Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Replay of the alcoholism and recovery radio interview on The Michael Dresser Show

The Oct. 31 interview on the Michael Dresser is now available at of listen here.  Thank you to all who tuned in to the LIVE program. 
Mr. Dresser's program features authors and experts from all over the country and worldwide who offer solutions to the listening audience on all types of lifestyle matters. He is well known for getting to the heart of the issue at hand with his thought-provoking talk. We'll talk about alcoholism, relapse, recovery and Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

World Stroke Day: New Finnish study ties alcohol use and hangovers to stroke risk

World Stroke Day  is Oct. 29, bringing attention to how to spot a stroke and how to prevent one. On the prevention front, a new University of Eastern Finland study shows excessive alcohol consumption increases the progression of atherosclerosis and the risk of stroke in middle-aged men. The findings were reported as part of the FinnDrink Study Oct. 21 and mirror earlier data showing an increased stroke risk for drinkers of both genders regardless of age, even with only moderate consumption.

The Finnish research found that progression of atherosclerosis over an 11-year follow-up was increased among men who consumed six or more drinks on one occasion. Stroke risk also increased among men who had at least one hangover per year. Drinking large quantities of alcohol more than twice a week also increased the risk of stroke death in men.

And strokes aren't only a concern for older adults. Early in 2013, a separate study at the University of California at San Francisco (UCSF) concluded that one of every five strokes occurs in people between 18 and 44 years of age. That's men and women.

"When a young person has a stroke, it is probably much more likely that the cause of their stroke is something other than traditional risk factors," such as hypertension and obesity, according to one of the lead researchers in the study. (See the entire article)

The UCSF researchers say long-term changes in the heart as a result of alcohol abuse or the disease of alcoholism may put younger users at higher-than-average risk earlier in life. "Substance abuse is common in young adults experiencing a stroke,” according to the research team. "Patients aged younger than 55 years who experience a stroke should be routinely screened and counseled regarding substance abuse.”

Neither study offers evidence that patients' drug or alcohol use directly caused the strokes. It's possible, for example, that people who abuse alcohol or have the disease of alcoholism also see their doctors less often or engage in other risky behaviors that increase the chance of stroke.

Stroke disables more people in the United States than breast cancer or the war in Afghanistan. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), nearly 800,000 people in the United States have a stroke every year. Strokes (either ischemic or hemorrhagic) are the most common causes of serious long-term disability. Ninety percent of strokes are ischemic, where a clot blocks blood flow to the brain.

Additional statistics from the National Stroke Association reveal:
  • Stroke kills almost 130,000 Americans each year—that’s 1 in every 19 deaths.
  • On average, one American dies from stroke every 4 minutes.
  • Fewer than 20 percent of hospitals are stroke certified.
  • One fourth of strokes are recurrent strokes.
  • Stroke costs the United States an estimated $38.6 billion each year.
Stroke risk is heightened by even a small amount of alcohol according to an Oct. 26 study posted on Canadian medical news website Tele-Management. Just one drink of alcohol was found to double stroke risk immediately after consuming the beverage. After two hours, the risk of stroke is increased 1.6 times when compared to the risk before having the drink.

The research was not based on any specific type of alcoholic beverage.

The World Stroke Day campaign emphasizes the importance of seeing a physician regularly and quickly recognizing the signs of a stroke. The American Stroke Association and American Heart Association use the acronym FAST, encouraging people to be on the lookout for weakness in one side of the Face or Arm weakness or Speech difficulty as signs it is Time to call 9-1-1. Some stroke treatments can only be used during a short "window of opportunity" after the stroke, just like has been commonly accepted as a window of opportunity for getting help to someone who’s had a heart attack.

-- from (see complete article)

Please read the new interview with Scott Stevens at Christoph Fisher Books.  Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international historical fiction novelist from the UK.  

Monday, October 28, 2013

Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety spotlighted in review, author interview and NEW book excerpt

From Christoph Fisher Books, Oct. 27...

Today I have the pleasure of introducing one book particularly close to my heart. We all know people suffering from Alcoholism and/ or dependency issues. I thought I had read and heard it all, but along comes Scott Stevens with his personal experience and sharp journalistic mind to add a valuable contribution to the discussion. Here is my review, an interview and an excerpt from the book.

“Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud : Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety” by Scott Stevens is a remarkable book about alcoholism that has busted a few myths for me, taught me a few truths and filled in other gaps in what I thought was comprehensive knowledge on the subject of addiction and alcoholism.
With journalistic precision and competence, Stevens informs his readers in excellent fashion about the correlation between alcoholism and cortisol, a chemical in the body related to stress and stressors. Stevens also brings in psychological aspects and data, statistics and the impact of spirituality and communication on recovery.
I found Stevens’ approach refreshing because unlike other self-help books there is no agenda or one simplifying message about the subject. This is an informed and personalised account of facts that can clarify patterns, help understanding them and shed new light on the subject without trying to force them into a one-trick-pony of a book.
The book includes many great quotes on the matter and should be helpful for alcoholics and those around them just for the inspirational impact of those alone but I also personally related particularly well to the rational journalistic approach interspersed with the personal.
I commend Stevens for his honesty when it comes to his own private experiences and for his talent to chose wisely where to bring the personal into the book in the first place. Here is not a sinner asking for forgiveness, or someone revealing to shock or to accuse. The ‘sobriety’ of his account is most rewarding and probably helps to increase the impact of what is being shared.
I have already passed the book details on to my friends in recovery.

What made you decide to be a writer? Have you always written?
Thanks for the opportunity, Christoph.  I’ve always been a writer.  I had strong influences at an early age.  I was encouraged to read classics and work on composition.  I went into journalism.  That was a trip.  Working in TV, you learn to be precise but brief.  When I left TV for marketing, I continued as a writer.  That was where my passion was.  I continued my journalism as well, working in “emerging” platforms — not so emerging any longer.  A few years ago, when I left my executive career, I continued writing and consulting until my life took one big left turn.  I turned that into an opportunity to help others with my message, my research and my story about alcoholism and recovery.

