Monday, March 31, 2014

The Land of Make Believe

   Chris Newcomb, M.Div.

It was a tough battle.  The enemy was big…a lot bigger than me!  He had powers greater than mine.  But, I had trained hard.  I was ready.  I was a Jedi and I believed!
Actually, I was a little kid standing in my friends’ backyard “playing” Star Wars.  He was Darth Vader and I was Luke Skywalker.  We were locked in an epic lightsaber after school battle between good and evil just before dinner was ready.  It was real to us but make-believe to the rest of the world.  Sometimes I miss the days of make-believe!
This month we take a look at Step 2 of Alcoholics Anonymous which reads, “We came to believe in a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.”  I want to focus on the world ‘believe’.  It is a powerful word.  By belief, children look forward to December 25th every year hoping for the latest toy from their good friend Santa Claus.  By belief, top athletes will push themselves to accomplish physical tasks mere mortals only dream of achieving.  Throughout history, countries have been created and destroyed by beliefs.  Like it or not, belief or the act of believing is a major factor in the human race.  This is true not only on a global scale but on an individual one as well.  Recovery is the perfect example of this truth. 
Most alcoholics/addicts became addicted because they believed the wrong things about themselves and/or others.  Things such as” ‘Only cool people use drugs”, “I have to fit in so I will drink”, “I’m not worth anything to anyone”, “I can handle it.  I won’t get addicted.”  Unfortunately, most never took the time to ‘argue’ with those beliefs to see if they were actually true or false.  Blind belief comes with terrible consequences!
As people enter into recovery, they embrace Step 1, namely, that their lives have gotten out of control due to their addictive behavior and that they are unable to solve the problem using their own power.  After they come to believe the truth of their own powerlessness, they are ready to embrace a new belief about their future: the need for help from a higher power.  This is usually shocking and uncomfortable for most addicts, to say the least.
However, if an addict is serious about changing his/her behavior, they must be realistic about where they were living before they got into recovery: the Land of Make Believe!  This is a place that destroys lives.  It takes away freedom, fiscal prosperity, relationships, jobs, and even someone’s very life.  But at one point, the active addict believed that everything in the Land of Make Believe had to offer was true and worth the cost.  Nothing could be further from the truth!
This is where changing beliefs can change your life.  When the addict chooses to embrace belief in a higher power, there is a pivotal change in their recovery.  They realize they don’t have to do it all alone.  They realize that something/someone who is more powerful and more intelligent will guide them, help them, and empower them to stay sober and recover from this awful disease.
Ask yourself these questions: What do I believe about recovery?  What do I believe about the prospect of having a higher power’s help to stay clean and sober?  Why would I entertain such an idea if I can’t stay sober by my own strength? 
The choice is yours.  Each day you can believe that, “a power greater than yourself will restore you to sanity” as AA /NA teaches.  You can step out into a beautiful new landscape full of new hopes and dreams that are waiting to be fulfilled.  The other alternative is to go back to the Land of Make Believe where everything seems wonderful but is rotten to the core.  The choice is yours…what do you believe?

Friday, March 28, 2014

The Natural History of Alcoholism - Revisited

In 1983, Dr. George Vaillant published a book titled “The Natural History of Alcoholism”.  It was the result of a landmark study conducted in the Boston area.  There were a number of things that made the study so powerful and important.  The study involved a large group of men from different backgrounds.  Researchers began to interview the men when they were still teenagers and followed them for about 40 to 50 years.  The researchers were able to interview the subjects every few years to see if they became alcoholic or not.  Then they were able to look back at their data to see if there were any factors that determined if the subjects became alcoholic or not.  If the study subjects did become alcoholic, the researchers were able to see what happened to them.  The results were impressive.  The study powerfully supported the idea that alcoholism is a disease, a disease that commonly affects many people from all walks of life.  In 1995, Dr. Vaillant published a follow up book with the original results and another 10 years of follow up data.

