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Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Busting the flashy car for 75 mph to let the 250 mph Peterbilt pass

drug epidemic, opioid crisis

The public relations approach to hiding an alcohol pandemic


In opioid news this week, state attorneys general across the country are stepping up their game against the opioid crisis. Awhile back, the AGs sent letters to insurers, asking them to do more to curb the opioid epidemic. Now, they say they're expanding an ongoing investigation into pharmaceutical companies make or distributing opioids. That's according to MedPage Today. The publication also reports the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) offered up an additional $144 million in grants for preventing and treating opioid addiction … a crisis costing the economy $78.5 billion a year.


That's correct. Opioid use and addiction costs the U.S. $78.5 billion.  
Alcohol use and addiction costs the U.S. $250 billion a year, using the same measurements of health care costs, lost productivity, and legal system expenses.
We focus on an epidemic, so we don't have to focus on a pandemic. The 75 mph 'vette gets the ticket. The 250 mph Peterbilt gets a pass. Classic PR.
The public relations tactician works it something like this: 

Pick a drug – One that is sold only by prescription, generating profit for a few, wealthy souls vs. a drug sold nearly everywhere in the U.S., generating profit (and tax revenue… but not as much as you think) for every restaurant, bar, retailer, grocer, hotel, gas station, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse where it's sold. Villify alcohol? Not on your life.

Draft in support – According to FollowTheMoney.org, Big Pharma contributed $163 million to local, state, and federal candidates in 2016… alcohol interests (manufacturers, distributors, retailers) donated $219 million. Don't bite the hand.

Choose an opponent you can outspend – BusinessInsider.com put beverage alcohol spending at $421 million in a single calendar quarter. Every one of those ads tells Americans we can drink a toxin and known carcinogen 'responsibly.' You're not going to run with these big dogs. Stay on the porch.

Capitalize on ignorance – Fewer than 1 in 10 Americans know that alcohol kills three times as many people as opioids (89,000/yr. vs. 30,000/yr). Less than 1 in 4 know that alcohol's a carcinogen and a third of the 22,000 annual alcohol-related U.S. cancer deaths occurred in people who had downed one and a half drinks a day or less. Alcohol is legal. Legal equals 'safe' in our society. Except for those nasty drunk drivers, binge-drinking college kids and hard-core, red-nosed alcoholics, this isn't a drug: It's responsible and fun in moderation. Opiates and opioids are controlled substances, illegal without a prescription, and have a high risk of addiction and/or overdose. Nevermind the medicinal relief in chronic pain situations: Opioids are definitely the baddie.

Don't make them think, either – There is a short line between opioid use and overdose death. Drinking alcohol is more like stepping out onto the highway and waiting for the Peterbuilt to hit you: It could take years or decades. Too many dots to connect – and other causes to which to pin the death while you're waiting. Brevity is better in our 'always-on' planet. A recent Pew Internet study in the US suggests that people benefit from instant access to a wealth of information from numerous sources, but their attention span and desire for in-depth analysis is consequently diminished. That's how we got the term bounce rate. “If you start a message and I can't see the end from the beginning, I will find it elsewhere… and bounce.” Opioid tragedies tell what time it is… alcohol deaths tell how to build a watch.

Sell the sizzle, not the steak – There are 91 deaths a day from opioid overdose. Opiates and opioids take lives in a single-dose for some people. And sadly, the lives are often kids and young adults that society wouldn't have picked out as a drug user. The old newsroom saying was, “If it bleeds, it leads.” Crass and cynical? Yes. Accurate? Pretty close. Stories of an honor student dying are tragedies with great images on par with hurricanes, school shootings, and blazes… compared to someone dying a death from alcohol-related illness like heart attack, stroke or cancer.

Wag the dog – We have a genuine health crisis. The opioid problem is real and tragic and a worthwhile fight. Now, if we turn a genuine health crisis and spin it up to an epidemic… maybe we don't have to talk about a pandemic or other health crises like fetal alcohol spectrum disorders (FASDs) which are now more prevalent than autism. It's the sleight of hand performed by politicians, PR wags, confidence men, and magicians for millennia: Watch what I do with this hand, while the other takes your wallet. Or your health. 