Could you briefly describe what your reason to write Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud was and what message you are trying to bring across with this book?
I am alcoholic.  In recovery now, of course, but ran my life against the rocks pretty hard at two-liters-a-day-every-day.  As I began recovery I recognized that the people around me struggling were not the same as the experts writing the books about struggling.  The messages we got in recovery were coming from people who lived lives unchallenged by alcohol.

Is it intended as inspiration, self-help or factual information? 
ALL of the above.  Sort of.  I didn’t set out to write something inspirational, only something practical and useful in the same voice as those most familiar with the drama of the disease.  It is flattering that those same people tell me it IS inspirational.  The journalist in me wanted to write an air-tight, well-researched book.  But I lived it, too.

How did you come up with the title of your book?
My first book was What the Early Worm Gets.  I’d always been the early bird. Still am. But I found out what it was like to be on the other end of the food chain.  Flipping around the old adage ‘The early bird gets the worm’ is a feeling many people upended by alcohol find familiar.
Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud is about relapse.  Sobriety was supposed to be the silver lining to the cloud of alcoholism.  When you relapse, you discover that silver lining has a cloud all its own.

How do you come up with your ideas about the structure?
I read a ton of research studies in the course of my reporting.  I know that is NOT how I want my work to read.  I want the facts, but it has to read page to page, not chart to chart.  It’s not a self-help manual for insomniacs… it’s a story for alcoholics and their families...

Read the rest of the interview at Christoph Fisher Books.  Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international historical fiction novelist from the UK.  Also, please check out the author interview with Scott Stevens on Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" 10/11/13

Sunday, October 27, 2013


The excerpt this weekend comes, again, from Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety.  However, there will be a second excerpt and links to an author interview posted Oct. 28. The book had the honor of appearing on the website of internationally acclaimed historical fiction novelist, Christoph Fischer.  Watch for that tomorrow.  

Today's snippet is the introduction to a chapter on communication in recovery...

Communication is the glue that holds an Alcoholic together during recovery, so in that regard it is me-oriented. In no way does this mean exalting yourself or venting your ego. Instead, the emphasis is on self-disclosure. Self-disclosure is give-and-take even though it might feel like you’re just taking.

We have a bandage of silence over the wounds alcohol left if we clam up. The bandage does not cure the cortisol, it only makes the Symptoms feel less goofy temporarily.

Self-disclosure is the medicine for the cortisol. “Disclosing private information about ourselves is a very effective assertiveness skill. Private feelings and worries cannot be dealt with by other people by denying or disregarding the truths of your feelings,” according to psychologist Manuel Smith. “The type of voluntary self-disclosure is about things we assume we should hide.” Like grief. Like guilt. “Voluntary self-disclosure is not to be confused with the vomiting up of confessions of lack of self-worth.” Voluntary self-disclosure also means talking only about today. Twelve-step manual Alcoholics Anonymous adds, “Unless some good or useful purpose is to be served, past occurrences should not be discussed.”

Talk about what you feel, in other words, not what you did.
--  Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety, pg. 88

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Alcohol use creeps upward when Halloween falls closer to weekend

Spirits, of the alcohol type, are used more frequently when the spirits, of the ghostly type, are out on All Hallows' Eve according to an Oct. 25 report from Alcohol Monitoring Systems (AMS). What's even spookier is that the company monitors compliance for those ordered by courts to remain sober or face potential jail time.
AMS found that criminal offenders and those with pending cases who have their freedom only due to intense monitoring for absolute sobriety violated that condition around Halloween. Drinking violations rise nearly 30 percent when Halloween takes place on Friday or Saturday, compared to just five percent when it happens on a Monday.
This year the holiday falls on Thursday, and drinking rates are expected to rise approximately 25 percent. Drinking during the weekend before Halloween also is expected to jump by the same percentage.
AMS spokesperson Lou Sugo notes for these individuals monitored by his company's electronic anklet every 30 minutes, drinking is a violation, and the consequence often is arrest and jail, making the increase especially startling. "These individuals know they're going to be caught and face consequences. You can imagine the rate of drinking for those who aren't being monitored."
The study looked at data from more than 305,000 offenders monitored since 2003. Many monitored with the anklet are alcohol abusers or have the disease of alcoholism and have been charged with driving while intoxicated.
The AMS statistics mate up with data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). The agency reports more than half of all national fatalities occurring on Halloween resulted from an alcohol-related crash. That's up from one-third of all accidents throughout the rest of the year. NHTSA is publicizing the data as part of their ongoing Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over awareness campaign. Officials caution that sobriety checkpoints will be prominent on Halloween, which has become one of the deadliest days of the year for drunk driving.
Sugo adds, "Drunk people generally make poor decisions, and deciding to get behind the wheel of a car is just one of the potential issues," he adds. Additional data compiled for the 2013 book Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud shows:
  • Two hospital admissions each minute are attributable to alcohol directly, a 65 percent increase over five years
  • 22 percent of the 12 million home-accident injuries in 2012 were alcohol-related
  • 58 percent of fire fatalities have alcohol in their systems, which presumably kept them from fleeing safely
  • 45 percent of drownings are alcohol-related
  • 15.5 percent of occupational injuries are alcohol-related
  • 76 percent of incarcerated men and women claim to have been under the influence while committing their offenses
  • 56 percent of assault victims have alcohol in their bodies
  • A drinker is at a two-and-a-half-times greater risk of a violent death
-- from (see full article)

Also, please check out the author interview with Scott Stevens on "All That's Written" 10/11/13

SATURDAY REWIND: Teen drinking, drug use best thwarted by parents, not red ribbons

Red Ribbon Week -- the annual substance abuse prevention campaign Oct. 23-31 -- produces some of the best and most consistent messaging about alcohol and other drugs and the dangers they present to youth.  A December 2012 article from the alcohol research news archive notes that school and community campaigns are visible and effective, but the best resources in substance abuse prevention are Mom and Dad.

Parental involvement does more to discourage underage drinking than the school environment can, according to research released December 4 by three universities.

