Thursday, February 27, 2014

What You Allow is What Will Continue!

Chris Newcomb, M.Div.

About 3 or 4 months ago, my car got side-swiped when I was at lunch during the work week.  I came back to my car to find a basketball size dent in the back rear panel.  There was a note left by the perpetrator with a promise to pay immediately.  I was relieved!

They lied.  My insurance company tried to track them down and could not.  I was stuck with the bill.  I was not a happy camper.  

Fast forward to about 2 weeks ago.  I was driving to work and a rock shot up from the road and struck the front windshield leaving a crack.  Within about two days of that incident, during a snowstorm, I wrecked my car going 10mph.  I turned into the slide and pumped the breaks just as I had been taught but to no avail.  I slammed into an embankment.  The front of my car was crushed.  My automotive discontent increased tenfold!

Up to this point, my car started to feel like a piece of junk!  It looked ratty and nasty.  Feeling resentful and unwilling to pay to get it fixed, I just continued to drive it.  Until the embankment.  Then I had to face the music.  It had to be fixed.  I got a rental.  They gave me a mini-van.  My failure was complete. 

Have you ever had something go wrong in your life and you could have stopped it, changed it, or contested it?  And then, for whatever reason, you didn't take action and the consequences weren't favorable and you got stuck with it?  That's what happened to me with my car.  I waited too long to deal with an issue that had started months prior.  I got stuck with it.

In recovery, addicts and alcoholics cannot afford to wait to deal with issues as they arise.  The reason is that stress increases the chance of emotional volatility, which increases the risk of relapse.  In other words, you can't hold on to it.  You have to get rid of it. 

Tonight, I picked up my car.  The new front end looks great.  The brand new windshield is crack-free.  And the dent left by the perpetrator?  It is now smooth as glass.  My car looks great.  It feels new again.  I got tired of dealing with it so I took action.  After all, what you allow is what will continue.  What are you allowing to continue in your life that needs to change?  

If you or someone you love is in need of detox off of alcohol, opiates, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to call Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1.877.773.3869 today.  We are here to help.  You don't have to allow addiction to continue in your life any longer!

Teenagers Delaying Drug Use: Does it cut down the risk of addiction?

Peter R. Coleman, M.D.

Most high schools have programs like DARE that aim to reduce teenage drug and alcohol use. They have a very noble intent.  However, it is not clear whether programs like DARE are actually effective. The real question is – If teenagers do delay trying alcohol or drugs, does this decrease their risk of developing an addiction later in life?

A recent study indicated that it does. The study showed that there is evidence that the longer that teenagers delay their first experimenting with drug or alcohol use, the less likely they will be to become drug addicts or alcoholics. The effect in this study was quite dramatic. Kids who start using at age 13 had about a 25% chance of developing a drug addiction, while kids who delayed their using until age 21 had only about a 10% chance of becoming an addict. This is a huge difference!

It is hard to know what to make of this research. Like any research study, it may not tell the whole story. On the one hand, kids who start using drugs very early in life are frequently troubled kids, from troubled families. Many of these kids have alcoholic or drug addict parents, so they are genetically more likely to become drug addicts or alcoholics themselves. It is not surprising that they will develop drug problems, no matter when they begin experimenting. On the other hand, this study is likely to be quite accurate because there is pretty good evidence that early drug and alcohol use actually stunts brain growth. Adolescence is a time of rapid brain growth, both in the number of brain cells but also in the number of connections and pathways. There is evidence that delaying first drug use allows the brain to mature and grow more normally. 

In addition to any physical damage that drug and alcohol use inflict on a developing brain, early drug use also stunts emotional growth. Adolescence is a time of rapid emotional growth. Teenagers need to grow up and mature, and to do that they need to experience emotions. They need to feel their feelings and practice how to process those feelings. Teenagers are changing from being children, who don’t have any idea about emotions, into adults who can understand and accept emotions, and who have good skills at dealing with these emotions. Drugs of abuse prevent teenagers from processing emotions. Drugs of abuse are called “mood-altering” drugs for a reason – they alter moods. This means that drugs change our mood, that is,they change our feelings. This means that people on drugs never really learn how to accept and deal with these emotions. If kids delay their drug use, they can experience emotions normally and learn how to handle these emotions. They can mature more effectively and accept themselves better. They can develop better self-esteem. They can mature and learn to make better decisions. They won’t need to use drugs or alcohol to combat feelings of loneliness, or boredom, or low self-esteem.