And, most importantly of all, don't make enemies – According to the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 86.4 percent of people ages 18 or older reported that they drank alcohol at some point in their lifetime; 70.1 percent reported that they drank in the past year; 56.0 percent reported that they drank in the past month. Even if you went with the lowest figure, 56 percent of adults used alcohol in the last thirty days. That's 137 million adults. By American Society of Addiction Medicine (ASAM) stats, 2.5 million adults have substance use disorder involving prescription pain relievers or heroin. You've got a good shot at convincing me something is bad if you're not doing it. You're even more effective telling me something is bad if I'm not doing it.

It's not the back bumper of the Peterbilt that hits you

What we've got here, is failure to communicate: There's a drug acceptance problem in the U.S. There's not just an opioid overdose crisis. There isn't only an alcohol pandemic. There isn't a weed legalization debate. The problem is cultural in the way we normalize drug use, stigmatize those who've become ill from them, and throw too little money, too late, at treatment instead of prevention. Did any alcoholic become alcoholic without taking the first drink? Is any case of alcohol-related injury or illness possible without a first drink? Giving a 'gateway drug' a free pass negates prevention efforts on other drugs we find less 'responsible.'

No amount of PR is going to paper over it for long before it becomes fiscally unsustainable.

Scott Stevens, is the author of four alcohol books including the December 2016 release, I Can’t See The Forest With All These Damn Trees In The Way: The Health Consequences of Alcohol. Get the new BookLocker title now on Amazon (viewbook.at/prehab), alcohologist.com, and everywhere you buy books.  Click Alcopocalypse for the author’s 2017 Alcohol Awareness Month whitepaper. Image by  Peter Lecko, used with permission.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Gambling with FASD and the unborn: What. If. They're. Wrong.

FASD, alcohol myths

A widely reported Sept. 8, 2017 analysis, based on data published in the online journal BMJ Open, indicates the possible harmful effects of light or occasional alcohol consumption during pregnancy is “surprisingly limited.” While the point of the study was that there is damage to the unborn no matter the quantity of alcohol...the article was spun up by the alcohol industry (and media in a rush to appease alcohol advertisers -- which Facebook actually did with this alcohologist.com post to kowtow to alcohol advertisers) as "there isn't much to worry about so drinking a little is ok while expecting."

That's relieving news to an expectant mom, right? What if the seemingly unchallenged and widely reported news is wrong?

The analysis is contrary to common sense, and does not mesh with pediatricians' recommendations. The American Academy of Pediatrics reiterated in a 2015 report that no amount of alcohol in any trimester is safe. Authors said in the report: First trimester drinking (vs. no drinking) produces 12 times the odds of giving birth to a child with FASD, first and second trimester drinking increases FASD odds 61 times, and drinking in all trimesters increases FASD odds 65 times. (For more on FASD, see the video below, or follow the transcript)




This new report doesn't pass the smell test and its broad distribution comes courtesy of the clout of the alcohol industry, known for distorting and denying the health consequences of the drug they manufacture. That, and a cultural willingness to believe in unicorns and other wishful thinking (see related story).  The new report was based on observational studies. Observational studies do not take into account all the other lifestyle factors of a mom-to-be. Or misinformation. Face it: When questioned by a physician – facing possible stigmatizing comments or fearing being 'reported' somewhere – what new mother is going to admit to the amount or frequency of alcohol use during pregnancy?

Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) are now more common than autism and a child is born with one in the range of FASDs every 4.5 minutes. There is nothing in any evidence suggesting drinking this 'safe' amount of alcohol during pregnancy will lower that statistic.

The unborn use the same blood and therefore have the same blood alcohol concentration (BAC) as the mother. The fetus lacks the ability to process the alcohol the way an adult does, so the BAC remains high for a long time, causing a number of physical, cognitive, social and neurological problems that are permanent and irreversible. And sometimes fatal. 

As many as 40,000 babies are born with an FASD annually, costing the U.S. up to $6 billion annually in institutional and medical costs. Costs of FAS alone are estimated at between 1 and 5 million dollars per child.

