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Posts Tagged ‘Alcoholism’

At two years into my sober journey, I had traveled to the zero point of my soul. I was so full of pain and self-induced suffering that I just stopped and sat down on the floor of my bedroom one day. I became paralyzed. The room felt too big, so I closed the door. That brought me no comfort. I went into the bathroom and closed the door. Still, no relief. So, I got into the shower. In great discomfort, I just dropped to my knees and curdle up into the upper left corner of the shower. It was just me, my tears, and my overwhelming thoughts of stopping the pain for good.

I have heard it said that you live your life forward and understand your life backwards. Makes sense. Hindsight is 20/20, right! Today, I can tell you that I was not alone in my shower six years ago.

I struggled most of my life with the concept of God. As far back as I can remember. Who is this all-knowing and almighty being! Someone that takes deep refuge in the clouds, watches over and protects you? Not buying that! Someone that is all around me that I just can’t see. Not buying that either. So how about just living in the mystery of not needing physical proof and just believing. Yeah, whatever! Maybe when things are going incredibly great. But…but…certainly not when things are going bad! Because then, I’m in charge!

Discomfort was my most comfortable state of being, growing up and well into adulthood. If the discomfort was too much, I eased that discomfort with alcohol. If I felt comfortable, I felt fearful. I never wanted to feel fear. I would always wait for the discomfort to return. But I would also use alcohol to ease that fear. You know, that’s what I believed I deserved…fear and discomfort. And damn it, I was in charge! Not any God. I would not be foolish enough to believe that someone could possibly run my life when things went bad.

Why did I not choose the long-term solution to my short-term problem that day on the floor of my shower. Looking back on that day today, it is clear to me that I was not alone. I remember passing thoughts about the collective souls of those who had passed, but stay in my thoughts, they were there. I also remember the collective souls of those who are living and were trying desperately to help me, they were there. It was my frightened but determined wife. It was my friends, who didn’t understand my pain, but cared about me and wanted to help me in any way possible, they were there. It was my children, all confused and not saying anything, they were there! And nature, the bright sun shining onto the shower floor. The song birds singing, there too!

Today, I am eight years into this sober journey. I am humbled. I am grateful. Happiness fills me daily. Everyday! “God is doing for me what I could not do for myself” (Quote from the Big Book of AA). Everyday! And, everyday, my faith continues to grow stronger. Everyday, the joy that I feel inside grows alongside my faith. And, everyday, I think less and less of my troubles and my needs, and more and more about helping others in need. My intentions become my actions to help others. Those that I can help.

Yes, I traveled to the zero point of my soul, figuratively driving that bus until it just stopped and shutdown. I realize that my seemingly control of everything and everyone was nothing but an illusion. There, beside me on that day was my God.

I know who I am today. I am enough! A husband, a father, a co-worker and a friend. And, I know who I am not today. Not God!

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In the embedded YouTube video, Dr. Gabor Mate makes the assertion that one shouldn’t ask “why the addiction”, but instead ask “why the pain.”

Love, mother/child bonding, sex, vigorous exercise, spicy food, caffeine, nicotine, opiates and ethanol – all signal the chemical machine in our brain to produce dopamine, temporarily elevating the natural dopamine levels in our brain. Some, like nicotine, produce almost an instant and massive surge of dopamine, albeit short-lived. Whether it be through healthy or unhealthy methods, the opioid receptors in our brain and spinal column enjoy the higher levels of dopamine. “The increased dopamine sends a pleasure signal over and over. This feeling — and the craving to repeat it — help create addiction.” (Court JA; et al. Dopamine and nicotinic receptor binding and the levels of dopamine and homovanillic acid in human brain related to tobacco use. MRC Neurochemical Pathology Unit, UK. Neuroscience 1998 Nov; 87(1): 63-78.).

So why are some people prone to addiction while others are not? That is still unclear in the scientific community. However, there are strong indicators that have been researched and give varying degrees of plausibility.