Some of the findings from Dr. Vaillant’s study included:
  • Factors that predict alcoholism included: alcoholism in relatives, a personality that is extroverted or antisocial and the ethnic culture – it was more common in Irish descendants than in Italian descendants.
  • The presence of an alcoholic parent increased the likelihood of alcoholism by three times.  If there was a distant relative the rate of alcoholism was increased two times.
  •  An unhappy childhood did not predict future alcoholism ... unless the family problems were due to alcoholism.
  • Alcoholism was generally the cause of depression, anxiety and sociopathic (delinquent) problems.  The alcoholism was not the result of these problems.
  • The so-called “alcoholic personality” – self-centered, immature, dependent, resentful, and irresponsible – was not evident until after the subjects had started to abuse alcohol.
  •  Even though alcoholism is not solely a medical condition, it is helpful therapeutically to explain it to patients as a disease.  The disease concept helps patients take responsibility for their drinking without debilitating guilt.
  • “In this respect, Alcoholism resembles Coronary Heart Disease, which starts as voluntary, unhealthy behaviors such as poor diet and lack of exercise, but ends in a life threatening condition”.
  • For most alcoholics, attempts at controlled drinking, end in either abstinence or a return to alcoholism.
  • Older (active) alcoholics were relatively rare because they either got sober or they died.
  • As of this time (1995), there is no cure for alcoholism. Medical treatment only provides short-term crisis intervention.
  • Of the Core City samples, 72 alcoholic men were followed until age 70.  By this time 54% had died, 32% were abstinent.  Only 1% were controlled drinkers, and 12% were still abusing alcohol.
  • Of the university student sample, there were 19 alcoholics who were followed to age 70.  Of these 19 subjects: 11 had died, 4 were abstinent, 2 were still abusing alcohol and 2 were controlled drinking.
  • “Subjects who had a stable social environment or who frequently went to AA meetings had the highest rates of abstinence”.
  • Achieving long-term sobriety usually involves new relationships, sources of inspiration and hope, experiencing the negative consequences of heavy drinking, and a less harmful substitute dependency. 
  • AA and other similar groups effectively harness the above 4 factors of healing, and many alcoholics achieve sobriety through AA attendance.

This landmark study has indeed contributed greatly to our understanding of the “natural history” of alcoholism.

What was most fun about hearing and seeing Dr. Vaillant was to feel his presence.  He appeared happy, calm, relaxed and confident and exuded serenity.  I don’t think it is any coincidence that he has spent a lot of his life around AA members, thinking about how people become happy and how to be fully present in this world! 

At The Coleman Institute, we want to help you get clean and stay clean.  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 for you!  

Wednesday, March 26, 2014


Chris Newcomb, M.Div. 

I work for an alcohol and drug detox center.  I meet many different people and wish I could remember all of them in vivid detail.  Unfortunately, my brain fails me!  Still, there are some patients who stick in my brain for different reasons after they leave our facility.  The man I met yesterday was one such case!

John* came to our office to detox off Suboxone.  At 30 years old, he had already been through so many traumatic situations: adultery between his wife and best friend, watching one of his friend's get struck by a car right in front of him, losing another friend in a motorcycle accident and almost coming to blows with his father due to his addiction.  To cope emotionally, he tried Suboxone.  He was hooked immediately for the next 5 years!

As we spoke, he was adamant about not forgiving those who hurt him.  I told him that in order to move on and to stay clean from drugs, this was the best course of action.  What happened next amazed me!  He called his former friend who committed adultery with his ex-wife, forgave him and they are planning to get together next week.  How cool is that?!?

Forgiveness is "the heart of the matter" as Don Henley once sang.  It is important on 3 levels.  First, it clears the heart and mind.  Second, it clears the offending relationship.  Third, it makes way for a possible new beginning in the relationship.  