And what of a child exposed to alcohol in-utero who doesn't develop FASD? A 2016 study conducted by the Center for Development and Behavioral Neuroscience even suggests the child exposed to alcohol in the womb, with or without an FASD, is more prone to alcohol use disorders the rest of his or her life. Something you wouldn't wish upon your worst enemy.



Scott Stevens, is the author of four alcohol books including the December 2016 release, I Can’t See The Forest With All These Damn Trees In The Way: The Health Consequences of Alcohol. Get the new BookLocker title now on Amazon (viewbook.at/prehab), alcohologist.com, and everywhere you buy books.  Click Alcopocalypse for the author’s 2017 Alcohol Awareness Month whitepaper. Image by  Peter Lecko, used with permission.



Friday, September 8, 2017

Hey, Alcohol biz: The 90's called. They want their liars back.



Sept. 2017 research by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Karolinska Institute in Sweden has revealed the extent to which the alcohol industry is denying alcohol's causal role in cancer. In other words, the alcohol industry has torn a page from the tobacco playbook of two decades ago to take a 3-D approach to marking a known carcinogen: Deny. Distort. Distract.

In an infamous Congressional hearing in 1994, the leaders of the tobacco industry (pictured above) swore under oath that nicotine was not addictive and that smoking did not cause cancer. Notable among them was Andrew Tisch, then CEO of the Lorriland brands of smokes. The executives denied conclusions of a consensus of independent scientists and health experts that their product caused cancer. It was later revealed that the companies knew the cancer link decades before their Congressional 'come-to-Jesus' meeting and the Tobacco Settlement three years later.

Here we are again.


Over the past two decades, numerous studies have shown a strong link between even moderate drinking and cancer. (See related A-Files segments on the cancer connection: Episode B: Breast Cancer video transcript, Episode C: Cancer video  transcript and Episode Z: Zero Health Benefit video transcript, as well as the book I Can't See the Forest With All These Damn Treesin the Way: Health Consequences of Alcohol.) Bottom line: Scientists estimate that alcohol is responsible for at least four percent of new cancer diagnoses annually. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services lists it as a known carcinogen. You wouldn't know it by listening to the alcohol industry. But would you really expect your mother-in-law to be a fair arbiter of your marital dispute?

The study authors looked at 30 websites from alcohol trade groups in the U.K., Europe, the U.S., Canada and Australia. One – The Wine Information Council – even claimed that wine actually protects against several forms of cancer including breast, lung and kidney. Another – U.S.-based International Alliance for Responsible Drinking – said that light to moderate drinking was 'not ‘significantly' associated with an increased risk of tumors.

The authors said the tactics used by the alcohol industry were very similar to those used by tobacco firms for 50 years to play down the risk of lung cancer and were particularly misleading about the link between breast cancer. Alcohol use is the only dietary link to an increase risk of breast cancer.

Professor Mark Petticrew, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, concluded: "The weight of scientific evidence is clear that drinking alcohol increases the risk of some of the most common forms of cancer. Our analysis suggests that the major global alcohol producers may attempt to mitigate this by disseminating misleading information about cancer through their 'responsible drinking' bodies.

"This has obvious parallels with the global tobacco industry's decades-long campaign to mislead the public about the risk of cancer, which also used front organizations and corporate social activities.”

The alcohol industry response is that the research was 'misleading' and said they were already advising consumers to drink responsibly. As if it were possible to consume a toxin and carcinogen 'responsibly.' Henry Ashworth, president of the International Alliance for Responsible Drinking, said: ”We do not agree with the conclusions reached in this paper. We stand by the information that we publish on drinking and health.” That sounds an awful lot like Tisch's statement that, “Smoking does not cause cancer.”

Public awareness of alcohol/cancer connection is low. It has been argued that greater public awareness, particularly of the risk of breast cancer, poses a significant threat to the alcohol industry. So we trudge back to the 90's and dig up some lies that only flew within the board rooms and marketing departments of companies profiting from the unobstructed flow of the drug, alcohol.


Deny. Distract. Distort.




The alcohol industry has the normal duty of any manufacturer to ensure that it does not market a defective product and that its products are as safe as possible. Alcohol – a toxin and known carcinogen – is not safe in any amount, for either gender, at any age.