Specifically, the researchers looked at how “family social capital” and “school social capital” changed the chances for and/or frequency of alcohol use by children. Family social capital can be described as the bonds between parents and children, such as trust, open lines of communication and active engagement in a child’s life. School social capital captures a school’s ability to serve as a positive environment for learning, including measures such as student involvement in extracurricular activities, teacher morale and the ability of teachers to address the needs of individual students. Parenting is a better block to underage drinking than the schools, according to the North Carolina State University news release on the study.

"To be clear, school programs that address alcohol and marijuana use are definitely valuable, but the bonds parents form with their children are more important. Ideally, we can have both," says Dr. Toby Parcel, a professor of sociology at NC State and co-author of a paper on the work.

The researchers looked at data from a nationally representative sample that collected information from more than 10,000 students, as well as their parents, teachers and school administrators. The research, to be included in the quarterly Journal of Drug Issues, evaluated marijuana use and alcohol use separately.

“Parents play an important role in shaping the decisions their children make when it comes to alcohol and marijuana,” says Parcel. In both cases, researchers at NCSU (in conjunction with Brigham Young University and Penn State University) found that students with high levels of family social capital and low levels of school social capital were less likely to have used marijuana or alcohol – or to have used those substances less frequently – than students with high levels of school social capital but low family social capital.

More than 10 million American youth under the age of 21 drink alcohol, and more than a million of them are binge drinkers, according to the American Medical Association. One in four teens in the United States have consumed alcohol in the past 30 days. "Underage drinking should not be a normal part of growing up. It's a serious and persistent public health problem that puts our young people and our communities in danger," said U.S. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) Administrator Pamela S. Hyde in a related November 26 story. "Even though drinking is often glamorized, the truth is that underage drinking can lead to poor academic performance, sexual assault, injury, and even death." Teen drinking also can lead to alcohol abuse as an adult or the disease of alcoholism.
-- from (see full article)

Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud, plus the new radio interview replay is available at and please read the new interview with Scott Stevens at Christoph Fisher Books.  It's one of his Top Ten for 2013.  Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international historical fiction novelist from the UK. 

Friday, October 25, 2013

Group says banning public transportation alcohol ads can help protect youth

National alcohol industry watchdog, Alcohol Justice, released a national study Oct. 25, assessing the impact of alcohol advertising on youth, concluding young people are being barraged on the way to school or around town. Actor and activist Kurtwood Smith, known for roles in “That 70's Show” and “Dead Poets Society,” led the event, which called on state legislators and Congress to pass legislation that requires transit agencies to ban alcohol advertising on transit property as a precondition of transportation funding.

According to the American Public Transportation Association, more than 20 percent of public transportation users nationwide are under age 25. In large metropolitan areas like Chicago and New York, many kids use buses and trains to get to and from school. These children are disproportionately minorities and/or from economically challenged neighborhoods.

“Exposure to alcohol ads influences youth to start drinking earlier and to drink more,” according to Alcohol Justice spokesperson Michael Scippa. He says the enticement can lead to alcohol-related problems later in life, including the disease of alcoholism. “Alcohol advertising bans can significantly reduce youth exposure to alcohol advertising.”

In 2012, advertising on transit vehicles and transit stations comprised 17 percent of the more than $1 billion alcohol companies spent on ads outside of the household, according to the Outdoor Advertising Association of America.

The report, "These Buses Don't Stop For Children: Alcohol Advertising on Public Transit," describes the alcohol advertising policies of 32 major metropolitan transit agencies. Eighteen ban alcohol advertising; Chicago, New York and Atlanta were tagged as “lagging behind agencies that protect youth from alcohol ads.” The report noted most major cities continue to allow alcohol advertising on transit-related benches and bus or train shelters even if a transit policy banning alcohol ads is in place.

Limits on alcohol advertising can significantly reduce alcohol-related harm according to the speakers at the Los Angeles press conference announcing the study. A 28 percent reduction in alcohol advertising could reduce underage alcohol consumption and binge drinking by at least a percentage point each, while a complete ban on alcohol advertising could reduce the number of deaths from harmful drinking by 7,609 deaths, claims Alcohol Justice.

The alcohol industry claims it is not targeting minors or encouraging underage drinking. Trade associations for beer, wine and spirits have self-regulatory guidelines in place for alcohol advertising. The Distilled Spirits Council of the U.S. (DISCUS) Advertising Code of Ethics is one such self-policed directive. Its rules associated with schools address stationary advertising, which may not be located within 500 feet of elementary and secondary schools or places of worship.

In 2012, the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) reversed its ad policy, citing economic reasons, and approved an ordinance that allows for alcohol advertising to be placed on trains and in stations for the first time in 15 years. CTA President Forrest Claypool says the ban is still in place on “L” stations that serve a high number of students and on all CTA buses. The bus stops, however, are city property and allow alcohol ads. Alcohol Justice's recommendations include alcohol ad bans extended to all government-owned transit-related properties.

The CTA expects to generate $3.2 million in additional advertising revenue from alcohol ads – 0.2 percent of the agency’s annual operating budget. Scippa says, “It makes no sense for public transit agencies or cities to allow alcohol advertising that recoups less than a percent of their operating revenues while governments in the U.S. bear the burden of over $90 billion in annual costs from alcohol-related harm.”
--from (see full article)

Also, please check out the author interview with Scott Stevens on "All That's Written" 10/11/13

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Four of five dieters blame alcohol for weight-loss failures

A survey of the weight-conscious conducted for diet company Forza Supplements Oct. 24 found 81 percent admitting drinking ruined their plans to slim down. One fourth of the 1,000 surveyed reported consuming a quarter of their weekly calorie intake in alcohol alone.

More than a third of respondents consumed 1,000 calories in alcohol alone on a single night out with friends. The survey also found a third drank some alcohol at least three times a week, 25 percent said they drank excessively twice a week and 15 percent admitted to have a heavy night of alcohol three times per week.