So, to me, it makes a lot of sense to have teenagers delay their drug and alcohol use. A recent patient of mine told me what he did with his children. He put some Apple stock into a trust and said he would give it to them if they did not use any drugs or alcohol until they were 21. It worked very well - the kids enjoyed their adolescence, they liked having a reason to tell their friends why they weren’t going to drink and do drugs, and they are still doing well today!

At The Coleman Institute, we care about you! If you or someone you love is in need of detox off of opiates, alcohol, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to call Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1.877.773.3869.  We're here to help you get clean and stay clean!

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Pug Life: A Case of True Identity

Chris Newcomb, M.Div.

I grew up with a cat and a dog.  My cat's named was Pumpkin.  My Dad and I called her 'Satan'.  There was a good reason because only my stepmother was allowed to touch Pumpkin. If my Dad or I tried it, hellcat spawned her claws and hissed her evil, guttural meow to keep us at bay.  The dog was much cooler.

Wimpy.  That was the dog's name.  No joke.  No kidding.  I am not lying.  We got him from an older couple who didn't want the responsibility.  He was used.  Or pre-owned.  I digress. I loved Wimpy the moment I laid eyes on him even though he suffered from low self-esteem from his damaging name!

I love the picture above.  I don't, as a rule, like pugs.  To me, they're ugly.  But this pug grabbed my attention.  He's actually kind of endearing with his little hoodie on.  Ok, it's a photo shopped hoodie but nonetheless it adds to his general vibe.  

The $64,000 question of the day is this: Why am I writing about a pug in a substance abuse blog article?  First, I wanted a reason to share the picture.  Second, and much more importantly, I was inspired by the title of the pic "Pug Life".  For those of you who do not catch the joke allow me to explain.

"Pug Life" is a joke with two meanings.  First, and most obvious, is the word "Pug" is a play on the word "Thug".  Second, "Pug Life" is a play on the phrase "Thug Life" which was started by the rapper Tupac Shakur.  The Urban Dictionary states that "Thug Life is,the opposite of someone having all he/she needs to succeed. Thug life is when you have nothing, and succeed, when you have overcome all obstacles to reach your aim." 

Pugs get a lot bad rap.  Wikipedia explains,
"In a May 2007 web issue of The Onion, the breed was lampooned in a satirical news article titled "Dog Breeders Issue Massive Recall of '07 Pugs".[30] The piece satirized pugs and their breeders by writing of the dog and its characteristics as a faulty product, "evidenced" by a fictional quote from the American Pug Breeders Association Director: "While pug owners are accustomed to dog malfunction, the latest animals are prone to more problems than just the usual joint failures, overheating, seizures, chronic respiratory defects, and inability to breed without assistance. The latest model pug is simply not in any way a viable dog."[30]

Poor Pugs. 

People in recovery have often lost everything.  Like the satirical pug, they often feel like a "human recall" due to manufacture defects.  They have no where to go but up.  Rock bottom is a lonely place to be (unless there is a pug there)!  People struggle wondering whether they are just as seemingly useless as a pug and unable to to succeed in life.  They dream of a 'Thug Life' status but wake up to find that not much has changed.  What's the cure?  Be who you are.  

Pugs don't care what I think about them.  My friend who is a pug enthusiast and owner would scratch my eyeballs out if she knew I was writing this article (sssh).  Learn from the pug.  Be who you are, that is, your true identity.  If you don't know what that is, go after it.  Find out.  Then you can pursue your dreams!

Seek health, wellness and recovery and the gifts of sobriety and recovery will be yours.  You won't even need the hoodie.  You'll be able to stand tall and proud of who you are, where you've been, and where you're headed! After all, pugs don't care and they know who they are.  Shouldn't you?

If you or someone you love is in need of detox off of alcohol, opiates, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to call Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1.877.773.3869.  We specialize in helping people get clean and stay clean.  You're welcome just as you are!  

Monday, February 17, 2014

Opinions vs. Facts

Chris Newcomb, M.Div.

The Earth revolves around the Sun.  Fact.  The Sun is yellow.  Opinion.  Pictures put it somewhere between yellow and orange.  There are 2 major oceans bracketing the United States east and west.  Fact.  Oceans are blue.  Opinion.  Look at the water and sometimes it's a blue and sometimes it's a blue-green.  You get the point.  

Opinions are like elbows...everyone's got one.  And, to be sure, opinions are helpful.  For example, if a guy asks a girl out on a date, her response is basically her opinion.  She may say, "Oh yes, I've been hoping you would ask me out.  I think you're so cute."  Her opinion is that the suitor has avoided the category known as 'ugly'.  However, if the same boy asks the same girl out and she replies, "Not if you were the last cro-magnon man on Earth." it would be fair to submit that her opinion of him is basically that he is the equivalent of pre-historic idiot.  Gentlemen: ask carefully.