Scott Stevens, is the author of four alcohol books including the December 2016 release, I Can’t See The Forest With All These Damn Trees In The Way: The Health Consequences of Alcohol. Get the new BookLocker title now on Amazon (viewbook.at/prehab), alcohologist.com, and everywhere you buy books.  Click Alcopocalypse for the author’s 2017 Alcohol Awareness Month whitepaper. Image by Kevin Carden, used with permission.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Drugging, drinking, and grasping at straw

drug use, drug, addiction


The real power drugs hold is how they make the user accept magical thinking as real
In the 16th century, Sir Thomas More originated the idiom ‘grasping at straws’.  In actuality, the lawyer, philosopher, and Roman Catholic saint was referring to straw – cattle bedding – and that a drowning man will grasp at anything floating, even straw, to try to stay afloat (paraphrasing). It’s a perfect idiom 483 years later to illuminate how drug use is rationalized by the user and by American society.

Any drug use. Any time.

Every rational man and woman knows the risk of addiction – and death – from using opiates and opioids, for example. There is a well-documented history of addiction and death from this class of drug, dating to it’s first cultivation and use 3,400 years BCE. Why is it still around? Because people will use it. That’s why.
One of the first affects of any mind-altering drug is that it convinces the user it is somehow safe and the consequences are for the other guys. Magical thinking. Like a drowning man believing a single stalk of dried grass in an ocean will buoy him and float him to safety. Once the drug of choice takes over that human, the magical thinking gives way entirely to chemical dependence.
Even when the drug use doesn’t escalate to dependence – or I should say ‘especially’ when it doesn’t – magical thinking trumps intellect every and any time a person is under the influence.
A recovery pioneer and modern-day anti-alcohol trailblazer in the 1970’s, Father Martin, put it succinctly in his Chalk Talk. He said the human mind works best when it operates as Intellect over Emotion, or I/E. Add a mind-altering drug, any of them, and the equation flips to Emotion over Intellect, E/I. That’s a good explanation to why we say and do incredibly stupid stuff while impaired. Your grandmother was right when she said, “That’s not your Rhodes Scholar Grandpa, it’s the booze talking,” right after he declared he was going to shave the cat.

We do dumb stuff, and believe dumb stuff

A lot of recovery professionals, especially in court-ordered programs, see the aftermath of the dumb stuff followed by some more magical thinking. Every single person charged with DUI or other drug-related crime believes in magic. He or she will be sentenced lightly because of their unique situation, or get off on a technicality, or the evidence will be lost because it happened to his ‘guy’ ‘a couple years ago’ and the ‘law is muddy on this issue.’
When a drug tells the same brain it’s poisoning that the stuff isn’t so dumb, we do the dumb stuff. Including rationalizing the use of the drug. Two common examples are the well-funded oversimplifications of marijuana benefits, and the widespread acceptance of alcohol risks.
A medical user of marijuana dislikes the getting stoned part. Just like a medical user of Oxycontin doesn’t care for the high. When a recreational pot smoker wants to rationalize use, however, out comes the Emotion. Drinkers… well, there isn’t medical use and there aren’t any health benefits. It’s all about the buzz.

Send life rafts, not more straw

They’ll trot out the ‘medical benefits’ to support their continued consumption of a drug… when the medical benefits are far from their reason for smoking dope. They’ll roll out the frequently misquoted safety argument in favor of the drug. It sounds like ‘nobody ever died from smoking weed’.  True, nobody overdosed on weed, put the drug is linked to more deaths and health consequences than can be dismissed as coincidence. They’ll spout the long history of smoking herb, embraced by cultures vastly older than ours. Drowning… grasping at any fleck of straw that will keep them afloat.
The scientific evidence on alcohol as a toxin and carcinogen is even more concrete than the evidence of health damage from marijuana use. The drug can change DNA! It begins damaging otherwise healthy tissue from sip one. It’s so poisonous that if the liver had pain nerve endings, none of us would take sip two. Very scientifically sound and highly intellectual. However, even moderate use of the drug alcohol flips the I/E equation to E/I.
The grasping for straw sounds something like: ‘It’s legal’… ‘It relaxes me’… ‘Moderation is safe, the ad said so’… ‘It’s good for the heart’.  That last point has been discredited for more than a decade, by the way.  Rationalizations… buoying a drug-altered brain modified to E/I by the same drug that’s killing it. When someone is drowning, they want to believe in the straw. What if you drift to them a life raft of factsinstead? We have to deliver them back safely to the boat off which they jumped. That boat  – society and social behavior  – may not be Utopia (Sir More’s more famous work), but it beats drowning.