A company representative presented four ways alcohol consumption sabotages plans to slim down. The first reason – well known to those with the disease of alcoholism – is that alcohol compromises inhibition and good judgment. “The reason that excess boozing is so damaging to diets is because it makes us deviate from our diet plans and consume more food than planned,” says Managing Director Lee Smith. The food is usually calorie-laden bar fare, typically a burger (490 calories), pizza (675), two pieces of fried chicken (400) or a bag of chips (312).

Smith said the second reason is biochemical. Alcohol suppresses leptin, a hormone. “Leptin tells the body to stop eating and negatively affects many other brain chemicals that are involved in appetite suppression.”

The third reason is that the body recognizes alcohol as a toxin. "Your body stops processing nutrients from the food you’ve eaten while it takes care of the ‘bad guys’ first. As a result, your body burns empty alcohol calories (those low in nutrients) for energy while the digestion of nutrient-rich food is put on the back burner.” The result is a 73 percent reduction in fat burning. “By the time your body gets to burning food calories, it might not need the energy and ends up storing the extra calories you’ve eaten as fat cells.”

Another reason for the lack of weight loss is that alcohol itself has calories. Plenty of them. (See “Alcohol plugs100 calories per day into diets of U.S. adults.”) Pilsener or lager beer usually comes in at around 148 calories in 12 ounces. Drinking light beer, offers about a third fewer, at around 99 calories per 12 ounces. Dry wine contains fewer calories than sweet: 106 calories for five ounces of dry wine and champagnes… double it for five ounces of sweeter wines. If you drink a glass of wine before dinner, another glass with dinner and a sweet wine for dessert, that’s more than 400 calories in addition to the meal.

Liquor calories depend on the proof for whiskey, tequila, gin, rum and vodka. Eighty proof contains 97 calories per shot (1.5 ounces). One hundred proof has 124 calories. How you mix the hard liquors will add calories faster. A whiskey sour will have 122 calories and a gin and tonic has 171 calories, a pina colada, 262 calories, and a large margarita can have as many as 400 calories.

“Women on a boozy night out typically drink three glasses of wine, plus a cocktail (such as a margarita) and a shot of spirits and mixer, all adding up to just less than half their daily calorie intake of 2,000 calories,” says Smith.

One other, more obvious thing about the weight-loss difficulty is what alcohol does to motivation: Who feels like exercise when hungover?
-- from (See full article)

Also, please check out the author interview with Scott Stevens on "All That's Written" 10/11/13

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Quitting, and staying quit, are boldly front and center in addiction recovery book for Red Ribbon Week

News Release for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud for Red Ribbon Week, Oct. 23-31.  The campaign is the largest and oldest anti-drug campaign in the United States.  Alcohol is the nation's top drug of abuse.  The focus during the campaign traditionally has been on teen and pre-teen alcohol and other drug use, however, the lessons on sober living start at home, not in the schools.  Ribbons help bring awareness to the problems... drinking parents can quit and stay sober to lead by example.

Quitting, and staying quit, are boldly front and center in addiction recovery book for Red Ribbon Week

Also, please check out the author interview with Scott Stevens on "All That's Written" 10/11/13

Sunday, October 20, 2013


This Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud excerpt looks a group therapy approach that sometimes is employed with alcohol abusers with success, but may be counterproductive in treating Alcoholism.

"Watch out for group therapy that emphasizes a “hot seat” approach: Break-them-down confrontational techniques have not been proven clinically. Sometimes the public view of the Alcoholic person only as a fun-loving, thrill-seeking, irresponsible and childish person who is into the immediate gratification of every impulse is interpreted in group-therapy circles are a need to punish it out of him. Humiliate him. Teach him a lesson. That’s where this obnoxious hot-seat idea originated. However, the self-willed jerk just described is the alcohol abuser, not the Alcoholic. Behavioral approaches can work for alcohol abusers because lapse, in their world, is based on how they want to behave, not how they are feeling. For Alcoholics, it is a different matter. For Alcoholics, “Cognitive [Behavioral] treatment is not adequate for recovery,” says Wilson-Schaef. “To deal only with the analytical, rational and logical is to perpetuate the disease.”

No one can knock Behavioral Therapy in general because it works very well for a lot of behavioral problems, like alcohol abuse, overeating or kleptomania. No one can knock its founder, Albert Ellis: Only the Gideons and the phone company have their names on more books. Ellis is to psychology what Lawrence Tribe is to law. But Alcoholism is not a behavior.

When you hear Behavioral Therapy in conjunction with group therapy, think of conditioning, like B.F. Skinner’s strategies training pigeons or Ivan Pavlov’s dogs trained to drool at the sound of a dinner bell. Behavioral Therapy uses the theory on people. (Here’s a funny thought to ponder: Did Pavlov condition his dogs? Or did the dogs condition Pavlov to feed them?) There is no room for emotion. “This myopia,” says William Lewis, “May stem from a standpoint which originated in a laboratory where experimental animals were to be manipulated, not loved.” (“Why People Change,” in The Psychology of Influence, Holt, Rinehart and Winston, Inc., New York 1972)
--  Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety, pgs. 100-101

Also, please check out the author interview with Scott Stevens on "All That's Written" 10/11/13

Saturday, October 19, 2013

SATURDAY REWIND: Increase in suicide rates, alcohol misuse, depression

Two articles from the alcohol research news archive, published three months apart, demonstrate the complex and deadly interplay between alcohol, depression and suicide.  It's sometimes referred to as a "squirrel cage" in which people use alcohol, a depressant, to treat depression...the alcohol causes more depression... which the person self-medicates with more alcohol.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that while suicide rates rose slowly between 1999 and 2007, the rate of increase more than quadrupled from 2008 to 2010. A link between depression and economic recession is assumed in a letter doctors from Britain, Hong Kong and the U.S. wrote on the new data to the medical journal Lancet Nov. 7.

There were 1,500 more reported suicides since 2007 than could have been expected using the suicide rate for the previous eight years. About 25 percent of the increase is attributable to the unemployment rate according to the lead doctor in the Lancet letter.