Recovery requires emotional honesty and vulnerability that is handled in a mature way.  Is there someone you need to forgive?  Remember, forgiving means you set yourself free.  Forgiving doesn't mean it was ok to be hurt rather it means it's not ok for it to continue to hurt you.  Set yourself free.  Choose to forgive right now right where you are.  Forgiveness doesn't require the offending party's willingness to admit wrong.  It is totally our choice.  What choice will you make today?  Freedom is waiting for you!

At The Coleman Institute, we want to help you get clean and stay clean.  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 for you!



Dr. Coleman Explains Accelerated Opiate Detox

Many people refuse to get detoxed because they fear extreme physical pain from withdrawal symptoms.  With no other viable detox option except to quit cold turkey, a lot of people ask me how we are able to complete an opiate detox in only three days, and how we are able to do it comfortably with a 98% success rate.  While the question is complex, the answer is simple.  We are very committed to easing people's fear of a bad detox experience!  To that end, for more than 12 years, we have been developing and fine tuning our outpatient detox process. Since 2002, we have been offering this outpatient detoxification process with great success!
Recently, we have had many inquiries wanting to better understand how the detox works.  Therefore, I decided to make a short video explaining the process. Please take a few minutes to learn more about how we provide such unique, cutting-edge detox services with an emphasis on comfort and safety in as little as three days.

At The Coleman Institute, we want to help you get clean and stay clean.  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 for you!  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Inventory: A Personal Choice!

Chris Newcomb, M.Div.
               I have a friend in recovery who is very diligent in working the 12 Steps.  In particular, 4x a year, he does a Step 4.  Step 4 is all about honest and reflection.  It is about taking an inventory of our past life up to the present.  On the face of it, this seems like an easy task.  However, as we begin to put things into their proper perspective we may find we got more than we bargained for!
                Every business that wishes to succeed must conduct timely inventories in order to stay on top in the market place.  For example, if you sell shoes, it is a good idea to know how many extra pairs of shoes you have in your inventory so you don’t run out when someone requests the last pair.  Inventories let a business know exactly where they stand with the products they have and what they need to order to keep the business moving forward.  Perhaps, the same can be said of a personal inventory in recovery from alcohol and drugs. 
                The founders of the recovery movement realized early on that without full, honest disclosure of our past mistakes, addicts/alcoholics can never move forward.  Thus, Step 4 was created to help addicts and alcoholics get free from the junky inventory they have been carrying around for too long.  The step is easy to do but challenging as well.  It can be painful to look at the things they’ve said and/or done that they would rather abandon to the sands of time.  However, most addicts/alcoholics realize that this way of dealing with life is what got them into trouble in the first place!
                Common wisdom suggests working Step 4 with a sponsor or trusted confidant like a counselor or spiritual advisor.  Participants are encouraged to write down information under the following headings:  Fears, Resentments, and Sex Conduct.  We also record the words and/or actions we used to hurt other people.  Finally, we also write out a list of our assets.  This teaches the addict/alcoholic that they are not the summation of their past wrong words or deeds.  It imparts a sense of value to them that they also have good qualities that should be recognized and celebrated. 
                It is important to note that the purpose of taking an inventory is not about judging the contents of the inventory.  It is fact-finding mission.  It is not a rush to judgment, shame, and guilt.  All that will do is keep you bogged down in a sea of regret, remorse, self-pity and even depression.  Just be diligent in getting the important information down on paper or as a famous television actor used to say, “Just the facts, ma’am!”
                A personal inventory is an adventure.  It is filled with surprises, challenges, and even rewards.  If you are working the steps and have arrived at Step 4, let me encourage you to plow ahead and take the plunge.  It is worth the work and the effort.  Be serious and take inventory of your life up to this point.  Taking this step will free your present mind from obsessing over the wrongs of the past.  Finally, the information will be extremely valuable as you look to the future! 
                At The Coleman Institute, we are dedicated to helping people adopt a sober lifestyle so they can change their hurts, habits and hang-ups.  If you or someone you love is in need of detox off of alcohol, opiates, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to contact Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1.877.773.3869 today.  We're here for you!  