As a boy, I lived in a constant hyper-vigilant state, never knowing when or where it might come from. I always had to be ready to move quickly. The hormone Adrenalin, on the ready to take flight. And the hormone cortisol, geared up to keep me moving. I believe that the elevated and sustained levels of cortisol in my system during those crucial brain development years (one to five) did its damage on the neuron endings (synapses) in my brain. The research that I’ve done supports my claim. Also see my post “How did this happen to me” for further explanation.

“Early childhood is a critical period in a child’s life that includes ages from birth to five years old.[1] Although stress is a factor for the average human being, it can be a molding aspect in a young child’s life.[2] Characteristics of stress include the outcomes that arise when people cannot manage internal or external difficulties.[2] Internal stressors include physiological conditions such as hunger, pain, illness or fatigue. Other internal sources of stress consist of shyness in a child, emotions, gender, age and intellectual capacity.[2] External stressors include separation from family, exposure to family conflict, abuse, divorce, a new home or school, illness and hospitalization, death of a loved one, poverty, natural disasters, and adults’ negative discipline techniques.[2] Additional external stressors include prenatal drug exposure, such as maternal methamphetamine use, other maternal and paternal substance abuse, and maternal depression.[2] A few stressors can be manageable for young children, but the effect of multiple stressors can be cumulative and significant.[2] When stress builds up in early childhood, neurobiological factors are affected.[3] In turn, hormone cortisol levels are uncontrollable and cannot be brought back to normal ranges.”

In this short 17 minute video, Dr. Gabor Mate speaks without mixing words about the association of Dopamine and addiction. This is a fascinating presentation by Dr. Mate.

Notes
(3. Poulsen, Marie K. “The Biological Context of Early Childhood Mental Health.” Preventive Medicine 583 Lecture. University of Southern California, Los Angeles. 8 Sept. 2011. Lecture.
4. Davies, Douglas. “Chapter 3: Risk and Protective Factors: The Child, The Family, and Community Contexts.” Child Development, A Practitioner’s Guide. 2nd ed. New York: Guilford Press. Print.
5. Middlebrooks JS, Audage NC. The Effects of Childhood Stress on Health Across the Lifespan. Atlanta (GA): Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control; 2008.
6. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2005). Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain: Working Paper No. 3. Retrieved from http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu)

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Childhood trauma, in whatever form it takes, extinguishes one’s voice. As the soul fractures and paralysis prevails, an audible voice can no longer be heard. It becomes cast in fear, shame, confusion and a sense of loss. Now, weighted under undefinable conflict and bound by shame, the child marches on in life. A veritable time bomb, highly susceptible to substance abuse and a wide spectrum of mental illness, awaits the adult.

A lunar eclipse has begun and is visible in our atmosphere. I am going to watch this event because I love nature and I love the universe. I love the innocence and the vulnerability that nature embraces. It too, has no voice, only beauty, innocence and awe.

Here is what NASA says about this cosmic event . “A lunar eclipse occurs when Earth is directly between the sun and the moon, blocking the sun’s rays and casting a shadow on the moon. As the moon moves deeper and deeper into Earth’s shadow, the moon changes color before your very eyes, turning from gray to an orange or deep shade of red,” the NASA website said.

The description put forth by NASA sounds akin to the trauma and the ensuing shame that abandonment of the mind, body and soul experience during the act of abuse. Waxing poetically, the child could be likened to the moon in this instance.

I want to give an audible voice to childhood trauma and illuminate the devastating impact it has on the human soul. Who could possibly touch a child inappropriately if they knew, to any degree, what the long-term destructive impact most likely will be to that innocent child.

Our world is abuzz right now in conflict, watching the sexual abuse scandals unfold in two major college campuses. I can only imagine the gamut of emotions being felt by so many. Mulling over the actual physical act of violating an innocent child. Thinking about your own children, a relative, a neighborhood boy or girl walking past your house each morning with a smile. Maybe even the child that you once were.

