of broadband?

Connection Strengthens Your Recovery

The topic of smartphones, as they pertain to recovery, is perhaps more important than you’d think. If you consider that working a program requires being part of a fellowship or support network of some kind, anything that can distract from forming strong bonds with your peers should be contained. If you have been in the program for even a brief time, then you know that progress depends on working with others toward shared goals. Meetings, working with a sponsor or mentor and socializing with your friends after the meeting are critical components to achieving your objectives.

When in the grips of active addiction socialization isn’t exactly a priority for most people. Everything a person does is in service to their disease, maintaining an insatiable illness is hard work and doesn’t afford many opportunities for establishing meaningful bonds with others. Conversely, recovery is a complete 180; isolation can no longer prevail, those bent on improvement must foster relationships with other humans. While social media can aid a person’s program on certain, extra specific occasions, by and large, human interaction should take precedence.

Smartphones, in a sense, are a hard nut to crack. There are times when not having one would make life incredibly trying, i.e., getting directions, keeping track of schedules, and calling your sponsor. When you think about it, isn’t it ironic how smartphones connect you with everyone in the world, wide web; and yet they serve to cut you off from people in the real world? They serve as tools that allow people to be über social but isolate you from your peers.

Hyper-Socializing is Problematic

There is an ever-growing concern that smartphones are habit-forming. The range of applications available allows people to spend hours upon hours on their phone each day. When you see people staring at their cellphone consistently, you might be inclined to think that they are isolating or are antisocial. However, one researcher argues that heavy smartphone users who continuously monitor their social media are hypersocial, Science Daily reports. Professor Samuel Veissière, a cognitive anthropologist from the Department of Psychiatry at McGill University, says that we have an evolutionary predisposition to both observe and be observed by our peers. The findings of the research appear in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

Professor Veissière’s work indicates that hyper-connectivity can result in the brain's reward system going into “overdrive,” according to the article. As a result of massive social media interaction on a regular basis, addictions can develop. Smartphone addiction may not lead people down the same dark roads as drugs and alcohol, but they can disrupt people’s lives and cause serious problems. The good news is that there are safeguards on your phone that can mitigate the risk of your phone butting in when you are focusing on something more critical, like recovery.

...the pro-social needs and rewards [of smartphone use as a means to connect] can similarly be hijacked to produce a manic theatre of hyper-social monitoring," the authors write in their paper.”

If you have made a habit of checking your phone throughout the course meetings, try turning off your phone or disabling notifications. If you are on your phone a lot when in the company of others, put your phone on a silent mode and engage with your friends. Little efforts can pay off in big ways down the road, if recovery is your priority—it must be prioritized.

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If you are a young man who is ready to break the cycle of addiction, please contact PACE Recovery Center for a free consultation. We specialize in treating young adult males living with alcohol, substance use, and coöccurring disorders.

Addiction, Recovery, and “Beautiful Boy”

addiction

"Beautiful Boy” is a touching song by the late John Lennon; it is also a harrowing story about one father’s experience with his son’s battle with addiction. The father, David Sheff, the son Nic Sheff; both are accomplished writers, and each of them have given us remarkable true-accounts that speak to anyone touched by the disease. Naturally, Nic’s road to literary acclaim came at a hefty price given that his illness very nearly cost him his life.

It is not an easy read, Beautiful Boy: A Father's Journey Through His Son's Addiction. The difficulty is owing less to the style of writing than the, at times gut-wrenching and tear-jerking, content. It’s likely that many of you have had an opportunity to read Sheff’s account of Nic’s battle with mental illness. Perhaps, you’ve even read Nic Sheff’s bestselling book, Tweak: Growing Up on Methamphetamines. If you haven’t had the chance, it worth adding both titles to your reading list, especially if you are a parent attempting to make sense of the senseless disease of addiction. If you are, like so many parents today, at your wit's end regarding how you can help your son or daughter find recovery—David and Nic Sheff’s writing can help. The material can shine a light on your struggles and potentially assist you in plotting a course toward healing.