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Synthetic Marijuana?!?

Peter R. Coleman, M.D.

     I was recently asked to help advise a subcommittee of the Virginia Senate for a new bill they are planning on passing to make it illegal to possess and distribute the new synthetic cannabis products.  These artificial marijuana products go by the names of "Spice" and "K2".  They are sold quite legally because they contain chemicals that have not yet been made illegal.  I had to do quite a lot of research to be able to advise the panel.  Here is some of the information I found out about the new synthetic marijuana products:
  • These products are being widely used, especially by young people.  Many of my patients report either that they have used them or they know people who do.
  • There are coffee shops and other places that are openly allowing these products to be used; some are even supplying the smoking paraphernalia like pipes and hookahs.
  • The products are very available to purchase online and in local head shops and even tobacco shops.
  • They are sometimes being used instead of natural marijuana because they will not usually cause a positive drug test.  Some new drug tests are being developed to test for these new products.
  • No one really knows what is in each product.  Each manufacturer puts in whatever they believe will sell more of their product.  There is no quality control.  Each batch is different.
  • Many consumers seem to believe they are buying and using a ”natural” product. Some companies even claim that these products are natural and therefore they are healthy and good for you.
  • The main ingredients are not “herbal products” at all, but chemicals sprayed onto a variety of plant materials.
  • The chemicals used have names like cannabicyclohexanol, JWH-018, JWH-073, and HU-210.  Most were synthesized in the lab as experimental drugs for research. They were never intended to be used in an unsupervised way. The safety margins between a safe dose and a toxic dose have not been established.
  • These drugs attach to the brain’s cannabis receptors. Some are reported to be more than 500 times as potent as THC.
  • While they do work on the cannabis receptors in the brain, most of the chemicals also work on other parts of the brain and we don’t yet know anything about these other effects.
  • There are a number of adverse effects reported from these drugs. Emergency rooms are reporting a large increase in visits for patients with toxic effects.  At low doses, they seem to cause an increase in heart rate, anxiety, and aggression.  At higher doses, there are reports of overdose, confusion, seizures, psychosis, and suicidality.
  • Some therapists are reporting that clients are relapsing using these products.  Some of the clients believe that they haven’t relapsed because these are natural products and are not against the law.
  • There is no way for consumers to tell what drugs are actually in the products they are smoking.
     So the question is: what should be done about these new synthetic marijuana products?  When it comes to the legal issues associated with substances of abuse, there are a number of points of view and a number of factors to be considered.  On the one, hand it is true that criminalizing marijuana and other drugs has not led to dramatic reductions in their use.  It is certainly true that the criminal element does get involved with the whole drug business and this has its own set of serious problems.  It is also true that people who want to use drugs are very resourceful and will usually find ways around most of the barriers that society puts up to stop them. On the other hand, these are new chemicals and we have no realistic idea just how they work, what are their adverse effects, or what are their toxic doses. They may easily cause permanent brain damage or have other serious long-term consequences.

     So, from a legal standpoint, there are only a couple of options. We could allow them to be legal and have them be controlled by some kind of state agency.  But this is simply not realistic at this point.  We don’t know enough about the chemicals themselves, and if one of these products was later found to have serious adverse effects, it would be disastrous.  We could look the other way and allow these products to be used in the way that they are currently being used.  But this option suffers from the same problems as legalization.  We just don’t know enough.  We are also in danger of sending a powerful unhealthy message – not just that we can’t control drug use, but that we have given up trying and that we don’t care.