Scott Stevens, is the author of four alcohol books including the December 2016 release, I Can’t See The Forest With All These Damn Trees In The Way: The Health Consequences of Alcohol. Get the new BookLocker title now on Amazon (viewbook.at/prehab), alcohologist.com, and everywhere you buy books.  Click Alcopocalypse for the author’s 2017 Alcohol Awareness Month whitepaper. Image by Kevin Carden, used with permission.

Photo by Dusan Petrovic, used with permission.
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Monday, May 15, 2017

Alcohol, addiction, education… and the barbarians at the gate

medicine, health, alcohol, alcohol policy, CDC, NIH, ONDCP
(Originally on Addicted Minds)

Archaic, or ancient, Greece saw unequaled advances in art, medicine, poetry, science, technology, and philosophy. Before this period, around 800 BCE, people lived scattered in small farming villages. Around 1,000 BCE, villages grew. People became closer. Some villages built walls. Most built a market and a community meeting place, developed governments, and organized their citizens according to some of laws. It was the rise of the city-state humankind, being social creatures, was destined to populate. What did we know in Archaic Greek times? That alcohol is a toxin and some of our neighbors were no damn good when they drank alcohol. You couldn’t witness either when people were nomadic or living is sparsely populated villages.
Here are two important factors in which to frame the discussion of this drug:
A) Alcohol is a mood-altering drug. Case closed. Every physical and mental health professional since Hippocrates knows this clinically if not from personal consumption. This fact has been undisputed for millennia or the human race would have abandoned the relationship with this toxin and known carcinogen before the rise of the first city-state, Sparta.
B) Today exists a mountain of conclusive evidence that it is a mind-altering drug, impacting at the molecular level the organ that houses it, the brain. Evidence-based research in the later half of the 20th Century has demonstrated it damages or destroys other organs and tissues as well.
So why is this drug still so widely used today? Go back to A. It’s damn effective. Alcohol users, advertisers, brewers, distillers, and economic engineers who insists on alcohol’s pertinent role in commerce will do anything to preserve the dominance of A over B. There is no amount of wishful thinking, junk science, or fantasy those with a vested interest in alcohol use won’t embrace to preserve the status quo. Follow the money behind every observational study appearing in mainstream media in favor of this drug’s use – theorized health benefits, for example – and here’s who you’ll find writing the check: Alcohol users, advertisers, brewers, distillers, and economic engineers who insists on alcohol’s pertinent role in commerce.
Not physicians. Not mental health professionals.

David v. Goliath

It’s not that people trust ads more than doctors as much as that human nature supports keeping doing what we’re doing. Change isn’t on fleek.
What this spells is out is the David v. Goliath battleground onto which every puny addiction professional trods every day. Helping professionals aren’t just trying to reach an altered brain with no interest in stopping A. They also battle a culture, family, friends, and economy that are so immersed in A that they’ve become alco-centric when it is killing clients.
Nobody seeks out a helping professional because they want change. They seek out to keep doing what they’re doing and just feel better about doing it. I wrote that for 2012’s Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud in respect to how addiction runs counter to common disease procedure. When I have a tumor, I ache. So I see a professional to change. When my blood sugar is out of whack, I’m lethargic and achy. So I see a professional to change. When I am drinking, I feel crummy only when I stop. So I don’t really want to change because I don’t feel achy when I do it. To put it another way, when a physical system driven by the brain becomes dependent on a drug that alters the brain, the physical system is at dis-ease when it’s NOT getting the drug. The defense mechanisms to preserve A come out in full force despite B.
That alone is reason enough why addiction treatment isn’t immediately effective. Throw in alco-centric attitudes in society telling everyone ‘moderation is safe and even healthy’ and Goliath has an AR-15 compared to David’s slingshot. That’s why it sometimes takes two or four or fourteen kicks at the cat to make the transition to long-term recovery.
Succeeding against drug use requires a talented professional or para-professional who can battle through the defense mechanisms to demonstrate the consequences of B outweigh any benefit of A. That’s the case-by-case victory everyone in this profession takes on daily. A larger battle stays largely unfought. We fight tooth and nail to save the life of someone addicted, but expend very little energy in preventing use in the first place. It isn’t a desire to preserve job security that addiction pros will always have someone to save. Instead, it is unwinding centuries of accepted use of the drug that predate Sparta by about four thousand years.