Alcohol use disorders, either alcohol abuse or the disease of alcoholism, are risk factors for suicide across all demographic divisions. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 96 percent of alcoholics who die by suicide continue their drinking right up to the end of their lives.

Alcoholism is a factor in about 30 percent of all completed suicides. Approximately seven percent of those with alcoholism will take their own lives. Alcohol use when accompanied by other disorders, like depression, is one of the AFSP’s top-cited risk factors. Alcoholics, especially those with untreated alcoholism, usually fall into this last group because alcoholics use the depressant alcohol to treat their depression.
-- from (see full article)

Bouts of depression are often the direct result of alcohol intake, according to a study in the March issue of the Journal of Studies on Alcohol and Drugs. The researchers linked alcohol abuse and the disease of alcoholism to a third of depressive episodes. These periods of depression are different than depressive episodes caused by other life events.

Experts have long known that heavy drinking can spur temporary episodes of depression while many with alcohol use disorders use alcohol to relieve depression. They self-medicate. "I don't know that the average person realizes that heavy drinking can induce mood problems," said lead researcher Marc A. Schuckit, M.D., of the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine.

Not every doctor might be aware of it, either. But it's important that he or she pay close attention to this problem, Schuckit said, because depression caused by heavy drinking has a different prognosis and is treated much differently from depression not tied to drinking. “Although the symptoms of independent and substance-induced depressions can be identical, if the sadness develops in the context of heavy drinking, the symptoms are likely to lift within several weeks to a month of abstinence and rarely require antidepressants to go away.

“It's important for doctors to consider alcohol use disorders as a possible cause of patients' depression symptoms,” Schuckit said—rather than simply "reaching for the prescription pad" and recommending an antidepressant." The patient needs to be forthcoming with information about alcohol use in order for the physician to properly diagnose the source of the depression.

The 30-year study evaluated nearly 400 men who were 18 years old at the outset. About half were at increased risk for drinking problems because their fathers were alcoholics. Over three decades, about 41 percent of the men with alcoholic fathers developed alcohol abuse or alcoholism, and nearly 20 percent suffered at least one bout of major depression. For men with alcohol problems, though, almost one third of those major depressive episodes were seen only while they were drinking heavily, not depression caused by other life events.

If alcohol is the cause, according to the journal, the depression is very likely to disappear with abstinence.
--from (see full article)

Scroll down for the replay of the Dr. Jeanette Gallagher show feature with Scott Stevens. Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore."  Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud can be found on, plus the interview with Scott Stevens at Christoph Fisher Books.  Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international historical fiction novelist from the UK.  
SAVE THE DATE:  Scott Stevens will be part of the opening night symposium for the REEL Recovery Film Festival San Francisco.

Sunday, October 13, 2013


As a friendly heads-up, the paperback version of Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud: Relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety is now discounted on amazon.  The price is $14.89 USD, $5.10 off the cover price. Not sure if other retailers will follow suit.

After posting a mock-up of the cover for my 2014 work in progress on the Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud Facebook page, I had a few people ask what it's about.  Adding Fire to the Fuel is on the stigma society clips on the word and the diagnosis of Alcoholism.  Here is an excerpt from Adding Fire to the Fuel: The Stigma of Alcoholism -- likely the only snippet from the forthcoming book posted until fall 2014.

“When they begin casting for “Real Housewives of Phoenix,” no doubt Trish would make the short list of any TV producer. The former Indiana University cheerleader still had her college figure in her early 40’s, even after two children. The planes of her face, the delicate nose and well-chiseled cheekbones spoke of a decade and a half of modeling work. Her blue eyes were flecked with gold. And she had freckles – even they had sexiness about them.

She was blonde and bold, both came from bottles: Clairol and Jim Beam respectively.

The stormy marriage and two trips to rehab (where I met her) only sweeten what the sweet Midwesterner brings to her gossipy neighborhood and the intrigue-hungry reality show. She’s a dream. Her job’s a dream. Her kids are a dream. Her home, all 3,500 square feet of stucco in the desert, is a dream.

The Mercedes is parked under the beams of the carport. A hummingbird feeder dangled from one end of a crossbeam. Trish, on that October morning, dangled from the other end by her graceful neck. That’s how the police found her. Here’s the story of how she got there.
She died sober.  This was only her tragically extreme, unnecessary and self-serving answer to the tragically extreme, unnecessary and self-serving stigma she faced as a result of being a not-so-anonymous alcoholic. Neither Trish's suicide nor the societal stigma is acceptable."

Saturday, October 12, 2013

SATURDAY REWIND: Five myths about hangovers.

This week there was a slight murmur in the news about Sprite soda being able to ease a hangover.  I've got to believe the Coca-Cola Co. wasn't the source of the news, rather someone with an idea that hangover is normal and Sprite is a normal way out.  (There may be science behind the claim, too.)The following article from the alcohol research news archive recommends the best hangover cure:  Don't get bombed.  Or instead of downing Sprite the morning after drinking too much gin, how about drinking Sprite instead of the gin?  Not solutions likely to be embraced by everyone... I get that.  Here are five hangover myths busted.

Hangovers are serious business because of what alcohol does to the digestive and central nervous systems, but there are a lot of myths that may make your condition worse, not better.

Myth: Eating pasta before bed, popping pain relievers and downing coffee will ease the symptoms.
Fact: Eating before bed only widens your mid-section. If you eat something heavy before drinking, it may slow absorption of the alcohol you drink later and could help you avoid the hangover. Popping acetaminophen (a.k.a. Tylenol) while or after drinking can permanently damage your liver. Drinking coffee only makes you a wide-awake drunk. The main stress on the body immediately following a night of too much drinking is dehydration. Alcohol displaces the water in your body. You want to feel better faster, drink more water throughout the night – alternating between water and your drink of choice – and drink water throughout the next day.

Myth: Hangovers are for men and binge drinkers.
Fact: Men have a higher percentage of water in their bodies, therefore more water to displace. A man and woman drinking the same amount, even if they were close to the same size, would result in the woman having more alcohol in the bloodstream and a bigger hangover. Any person can have a hangover after just a couple of drinks, especially if they don’t drink often.