Anyone who has lived through it, or those who are now living through it, knows that caring about an addict is as complex and fraught and debilitating as addiction itself.” — Beautiful Boy

There are many books out there covering the subject of mental health, with a focus on alcohol and substance use disorders. Sharing one’s story regarding the insidious nature of addiction has become somewhat of a trend in recent years; the surge of related content happens to coincide with the rise of opioids and overdose deaths in America. However, Beautiful Boy hit the shelves in 2008 (Tweak in 2009), before anyone would dare to even whisper the words opioid addiction epidemic in a sentence. With that in mind, you may ask yourself, ‘in the ever-changing landscape of the American epidemic, are roughly ten-year-old book still topical?’

Addiction Writing for The Family

Discovering that your child is in the grips of an incurable illness is a massive blow. Most parents bend over backward to afford their children every opportunity in life, and then you come to find out that an unwelcome guest is stymieing your efforts. What’s more, mental illness is an uninvited guest that will not leave the premises without a fight. Parents rudely awakened by the realities of a child's addiction quickly learn that they will need to fight for their kid's life. They come to find out that, no matter how hard they try, explaining away addiction is impossible.

How addiction gets in the front door in the first place is of little importance; what your family plans to do about the discovery is essential. One need only look at their local newspaper to understand what’s at stake with untreated mental illness. Of course, the ideal response to addiction is treatment; which presents another potential issue, will your child be receptive to receiving help? Hopefully, your child will opt for assistance and that they will adopt a new way of living that is conducive to recovery. One could only imagine that that was David Sheff’s hope for his son, after finally getting Nic into treatment.

At risk of spoiling some parts of the book, let’s just say that Nic would come to find the courage to break the cycle of addiction and adopt a program of recovery. Today, he has multiple years clean and sober, and he is a successful writer working in California.

Hope, Against All Odds

The road to recovery for Nic was one of severe heartache; his addiction brought him to the absolute depths of despair; in his darkest hours, he was checking “y.e.t.’s” (you're eligible too) off his list with vigor. However, while conscious of the fact that there are no guarantees in long-term recovery, Nic’s story is a success story. Not only that, Nic’s writing has helped countless people who’re fighting the good fight against the slings and arrows of mental illness.

You can read more about Nic’s experience in his follow up, We All Fall Down: Living with Addiction. His second book covers treatment, relapse, and “what it means to be a young person living with addiction.” David Sheff has been busy too, his journey of addiction and recovery with Nic led him to devote his time learning and writing about addiction. Following the release of Beautiful Boy,” David wrote another best-seller, Clean: Overcoming Addiction and Ending America's Greatest Tragedy.

What started with fighting to save his child’s life, segued into a mission to help others who find themselves on similar paths. Just like in the rooms of recovery, we learn from our peers about how to keep doing the next right thing. We can’t do this alone, any secondary sources that provide insight into your specific problems should be welcome.

Beautiful Boy On The Big Screen

So, is David Sheff’s Beautiful Boy still topical? Let’s just say the writing and illumination it can provide families and addicts alike is timeless. Right now, there exists millions of Americans struggling with addiction, many of them are young men like Nic; which means that there are an even more significant number of parents who, like David, want to do everything they can to encourage recovery.

But here’s the rub of addiction. By its nature, people afflicted are unable to do what, from the outside, appears to be a simple solution—don’t drink. Don’t use drugs. In exchange for that one small sacrifice, you will be given a gift that other terminally ill people would give anything for: life.” — Beautiful Boy

This year, the Sheffs' story of hope has a chance to affect a much broader audience. On October 12, 2018, Amazon Studios will release Beautiful Boy, starring Oscar nominees Timothée Chalamet and Steve Carrell, Paste Magazine reports. The timing couldn’t be better; countless Americans need to know that recovery is possible; Nic, like so many others without notoriety, is living testament to that fact.

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If you are a young man who is ready to break the cycle of addiction, please contact PACE Recovery Center for a free consultation. We specialize in treating young adult males living with alcohol, substance use, and coöccurring disorders.

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