Barbarians at the gate

We’ve already convinced most of the 7.5 billion people on this rock that this drug is ok, safe, fun, ceremonial, and celebrated. So what if some will use it and become addicted to it… it’s good for the economy, healthy, and a rite of passage. We fix the addicts or cast them out. We don’t prevent them from using the drug in the first place.
Have we created the same aura of safety around cocaine? A little use is ok… more, not so much? Is there a meth bar on Main Street? Have we identified a moderate use of heroin? Do we have crack and smack ads? What is the suggested daily intake of tobacco smoke as part of a healthy diet, two Pall Malls? No. Preposterous. We have prevention education that talks about health consequences beyond addiction or car wrecks for those drugs.
We lack meaningful prevention education for the world’s deadliest drug, alcohol. Alcohol advertisers provide their own at $1.5 billion a year.
The ‘alcohol-is-the-antidote-for-wellness’ message has been out there for decades on page three (if covered at all) buried behind the slick alcohol ads and front-page, above-the-fold article on alcohol health promises and underneath the announcements for the church beer tent at the fall festival. For the last 36 months, in fact, alcohologist.com has tracked that for every pro-alcohol study mention in an article on Google (109 studies, 10,419 mentions) there were three evidence-based research projects (320 studies) on adverse health consequences of alcohol released… but a 10th of the mentions (1,022).
Where the dialogue is moving is that it is not just the addicted who become sick. Every user faces an increased risk of physical illness and disease from any use of the drug. Even moderate users.
Prevention of alcohol use disorders starts with prevention of alcohol use. It is the same tape the tobacco industry has heard for the last two decades: We prevent substantial loss of life and productivity by keeping people from smoking in the first place. We still make cigarettes. And we’ll still make alcohol, even when it isn’t glorified any longer.
The tide began to turn against tobacco in 1964. The U.S. Surgeon General issued a landmark report on health problems related to a very popular thing to do: Smoking tobacco. Thirty-four years later, the U.S. had the unprecedented Tobacco Settlement, capping a shift in education. The anti-tobacco sentiment took 34 years to soak in sans the internet. Last fall, the U.S. Surgeon General issued a landmark report on the health problems related to a very popular thing to do: Drinking alcohol. The public sentiment toward the drug is beginning to shift as indicated in this very clear signal to change the current alcohol policy costing the U.S. economy $250 billion a year.
It won’t take 34 years this time.
To the citizenry of Archaic Greece, a barbarian was anyone who was not of their extraction or culture. Because these ‘strangers’ regularly challenged Greece’s established ways, ‘barbarian’ gradually evolved into a negative term… only because the history books were written by Greeks. The truth is that they were far from barbaric and they were actually enjoined with the Romans, who took over the joint. Those who challenged the established Greco lifestyle were of nutty acts and opinions, not welcome, and kept outside the gates… no matter what their beliefs… only because they didn’t drink the same KoolAid as the Greeks.
A weird bit of irony, the story of the leveraged buyout of RJR/Nabisco (a major tobacco stakeholder) is entitled Barbarians at the Gate. The real moment the barbarians arrived on the tobacco doorstep was the 1964 Surgeon General’s Report. The 2016 report is a barbarians-at-the-gate moment for the alcohol industry. The Surgeon General fired the starting gun for practitioners who have not already incorporated prevention into their practice to do so today and be at the forefront of change the way the American Legacy Foundation – today known as the Truth Initiative – is at the forefront of smoking education and prevention.
In 1967, 72 percent of adult men smoked. Today, 72 percent don’t. Those who challenged at the gates of the establishment won the public dialogue with facts. The same ones we all have at our disposal. Remember, Greece fell because the Romans outGreeked the Greeks. The ‘barbarians’ made the thing better than being Greek was being a non-Greek. As we figure new dimensions in treating alcoholism, we need to establish that the only thing better than being a drinker, is being a non-drinker.