Myth: Wine and diet drinks are best for avoiding a hangover.
Fact: Wine – especially red wine – is actually worse than vodka, gin or other clearer drinks. Red wines contain tannins, which can turn a bad headache into an all-dayer. Diet drinks help cut some of the calories, but alcohol has enough on its own (see related story). The natural sugars in some fruit juices make for a better mixer for avoiding hangovers, but cost more in calories obviously.

Myth: Alcohol will help me sleep it off.
Fact: Alcohol blocks your Rapid Eye Movement (REM) sleep, so you don’t rest well. There’s a big difference between waking up and coming to. Also, your body is working overtime to process the toxic alcohol while you sleep, and your sleep will not be restful with your liver working that hard.

Myth: Hair of the Dog fixes everything.
Fact: Morning drinking is a sign of alcohol abuse and the disease of alcoholism. More alcohol never helped anyone. It only postpones the hangover, which has its worst symptoms when the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches .00. Your body can process about one drink (wine, shot, beer or mixed drink) per hour. If you had six glasses of wine at midnight, your BAC would hit .00 about six a.m. If you had six shots from six p.m. to midnight, your BAC would hit .00 around two a.m. If you had more, you’re going to feel worse later, once the BAC hits bottom. Many drinking and driving arrests happen the morning after because the body still hasn’t processed all the alcohol from the night before.

The only thing that works is time... or just not drinking.

For people concerned about their drinking and the hangovers, the CAGE self-test is a reliable indicator:
Have you ever felt you should Cut back on your drinking?
Have people Annoyed you about your drinking?
Have you ever felt bad or Guilty about your drinking?
Have you ever had an Eye-opener drink first thing in the morning to steady your nerves or get rid of a hangover?
A score of just two yes answers suggests a significant risk of problem drinking that should be discussed with a doctor.
--from (see full story)

Friday, October 11, 2013

Hitting puberty at younger age could tip off parents to child's earlier alcohol use

Teens or pre-teens who begin their puberty at an early age are likely to speed up their experimentation with alcohol and other drugs according to a study published in the October issue of Addiction. The research by the University of Texas Austin and colleagues from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill looks at when best to apply parenting savvy to prevent or reduce alcohol abuse by teens and young adults.

Adolescents who believe they are more advanced in puberty than their peers are more likely to have used nicotine, alcohol and marijuana – the three drugs tallied in the study – compared with other students who believe they are on-time or late developing.  The findings are mainly due to differences in use at age 11, which is customarily sixth grade. Puberty typically begins in girls between ages nine and 13, which is slightly earlier than boys, according to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

The researchers arrived at the connection between early puberty and substance use after studying nearly 6,500 North Carolina boys and girls of different ethnic and racial backgrounds, aged 11 to 17, who were questioned about use of the three drugs over previous 90 days. They were also given a questionnaire to determine when they began puberty.

"We all go through puberty. We remember it being either an easy transition or a very difficult one," said Jessica Duncan Cance, a researcher in the study. "While puberty is often thought of as a solely biological process, our research has shown that pubertal development is a combination of biological, psychological and social processes that all likely interact to influence risk-taking behavior like substance use.

"Our study suggests that being the first girl in the class to need a bra, for example, prompts or exacerbates existing psychological and social aspects that can, in turn, lead to teen drinking, substance use and other risky behaviors early in life," Cance said.

Age of first use also is one of the predictors of alcohol use disorders, including the disease of alcoholism, later in life. (See related article)  According to research posted online for Experimental and Clinical Psychopharmacology in December, early use coupled with a family history of alcohol problems increases the alcoholism risk considerably.  That study's lead author Levent Kirisci of the University of Pittsburgh noted, “[It] does not provide evidence that early onset age predicts alcohol use disorders or substance use disorders in general, it does show that the earlier a child starts using drugs or alcohol, the higher their transmissible risk is,” for children who already have a family risk. “These findings underscore the importance of parents directing prevention at high-risk youths prior to first substance exposure.”
-- from (see full story)

Sunday, October 6, 2013


Spontaneous sobriety can and does happen, sure, but it is very rare.  People get help from others to successfully bring the disease of alcoholism into remission.  This Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud excerpt looks at a key benefit of getting professional help.  It's not the only solution offered in the book, but it hands-down beats going it alone, white-knuckling it, praying for spontaneous sobriety and using an impaired brain to fix an impaired brain.
"Improving assertiveness and communication are among secrets to succeeding in sobriety. You have to do it out loud, though, not just between the covers of a book or in the sanctuary of your home. Put it into live practice. Moving from a social arena of dozens of monologues with no dialogue to an arena of healthy exchange puts you in a good position to thwart relapse and the Symptoms of Sobriety.

Ultimately I am talking about day-to-day interaction, but to get there, individual therapy, group therapy and group self-help are effective resources most successfully recovering Alcoholics tap. The controlled environments are one way to meet the more intensive communication needs before trying out our new skills on the public at large, especially if we’ve pushed away from public interaction for a while.

Therapy, or counseling, is not for answers why Alcoholics drink. Every therapist will give you a different answer suited to their own bias and their own specialty. It is a disease: That’s enough explanation. The real value of counseling is unquestioned in the treatment of patients with the disease, just like it is for people suffering with cancer, not for the answer to why but for how to live with it and communicate through it.

Non-Alcoholics see a therapist for change.
Alcoholics see a therapist to see a therapist. To talk. We know there is no changing the disease. Instead of change-making, counseling is people-providing. There’s no miracle transformation when you leave the office: You’re still Alcoholic. But you’ve bettered your assertiveness skills, your communication.

People-providing probably does not require professional assistance, however too much is at stake when you struggle with sobriety to leave it to anyone but a pro. At least at first. And one-to-one or group therapy are safe first steps. If you can afford it or have insurance to cover it, one-to-one counseling is the most value you can purchase for your recovery.