Opinions, as noted above, can be troublesome.  And when it comes to sobriety and recovery, this is especially true.  What other people think of you can totally influence the decisions you make.  Think about it. Many people, before they enter recovery, stayed out in the party scene for one main reason: what will people think of me if I get sober?  Will I be considered boring?  Stupid?  Lame?  A goody two shoes?  A prude?  So, people stay in the scene even though they loathe it just to be certain they are well thought of.  In other words, it's called 'opinion management'.  Managing other people's opinions is a lot like trying to herd cats, that is, it doesn't work.  

There is an important maxim that people in the rooms of Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous hear on a regular basis.  It goes like this, "What other people think of you, is none of your business."   Isn't that brilliant?  I think it is a great piece of advice.  Let's face it, we are humans in search of fulfillment and acceptance.  It is part of our makeup.  However, we can take it really far and place all of our hope and self-worth on opinions of others.  That is a dangerous way to live emotionally and spiritually.  And it can be a dead ringer for relapse.  

Who's opinions do you hold in high regard?  Where does your own opinion rank in that list?  Often time addicts and alcoholics do not listen to their gut or their intuition.  A lot of times the gut/intuition is the pre-cursor to your opinion about a person or situation.  For example, every time you have lunch and a certain co-worker comes over to you and sits down to eat then you begin to feel uneasy and nauseated.  Why?  Well, I don't know why but I know this:  that nausea and uneasiness is a physical representation of your opinion of said coworker which is not an pleasant one.  Listen to your intuition as it often forms your opinions.  

Here's an experiment for you: pay attention this week to how often you make a decision based on someone else's opinion.  Notice how it makes you feel.  Notice the inner struggle you have between pleasing yourself and either not pleasing someone else and/or being looked down if you choose to please yourself at the expense of someone else.  Notice also if you are conflicted inside and how that relates to your desire to stay sober.  If you notice yourself getting triggered to use, call a trusted sober friend.  Go to a meeting.  Journal your feelings.  There is always something you can do to promote health and healing in your life whether they like it or not.  Because remember, in the end, it's just an opinion.  Much like an elbow.  

If you or someone you love is in need of detox off of alcohol, opiates, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to call Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1.877.773.3869 today.  We are here to help people get clean and stay clean.  We are here for you!

Friday, February 14, 2014

Don't Let Your Emotions Make You Their Bitch

(Life is not always pristine. Neither is recovery.  Sometimes more frank language is used in recovery circles to make a point.  This is the spirit of the above word picture.)

Chris Newcomb, M.Div.

Most people who struggle with addiction also struggle with their emotions.  That is, strong emotions can be a trigger to use drugs and/or alcohol.  Also, strong emotions can be hard to control.  The conundrum for most addicts and alcoholics is exactly how to deal with their emotions in a healthy way which doesn't ignore them but also doesn't indulge them like the proverbial toddler screaming on the floor for oreo cookies before supper. 

If you've ever messed up and done something stupid because of out of control emotions, I think you will agree that it is best not to, "let your emotions make you their bitch".  As a matter of fact, The Urban Dictionary defines the word 'bitch' as a, "modern-day servant; a person who performs tasks for another, usually degrading in status."  That is, it is an insult to the person defined as said bitch.  What this translates to, in the case of the word picture above, is a really nice slang way to say: 'hey, I know it's difficult to deal with your emotions.  And yeah, people really do make you mad sometimes.  But, you can't let your emotions get the best of you.  If you lose your control, you lose respect.  You have to control yourself at all times.  Don't go blowing your stack.  It'll make you relapse."

And that is the most succinct way I have ever seen a very important concept distilled down when it comes to proper care of your emotions while in recovery.  To be sure, it is a uniquely human characteristic to have emotions.  We should not be ashamed of them.  We don't have to justify them or excuse them.  We have to acknowledge them for what they are: messengers to tell us what is right and wrong in our life.  If you listen closely to your emotions, you will hear what they are trying to tell you.  It is only for your best interest and once you pay attention, they will diminish in power.  

For example, if a coworker throws you under the bus during a meeting, you will most likely feel angry.  Why?  You feel angry because you were completely disrespected and devalued in front of your superiors and your colleagues.  Plus, it is just plain rude.  If you are able to access the self-awareness that what you are emotionally experiencing is anger then you can decide what you want to do with it versus say shooting up or getting stoned or drunk instead.  The truth of the matter is, as you begin to become more self-aware, then you would understand that anger is a secondary emotion to pain and the whole scenario of being thrown under the bus during the meeting actually hurt your feelings because you expected respect and didn't get it.  You were betrayed.  Publicly.  Who wouldn't feel hurt?  Who wouldn't feel outraged?  Who wouldn't feel depressed?  And, of course, who wouldn't feel angry?