The voice of childhood trauma has made an audible sound this past two months. Perhaps this might be the unifying force that reunites a fractured nation such as ours is at the present.

I believe that all human being’s yearn linkage and loyalty to a cause that defines us and gives us a sense of purpose. So, why not look into your own soul. Think about how you can help raise the tenor of the pitch, to a degree that we all can become more aware and act on what is often called “Our Nations Shame!”

Perhaps then we will mobilize as a nation, remove ourselves from partisan bickering and positioning that we all find disgusting, yet take part in, and we do something that is good for the soul.

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At one point during the Holocaust, the prison population grew so large that the Nazi’s had no choice but to turn some of the more trusted prisoners into jailers. They called them Capo’s. When historians began examining the Holocaust, it was baffling to learn that the most brutal jailers were, in fact, the Capo’s themselves. They sought the help of mental health professionals to understand this phenomenon.

It was explained to them that the jailers so resented internment, loss of self and never-ending stress, that they could not invoke normal human emotion and instead, wanted to destroy what they feared and hated most; being held in captivity. They channeled all their hatred back onto their fellow prisoners.

A Psychiatrist told me that story when I was telling him that the abuse that I had suffered as a child wasn’t as bad as other abuses that I was aware of. He explained to me that one, abuse is abuse! There are varying degrees but no delineation to the body and mind. And two, physical abuse “is” severely damaging. Kids learn and grow by connecting points A and B. He gave me an example. If a child wets their pants and they end up locked in their room all day with no food or water; that’s abuse. But the child is able to connect the points. A, if I soil my pants, B, I will be locked in my room. Their situation, albeit uncomfortable, has made an A/B connection and the ensuing emotional trauma may not be as impactful.

One time after a Little League game, when I went 0 for 4, my father beat me. I really didn’t know why, other than I must have done something wrong. I also concluded something must really be wrong with me. Most damaging, as the Psychiatrist would explain, is that I could not make any connection…A did not connect with a B. That hung state, according to the doc, is terribly damaging to the psyche. It’s the others person sickness (same with sexual abuse) that is in play. That’s why, according to doctors, a childs emotional development can be halted at this type of trauma point.

Coming full circle, like the rings on a tree that represent growth, our childhood experiences are hard-wired into us and they never leave. The prisoner (child) becomes the jailer (adult). I don’t know about you but I can be so critical of myself, so brutal. Other people notice and once in awhile will question my veracity. I don’t because it is something that I am often blind to.

As time marched on and I reached mid-life, I could no longer keep up the illusion of an idyllic childhood. So, I began to numb out through alcohol. And the rest, as they say, is history!

Today, nearly 4 years of sobriety have given me a clear head and a clear conscious. I have been able to dig in and do the hard work in recovery. Recovery to me is not only about the cessation. That’s the beginning, the warm-up, the entry fee for what is to come. I have done the hard work and the benefits are beginning to unfold. I love my life and I am beginning to love myself. I can hardly say that last part. Work in progress!

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“Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.” – Confucius

It doesn’t matter what post-addiction support group you choose, what rehab program you choose, what new pledge to stop drinking that you have pledged to whom, etc. If you cannot reach down deep to find the internal strength, arresting the addiction will not happen! I have learned that the same principle applies to lying, cheating, half-truths etc. You cannot lie ,cheat, steal or tell half-truths just a little bit. As you may have hood winked someone else, at the end of the day and everyday, you are accountable to you!

Here’s another quote that I like. “There is no try, only do, or do not. .” – Yoda.

My experience has been that if you leave yourself a back door, the illness of alcoholism will surely find it. I’m really going to “try” this time. I’ll only have one beer or one glass of wine. OK, only on Saturdays, holidays, full moons etc. You’re better off to keep drinking if this is what you are doing. Commit and don’t look back. The gravitational pull of you addiction will be on your heels, wanting you back..now!