Therapists have their critics but I’m not one of them. I have not met anyone, Alcoholic or non-Alcoholic who couldn’t stand to gain from talking with a professional. Hell, 74 percent of therapists have been or are in therapy! (W.E. Henry, The Fifth Profession, Jossey-Bass, San Francisco, CA 1971) Even when life is good it can still have its slushy spots. Talking through them with a pro is critical to success in recovery.

Not everyone is at ease being verbal at first with a counselor. So write to yourself first. You may discover value in journaling on an ongoing basis, but at a minimum, writing down your feelings before the counseling helps you focus. It’s not about paragraphs or pages or punctuation. Writing helps you put yourself over your disease, establishing your superiority over it, because you realize a consciousness you never had while drinking. When you read what you wrote, you will understand what I mean."
“Why drag about the corpse of your memory? Bring the past to judgment into the thousand-eyed present and live ever in a new day.” —Ralph Waldo Emerson

Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud, plus the new radio interview replay is available at and please read the new interview with Scott Stevens at Christoph Fisher Books.  Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international historical fiction novelist from the UK. 

Saturday, October 5, 2013

SATURDAY REWIND: Diet soft drinks make cocktails unexpectedly more potent

The following article from the alcohol research news archive demonstrates how using low- or no-calorie sodas as mixers can boost blood alcohol concentration compared to the same cocktail with regular soda. (See full article here.) A couple points difference in BAC can make a difference when behind the wheel.

Artificially sweetened sodas, when used as cocktail mixers, make the drinks more potent, according to a study released in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research . Specifically, researchers found that mixing alcohol with diet (sugar-free) soft drinks resulted in a higher blood alcohol concentration (BAC) than mixing alcohol with a regular (sugar-sweetened) soft drink.

Researchers gave college students vodka drinks with regular soda and with diet soda, and the diet soda group got more intoxicated – almost 20 percent more – than those who mixed regular soda with liquor. The sugar actually slows down the effects of alcohol, researchers say.

Sugar-containing drinks stimulate the stomach, delaying stomach emptying and, as a result, delaying absorption of alcohol into the bloodstream. Diet beverages, since they contain no sugar, do not trigger the stomach to delay emptying, allowing alcohol to reach the bloodstream more quickly.

Though it was a very small study, only eight women and eight men, the findings closely match previous research linking diet drinks and increased BACs. "The results were surprising," said Cecile A. Marczinski, assistant professor in the department of psychological science at Northern Kentucky University, and one of the lead investigators of the study. "We are talking about significant differences here," Marczinski said, adding that there may even be potentially harmful consequences for those who regularly request a diet soda with their spirits.

"In the long run, it's more harmful for your body to be exposed to a higher alcohol concentration than a few extra calories," she said. This could increase the incidence of alcohol abuse and the disease of alcoholism.

The students also completed computer tasks testing their reaction times after drinking, mimicking what they might face while driving. Those drinking the diet soda were slower to react.

No difference was noted between the genders, but the students said they felt the same no matter what they drank, even though tests showed the diet drinkers were about one-fifth more intoxicated. To put that in perspective, you'd have to add almost another shot of vodka to the sugar-sweetened drink to equal the potency of the diet drink mixture.

"Marczinski's findings are very consistent with what we've found in the field in a natural drinking environment. When the mixer is diet soda, the bar patrons tend to have somewhat higher intoxication levels than when they consume regular soda," says Dennis Thombs, professor and chair of the Department of Behavioral and Community Health, School of Public Health at the University of North Texas in Fort Worth.

Drinkers often mix diet soda and alcohol to save on calories. Calorie-counting drinkers might do better simply to limit their alcohol intake, since alcohol itself is packed with calories. (See this related article on alcohol calories.)

Friday, October 4, 2013

The disturbing connection between alcohol and domestic violence

Domestic Violence Awareness Month evolved from the first Day of Unity observed in October, 1981 by the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. The intent was to connect battered women's advocates across the nation who were working to end violence against women and their children. The Day of Unity soon became a special week… In October 1987, the first Domestic Violence Awareness Month was observed.

In recovery, many with the disease of alcoholism come to the realization that their condition is also a family illness, too many times resulting in injury – physical, mental and emotional – to the ones they profess to love.  Statistically, 92 percent of the domestic abuse assailants reported use of alcohol or other drugs on the day of the assault, according to a recent JAMA report. A different study shows the percentage of batterers who are under the influence of alcohol when they assault their partners ranges from 48 percent to 87 percent, with most research indicating a 60 to 70 percent rate of alcohol abuse. Social scientists debate whether there is a cause-and-effect relationship between alcohol and domestic violence. The debate is off when you talk to some survivors.

An outstanding author colleague of mine, Melodie Ramone, courageously shared her personal story of escape with her children from a tragic and terrifying existence.  Where men or women, like Melodie, can find the strength to endure the physical and mental torment that sometimes arises in an alcoholic home is a mystery.  An even greater act of courage comes when, faced with no other options, they leave their homes to find safety for themselves and their kids.

"My father was always drinking to the point of falling down," says Ramone, who adds her mother was the same way.  "I thought that everybody’s family was like ours; loud, chaotic, moody, ever-changing. I was never comfortable at home, but it never struck me that all the 'fun' we had was dangerous or that being physically punished to the point of being unable to move my arms and legs was anything but normal. I was about ten when I realized that all of the violence and insanity revolved around alcohol. As I grew, I found myself in exactly the situations I lived in at home, only with other people who were exactly like my parents."

A small excerpt from Melodie's story that spans abuse from alcoholic parents, then an alcoholic husband...
“My mother left me physically and emotionally early on. She was still there in the house. Sort of. Usually brooding, moody, depressed, unaffectionate, humorless and drunk. She taught me to use a microwave when I was six years old. She was one of the first to have one on our block. “Now I don’t have to cook anybody dinner anymore!” She grinned at my father, kicking back in her chair. She lifted her beer bottle and clinked it to his. By the time I was seven, I was cooking on the stove. By the time I was nine, I was making supper for the whole family while they watched television. My mother, father, and brother, all sat around a television set while I cooked for them. And then did dishes. If I tried to sit with them? “You’re in the way!” “Shut up!” “You ask too many questions!” “Just watch the show!”“Just go to your room! We can’t even watch TV with you around!” “Get her out of here!”