     The only real option at this point in time, in my opinion, is to make these products illegal.  We need to accept that our attempts to make them illegal will be met with counter measures from the drug manufacturers and the users themselves.  It is an ongoing cat and mouse game that will never end, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.  As a society, we need to stand for the fact that there are products out there that are not good for us.  We should definitely study these products.  The more we learn about them, the more we will understand about drugs of abuse and the whole process of addiction.  We may even find that some of these products are quite safe and some may have therapeutic benefits that far outweigh their risks. 
     At The Coleman Institute, we are dedicated to helping people adopt a sober lifestyle.  If you or someone you love is in need of detox off of alcohol, opiates, benzos, Methadone, or Suboxone, please do not hesitate to contact Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1.877.773.3869 today.  We're here for you!  

Monday, March 17, 2014

Wham! Pot Be Gone!

Chris Newcomb, M.Div.

"Wake me up before you go go," crooned a younger George Michael during the heyday of his power pop duo called Wham!.  Apparently, after all these years, it appears Michael is doing just that: waking up from the haze of a decades old habit for smoking pot on a daily basis.  In fact, sometimes Mr. Michael would smoke up to 25 joints a day!  Not anymore.  He's turning over a new leaf.  

Michael addressed the press yesterday stating that he had not smoked pot in over 18 months and feels all the better for it.  He has lost over 15lbs and is back to his old "fighting weight" when he was an international heartthrob musical phenomenon back in the 1980's.

It's interesting to note that a star of his calibur would come clean about quitting a habit that for many is seen as gross and juvenile.  With all the talk of marijuana being made legal in the U.S., it is surprising to hear of a former avid pot smoker announcing that he is finished with the drug.  Could it be that pot really isn't all that it is cracked up to be?  Michael seems to think so.

As someone who deals with addiction recovery 5 days a week, I often hear addicts extol the virtues of smoking pot saying:  "It's natural."  "It doesn't hurt you and is harmless."  "Everyone is doing it."  "Stop being a square*(read:loser)."  Yet, whenever a patient decides to stop smoking pot, they always tell me that it was the best decision they could make for their health and happiness.  Furthermore, I have had countless opiate addicts confirm for me that it is indeed a 'gateway' drug.

Admittedly, I never thought I would see the day come when George Michael would not only give up pot but would be 18 months clean when he made the announcement.  For a man who has sold 100 million records over three decades, this is great news.  It means, perhaps, he has put his criminal behavior behind him.  You may remember, Mr. Michael was twice convicted of driving under the influence of pot. Hopefully, he can have a brand new start and see that the sober life is truly the best life now that he has gotten the monkey off his back. 

At The Coleman Institute, we are here for 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 contact Jennifer Pius or Amy Stewart at 1.877.773.3869.  We are here to help you get clean and stay clean. 

Friday, March 14, 2014

More Than a Feeling

Joan Shepherd, FNP

When I ask people what it would take to make them happy, sometimes I hear things like: a new car, a bigger home, being thin, being drug-free, fabulous boy/girlfriend, extensive tattoos, the freedom to buy what they want, when they want it.  I suspect the truth lies somewhere deeper. When we ask ourselves how those various things would make us feel when we get them, we get to the root of it.

            Usually the answers are things like: feeling secure, appreciated, respected, confident, connected, loved, and content. In our minds (thanks to marketing and other whacky aspects of our culture) we’ve connected the thing with the feeling.  In fact, to get to the feeling state of what we want is simple.  Just feel it.  Close your eyes and imagine feeling the security, the respect, the appreciation, the peace.  Imagine how you would feel in a healthy body, in a new home, with a replica of the Garden of Eden tattooed on your thigh.  Allow yourself to dwell in this feeling state until it is oozing from your pores.

            Next ask yourself, “If this is how I want to feel, what thoughts will keep this feeling alive for me?”  Recall, whatever thoughts or stories you are carrying around in your head—the thoughts you are choosing to ‘buy’—will generate your feelings.

            Finally, recognize that your actions are driven by your feelings.  If you are dwelling in a feeling state of peace and contentment, how will your choices be different than if you were bathed in stress and angst?

            Finding your own truth is an incredible journey. You have every tool you need right now to begin!

           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.  At The Coleman Institute, we are happy to help you get clean and stay clean.