However, here is where the road splits between addicts and non-addicts.  Non-addicts might feel the same emotion but they will handle it in a more mature, healthy manner.  They will not decide that self-injury or injury to others is the best way to soothe their emotional pain.  That is what an addict or alcoholic does.  Now that you are in recovery, you can make a better choice. A healthy choice.  Breathe.  Deal.  Self-sooth with self-talk that helps you get to the root of your feelings.  Talk to a trusted friend or sponsor.  Be heard so your pain is acknowledged but then make a healthy choice in reaction to it.  Then you won't be anybodies bitch because let's face it, no one wants that job!  

If you or someone you love is in need of detox off alcohol, opiates, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to call Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1.877.773.3869.  At The Coleman Institute, we are dedicated to helping people get clean and stay clean.  Please call today because it is never too late to start the rest of your life sober!  

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Snowpocalypse 2014!!! What will you do?

Chris Newcomb, M.Div.

Snow is so awesome!  I love it!  Always have, always will!  I believe snow should be cause for a national holiday.  Here's hoping.

I am writing from this post from Richmond, VA.  The forecast is calling for snow...lots of it.  This is not a big deal for many parts of the country.  New York, do you hear me?  Michigan, can I get a shout out?  Chicago, am I telling the truth?  

Only in Richmond is this a big deal.  Now, what do I mean by a big deal, you ask?  Quite simply: controlled chaos.  The grocery stores will be packed and the dairy and bread products will be completely sold out. Lines at the gas stations will be very long as if this is the last time to fill-up your tank which is actually pretty ridiculous since most Richmond drivers are inept in the snow! 

What usually ends up happening is schools and businesses close for a day or two and then everything pretty much returns to normal.  Tales of winter wonderland exploration are shared at the water cooler on the next day the office opens.  And all the freak out was for naught.  There was plenty of food, water, and shelter.  It turns out, snowpocalypse (enter year here), is usually underwhelming and over-promising.  

Life can be like that and many people don't know how to handle tough situations.  When you lack coping skills, you tend to do things that hurt you.  How do you deal with situations you can't control?  How do you cope with people, places, and things that don't act as you would like them to act?  Do you stew for days on end?  Do you explode in a rage?  Do you act out in a passive-aggressive manner?  Or do you take care of yourself and buy the proverbial extra loaf of bread and carton of milk to weather the storm, pardon the pun? 

Its best to prepare for life's storms ahead of time.  If you don't know how to navigate relationships with your spouse, significant other, family or friends, maybe now is a good time to learn.  Maybe now is the time to change old thinking habits and actions so you are better equipped to handle the tough times and stay sober. When trials come, patience and strength wax and wane.  Do you have the supplies you need to stay strong, weather the storm, and reappear on the next sunny day sober, happy, and whole?  Or does the next bad weather system that may come your way threaten to end your sobriety and possibly your life?  Drugs and alcohol are serious stuff.  Recovery from them is of utmost importance.  Snow, not so much.  Here's hoping you get a day off and enjoy your sobriety outside in your winter wonderland!

If you or someone you love is in need of detox off of alcohol, opiates, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to call Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1.877.773.3869 today.  We are here because we care.  Let us help you help yourself!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Happy 50th Beatles!!!

Chris Newcomb, M.Div.

Yesterday marked the 50th anniversary of the Beatles performance on the Ed Sullivan show.  Can you believe 50 years has gone by since John, Paul, George and Ringo lit up our TV sets with their mod hair cuts and jangling guitars?  That's now been half a century ago!

The Beatles are responsible for most of the pop and rock acts that have existed for the last 50 years.  Rare is the band who can say the Fab Four didn't influence them in some way, shape, or form.  And with over 600,000,000 (that's six hundred million for you slower math folks) records sold, it's easy to see they are the biggest band in history.  I think one of the many reasons why they were so huge was because of their ability to speak to the common man and woman.

Which brings me to one of my favorite songs by the lads from Liverpool called 'Eleanor Rigby'.  It was a huge hit for them.  And it still sounds as great today as when it was first released.  I love the haunting line that Lennon sings, "all the lonely people, where do they all come from?"  It is such a poignant thought because everyone who has every lived has struggled with feeling lonely.  The Beatles were really good at capturing every day thoughts and emotions and relating them to the listener.  