So I did. In fact, I never came out of my room if I didn’t have to. I’d peek through a crack in the door or listen. Were they nearby? Could I make it to the bathroom? If they saw me, what new insult would they have? Or would they find something to yell at me about or make me clean the house? Would I get hit, poked, or shoved? It was better to stay away, better to hide. Better to keep off my brother’s radar and let my parents get so drunk they fell down in the hallway and slept all night there. Better to step over them on the way to the kitchen to sneak food and bring it back to keep under my bed so I didn’t  have to go back out later. Better sometimes to pee into cups and pour it out the window. Better, always, to be alone...

...I moved out of the house when I was seventeen. Unable to support myself, I lived with my brother until he moved out, leaving me with rent twice as high as I could afford alone. There was a boy who was interested in me. I didn’t like him, in particular. He was mean and he drank too much. He reminded me of my dad. But he wanted me and I didn’t want to live with my parents again, so I moved in with him.

And then I married him, even though I hated him. And then I had his daughter. He was mentally cruel and verbally abusive to both her and me.  I wanted to leave him, but I had that child to watch out for and I  did a good job. Like I said, her father was like my father. I kept her away from him. I ran interference between them. When I angered him, he’d break my stuff. He’d threaten me. He’d throw things. He criticized and belittled me. But it was me and not her. Not as much or as often. I had a second daughter two years later and the cycle continued. When she was an infant, he’d say, “Get that thing to stop  crying!” It broke mt heart, but at least he didn’t hit us, I thought, even if he did enough to keep me afraid that he might...”

The story is graphic before and after the short excerpt, but ends well following a harrowing flight to safety.  Ramone says, "I packed our bags, put those beautiful, innocent little angels into the back of a green 1996 Jeep Cherokee, and we ran like hell."  Ramone's entire story, “I Can Live. And Live Well.” is included among stories from other distinguished authors and artists – all survivors – on the Ending the Silence site.

The relationship between alcohol or other substance abuse and domestic violence is complicated.  Alcoholism does not cause domestic abuse.  In reality, some abusers rely on substance use (and abuse) as an excuse for becoming violent. Alcohol allows the abuser to justify abusive behavior as a result of the alcohol.

While an abuser’s use of alcohol may have an effect on the severity of the abuse or the ease with which the abuser can justify his actions, an abuser does not become violent “because” drinking causes him to lose control of his temper. An abuser abuses because of distorted views of power and control.  They think abuse is appropriate, whether drinking or not.

Some research indicates that a large quantity of alcohol, or any quantity for alcoholics, can increase the user’s sense of personal power and domination over others. An increased sense of power and control can, in turn, make it more likely that an abuser will attempt to exercise that power and control over another.

Violence sometimes may be triggered by conflict over alcohol use or ending such use. But often, it is triggered seemingly for no reason other than the victim was born female.  Alcohol only aggravates such na├»ve thinking, escalating to stories of abuse and battery like those shared on Ending the Silence.
-- from examiner (full story)

Scroll down for the replay of the Dr. Jeanette Gallagher show feature with Scott Stevens. Lucy Pireel's "All That's Written" included a feature on Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud called "When alcohol doesn't work for you anymore."  Details on the third literary award for Every Silver Lining Has a Cloud can be found on, plus the interview with Scott Stevens at Christoph Fisher Books.  Mr. Fisher is an acclaimed international historical fiction novelist from the UK.  
SAVE THE DATE:  Scott Stevens will be part of the opening night symposium for the REEL Recovery Film Festival San Francisco.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Contradiction? Walmart aims to double beer sales, yet could stop selling tobacco due to "health issues"


Sure, you read that correctly.  Here are details from my report today (see full story) on the retail giant. 

A Walmart executive told the National Beer Wholesalers Association meeting in Las Vegas that the world's largest retailer plans to double beer sales over the next three years. According to an AdAge recap of the Oct. 2 meeting, the chain is already the largest beer seller in the United States after tripling its alcohol sales over the past decade. The aggressive sales goal comes despite the company's ongoing debate over whether to carry tobacco anymore because of its health risks.

The retailer's Chief Merchandising and Marketing Officer Duncan Mac Naughton, during a presentation at the meeting, said of the beer sales goal, “"I see it as a layup. My team sees it as a big half-court shot. But I'm telling you, it's there.” The comment was interrupted by applause from the crowd of nearly 4,000 beer distributors and suppliers.

The stores already include beer in its circulars and has more prominent displays in stores. New strategies include adding more refrigeration and storage space for beer and slashing prices to nearly at-cost in states without minimum pricing.

In contrast, the retailer's vice chairman, Eduardo Castro-Wright, acknowledged after the recession that the retailer has become sensitive about its public image. He told AdWeek the world's largest retailer has considered -- and would continue to consider -- eliminating tobacco products from its stores and noted how selling tobacco conflicts with Walmart's increased emphasis on health.

In March, Canada’s Centre for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) reported alcohol is now the third out of 67 leading causes of disease and injury worldwide. (See full story) Alcohol was responsible for 5.5 percent of all disease and illness, behind only high blood pressure and tobacco use.

Among the findings: Americans drink more than 50 percent above the global average, and show a more detrimental drinking pattern than most of the 27 European Union (EU) countries, with more bingeing. “Alcohol consumption has been found to cause more than 200 different diseases and injuries,” said Kevin Shield, lead author of the study. “These include not only well-known outcomes of drinking such as liver cirrhosis or traffic accidents or the disease of alcoholism, but also several types of cancer, such as female breast cancer.” (See yesterday's blog)

However, Castro-Wright also emphasized that at Walmart, "first and foremost, we service customers, which means selling them what they want to buy.”

The giant retailer in August lowered its earnings estimate after a surprise decline in second-quarter same-store sales.