Try everything if need be. If AA works for you, all the better. If not, move on. Life is too short. Try Rational Recovery, a church support group on spirituality, Allen Carr’s book, find a good therapist…etc.

I went to AA everyday for two years and I learned a lot. I would recommend checking it out. You will know, in time, whether or not AA is the right place for you. Have an open mind and pay attention.

After my two years in AA, I chose to continue working with a therapist, wholeheartedly embrace my family and friends and renew my involvement in the spiritual path that I grew up with. That said , I still use some of the more noteworthy principles that I learned from AA. They are with me every day!

Don’t be afraid to trust your instincts. Do what’s right for you. Not the person sitting next to you!

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Posted 12/5/2010 9:22 AM CST on livestrong.com Community

I would like to share something that is deeply personal to me. It serves to illustrate what you can do when you work hard at getting the “yuck out”, and your life is given back to you.

I have a goal, or a “higher purpose”, as the folk’s in AA say. My higher purpose has been a guiding light to get sober, stay sober, and also serve as inspiration to reach outside of myself and give back in a small way.

Prior to falling off the rails and into alcoholism, I became involved with helping a child abuse prevention center get off the ground and running. Sadly, at a time when they needed me most, which is always the case in a non-profit, I resigned from my volunteer post. I did that because it was getting in the way of my drinking. We can all fill in the blanks in some way on that one!

Now here’s the good/fun stuff. I am getting back involved with my child abuse prevention interest and have found an even greater capacity to help, having walked through the trail of tears myself. That’s the good news!

The fun, is a video that I’d like to share with you that sums it all up. I made reference to this the other day. I am a big fan of Mary J. Blige. Not only because she is a great talent, but because of her own struggles with addiction and abuse that she has overcome. So, enjoy the music and lyrics if you care to take a look.

Go to http://www.vevo.com. Type in Mary J Blige at the Search and scroll down to the song “Each Tear”. There are multiple versions of the song but I am partial to the one that includes the Italian singer. So look for Each Tear (Italian version). May it inspire you today! I have no personal or promotional interest btw…other than fun and inspiration. Godere!

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I was a weekend beer drinker. Until that is, a few beers suddenly became a became a six-pack at every instance. Then a six-pack became a 12 pack, which in turn became an excuse to get home later and then…when I chose.

Somewhere along the way I found Ketel One vodka. What a relief that was. No more beer for the burgeoning beer gut! In no time I was off and running with Ketel One. Yep, one martini became two martini’s, and two martini’s soon became tee martini’s and, on and on. Then I would hop in the car and drive home!

I remember the first time I drank a whole bottle of Ketel One. I proceeded to throw it up. Without missing a beat, I was struck with thought – “hey, I can drink again”. And so I did!! About that time I self-diagnosed myself as a “functional alcoholic”. That worked! My new label had a certain ring of self-control and dignity to it. Order was restored. Truth be told, my self-respect was beginning to wane. I was aware of it and by giving myself the “functional alcoholic” label, I seemingly could better cope with this awareness.

I know things were starting to look a bit out of control, but I still had a few basic rules that I was abiding by! For one, I never started drinking before 7:30am. But as soon as the family pulled out of the driveway for work and school (always at about 7:30) I was mixing a drink. Toward the end of my drinking, I would put away one bottle before noon, take about a two-hour break and then start in on another bottle. Of that bottle, I would leave about an inch so that I could have enough for an “eye opener” the following morning. After my “eye opener” I would wait around to about 9am and then hit the store for more booze.

My prodigious drinking had crossed that “invisible line” and I was completely unaware. I was physically and mentally addicted to alcohol. I had lost the power of choice. I was no longer in control. It didn’t matter how much feeling and belief that I put into my thousands of pledges to stop drinking, I would always break that pledge no matter what. Despite adverse consequences, which were occurring on a more frequent basis, I would always return to the bottle. I could no longer take it or leave it, for “it” had taken me!

Alcoholism is a slippery slope. It is a progressive illness. And it’s damn sneaky too!

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