Addicted Minds’ Editor-in-Chief, Scott Stevens, is the author of four alcohol books including the December 2016 release, I Can’t See The Forest With All These Damn Trees In The Way: The Health Consequences of Alcohol. Get the new BookLocker title now on Amazon (viewbook.at/prehab), alcohologist.com, and everywhere you buy books.  Click Alcopocalypse for the author’s 2017 Alcohol Awareness Month whitepaper. Image by Kevin Carden, used with permission.

Photo by Remy Musser, used with permission.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Resurrected: Five addiction recovery tips from the original millennial

addiction, recovery, help, dependence, health
It isn’t out of reach to consider recovery from addiction as a sort of ‘rebirth’ or ‘resurrection’ of life within the man or woman challenged by substance abuse. No, we didn’t die. Some of us came gruesomely close – a lot closer than most acknowledge – as a result of dependence on chemicals human tissues don’t favor much.
Each Spring, Christians around the world commemorate the death and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth around 33 A.D. The man was executed in the Roman tradition of the time: Crucifixion. Christians believe Jesus rose from the dead three days later when the tomb was found empty. He then ascended into heaven 40 days after being put to death. By all historical accounts, he (He) really lived and really was put to a gruesome death.
Whether you fancy yourself to be a non-believer or just choose to believe something else, the Biblical story of Jesus’s resurrection carries a few lessons about the metaphoric resurrection addicts in recovery experience.

Don’t be afraid to come back

Jesus was slain. Martyred. The man’s body was nailed to a cross and pierced. The Romans at the time were a brutal cast of characters and this was their method of public infliction of pain for those who dared cross Rome, and creating stigma by terrorizing and shaming those who would ever think to run afoul of Caesar. Those crucified are nailed or roped to an elevated cross beam and left for dead. In reality, they died agonizing deaths from bleeding out, exhaustion, suffocation, exposure, or any combination of the four. The Romans did this for centuries. They got it from the Greeks: Alexander the Great humiliated his conquests with public crucifixions 300 years before Jesus lived.
When the Romans did it in Jerusalem it was because the Romans had the city within their empire. They lived there. Jesus came back to the same land where people KILLED him.
When we come back from our addictions, home awaits. Regardless of what transpired or who we hurt. Go back. You have a new life. Live it where you want.

Be humble

Look, nobody is going to build a shrine to any of us just because we got sober or got off the pipe. Recovery doesn’t work that way.
Jesus wasn’t revered and shrines weren’t built in his honor because he came back from the dead either. He embodied humility. Most martyrs throughout history are known for decent, humble lives of service, not for miracles. The lesson of Jesus life was simple: Although revered as the Son of God, he washed the feet of peasants and common folk. He helped others out of a willingness to do so, not for reward. Jesus saw a need and filled it without consideration of money or notoriety.

Be prepared to prove yourself

One great Biblical account of Jesus and his rising from the dead in the Christian New Testament is his encounter with one of his followers. His friend Thomas was notably absent when the resurrected Jesus first appeared to other followers. Thomas – throughout history known as Doubting Thomas – would not believe Jesus was for real unless he got to probe the crucifixion wounds. He needed proof.
There are people who will require proof from you of your sobriety or abstinence. Some people will require years of it. Some people will never be satisfied with your recovery no matter what evidence you present. Nobody says you have to prove them wrong. It’s not their lives you’re living, it is your new one. However, the worst possible scenario for your new life, is to prove the doubters right.
Even if you relapse, you’ve proven only that you have a chronic, relapsing, progressive, fatal disease. Go back to bullet point one. Face them another day.