In addiction, loneliness is a key culprit.  We are social creatures.  We are not meant to be alone.  And feeling lonely can cause people to want to use.  It's been speculated that loneliness might have been a factor in Philip Seymour Hoffman's relapse because relations had grown cold with his girlfriend of many years.  Who knows why it happened or if loneliness was a factor.  What we do know is that we have to pay attention to all our emotions when it comes to staying clean.  

Are you lonely today?  Do you feel unwanted?  Unloved?  Overlooked?  It's a common feeling.  Reach out to someone who is safe that you can trust and talk about your feelings.  It doesn't mean you're weak because you feel those things rather it means you are human.  We are not perfect creatures and we lack perfect strength.  We must be connected.  Reach out today and connect with someone so you're not alone.  There are 7 billion of us here...there's 1 or 2 who are just right for you!

If you or someone you love is in need of detox off of alcohol, benzos, opiates, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to call Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1-877-773-3869.  At The Coleman Institute, we care about people who struggle with addiction.  We specialize in helping people get clean and stay clean. Call today.  We're here for you.  You're not alone!

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Having Trouble Living in Reality?

Chris Newcomb, M.Div.

Today's article will be short but for a reason.  I want you to take a few moments and read another article about addiction in the wake of Philip Seymour Hoffman's death.  Comedian and recovering drug addict Russell Brand, also known as ex-husband of pop diva Katy Perry, has written a really important article for The Guardian as a reaction to the loss of Hoffman to heroin.  If you want to know what addicts think, read this article.  If you want to know why they think it, read this article.  In short, read this article.  It is straight  from the horses mouth and it truly captures the crazy thinking process that addicts and alcoholics struggle with every day.

You can find it right here

If you or someone you love is in need of detox off of opiates, alcohol, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to call Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1-877-773-3869.  We're here for you!

Monday, February 3, 2014

RIP Philip Seymour Hoffman

Chris Newcomb, M.Div.

Patch Adams.  The Big Lebowski.  Red Dragon.  Capote.  Philip Seymour Hoffman was the most incredible actor I've seen on film in a long time.  I'm not a professional film critic however I think I'm a pretty good judge of acting ability.  He had it in spades. 

Unfortunately, it was the 'Ace of Spades' that ultimately did him in.  You've probably heard by now that Academy Award Winning actor Philip Seymour Hoffman died yesterday, on Super Bowl Sunday of all days, from a heroin overdose.  Found dead with the needle still in his arm, Seymour was using heroin in little bags that were marked with the 'Ace of Spades' logo. Apparently, this type of heroin is easily sniffed and is causing lots of overdoses all over the country.  It now claims Hoffman as its latest victim.  

In a former life, I used to be a preacher (insert religious joke here).  That job required me to do funerals.  I've buried several people in my time as a man of the cloth.  It's not a fun thing to do.  Watching people grieve for their loved one who is gone and isn't coming back.  It's one thing when someone dies from terminal cancer at the age of 86 having lived a pretty long, productive and happy life.  However, at just 46 years old, Mr. Hoffman's death was pointless and 100% avoidable.  It sinks close to home as I am closing in on my 41st year on Planet Earth later this month.  But by the grace of God go I.  

Dr. Oz was on the news yesterday commenting on Hoffman's death and about the reality of drug addiction in general.  I respect Dr. Oz as I find him intelligent and a breath of fresh air in an otherwise often stuffy and arrogant profession.  However, I think Oz, while well-intentioned, misspoke yesterday.  He was very emphatic that drug addiction is a disease.  I agree with him on that point.  He also pushed the notion that there is no cure for addiction.  I only half agree with that statement.  While it is factual to say we do not have an absolute 100% cure that will eradicate addiction, it is also factual to say that we have a radical, 100% effective, 24 hour plan that can arrest, that is stop, the disease from progressing.  It's called sobriety (cessation of use) and recovery (change from the inside leading to outward change).  This is good news!  

I don't like doing funerals and I don't like writing about dead people.  It reminds me that life is short.  It shows me that so many things I think are important aren't and so many things I think aren't important really are important.  It's a wake up call.  I am thankful today that I am sober from drugs and alcohol although neither were an issue for me.  Again, but by the grace of God go I.  

And so, after 24 hours since his passing, I offer a fond "RIP" to Mr. Philip Seymour Hoffman. As Truman Capote once said, "Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act." Unfortunately, we are sorry to watch the way your third act unfolded.  Thank you for displaying your acting talents to the world.  We are richer because of your gifts.  May we all be inspired to seek health and wellness knowing that some day our third act will arrive too.  It's the least we can do as we live this gift called life in spite of it's inevitable arrival.  

If you or someone you love is in need of detox off of opiates, alcohol, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to call Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1.877.773.3869.  We are here to help you detox and get your life back.  Give us a call.  You'll be glad you did.