Be visible

The main reason Jesus’s followers believed in the resurrection is that they saw Him alive after He was dead. Jesus hung around for 40 days after his come back. He presented Himself alive on a number of different occasions to His followers. This firsthand evidence is a powerful argument for the believers in Christ. It’s going to be a part of people believing in you once again once you’re done with your drug of choice.
Take your time in recovery. There isn’t a need to rush back out to every social event. However, the hard work of rebuilding your life means nothing if you don’t leave your living room.
In my third book, I wrote about becoming a PANonymous alcoholic: One who doesn’t hide the disease and is visible in recovery. It helps others to see that recovery is possible. And it helps reduce the ridiculous public stigma attached to addiction that all in its grip are forever hopeless degenerates.

Know when to leave

Jesus was visible for more than a month after dying. So isn’t it conceivable that He could’ve just gone back to what he was doing? Or stayed and lived a resurrected life indefinitely? Theologians will argue that because there is a huge worldwide following and an addiction recovery article mentioning him two millennia later, Jesus in fact lives today. Converting you to that mindset isn’t the point. The point is that Jesus knew when to leave.
You don’t need to show up for every event to which you’re invited. You never have to stay. Nobody has to participate in every argument brought to your doorstep. In fact, the greatest gift we learn from our walking away from a drug that once controlled us is that we can walk away. From anything.
Scott Stevens is the author of four alcohol books including the December 2016 release, I Can’t See The Forest With All These Damn Trees In The Way: The Health Consequences of Alcohol. Get the new BookLocker title now on Amazon (viewbook.at/prehab), alcohologist.com, and everywhere you buy books.  Click Alcopocalypse for the author’s 2017 Alcohol Awareness Month whitepaper. Image by Kevin Carden, used with permission.




Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Addiction recovery’s low, low admission price: Own your $#1+!

(originally posted to Addicted Minds)
Admission. Great noun. It means two related things when it comes to addiction recovery:  A) The right to enter, and B) a voluntary acknowledgment/concession of a fact or truth. There is no A) without B) in our family.
Caveat: Most normies – so called ‘normal’ people – have no clue how great we have it so they don’t bother with admission. Either definition.
Drug of choice doesn’t matter. Pills, weed, alcohol, meth, fill-in-the-blank. While active with a drug of choice addicts concede very few facts about their own condition. The reason, the drug alters the function of the same organ responsible for the voluntary acknowledgment of fact. The result, as expected, is the continued use of the same drug of choice until death. Sometimes it is the drug actually causing the death. Other times it just hastens the journey. Addiction is that way when it comes to choices. Addiction means lack of choices and you have exactly two: Admission. Or shorter life expectancy.
Owning your addiction begins to slam the door on the less desirable of the two choices.

Slam the door

You begin to admit other things on the path back to society once you’ve crossed addiction’s Rubicon by admitting your problem is your problem. “I did really crummy things when I drank. I’m sorry.” “I stole from you to get more because I am addicted to more. Let me make it right.”
Sounds quite 12-steppish (ninth, to be precise), so how about a history lesson. Stepping back to admit so you can move forward is much older. There’s a Latin phrase, ‘mea culpa.’ The literal translation from the Latin is ‘through my own fault.’ Yes, the Roman Catholics use it in their Mass, but don’t get your shorts in a knot over the AA connotation or the religious affiliation: Geoffrey Chaucer used it in Troilus and Criseydea poem, in 1374.  Six-hundred-plus years later, we just say, ‘My bad.’
In doing so an addict isn’t saying he or she is a bad person. Just flawed. (Guess what? Normies are flawed, too.) It’s a liberating moment. No longer does an addict blame his buddies or a crummy childhood or her despotic husband. He or she takes responsibility for his addiction being nobody else’s. We own our $#1+. We move on from that point. We become people in (or aspiring to) long-term recovery.
Own your $#1+. Admit it. Your admission gains admission to the prestigious and graciously welcoming recovery family. It beats the other choice. And you have only two.

Addicted Minds’ Editor-in-Chief, Scott Stevens, is the author of four alcohol books including the December 2016 release, I Can’t See The Forest With All These Damn Trees In The Way: The Health Consequences of Alcohol. Get the new BookLocker title now on Amazon (viewbook.at/prehab), alcohologist.com, and everywhere you buy books. Image by Ivan Zamurovic, used with permission.